When Dreams Are Dashed

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As an author of a historical fiction novel set at the cusp of The Great Depression, I wondered if many contemporary youth could relate to it. Why? Not because historical fiction isn’t relevant, or even interesting to compare to current events, but because of our nation’s overall wealth and good fortune during their entire lifetime.

For many years now, America has prospered beyond anything my parents and grandparents could have imagined. The main character of my historical fiction, entitled His Gift, Molly White, has high expectations for her future. She believes she knows her life purpose. She has persevered and sacrificed to achieve her dreams. It seems clear God has prepared Molly for this destiny and her plans seem inevitable. Then, like a design of standing Dominoes, one by one her dreams crash to the ground. What will she do and how can she go on? Will she find hope for her tomorrows?

As many of us, I have reflected about how life has changed in this 2020 season of Covid-19. Suddenly, everything we knew as our plans and futures, came to a stop. I wondered how young people are coping with their milestone events cancelled. Adults have also had to reconfigure their life plans, but some life miletones are difficult to recapture, like high school and college graduations.

I asked some young adults and teens to weigh in. Where do you go for hope when everything you’ve expected to happen is CANCELLED? How do you reframe life when your lifetime dreams disappear? Some of these young people have written about their losses, their feelings, and how they are regrouping. Today I share the thoughts of one young lady named Emma, who would have experienced her senior year and high school graduation. I pray that as she considered the interview questions, she was blessed by the process of reflection.

Emma, like most seniors, expected her senior year to be the very best of all her high school experiences. She anticipated her senior prom and all the excitement it would bring. “I envisioned graduation, walking across the stage with my best friends,” she said. In the back of her mind, I imagine she also would have imagined some cheers from family and friends. Everyone would have congratulated her for academic accomplishments as she walked forward to accept her diploma. At first, Emma says, “I was extremely disappointed and heartbroken that my time in high school with my friends and teachers was cut short.” Opportunity lost.

Looking more introspectively, Emma also learned “not to take your stage in life for granted. … I wish I had cherished the season I was in before it was gone.” Such wisdom for such a young age. I affirm Emma’s principle for every single human, no matter what “stage” a person is in. Thank you for digging deep and realizing this truth now as you stand on tiptoes, peering into your future, Emma. I pray that you will never miss the importance of any season in life.

Emma shares how she cried out to God asking the universal question so common to all of us. “Why? Why me? Why at this time in my life?” Emma asked. Realizing she has not received a direct answer from God to all of her questions, she affirms these lessons. “I am beginning to understand part of the ‘why.’ God has allowed me to take this time for personal growth, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I have evaluated the properties in my life and grown so much closer to God. In a way, I am thankful for this quiet time of introspection.”

i encourage every reader to look for answers for themselves, to read, to pray, to seek the One who holds all of our futures. If you don’t have a relationship with God, I pray this bold interruption to your plans will cause you to question and perhaps wonder if there isn’t something more than your own plans as you live your days.

Thank you, Emma, for your wisdom and we pray your future will always be filled with a close relationship with the Lord Your God. I’m praying for a beautiful future as you walk into the “next season.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“STOP!”

grey white clouds
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Most of us, including me, love sunshine. The old John Denver song (for those of you old enough to remember) comes to mind: “Sunshine on My Shoulders” of course … makes me happy! Somehow the sun has the power to transform a cold winter day from dreary to cheery. Sunshine delights the eyes as it illuminates and accentuates the early blooms of spring. Sunshine intensifies the glory of crimson and yellow fall leaves, leaving an onlooker breathless from its vibrant display.

However, in real life, not every day is so perfectly beautiful and filled with light. Your “skies” may turn dark. Storm clouds might roll in hard and fast.  If you are from Tornado Alley, like I am, you may run to take cover as the green-gray cloud soup drapes itself over the land, and tiny funnel-shaped structures dip and dance overhead. There are certainly vivid Bible stories depicting the fears and consequences of storms at sea. Think of dear old Jonah who was trying to escape God’s directives. The Lord sent a great wind and a storm so wicked that the sailors were all afraid their ship would break up, leaving them to drown in the sea. God needed to get Jonah’s attention. And, he used that storm to speak to Jonah’s heart. When storm clouds threaten, do you call on the Lord?

When Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, a sudden and furious squall arose. (Mark 4:35-42) Waves crashed over the boat, nearly swamping it. The disciples thought they might die, yet Jesus slept in the stern of the fishing vessel until they awakened him. He fussed a bit at their unbelief. “Do you still have no faith?” he asked. But, before he spoke to the disciples, he got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Wow. Just like that. The storm subsided. The disciples were in disbelief even though they had been following him for awhile! Yet, they feared death and destruction in that moment, when they couldn’t see the sunshine, but felt the wind. Yet, Jesus was right there. He was with them in that boat. Do we ever doubt where He is during the storms, or do we remember He is with us?

I know we cannot always rebuke every storm in our lives and see it instantly dissolve. Yet, I want to take this analogy one step further. Oftentimes, our storms are not physical or environmental. Sometimes, they take place in our heads and hearts … a heaviness, a loneliness, a lack of joy, a grief that doesn’t seem to end. I want to encourage you to take heart. Though you may not see miracles every day, Jesus did tell the disciples in John 14:12, “,,, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” 

When you feel some torment from your spiritual antagonist, Satan himself, put on your spiritual armor and stand your ground. In James 4:7 we are reminded to submit ourselves, to God. Then, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” 

I had a bad dream a week ago and it was a reminder of this principle. A dark and shadowy cloud formation was following me. I noticed it but kept walking. Then, I began running. It followed relentlessly. In this dream, I suddenly turned around to face that fearsome thing, and shouted, “STOP!” And, it did!

I know. This was a dream. There was no real threat to me or my loved ones.  Yet, I do believe the Lord speaks to us in dreams. The dark cloud stopped in its tracks, and I, in joyful amazement, praised God. It was only a dream, but symbolic, no doubt.  I will wear my spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-18). When I feel the darkness of the Enemy discouraging me from fulfilling God’s purposes, I will boldly proclaim, “STOP! In the name of Jesus!” I pray this imagery will be an encouragement to you as well. I pray that you won’t be overcome by the one who wants you to lose hope in the storms of life.    

My Daddy’s Face

“Where is daddy’s face?” asked my six-year-old granddaughter. “I can’t find him!”

The child turned over random puzzle pieces, examining the details for clues. The puzzle had been a gift created from family photos, each image represented a favorite memory.

Shrugging her little shoulders, Cassie replied, “I know he’s here! I just need to look harder.”

“Look, Cass, is this Daddy’s eye and nose?” I asked, holding up a piece. “Yes, yes, I see him!” my sweet grandchild answered.

I was reminded that sometimes I, too, have searched for my Father’s “face” among the disassembled puzzle pieces of my life. I’ve even cried out. “Where are you?” In those times of darkness, I have to trust and remember who my Heavenly Father is. Like Cassie, I need to remember to “look harder” for evidence of God’s presence, instead of fixating on the unsolved problem. It seems to be human nature to painfully focus on what is wrong, those missing pieces.

Yet we have assurance that God has not abandoned us. In Romans 8:38-39, He comforts His children. “For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below–indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ((NLT).  What an all-encompassing promise!

Exodus explains that God’s face is hidden from view because He is so holy. “But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live,” Exodus 33:20 (NLT). The Bible is explicit. God is not withholding his presence because he is an unkind Father, but He is so sinless that we could not survive a face-to-face encounter. Thus, enters Christ. He is why we can have relationship with this Holy God. Through the sacrifice of Christ, the penalty for our sins have been laid to rest, absolved, on the cross. Father God can now see us as forgiven and perfect in His sight! The gift of Christ made a way for us to be brought back into an intimate relationship with perfect Father God!

We have been given the promise of seeing Father God face to face … someday … in heaven. “And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there–no need for lamps or sun–for the Lord God will shine on them,” Revelation 22:3-5a (NLT). I will then be perfected, and though in awe, I’m sure, I will see Him clearly, face to face. As the song title says, “I can only imagine …” what that will be like.

Even when I feel like young Cassie, searching for the comfort of my Father’s face and presence, I can say with the confidence of a child, I know He is with me. Look for His presence around you. Listen for His voice, and watch for evidence in all ways. As you search for your Spiritual Father  in the middle of your unsolved puzzle, know He is near. You can encounter His presence. “Come close to God, and God will come close to you,” James 4:8 (NLT). His desire is to comfort you with great love and compassion. Look up from your despair, and He will show His face when you need it most.

His Glory and Majesty … and Me?

“Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.” Psalm 8:1

Have you ever felt small as you looked into the night skies, stood on a mountaintop, or gazed into what seems like an endless sea from the shoreline? My human life, which is of utmost importance to me, is but an infinitesimal dot in one unfathomable universe … among many universes. In Psalm 8:3, David, the Psalmist, raises the question with this: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (NIV) 

[Enjoy listening to and watching this musical expression of Psalm 8:3 on Youtube:  https://youtu.be/6_f0aOp0EPE ]

The Scriptures proclaim His creativity in Psalm 104: 24: “How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”  When I view the intricate details of nature, I am in awe. My heart is stirred at the exquisite pinks, reds, and yellows of a setting sun, at times dispersing its glory into clouds and reflecting waters.  Upon delighting in the scent of honeysuckle or a delicate rose bloom, I am humbled by God’s meticulous design. The calming song of a dove’s “cooooo-coooo,” or a lyrical human voice can lift my spirits even in turbulent times. How can I hold a newborn baby, so helpless, yet brimming with potential, and not see His works? I have only to let myself see, feel, hear, and touch what is all around me, and it becomes evident that God has allowed us glimpses of His Glory now. I can only imagine what Heaven will be as we then gaze upon the One who is the Creator!

It would take greater faith than I have to believe that my world came into being from some astonishing accident of nuclear particles. Or that the complexity of human life evolved from amoeba emerging from its watery habitat. Even the precision of the tilt of the Earth as it rotates, scientists say, is “just about right” (like perfect?) for advanced life to flourish. Such a “coincidence”?

It is no wonder that I am overwhelmed that God, The One who has formed not only my “tiny” yet miraculous life, but the whole of all universes, should care for me. “But God,” I ask. “How can you care about me?” I am but one among the myriads. My heart is so selfish. My woes must are surely fleeting and unremarkable among the countless multitudes in Your creation. And You? So Eternal, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient … all that I am not. My mind is incapable of grasping the wonder of You.

And yet. I can know absolutely that He cares … for me … and you. We do see the beauty of His handiwork and His revelation through our senses. But, even greater evidence is that same all-powerful, creative God wants to have a relationship with me! And you! If you wonder how I know this, I can be certain because He sent His Son, Jesus, to dwell among us on this planet. He came to teach, to heal, and to make a way for me, and all of us who seek God, to have relationship with his Almighty Majestic, Perfect Father. Jesus embodies the words of Eternal Life. Jesus, the only Son of God.

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” – 1 John 4:9-11 (NIV)

“You have made them (human beings) a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. … Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:5,9 (NIV)

Hallelujah!