"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
October 22, 2008
I am an avid reader, and most generally read Christian fiction. Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre to read. I will admit that I seldom read devotional or self-help or how-to or spiritual growth type of books by Christian authors. There are good books out there, and a lot that are written by wonderful individuals. But personally, I find that you can read five books on the same subject by different writers, and although they may have some similarities, you will also get five different people telling you differing views. I just find that it can get confusing after awhile, and make me begin questioning who's right and make me feel like I'm doing everything spiritually wrong. For example, you can read books on prayer. One will tell you that you should prayer a particular way; then you can read another book that will say no, if you want your prayers to be effective this is the pattern you should follow. So I study the Bible, and get spiritual teaching from my pastors or teachers whom I know. Then when I read books, it's for relaxation and pure entertainment. But this is just my personal preference.
I'm not saying that Christian study books are wrong, and if you enjoy reading them and are spiritually fed, that's wonderful. God uses different ways to minister to different people. I would just caution you to read authors whom you know something about, so you don't get caught up in doctrines or teachings that are not practical or not completely in line with God's Word.
A few years back, a particular book was recommended to me that really struck a cord within me. I think one reason it appealed to me was because it was written in parable form, and I could really understand and relate to the story. Also, as I was reading the story I could picture myself in the main characters role. I had encountered some of the same struggles and situations. Since I first read the book, I've been drawn back to it at various times.
The book is "The Dream Giver" by Bruce Wilkinson. It's a modern day parable that tells the story of Ordinary, a Nobody, who leaves the Land of Familiar to pursue his Big Dream. The Dream Giver convinces him to leave his comfort zone, and begin the journey towards his dream. On the way Ordinary encounters many obstacles. He often feels alone and at times questions the Dream Giver, and feels like his dream is dead and that the journey is too hard. But eventually he begins to see that what looks like obstacles is actually opportunities. The book encourages us to rise above the ordinary, conquer our fears, and overcome the obstacles that keep us from living our big dream.
The preface of the book is that God places within each of us a dream for our life. And we have it for a reason: to draw us toward the kind of life that we were born to love. We may not be able to quite describe it. Sometimes as we get busy with life and family we may forget what our dream is. Or we may no longer believe in it; but it's still there. We may feel like it's impossible to achieve or that we've waited too late in life to go for it, yet God can help us reach our big dream, if we are willing to follow Him.
Recently I was in contact with someone who has a big dream. They have a particular talent, and have been diligently practicing in order to become as good as possible and really hone their talent. They desire to go for their dream and see what happens. Yet they have people telling them that they should just forget it, get a job, get married and have a family.
I have found that people are the biggest obstacle that often stands between us and our dreams. Perhaps it's because they care about us and don't want to see us get hurt. Perhaps it's because they had a dream and never went for it, so now feel stuck, and are jealous that we are stepping out and going for our dream. It could be that they feel threatened; if we leave home and pursue what's within our heart, then they risk no longer being an important figure in our lives and the relationship changing.
My sister and I were recently discussing why we fear doing new things or pursuing dreams. Growing up, I was never encouraged to attend college or have a career or follow my dream. I know that my parents loved me and wanted the best for me. But my mom passed away when I was fifteen, and my dad had a mindset that women were to take care of their home and family. I think that he was afraid if I attended college, then my career would take priority over being a wife and mother. Of course he had no idea that I was going to be single for so many years!
When I was a little girl, I dreamed of traveling and singing with a gospel group. I loved playing piano and singing, and using those talents were what I most wanted to do. But as I got older, I felt that I was expected to get a job and earn a living, until the day that I got married. I was to be practical, not a dreamer.
My biggest problem was that I allowed myself to be influenced by people's opinion and what I "thought" they were thinking and saying. I had a teacher ask me about my singing one time. He sarcastically commented, "I bet you think you're really good, don't you? My wife sings and thinks she's good. All singers have a big head (ego), thinking that they're better than everyone else."
Over the years, I was afraid that people would think that I thought I was "above" them or better than them, if I pursued singing. Instead of receiving encouragement, I felt that I was being judged. That made me question my talent, and that perhaps I really wasn't good enough to make it and do well.
I then allowed fear of failure to keep me from ever trying to pursue a career in music. What may have started as people's opinion or perception took root as self-doubt. I let what I thought people were thinking about me, hinder me from pursuing my dream. I began to dwell on all the "what ifs" that could go wrong. So it became easier to stay in my comfort zone where it was safe. I may have tried and failed, but then again I may have been a success. But that is something I will never know.
People are very quick to say, "I told you so." And it's hard to take a leap of faith at times, because we are afraid that we'll fail and have to go back and face those who had told us not to try to begin with. None of us enjoy hearing those four little words, "I told you so," from others. If things don't work out, how much more encouraging it would be to hear people say, "Good for you for going for it and trying! God must have something else very special for you to do. I'm proud of you for stepping out there and seeing what happened." Those words are a lot more uplifting than, "I told so."
That's why it's so important to me to encourage young people to follow their heart and go for their dreams. If they don't, then they'll never know what could have happened. If they don't succeed, then they can have peace knowing that they tried but that God must have something else in store for them. But if that is the route that God has for them and they are a success, then they can also have peace, knowing that they had the boldness to step out in faith.
In Exodus 4, God had called Moses to go speak to the Israelites and tell them that they were to leave Egypt. God went through everything that Moses was to say to the people. Afterwards Moses asked God, "But supposed they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, 'The Lord has not appeared to you.'"
So God showed Moses three things to do, as signs that he was acting and speaking on God's behalf.
After all that, Moses said to the Lord, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."
A couple verses later it says that the Lord became angry at Moses.
It seems as if Moses was afraid to do the job that God had called him to do. God had given Moses a dream to lead His people out of Egypt. Moses didn't like being under bondage and wanted to go live in Canaan, but yet God was asking him to leave his comfort zone and do something different than anything he had ever done in the past.
First of all, we see Moses letting people's opinion have influence over him. "But God, what if...." He was probably thinking, "There is no way that all these people are going to listen to and follow me! They'll never believe me when I tell them that the Lord appeared to me. They're not going to pay attention to what I tell them."
God tried to put Moses' fears to rest, giving him signs to show the people in order to convince them that he had truly heard from, and was speaking on behalf of the Lord.
Moses then shifted gears. "But God, I'm not a speaker! I'm not eloquent and speak slow." He was probably thinking that God had made a mistake and had the wrong man for the job. Apparently he was feeling inferior and not up to the task.
God finally became frustrated and angry with Moses. He told Moses that his brother, Aaron, could go with him and speak the words. God would tell Moses what to say, who would tell Aaron, who would then pass the message on to the people. I wonder what would have happened if Moses had of said, "Okay God, You created me and know my speech problems, but I'm willing to be used on Your behalf and do the job." Perhaps if Moses had been willing to say the words himself, when he began speaking to the people a boldness would have come over him, and God would have healed his speech problems and made him become an eloquent speaker. We'll never know what could have been.
Too often we make our insecurities look bigger than God's abilities to overcome them. Our fear of failure overshadows our faith. I wonder what would happen if I would quit worrying about what people may or may not think of me? I wonder what God could accomplish through me, if I would let go of fears and insecurities?
I wonder at times what my life would be like today, if I had of only pursued my childhood dream. I know that there are things that God has placed in my heart, but I've allowed people's opinions to hinder me from obeying. I know that I've made a lot of mistakes, and I'm sure that there have been times when God has become frustrated with me. Yes, God loves me and is my Heavenly Father. But just as an earthly father can love his child, yet still become frustrated and upset with them when they disobey or don't do what they're asked to do; I believe that God can love us yet still get frustrated with us.
Writing has been another passion of mine. When I first began feeling impressed to begin writing this weekly newsletter, I was excited. Then I began thinking, "No one would probably read it, and everyone will just think the newsletter is silly." But I had already bypassed my childhood dream of pursuing music, and didn't want to let another opportunity go by without seeing what would happen. I had to choose whether to let what I thought people would think or say influence me, of if I was willing to step out in faith and see what God could do. Thankfully, I chose the road of faith. We don't have hundreds of readers each week, but if I can take this opportunity that God has opened up for me and encourage just a few people per week, then it's worth it. I've been writing this for a year and a half, and I still look forward to writing this each week. It would be great to write the "great American novel", and maybe someday I will. But for now, I'm doing what God has asked me to do. And because of that, I have a sense of fulfillment and contentment.
May each of us allow the Dream Giver to push us out of our comfort zone and onto the journey towards our dream. May we not become disillusioned or discouraged by the "giants" that we encounter. And may we never give up and go back to the land of comfort, and settle into our same old rut.
We are all just ordinary people, and may feel like a nobody at times, but God has great plans for us and has given us all a dream. May we each have the boldness to go for it!
It's great to have dreams. But sometimes, those dreams take more than a hard decision. Sometimes, it takes determination, time, work, years of dedication. Sarah and Abraham dreamed of having children, but it was decades before they had Isaac. Moses dreamed of freeing his people, but had to face pharaoh, and run from his armies. Israel had to work for his father-in-law fourteen years to marry his true love, Rachel. Some of our dreams may take spending four to ten years in college.
Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy. And he enjoys stealing our dreams. Sometimes, it's as simple as "Nah, it's not worth it." or "It's just too much time for right now." And the favorite, "Sure, but just not now."
It takes a lot of dedication, especially when the dreams seem to be derailed for a time. But God has plans for each of us. And God doesn't give up on us as easily as we give up on ourselves.
I was recently sent this recipe by a friend. I have not yet tried it, but thought it sounded interesting.
Chocolate Mug Cake
1 Coffee Mug
4 Tbsp. Flour (Not self-rising)
4 Tbsp. Sugar
2 Tbsp. Cocoa
3 Tbsp. Milk
3 Tbsp. Oil
3 Tbsp. Chocolate Chips
Small Splash of Vanilla
Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil, and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and vanilla, and mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed. Allow to cool a little and tip out onto a plate, if desired.
This past weekend Jon and I went to Missouri to my family home place. All of my sisters, as well as some other family members, also were there. On Saturday, my sisters and I, as well as my nephews wife, all decided to go on a walk. The property has a lot of steep hills and hollers. The house and land surrounding it is the only flat part and is surrounded by ravines and hills. We walked down to the bottom of the holler (that's what we call them in Lampe) to where a spring is, where our parents used to get water when my sisters were young. The road going down to the spring was rough and washed out and overgrown. After getting down there, my sisters all got this bright idea! Instead of going back the way we had come, they thought it would be faster and easier to climb straight up the hillside. We would come out behind the house a ways, back where I had my mobile home when I lived there.
I tried to tell them that it would be easier to go back the way we'd come, and that they didn't realize how steep that climb was going to be. They said, "Oh, we've done it before." Yes, but they were much younger back then too! But would they listen to their little sister? No way!! So my two oldest sisters started climbing up the hillside first of all. My other two sisters, my nephews wife and I decided to walk down a little ways where it didn't look quite as steep, to begin with. The climb was pretty much just straight up and was really steep. It is in a wooded area, so there were lots of trees; which meant there were a lot of fallen leaves that had piled up and were slippery. Plus there was loose rock and gravel in places. We did all finally make it to the top -- and decided that we would never do that again! And yes, I did say, "I told you so!"
My two oldest sisters said that they had ended up crawling on their hands and knees in places because they couldn't stand up. Neither one of them had on good walking shoes. One of them were wearing crocs (slip on clogs with no tread) and the other one had on canvas tennis shoes (just like Granny Horton used to wear). I made it okay, but had to stop every few feet to get my breath and rest. I would find a tree up ahead of me and think, "Okay, when I make it to that tree then I can stop and rest for a minute." My other two sisters had a hard time of it too. They had to crawl over some loose gravel because their feet kept sliding. They finally stopped and sat down for a while to rest; which was a mistake because they then had a hard time getting back up and making the rest of the climb.
My nephew's wife and I got to the tree line about the same time as my two oldest sisters. One of my sisters and I were worried about the other two, so were going to wait there until we saw them and knew that they were going to be okay. We were yelling at them to ask if they were okay and where they were. We both thought that one of my sisters yelled back and said, "Quit hollering at us! You're only making it worse." I found out later that what she actually said was, "Quit hollering at us! You're making us use our breath for words."
After making it up the steep incline okay, my nephew's wife was walking down the flat drive towards the house. My niece, who had been babysitting my nephew and his wife's daughter, brought the little girl and gave her to her mom. She was carrying her daughter and somehow fell and twisted her ankle. Here she had made it all the way up that steep hill, then fell and sprained her ankle on flat ground. The two sisters who were still in the woods finally made it out. One sister's son and daughter had walked down to check on their mom, to see if she needed help, and walked the rest of the way with her. My brother-in-law rode the 4-wheeler down and picked up my other sister and gave her a ride to the house.
We decided that we were too old and out of shape for "mountain climbing". Of course, later two of my nephews and a niece had to go on the same walk to show us that they could do it. Then later, my husband and two nephews made the same walk and climb up the steep hillside.
A marriage license is like a hunting license--you are allowed only one dear.
We do enjoy hearing from readers, when you have a chance to email. It lets us know that we actually do have readers each week, and that there really are people out there still reading our newsletter.
We hope everyone is enjoying this fall season.
We love you!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read our newsletter. We appreciate you very much.
Loretta & Jon