Love Letter to a Dreamer

Hey You,

Yes, You.

I hope you’ve read over the last month of archives and learned a thing or two about dreams. I hope you were encouraged by these women who have fought with dreams… and won. I hope that you, too, learn to be a survivor–the kind of person who would dare to be more than the world believes you could be.

There will be plenty of people who try to shoot you down. The line of people waiting to throw their stones never gets any shorter. So I started a line of my own. I’m in the line of people who say, “Hey You, yes, You… I believe in you. I know that you were made for great things.”

And I’m sorry to say there aren’t too many people in my line. I’m sorry to say that you’ll dodge far more rocks than embrace words made for comforting. And I’m sorry to say that curses may cling to your soul a lot longer than blessings do. The words you will remember are the ones that wounded you; not so much the ones that carried you.

So I‘m begging you to listen closely. Listen very, very closely to these words I’m going to say. And hold these words. Harbor these words. Let these words shape the very core of you.

You are, in a word, potential. Potential, potential, potential. You could go anywhere and do anything–carried away on the wings of a dream. No matter what the world says–no matter how “safe” and “practical” it wants you to be; know that you weren’t made for anything less than your wildest dreams.

So chase them. Chase your dreams wherever they may lead you. And never stop believing in them–no matter how impossible they may seem. Because the impossible dreams are the ones that are made for coming true.

You know what I want for you? I want you to find the purpose for which you are made. I want you to find your dream and run with it. And I want to jump up and down on the sidelines like I’m your biggest fan. Because I am your biggest fan you know.

And I’ll be here the whole time, cheering you on, speaking words of blessing where others throw curses. You musn’t listen to them, you know. They don’t know what they’re saying. They don’t see what I see. They don’t understand that the Maker has gifted each and every one of us and that you were made to shine.

So go ahead, Fragile Bird, spread your wings. Leap from the nest that has cradled you for so long. It’s time you realize that you were made for flying.

And don’t you forget to dream.

You Are Worth It

Today, I’m at a loss for words. It happens from time to time. I keep typing letters onto the page only to delete them and try again. Still I find that my words are insufficient as everything within my heart tries to rush out all at once. The phrases jumble together. Trip over the next. And somehow I can’t seem to say how important it is that you know you are beautiful. That you understand that God doesn’t make mistakes. That you grasp the depth of His love for you.

But the words are missing and and those kinds of words have conditions, anyway. Not that I’m going to change my mind and take them back the next time you make a mistake, but because you will want me to take them back. Because you will argue that if I only knew who you are… What you’ve done…

I could say it all day in a thousand words or more, but until you believe them for yourself, my words are meaningless. Empty. I may be talking to someone in the world, but I’m certainly not talking to you.

Oh, but I am talking to you. You and you only. You’re the one who needs to hear it. And how I wish I could take your face in my hands like the preschoolers I spend time with every weekday afternoon. “Hey you,” I’d say, “you’re worth it. You are one incredible human being.” And I would mean it from the bottom of my heart. “Hey you,” I’d say, “you’re beautiful. You are one breathtaking masterpiece.” And I would pray those words wouldn’t bounce off of the carefully crafted wall you’ve built to protect yourself – the one that is actually harming you instead.

You’re the only one who can penetrate that wall. You’re the only one whose words are loud enough to force truth into the darkened corners of your wounded spirit. So please, take it from someone who sees what you are somehow missing, and tell yourself that you’re worth it.

Hand Prints on My Heart

A man in the Middle East had a dream. In that dream, Jesus appeared to him and slapped him in the face. He awoke to find a hand print on his cheek. The mark lingered for three days. The doctors couldn’t explain it. Then Jesus appeared in the man’s dreams once more. Again, He slapped the man, this time telling him to seek Him. Three more days, the man’s face bore the mark of this supernatural occurrence. Then Jesus came again and asked, “Why did you not seek Me?”

“I don’t know who You are!”

So Jesus told Him who He is. And He explained how He could be found. And this time, when the man awoke, the hand print of God was not on his face; but on his heart.

A lot of people are surprised by that testimony. Some people have a hard time accepting that Jesus would do such a thing. Some people don’t seem to understand how desperately God desires our attention.

A pastor friend of mine once shared, “I’ve been told that the Holy Spirit is a gentleman. I beg to differ; He slapped Paul right off a horse. That’s not very gentlemanly.”

I related with that statement because I’ve heard similar words. Words about how sweet and gentle Jesus is in dealing with His children. I guess there are people who don’t find it difficult to submit to God’s will. And maybe Jesus is gentle with them.

Then there are people like me.

I laughed when my friend told the story about the man and the hand print. I laughed because I’m familiar with the God who throws men from horses and spits in the eyes of the blind. I laughed because I was delighted to find that I’m not the only person who needs a holy slap in the face now and then.

Some people look at God and see His judgment and righteous anger. Other people look at God and are consumed by the depths of His mercy and grace. I like to look somewhere in between. When I look at God,  I see how He inflicts pain in order to bring healing.

So many times He has slapped me in the face, trying to get my attention. So many times I walk away from the encounter with a reminder I refuse to take to heart.

But unlike the man in my friend’s story, I am without excuse. I know who appears before me. I know what it is He wants from me. And that is why I flee. Sometimes I don’t want what God wants. Sometimes I don’t want to face the hurt that leads to the healing. But today…

Today is the day I choose to surrender and let the hand print move from my face to my heart.

God, is that You or am I schizophrenic?

The past two weeks, our youth group has been talking about faith. This week’s small group led to some pretty interesting discussion as I asked my girls for some examples of people in the Bible who had faith. In order to help the girls grasp the concept that they can have faith like these heroes of old, I tried to expose some flaws in these characters. Their doubts, their fears, their struggles… Basically, their humanity. At the mention of Moses, I expressed my gratitude that I’m not the only one who argues with God.

“You can’t argue with God,” one of my students laughed. “He doesn’t talk back.”

Oh, He talks back. Trust me, sweetheart, He does talk back. I know this because I have argued with God and He has answered me. But only after I learned to listen for His voice. Only after I knew enough about the character of God that I could recognize that still, small voice as more than a passing thought.

But I guess the one thing we proved in small group this week is that, if God doesn’t talk back, I’m a schizophrenic.

And so am I!

Shh, be quiet you.

Whoa, sorry about that. But seriously, how many times do you suppose we brush off God’s voice thinking that our imagination has run wild? How many times have you heard someone say, “God doesn’t speak now like He did then”? If God can’t still reveal Himself in a burning bush or a big cloud or a still, small voice that whispers soft but clear, why does the Bible say that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”? (Hebrews 13:8) Why are we so hesitant to believe that God talks back? Is it because we haven’t attuned our hearts to listen?

No, it’s not an audible voice, and yes, sometimes it feels more like a thought. But sometimes that “feeling” is more like a certainty. Sometimes that “thought” is just as clear as anything audible could ever be. If the definition of faith is “being certain of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), I have faith that I can also be certain of things not heard.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to argue with God over yet another one of His harebrained assignments. Though, I’m not sure why I bother. He always wins in the end.

That’s right I do.

Ahem. But He doesn’t always get the last word.

That’s My King

Right on the heels of my post about running, God yet again reminds me of who He is. Bible study yesterday morning started off with this rousing video about my King. I know God’s talking to me, and I hope you’re blessed by this powerful reminder of what kind of God we serve:

I wish I could describe Him to you, but He’s indescribable.

That’s my King.

Do you know Him?

Wear it on Your Heart

I have a slight obsession with names. Seriously. While I love the names Silas and Gideon, I refuse to use both of them because the first means “forest dweller” and the second, “tree cutter.” That’s just asking for World War III to break out in your home.

Names are important. Your name is what defines you. That’s why I’m glad my mom was kind enough to name me “devoted and cherished.” And maybe that’s also why I was so touched when I read this article about Indian girls changing their names.

Here are a group of young women who have known from birth that they were “unwanted.” But on this one glorious day, they decided to make that change. They decided to transform the way they saw themselves and force others to see them in this new light. I wish I could have been there to watch these 285 girls receive the certificates that would restore them with a sense of worth. I wish I could have been there to see their smiles, to cry their happy tears.

But here I am, half a world away, talking to you. And I’m sure you have labels – names – that define you. And I’m sure there are words bouncing around in your mind. Words like: worthless, stupid, failure, unlovable… and God only knows what else. But you know what? You don’t have to go by those names anymore. You don’t have to see yourself as alone and unwanted. You don’t have to believe that your life has no value.

You are:

a child of God. (John 1:12)

chosen by God. (Ephesians 1:4)

valuable. (Matthew 10:31)

beautiful. (Psalm 45:11)

delivered. (Psalm 34:4)

endlessly loved. (Isaiah 54:10)

God knows your name, and He loved it enough to inscribe it on the palm of His hand. (Isaiah 49:16) He wears your name like a tattoo. I’m not really into tattoos, but I love the thought that I’m a permanent part of the Almighty God.

When the world screams that you’re unloved, unwanted, and undesired, God throws a renaming party and totally redefines you. Wear your new name on your heart as God wears it on His hand, and know that you are so much more than the words that define you.

You Matter

I’m in the middle of a pretty freaky book, but that’s not what had me tossing and turning in bed the other night. My mind kept replaying this snippet of a conversation – this one tiny piece of a testimony:

I was the pregnant 8th grader everyone gossiped about. “That trashy little girl.” But no one ever asked me how I got pregnant. And no one ever stopped to tell me that I matter.

I lay in bed for a long time and cried over the sorry state of my world. Over a people who are quick to judge and slow to extend mercy.

“You matter.”

Those words would have meant the world to this lonely, frightened 8th grader. But the people who were too busy judging a character that wasn’t even on trial were too blind to see the gem underneath.

She couldn’t see it either. She didn’t think she mattered.

I’m thankful to say that, years down the road, she met a God who told her the truth. She finally heard the words, “You matter,” and let them seep into her heart. But what it would have meant to hear those words in 8th grade…

So I’m here to tell you that you matter. No matter how many crimes have been committed against you. No matter how many wrongs you’ve done.

You matter.

And because you matter, your life has purpose. Because you matter, there is strength to face another day. Because you matter, you can hold your head high amidst the jeering of the crowd – against the lies and hatred you encounter along the way.

You matter. You honestly, truly matter.

Please believe these words I’m saying and, because you believe them, tell someone else she matters too.

Breaking Up With God

I’m a bit of a rebel. I like living on the edge. Once I stepped out of the box, there was no forcing me back in. So naturally, my curiosity was piqued by a book entitled Breaking Up With God: A Love Story. Upon picking it up, I quickly realized it wasn’t at all what I thought it was. See, my idea of a love story is when the couple gets back together in the end. In my mind, Romeo and Juliet was a tragedy… and so was Breaking Up With God.

But I guess the story isn’t all bad because, after spending an afternoon at Barnes and Noble, I came to the firm conclusion that Sarah Sentilles didn’t break up with God; she broke up with religion. And for that I commend her. In fact, if the God I serve resembled the cold, hard creature Sarah described in her memoir, I’d have dumped him too. Luckily for me, Jesus isn’t like that.

God doesn’t call us to follow tradition; He calls us to follow Him. He’s not cold, He’s not hard, He’s not far away, and He is not waiting for a reason to smite you. Yes, He’s just, and yes, He’s fair, and yes, He often lets us learn our lessons the hard way. But He is also love, and He is also mercy, and He is also waiting with outstretched arms for the day you come running home to Him.

I broke up with God once. I was young and I was angry because He didn’t answer my prayers the way I wanted Him to. I thought He had failed me. Turns out, He was weaving an even bigger miracle than the one I had asked for. Seven miserable months later, I came crawling back. Because the incredible God I know and love is impossible to stay away from.

I left religion long ago, abandoning forced habits that weren’t done out of love. But God… I’m too in love with Him to ever stray too far. If Sarah Sentilles ever met Him, she would know. Maybe one day she will find Him. Maybe one day her book will become the love story it claims to be.

Today I pray that you’ll be made increasingly aware of the God of the Fairytales and that you’ll dance in the freedom His love breathes into being.

No Condemnation

Sharm.

The word echoes through my mind as hauntingly as it echoed through the dorm at Ashagram.

Sharm.

Shame.

The thing that most keeps them from approaching the throne of God.

Sharm.

It’s one Hindi word I’ll remember for a lifetime because it’s the one that moves my heart to tears as I wonder why these beautiful women feel shame for a sin they did not commit. They didn’t choose the life of a prostitute. It was forced upon each one of them. Yet they feel responsible for the wrong that was done to them. As if there was something they could have done to keep it from happening.

It’s easy to feel sympathy for these women. So simple for me to tell them that they have no need to be ashamed. But I know that I’ve done it too. I’ve taken the blame for something that was not within my power to control. I’ve felt guilt over circumstances that I couldn’t change. I’ve lived with so many “what if’s”.

Sharm.

Shame.

Whether it’s truly mine to bear or not, I’ve allowed it to keep me from approaching the throne of God on more than one occasion. I’m willing to bet it’s hindered you as well.

We’re afraid to approach God. Afraid of what His response to us may be. We’re afraid of His judgment, or maybe His mercy. Yes, it’s quite possible to fear forgiveness. So we live in our sharm. We abide in our shame as if forgiveness is only a dream.

But we don’t have to live that way. We don’t have to stay confined within the walls of self-condemnation.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” –Romans 8:1-2

 So come now, little one. Out of the sharm. Out of your shame.  Freedom awaits you here in the Light.

Set Beautiful Free

Three weeks from today, I’ll be boarding a plane to India where I’ll visit a ministry that works in the world’s largest red light district. Their vision: to see an end to sex slavery. Their mantra: Set Beautiful Free.

In light of this upcoming trip, I was delighted to find that the new sermon series at my church is on beauty. It’s like God’s four week training session on what it truly means to set beautiful free. Though I feel like lavishing love upon the women of Kamathipura’s red light district is a great place to start, I’ve become increasingly aware of the beauty that needs to be released right here in my own hometown.

We’re not living up to our full potential. We’re not truly letting beauty run free in our lives. Many of us don’t even see the beauty of our lives because we’re so concerned with the pain of the ugly. But beauty is there.

Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Did you hear that? That’s beautiful. God delights over you. He finds joy in you. The very thought of you is enough to put a song in His heart. He finds you breathtakingly beautiful and absolutely amazing. Trust me, He would have made you a different way if He thought something about you wasn’t perfect.

Like a butterfly emerging from his cocoon, God yearns to draw beauty out of our lives. He longs to call forth the lovely creation He fashioned in each of our souls. But only when we embrace the beauty – when we are able to see what God sees in us – will we be able to spread our wings and float on the gentle melody of His love.

As I walk among the people who have dedicated their lives to setting beautiful free in the city of Mumbai, I pray that you too will set beautiful free. May your heart be filled with the passion of your Father’s love, and may you truly be freed to fly in the fullness of His grace.

Dream big dreams. And set beautiful free.