Friday, August 30, 2013

Dreams & Nightmares

One of the books I am finishing up this week is Daring Greatlyby Brene Brown.  In this work she continues her breakthrough research findings on the issues of shame and vulnerability and how they impact our families, schools, churches, corporations and communities in general.

Today I was struck with these two words:


Let's start dreaming....
If we are people who are going to fully live into the lives we believe God is calling us to, we must be willing to face and embrace His dreams and visions for our lives.  We must be willing to remember that God's call is one of transformation.  Starting with our first taste of grace, God's design is nothing short of extraordinary change.  And it doesn't stop when we "accept" him!  It's a life of ongoing, radical, transformation.

Now most of us would readily agree with that statement, but the problem is, many of us have stopped dreaming with God.  We've lost sight of God's big visions and dreams for a renewed life, a healed marriage, a deliverance from addiction, or even things like water for the WHOLE world!  

In many ways, our world, our culture, and even the message of our churches  has squashed our passion to dream with God - and by dream I mean really big, bold, audacious dreams - dreams worthy to bear the name of Christ and the radical life of transformation He offers us!

That being said, I know I am a victim of this small dream mentality, and while I don't know yet what those new big dreams may be, I pray God helps me recapture a capacity to dream in really big, transformative ways with Him!

And now nightmares....
Here's the problem:  The capacity to dream in really big ways also requires a willingness to be vulnerable and face and embrace the fears of our lives.  It's impossible to really dream if we aren't also willing to talk about what we are really scared of.

In fact, maybe this is actually the key to dreaming.   After all, how can we dream about a restored marriage if we aren't also willing to talk about our fear that it's all going to come crashing down and end tomorrow?!  How can we hope for deliverance from our addiction if we aren't willing to admit that we are afraid it will always control us?  How can we talk about bringing water to the whole world without also acknowledging the horrible greed that exists in the world and our fears that things will never really change?!

But we don't like or want to talk about any of that, because it's not hopeful.  After all, aren't we supposed to be people of hope?!?

Maybe this is where the real breakthrough has come for me.  If we are going to be people of true hope, we must be willing to bring our nightmares out into the light, so hope has a chance to shine.  Otherwise, we just keep them in the dark and hope never has a chance to begin it's transformative work!  So while I want to be a person who dreams really big, transformative dreams with God, I recognize that I must be willing to face and embrace some fears first.  It's impossible to dream if I'm not willing to also acknowledge my nightmares.

So, what are you afraid of??

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Take a New Grip

So after a couple of weeks away with the family, I return and one of the first passages I read back in the real world contains Hebrews 12:12, "So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees."  

I have had several weeks of attempting to decompress, now it's time to get after the soaking with diligence.  That almost seems like an oxymoron, but I can sense a shift happening within me - one in which I am drawn to longer periods of reading.  Time for my heart to notice various points of interest and take notes on them, wondering how they might all tie in together at some point, but knowing that for now, I am simply supposed to make observations.  

So I am taking a new grip - which I trust won't turn into a new gripe!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Stop Planning!

Have I mentioned yet this is harder than I thought it would be?!

During the course of this past week I realized I was feeling a strange void and at first I couldn't put my finger on it.  What was this frustration I was feeling?  

And then it hit me...Stop planning!

So much of my life is about looking ahead and making plans.  
      Plan for the meeting.  
              Plan a sermon series.  
                      Plan that event. 
                              Execute The Plan.
But here in the midst of sabbatical I am being confronted with a call to stop planning for a while. If renewal through rest is the objective, then that requires the challenge to stop attempting to even plan out every minute of sabbatical, let alone anything beyond that!

As I was pondering these ideas, I read:

All this happened so they would follow his decrees and obey his instructions. Praise The Lord! (Psalms 105:45 NLT)

Contrary to what many people might think this verse and passage is about, God is not interested in creating automatons - simple creatures that just obey His every whim.  No.  God's decrees and instructions were intended to produce a framework for the ongoing relationship of God and His people.  These words were a reminder to the people that God's ultimate purpose (All this happened so...) was to live in relationship with Him.  What He cared about the most was the ongoing development of that relationship and the transformation of His people - not just the results they could produce.

Through this Word God reminded me that so much of the time my plans are all about the results they will produce.  And most of the time I am mostly concerned about the external results of my plans.  
       Will the meeting be productive?
              Will the sermon be good?
                     Will the event be well attended?
                            Will The Plan succeed?
But God isn't as concerned about the results of my plans as much as the ongoing development of our relationship together.  He cares more about the internal results of my life than the external results.  And I suspect that the greater the internal results of my life, the stronger the external results might be.   But of course, that's not the ultimate point!

So I'm being asked to stop planning for a while so I can refocus on the inner qualities of my soul and my relationship with my Lord.

Have I mentioned this is harder than I thought?!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Learning to Trust

During this first week of sabbatical I have found myself thinking many times about the church and various facets of her life.

I wonder how VBS went....

     I wonder how last week's offering was.....

           I wonder how many people will come to hear my friend Ron tomorrow....

Of course, I have also been wrestling with some personal issues.

I wonder what's wrong with the jeep....

     I wonder how Shaw will do in his tournament....

           I wonder how I will feel in a few weeks of this process....

In the midst of all this, God seems to continue to ask me the same question over and over again - "Stephen, do you trust me?"

Well of course the answer is yes, but there is something different about trusting God when you aren't in a position to take action.  I have always been a firm believer that we live in the tension of trusting God and still working with everything we have to be co-creators with Him in life.  As John Wesley said, "God gives us holy, sanctified reasoning."  In other words, while we trust God we also use our God given talents, gifts, and brains to move through life, working to accomplish things with Him.  As I said a few weeks ago - pray as if everything depends on God and work as if everything depends on us.

But this first week of sabbatical I have been confronted with the notion of needing to trust God without the partnership of action.  The actions I am supposed to be taking right now are letting go, resting, slowing down, etc.  That is in direct opposition to what I have done my whole life,  just dig in and work harder!  

So this first week has been harder and different than I anticipated.  I thought I would experience a real sense of relief.  A big, "Ahhhhh...this feels good."  But what I have actually experienced has been very different than that.  A big, "Hmmmmm...this is harder than I thought."

I suppose this is just further evidence that sabbatical is what I need. 

"Lord, I do trust you. Now help me to keep learning just what that means!"

Monday, July 15, 2013

Day 1 - Gratefully Normal

Someone asked me today, "Well, how does it feel?!"

Actually, so far, it just feels like a day off.  I'm not sure I should have expected anything different, but regardless, I am grateful for the first of many....

Sunday, July 14, 2013

T-Minus 1

It's the eve of sabbatical.   I had a terrible time sleeping last night.   Way too excited!  But not just about time to withdraw and find renewal through some rest.  I find myself excited, anticipating what God is going to do.  What He may say.  The ways He is going to be at work within not just my life, be the life of our entire community during this time.  And so, let the countdown commence...T-Minus 1!!