Dreams

dreams

In the depths of the city, diverse with anger
My heart turns cold, my humanity’s in danger
I came to make a name
I came to change the game
I came to claim the fame
I came to clear my shame

In the depths of the city, billboards promising new life
My mind’s spinning fast, rejection cuts like a knife
I’m here, but don’t know where to go
I’m here, but lost my way to the show
I’m here, but haven’t found my song
I’m here, but not sure for how long

In the depths of the city, success ‘round every corner, not far ahead
I’m almost there, I can see it now, but traffic light is stuck on red
I’m making good time, but getting quickly passed
I’m pretending to be first, but in reality last
I’m wide awake, but can’t wake up
I’m dry with thirst, but have no cup

Dreams, they make you
Dreams, they break you
Dreams, they mock you
Dreams, they take you to places unknown

Dreams, they shake you
Dreams, they fake you
Dreams, they shape you
Dreams, they take you to places unshown

In the depths of the city, invisible, masses drown my being
I’m shouting out loud, waving my hands, but can’t be seen
I’m rare, I have to remind
I’m unique, one of a kind
I’m one in a billion
I’m lost in the million

In the depths of the city, our eyes look away, as bodies collide
Fake smiles, firm handshakes, while fear works hard to hide
Look at me, I’m fine and strong
Look at me, I can do no wrong
I turn away, I’ve got regrets to bury
I run away, tired of burdens I carry

In the depths of the city, I’ve found my breath, I’ve found my voice
I look past the shallow, I see behind the curtain, I rise above the noise
Weariness my invigoration
Brokenness my declaration
Woundedness my inspiration
Confession my liberation

Dreams, they make you
Dreams, they break you
Dreams, they mock you
Dreams, they take you to places unknown

Dreams, they shake you
Dreams, they fake you
Dreams, they shape you
Dreams, they take you to places unshown

Dreams
I have found the key to success is a journey of faith
I have found a journey of faith comes one day at a time
I have found one day at a time only matters if you do it with friends
I have found friends are God’s strength while pursuing dreams
I have found dreams only come true when we walk with God
I have found when we walk with God, he focuses on developing our character
I have found that developing our character is the key to success

Dreams, they make you
Dreams, they break you
Dreams, they mock you
Dreams, they take you to places unknown

Dreams, they shake you
Dreams, they fake you
Dreams, they shape you
Dreams, they take you to places unshown

“Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” Ephesians 3:20

Contradiction, It’s Where I Find Me

Contradiction

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Success is promised, but tempted to flee
Strength is waning, never been so strong
Screaming out truth while surrounded with wrong

Heart breaks for broken, yet it’s harder than stone
Surrounded with people, feel so alone
Wisdom is clear, but it’s not convenient
Standards are high, yet fittingly lenient

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Grace is free, but for others there’s a fee
Focused on the prize, eye on the goal
Culture sidetracks, stuffing this God-shaped hole

Disciplines obsessive, lethargies overtake
Foundations unyielding, yet easy to shake
Purpose focused, never in doubt
Roadblocks surround, quick to pout

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Beauty disguised, ugly reality
Full of creativity, overcome with exhaustion
Frustration rules, leaning towards resignation

Days so long, life so short
Feelings rage, demanding to sort
Wealth of opportunity, a catalog of choice
Volume getting loud, muting my voice

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Obsessed with acceptance, don’t care if they hate me
There’s chatter of courage, yet fear rules the day
Conviction is high, unless there’s a price to pay

Morality important, it cramps my style
Aim is focused, yet missing by a mile
Souls transparent, never wanting to fake
Portraying translucent, diagnosis opaque

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Hiding pride, shouting humility
Spirit shrivels, heart breaks
Finish the race, whatever it takes

“Smack in the centre of contradiction is the place to be.” –Bono

We, people of faith, often times feel like we have to have it all together in order to feel like good, successful Christians.

We, people of faith, often times feel like we should have no doubts, no temptations, no frustrations and at the same time, have an endless amount of strength and faith oozing out of us.

We, people of faith, often times forget what the scriptures show us about the life of one of the most amazing Christians to ever live.

Let me share with you two examples:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” (The Apostle Paul) Romans 7:15

(“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ ”  The Apostle Paul) 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

The Apostle Paul, stuck in a contradiction, it’s where we find him: Tempted, discouraged, weak, and that’s why we need God’s Grace and not religion!

Wake up! Breathe deep! There are treasures we must find!

wake-up-call-220x138

You are far more amazing than you’ll ever realize
Much more greater than the world’s pack of lies

People won’t appreciate your hard work. Work hard anyway
Sleep deep, dream well, for tomorrow will quickly become today

You can live fully alive, or you can live waiting to die
One is risky and fun, the other is safe and a lie

Today move from the victim’s role to the role of creativity
Victim’s look for blame, while other’s risk new activity

Move from finding someone to blame to finding someone to extol
Move from finding someone to judge to finding someone to know

Try something this week that is out of your comfort zone
Even when the crowd runs to safety and you are all alone

Being relevant takes more risks, creates more ups and downs
It’s more difficult than popularity, which is easy to be found

Judging others has to do with low self-esteem and holding a grudge
My job is to offer grace to those the world has already judged

I spend my time creating my own caste arrangement
Though we are far more the same than we are distant

I want to save the world, but I’m having trouble saving myself
My focus is on others while I’m struggling finding my own help

700 million dollars spent on Valentine’s for our pets
While children die for lack of 10 dollar mosquito nets

350 million spent on pets at Halloween
While 55 dollars gives families water that’s clean

93 percent of Californians don’t go to church, lack of hope
I’m spending too much time trying to please the 7, lack of scope

God’s biggest desire is to have our presence
I talk about his goodness, though it’s past tense

I need his mercy, but I leave it behind
It’s new everyday, yet it bleeds out my mind

Grace turns quickly to rules, morals and obligations
It turns into committees, methods and gyrations

We pack God in a box, in our minds it’s a clear history
We have lost all the awe, we have lost all the mystery

Faith is called faith, because we cannot see
Yet we preach that less doubt leads to maturity

I say, the closer I get to my creator, the less I know
Big words, eloquent prayers, it’s all about the show

Faith is calling out, it’s doubting while believing
Everyone wants it, yet still everyone is leaving

A better understanding of God takes a world view
Compassion grows while walking in another’s shoe

I pray that God doesn’t dress like a politician
I pray he doesn’t gossip like a beautician

I hope He laughs at my vain attempts to be perfect
I know He cries and  heart breaks when he sees injustices’ evil effect

God says that he is close to broken-hearted man
He also says, when we love them, we love him

Righteousness is more than morality and being right
I’m thankful because I don’t look good in white

A widow’s mite is worth more than a portfolio on Wall Street
I waste more money in a day, than Africans earn in a week

I am told not to live on guilt, yet I wrestle with much affliction
My struggle is daily and good, for it is leading to healthy conviction

I am thinking that we have just scratched the surface of potential
I am looking for a new storm of grace, drowning us in its torrential

Fear comes not from God, it comes from another kind
God give deep love, sustaining power and a sound mind

Wake up! Breathe deep! There are treasures we must find!
In the words of C.S. Lewis, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

From Every Tribe and Every Nation…a few thoughts from Africa

Africa 2012 164

From every tribe, and every nation
My faith transcends denomination
Culture, colors none the same
Redemption comes in Yeshua’s name

Stuck in my view, its far too narrow
My earthly eyes see too much sorrow
Babies die and mothers weep
Big men lie while others sleep

Told tough times lead to deeper faith
I still avoid them like the plague
Addicted to teaching, binder full of notes
The harvest is plentiful, but my actions remote

White, yellow, brown, red and black
There is no shade that God lacks
Transformation, it’s a lifetime journey
Humility is key to eternal learning

I’m looking for joy so I can be grateful
But joy doesn’t come until I am thankful
With crippled feet I run the race
Mud knee deep, carried by Grace

Prejudice rampant, wars rage
Holy genocide litters history’s page
Religion rules, picking the chosen ones
Ignoring the words “whosever will may come.”

Overwhelmed by conditions
Missed opportunities, lost positions
Challenges daily, endurance a must
Searching for strength, faith and trust

Heroes all around, they’re just hard to see
Quietly walking with God humbly
Africa, Asia and unknown lands
Extending love as God’s own hands

Leading is vision, I must give it away
Strategies come and go, but deep values must stay
A new generation, called to invest
The Body too small, we need the rest

I want all the answers, a path that is clear
A path that is easy with nothing to fear
But my sights too short, and patience, I’m far from it
Faith means building the bridge while I’m walking upon it.

We bless the poor but the poor are already blessed
When I’m serving the least I am truly at my best
New beginnings start with a broken heart
Stupid poverty ends when I do my part

The church is asking “what’s the next fashion?”
Fighting injustice is God’s great passion
Theology debates, they lead to deep fraction
Loving one another is our call to action

I desperately need an eternal view
It gives me the courage to do the things I must do
Opportunities all around me, there is power in His name
He gives sight to the blind and strength for the lame

I desperately need an eternal view
Embracing the temporary is our cultures cue
My life is on loan, it is not my own
It’s not about great feats, but the seeds that are sown

Male, female, Jew, Samaritan and gentile
Grace is pervasive, it starts with a child
The greatest among us was born in a stable
The Good New is for all, the weak and the able

Will we be exclusive, just another sect
Or will we serve our neighbor, gaining their respect
Will we love the orphan, the widow and those who fall
Will we be known as restorer of cities and re-builder of walls

Yet I Still Dare To Hope

“You have tested us, O God;
you have purified us like silver.
Then you put a leader over us.
We went through fire and flood,
but you brought us to a place of great abundance.”
Psalm 66:10,12

As I am in Niamey, Niger surrounded by the destructive damage done by the flooding of the Niger River I am observing a few things.

One, the depth of character that I see in the community of believers who have been turned upside down by this tragedy.

David writes, “You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver.”

When a silversmith purifies silver he holds the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames are the hottest as to burn away the impurities.

The silversmith has to sit in front of the fire the whole time the silver is being purified because if the silver is left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

So how does the silversmith know when the silver is purified?

The answer is when the silversmith can see his image in it.

When you feel the heat of the fire, remember that God has his eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.

Two, I see the depth of faith that sustains their souls.

Sahel Academy, who lost its campus for the year because of the flood, one of the most influential and qualified schools in Niger, has already found new buildings to restart the school year in the upcoming weeks, knowing that the school’s real power is not buildings but committed teachers and potentially world changing students.

This is not easy, but…

They are believing what Psalm 66:12 says that as God takes them through the flood, He is going to take them to a place of great abundance, so that He can get the glory.

Floods come and go, but God’s faithfulness is always and forever.

Three, I see the depth of authentic community.

Difficult times are never fun but when you have a band of brothers and sisters rallying around each other, helping one another, encouraging one another, and even in the midst of this tragedy, laughing together, you cannot help but sit up and take notice.

Today, as I helped these heroic teachers and faculty members move into there new classrooms there was hugging, helping, laughing and a sense of anticipation from everyone about how God was going to use this whole thing to bless very poor country.

The great testimony of the Christian faith is not our perfect circumstances, but it is when outside observers say, “Oh, how they loved one another.”

Four, I see the heroic leaders standing tall, helping people find direction and hope when it is easy to get lost and discouraged.

God calls us as leaders to lead people through fires and floods to help people find hope and faith.

God is looking for leaders.

You tend to find new leaders during these times.

The ultimate example of this is when God brought a leader to us who endured horrific, unjust pain and suffering, which led us to a place of abundant life.

God took the worst thing and drew from it the best thing, which is a relationship with Jesus Christ, who wants to give us abundant life, today and forever.

Niger, Sahel Acadamy, Esprit Bible College and many other amazing organizations and people have been affected by these horrible floods…but, Jesus, the ultimate leader, is raising up leaders, young and old, to bring them through the floods and to a place of abundance.

It is not and will not be easy.

The scriptures guarantee it won’t be.

But as the prophet Jeremiah wrote looking over the ruins of Jerusalem,

“The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”

Looking Different at Difficult Times

When going through difficult times, it is human nature to ask God, “What is going on?” and then do everything possible to get out of the difficulty as quickly and painless as possible.

We spend a lot of our lives involved in “difficulty avoidance.”

We spend a lot of our lives wondering where God is during difficult moments and seasons.

Very often, my goal in life is about comfort.
Most often, God’s goal for my life is character development.

Comfort and character development are like a New York Yankee fan and a Boston Red Sox fan trying to be best friends. It usually doesn’t happen.

Difficulty avoidance can lead to temporary comfort.
Being fully aware in a difficult moment can lead to what the Apostle Paul calls teachable moments where we can develop endurance which develops strength of character which can lead us to hope.

When we begin to live life with that kind of perspective, it not only gives us hope, but it also allows us to become a part of God’s bigger purpose and plan.

A great example of this is when the Apostle Paul and his friend and co-worker Silas were in Philippi telling people of the good news of Grace.

While there, a demon-possessed girl is following them around drawing strange attention to them.

Paul casts the demon out of her, which seems like a nice thing to do, but the demon possessed girl was working for some fortune teller guys and without the demon in her, she could no longer make money for them.

The fortune teller guys are ticked off and they get Paul and Silas arrested. While being arrested they are beaten up pretty badly, thrown into prison and chained to the wall without a trial or any due process.

Let’s stop right here for a moment.
How would you be feeling at the moment?
I would be feeling pretty down.

I would be telling God, “Thanks a lot, all I was trying to do was tell people about your Good News and help this girl and this is the thanks I get? What did I do to deserve this?”

I would definitely be begging God to get me out of the mess.
That would most likely be my state of mind.
Not a lot of peace. Not a lot of rest.

What did Paul and Silas do?

They are beaten up, bloody, chained to the wall and around midnight they decide to sing some uplifting songs to God.
Paul looks at Silas and asks, “What would Bono sing?”
Paul and Silas begin to sing, “It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away!”

The other prisoners are wondering who brought in the karaoke machine. I wonder if some of them eventually joined in because it is quite a catchy little tune.

As Paul and Silas are singing an earthquake happens and the shackles are loosed, cell doors opened and Paul and Silas and the rest of the prisoners are free to go.

Let’s stop again.
What would you do in this moment? What would you be thinking?

I would be thinking, “God has heard my prayers and provided a way out, I am out of here! Silas, I hope you can keep up with me. Thank you God for clearly sending this earthquake to set me free!”

I would have been out of there so fast, because in my mind, this difficulty was still about me and my comfort.

What did Paul and Silas do?

They didn’t run.
In fact they told the guard not to kill himself because he was about to, thinking if the prisoners escape, I will be killed by my superior.
Paul yelled out, “We are still here!”

Why did Paul not run?
Because he had learned that difficult circumstances were not about him but about God possibilities.
He had learned about this “character development” and that God used these moments for redemption.

The jailer asks Paul why he didn’t run and Paul shares with him the good news of Grace and how Jesus came to save him not condemn him, and the jailer and his whole family are saved by Grace.

Human nature leads to difficulty avoidance.
God wisdom leads to miracles in the middle of difficulty.

I think of my mother as a modern day example of this.
She has allowed difficult circumstances to grow her endurance and character that has led her to a deeper hope that has been a huge help for others.

My mom, who has tragically lost two precious daughters over the last 20 years, has not practiced “pain avoidance” or allowed herself to go down the vicious path of bitterness or blaming God.

Instead, even with many questions unanswered, she like Paul, has not tried to escape the pain, but rather going through it, she has helped many people who have experienced similar loss, helping them navigate the difficult journey of grief.

Let me ask one more question.

What do people see in you while you are going through difficult times?
Is it all about you? Is it all about getting out of the situation as quickly as possible?
Or is there something different about how you go about it?

Remember, difficulties come to all of us.

The world pays attention when a Christ follower is going through a difficult time.
How will they respond? Will their faith make a difference?

If it is about trying to get to comfort as quickly as possible, then we are no different than the way the world responds, and there is nothing attractive about my faith.

Like Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Jesus did not practice “difficulty avoidance.” In fact the scriptures says “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

As I see my difficult times as endurance and character development, and being used for a greater purpose then just my comfort, then the world will see that there is something different about my faith, and they will see God.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” Romans 5:3-4 (NLT)

I’m Caught in a Contradiction, and I Can’t Get Out of It

Don’t be afraid to find yourself right in the middle of a contradiction.
It is usually where God grows your faith.

Everyone deals with doubt and insecurity.
Everyone deals with lust and selfish desires.
Everyone deals with fears and worry.
Everyone lives in the paradox…
…I am strong, I am weak,
I am handsome, I am ugly,
I am thin, I am fat,
I am caring, I am selfish,
I am in control, I am falling apart,
I am at peace, I am afraid,
I am Godly, I am a heathen,
I am forgiven, I am ashamed,
I am smart, I am dumb,
I am special, I am nobody,
I am patient, I can’t wait,
I am a faith giant, I am full of doubt,
I am excited, I am depressed,
I am in awe, I am unimpressed,
I am strong, I am weak,
I am going to make it, I am not sure I can…

Our faith grows the strongest when we are not depending on our strength, intellect and resources.
Our roots grow deep when we stop trying to control, stop trying to overcome, and we surrender our fragile egos at the footsteps of the door of Grace.

The Apostle Paul reminds me of something I quickly forget, “We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

If I wait for my contradictions to go away, I will never live.

Paul, this hero of faith, brags about his superhero strength when he says, “I do what I know I shouldn’t do, and I don’t do what I know I should.”

He then says to the church in Philippi, “Follow me, and you will experience peace”.
He was living in the reality of the contradiction that he was called to lead others by his example yet he did not have the strength, on his own, to lead well.

He had to depend fully on the power of God and His Grace.

Paul challenged the Galatians that “God gives you His Spirit and works through you to offer people His hope not because you are strong enough to follow the law, but because you received the Good News of His Grace and are allowing His power to work through you.”

It is easy to discount my faith and the purpose God has for me when I allow my contradictions to control me..

I must fully embrace the contradiction that in my weakness, He is strong.

I must remind myself that even though I can’t solve everyone’s problems and change the world in a day, that I do have the most powerful force living in me, God’s love, hope and Grace.

When I do that, I become more powerful than I can ever imagine.

In his book The Easy Yoke, Doug Webster tells a story about an idealistic college student who ended up on a mission trip to one of the more dangerous housing projects in Philadelphia.

Frightened and anxious to share his faith, the young man approached a very large tenement home. Cautiously making his way through the dark, cluttered hallways, he climbed up one flight of stairs to an apartment.

He knocked on the door, and a woman with a cigarette in her mouth, holding a naked, crying baby opened it. Not in any mood to hear some white, idealistic college boy to tell her about Jesus, she started cursing and slammed the door in his face. He was devastated. He walked out on the street, sat on the curb and wept, feeling worthless and inept.

Then he said, “It felt like God whispered some wisdom in my ear.”
He got up and ran down the street to the local market and bought a box of diapers and a pack of cigarettes.

When he knocked on the door again, he showed the woman his purchases. She hesitated and then invited him in.

For the rest of the day, he played with the baby and changed its diapers (even though he had never changed diapers before).
When the woman offered him a cigarette, he took one (even though he had never smoked before).

For the day, he said very little.

Late in the afternoon, the woman asked him why he was doing all this, and he told her about his relationship with Jesus and how much Jesus loved her. It took about 5 minutes.

When he stopped talking, the woman looked at him and softly said, “Pray for me and my baby that we can make it out of here alive.”

When we allow ourselves to be put in vulnerable, seemingly over-our-head situations, and simply offer the dignity and the love of God in tangible ways, His spirit works through us, our faith grows, and most importantly…OUR CONTRADICTIONS BECOME IRRELEVANT.