Dream Jesus’ Dreams

“Jesus, restore her broken dreams….”

These were the words prayed over me last week by one of the dearest women in my life. And for someone who can count on one hand the times I’ve really cried in the past 1 ½ years, those words caused the water to run from my eyes.

That simple sentence set my heart free. If my heart were a kite, the tether was seamlessly cut in two and away floated my heart into the hands of Jesus.

Dear friends, it is hard for Jesus to heal a heart that is tightly wrapped up in rags and locked away from him. But it is also hard for true healing to occur if you keep your heart to yourself. Give Jesus your broken heart, your shattered dreams, your trampled future. And let others into the dark, sacred cocoon that your heart is nestled in.

A cocoon is a place of transformation. A resurrection of sorts. What went in comes out as something entirely different. And if it doesn’t change, it dies. Hearts were made for transformation by Jesus.

The deepest dreams of my soul need to be hidden in Christ. If they are only my dreams, then they need to die. But if they are dreams that originate in the mind of God, then they need to be safely held by him until the day he breathes them into life.

This past month, Father God has been stripping the dirty cloth wrappings from my heart. He is taking the stone in the rags and making it into a heart of flesh. The hardened heart that wanted to run after my own dreams is being softened by God to want his dreams and plans for my life.

Jesus, I don’t want to chase the wind.  I want to relentlessly pursue you.

Sometimes our broken dreams have to die. Never to rise again. Sometimes these deep longings of the heart are simply meant to drive us into the arms of our Father. Jesus is the answer to our greatest, deepest dreams. He is.

And sometimes these dreams lay in the hands of Jesus for a season—be it long or short. Resting in sweet surrender to his timing, his fulfilment to one day be brought to actuality.

I don’t know whether the greatest dreams of my heart will ever be restored in this life, but in the end, all is well. It is well with my soul. If these dreams are not Jesus’ dreams as well, then I don’t want them. Psalm 37:4 says to, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” And, I wonder if it isn’t very possible that the desires of our hearts shift when we begin to seriously find our joy, hope, and life in Jesus.

God loves to give good gifts to his children, but sometimes, the gifts, dreams, and desires he gives us in the end were nothing like what we were asking for in the first place.

Trust God to heal your broken heart and bring life to your dead dreams. Don’t expect the dream that emerges from the cocoon to look exactly like what went in. But with a heart of surrender to Jesus, it’s very possible you will love what is transformed far more than you ever would have loved your original dream being answered.

Jesus, would we dream your dreams? With you.

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For You

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Irrawaddy River

“Look at the cross! That’s how much God loved you.”

We hear this expressed—often. Sometimes helpful, sometimes not so much. Yes, the cross is the most vivid, true evidence of the great, extravagant, undeserved love of Jesus to sinners. But the cross isn’t the only way God loves us. He loved us before the cross and he loves us beyond the cross. The cross is the climax of the story, but there are numerous other ways that the gracious love of God in Christ is freely given to us.

Currently, I am in the book of Mark for my devotions, and the story for community group this past Wednesday was also found in that book. Consider Mark 5:1-20 for a beautiful account of the compassion and grace of Jesus to ordinary, broken people.

In this story, Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee to the gentile city of Geresene. Immediately, a man possessed by demons meets Jesus as he gets out of the boat. What follows is an encounter with the Son of God and the servants of Satan. Ultimately, Jesus casts the demons from the man (whose human name isn’t even recorded) and fully restores him physically, mentally, and spiritually. The demons beg Jesus to send them into a herd of 2000 head of swine; a request he grants. The demons drive the pigs to their death—not at all surprising for the devil. The civilians are terrified of what just went down and beg Jesus to leave their city. The formerly possessed man wants to go with Jesus, but Jesus refuses. Instead he tells him to stay in his own city and tell his friends his God story. Finally, Jesus gets into the boat and goes back to the side he just came from.

Usually, this story is focused on Jesus healing the man. And that in itself is an incredible thing! But there are a few things in this story that are bit more silent, hidden.

Jesus came for just one person. In the eyes of the world, this man was next to worthless. He was a force to be feared as no one could control him. He was the town crazy, the person everyone shunned and stayed away from. This man was dangerous. And this man was a waste of space on earth. His life had not an ounce of meaning. At night, he would be among the grave stones and upon the mountains crying and howling and cutting himself. He was a tortured soul and there was nothing anyone could do to help him.

Nothing that is until Jesus came. The same God who calms storms quiets souls.

Jesus and his disciples rowed across the lake, where they were instantly “greeted” by this man. Neither the book of Mark or Luke ever mention that Jesus actually made it into the city. Rather, we read that the citizens came out to him and pleaded with him to leave.

Jesus came for this one man. This one life mattered. The life of a pagan, demon-possessed man mattered to God. If you’ve ever thought that your life doesn’t matter, that God couldn’t possibly even know who you are or care about you—think again. Our God is concerned with sparrows, missing coins and sheep, lost sons, every hair on our heads, and grass. Our God cares about the broken, forgotten, and missing. One matters. He came for you.

Jesus’ story is much bigger than just you. This man referred to as “Legion” (for his many demons) begged to go with Jesus. He wanted to be with Jesus. Jesus had completely, perfectly healed and restored him. His was a love and devotion born of gratitude. But Jesus refused to let him go with him. Instead, he told him to go back to his own city and tell everyone what the Lord had done for him.

This story is bigger than just this man. With what seems to be a bit of irony, Jesus tells the man to go back to his home (Luke 8:39) and tell his “friends” what had happened (Mark 5:19). What follows are the simple lines that say the man went into the city and told everyone what had happened and the people were amazed. Whether this man had any friends is anyone’s guess. But he didn’t just stop with telling his friends and family what Jesus had done in his life. No, he told cities! This man preached the goodness and greatness of God to strangers. The awesomeness of God amazed these people! This story is too good to be kept inside. Our God stories matter and they deserve to be told. Their greatness is the greatness of a good, good Father!

Trust that God’s plan for you is better than your own desires. This man wanted to be with Jesus. He wanted to leave. But Jesus told him to stay. Sometimes our greatest refining , our greatest purpose happen exactly opposite of where we want to be. We beg God to let us be with him and think his denial of our wishes is the refusal of himself. Quite the contrary. God is not confined or constrained by time or space, so our going or staying has nothing to do with the presence of God.

Jesus can be trusted with our going or staying. His presence and his Spirit go with us, wherever we are. The man in the story was separated from Jesus when Jesus went back to the other side of the lake. We are not cut off from Jesus, simply because earth’s time and space confine and crimp us to certain places. God is with us—whether we go or stay. There is no place we can go that he is not already there (Psalm 139:7-12). If he calls you to stay or go to the last place you’d want to stay in or go to—he can be trusted. Trust his heart, trust the greatness of his story in you, and trust that your life matters to him.

The cross is the greatest demonstration of the scandalous grace, love, and compassion of Jesus. That is the reason Jesus came for us. But taste and see that his love has always gone before, to, and beyond the cross. He came for a soul consumed with darkness, healed him completely, and gave him a mission that was greater than himself and opposite his deepest wish.

And he does the exact same today. Our souls are precious to Jesus. He comes to each one of us—meets us in the mess, filth, and brokenness of our sin-soaked world. And still loves and heals us and gives us a story to tell that is far greater than ourselves.

Trust that. Trust him.

If God Sees Fit…

“If the Lord sees fit, he will bring me back to see the Ark and the Tabernacle again” (2 Sam 15:25 NLT). This was a verse my pastor shared with me today. We’d been talking about the future, fears, and trusting in God (among other things). He was telling me the story of David and Absalom, when Absalom attempted to take over the kingdom and drove his father from Jerusalem.

In the midst of great uncertainty, King David tells his men that if he should find favor in the eyes of God, God will surely bring him back to Jerusalem—to the house of God to worship him. This is an incredible statement! Leaving his future in the hands of a sovereign God, David surrenders any plans and hopes of even coming back to his homeland. And considering the context where this story takes place, it would surely have been a bitter thing to realize that you could be separated from the Tabernacle forever. This was the physical place where God’s Spirit dwelt among his people, and what a grievous sorrow to be separated from this—the most tangible presence of God.

These words of David sound almost matter-of-fact and nearly emotionless. But these are not the words of a man who just didn’t care whether he left or stayed. No, on the contrary, it all but broke his heart to leave. A couple verses after this statement, it says that “David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered” (v. 30 ESV). He felt this pain and rejection, acutely, and it moved him to deep mourning.

For many of us, we are in similar situations. We are uncertain about what the future will bring, and this is a cause for great sorrow. Perhaps some fear is stirred in too. My own story is concerned with staying when several pieces of my heart would rather leave. There is a great longing to go, be, do something different. (And finally, finally be finished with Minnesota winters!) But I do not know if God will see fit to move me away from this present place anytime soon.

I was talking to one of my sisters the other day and mentioned that I have no idea if I will ever be a missionary, if I will even do anything “important” like that, ever even leave where I am right now. And I have to face the fact that God may ask me to stay here for another season or two—or more. Being a missionary may not even be his ultimate plan for my life. He may be calling me to plough another row in this field, plant seeds and stick around to see them sprout, or go the second mile on a journey that has taken me places I never would have chosen for myself.

Surrender to a God who is all-knowing, all-consuming, all-loving. He is not confined to the four walls of a tent. No, his dwelling is with his people—us. His Spirit lives in us! Whether we leave or stay, he will never leave us. We can never be separated from him. There is no place that he is not already there. Our lives are in his strong, tender, sovereign hands. Safe.

He is a good God. He can be trusted with our leaving or staying. And he can be trusted with the most tender aspects of ourselves—our very hearts and tears.

If God sees fit, I will yet experience life as a missionary. But if God should choose for me to stay here, then I will trust that he still knows best and will seek the joy, meaning, and life that is found here. And I will trust that in the end, he will do the right thing. Just as he always does.

Who You Really Are

 

I just registered for the MAVT convention to keep up my certification for my degree. For the first time since going to college, I am not a practicing veterinary technician. I am not doing anything with animals—except being a simple cat owner. I don’t even have any exotic pets this year—the first for me in eleven years. It’s as if my past life with animals never even existed.

Two years ago, I wrote about this in a yet-to-be-published post called “Change”. It was a hard-hitter to first realize that I was paying off a loan on a degree I was barely using at that time. It also bruised my pride to not be using my college education—at all.

Some good conversations with Father God that winter changed my perspective. I had perfect peace in the current life I was living. I knew he had called me to this exact position to be a better fit with church ministry, and I was grateful. And I am grateful.

Over and over, God and people have lovingly reminded me, “Rach, who you are is not what you do” (because I often forget). My current position allowed me to take a 10-day mission trip (when I only had 20 hours of vacation time at the time), my boss has consistently honored my request to have Tuesdays off to work at the church and has adjusted my schedule to allow for various church events and outreach opportunities over the past 2+ years.

Who I am is not dependent on whether I am currently using my degree—or if I ever use it again. Who I am has less to do with what I do and far more to do with who I am—who God is making me into. That is what matters to him, and that is what should matter to me too. The mundane, seemingly insignificant aspects of work matter to the degree they affect me—negatively or positively.

As my favorite author and missionary, Helen Roseveare, once wrote (on being whittled arrows in the hands of Jesus), “God can either use me or hide me. The choice is his.” How I respond is up to me.

Jesus, you must increase and I must decrease (John 3:30). Help me more fully realize that I am dead and my life is hidden in yours (Col. 3:3, Gal. 2:20) and that you are the only and ultimate Treasure. I want my only boast to be you (Gal. 6:14), and that will never happen if degrees, education, promotions, and positions have a leading place in my heart and life.

He is better. So much better.