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.

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Secret to Never Feeling Alone | Dawn M Owens

Uncover the Secret to Never Feeling Alone

There are times we can just feel alone in this world. But I have figured out a way you and I can never feel lonely again.

The secret is understanding how you are never alone, because God, who knows you, is always with you.

To that you might wonder:

But, does God know me? Does He really know who I am and everything happening in my life right now? Does He hear my prayers, know my struggles, see my pain?”

These are all questions we wonder about no matter where we are in our faith journey.

If you are at the beginning of your journey I want you to know that this is a safe place for you and I personally welcome you here to explore. If you are a believer but are struggling with those questions, my guess is there have been some significant challenges you have been wrestling with lately. I understand and hope we can walk through this post together.

Or maybe you are thinking, “Of course He does, God knows everything.” I hope you too will continue on with me as we talk about this topic and what it means in our relationship with Him.

Now that we have an understanding of who might be here in this space with us, let’s dig into this idea that you never have to feel alone or lonely because God not only knows you, He sees you and hears you, too.

The Secret to Never Feeling Alone | How to Not Feel Lonely

There are times when we can think we are all alone in this world, even when we are standing in a crowded room. There you are, people swirling around you, a buzz in the air, and yet, you stand unknown, unseen, blending into the wall.

Lonely.

Because of it, we can apply our perception of people and assume it is the same for God. After all, if people who exist right before our eyes can pass us by so easily, wouldn’t it be true of a God who can seem so far away?

Perhaps. Or perhaps He knows everything about you…who you are, why you exist, what your purpose is, who you are meant to be.

Everything.

In fact, I’d like to suggest to you that there is nothing He doesn’t know about you including when you are feeling lonely.

You are Never Alone: He Knew You From Your First Breath

In Psalm 139: 13-14, King David says,

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,

God knows you because He is the one who created you, knitting you together you in your mother’s womb.

Can you even begin to conceive what it might be like to have God hand-crafting every essence of you — your veins and organs, your blood platelets and cells, your DNA and every molecular structure inside of you.

He created your skin and hair follicles, He decided on your skin tone. He chose your eye color, bone structure, and the color of your hair.

There is no part of you He did not put together for reasons and purposes only He can understand.

You are Never Alone: He Knew You As You Grew

And then when you were launched into this world kicking and screaming, later growing into a toddler, a teen and eventually an adult He watched you…your first steps, your stumbles, and falls. God knows when you are lonely even when you are not completely alone. He has seen it all from your first breath until your last when you’ll stand before Him in glory.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely. (Psalm 139: 1-4)YNever Alone: He Knows You Now

Even now, as you sit and read this blog, wondering about His knowledge of you, He sits and watches you. As David said, perceiving all of your thoughts. It’s a wonder isn’t, when we consider the God of the Heavens, wants to know us and is that near to us.

The other day I was reading in Exodus and this idea struck me again, the reality of His holiness — a perfect God caring so much about us that He would even want to know us, want to hear us, want to consider our needs, our wants, our desires.

Even though we fall short of Him. Deny Him. Curse Him. Forsake Him.

He loves us so much, He pursues us anyway. Believing that we’ll turn from our sin and see Him.

You see He said that same thing to the Israelites who were in Egypt. They had thought God had forgotten about them. After all, they were being oppressed as slaves by Pharoah. Every day they had to do hard labor for Pharoah, helping him build up the city of Egypt.

In Exodus 3:7-10, NIV God is speaking to Moses, but it is an excellent reminder for us today:

 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard     them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

He sees, He hears, He knows and He rescues us

The God of the Universe. The Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. Alpha and Omega.

He sees you. It says it plain as day in verse 7 – He has seen the misery of his people and He still sees your life today.

He hears you. Their cries reached His ears because of their slave drivers, their oppression, their struggle. Your cries, your prayers, your struggles…He sees them just as He saw the Israelites years ago.

He knows you and is concerned for you. He created you, in your mother’s womb. Of course, He is concerned for you. But in this case, in verse 7, He says in relation to their suffering. Whatever you are going through…in your loneliness, in your anxiety, in your marriage, or at work…He knows you and He is concerned for you.

He rescues us. In this case, Moses is the one He is sending to set His people free. But hundreds of years later He sent His Son Jesus to not only rescue us but to die for us.

You never, ever have to feel lonely, again. He is with you. 

Why Does It Matter?

All of this does beg the question – Why does it matter? What difference does it make whether I feel lonely or whether God knows me?

To that, I would say, EVERYTHING.

You see, understanding that God knows you changes things. It changes how you perceive the world. How you understand yourself, how you would interact with others.

And it has a direct correlation as to whether or not you feel alone.

I know this because I have experienced it first hand.

You see for years I had struggled with understanding who I am, what I was purposed for, why I was here. I used to wonder if my life mattered and if God even cared. And consequently, I felt very alone at times. At times I felt like being alone was the worst place I could be, left to my own thoughts.  I struggled with needing to have people around me to reassure me because my thoughts told me the opposite.

I was constantly trying to find my identity in other people because I wanted to be like them. It seemed as if they had life figured out way better than I did.

But now I realize, it’s not their approval that I needed. It was God’s.

Once I understood that God knew me, I realized I could stop striving to gain His approval because I had it all along. And then I realized being by myself was not the same as being alone. And worrying about what everyone else thought, was only keeping me from living out my calling in Him.

I can stop striving for God's approval because I already have it.
.

You see God placed in us a desire to be approved, to receive affirmation…but we warp that and instead of realizing we have received it from Him, we seek it from those around us.

In doing so we fall prey to people- pleasing, insecurity, rejection, and issues with control and anger thinking that we can figure it all out on our own, rather than recognizing the fact that who we are, our entire identity is wrapped up in Him.

Like Me Or Not: Overcoming Approval Addiction

In a few months, my book Like Me or Not: Overcoming Approval Addiction will be in the bookstores and you will be able to learn all about how to deal with the struggles of living in 2018 with all the beckoning of social media to make us feel valued, worthy, and wanted.

You’ll hear my story of how I learned who I am and how I had to overcome some pretty big hurdles in my ego and pride, to understand my addiction to people’s approval would have long-term effects on my relationships and my ability to live out my dreams.

You will be able to dig a little deeper and do a bit more self-analyzing of how this addiction has crept into your life and affected the way you view yourself and the people around you.

But if you are already wanting more, I have a special offer for you today.  Because right now, you have the opportunity to pre-order Like Me or Not, before it even hits the stores.

And when you do, you’ll not only get your copy earlier than everyone else at a discounted price, but you’ll get some freebies and a chance to win an incredible VIP Experience on the Fall Outcry Tour for you and a friend AND you’ll get to meet ME!

Now, this experience is so VIP, you cannot purchase it as it is not for sale…EVER.

But will only available until the book comes out in the stores on May 15th so you don’t want to miss out on this once in a lifetime chance to win these exclusive VIP experience for the Fall Outcry Tour.

And if you pre-order your book you’ll also get instant downloads of:

  • The first three chapters of the book
  • A choice of two lock-screens
  • A gorgeous print with 1 Peter 2:9

Like Me or Not Pre-Order Information
All you need to do is go to one of the online sellers listed on the pre-order page to purchase the book. Then, go back to the pre-order page, enter in your receipt and you’ll be entered in to win the exclusive VIP experience for the Fall Outcry Tour and you’ll get access to all those great freebies listed above!

Now here is the deal, the exclusive VIP experience from Outcry, isn’t even live on their site yet as they are still finalizing speakers and bands, but I can promise you this, you will not be disappointed! Outcry always has an amazing lineup. You can check out the Spring Outcry Tour here.

All Proceeds go to The Link of Cullman County

Oh and for every book that you purchase (pre-order or otherwise) all of the proceeds will be going to help break the cycle of poverty through The Link of Cullman County. You read that right, I have donated all the book proceeds to the cause of relational ministry to the poor.

In fact, while we are talking about it, if you want to donate a book for someone to take a Like Me or Not class with us from the jail or through our facilities you can do that too! If you decided to purchase (now or later) you can have it sent to 708 9th Street SE, Cullman, AL 35055.

My heart for the Like Me or Not book is to equip women all over the world (no matter who they are, what they have done, or how far they think they are from God) with a tool they can use to battle the enemy who wants to kill, steal, destroy what God has given them.

This book, whether in e-form or paper, is meant to be a weapon of destruction for the powers of darkness. Gifting this to someone who can’t afford it now, offers a chance at freedom, they may not have otherwise.

Pre-Order Now

You Never Need to Feel Lonely: God is With You

No matter where you are at in your process of understanding who God is and How He knows you, you can know you are never alone.

Hebrews 13:5 says:

“Never will I leave you, never will I  forsake you.”

Genesis 28:15

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

When you understand who you are and whose you are, you will never feel like you are alone again.

Question: Do you struggle with loneliness? If so, when are the times that it bothers you to be alone the most? On what occasions do you feel lonely? Comment below and let’s chat about how we can encourage each other to seek the Lord when we feel alone.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

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!

signature

 

 

Can Community be the Cure to Addiction?

During the last four years, I have spent most days learning how I can come alongside people who have found themselves addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Although, I had my days of partying, and fairly hard at that, by the grace of God, when He set me free of that lifestyle, I never looked back.

But because of that, I often found myself in either one of two camps of thinking: I either thought that Jesus can just heal their addiction and if the person had enough faith to believe, the need for the drugs/alcohol would be taken away or I couldn’t understand how they could get addicted in the first place.

Although I enjoyed at times going out with friends for drinks, any drug I took never really impressed me enough to want to do it everyday. In fact, when I was on the really heavy stuff after a surgery, I wanted to switch to extra strength Tylenol as quick as I could.

But God has done a few things in my life that I want to share with you today, especially to those of you who keep those in active addiction or recovery at arms length simply because you don’t understand. I too have been there, some days can still find myself there, and therefore can completely empathize with you. But because I have heard story after story of why people use drugs, read books on it, watched documentaries, and most importantly prayed and sought the Lord on it, I have a few thoughts for you and me (I’m still preaching to myself) about how we can all better respond to this growing epidemic that is leaving a line of bodies in its tracks.

Side note: To those of you who are reading this that are in active addiction (and I hope you are reading this) and those who are walking in recovery, I pray this article helps to build bridges for you to have people come along side of you. I am a cheerleader for you and with God’s grace, an advocate for you. So if I get something wrong, I hope you know it’s not intentionally, but I am always open and willing to learn. Teach me what I need to know.

Now, to those of you who, like me have looked at an addict and thought…”Why? Why would you do such a thing to your body? Why would you do this to your friends, family, loved ones? I don’t understand why?” I hope this encourages you and helps you to maybe consider seeing things from a difference perspective.

I start by saying this to you. The reason why an addict uses has nothing to do with you and everything to do with you.

If you’ll stick with me, I promise you I’ll explain why that is true.

Last week, I told you in this blog post about my friend Sherry. Sherry is just one of many women in my life who are recovering from addiction. Each one of them have their own struggles to overcome. But just as I tosherry_blogld you about Sherry, I believe these people to be some of the bravest people I know. They have chosen to daily let go of a lifestyle that had a huge grip on them to follow Jesus in sobriety. They are re-inventing themselves through the identity that He has given them.

As I have walked with them, God has revealed some things about me that has helped me to relate. One is that I too am an addict. No, I’ve never needed to go to rehab for drugs or alcohol, but I have found myself addicted to other things. Years ago, I was addicted to shopping. Any chance I got, I wanted to go shopping and purchase the latest and greatest finds. I loved it. The thrill of the spending, I felt powerful being able to buy things I wanted but just like an addict the aftermath of it left me feeling ashamed, empty, and powerless.

I have learned that I am also in recovery from being an approval addict. I find myself on many occasions seeking and needing the approval of others. Though God has brought me a long way on this, I still find myself refreshing Facebook to see who “liked”, commented, or shared my post. I still check to see how many people read my blog and I still pray every time that I write only for God and not to tickle the ears of the people reading.

Over the past few years I battled with another form of addiction, sugar. There were times where I would dream about it and think about where I could get my next “sugar fix.” Sugar is cheap and easy to find, it was also easy to hide because I could purchase it, consume it, and no one would know otherwise. The evidence was easy to cover up and it didn’t alter my state for anyone to know what I had done.

I think if each of us took a moment to think about those things in our lives that we crave outside of the Word of God. Those things that we need, that we have to have, that we cannot get enough of…even things that may seem to be healthy, we’ll realize it’s not difficult for us to be addicted to something. And from these experiences I learned and hopefully you can too, empathy. Or let me say it this way, compassion.

Romans 9:15 (ESV) says, this… For he (God) says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

What does it mean to have compassion? It means to have sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Synonyms are pity, sympathy, empathy, fellow, feeling, care, concern, solicitude, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity.

When you feel these things for someone it opens your heart up to them, it helps you get into their shoes, and it helps us to love them right where they are at.

To be honest with you…I don’t care which camp you come from. It doesn’t matter whether you believe that addiction is a sin, a disease, mental health issue, or genetics. God doesn’t make exceptions to the rule. We are to love regardless. Regardless of why the person has gotten caught in the addiction.

And to love people, sometimes you have to do it the same way Jesus did it for us, sacrificially. It’s easy to love someone you believe is doing everything the way you think they should. It’s not so easy when they aren’t.

John 15:13 says “No greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”nogreaterlove

When we have compassion on them just has our Father had compassion on us, we can love people sacrificially.

But this is where we have failed. Instead of having mercy and compassion on our sick, we condemn them. Instead of loving them we shun them. I can’t tell you how many people over the last four years I have heard tell me that a local church told them they were no longer welcome there. They were told to take their tattooed bodies somewhere else. They felt judged and not loved.

Some of you are thinking…well, maybe they felt that because of the way they were dressed, they shouldn’t have worn that to church. Or maybe, you are coming up with a rebuttal to their tattoos, or their life style or something else, but I plead with you. Please STOP. Just stop.

For some of us that way of life is foreign. It’s such an extreme from what we believe it’s hard for us to understand. Stop trying to understand it. You can’t. You’ve never been there. You don’t understand the hurt they have felt, you can’t get to a place to make it make sense. This is not compassion, it’s the complete opposite.

With compassion you respond with “I’m sorry this has happened to you.” You sit and you listen. You don’t pass judgement off of your own experiences. You listen to hear theirs. You open your heart to hear what they have to say and what may be behind what they are saying.

Because there is more to people than the mask that they put on. I cannot repeat that enough. We all have hurts, we all have wounds. We all have learned how to cope with them differently. If you listen to recovered and healing or healed addicts enough, you will hear a common thread.

“I used to cover up my pain. I used to heal the wounds in my heart. I used because I knew no other way to cope with the hurt.”

Do you hear that folks. These are our wounded. Our heartsick. Our hurting. And they need us to love them, to have compassion on them, to be in community with them.

A couple of weeks ago Crossroads, our church in Cincinnati, showed this video and it opened up my eyes to a whole new important piece in the addiction puzzle.

Take a moment to watch this.

How’s that for a wake-up call Church?  What people need is community, and a compassionate one at that.

They need a safe place to be them with all their baggage, and their hurts, and their pain. They need community who will love them, encourage them, pray with them and lift them up even when they stumble. If I have learned anything from my addicted friends it is this…they will relapse. And sometimes when you absolutely least expect it. For sometimes no reason at all. It can be frustrating and challenging.But we need to be like the father of the Prodigal Son. We need to have our arms wide open waitingon them to come home.

what-people-need-is-community-and-a-compassionate-one-at-that

Now, I know that there are some of you arguing all of this as you read because your thinking…I did that. I did that and they overdosed. I did that and they are still using. I did that and all I got was hurt.

Please hear me on this, I get it. I didn’t say this was easy. But I want to say this as gently and as lovingly as I can (because I know some of you are sweet Mamas who have lost their loved ones or may feel like you are going to)… right now you can’t love them the way they need to be loved. Right now, you need healing. You are hurting.

And in that scenario, “Hurt people only hurt people.”

You will do more damage than you will do good because you are angry. What you want them to do, they did not do. You are angry at them. You may even be angry at God. You could even be angry at you.

This brings me to the point I was making above, the reason why they use has nothing to do with you or may have everything to do with you.

So to help us all, no matter what situation you are in with the person in addiction in your life, I have some steps for you to consider.

First, you need to start to forgive them. Forgive the person for not living up to your expectations. For harming themselves and the people around them. For not loving you the way you needed to be loved, for whatever transpired between you two. I don’t know and can’t list every scenario here. You know the situation. You know the why. Your job now is to start the process of forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” You being bound up in unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness does nothing to help them. In fact, it only gives more power to the enemy to defeat you and them and anyone else in your life it has affected.

Second, you need to forgive God. He is a big boy. He can take whatever offense you may have brought before Him. You may blame Him for the addiction. You may blame him for their recklessness. You may blame him for their death. But you must remember that we have free will, each and every one of us. When someone willingly subjects themselves to drug and alcohol abuse, they are exercising that free will. No one can stop them, but them. Their choice to begin is just as much their choice to end it. I don’t like it anymore than you do but it is true. So I ask you to consider, letting God off the hook for your own sake. He is still God, on the throne, seated high and exalted. Your not forgiving Him does not stop Him from being who He is. It hurts you more than it does Him. So forgive Him so that you can move on and be free of the bitterness and anger you are holding on to.

Third, forgive you. I don’t know what you have done in your past and you may or may not play a role in why the person is using right now. You may be the perpetrator of their wounds or you may not have anything to do with it, but realize you are powerless. You may have enabled them to use again. Whatever the situation is, again, you need to forgive yourself.

Jesus Christ died on a cross, sacrificially, for each of us so that we may be set free from all of our sins. I’ve heard it said before, When you keep unforgiveness in your heart, you put yourself in a cage and hold onto the key.” it’s self-deprecation and again it helps no one move forward in this situation.

mckenziehyde-compassionverse
Stacey Hyde reconciled with her family.

What a person in active addiction or walking through recovery needs is YOU. You having compassion for them, loving them, encouraging them, praying for them, and speaking truth to them.

So start this process with you. Seek forgiveness. Break yourself free from your pain so that you can receive the healing you need.

Why? Because healed people can help heal people. People who are healed, forgiven, loved and full of compassion freely give what they have recived.

That is the greatest gift you can give to someone in addiction. A healed you.

Now that we have gotten to the end of this post I feel like there is more that I need to share to equip you to love those in addiction and recovery well. So, with that, we’ll continue this topic next week.

Join me when we’ll start to talk about how you love an addict so that you are not enabling them but rather empowering them to take ownership of their addiction in the hopes of them moving forward.

P.S. If you are ready to get help, please contact me or The Link of Cullman County. We are happy to help you get where you need to be to start your journey to sobriety. If you are not in Cullman,AL please call your local church, non-profit, recovery, AA, ALNON to get help.

I know I hit on some things in this post that people are going to want to talk about, so please comment below on and let’s model compassion for each other as we seek God to help us love those people in active addiction and recovery around us.