Monday, March 30, 2009

Livin' the Dream - Jenn Fromke

The waiter approached our table and asked us, “How ya’ll doin’ tonight?” We said, “Great!” and added, “How are you?” His answer took me aback. His face broke into a huge smile and he said, “Livin’ the Dream!”

Now there might have been a tinge of sarcasm in his voice, but as we watched him work that night, we saw that he was mostly serious. He threw himself into the work, his demeanor lifted the spirits of his customers, and he performed every task with flair and skill. The work appeared to give him deep satisfaction, a thing that is visibly missing in too many lives.

How refreshing it was to hear that someone is living their dream! It made me wonder if I am living my dream. And where did the dream come from? And what SHOULD be the dream? And how do I live it? So I decided to dream about dreams a little bit.

I boiled my thoughts down to two simple questions. The first question is this: Am I LIVIN’ the dream, or walking through a nightmare? I think sometimes God dreams a dream for us and He puts us right in the middle of it before we even know what’s going on. Then He walks with us step by step and reveals His plan to us piece by piece until suddenly one day we wake up and realize that everything we are dreaming of is right before our eyes.

Mark 8:22-26 tells a story about a blind man that received his sight from Jesus one day. Jesus spit on his eyes and put his hands on the man, then asked if he could see anything. The guy said he saw people, but they looked like trees walking around. So Jesus put his hands on his eyes again and then he could see normally.

Sometimes it takes more than one touch from Jesus before everything becomes clear to us. A friend of mine, let’s call her Penny, moved away from her hometown, her friends, and family to a new city. Penny knew that God wanted this, but she did not want to go. It all seemed like a nightmare to her at first.

But a funny thing happened. As Penny sought the Lord for comfort and direction, she began to see what good things there were in this new city. After a long process, she came to realize that God had moved her to a wonderful place full of opportunities to serve Him. God revealed his dream, made it her dream, and now she is LIVIN’ the dream that God dreamed for her and it brings her great joy.

The second question about dreams that I have to ask is this: Am I livin’ THE DREAM or just livin’? I think sometimes God will give us a dream and He will guide us step by step in pursuit of that dream until it is accomplished. I think so many times the dream is a part of who we are, it engages our passions, our talents and the spiritual gifts we have received from the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we probably don’t even acknowledge that the dream is from God, it just becomes a part of our goals, or gets stuck on the back burner called “maybe someday.”

The thing about those dreams God gives us, is that he intends for us to pursue them. When we are walking with him and seeking him daily for direction, God will guide us toward the realization of that dream.

However, if we have that dream but get distracted by life, work, or pleasure, then we stick that dream on the shelf and work toward other things that are less fulfilling. We settle for less than what God wants for us. It’s like being invited to a banquet, but only staying for the appetizers.
When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, he wanted to try, and Jesus told him to do it. But he only took a few steps. I wonder if Jesus would have walked all the way across the lake with him had he not lost faith. I wonder what they would have talked about on that walk. Peter got a piece of the dream, but cut it short.

God gives us big dreams and he wants those dreams to come true because His dreams for us make us into the people we were created to be. I want to do more than just live. I want to pursue and live the dreams God gives me and tomorrow when you ask me how I’m doing, I might just say, “LIVIN’ THE DREAM, BABY!”

Jenn Fromke loves to teach Bible study and currently teaches for the One Heart ministry at Crossroads Church. She writes Bible studies and is currently at work on her first novel. She lives in Concord, NC with her incredibly supportive husband and three amazing kids.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Who Is This? Mark 4:35-40 - Jan Darnell

Let’s go! After teaching all day from a boat on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus summoned His disciples aboard. Let us go over to the other side. A cushion was available in the stern for reclining so the Lord settled in while the disciples loosed the rigging. Most of His disciples were strong, seasoned seamen who handled the surf with athletic dexterity. A trip to the other side of this sea should have been easily managed, despite their fatigue and the pending darkness.

With the sun setting and air cooling down, a gentle breeze beckoned stillness, refreshing the disciples as they pushed offshore. Distributing oars to one another, a discussion quickly ensued over the teaching of the day. Jesus had spoken in parables to the crowd regarding the Kingdom of God while clarifying the significance to His disciples. Still, there was debate over the application. “Where is this Kingdom? What will we do there? Who is the King?” Jesus listened to their conversation before drifting off without reply, taking advantage of a rare opportunity to rest.

Caught up in their Kingdom debate, the disciples may have ignored the cumulus clouds silently moving toward them, cloaking a star lit landscape. When the moon disappeared however, a damp darkness began to penetrate and alarm them. Gusts of wind whistled above them, causing the sails to flap sharply. Swelling waves rocked the vessel, pitching sea water over the sides and filling their boat to a dangerous level.

As if that were not enough, a fierce squall suddenly descended and challenged these seasoned sailors and fishermen to keep their boat afloat. They were blinded by sheets of rain and a stinging spray blown from the rising waves. Fighting for their lives, the disciples probably shouted above the roaring noise of the winds… “We’re sinking! Can anyone see land? We’re sinking!”

Then the story peaks. The disciples awaken Jesus who is amazingly still asleep and they ask, Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? An ironic question, don’t you think? Though they didn’t know it yet, Jesus came to be sacrificed so that they and we could be justified, glorified and released from sin. Yet He is being asked this question by His closest friends, Do you not care that we are perishing? True to His faithfulness to respond, Jesus answers their prayers.

Being roused, He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, Hush, be still. And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. Jesus then asks, Why are you so timid? How is it that you have no faith? Fear had squelched the faith of the disciples and blinded them to a greater degree than even the wind and rain. But Jesus graciously opened their eyes. And they became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” In seeing Him command forces of nature to obey, the disciples realized Jesus to be more than a master teacher, Who is this?

Who then is the King of the Kingdom of God? Our heavenly Father orchestrated these events on the stormy Sea of Galilee years ago in order to answer that question for all of us, “This is He. His name is Jesus!”

Jan’s Biblical training has primarily been through Precept Ministries, International, studying and working alongside Kay Arthur in the research of Bible study materials. Jan has been a Bible teacher for 30 years, married since 1982 and raised 7 children along with her husband, Barry Darnell a nuclear engineer at Duke Energy in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spiritual Highs - by Ann Wayne

Japanese is my favorite food. Shikki’s in Mooresville is the best deal around. It is clean, affordable and the food is delicious. Each time I go there to indulge, the owner, Kit, comes over to my table and talks to me and my guest. One day we were talking about the economy and how it has affected his restaurant. Business is a little slow like most other businesses. Kit, who is from Vietnam, said, “All my family and I want to do is make a living.” He said, “Americans want so much more. It’s not enough to make a living; they seem to want everything they can get their hands on.” Imagine that! No wonder our nation is in such bad shape economically and spiritually.

As I pondered over this, I thought about the Christian life. Many times it seems that people try to go to the next step in their spiritual walk by seeking a deeper fulfillment from an outward source or a “SPIRITUAL HIGH.” But what God really wants us to do is spend time in His Word and communicate with Him through prayer. This is where the real meat is. Spiritual growth does not come from sources of emotion and drama. It is simply a process of spending quality time with God through prayer, reading His Word and journaling what He has revealed to us.

What if all of us who claim to be Christians used the spiritual gifts that were given to us by a God that knows exactly what we need and the areas that we are gifted in? What if we prayed for increase in those areas and stopped searching for another SPIRITUAL HIGH that may not even be in God’s will?

In Ephesians, 4:1 (NIV), it reads, “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers….” Even though we are held accountable for the use of any gifts He gives us, we have no responsibility for gifts we have not been given. We are not to seek or envy gifts that others have. In Ephesians 4:12, Paul says that the purpose of spiritual gifts is, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”

Sometimes we ask for certain gifts, but if it is not the will of the Holy Spirit, we will not receive them. We are to encourage others to develop their gifts and talents. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV), Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” We are to use the gifts that God has given us for His glory and to help others.

In Billy Graham’s book, The Holy Spirit - Activating God’s Power in Your Life, he states that spiritual gifts come to us from the Holy Spirit. He (the Spirit) chooses who receives which gifts.
James 1:17 (NIV) says, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.”

We must be careful not to lead our brothers and sisters astray by encouraging them to seek spiritual gifts that are not meant for them. Sometimes this can cause confusion or be divisive in the body of Christ. Our God is not a God of confusion. We must rely on the Holy Spirit to move in hearts to help us discern God’s calling in our own lives.

Spending time in God’s word is the best way to start in understanding God’s will for our lives and discerning the gifts that He has given us. We can also observe the ways in which our gifts emerge by serving in various areas of the church. In 1 Corinthians 12: 4-6, Paul tells us “there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”

The real blessings and spiritual growth do come with a price: quality time with God by reading His word, talking to Him daily through prayer and writing down what He has spoken to you. This is the best investment of time you will ever make! But really Jesus has already paid the price. All we have to do is submit to Him daily. We don’t have to search out any SPIRITUAL HIGHS! The higher place we need to prepare for is heaven.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

No Words Necessary - Tammy Blackburn

Words are an essential tool to a writer, and as a writer it is hard to imagine a time when words are not important. However, in the last two weeks, I have been reminded that there are indeed times when words are not only unnecessary, they are impossible to find.

My mother passed away Sunday, February 22 after a two and a half year battle with cancer. Our many family members gathered at her house the day before to try and say goodbye. She had slipped away to the point that she could no longer wake up. I noticed that each of us had the same problem. As we sat by her bedside, no words would come. We tried speaking through our tears and the hard lumps in our throats, but gradually it became enough just to hold her hand and stroke her hair that had become thin from chemotherapy. We had no words for each other, either. There were lots of hugs, but mostly we were quiet as we each meditated on what was happening and committed to memory all the special times we had shared with my Mom.

I have some truly wonderful friends who came by to offer their prayers and their sympathy. Without fail, each one said the same thing, “I don’t know what to say.” The truth is they didn’t need to say anything. Their presence, hugs, prayers, food, and tears said all that needed to be said. I felt genuinely loved and supported. No words were necessary.

Several times after the funeral and everything was over, I tried to sit at my computer and write. For the life of me, I couldn’t seem to type a single word. It was as if all motivation and inspiration had left me. I was feeling very discouraged. Then God, in His gentle and loving way, led me to Mark 9:2-8. It is a familiar story to all of us. Jesus invited Peter, James, and John to go up on a high mountain with Him. There, Jesus was transfigured right before their eyes. Scripture tells us that His clothes became a dazzling white that no bleach in the world could produce. Elijah and Moses appeared with Him and they began to have a conversation. Peter was so amazed that he felt the need to comment. Yet, he was so frightened that he did not know what to say. As he stumbled over some unnecessary words, God’s voice sounded from Heaven. God told them to be quiet and listen to His Son! When they looked around again, they could see nothing but Jesus.

Sometimes, we have to simply stop writing and listen for our Savior’s words. We have to wait until we can see only Jesus in everything. Then and only then, will our words be truly from Him. So, I prayed for peace in my silence. I prayed to see my Jesus as amazingly as the three disciples got to see Him. I prayed that I would be able to be quiet and hear His voice.

Our God is so good! I was searching for Him through my quiet times and other usual ways. But, He is far from usual or ordinary. I was driving home the morning after our beautiful snow. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and it was like driving through a winter wonderland. I turned onto my road and immediately the snow was so bright I could barely see where I was going. It seemed whiter than anything I had ever seen. Then, I noticed a row of trees that had beads of ice lining each branch. The sun shining from behind them created such a brilliant burst of light that I had to cover my face. I felt the presence of God so strongly that it took my breath away. My whole being cried out to praise Him, yet the only word that came was, “Wow!”

I know my Savior was answering my prayers that morning. I felt His Glory all around me. I pray that as the words begin to flow from me again that all I will be able to see is Him. I also pray that I will never forget that sometimes no words are necessary. Sometimes we have to be quiet and listen for His voice.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

He Alone Is Adequate - Emily Carter

As a writer discouragement seems to crop up at any given moment. The reasons are many: too little time, too little to say or feelings of inadequacy.

It was Friday the final day for writing in my week. I dropped my daughter off at pre-school. I went to the YMCA and had my daily Bible time as I peddled the bike. Not the best way to have a quiet time but it sure made exercising more enjoyable. Following the work out, I went to the grocery store. It was not my ordinary store but it was having triple coupon day. I may have saved money but certainly not time after all they did not have Ruby’s favorite dog food. The 40 pound and growing lab is thrilled to eat but only HER favorite food will do. She once went on a hunger strike for three days because we had bought the on-sale brand. Anyone need a bag of IAMS for large breed puppies? Anyway, following the second grocery store it was on to the library where I had to wait in line to renew books and check out a new movie for the kids. By the time I got home and unloaded the groceries I was ready for lunch and a nap. So I sat down in front of the television with my Scooby Snacks and the jar of peanut butter and turned on the Hallmark channel. Well, I just simply did not want to write today. After all, I only had an hour until it would be time to pick up Grace.

A Little House on the Prairie episode was on and I had never seen it. Lo and behold the Lord can use even reruns of an old favorite to speak to you. Laura Ingalls Wilder had just turned down a contract from a publisher who thought she had more writing talent in her little finger than others have in their entire bodies. What writer would not have been thrilled and jumped at the chance for a published novel? The story concluded with the editor telling her he wished he had her talent. She in turn told him that he hid behind excuses and his job and that he should start writing.

You see writing requires a willingness to bear your soul and to risk ridicule, failure and judgment from others. I had an epiphany. That was my problem. It was not that I only had an hour or that I did not have anything to say. My writer’s block comes from the fear that people will not like what I write or that I will not write correctly. My feelings of inadequacy had gotten the better of me again. Needless to say I jumped up out of my seat and grabbed the computer and got to typing.

The Lord knows your days and he wants to encourage you. “For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) You see no matter what obstacles stand in your way when you are a Christian and a writer, you write and then you re-write and you keep writing until the Lord says stop. Whatever he is calling you to do always remember “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (I John 4:4)

Emily Carter is a wife to Hayden and mother to Coleman and Grace. She is a freelance writer and speaker. She loves talking to women about Jesus, God’s Word and the power of prayer. To read more from Emily go to