RISK TAKERs, DREAM MAKERs: INTRODUCTION

It seems that the biggest question women (and men) are asking themselves these days boils down to essentially one significant question - How do I make all my dreams come true? There's this burning desire to feel not only content with our lives at the present moment, but to feel both satisfied and confident in where we are headed, too. 

And so, because we are ambitious and want the very best for our lives, we spend a lot of time reading and researching anything and everything that has to do with purpose, calling and even identity. Because ultimately, we know that our dreams have a lot to do with who we are, where God is leading us, and what God has put in us. We think that if we could only just figure that all out, then the rest would follow. Right? Wrong. See, we can read all the books and take all the tests and make all the goals- but if we don't have the faith to actually walk out what God is calling us to co-labor with Him on, then nothing will ever change. In fact, we'll just stay put and we'll just grow stagnant. Worse; we'll just get comfortable.

I've spent more than half my life doing all the aforementioned things - pursuing purpose, calling and identity as if they held the key to my future. To be honest, it satisfied the parts of me that needed a plan and needed some sort of understanding of who I am. It felt good to walk in a steady belief of myself. But, that's also where I've gone wrong. The more enlightened I've become, the more confused I've gotten. And in the span of just a few years- the more I've come to understand myself, the less I've actually done. It's not that those things are bad, per say. It's good to know ourselves and know where we'd thrive. It's good to know what God wants from us. It's good to set goals and steward your life well. It's all good. 

But in order to actually make our dreams come true, we have to take risks. And oftentimes, the pursuit of self-knowledge deters us from the actual plan; from the actual jumping in. In fact, we sometimes get so stuck on our hearts that we forget to move our feet. 

I've noticed that those who are actually seeing their dreams come to fruition aren't the ones who are questioning whether they're the woman for the job. They certainly aren't sitting around waiting for their dreams to happen to them or putting themselves under a microscope and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses. Instead, they are taking the risks. They are walking out their faith in real time. 

And this, this is what it all comes down to. 

The purpose of this series isn't to hone in on your special skills or talents. It's not even about further figuring out what your dreams and visions are. Instead, because I'm smack dab in the middle of it all myself - this series is about what it actually looks like to walk out your faith. Tangibly. 

Look, I know that walking out our faith feels a little bit like running through a never-ending pitch black tunnel with only one lit matchstick to accompany you. There isn't a ultra high beam flashlight that illuminates the way. To make matters worse, there certainly aren't any directions. Actually, I think that's one of the only things we can be sure about - not knowing where we're headed. 

Regardless, that doesn't mean that we can't spend the time positioning our feet to match the direction of our hearts. And that's what I'd love to spend some time on for both me, and for you - becoming a risk taker and a dream maker in both word and in deed. 

The best part? We aren't doing it all on our own. If we feel like we're at the end of our rope and ready to give in - that just means it's actually time to grip even tighter onto the hands of our Savior, conquer our fears, and run the race that He's set before us. Matchsticks in hand. Both our feet and our hearts headed in the same direction. You in?

WE'RE ALL JUST LOOKING FOR THE REAL THING

I don't talk about it often in the public arena, but a few years ago I had a major breakup with the church and the Christian machine. It wasn't as if there was one incident that led me to feel betrayed by the Body of Christ- but rather a litany of tiny beliefs, circumstances, and actions that began to push me away. I was rather confused at incongruences with what I saw JESUS DO versus what I saw the Church do. Eventually, the confusion led to bitterness, and the bitterness turned to both resentment and anger. 

I don't think that I'm alone in this. It seems that every person I speak to is going through a transformation of the faith and, in some instances, leaving it. They're not just leaving their churches. They're also leaving God. They're not just putting off the label of being a Christian; they're also denying Christ. Of course, it's not always that extreme. Rather, the people who find themselves frustrated, confused, and angry often demonstrate their feelings in other ways. Most often with passivity, avoidance, and apathy. Churches have begun to wonder why they feel dead, and I think that at times -- this has something to do with it. 

When congregants are wounded, the Body is wounded. And when we deny healing to those parts, we limit the capacity of the Kingdom

For those that have been hurt by the Church, the wound goes deep. For me, at least -- because I had taken great pride in the community I had chosen and the pastor I followed and the people I bound myself too, I didn't realize that my identity had become them. I had wrapped my belief and my motivation tightly around the organization and the system. And so, when the evidence compounded against them with no explanation or change, both my purpose and my identity fell apart at the seams. I don't think we realize we're doing it. It's unintentional. But eventually, if we aren't careful - we began to idealize the house and the people who lead it. Tragically, we allow our idealization to become that which directs our thoughts of God and His character. 

Now, on the other side -- I think what really breaks my heart is seeing how we, both Believers and the rest of the world included, allow the imperfect Body to be the final word on how we see the perfect God and Christ. We seem to think that an untrue Christian has the power to make God's word less true. Crazy, isn't it? 

Maybe I'm just speaking for myself here, but I think what we all really want, is the real thing. We're tired of disparity and disunity, and we're tired of walking pharisees living out less than holy intentions. We're tired of fake people pretending to have it all together. And, we're tired for the call to be vulnerable when the supposed safe landing place is daggered with judgement and consequence, not understanding and grace. Let me clarify something here -- the real thing doesn't mean that we'll always agree. Or, that there isn't sin that needs to be called out. However, it means that we give time and space and relationship to those things that are confusing, that don't make sense, and that seem to not line up. It means having hard conversations with each other and being comfortable with not having all the answers. 

I'll tell you this - while I'm not against movements and hashtags and unifying under specific and real problems,these are not the banners we should be living for. Not as believers, anyways. The real thing is believing that it's not the body of people that can fix what's broken - but the head that leads it. The church you are going to, the pastor who heads it, the small group you attend, the protest you march in, or the denomination that you're certain has it right - these aren't the real thing. The real thing is Jesus. I know that we want to believe that the world we're living in isn't that simple. And yes, there are times (so many times) where we have the mandate to speak up for the marginalized and the broken and the weary. After all, this is our call as believers (because if Christ did it, then so should we). However, the problem that comes from these well-intended organizations and movements is that again, they become us. We begin to lead people to us, to our cause, to our church, and to our beliefs - instead of leading them to Christ. 

We become so distracted by ourselves. We want our voices heard and our stories known. We want other people's voices heard and their stories known. We think that this is how people get saved. And, I guess I wonder if we're out to save others for themselves, or for God? And I wonder if we've realize we've turned people into their own personal saviors, instead of pointing them to the Savior? 

As long as we make it more about us, and less about God -- WE JUST AREN'T GOING TO GET ANYWHERE.  Instead of unity, we'll become more and more disintegrated. Instead of healing, we'll see ourselves become more broken and fractured. We cannot fix ourselves. Only God can.

I guess I'm just saying, maybe it is this simple: spending less time focusing on what we each have to say for ourselves and more time on what God actually demonstrated to us about Himself. This is where the healing is. And this is where the Kingdom doesn't just expand and flourish, but the Body of Christ becomes whole. 

In the meantime, here's what we can do. We can point to the cross and to Christ incessantly. We can look less at what makes us different, and declare over and over again what makes us the same. We can inspire revival under the banner of a God who saved us from ourselves. We can see the Body of Christ as an extension of God, but not make it responsible for what we ultimately believe about Him. We can advocate for those who don't have a voice not by lending them ours, but by lending them God's. We can find our identity in being God's, not being _______. Finally, we can show people what they are looking for. We can show them the real thing. We can show them a Savior who is working in us, through us, and for us. A Savior who supersedes all others in authenticity and vulnerability. A Savior who is perfect regardless of what others say or do. And, a Savior who doesn't need looking for because He's already come looking for us. 

IT'S TIME TO LET GO

I don’t fly much. But, I’ve learned that when I do - what I bring, and how much, makes all the difference. At least in my opinion, the less baggage the better. Right? I believe the same is true when traveling from one year to the next. Less is absolutely, and always, better. 

Sometimes, our baggage is tangible; often circumstantial. Perhaps we left a job, ended a friendship, or suffered through a long illness. There's just no way around it, life is unpredictable and some seasons are just plain hard. Other times, our baggage is spiritual. Our struggles live deep in the heart. We're paralyzed by insecurities or distraught over disappointment. The pendulum can swing wide here; there's just so much we can carry. In both cases though, we practically carry this baggage with us wherever we go. And without realizing it, we're impacted. Our shoulders slump. Our arms ache. We walk differently than we normally do. We become restricted by unnecessary and unhealthy perspectives or beliefs that profoundly disturb the way we live out our daily lives. 

Baggage comes in all shapes and sizes but, truth is, we all have it. For both our sakes though, I'm going to stick myself out on a limb and declare that with Jesus, maybe we don't have to. Maybe instead of poking around and unpacking what we've been carrying, we can do something radical instead -we can let go. 

Because confession is synonymous with acknowledgment, and you can't let go of what you haven't first admitted is already there - I'm going to go first. Here are the three things that I'm letting go of in 2018, to never be seen or carried again. In Jesus Name. 

1. EXPECTATIONS. It's not about avoiding disappointment. It's about realizing that I am actually not God. Go figure. No one needs to live up to my ideal of them, and no one ever will. My perspective will always fall short of what's best for me, and for others. And, where many people regard expectations as a means of overextending a hope, or a dream -I've found that they're more like blinders. In the pursuit of an ideal, from anyone or anything - we lose sight of what is God's best.

In the Kingdom, we can operate out of a place of expectancy instead. It's here that we trust God's work in ourselves, in others, through others, and entwined in each and every circumstance that we may face. Expectancy is different because it's believing that God has our best in mind. It's about not looking at what the world should or could provide, but rather about what God will provide. Expectancy is keeping our eyes open for Him in every aspect, fully believing that He will show up for us and that, while we may not be aware of it -- He is absolutely doing the same for every other person, too. 

2. A VICTIM MINDSET. "I can't. I didn't. I have no choice. I am not in control." All of these, in one way or another, I've thought or said out loud or believed. It's hard to even admit - but where seasons of life have become difficult it's been most comfortable to lay down and die. Have you ever heard that phrase before? It means to give up hope, to quit, and to have no ambition. How many times after long-suffering through a habit we want to kick, a harsh environment we want to leave, or a tough relationship we just don't understand we have just said, "I can't do this anymore; I won't?" Instead of making a move towards something better, something greater -- we just allow whatever it is to consume us. 

I'm learning that this is what separates those who experience real change in their lives from those who don't. We all fall, we'll all stumble - but what makes us or breaks us if we're willing to get back up again. Then, we have to define what sort of mindset we will allow to define us; the fall and the failure or the victory of Christ? When we choose Christ, we get to live from victory not victimhood. That's how we break free. 

3. MY PERSONAL AGENDA. What if we woke up every day with the sole goal of tackling what was on God's agenda, instead of ours? What if we literally asked Him what he wanted us to do that day? What if I said He cares just as much about the little tasks as the big dreams? It's both thrilling and a bit intimidating, right? It also requires us to relinquish a lot of control and more significantly, our self-focus. However, this is where I see the Lord doing the most work; in the surrendered. If I give Him my career, He'll take it and expand it. If I give Him my dreams, He'll make them more than I ever thought possible and exactly what I need. If I give Him my errands, He'll show up at the grocery store and in the drive-thru line.

For God, it's not about control. It's about the possibilities that come to fruition when we bring the Kingdom with us. When we allow Him access into our lives 24/7, we're doing more than just changing ourselves. We're changing the world. 

In the last several years, God's been persistent in teaching me the same lesson; with different words and through various events. I don't know that it will ever change. But, these three things only serve to prove what His grandest plan has been for my life all along; and it's this: to live is Christ, and to die is gain. And if all I have to surrender is all that has only has served to imprison me, than so be it. 

Come at me 2018, cause my hands are free. 


IN THE WORD

2 Peter 3:8-9 | Romans 8:28 | Deuteronomy 20:4 | 1 Corinthians 15:57 | 2 Timothy 1:7 | Proverbs 3:5 | John 15:1-7