28 June 2014

Shipwrecked Hope

We all have been given promises, and we all have hopes and dreams. We long for that moment we will see them fulfilled and for that moment we will feel like we are finally doing what we were created to do. That is all well and good, but what do we do when our dreams are still in the works? There is hard work in dreams and a lot of that is holding onto hope. 
There are times when dreams appear to be shipwrecked. They are dashed on the rocks of disappointment (cliché, I know, but I like the imagery) and we do not know if we can ever rise from that. We are faced with a choice in those moments—we can let go of the last bit of hope we have and float out aimlessly into the stormy sea, or we can hold onto hope like a stranded sailor holds onto driftwood and slowly make our way to shore. The pathway to our dreams never looks like we imagine it would. It can look like island hopping until we reach the Promised Land or it can look like a switchback road through a mountain range.
I am finding life, and dreams for that matter, looks much more like a choose-your-adventure book than a straight path. To go to London proceed to page 50. To learn about family proceed to page 110. Recently, I have been looking back at the mental photobook of my adventures thus far. Each path includes snapshots of random adventures and stories I never thought I could be a part of. It has also taken a lot longer than I think it should. Alexander the Great conquered the known world by the time he was my age. What have I done?
Growing up I heard the stories of the great men and women in the Bible and in history. For some reason pastors and speakers thought it was encouraging to tell us about the people who accomplished great things by the time they were our age. I was told of the great battles Jonathan won when he was fifteen. I learned with slight horror and shock about Mary’s age when she became the mother of Jesus. How could I ever live up to these people? I used to think I peaked in my teens. I have greatness written on my heart yet the greatest thing I have done this far is, well, I do not have an answer for that. I have accomplishments I am proud of but what about great accomplishments? I have never been in a battle much less won one. I have not conquered the known world, though I am working on that. I am not a ninja, though I would count myself as one in training.
I have an epic dream and that means there is an epic story. Epic stories always start with ordinary men destined for greatness, mainly because they are the protagonist of the story. The author chose them to be great. As a writer I get to control the way the story moves and can slow down or speed up a story for the sake of character or plot development. For some reason I often forget God does the same thing. He is the great Author after all.
My roommate Emily often has incredibly profound encouragement for me in the moments I am on the verge of letting go of my driftwood hope. The other day I was grieved at my current place in life’s story and was angry at things that happened in the past and completely unsure of what the future had in store. In other words, I was long overdue for a meltdown. Her response was beautiful: “Courage in battle means not running away. It is planting your feet and standing your ground. Courage in pain means not making assumptions about your identity, who God is or what your future looks like. It means sticking your feet down and not going anywhere.”
Our identity does not change even though our circumstances can be a kaleidoscope of fun—ever rotating, constantly changing yet the same substance. Our identity remains the same but our function within that circumstance changes. It looks different from the previous season. In one season we learn what it is to be a son and in another we learn what it is to be a warrior and yet another what it is to rest. We are still sons and warriors when we rest and still warriors and resters as sons. We are just acting out of a different function depending on the season. As we grow we learn how to go deeper into that and learn new facets and new moves but we still act out of that core identity as a son.
My perspective changes as I realize it is about learning new ways of interacting with God and not about me surviving a circumstance in order to make it to the holy grail of dreams. With all that being said, I want to leave you with a few questions. What is God’s perspective on your circumstances/ dream? What is God teaching you about interacting with Him in this season? What is the reason behind your dream? Why are you holding on? Remember and keep pushing through.

03 June 2014

Timed Perspective

God puts dreams in our hearts and we often assume they are for right now. Joseph is a great person to look at in regards to this. 

When he was seventeen he had a dream that he would be a ruler. Being the favorite son, he figured it was a dream for now and took matters in his own hands. Unfortunately, he did not have the character or the fortitude to sustain the dream. He told his brothers (who were already jealous that he took all their father's affection), and they tried to kill him but settled on selling him into slavery. 

I imagine Joseph had moments of deep despair as he realized he was a slave instead of a ruler and a prisoner instead of a prince. He must have thought, "Is this all it's supposed to be?" as his heart longed for more. Even when he oversaw the prison I believe that deep down Joseph knew he was created for more. 

Joseph grew in character and wisdom over the next years and decades. He learned what it was to serve and what it was to manage a household, then a prison and finally a nation. He learned what it was to push through his difficult circumstances. Thirteen years after becoming a slave he stood next to pharaoh as a trusted advisor. I can only imagine the moment It sunk in for Joseph that he was second in command over the nation of Egypt. 

Was this the best route for Joseph to take? I don't know. Did God intend for Joseph to go the route he did? I don't know. Either way, God got Joseph into the position He planned for him. 

Often I stress about the right decision. I have to make the right decision so I stay in God's will and get where He wants me to go. I want to choose the best path so I can avoid unnecessary detours. I am often told "it's not the destination but the journey" and to an extent I believe that is true. But don't forget there is a destination. Don't forget why you do what you do. Your dream may not look at all what you think it should be, but don't worry. God will get us where He wants us even if we are doing the opposite of what we thought we should be doing. We might feel like we're in a prison cell but that doesn't mean God won't get us to the king's court. 

Hope is a dangerous business. It creates vulnerability to disappointment. I am learning to ask for God's perspective in circumstances and to change my perspective. I am seated in heavenly places with Christ which means I have an entirely different view than the horizontal view on Earth. You might be serving Potiphar or the captain of the jail or maybe you feel you're sitting in the dry well in the desert wondering what is going to happen or if you'll ever make it out. 

The brilliant thing about our position in heaven is that we can see more clearly what is actually going on. When you stand nose to nose with a wall you can't see around it. It seems huge and looming and ominous. When we change our perspective then we can see the ladder down the way or a door or Jesus with TNT waiting to blow that sucker.  

Hold onto hope. Ask Jesus what he sees when he looks at your circumstances. 

26 April 2014

Desert living

A few years ago I began a series on Moses but never finished writing it (you can read them here and here). The story resounded with my heart more than I expected and not wanting to deal with it, I avoided that part of the Bible until today.
The story of Moses is one of dreams and hope restored. Moses had a dream of social justice. His people were enslaved and he wanted to help them. He thought this was God's call on his life. He ended up killing a man in an attempt to defend his people. He quickly learned they did not want his help, and Pharaoh wanted to kill him for this act of violence. He was rejected by both people groups.

Moses sat in the desert by a well wondering what he was doing there. Had he totally missed what his call was? Did he even have purpose anymore? He was surrounded by sheep and sand nowhere near where he thought he should be. He thought he was to free God's people but instead was running for his life. I imagine he was feeling like he failed God. 
It is at this point seven girls come with their flocks to get water. The shepherds try to run them off but Moses stands up for them. Their father invites him in and makes him part of their family.
The significance of this part of the story is the father's name. He actually had two names: Jethro and Reuel. Both names are significant. Reuel means "friend of God", and Jethro means "his abundance". Jethro is only called Reuel twice in the Bible, this time and later in the book of Numbers. It is significant that he was called Reuel here beause of the meaning of his name: friend of God. Moses wanted nothing to do with God nor His people. In fact, when Mosrs met God at the burning bush forty years later, Moses again tried to hide from God. So God gave him the next best thing, his friend. 
Moses thought he was running from God but in fact was just being sent to God's friend. Moses got to spend forty years with God's friend and be part of a family he thought he could never have. 

There are times when we don't want to face God and He honors that. He let Moses camp out for forty years. It is important to note that Moses was never hidden from God. In fact, God goes after those who hide. Adam and Eve hid when they sinned and God went looking for them. Moses hid in the desert when He murdered a man. And God met him in that desert. Don't believe God won't come find you. He never loses sight of you. 

Moses thought his life was over. He was content living in the desert with a bunch of sheep even though he knew deep in his heart he was destined to lead a nation. This was only the first half of his life and only a fraction of his story. There was still so much more God had in store for Moses. He wanted to restore those dreams and hopes Moses did not dare to dream again. 

Do not lose heart if you are in the desert right now. God is not done with you. He has so much more for you. 

07 April 2014

Water walking with Jesus

In Matthew 14 we read the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 and the story of Peter walking on water. Jesus just found out his cousin was murdered and several of the disciples learned their previous mentor/leader was murdered. They wanted some alone time to grieve but the crowds found Jesus. Instead of disbanding the crowd early in the day he continued teaching and healing. The day wore on and evening came. Stomachs growled and attention spans waned. The disciples wanted to send the people away, but Jesus continued to care for the crowd. He provided the food and had the disciples feed the people. 
After a long day Jesus sent the disciples ahead of him while He dismissed the crowds. He then spent some time with His Father. The disciples, also tired from grief and a long day, began to sail across Lake Galilee. When they were far from the shore, a storm hit. These experienced fisherman fought the storm in an attempt to stay afloat and reach the shore. 
By now it's early morning and the disciples are beyond exhausted. Through the rain and the crashing waves they see a ghostlike figure making his way toward them. They freak out and Jesus tells them they don't need to worry because it's Him. Peter, either more rash than normal because of his circumstances or more calm than the others and seizing an opportunity for adventure, steps out onto the water toward his Saviour. 
By the time he ecstatically realizes he's walking on the water, he rationally realizes he's walking on water. 
But the story does not end here. There are three immediately's in this story. Immediately Jesus sent the disciples in the boat once they fed the people. Immediately Jesus told them not to be afraid. Immediately Jesus grabbed Peter when he started to sink. 
The point of this story is not that Jesus put his friends in a storm so He could see how they would react. I believe the point is that they were in a storm and Jesus was with them every step of the way. They were tired and grieving so He let them head out early. They were tired and afraid in a storm so He walked out to them. Peter realized he was doing something only the Son of God had done previously and started to sinkt, so Jesus grabbed him and helped him do it again. 

You may be surrounded by the miraculous but Jesus does not leave you with ministry stories to keep you afloat. He comes to you in the storm, walks with you on the water and climbs into the boat with you. 

28 March 2014

Jesus tattoo

A small child shuffled down the sidewalk of a tree-lined boulevard. His head was down as if he were ashamed to look the world in the eye. He kicked the pebbles in his path with a carelessness that said life did not matter. Cars sped by without noticing the meloncoly scene a few feet from their path. A dog barked from a fenced yard as if to say "stay away!" 

Day after day he walked this path. Rain pounded the earth then heat blasted the ground making it too hot to walk on. He looked up at the trees, thankful for their covering. Soon the leaves fell and snow covered the world in its icy grip. 

Each day the boy stopped by this one tree that stood between his house and the path. He sympathized with the falling leaves and cursed the winds and the snow as the elements tried to destroy the beauty of this tree. 

Today he left the house like every other day. He locked the door, turned and walked down the steps but ran smack into his tree. Bewildered, he looked over where the tree always stood wondering how it moved into his path. 

He looked at the trunk to see if he in any way damaged his favorite tree and noticed an inscription etched into the trunk. King of kings and Lord of lords. 

He looked up and realized his tree was never a tree. In fact Jesus stood before him. Jesus stopped down and took his head in His hands. 

"I don't understand," the boy stammered. "Every day I pray and every day I see my prayers go unanswered. Where have you been?"

"I have been here all along," Jesus replied as He lifted the boy into His lap. "I shelter you from the storms and provide shade in the desert times. I block the icy winds of winter. Every day I walk beside you. I love hearing your voice when you talk to me. I love hearing your problems and your thoughts."
"Then why didn't I see you before now?"
"You were so busy focusing on the ground and your next step that you did not notice I was the one walking beside you. I stood between you and the road."
Puzzled, the young man looked down the road. No trees lined the boulevard as he always thought. 

"You are not as small as you think," Jesus said as He put the boy on his feet. He put His hands on his shoulders and looked him in the eyes. 
"Even before you knew me I equipped you with everything you need to live life. You are competent and capable. You are my son and you are made in my image. This means you are capable of loving because I am love. You are fully equipped to live in peace because I am the Prince of Peace. 
"I have my name tattooed on my leg so that when you run into me you know right away what you ran into. I am over everything and I want to take care of you. You can let me carry your burdens for you." 
The boy took off his backpack and handed it to Jesus. When he did, he realized he was standing as tall as Jesus. There was a lightness in his heart he forgot he could feel. The young man felt like he could do anything. 
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
- Revelation 19:16