Dreams of Freedom

This week those of us in the USA celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, so it seemed appropriate to talk about dreams.  In Dr. King’s speech he shares that although great change happened with the Emancipation Proclimation, people were still not really free, and that he had a dream about getting that freedom.  In essence, that’s what a dream is: a thought, maybe even a plan, on achieving what freedom means to you at that time.

When we let our dreams die or fall by the wayside we essentially cripple our efforts at getting to the freedoms we desire.

What is it about a dream that is so powerful?  Dreams have this magical ability to keep us focused, to inspire us, to motivate us, to connect us with others who have similar goals and can support us as we strive to attain our freedoms.  When we have a dream that is connected to a goal, a desired freedom, we have more heart and passion behind that goal than we would if it were just a goal.  It makes our goal more attractive and helps us find the energy to do all that is required to get to the freedom we desire.

Dr. King’s speech has motivated several generations of people to work together for the freedoms of not just one group of people, but all people.  Which brings us to the real question: are you stuck trying to get to a freedom you desire?  Are your wheels spinning in place because you’ve lost sight of your dreams or never had them?   Open your mind to the freedom that comes with a dream today.

Comfort in Hope

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you know that one of my favorite passages is Isaiah 40.  Today I want to share one last thought on hope this month with one of the more famous verses from Isaiah 40:28b-31:

“The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.”

Everyone gets tired at some point in time.  Let’s face it, there are lots of stressors, pressures and challenges in even the simplest of lives, not to mention the people we interact with.  We can only take so much pressure before we crack.

Reading this passage from Isaiah almost makes me more tired, knowing God doesn’t get tired or worn down; where does He get all that energy?!  It also calms me down from that cliff edge I’m wavering on when I’m super tired or feeling beat up.  In multiple ways this passage tells me that God has more life, more heart, more love, more compassion and more grace that I could ever dig up within myself.

This passage assures us that God will give us the strength to keep going when that’s what is necessary.  However, God has nothing against rest too, remember He spent 6 days creating the world in Genesis and on the 7th He rested.  God’s got no problem stopping for a time or taking a break when He needs it. Which says a lot about us people who don’t know when to stop and rest and keep pushing forward when it’s not necessary.

If you find this week that you are at the end of your rope, take a look around and make sure that God’s not encouraging you to take a break.  If God really is encouraging you to keep going He will give you the strength to keep going.

Life Is…

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”

Mother Teresa

Today we’re again learning from the wisdom of Mother Teresa.  I’m always blessed when I read her thoughts or learn from her wisdom.  She managed to touch more lives in her life time than most of us will, yet she was always humble and thankful.  These words however challenge me more than usual.  Perhaps because I’m considering again my role in life, perhaps because I’m challenged to live like she did, perhaps because I’m tired of all the people around me refusing to fight for their lives.

Why do we choose to play a small game, not dream big or let things stay status quo?  Is it our fears that hold us back?  A lack of dreams?  Other people telling us we can’t do it?  What happened that we’ve stopped loving life and learning and growing into our potential?  Why aren’t there more people like Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela?  Or are there and we’ve just refused to see it, or refused to let them get on their soapbox and improve and enrich all our lives?

The real challenge Mother Teresa presented to each of us was not to find a slum and help someone.  But for each of us to use our unique gifts and talents in the best way possible.  It’s time for each of us to step up and take the torch from Mother Teresa and others who have made an impact in small and large ways.  We each have an impact to make, and it’s time we did it.

How Much Love?

This week we’re studying the wisdom of Mother Teresa. She’s one of the women in history who made a lasting impact after her life, as well as a strong impact during her life.  She didn’t have to die to be recognized like many people do, her wisdom and kindness was well known while she was alive.

“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?” 

When I read this bit of wisdom from Mother Teresa I have to admit that I was relieved at the reminder.  God knows we can’t be perfect while we live on this earth with our sin-nature (the natural tendency to not behave like little angels all the time).  But yet we’re so often told by pastors and other spiritual leaders that we have to behave and not sin.  As much as we may try (and it is important to try), we all still fail, even the best of us.

But what if, as Mother Teresa said, instead of trying to be perfect, we tried to love more?  I have to admit I feel pretty confident that I can get over my occasional tendency to criticize people without constructive suggestions, and instead learn how to be a better lover in all my current relationships and with everyone I meet.

What about you?  Does loving sound more doable rather than trying to be perfect?  God never asks more of us than He knows we can handle.  If God challenges you, calls you, to be perfect, He’s got a reason. But for the rest of us are usually just called to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and…Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Who will you love today?

Hope Says

With our topic of hope this month, I thought I’d share some quotes that make me hope!

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”  Shel Silverstein

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”  John Lennon

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” Robert Fulghum

“Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope.'” Alexandre Dumas

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” Barbara Kingsolver

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”  Dalai Lama XIV

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”  Nelson Mandela

What quotes inspire you?  Share them in the comments below!

Hope and Fear

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.” Psalm 91:1-2

This is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible (read the whole thing here).  It’s a chapter I’ve spend hours reading, studying and considering, I’ve drawn pictures of it, have written many devotionals about it and done talks on it as well.  Somewhere during my years of high school it became one of the more important passages to me.  It always fascinates me when I read it, and today as I was considering what it means to rest in God, it came to mind.

We humans don’t make rest a high enough priority in our lives.  I know we’ve all struggled and are remembering those times, and it seems right to make sure we have those few extra overtime hour dollars in our bank accounts rather than resting.  I can’t disagree with that fear, most of us experience it at one time or another.  But when those fears creep into our minds, other fears start to roar too.  We hear again the doubts from our family about our chosen job or partner, doubts that our kids are doing well enough, doubts that we’re really as happy as we seem, doubts that we’ll never amount to much like our guidance counselors told us.

The doubts and fears roll over us like the ocean waves, relentless and stronger by the wave.  So we double down and get back to work to bury the fears.  Instead we should be talking with our friends, our partners, our pastors, whomever we trust, about the fears that we are struggling with.  We should be turning to God and dealing with our fears. We should be taking time to rest and dream big dreams. The fears may never fully go away, but the truth can replace them and burn stronger and brighter than any fear.

Doing Nothing

“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”  Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, inspired by A.A. Milne

One of the things that summer does to us is make us relax, or at least make us want to grab a drink and head outside to relax.  I’ve often said how important it is to take action if you want something, but related to that is knowing when to not act, when to sit back and when you need a break.  While Pooh and friends may not have had much in the way of lofty goals, Pooh always got his honey and his friends always worked out their problems.  But more than that, they always had time to sit together in the 100 Acre Woods and talk with Christopher Robin about clouds, honey and whatever else crossed their minds.

It really means that A.A. Milne knew that life was about more than making millions as a writer or the other career pursuits that his friends may have had.  When was the last time you just sat for the heck of it, or ate your food just to enjoy it and didn’t rush, or spent time with your partner or family without rushing off?

When you sit down to do nothing you may find that you get more value out of that little bit of quiet time than you did all day trying to multi-task and please your boss.  Not to mention the health benefits of relaxation like lower blood pleasure, being easier to be around and being less stressed.

Like a lot of other things we’ve talked about lately, doing nothing and relaxing is a choice.  It’s an important choice, almost as important as paying your bills on time, eating right, having healthy relationships and exercising.  That little time of doing nothing may be the encouragement, inspiration, hope and bit of energy you needed to get through the rest of your day, or figure out the next step in your life.

A Future Filled with Hope

This month our topic is hope, and what a better discussion to start it off than Jeremiah 29:10-14:

“After Babylonia has been the strongest nation for seventy years, I will be kind and bring you back to Jerusalem, just as I have promised. I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering. You will turn back to me and ask for help, and I will answer your prayers. You will worship me with all your heart, and I will be with you and accept your worship. Then I will gather you from all the nations where I scattered you, and you will return to Jerusalem.”

I know it’s a really familiar passage (although maybe not in this translation), and that you’ve heard it thousands of times and it doesn’t seem that big or interesting anymore. But it’s also one of the most enduring statements of hope and encouragement in the Bible.  You probably could recite it, right?  Which means that not only have you heard it before, you remember it.

That’s one of the keys to hope: in order for it to actually matter and fulfill its purpose, it has to stick with you (like peanut butter or mashed potatoes).  The best kind of hope of course is hope placed in God, because He won’t let you down.  Maybe He won’t finish things exactly as you asked Him to, but He will finish them in a way that shows His care for you, his precious child.

If you’ve focused too long on the situation you’re in and not on the hope you have in God, it’s time to change that.  You can’t move forward in life if you’re stuck in reverse.  Look to and start planning a future that you actually want, and start walking towards it today.

Hoping through Fears

For years I’ve shared about my belief of the importance of having hope in your life.  It’s something I believe every leader should share, every relationship have, every family share and every individual discover.  Hope isn’t the end all, be all answer, life is often about words and actions too, not just thoughts.  But without hope life is often too challenging to get through.  There are lots of things that try to throw us off our game and distract us from our missions.  But hope helps us get through those tough spots.  As Vincent McNabb said:

“Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them.”

Living with hope in your life isn’t about it all going right or believing it will all go right, just like having faith in God isn’t all about having a pain-free life.  Hope gives us the strength, the grace, the help, to figure out how to get through the tough stuff, who can help, and that we can indeed get to tomorrow.

Even if you get rid of your biggest fear, tackle your biggest goal, or build a really great relationship with your partner, there will still be issues that come up, new fears you’ll face.  Life can’t be completely conquered, there will always be new things for you to face and grow through.

The choice, the challenge, comes from how you deal with and work through those tough situations.  Do you try to struggle through it alone, or do you reach out for the hope you’ve got?  Do you let fear take over or do you push on through anyway?  Write down some big dreams you have today, this month we’ll be talking about how to put hope into action in your life!