Friday, December 28, 2012

What do Big Dreams look like?

This provocative piece of art has been messing with my head.  A girl who knew who she was in Christ and dared to dream big, what does she look like? What does dreaming big look like in God's world? It reminds me of a struggle Jesus' buddies had on the way to Jerusalem in Matthew 20. Jesus had just dropped this bomb on them:  

“Listen to me carefully. We are on our way up to Jerusalem. When we get there, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the religious leaders and scholars. They will sentence him to death. They will then hand him over to the Romans for mockery and torture and crucifixion. On the third day he will be raised up alive.” (MSG)

You would think that after hearing their Lord and friend say that he was going up to Jerusalem to die they would not be thinking about their own status, but would be overcome with grief at losing Jesus. I don't know what was really going on inside their hearts so I won't judge, but their actions would speak that they were thinking about "dreaming big" for themselves.  The Momma of James and John proceeds to ask Jesus if her sons can sit on his left and right side when he comes into his kingdom.  This leads to a great uproar when the other 10 pals want to get in on the action.  Jesus sets them straight in vs. 24-28: 

"Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.”

My prayer for this year is that I would dream big, and in the dreaming God would place the basin and the towel in my hand and let me wash the feet of my husband, son, the children we will foster/adopt, my family, the women of my Church community, the poor in our city.  I am going to set my heart on dreaming big dreams for Jesus because I know who I am in Christ (on most days anyway).  Somehow I can relate to James and John and I have asked God to "expand my territory" and make me a person of influence.  I think his answer is what he has been saying all along. If you want to be great, if you want to dream big, serve...

You are dear to me, let's dream big together.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Real Deal

I love my friends Wesley and Monica Skinner. They are two to the most beautifully passionate about the gospel people I have ever met. I don't mind  telling you that they are the real deal because I am a witness to their anointing to be in ministry.  They have worked on Cru staff (Campus Crusade) for at least 5 years in the US and then 1 year in a country closed to the gospel (well, good thing is that God doesn't see it as closed).  They are the type of folks who live out the calling with true commitment. I am honored that God has allowed me and Jeff the opportunity to walk alongside them in ministry.  Right now they are in a season where they wouldn't have written the script this way, it is a time in which they are having to wait on God to fill their financial coffers so they can move onto ministry at the University of South Florida.  They are waiting.... and longing... and hoping...

Wesley and Monica are gifted worship leaders
What do you do when you have all this gifting and calling and God is saying to you that it is time to rest, to regroup, to grow?

Imagine being an unsuspecting shepard boy out in the field minding your sheep, being a dutiful son, the youngest, never thinking your life would amount to much more that keeping the sheep.  Your big dreams were to be pleasing to your father, to have a beautiful wife, a small flock.  You are the youngest.  You play your role. But then a man comes and pours oil on your head and you are called the new king of Israel.  Before you know it your world of sheep and stars is now men called Goliath and stones to throw and people to inspire. You become a warrior and you start running for your life from the man Israel calls King. 

God gave David a calling to be King, but for a long time he was nothing more than a wandering mercenary.  Was he content in the field with the bleating of sheep, or did he ever wonder for more?  Once God's call came and the oil covered over David, he could not just go back to the sheep. God stirred up dreams in him, he stirred up desire, and he stirred up extraordinary gifts of leadership.  Before too long, David took his place on Israel's throne and His place in the lineage of Jesus.

The beauty of God is that He takes our mundane dreams and He gives us extraordinary. It is God's call that led David to become King. It is God who put the longing in my friends' hearts to be tellers of the gospel story. Yesterday Monica said something along the lines of "there is nothing in the world we would rather do".. than this.. this work of ministry.  When God pours that oil over your head it is hard to go back to human relations.  I don't think that is what God is asking my friends to do. He will open up the heavens for them and their Cru account will come to full measure, and they will go.  In the waiting I pray God will give them rest.  In prayer for them I had been thinking of a desert place and praying that it would rain on them.  Today it is raining and instead of thinking my friends are standing on dry ground the picture in my mind is a child sleeping peacefully. I pray their time of waiting will be a restful sleep in their Abba's lap, and when the morning comes, they will be ready for the task. 

Friends, God will stir up dreams in your heart that only he can make reality.  Trust Him with you dreams.  He is good. I love this Psalm.  God is strong and God is loving. Everything He does in our lives is motivated by His love for us and by His great strength.

Psalm 62:11-12

New International Version (NIV)
11 One thing God has spoken,
    two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
12     and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
    according to what they have done.”

Here is a link to Wesley and Monica sharing their vision.
And also, if you are a lover of Jesus, be generous with supporting the people He has sent to bring the gospel to the nations.  You may know a couple like Wesley and Monica, join their mission through financial support.  God may not be asking you to go, but I would venture a guess that He still wants you to be apart of the going...   

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The End of the Story

The confession that I have to make is that I sometimes read the back pages of a book before I commit to reading it for fear of a bad ending. Who wants to read all those pages in between if the whole thing may end up like some bad French fairy tale where everyone is eaten and no one lives happily ever after? I can't stand to think that the heroine wouldn't get her Prince or the hero would not win his battles.  The only problem with skipping to the finish is that knowing the ending keeps me from really entering into the drama along the way. I am immune to the feelings of agony and longing that the characters walk through because I have peeked at the happy ending. 

When I was working in Europe with Young Life I experienced a series of "club talks" that they would use to share the gospel over 5 nights at summer camp. On one of the nights they would just leave the kids hanging with the "sin talk". Essentially they told the kids they were all sinners and the wages of sin is death and think about that for a night. It killed me.  My Baptist roots would show and I was scared to death one might die that night without knowing the end of the story (the redemption of Jesus) and they would go straight to hell.  Yikes!  Honestly, having a night of anxious wondering never killed one of those kids, but it did help cultivate in them a longing to know the rest of the story.  It did help the weight of their sins sink a little more deeply into their unredeemed brains.  It made the next night amazing.  It was the night the speaker would tell them about the grace of God to forgive their sins.  Imagine one day hearing "for the wages of sin is death".... and then waiting another 24 hours to hear the rest of the verse "but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord".  Talk about a holy pause.  

As Christmas approaches how about we all take a holy pause.  How about we take a moment to remember how desperately we need Jesus and why we need him and then perhaps the miracle of Christmas will be all the more glorious to us.  I don't want to be immune to the emotion of expectation and longing because I have heard the story all my life and it makes me yawn and stretch and do nothing.  I want the wonder of Christmas to have me on my knees in weeping praise and humble adoration.  I want the miracle of incarnation to be so much more than a story told year after year, but to be a truth that sinks deep down into my heart that shrinks at suffering and humility and only wants a saviour high and lifted up.  

The mystery of Christmas is that God put on flesh and dwelt for awhile among us (John 1:14)

Tonight I will sit with my husband and son by our tree, drinking tea in the glow of white lights and sparkling ornaments.  We will read our Advent Reading and we will ponder the mystery... together.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Seasons Change

The sadness set in about 1 month ago. It was the reality that the summer time was almost over.  I was picking the last of the peppers from the garden and the tomatoes in their hopeful ignorance were still growing big and round, but ever so green, with no idea that the sun was going to fail them and the cold would chill them to the core.  I honestly love the summer garden. I love everything about going out there and planting things in the dirt and then setting my watering system :) and letting the miracle of growth happen.  I love picking veggies in the morning to make the sort of meals for my guys that make me feel like I am a super Mom. I love going out there at 5 pm to wonder what I will throw together for dinner. How many ways can a girl cook 5 different types of peppers, okra, and tomatoes? I probably more often than I should revert to curry, but I did come up with some other tasty and very healthy dishes.

So much in me right now is welling up with the changing of seasons, and the desire that so many of us have to hold on... hold on to that time of fruitfulness.  When an area of your life looks like this:
 all full of vibrant color, you want to stay there in that place. You want to keep being the blossom that beckons the butterfly to land and drink.  I am so convinced that one of the greatest desires we have as people made in God's image is to be fruitful. We want our lives to matter for something, to someone. We want to be difference makers, trend setters, prophets, teachers, someone, anyone significant. When we do get to a place of bearing fruit, we want to just stay there... the only problem is this happens
A cold night comes and robs you of your color.  It is just the God ordained changing of the seasons. It is the plan of God for my Zinnias to die every November, even though I want to keep them. Even though I love their color and fullness, they die.  And it is God's design. 

It just may be God's design to lead us into times of winter.  When the pepper plants look like this
and you need strong arms to help you prepare your garden for the length of cold (which not complaining in Alabama is about 2 months)

you realize that God is in the midst of all the dying, and us preparing for something new.  God is the one leading the way.  It is a curious thing that God would lead his people Israel to a place called Marah, or bitter waters (Exodus 15:22-25).  Why would God lead his apostles down roads that would get their feet dirty or even down roads of cold, hunger, thirst, imprisonment?  God changes our seasons.  Sometimes they are seasons of summer with vibrant life and long hot days, other days are winter days with little sun and bone chilling cold.  All days are God's days.

Sweet friend,  if you are in a season that you have enjoyed but you are feeling God is leading you to a new routine, or vocation, or stage of life, don't hold on to the fruit from yesterday.  Hold on to Jesus.  If you were great at something last week but you sense God is leading you to do some thing new, follow him, forsaking all else.  I have been through some seasons.  I am learning to not hold on to how God used me last year, but to hold on to God today, and let him have his way with me in this moment.  I needed to till up that garden because those plants were looking mighty puny.  I needed to put them in the mulch pile so God would have room for new life.

What are you holding on to with all your little might can muster?  Let it go.  See what God is up to, and join Him in that adventure.