How to Make Your God Dream Come True

Six Steps to Make Your God Dream Come True

God gave you a dream, and it is scaring the heck out of you. Now what do you do?

It’s okay. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Ahh…better?

In today’s post, I’ve incorporated six steps to help you get started.

“I have a dream. Now, what?” is the question I get asked more often than any other.

People have seen the dream I had for our community through The Link of Cullman County come to fruition and wonder, “Well, how did you do that and how can I do the same?”

Last week I talked about how to know if your dream is just a big goal or if it was a dream that God placed on your heart to pursue.  You may want to read that post first if you haven’t had the chance to read it yet.

It is there that I help readers understand and know the difference between the two. This week I want to try and lay out some of the steps you can take once you know for sure you have a God dream.

This is where the “rubber hits the road” where the “ax hits the grind” where the “pen hits the paper” to overplay the cliches.  And I hope it makes its point.

Because here is where I see things go south and quick. Someone has a dream, and they talk about it, and they talk about it, and they talk about it. But they never actually do anything.

You Have a Choice

Sooner or later, you are going to have to choose to either go after this big, scary dream you have or honestly, shut up about it.

When The Link started to come to fruition, I had a few people say to me, ” I had the same dream as you. I journaled about it; I have a binder about it, or I told people about it.” I don’t know why it happened to you but not for me.

Honestly, I don’t know why it did either, but I am assuming that your dream was just that a dream and it never transitioned to action.

So that is what I am going to promise you today, I will share with you the steps to help you take action on that dream. However, just like last week, I have a disclaimer.

Disclaimer: I am not God. I have no way of knowing His timing or whether your dream is from Him or not. I also have no idea of your dream is to actually in support of someone else’s God dream, and not something you will get to see come to pass. Think Moses and Joshua.

I do know that there are some teachable concepts that I can share with you that God used with me to help you pursue Him and engage others in your dream.

How to Make Your God Dream Come True | Six Steps to Get You Started

One: Trust and Obey

The best piece of advice I received from someone on what I needed to do next was “trust God and obey what He says” Seems simple, right?

Simple to say, harder to execute.

For me, this was challenging because I had a carotid body tumor removed from my neck which rendered me temporarily disabled.  The surgery caused damage to my nerves and vocal chords.  Which eventually left me with a severance package and no job.

For the first time since I was twelve, I was unemployed and now also unsure of my future. I had no idea what was next except this vision/dream from God for an organization that would serve the needs of the poor.

If I am honest, I was not excited enough about this God dream to go after it. What I was passionate about was serving women through speaking and teaching. I had wanted that dream to come true, nearly since I was saved about nine years prior.  Now I was living in the south where my type of work was not prevalent, Cullman, AL though growing would still be a hard place for someone like me to find a job.

But God’s plans were different than mine. 

So here I was temporarily disabled, unemployed, and trying to minister to a husband whose dream had been crushed by a failed church plant. Confused and unsure may have been an understatement at that point.

So now, here we are in a very uncomfortable place, not knowing what to do and the advice I received in this season was “trust and obey.”

Trust. And then obey whatever God tells you to do. Ugh. Simple and to the point, easy to remember, so I decided to do it.

And it changed everything.

Day by day I would wake and ask the Lord, what should I do today? If I felt Him impress something on my heart, I would obey. If I sat in silence, I’d seek Him in His word.

That daily practice started to lead me to conversations with people about this dream; then I would pray about it more. It wasn’t long before God began highlighting His heart for the poor in His Word. I got my hands on some books that seemed to speak to relational ministries to the poor Then I prayed the all-changing prayer.

“Lord, what would you have me do?”

Two: Surrender the Dream

Which leads me to the next thing you need to do. Surrender the dream to God. Only He truly knows the timing, who is supposed to be part of the dream, what role you are to play, what resources you’ll need, where it will happen, and how it will transform your community.

For me, that looked like taking the dream I always hoped to pursue and put it up on the chopping block with the God dream He now impressed on my heart to accomplish.

It wasn’t long before God confirmed which dream I was to follow.

It was one of the hardest things I had to do, give up the dream I wanted to follow the one God wanted me to carry out.

Both were good. Both would help a lot of people. But one was mine, and the other was His.

I can tell you now on the other side of that how sweet the blessing of surrender has become. Knowing the lives that have been transformed in my community because I said “Yes” to His plan. The relationships I have now have sharpened me and helped me grow in my faith would never have been if I didn’t surrender.

And then when you consider what I have learned, including how to overcome my addiction to approval, I am not sure my path would have allowed me the opportunities I have been afforded, including publishing a book on that same topic, releasing May 15th by Worthy Publishing.

Like Me or Not Overcoming Approval Addiction

Three: People < God

This may feel a bit strange to you to diminish what people are saying. It took me a lot to figure out how to do this because we all need the affirmation of people around us. In fact, God will use these people to encourage us. However, we need to make sure no matter what, that God trumps people. Even when those people are stroking our egos.

Here is why: back in the day, there was this good-looking, smart teenager, from a no-name family, was sent out on a donkey-hunting mission. Unbeknownst to him, God had selected him to be the first king of Israel. He was anointed, appointed, had the Spirit of God come upon Him, prophesied with the Prophets and empowered by God. Regardless, his insecurity and people-pleasing needs made people’s opinions of him more significant than God’s, and eventually, he was rejected as king.

Know who that was? King Saul. (You know the one who was on a crazy chase to kill his replacement, David? You can read all about him here.)

Saul was anointed and appointed to do the dream God had for him in ruling the Israelites, but he let people and their opinions become more influential than God.

This is true when they are affirming us, and this is also true when they are rejecting us. If you know for sure that God gave you this dream, you’ll need to seek Him, trust and obey Him, surrender to Him and make His Words of greater significance than man’s.

Four: Become a Student

One of the essential postures you need to take in this process is becoming a student of the dream. If this dream is from God and not you, more than likely you will not feel equipped to do it. In fact, it may feel as if you are the last person on planet earth that needs to be doing this dream.

That is exactly how it felt for me. This will produce fear. And that is okay.

I had done very little ministry to the poor. I felt like the ministry I had done was not done well and because of that, I felt very insecure, unsure, and ill-equipped. So I went into student mode.

I started with asking more questions of people already in ministry or serving in this field before I assumed my answers. I got my hands on books related to the topic and read as much as I could from the experts. I sought out scripture in the Bible to back up what I was learning to make sure I was on the right path.

Then I found some local classes I could take to teach me about creating a non-profit and marketing a non-profit because those were two critical components in seeing my dream come to fruition. When I knew I had all those pieces in place, I sought out a conference for me to attend to obtain more extensive training. In doing so, I became equipped as a Christian Community Development practitioner.

Five: Stop Talking and Start Walking

When my husband and I were in our pre-dating stage we talked a lot on the phone, being that we lived 150 miles away from each other, it was our only way to connect regularly. Although we visited each other every now and again, they were for short periods of time, as we didn’t stay the night. It didn’t take long for our friends to notice there was more of a connection between us than just friendship. At one point, one of my husband’s friends said to him, “It’s time to stop the talky, talky, talky and do the walky, walky, walky.” I am pretty sure they were quoting out of an Adam Chandler movie, but the point was right. It was time for my husband to take our relationship to the next level and his friend was encouraging him to do so.

Sooner or later you have to decide to do something about your dream. You need to start sharing the dream with people. Start making appointments with people who could be involved with the dream or affected by the dream. Host an interest meeting. Post the idea on Facebook. Figure out what it will take to make the dream happen. More importantly, follow through. If you say, you are going to do something then do it. People are watching you, integrity is critical.

Six: One Day at a Time

From here you need to take these steps and apply them one day at a time. We just celebrated six years of this ministry; it’ll be seven years for me pursuing this dream in October. I employ these steps just as much today as I did back then.

I still need to trust and obey God each day recognizing that He is the dream-maker and I am a steward of this dream, which always leads me to a place of surrender – “Not my will Lord, let yours be done.”

It’s easy to let other’s opinions become more important than God’s. The only way I can accomplish this and the others I just mentioned is by getting into the Word of God every day. Otherwise, I get a bit lop-sided in my thinking.

I still need to be in student-mode. I am committed to being a life-long learner. Taking what I learned and acted on it. Professional development is just as significant now as it was back then. If I let comfort or status quo be my guide before we know it we’ll become outdated, inefficient, and eventually unsuccessful.

The Dream is Greater Than You

You see, when God lays a dream on your heart, it always affects more people than you. When your dream is from God, you have a responsibility to God and the people involved to follow through. There is a lot at stake.

Lives will either be transformed or not.

A change will occur or it won’t.

Communities will be altered or not.

When your dream is from God, you are responsible to God and the people involved to follow through. #Goddream

What will get you up in the morning is not your success, it is the success of God’s glory being made known. It’s no longer about you and your ego, but more about your willingness to serve in the capacity God has led you to with this dream.

You’ve got some big choices to make. You are the one God has selected. The time is now. What will you do?

Comment below: Share what your God dream is (because I love to hear about other people’s dreams) and share what you think your next steps might be and how you will start to see your God dream come to fruition.

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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.

Why YOU Can’t Fix Anyone

For the next few weeks I want to talk about something that I am super passionate about. I tell you this up front because if you don’t know me personally, that is my cue to you that you might want to ready yourself for what I have to say.

If you know me…well, you already get the point.

I’ve shared with you how I have the opportunity every day to get up and go to a “job” that I love at a place called The Link of Cullman County.  I put the word “job” in quotations because for me this is much more of a calling than it ever is a job. I am a steward of a vision that is not mine, but God’s. He allows me to serve my community through, what I believe, is an incredible mission to love those on the margins, in the fringes, can seem invisible, and often times forgotten.

However, though it is my call to lead this vision in Cullman, Al I truly believe with everything in me that it is every believer’s call to also be involved in this vision. You may be thinking…

“Why? I am not passionate about serving the poor, the marginalize, the underserved like you are… I love animals, or conservation, or finding a cure for cancer.”

All of those things are of utmost importance, but if you’ll give me a moment of your time I’ll share with you how God has place at the center of His heart for humanity to love one another as the primary goal.

Let me start by telling you a story about a friend of mine that I have known for more than three years now. Her name is Sherry. When I first met Sherry, she was an inmate in the Cullman County Detention Center and I was her Jobs for Life™ teacher. Jobs for Life™ is a biblically based jobs preparedness class that teaches the unemployed and underemployed the value of a job and how God created all of us for work.

Sherry looked like she was in her mid-fifties but she’s in her early 40s, she has a very husky voice which is from years of smoking cigarettes and the crack pipe. She looked “rough.” She spoke “rough.” She asked very blunt questions and though she was trying hard to follow after Jesus, she still had a lot of issues to overcome. She could only read at a 4th grade level. Sherry’s only legal job over the last twenty years or so was working at a Burger King for a few months. However, her resume included prostitute, stripper, madam, and drug dealer. The second week of class she let me know that her and her former partner were both in the class, but that they have accepted Christ as savior and decided their relationship did not honor God.

She also had leadership skills, charisma, and the ladies around her always showed her respect…though that may have been out of fear.

But she was hungry for Jesus, and for that she earned my respect.

Sherry was not easy for me to love. We were as opposite as they come, everything about her screamed, “FIX ME!” And I thought I knew exactly how I was going to accomplish that.

But everything I thought I could do to make her “right,” God showed me was completely wrong.

All the expectations I had for that relationship I had to throw out the window, God has shown me over and over again…I didn’t need to fix her, I just needed to love her.

In Romans 12:9-21 Paul (our assumed author) talks about putting our love into action.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 

On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

So what is Paul saying here? He’s sharing with us some really great advice on how to engage with the people who we rub shoulders with in every day life…

our family,
our friends,
our co-workers,
the woman in the checkout line in Walmart who has a cart full of food, kids running around her hips and food stamps in her hand,
the man with the tattoos, gauges in his ears and shaved head,
the guy with baggy pants and the hooded sweatshirt,
the lady wearing the latest and greatest trends and
the young adult who looks like he hasn’t bathed in a week.

He’s saying to us get into people’s lives, love them where they are and for who they are.

See Paul knew something about humanity…we see people from our own perspectives which is mainly a view of what is on the outside. And because we don’t always like what we see, we want to fix them.

We want to give them what they need and send them on their way.

But here’s the thing, there is more to us then the mask we put on.

In Genesis 1:27 it says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

We bear the image of God. We were sandwiched into creation, Adam before all of the animals and Eve as the crown of all creation.

We are His image bearers, created in His likeness. We are the most precious in his sight.

In v. 11 of our Romans text it says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”  

So if we take the idea that we are made in the image of God and that we are to be devoted to one another, honoring one another above our selves, we can clearly see we are to HONOR the image bearer.

Honor which means to give high esteem and respect.

We are to give high esteem and respect to the image bearer. The image bearer who was born into a family with a silver spoon in their mouth, the image bearer who has different color skin then your own, the image bearer who may be physically impaired or mentally delayed, the image bearer whose family can’t keep the lights on or the water running and therefore has poor hygiene, the image bearer who sleeps on the park bench (yes, even in Cullman, AL), the image bearer who sells their body to help pay the bills, the image bearer who looks like they are all rough and tough on the exterior but has learned to build the walls to stop the hurt from drowning them.

You see in the eyes of God we are all bearers of His image and therefore loved by Him and His command to us is to honor one another above yourselves.

In honoring …we engage. We love in the ups and downs of life. We don’t give up. We pray and we DREAM BIG and fall hard on the Lord.

We cry with each other, we rejoice with each other, and we mourn with each other. We do not repay evil for evil, rather we love our enemies.

This is why I say to you, to love the homeless, the prostitute, the incarcerated, the marginalized, the poor, the destitute, is just as much your call as it is mine. There is no getting around it.

So I want you to consider today, how you are  showing honor “above yourselves” to the image bearers around you.

My challenge three years ago was to learn how to love Sherry as an image bearer.

Today Sherry is out of jail and has nearly three and a half years sober under her belt. She is working three jobs to support herself. She gives back to organizations she believes in, organizations that gave to her like us, like the rehab she attended for 6 months. She attends church every Sunday and is engaged in a small group. She is constantly recruiting people to attend church or meetings with her. She’s graduated from the IOP program through the Mental Health Care of Cullman. She is being reconciled to family members and constantly sharing Jesus with nearly every person she meets. She is one of the bravest people I know. And I am so honored to be her friend because she regularly challenges me to go deeper with Jesus and to love people even more than I think I already am.sherry-and-dawn

Looking at us, you’d still say we couldn’t be more opposite, but we are both image bearers of God. She is my sister in Christ, we share the same Heavenly Father and we are both still trying to figure out how to become more like Jesus. So different on the outside, yet so very much the same. 

God is calling you and me, regardless of what we do, to honor the image bearers around us. So for the next few weeks we’re going to explore some of these issues in more depth. How do we show love to those who have no homes. What does it look like to show honor and dignity to a woman who earns money by selling her body? Can we share the gospel with an addict? Does God care about the incarcerated, don’t they deserve what they have received…and more.

So stick with me cause we are going to journey through this together. Learning how to love those that are hard to love because they may be so different than ourselves.

My challenge to you is how can you start to do that this week? How can you not just love the ones that are easy to love and show honor to the ones that are easy to show honor to, but how you can place those in “lowly place” above yourself so that you are loving as your Heavenly Father has loved to you?