When Dreams Don’t Come True

A few years ago two friends and i moved into a council estate in south east London.  Our aim was simple – we wanted to be an expression of the Kingdom on earth – to love and befriend the community, heal the sick, feed the hungry, proclaim freedom to the captives… you get the idea.  Central to our vision was a tired looking building right at the heart of the estate which we wanted to turn into a community centre – a place where we could serve and love and feed people from.  The idea was exciting and crazy and full of adventure – and we loved it!  We felt like God had spoken to us, given us a strategy, provided us with a home on the estate and we couldn’t wait to get started.

Fast-forward almost 5 years on and you’ll find the same estate with no community centre.  Some of us moved out of the estate onto different adventures.  A few other courageous adventurers moved in to take our place.  Some beautiful unlikely friendships were formed with a few people on the estate.  But as yet, no obvious outbreak of what we dreamt.  All that we lived and breathed in our hearts and minds have somehow not made it into earthly reality – yet.  I have to be honest, it’s painful when i think about it.  It makes me sad to think back to wild, exciting hopes and dreams spoken of and prayed into in our little flat – hopes and dreams that we didn’t quite see through to spilling over outside our front door.

So five years on, i have to admit that sometimes dreams don’t seem to come true.  But i want to say as emphatically as i can through my computer: it’s still worth the dreaming.  And here are a few reasons why:

1. God is attracted to faith, not performance.  It makes me smile because i know every person who was involved in throwing themselves into that dream for the estate brought pleasure to God’s heart.  I can seem Him beaming over us even now, because we took the risk, because we believed that we could make a difference, because we believed that God plus one person is a majority no matter how many stand against you.  And i still believe those things with all my heart.  I would rather go out on a limb a million times more and fail whilst trying, than stay safe in my own secure bubble never jumping into the unknown with God.  The thrill is in the jump.

2. Going on adventure is wonderful and painful and crazy and fun and may not have any of the results that you were aiming for, but if you have open eyes, you’ll see lots of results you hadn’t anticipated.  I learnt so much in the years that i lived in that little grubby flat.  Learnt how to pray and then pray and pray some more, learnt about my fears, learnt about how far i was willing to jump into the unknown if i thought God was in it, learnt about how hard my heart can be toward the broken and how much i need to embrace the new loving identity that God has given me, learnt about how faithful God is even when things don’t go as planned, learnt about how beautiful deep friendships can be, how precious friends are who agree to go on wild adventures with you just because they love you and have your back.

3. Nothing is wasted in the Kingdom.  Nothing.  The time we gave to that estate is not wasted but sown.  The prayers we gave for that estate are not wasted but sown – God heard every one.  The energy and money and dreams and hopes and anything else we gave are not wasted but sown.  The Kingdom operates with sowing and reaping.  My friends and i, and doubtless many before and after us, got the privilege of sowing.  We put good seed into that ground.  Miraculous seed.  Supernatural seed.  And that seed can’t help but grow.  I may not be the one reaping on the estate – but i know someone will, because the seed we planted was good and inherently fruitful.  Not only that, but in all that time that we were sowing on the estate, God was sowing into us – and His seed in us is good, fruitful and miraculous.  I get to reap the benefit of that seed and oh i am so very grateful to Him for it.

Maybe not many of you reading this have dreamt of living on a council estate.  But i know many of you will know what it feels like to see your dreams seemingly not come true.  Let me encourage you, keep dreaming anyway.  No matter what the enemy would want us to believe, one way or another, our dreams will bear much fruit.

Trying to be Awesome

          ‘Stop trying to be profound and awesome – it will get in the way of love’              – Shawn Bolz

I’m going to be honest with you – sometimes i find writing a blog really difficult.  The trouble I have, is that with each new week and hopefully new blog post (i’m trying to keep them coming regularly… this in itself is proving tricky) i feel pressure to come up with something amazing and profound.  Something world changing.  Something awesome.  And as it turns out, coming up with something like that is not so easy.  And so i end up spending quite a lot of time staring at the computer screen hoping for some heavenly inspiration to hit me, writing occasionally and all in all wasting a lot of time.

Thankfully though, somewhere in between staring at the screen and practicing my typing skills, i start remembering the advice i heard Shawn Bolz give at a gathering for young leaders and slowly the pressure comes off and i can get back to focussing on what is really important – listening to what Heavenly Papa is saying, being undone by His love again (because everything He communicates is an overflow of who He is: Love) and learning how to overflow with that myself, to other people.

The thing about trying to be awesome is that at its root, it’s a self-serving motivation.  Love, on the other hand, is other-centred.   Sometimes, what i have to bring may not seem like much – it may not be the most witty or clever. It may not be the most profound.  But what matters is, is it the overflow of love?  Of course, this is not just about writing a blog.  This is about how we live our lives, how we approach other people, how we think about people’s perceptions of us.  When we’re sharing the good news of Jesus with people – what is our motivation? To come up with something clever? To win the argument? To have a story to tell our friends later?  Or to pour out all of Heaven’s love on that person?  When we pray for the sick and command healing to their bodies, what is our motivation?  Are our hearts moved by a desire for Heaven’s fireworks, or are our hearts moved by compassion for the broken?  Sometimes i know my heart can be motivated by me being seen to be awesome, rather than by wanting to love the person in front of me really well.

The incredible thing is that when i read the Gospels, i encounter a God who is consistently motivated by love.  Not a weak, romanticised version but the real deal – powerful, passionate and selfless.  Jesus healed the sick as an overflow of compassion, not a show of power (see Matthew 14:14, Mark 1:41, Matthew 20:34). He multiplied food, not because it would make Him look good, but because He was too full of love to send the hungry away (Matthew 15:32).  He gave Himself up on the cross as the ultimate expression of Father’s love – not at its root an expression of justice, or an expression of God’s hatred for sin – no, the root motivation of the cross is unstoppable, irrepressible love.

I want to be undone all over again by the raw love of God for me, and want to be a channel of that to those i meet today.  Not trying to be awesome – too aware that often that comes at the cost of love – but really seeing the person in front of me and asking, what does it look like to unleash Heaven’s affection on this person right now?  It may be something small, it may be something simple, it may be something inconvenient – but whatever it looks like, it will be love.

Living a Fascinated Life

One of my favourite authors is a man called G.K.Chesterton.  I still remember where I was when I read his book ‘Orthodoxy’, vacillating between being unable to put it down and forcing myself to slow down because I didn’t want to finish it too quickly. I felt like i was eating a feast – simultaneously feeling full and satisfied and yet hungry for more delicious mouthfuls.  It is a book filled with fantastic insights and provoking arguments. If you haven’t already read it, do. I promise it will do you so much good.

In Orthodoxy, Chesterton talks of ‘the eternal appetite of infancy’ – a state of fascination and wonder and delight, even in repetition. He writes, ‘Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.’

Jesus said that His Kingdom belongs to little children – the way in is child-likeness. Child-like faith that is quick to believe and sees no reason to doubt. Child-like questions that are motivated by curiosity and not skepticism. Child-like joy that is always ready to bubble over into laughter and delight.   Child-like fascination and wonder where repetition does not breed boredom but causes almost unreasonable excitement as the words ‘again, again!’ are exclaimed again.

In my eagerness to seem ‘mature’ I wonder if I have lost some of the beautiful child-like fascination that my Heavenly Papa so delights in.  I wonder if I have somehow mixed up maturity and religious behaviour in my head and so become a more solemn version of the woman I was created to be, missing the fun, sun-lit moments that my Heavenly Papa is joyfully setting up for me. Some years ago Jesus spoke to me and encouraged me to take my grown-up ‘leader hat’ off and put my ‘child hat’ on instead so that I wouldn’t pass by moments pregnant with His goodness and pleasure because I was too busy being grown up.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, ‘Earth’s crowned with heaven and every common bush afire with God, but only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit around and pluck blackberries’.  I want to live my life seeing heaven crammed in every moment, I want to see and take off my shoes, I want to persistently wear my child hat so I am ever increasingly caught up in wonder at my marvellous Heavenly Papa. He really is so worthy of wonder – if only I will open my eyes to see.