It’s Time to Cast Your Net.

Casting NetsLynn had failed over and over. Not once or twice but multiple times she’d pitched her business idea to investors and each time was rejected. To say she was disappointed is hardly an exaggeration. All Lynn had ever wanted to do was to open her own business so she took business courses, researched different opportunities, and developed a business plan.  

Lynn believed!

But no one else did. Finally, after several years of trying to secure funding and failing, Lynn quit.  She was heartbroken.  It was the death of a life-long dream. Until one day when, out of the blue, the Lord said to her,

 “Now go out where it is deeper and cast your nets.”

“Who? Me?” Lynn responded, somewhat bewildered.

“Yes, you,” said the Lord.

“But Lord,” answered Lynn, “I’ve worked for many years searching for investors and failing. But, if you say so, I’ll try again.”

So Lynn set out once more to find investors for her company except that this time, she sought bigger, more lucrative investors. After all, the Lord had instructed her to fish in deeper waters.

The next day, Lynn got a “bite” from an investor saying he was definitely interested in Lynn’s company and suggested even more money than Lynn had sought. Not only that, but two other investors had heard about Lynn’s business and were interested in investing as well.  In the end, Lynn ended up with two investors and her business – Chinese restaurant trucks (just like ice cream trucks except with egg rolls, General Tao and chopsticks) was a huge success!

So okay, yes – this is the same situation in which Jesus directed Peter to “’go out where it is deeper and let down your nets and you will catch many fish.’”

Peter, at first though, isn’t so sure. He responds, “’Master, we worked hard all night and didn’t catch a thing.’”  Then he adds, “’but at Your word, we’ll try again.’”  The story ends with Peter’s nets so full they began to tear (Luke 5:4-6).

What’s it all mean?

First, the Lord tells Peter to “’let down your nets’”. Note that God didn’t just drop the fish from the sky (although I hear that’s been known to happen).  Rather Pete had to work for it.  The take-away here is that God loves to co-labor with us; He doesn’t want to do “it” alone (whatever “it” is) nor does He want us to have to do it alone. He wants to have partners.

Moreover, sometimes the Lord may tell us to go “deeper”. While “going deeper” can have many applications, in the sense of fulfilling a vision or destiny, it means to seek larger territory, more impactful opportunity – to go big!  At the same time, going deeper, seeking bigger things, might be a bit scarier and require more faith.  However, the risk of “going deeper” did pay off for Peter.

Then there’s the timing. Apparently, in Peter’s day, nighttime was the accepted time to fish (idk) but Jesus instructed him to fish at a time that others might’ve questioned – even ridiculed.  Often God will instruct us to do something in the off-season or during a time that just seems wrong.  However, He’s in touch with all of the logistics of a situation and we are not.

Finally, notice that Jesus says to Peter, “’Now go out . . .’” When God says “now,” it’s best to move.  Considering that God often saves the “now”s until we don’t expect them, it never hurts to be prepared. (The virgins and their lamps come to mind . . .)

So – even if you’ve been through a long season of “try and fail, try and fail,” it may be that that season is about to end. After all, fishermen are supposed to be successful at fishing and you are supposed to be successful at whatever you’re called to be – or God wouldn’t have called you to be that, would He?

So get ready to cast your nets. Get ready to go deeper.

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Life Lessons Worth Remembering.

Charlie Brown
Lessons by Omer B. Washington

I’ve learned- that you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.

I’ve learned- that it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.

I’ve learned- that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

I’ve learned- that you can keep going long after you can’t.

I’ve learned- that you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is be someone who can be loved. The rest is up to them.

I’ve learned- that no matter how much I care, some people just don’t care back.

I’ve learned- that it takes years to build trust and only a few minutes to destroy it.

I’ve learned – that no matter how good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.

I’ve learned- that it’s not what you have in your life but who you have in your life that counts.

I’ve learned- that you should never ruin an apology with an excuse.

I’ve learned- that you can get by on charm for about fifteen minutes. After that, you’d better know something.

I’ve learned- that we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.

I’ve learned- that either you control your attitude or it controls you.

I’ve learned- that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

I’ve learned- that money is a lousy way of keeping score.

I’ve learned- that my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and have the best time.

I’ve learned- that sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you’re down will be the ones to help you get back up.

I’ve learned- that sometimes when I’m angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.

I’ve learned- that true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance. Same goes for true love.

I’ve learned- that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.

I’ve learned- that maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you’ve had and what you’ve learned from them and less to do with how many birthdays you’ve celebrated.

I’ve learned- that you should never tell a child their dreams are unlikely or ridiculous. Few things are more humiliating or tragic if believed.

I’ve learned- that your family won’t always be there for you. It may seem funny, but people you aren’t related to can take care of you and love you and teach you to trust people again. Families aren’t biological.

I’ve learned- that it isn’t always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.

I’ve learned- that no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn’t stop for your grief.

I’ve learned- that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.

I’ve learned- that just because two people argue, it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. And just because they don’t argue doesn’t mean they do.

I’ve learned- that we don’t have to change friends if we understand that friends change.

I’ve learned- that you shouldn’t be so eager to find out a secret. It could change your life forever.

I’ve learned- that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.

I’ve learned- that no matter how you try to protect your children, they will eventually get hurt and you will hurt in the process.

I’ve learned- that credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.

I’ve learned- that it’s hard to determine where to draw the line between being nice and not hurting people’s feelings, and standing up for what you believe.

I’ve learned- that people will forget what you said, and people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

By Omer B. Washington

“Do Not Fear the Work.”

          FearHave you ever felt that your dream is too big?  The task feels so monumental, the job so impossible that you begin to wonder if the one thing God got wrong in all eternity was calling you to do it?

            King Solomon certainly wondered.

            Back story: King David had always wanted to build a temple for the Lord, but God told David that he would not be the one to build it; rather his son Solomon would build it.  Not surprisingly, Solomon was somewhat intimidated by the importance and scope of the task.

            It is at this point that David tells Solomon:

“’Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work is finished’” (I Chron 28:20).

            Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with what the Lord has called me to write – a book series – and I feel I’m in way over my head.  There are times I feel lost in a maze, not knowing which direction to turn or what comes next.  The research, the jigsaw puzzle that it is, the writing, the rewriting and sometimes, when the Lord decides to change things up, the starting all over.  I’m sharing this because my experience with this process is not unusual when the Lord gives us an assignment. 

           For example, when I wrote the first book, it seemed to flow right out of the pen. I’d finish writing a scene or chapter and then go, “Where did that come from??”  It wasn’t me.

           Enter book #2 – not so much. 

           Before I even started, the Lord said to me, “I gave you the first book. Now you’re going to have to seek me for the second.”

           “Okay,” (I naively replied), “how hard can that be?”

           Well – writing the next one has been a totally different experience.  Sometimes I just stare at the page, waiting for something, anything.  That’s when Left Behind co-author Jerry Jenkins’ advice kicks in: “There is no such thing as ‘writer’s block”.  Now sit your fanny in the chair and pick up the pen.”  I’m paraphrasing (but not much).

           Some time I’ll discuss the process of writing this series because, despite all that, it’s been such a God-thing that I can’t possibly convey it in a few words. However, suffice it to say that, in the past few years, the Lord has prompted me to do things which I had no idea would ever be part of a storyline, much less a series of books. I didn’t even know why I was doing the things at the time.

           For example, a few years ago, the Lord directed me to get in the car and drive to New England. Why?  Didn’t have a clue.  So I rounded up a friend and drove.  On the way (another principle entirely), we were directed to go to Salem and Plymouth and pray for the nation.  Odd, right?  No kidding.  But then, two years later, the Lord began to show me that that trip was a prophetic action that would become part of the series’ plot.

           A couple of takeaways: first, you may not have a clue what you’re doing – you only know that you have to do it. It’s kind of like salmon fighting their way upstream because well, just because. They don’t know why either.

           Second, you know that no matter how hard the work is, you can’t quit because – then what would you do? You were born for this and nothing else.

           Third, it’s only when the task seems impossible (or really is) that we depend completely on God.  Why?  Because seeking God is hard – the praying, the waiting, the trying and then trying again . . . You know.

           Jesus said we would do greater exploits than He did. He just neglected to mention how overwhelming that would feel at times.

           I know you’re called to “impossible” things. Maybe it’s raising children that make your life a challenge every single day – their needs or their rebellion or even their heartbreaking rejection.  Maybe you’re running a business, but it’s been one obstacle, setback or failure after another.  Maybe school is a real struggle.  It could be anything that, at times, leaves you feeling depleted, discouraged and totally inept. Maybe you’ve reached a point, as I did in the middle of fighting through the first year of the Common Core high school English modules, when you simply say, “God, you’ve got the wrong girl.”  I was so done. 

           In those moments, it’s good to remember Joshua, charged by the Lord to go into the Promised Land and clean it out – even after the spies came back saying, “’We saw the Nephilim there’ (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim)” (Num 13:33). (The Nephilim were the giants born from the unions of the naughty angels and the daughters of men.)

           We know Joshua was shaken (who wouldn’t be?), but it was then that the Lord said to Joshua, “’Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go’” (Jos 1:9).

           That scripture always re-sets my perspective. If Joshua had the courage and the faith to battle the legendary Nephilim and win, then I can certainly manage to buckle down, pick up the pen, and do the thing that God has called me to do.  And so can we all.

           “Do not fear the work.”

Does Your Dream Need A “Do-Over”?

            Do-over-button Have you ever had days when the “same ol’, same ol’” feels like it’s just sucking the life right out of you? Have you ever felt like you’ve “missed it” somehow – destroyed the destiny you might’ve had by making a wrong choice, a huge error, or even just wasting time? 

            Have you ever looked up to the sky and asked, “Why am I even here?”

            We’ve all been there. But the fact is, it’s never too late to discover your destiny or to make course corrections and get back on track to it.  How?  Because our God is a God of “do-overs”!

            Look at Moses who got a do-over after killing a man (his fault).  Look at Joseph who got a do-over after spending 22 years in prison (not his fault).  Whether you’re ten or eighty, God has a destiny for you.  And it’s a good destiny – one that will give your years life and your life purpose.  It will get you out of bed and excited to get moving every morning.  And it will allow you to know that you’re making a real difference in the world which, essentially, adds up to “eternal purpose”.

            I’m reminded of a young woman who had moved to a new town and had no job or money or husband (he’d died); all she had was an old woman to take care of and no food to feed her.

            Eventually, the woman got a job harvesting in the fields, barely making any money, and really just living off of what she was able to pick from the fields and take home.  And she did this day in and day out, day in and day out, day in and . . . you get the idea; you’ve been there.

            By now, you realize I mean Ruth.  But did you ever wonder what she was thinking during those long, hot hours in the fields?

            How did I get here? Did I make the wrong choice?  What will happen if I can’t work anymore?  Why won’t anyone talk to me?  Where would I be if I’d stayed in Moab?  Will I die here . . . ?

            Long story short: Ruth had no idea that she had an incredible destiny, that someday she’d marry a rich man and eventually be counted as the great-great grandmother of King David!  Nor did Joseph, rotting away in prison, ever dream that he’d be in charge of all of Egypt.  Nor did Moses, a murderer and fugitive, in his wildest dreams, ever imagine that one day he’d be the deliverer of the entire nation of Israel.

            It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, didn’t do or tried to do and failed – God has a plan for your life, a purpose, a destiny – and it’s a good one.  And only you can fulfill it.  No one else in all the earth has the combination of talent, ability, mindset, personality and life experience that you have. You, and only you, can fulfill the purpose for which God planted you on this planet.

            Think about that.

“The Light is Green Until It’s Red.”

Green LightHave you ever wanted to follow a dream so you asked God about it – and then waited? And waited. And waited.  There was no angel Gabriel appearing with a message in the dead of night.  God didn’t give you a prophetic word – even though you hit 7.5 prophetic meetings (you know you did).  And then there was the fleece: you said something like, “Okay, God, if the sun rises tomorrow, I’ll know You’re saying ‘yes,’ and if it doesn’t, it’s a ‘no’.  Got it.”  And then the sun didn’t rise so you kept asking because that wasn’t what you wanted to hear.

Ever been there?

Jesus told a parable about a rich man who had three servants to whom he announced that he would be going away for an extended period of time. But before leaving, the master gave each of the servants talents ($) to invest, saying that when he came back, he would expect to see a return on his investment.  Then he gave a different number of talents to each servant according to his abilities.  But it’s not the number of talents that’s important; the way the servants invested them is the point.

The key thing in this parable is that the master distributed the talents – and then left. The servants weren’t able to call him on his cell or message him or email him to ask what they should do.  The master gave them the freedom to do whatever they thought was best with their talents – as long as the results benefited his kingdom.  So what did they do?  The best they knew how to do.

Except for one of them.

When the master returned, he was pleased to find that two of the servants had invested their talents and produced a return. But the third had not; he’d simply hidden his talent and then handed it back.  The master, not pleased, asked him why.  The man’s response?  “I was afraid.”  Unfortunately for him, that was not an acceptable excuse to the master.

Want a message from God?  He’d much rather have you try and fail than never to try at all.

As Pastor Andrew put it, “The light is green until it’s red.”

In other words, go.

The fact is that God wants us to move forward and if we’re headed in the wrong direction, He’ll throw up the road block or close a door (or something). Recently, I had an interesting experience to prove that very point.

Last week, I decided I wanted to take a reputable on-line writing course but it was a little pricey. S0 – should I or shouldn’t I?  I checked in with the Lord (in case He had any thoughts on the matter) but really didn’t hear anything and registration was about to close.  So I made an executive decision: believing the course to be a benefit, I registered and paid for it.  By the next morning, however, I still hadn’t received any links to the course or even a receipt for payment, so I emailed the folks in charge and asked about it.  Someone emailed back, saying that they had no record of my registration or payment.

Red light.

Though they invited me to re-register, I took the hint from the Lord and decided that now was evidently not the time. I believe I probably will take the course at some point but, in the meantime, I keep moving.  As Pastor Paul Wagner used to say, “God can’t steer a parked car.”

“But,” you argue, “what if I try and fail?” You probably will.  Everybody does (it builds character).  But then you get back up and try again. 

Over the years, I’ve seen people move forward and follow their dreams – regardless of failure. My family once moved to another state after my father retired from the military because he’d had a job offer.  However, it didn’t work out and we moved back to NY.  No harm, no foul.  I tried a business one time and discovered it really wasn’t what I thought it would be and while I lost some money in the process, it was an “acceptable loss.”

The “acceptable loss” principle is huge when making a big decision and can often make clear whether you should move forward with a dream or not.

An “acceptable loss” is simply an assessment of what, if anything, you can afford to lose if a situation doesn’t work out. For example, if you invest money in a dream, is it an amount you can afford to lose if it doesn’t happen?  If not, then don’t do it.  If you take a new job, are its requirements something you can deliver?  If not, red light.  I once turned down a job because I found out that it would require evenings and weekends (as well as days) and with a baby and a toddler at home, I decided that their well-being was not an acceptable risk.

Red light.

What college should you go to? Any one you want – if you can afford it.  Don’t risk going to a college where you’ll rack up 100K in debt for a major that won’t allow you to make enough to pay that debt.  Not an acceptable risk.

Should you marry a particular person? Not without considering Biblical principles such as being equally yoked and seeking wise counsel.  And if you consider marriage an “acceptable risk” (meaning divorce is an option), then that’s a red light.  A really bright one. Continue reading “The Light is Green Until It’s Red.”

Get the Job Interview – Guaranteed!

Flower BasketIn the war for a job in competition with dozens of other people, how do you even get an interview – which is the key to “selling” yourself?  The answer?  You have to set yourself apart and stand out big from the rest of the job-hunting pack.

Recently we discussed how crucial it is to have an impeccable resume but the truth is, an impressive resume itself won’t guarantee you an interview; it just reduces your chances of being immediately eliminated. But don’t despair because there is a way to get yourself and your name, not only noticed, but remembered.

Back in the day when I worked in advertising developing campaigns and doing promotions, copywriting, etc., we all understood one thing: “Presentation is everything.” Anyone will buy anything as long as that thing is presented the right way. For example, say someone gives you a beautiful piece of jewelry and they present it in a plain white box and simply hand it to you. Okay – that’s nice. But what if they placed that same piece of jewelry into an elegant velvet jewelry box and wrapped that jewelry box in satiny white paper and tied it all up with a gold satin bow? Better, right? Same piece of jewelry but different message. The message the fancy packaging conveys is, “I cared enough to invest time in making this special because I care about you.” That’s what employers are looking for: someone who cares enough to strive for excellence. And your packaging will communicate that.

Choc-Basket-2Not too long ago, Hallmark hit on a winning ad campaign to sell their very expensive cards. Remember the tag, “When you care enough to send the very best”? They’ve been using that slogan for years because it works. In the same way, you can use the “usual” packaging for your resume – maybe a nice envelope that matches your resume paper or – you can stand out, show you car.

Some years ago, I wanted a job as assistant promotions’ director for our local ABC affiliate television station. So I did the resume thing with my signature paper, an elegant, pale gold parchment, but I wanted something more, something that showed the creativity I knew they were looking for in this position. And I knew that if I waited to get the interview to tell them how creative I am, I might never get the chance. As we writers always say, “Show, don’t tell.” So I found a big white box and filled it with fun things like nice chocolates (separately wrapped pieces, btw) and a few other things, including my resume and cover letter. But I also included a couple of helium-filled balloons (thus the bigger box) and lots of shiny confetti so that when the director opened the box, the balloons would pop out. I got the interview but I also got a vivid description of how long it took the director to get the confetti out of her rug. (Lesson: maybe don’t use confetti.) 

An additional plus for you when sending a presentation package is the benefit of walking into the interview with confidence.

There are lots of ways to make a creative presentation and granted, it’s going to be different for various industries. For jobs that are more conservative than creative, I would stick with a nice flower arrangement or a coffee/tea basket (always include both beverages). Featured prominently, of course, in the midst of any of it, would be your resume and cover letter. Protect those, if necessary, by putting them into a plastic cover or an appropriately-sized cardboard or metal tube (check any craft store).

A while back, I applied for a radio job for which I’d need both a resume and audition tapes and, as always, I suspected the competition might be stiff. So, in order to at least get my foot in the door, I sent a coffee/tea basket with some goodies and my application items. I got that interview as well, along with some comments about how much everyone enjoyed the goodies. Even the receptionist who answered my call recognized my name from the basket and thanked me for sending it. In the end, I didn’t get that job – I wasn’t the best qualified – but at least I got the opportunity to pitch my game. And I met some very nice people.

An additional plus for you when sending a presentation package (besides getting the interview) is the benefit of walking into the interview with confidence. You’ve already set yourself apart from other applicants in the employer’s eyes so you already have an advantage. And you’ll all know it.

Creative ideas are limitless and don’t have to cost a lot of money. If not a present box, a basket or a flower arrangement, consider sending a nice box of chocolates or one of those fresh fruit arrangements that looks like a flower arrangement. (They’ll remember that.) Whatever you do, keep it tasteful and make sure that what it conveys is your ability and desire to go that extra mile to get things done; make certain it shows that you care. 

Oh, and post-script – do not forget the “thank you” note after the interview. It doesn’t have to be mushy – just a “thanks for the opportunity; I enjoyed meeting you” message.  However, if you’re one of those people whose motto is: “I don’t do thank you notes,” it’s your call.  Just remember that the ones who do write them will be the ones who get remembered.

I’ll end with this word of encouragement: I have never used a presentation package and not gotten an interview. After all, if you were the employer, wouldn’t you, at the very least, want to check out the person who just sent you a big box of chocolates? 

You know you would.

 

 

Yankee Perspective Tales

         Fried BrowniesOne of my dreams is, eventually, to retire on some beach in North Carolina.  However, as I have discovered, when any Yankee travels south of the Mason-Dixon, there are some rules you really should know. Unfortunately, I don’t find out about them until, well, too late.

          For example, RULE #48:  Evidently, in the south, it’s considered polite conversation to ask about one’s mama.  As in, “How’s your mama?”  Now this wouldn’t sound so odd if the mama in question belonged to a friend or even to an acquaintance.  But no – this applies to any mama belonging to anyone you meet.

          So okay, not my thing exactly but, hey, I’m open-minded – go ahead – ask.  But no again.  Apparently it’s considered rude to opt out of this particular social norm.  Kind of on-par with appearing in public without clothes.  Only worse.

          Don’t get me wrong: I love the south.  Their trees get leaves before time for them to fall off. 

Then there’s RULE #1: “Fry everything!” 

         Their fried chicken is amazing.  So is their fried okra (what is that, btw?), fried waffles, and fried brownies. Plus, all their men drive trucks.  (That’s a rule, right?).  What’s not to like?  Still, there are just some things I don’t quite get . . .

          Last month, for instance, my sister and I went to a bank near Raleigh to close out our father’s estate account.  So we get there, meet with the gal behind the desk, and start to do business.  Five minutes in Rhonda, my sister, says to the woman behind the desk,

         “So, Kim, how much are the birdhouses?”

          Me: What birdhouses?? Who’s Kim??

         “Oh, honey,” says the woman (Kim?), “they’re ten dollars apiece. Would y’all like one?”

         Me: No . . .

         “Sure,” says Rhonda.

          Meanwhile, I’m frantically trying to remember Southern grammar rules: “Y’all” is singular, right? And “all y’all” is plural? Yeah, yeah – that’s it!  So I’m not buying a birdhouse? 

         Eventually, Rhonda and I left the bank – I with my paperwork and she with her birdhouse (and probably Kim’s number). So I said to her, “I didn’t know you and Kim knew each other.”

         “We don’t.”

         “Did you ask about her mama?” (Me trying to be funny.)

          (Annoyed look.)  “I told a friend at work that in New York, you don’t ask about people’s mamas.  She wanted to know what was wrong with all y’all.”

         What I’m thinking: We don’t want to go to stalker jail?

         What I said: “Well, bless her heart!”  (RULE #2 – “You can get away with saying anything about anybody, as long as you bless ‘em afterward.”)

         Then there’s RULE # 6: “Mess with their sweet tea at your own peril.” What follows is a true story – every word.

         One day, while visiting the fine city of Raleigh, my sis and I round up our respective kids and take the whole litter to a McD’s. As we’re deciding what to order, she says (in very serious tones), “Now make sure you ask for sweet tea, not iced tea.”

         ME: Seriously? But okay . . .

        So we’re standing in line to order, people in front of us, people behind us, kids swirling all around us and the lady behind the counter points at me. “Next!”

        “Uhm – seventeen cheese burgers, four with no pickles, three with pickles but only ketchup, one with no bun but cheese, and the rest with whatever. Oh, and six sodas and an iced tea.”

         The room froze. All sound stopped. Everyone – no lie – in front of me, behind me, and at the counter all stopped talking, turned to me and stared.  And they weren’t smiling.  It felt exactly like I was in one of those E.F. Hutton commercials.

        “Uhm,” I stuttered, “sweet tea?”

        The room went back to normal.

        ME: Do I have 666 or something stamped on my forehead? Had I committed a felony of some kind?

         Later, as I came to understand, I had apparently outed myself as one of those obnoxious Yankees who wander into Confederate territory and refuse to assimilate. Not that that was my intention. I had just forgotten the rules.

         Yankee Rule #1: “Do NOT venture past the M-D without the dang rule book.”

THE Most Important Vision You’ll Ever Have

           What do you call a man who, when asked for food and drink by an army of 400 warriors, deliberately refuses them and then insults them? 

            How about “fool”? Sierra Exif JPEG

             Coincidently, that was the meaning of the name of Abigail’s husband, Nabal. Backstory (I Sam. 25): David and his mighty men, hungry and thirsty, had come upon Nabal’s men shearing his hundreds of sheep (Nabal was rich) and asked them for food and drink.  Since David and his men had often protected Nabal’s herdsmen from danger, it wasn’t therefore asking too much for David to make such a request of Nabal.  What was unusual was for Nabal to refuse David – especially considering that Nabal was plenty rich enough to provide food for David and his men.  And most especially considering that it was – well, David and his men.  Four hundred of them.  With swords.

             But – was Nabal’s foolish behavior really so coincidental?

             Perhaps not. It’s difficult to imagine the impact of growing up and hearing yourself called “fool” every time anyone mentioned your name.  Consequently, Nabal might simply have become convinced that that’s all he would ever be – whether he tried otherwise or not.  So (I’m speculating), consciously or not, Nabal began to imitate other fools.

             That’s what’s known as a “word curse”; we tend to become what we’re told we are. Jesus referred to such words as “idle words” and said that we’ll be held accountable for every idle word we speak.  Why?  Because people believe what they hear about themselves – for better or worse.

             Take Jacob, for example, who was born grasping his twin brother’s heel (Gen. 25). His parents named him Jacob, meaning “one who takes by the heel” or “supplants”.  They must (I speculate) have jokingly surmised that, at birth, Jacob was trying to pull his brother back so he could be the first out the door, the firstborn.  Thus, he was trying to “supplant” his brother, which means “to trip up or overthrow”.  Now, imagine Jacob hearing that story his whole life; possibly he came to feel that one day he would, in fact, supplant or replace his brother.  By the time he did deliberately set out to steal his brother’s first-born status, was it really a surprise to anyone?

             So – what are you saying about yourself? About your goals and visions?  Are you saying, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”?  Or are you saying, “I’m not good enough or smart enough or attractive enough or financially stable enough or experienced enough or – whatever enough?”

WHAT ARE YOU HEARING YOURSELF CALL YOURSELF?

             Is it fool? Or liar/deceiver?  How about stupid? Ugly?  Loser?  Worthless?  Evil?  Failure?  Hopeless?  If so, you need to get a new vision of yourself.

            “Yeah,” you say, “been there, heard that. But I just can’t.” 

            Why? Jesus died to give you a new vision of yourself. And if His death isn’t powerful enough to re-write your identity, then Christ died for nothing. 

             Of course, you don’t believe that. So do you really believe then that there is any “case” too impossible for the Lord to re-define, to make new?  Of course not.  But you have to believe that that power applies to you.  Is that always easy?  No – as Jacob proves.

            I should point out here that Jacob was not a nice person. Not only does he deliberately deceive his father and steal his brother’s birthright (Gen. 27) but, after a nasty conflict with his father-in-law over wages, he decides to take all his wives and children and return to his homeland.  Fair enough.  However, on the way, he’s afraid of running into his brother Esau (!) and so packs up a bunch of presents for him and sends all of them, along with his wives and children, across the river ahead of him.

            Not exactly a model of integrity.

             But what happens next always kind of baffled me. Continue reading THE Most Important Vision You’ll Ever Have

Mission: “Possible”

Write the Vision          Have you ever felt like you’ve been called to great things, impossible things?  That would be because you have.  The problem is we say we believe that but – do we really?  The fact is that we’ve lost sight of the bottom line:  “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).  Maybe it’s time for a quick reminder.                 

          “Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘About this time next year I will return, and your wife Sarah will have a son.’  Now Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent nearby.  And since Abraham and Sarah were both very old, and Sarah was long past the age of having children, she laughed silently to herself.  ‘How could a worn-out woman like me have a baby?’ she thought.  ‘And when my master, my husband, is also so old?’  The Lord then said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh?  Why did she say, “Can an old woman like me have a baby?”  Is anything too hard for the Lord?'”  (Gen. 18:10-13).

          A “baby” equals a dream, a promise, a heart’s desire.  It also represents, as with Sarah, the sign of a fulfilled covenant and the promise of a covenant to come.  The same message came to Jeremiah from the Lord.

          The Lord had instructed Jeremiah to buy a field from his cousin and to store away the deed. Odd thing to do but God meant it as a sign that, although Jerusalem would be destroyed and the Israelites exiled to Babylon, the time would come that He would again restore His people to their land.  But as Jeremiah sees the city and nation about to be destroyed, he is in despair and wonders how anyone could ever own land in Israel/Judah again, so Jeremiah questions God as to why He had him buy the land in the first place.  But the deed was a prophetic sign of a future covenant which the Lord would make with His people. 

         God had also had Abraham perform a prophetic action when He’d commanded him, “’Take a walk in every direction and explore the new possessions I am giving you'” (Gen. 13:17).  God tells Abraham to “explore” (“Walk the length and breath of the land . . .”) – to get a vision of it.  He commanded Abraham to keep the vision before his eyes in order to hold onto the dream.  And we should do the same . . . 

          As for Jeremiah, he didn’t understand the sign and essentially asks God:  “How can You do that – fulfill your promise – when Jerusalem is about to be destroyed??”  God’s answer: “‘I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world.  Is anything too hard for Me?'”  (Jer. 32:26-27).

          In the book of Luke, the angel Gabriel visits Mary to inform her that she will become pregnant with the Messiah through the Spirit of God and have a baby.  Mary responds by asking how she can get pregnant when she’s still a virgin.  (Evidently she gets that this is supposed to happen immediately and not after she marries Joseph, to whom she is engaged.  I always thought this to be very astute of her because I probably would have missed the point entirely and responded, “Why wouldn’t I have a son ? I’m about to get married.  I hope I have lots of them!”)  The angel tells her how it will happen (as soon as she gives the word), and then gives her a sign to believe in: “‘What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age!  People used to say she was barren, but she’s already in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God'” (Luke 1:36).

          In Matthew 19, there is the account of the rich young ruler who leaves sadly after deciding he cannot give up his possessions and follow Jesus (who was testing his commitment by asking him to do that).  Jesus watches him go and comments to His disciples that it’s about as easy for a rich person to get saved as it is for a huge camel to go through the tiny city gate known as the “Eye of the Needle.”  Knowing how impossible that would be, Jesus’ disciples, astonished, respond, “‘Then who in the world can be saved?'” (vs. 25).  Jesus’ answer?  “‘With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible'” (vs. 26).  The disciples were panicked at the thought that salvation would be as difficult to attain as a camel getting through that gate (which evidently had never been done before).   Continue reading Mission: “Possible”

The Problem with Mountains

            Once upon a time, there was a young man who longed to climb a mountain.  He’d seen pictures of the tall, dangerous mountain called Everest, its peak shrouded with blizzards; pictures of the craggy peaks of the Rocky Mountains, white-tipped with snow in August; and movies with James Bond speeding down a steep Alpine peak on skis, spraying glittering snow as he flew.

            The problem was that the young man didn’t like snow.  Too cold.Mountain

            No worries though, he thought.  There were other mountains – ones, he was sure, more suited to his climate tastes.  There were, for example, lush mountains in China and Brazil, blanketed with breath-taking forests, mysterious jungles and – oh, yeah – snakes.

            Well, he thought, maybe not China or Brazil.  But he continued looking because, you know, he really wanted to climb a mountain.

            Then it occurred to him: Hawaii had a mountain or two!  Not, of course, as high or majestic as Everest (what was?), but no doubt there would be a fair-sized mountain somewhere there. Except that, as the young man discovered, Hawaii’s mountains tended to be volcanoes – which would never do.  What if he stepped on some volcanic glass and cut his foot?  Or worse – what if he stepped in some lava??

            Moreover, the young man realized that many mountains in Japan, Chile, Guatemala, Italy, Iceland, Alaska and Washington were also active volcanoes – and many other such mountains existed as well (500, to be exact).

            Nevertheless, the young man really wanted to climb a mountain.  But it would have to be a remote mountain, somewhere which few, if any, people had ever gone.

(After all, you can’t conquer a mountain with a McDonald’s on it.)

So that ruled out the eastern mountains: the Catskills, the Adirondacks, the White mountains, the Appalachians, and especially, the Poconos.

            By this time, the young man was beginning to become discouraged.  Where on earth would he ever find a mountain to climb which was high enough to be off the beaten path – but not snowy?  Or a mountain that didn’t have snakes?  Or one that wouldn’t suddenly blow apart underneath him . . . ?

            Years flew by as the young man became a grown man, then a middle-aged man, then a very old man.  And then the day came when the old man could no longer leave his bed.  After one very long day there, the old man’s young grandson came to visit him. Continue reading The Problem with Mountains

DRIVE YOUR VISION.