How to Know If You Have A God Dream

How to Know If You Have A God Dream

How do you know if you have a God dream or a big goal that you came up with on your own?

This weekend I watched The Greatest Showman for the first time. It is the story of P.T. Barnum and his dream of starting a museum, later turned circus, for the main purpose of entertaining people. He ended up doing so much more.

If you have not seen it yet, you need to put it on your list of must-see movies. As soon as the movie was over, I wanted to watch it all over again. In fact, I am sure this will be one of the movies that I will watch several times a year, it was that inspiring.

Though P.T. was not a Christian, there are some characteristics about him we can learn from, especially as it relates to dreaming.

Disclaimer: My main goal is to inspire you to do one thing… seek God as you dream. And to do it in a way that aligns with scripture, like Ephesians 3:20 which says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” and not become like P.T. Barnum. Because at the end of the day all Barnum cared about was making money. That is not why we seek to be used by God, even if it is a by-product of accomplishing the dream.

The Status Quo

Here is what I have been witnessing lately: a lot of people who profess Christ as their Savior, but living a life of the day-to-day expecting nothing more than what they have and no longer willing to consider what could be.

Personally, I think this is an affront to God, the Creator of the Universe, who made all things, who is in all things and is through all things. He dreamed up the light and the darkness, the heavens and the earth, the sky and the land, every living creature and man.

God is a God who dreams and as being made in His likeness, in HIs image, we should dream too. Otherwise, we put to death Ephesians 3:20 and effectively allow the enemy to yield us powerless in seeing the miracles of God.

Now, let me also state, I have learned this over the last seven years. So yes my words may feel a bit blunt, but understand that I used to live where you may be, in the camp of “maybe He can do those things, but not through me.”

GoaltodiewithMemories

What Could Be

But for the purpose of this post, as much as possible, I want you to take captive those thoughts and I want you to see what could be rather than what now is. Hebrews 11:1 says “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

Faith and dreaming go hand-in-hand because we don’t dream of things we can see, we dream of what is unseen, or what could be, eventually.

So that is where I want us to begin, realizing what God can do through us if we are willing acting like Him and dreaming. When we have faith in what He can do and not rely on what we can do.

Which is exactly what Barnum did. He dreamed of things that could be and not what already was. So let’s use some examples from what he did to break down how a God dream works.

8 Steps to A God Dream

1.Seek God
Here is one area thing, we don’t know if P.T. did, for sure. But that we MUST do as Christians; it is non-negotiable. The only way you are going to see a God-dream is to seek the Creator Himself. To do this, you will need to implore a few different disciplines. Bible study, prayer, possibly fasting, patience. God-dreams do not happen overnight, it is usually something that happens over time.

2. Ask Yourself Some Questions
Anyone who is starting to dream needs to take some time to figure out the next steps are in the process. This will help you to gain a better perspective on whether or not you are headed in the right direction. Here are some examples to get you started. But add more and journal them as you go.

  • Where were you when the dream occurred? Both physically and spiritually.
  • Did the dream feel overwhelming and unaccomplishable?
  • Do you believe you could accomplish the dream by yourself with the right financial resource?

3. Are You Afraid?
When God gives you a dream, more than likely the first emotion you will feel is fear. Rightly so. It’s why so frequently you see in scripture where God said, “Do not be afraid.”

When He told Moses He was going to use him to set His people, the Israelites, free Moses was terrified. When the angel told Mary that she would carry the Son of God, he told her “Do not be afraid.” When Nehemiah got word that his city was in ruined he was so upset that he cried, mourned and prayed, and then waited until God opened the door for him to speak to the king. He was scared but did it afraid.

Anytime you have a God-dream, you will be afraid. But you’ll have to decide if the fear of man or obeying God is more important to you. Barnum was afraid at first but was willing to be brave and because of it, he saw his dream become a reality.

4. Sacrifice is Key
Barnum learned quickly that if he was going to see his dream come into existence he was going to have to be willing to sacrifice. For him, it meant all or nothing. For me, in the early stages of founding The Link of Cullman County, it also meant all or nothing. I am not going to say that this is true for everyone, however, it was also true for our friends in the Bible. Moses left the safety of Midian and his employment, Mary left her family and traveled on a donkey nine months pregnant, and Nehemiah – well, let’s face it, if the king was angered at what he said, he could have lost his head.

You will have to be willing to sacrifice something – possibly everything to see your God-dream come to fruition.

5. Your Kingdom or His Kingdom
There is a part in The Greatest Showman where Barnum loses it all. His money, his wife and children, his prize artist (at the time), and his building. They all went figuratively and literally up in flames.

The question he had to ask himself at that moment was whether or not he was ready to rebuild it all. The answer came down not to whether or not he was able to provide the funds on his own, but whether or not it would help the greater good.

Whose kingdom are you trying to build? Will this dream make you look good to your peers, your family, your friends? Or are you willing to pursue the dream because, in the end, you know that God will get the glory in it? How do you know the difference? The Bible says it is in our weakness that God’s strength is made perfect. Are you relying on your own strength, believing you can do this on your own, or do you realize it’s going to be a miracle done by God if this dream is coming to become a reality? Which leads us to the next area of importance.

6. An Individual or a Community
If your dream is a God dream, you will not be able to accomplish on your own and not only need God to do a miracle, but you will have to have others around you. God is a believer in community. He is in community constantly with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He could not accomplish what He did without them. The Apostle Paul talked about community and the importance of it almost every one of his epistles, which helps us to also understand the significance of it to God’s heart. I spoke about this in my post last week. God did not just love one person, His love was for a nation. That nation went into bondage together and flourished together depending on their relationship with God. 

You need others to help your dream come to fruition. They will add to it, speak life into it, pray for it, keep you accountable to it, and make it better than it could have been if you tried to do it on your own.

7. Empowering Others
I loved The Greatest Showman – all of it, but one of my favorite parts is when the Bearded Lady realized she was who she was and people were going to have to deal with it. Keala Settle plays, the Bearded Woman and sings this anthem called “This is Me.

Here is the link to that video, you’ll have to click on the “This is Me” video. If you have not heard this song, go listen to it. It will be a blessing to you, I promise.

But that song is the result of Barnum affirming people who others wanted to hide in the shadows. He saw their oddities, their uniqueness, and placed it on a platform. He accepted them as they were and because of that they felt affirmed. When he started seeing His dream come to fruition, the people he served felt loved, affirmed, and dignified. It ended up empowering people to be who they were created to be, not how society wanted to define them.

This is ultimately what a God-dream should do. There is no larger dream or vision than the one God dreamed for us, by sending His son Jesus to ransom us back to Him. It is only through Him that we have our dignity affirmed. We are righteous only through Him. We are worthy because of the stripes of Jesus.

8. God’s Dreams > Our Own
This is what it all boils down to when it comes to dreaming. God’s dreams will always be bigger than our own. They will and should scare us, we should need other people and it should affect other people. That’s how you know it’s Him and not you.

So now that you have a way to know whether you dream is from God or from you, what do you do? Join me next week to learn how you take your dream and seek God to see it through.

Question? Did this help you gauge your dream against a God-dream? If not, what questions do you have? If it did, what do you want to know now that I can answer for you next week?

 

 

 

 

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hope that is seen

Hope: How Badly Do You Want It?

Some things in life are just worth the fight. Hope is one of them. But what about when your circumstances dictate the exact opposite? Then what?

How badly do you want it? Would you go to battle to see the very thing you are hoping to come to fruition?

And if you are, what will you sacrifice to get there?

Sometimes, when, our future seems bleak, we need to choose to fight. We’ll need to be ready to get uncomfortable to face our fears, and then we need to dig in deep to decide we are not going to lose hope.

If only it were that easy.

Times when our beliefs and emotions vary, we need to find comfort in the tension. Enter hope.

Lori felt exactly like that when she went off to jail for the first time at age thirty-eight. She never thought her life would land up this way, but it did. All she had in front of her was a pile of her consequences.

Lor's Hope in Family
Lori (middle) with her daughter and husband.

Five years before this time, she had a wonderful husband, two children, and life was good. Despite being brought up by her grandparents as a toddler and then later, by two parents caught in the grips of alcoholism. Lori overcame the odds of what could have been in growing up in that environment, that was until her husband went to jail for a year, on a misdemeanor charge. While her husband sat in jail, Lori’s world turned upside down.

Instead of helping her while her husband was away, people took advantage of her. Within a year she was raped twice, and to numb her pain, she turned to drugs.

When her husband came home from prison he didn’t even recognize her. He said to her, “What happened to my wife?”

Her response was one born out of pain, “She died.”

This lifestyle then extended to her husband as life seemed to get worse and worse for them. As she sat in jail, with her future looking bleak, no family to support them, and little in the way of options. Her and her husband, also in jail at the time, decided that they would pray.

Sometimes when there seems to be no way out, the only place to look is up.

Romans 8:24, NIV says, “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”

Lori and her husband soon learned that God could provide a way out. In their desperation, they realized they could not go back to the same place they came from or back to the same friends. They needed hope, and it came in the form of rehab.

God provided through family members who had earlier given up hope, but through their prayers, God changed their hearts.

Now, both Lori and her husband are fighting for what their future in rehab. In the midst of what felt like a hopeless situation, Lori and her husband have learned to put their faith in what God could accomplish, not in what they could.

In doing so, their lives changed significantly.

Lori enrolled in a 9-month residential rehabilitation program through Restoring Women Outreach. She also enrolled in our Pure Joy Goods job-training program. In her job-training program, here at The Community Place, Lori uses her gifts and talents to create beautiful pallet art. She takes classes, attends recovery meetings, and is mentored by one of our staff.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick

You can support Lori on her journey to hope, by purchasing a piece of pallet art. For every $10 you spend, it is the equivalent of one hour of job-training and support services.

So how about you? Are you like Lori, recognizing hope exists in the unseen, not in what you currently perceive? Or will you allow your emotions to dictate what you believe your future will hold?

If you want to fight for hope you are going to have to do the following:

  1. Submit your will to God’s, just like Lori did in jail.
  2. You’ll have to believe beyond your circumstance that your future includes hope, and not focus on how today feels. Your emotions do not dictate what God has in store for you.
  3. Cling to the scriptures. You will need them to be armed against the attacks of the enemy as he seeks to deter your faith.

Someday, Lori’s family will be restored, all because she fights daily for the hope of what will be, not what it is today.

Everyone struggles when the situation looks bleak. But we have a choice. How will you arm yourself in battle to obtain the hope you seek? Comment below and let’s encourage each other in our battle for the things we do not see.

 

Learn 5 Ways You Can Lose Hope

5 Ways to Lose Hope

It’s true; sometimes life can be hard. At times, it can feel like there is nothing we can do to change our circumstances. It’s in those moments we can’t lose hope.

 

As you walk into our office at The Link of Cullman County, you will find yourself confronted with four large letters strategically placed on a pallet-designed counter top.

In moments you will determine whether you can accept the meaning of those four letters, or if your perception of your situation keeps you from believing their truth.

The letters in and of themselves, hold little power.

But when they are combined, they quadruple in strength and form the word “HOPE.”

 

HOPE DESK
The “Hope Desk” at The Community Place, home of The Link of Cullman County.

 

For some who find themselves in the midst of chaos, destruction, and crisis this word can either settle their soul or be cause for an accusation.

What does it mean to have hope?

By definition, hope is to cherish a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true.

There can be much excitement and joy in hoping for something new, and yet, at the same time, hope can feel defeating, frustrating, or some times far-reaching when things don’t seem to be going the way you think they should.

But sometimes we hijack ourselves by believing hope does not exist. Here are five ways we can lose hope:

  1. Give up
    This can seem like the most appealing option at times. If we just give up and no longer believe hope exists, then we won’t get our feelings hurt or our dreams crushed.
  2. Stop trusting God
    When people hurt us, repeatedly, it’s a standard defense mechanism to stop trusting them. There are times when they may need to earn our trust back. But God is who He says He is and never changes. If we stop trusting Him, we will quickly lose hope.
  3. Place our faith in people
    People will fail us daily. If we put our confidence in them, it won’t take long before we lose all hope in humanity.
  4. Blame everyone else for our circumstances
    Pointing our finger at everyone around us will keep us feeling like we are the victim of our circumstances. So go ahead and blame everyone else and watch hope fly out the window.
  5. Rely on yourself
    The quickest way to lose hope is to rely on your wisdom, your strength, and your own experiences. If you never allow anyone else, including God, to help you, hope will elude you.

Those may seem like some great options if feeling sad, lonely, and depressed sound attractive. However, if you prefer to experience some joy in this life, allow me to suggest some alternatives.

Here are some ways you can find hope when you feel hopeless.

Rebuke the lie that says “Hope is dead.”
Just last week I had a situation happen to me where I felt stuck, lost, defeated…even heart sick. There seemed to be no glimmer of hope. It wasn’t until I realized my emotions were ruling my decisions that I could recognize the lies.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. Pr 12:15

The truth was hope had been there the whole time. This perspective gave me clarity, and I felt my attitude change, which helped me have hope in my situation, again.

Consider enlisting support
Believing you don’t have any hope feels lonely. Sometimes we need others to help us get out of our rut. Friends or family member can help you identify your current state of mind. 1 Thessalonians 5:11a tells us, “…encourage each other and build each other up…” Seek out those people in your life that encourage you. If you don’t have people like that, visit us at The Link of Cullman County. We have someone on staff called “Lead Encourager.” It is her job to encourage anyone who comes in feeling hopeless to help them set goals so they can move forward.

Get ready to fight
Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. (Ephesians 6:12, HCSB) Let this statement not fool you, just because our battles are against the spiritual realm, doesn’t mean hopelessness can’t feel just as powerful as a bully in real life. Especially when the circumstances you are facing seem dire. One of the most beneficial ways to overcome losing hope is by putting on your armor of God (see Ephesians 6:13-17).

On days when hope feels like it will slip away you'll have to decide, how badly do you want it?

Let’s encourage each other. What are some of the ways that you can suggest to someone who is struggling with hope to stand firm and trust the Lord?

Dawn M Owens, Executive Director of The Link of Cullman County

Dawn Owens is the Founder/Executive Director of The Link of Cullman County, a blogger, speaker, and a lover of lattes in coffeehouses that have deep seats and warm faces. She also enjoys encouraging others to dream big for the kingdom of God. As a wife and mother to gingers, she finds herself staying on her toes, outnumbered by the men in her life. In her down time, she is either reading a good book or watching historical period shows, dreaming of where she might travel to next.You can find Dawn on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

How to Make an Impact with Your Holiday Giving

As we head into the holiday season you may already be considering what you can do to help those who may not be able to help themselves. Requests are already piling up for shoeboxes for kids in foreign countries, angel tree presents, coat drives, food drives, holiday meals, more.

You want to give in a way that helps others, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the number all of the different causes.

Believe me, as the Executive Director of The Link of Cullman County, I understand the challenges it can present not only to the one being asked, but the one doing the asking. So I thought I might offer you some suggestions as you prepare to give this holiday season.

Over the past 6 weeks we have been talking about how we can love our neighbor as our self…even when that neighbor may be very different than we are. You can read through some of those post topics by clicking on the topic below:

Why YOU Can’t Fix Anyone
How Community Could Be the Answer to Addiction
9 Ways to Love an Addict Even When It Hurts
How to Cut Down Recidivism
How to Love the Orphan
Do We Really Believe All Lives Matter

So here is the sum of all of those: The only way we can fully love people who are different than us is with the right perspective, which means choosing to clean out our own hearts so we can see our neighbor as God sees them.

In the midst of that, we need to recognize that sometimes the things we do to show our love to try to help our neighbor can enable them rather than empower them. As I mentioned in this post on loving an addict, enabling them could send someone straight to their grave…and no we certainly do not do that with any intentionality, but our desire to help can ultimately do more harm than good.

If that is the case, what is one to do as we seek to make the greatest impact on those who can’t seem to help themselves this holiday season?

Let me offer you just a few suggestions.

First of all, I want to ask you to consider what it is you are MOST passionate about when it comes to helping others. Have you ever sat down and thought about what makes you angry, frustrated or just heart broken when it comes to the injustices in the world? What people group comes to mind? For example, do you get infuriated when you hear about the genocide happening in China and in your mind you see little Chinese babies that could have had a chance?

Are you heartbroken over the human beings all over the planet who are taken into sex-trafficking?

Or have you had your eyes opened to the poverty in your own backyard? You’ve realized there are broken people all around you and you feel compelled to help right where you are.

Whatever your passion may be I want you to write it down on paper, it makes it real. Put a name, a face, a location. Write down why it is important to you. What is it about that cause that makes you feel like you need to be a part of the answer?

Now that you have the cause in your mind, I want you to consider how you can be part of the solution. As I have mentioned before in this post, we can do harm in our desire to help, so in that solution, I’d like to offer you some thoughts. However, some of those ways may do more harm than good.

Let me use the example of aiding those in material poverty. When someone is in material poverty the root of the issue isn’t lack of money, it is brokenness. We all have brokenness and that can fall into four different categories.

  • Brokenness with God. This means not having a relationship with God. When we have a broken relationship with God we are living in sin and have yet to realize our need for a Savior.
  • Brokenness with ourselves. We may not understand ourselves or our true needs. We can be disillusioned by our emotional needs.
  • Brokenness with others. This happens when we are lacking trusting and healthy relationships.
  • Brokenness with creation. We do not know how to operate within the world around us.

More on this topic can be found in the book, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting The Poor or Yourself.

When we understand brokenness in these ways we can see there are different types of poverty, not just material. Then we can address the challenges/barriers to overcoming poverty differently. Within this model we all have brokenness and if we all have brokenness we no longer look at people in material poverty as “less than” but realize in our brokenness we have a sameness in need.

So why is this important? If I look at my neighbors in material poverty from only a place of “lack,” I address their needs in a way that is transactional. They don’t have food, so I give food. They don’t have clothes, so I give clothes. No shelter, I try to help get shelter. See where I am going with this?

Here is the deal though a one time transaction will never address the deep brokenness we experience with God, ourselves, others, or creation.

Let me try it this way. What if you were mourning the loss of your dog and were completely heartbroken, would it solve all of your problems if I just gave you another dog? No, of course not. You have emotional wounds that go much deeper than that. If I was a good friend, I would listen to you talk about your dog. I would pray with you and ask God to heal you. I would remind you of the good times you had with your dog. I would try to get you connected with other people who had lost their dogs and ask them to help you walk through your loss, especially if I was not familiar with your experience.

See what I mean? The challenges of poverty are much more layered than addressing the “crisis of the moment” but rather require a long-term relational commitment. And in that commitment empowering them to do for themselves.

Now that we have a clear view of the cause we are most passionate about and realize our own brokenness…what can we do to help and not cause harm?

PARTNER WITH ORGANIZATIONS DOING GOOD WORK

Find out who is already doing the work in the area you are passionate about and partner with them. For the sake of my example, there are many organizations already making an impact in the communities they serve. We are one of many across the nation, relationally loving our neighbors in our own communities. Seek out those organizations out and see how you can help.

If you have time, consider making a long-term commitment to volunteering. Why long-term? Because no one has ever had his or her life changed forever after a one-time interaction.

If you have finances, consider making a re-occurring monthly donation. Monthly donors are the hardest to come by for most organizations because these are usually the most passionate donors. It’s a lot easier to give a one-time donation and be on your way. If you can’t give your time, consider making a long-term commitment by giving monthly. Consider this, what would your monthly budget look like if you had no idea if your employer was going to pay you monthly? Could you make plans? Pay your bills? Take care of your family? Consider that the same way for the cause you are so passionate about.

If you have the platform to give voice to the cause, do that. And do it consistently. We need more advocates. You can see throughout scripture where God made it known to the people that they needed to take care of their neighbor.

We can all pray for the cause. You don’t have to go any further than Isaiah 61:1-3 to see what God wants to do on behalf of the poor. Pray those verses for your community, for your state, for our country, and the world.

 GIVE TO TRANSFORMATION AND NOT JUST FOR PHILANTHROPY SAKE

We are stewards of our money. God owns it all and we get around 80%- 90% (depending on what you give away) to take care of your own needs. In the book the Giver and The Gift, philanthropist David Weekley, suggests as stewards we should consider giving to causes that will make a long-lasting impact. Meet with organization leadership to hear their vision, mission and goals for the year. What do they want to do? How can you partner with them in making a difference?

DON’T TRY TO BE THE SAVIOR

This one is a bit personal. A few years back a woman came into our Center because she was about to become homeless. She was an older woman and reminded me of my own mother. As we prayed and sought out resources, I found myself scrambling to find her the money she needed to save her home. As hard as I tried, I could not get a hold of anyone as I tried to contact one organization after another. At one point I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, dreams%e2%80%a8dont%e2%80%a8work%e2%80%a8unless%e2%80%a8you-do-pnggodlet-let“Am I the Savior or are you?” Doh! If that was not a slap on the hand I don’t know what is. Later that day she came in and was job searching at one of our computers. I sat down and asked her, what her long-term goals were. She said, “I have always wanted to minister in a women’s shelter. In fact, I am looking for a job at one right now.” It was at that moment I realized, if I had kept her in her home I would have totally gotten in the way of what God intended for her. She ended up losing her home and living in a local shelter. God used her to minister to women there and she brought many of them into the Center to help them find jobs and get back on their feet.

I learned a powerful lesson that day. I have to get out of the way and let God be the Savior. His glory His so much more important than mine.

This is the most giving season of the year. You will have your heartstrings pulled and you will want to be generous with what God has blessed you with. All I am suggesting is to consider (1) what are you most passionate about and (2) pray about how you can help without hurting and then (3) follow-through.

Instead of making a commitment this year to help a family with Christmas gifts, why not consider making a commitment this year to walk with that family all year long so next year they can purchase the gifts they want their children to have on their own.

Instead of just offering your help through the crisis, consider how you can be part of God’s long-term plan for their life.

Instead of making a one-time commitment to an organization at the end of the year this year…consider how you can continue the gift the entire year through.

Why? Because you are called to steward your dollars well and these are the things you are passionate about. These are the desires God has put in your heart. These are part of your purpose here on earth to be a blessing to others, as God has blessed you.

Take a moment and consider what it is that you are most passionate about this year, and then share it below so we can pray with you about how God will use you this year in being a blessing.

PS. Thanks for your feedback on the survey this past week. I am working on the responses and will have more information on the results next week.

Request and Pure Joy Giveaway!

I am a big time believer in setting goals and an even bigger believer in reviewing where you are with those goals.

“Why?” you ask. Great question.

Setting goals is extremely important in knowing whether or not you are making any forward progress. No goal, no way of knowing what direction you are heading in. However, even when you set goals, life can happen and it’s always good to take a moment and review where you were, where you are, and where you are headed to make any changes as needed.

My main goal in starting this blog was really in response to being obedient to God to start a public writing ministry. It’s been 3 months since I began blogging once a week on topics that I have hoped are relevant to you.

However, I am making BIG ASSUMPTIONS in that and so I thought it may be helpful for me to pause this week and ask you to respond to a survey. It’s a quick 7 question survey that will help me better meet your needs. Your input is so valuable to me I hope you’ll just take a moment and respond to these quick 7 questions.

Every person that fills out the survey will be entered in to win a $10 PURE JOY Gift Card that will be great for the holidays.

Pure Joy is a program of The Link of Cullman County that helps women overcome barriers to unemployment through paid job training, mentoring, recovery and on-going classes to create goods that produce JOY.

With the holidays coming up, this is a great way to support a great cause and purchase gifts for your loved ones. All you need to do to be entered to win, is fill out this survey.

THANKS FOR HIS HELP! FOR HIS GLORY!

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