Hold Fast to Your Dreams

How did I get here so quick?

Have you ever gotten to a point in life when you asked yourself this question?

It began to dawn on me that I had reached some turning point in my life when little old men at church started calling me “sir.”

As I look back on the past decade or so…

  • Instead locating all of the emergency exits in the building, I”m beginning to have a working knowledge of where all the bathrooms are
  • I realize that I know too much information about my pharmacist
  • For a while there, I was using handicap parking spots. It became a whole new way of managing parking strategy

I joke that every night as I lay my head on the pillow, it seems like I was just there a few minutes ago – time is rushing by so fast. I always thought getting old would take longer!

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ― Andy Warhol

There are so many life experiences happening now that I sort of expected, like being a grandparent, taking care of aging parents, and new stages at work. There are also many life twists and turns that came out of nowhere like fighting cancer with my wife.

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” ― Gabriel García Márquez

There are days on autopilot with too much disengagement. Other days when there is just one big crisis to manage. Dreaming too often gets pushed to a very far corner. I have too many old bags of dreams from long ago that smell like mildewed laundry. I know this not the right way to live.

“A being who, as I grew older, lost imagination, emotion, a type of intelligence, a way of feeling things – all that which, while it made me sorry, did not horrify me. But what am I experiencing when I read myself as if I were someone else? On which bank am I standing if I see myself in the depths?”Fernando Pessoa

The dreams of yesterday, of my youth, don’t work now.

That’s not how dreams are supposed to work. They are real, they are work, they breathe life into each new day. But dreams need to be alive, growing and evolving with life as it is lived and changing. Today will never work if you won’t turn loose of those dreams of your yesterday and don’t let them become newly built dreams of today.

“At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since.” ― Salvador Dali

Whatever comes at you from around the next corner, as your life changes, as you hit the next stage/age of your life – keep your dreams alive by letting them breathe. Your choice isn’t to let your dreams of youth die because they don’t fit today. Your choice is to let your dreams out of the prison of your past. Let them emerge and take up residence in your life today. Let your dreams come to life again right now. It’s not so much the substance of the dream, but the act of dreaming that keeps us going on into the night. 

“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.”
― Langston Hughes

 

Runnin’ Down A Dream

The voice on the radio today said that Tom Petty would have been 69 years old tomorrow (if he had lived). He died in 2017. One of the concerts I never attended and wished I had.

Mike Campbell, who was in Tom Petty’s band, the Heartbreakers, is now playing with Fleetwood Mac. I got to see them (and him). Did a great performance, even a Tom Petty tribute. Remember Stevie and Tom’s duet, Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around?

One of Petty’s great songs is Runnin’ Down a Dream

I always thought this was a good theme song for my life. Runnin’ down a dream that never would come to me. My dream was a mixture of what I thought God wanted, my own inner inadequacies and the expectations of the world in which I grew up. A lot of stops and starts along the way. Mostly running, not much catching.

There’s a silly activity they play out during football games in Waco. They get someone, put ’em in a helmet, lead ’em to the end zone and launch footballs at them from a cannon of some sort. The poor character has to try and catch three, for a $100 each. I think they must corral cross-eyed people who’ve never held a football before to play the game. It’s also probably much harder than it looks.  Lot’s of misses.

When I look back, that’s what my runnin’ down a dream has looked like. A lot of fumbles along the way. Maybe it has been harder than it looks?

There’s a line in the lyrics, “workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads”  That’s why I identify so well with the song. My dream has been such a mystery to me (to everyone else as well, I’m sure!). But for some reason I have kept chasing it. What else was I going to do? It has frustrated me, broken my heart, filled me with joy and kept me guessing. As I look back, I am nothing but confused about the strange path this chase has taken me (and my love) on.

Runnin’ down my dream was hard on everyone else. My wife loved me very hard. It was very hard to love me. She really worked hard at it. I can’t wait to count the stars in her crown for having to endure me. I’m glad we have eternity – it’s going to take me some time!

I’m at a crossroads again. Time to think about that dream and where I’m heading next. Where are you right now in your dreamin’? What metaphor seems to fit?

  • Treadmill
  • A game of Monopoly
  • Lost in the dark woods
  • Mountain to climb
  • Quicksand
  • Another mile in the marathon
  • Hide and Seek

The dream that God gives to each of us, the call he puts on our lives, isn’t going to go away. It’s not even a mystery to him. He’s going to remain faithful to you. Your life and every situation you find yourself in isn’t God. Read that again. Don’t get mixed up, don’t lose your faith in the outcome. Keep runnin’, keep dreaming. As long as it takes to find.

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” ― T.E. Lawrence (this is the Lawrence of Arabia guy)

Paul wrote this to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 15:10), I post-it noted it near my desk at work. I think it’s a wonderful reminder to me as I keep runnin’ down whatever dreams are left.

“…and His grace toward me was not in vain.”

 

 

Where Have You Buried Your Hopes?

Christians must learn again what Christians have always known – how to live without immediate hopes in the world. – T. R. Milford

Where is your hope…really?

I don’t think we ever know the answer to this sort of question until the rug has been thoroughly yanked out from under us. When we lose all of our self-support, those wires that have been holding us up for so long, when they come unhooked, that’s when we begin to face that question, where is my hope? What is it really built upon?

First of all, when you use the word HOPE, what do you mean?

I hope I make it to the end of the day, I’m so tired!

I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.

I hope that I’m going to be able to make all “A’s”.

That’s not the same kind of hope that God provides us with. That’s wishing. For the believer, hope is an unseen assurance that we cling to in order to sustain us while we travel through the good times and bad times. Hope is something certain.

Remember the classic hymn?

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When you use the word hope, from now on, use it as a spiritual truth not as a wishful thought. Think about the word hope as a noun. Build your life, each personal decision and interaction with others on the reality of your hope. Decide to let eternal truth drive your expectations.

Use it like a wedding ring of promise. Hang on to it like a banister on a dark staircase. Trust it like the look of your child asking for help.

So we have no reason to despair. Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day. You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, The Voice)

The next time your rug gets yanked, set your eyes on something certain. The hope that your God will never fail you, will never abandon you (Hebrews 13:5). It’s a promise that’s certain.

What Has Come to Your Life?

It’s Advent Season

Advent means coming – the coming of the Messiah, the long awaited one.

There’s always something coming around the bend, isn’t there?

  • Your annual scourge of the flu
  • A job transition
  • New neighbors next door
  • A new and revolutionary software upgrade
  • An 800 year flood

As you reflect on this past year, what came into your life? What welcome events made your year that much better? Which disasters appeared over your horizon?

Christmas is now here, arriving as it always does – too soon but also full of just the right hidden messages that we needed to hear every day of our lives. The Good News of Christmas, the advent it introduces every year, causes us to stop, if we have the courage, and think about the things that mean the most to us, and maybe what we ought to do about it.

“…And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

An advent of some sort or another is always appearing. This year, remember that nothing is going to arrive in your life that will surprise God or that can overwhelm his presence and power.

Even before the Good News was proclaimed in Bethlehem, God had promised his constant presence and protection.

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”  – Isaiah 43:1-2

God has not changed and his promise remains.

What has arrived in your life this past year? Perhaps it was something really big that disrupted everything you thought was so certain. Maybe your life was right on its normal track but when you think about it, it’s really going nowhere.

We celebrate the advent of the Messiah at Christmas, as a reminder that our lives in Christ are no longer the same and that nothing will ever arrive to put our lives out of his order. Christ is now with us. No matter what else arrives in the years to come, Christ will always be here with us. We celebrate this reality every Christmas.

“And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20 (The Voice)

“Because He has raised Jesus the Anointed from death, through His great mercy we have been reborn into a living hope…” – I Peter 1:3 (The Voice)

Christmas is the advent of every single day of hope that you and I have been living ever since. Be reminded this year that this hope is real because we live it out in front of the whole world each day (the good, the bad and and the ugly days). Jesus arrival, life, death and resurrection means that we can walk confidently in hope every single day.  It arrived and never left.

“The place that the shepherds found was not an academy or an abstract republic, it was not a place of myths allegorised or dissected or explained or explained away. It was a place of dreams come true.”  ― G.K. Chesterton

The End of Another Semester

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

The older I get, I feel as if I’m getting dumber and dumber. I just assumed wisdom automatically came with age.

I attend college graduation ceremonies at the end of each semester. What a celebration they are, every single time. I often remark to friends, as often as I attend, I myself still never seem to graduate.

Each year, I get to see the anticipation and anxiety as students approach the end of another semester and many, their last semester. Graduation from college is a tremendous rite of passage in life. It’s an important doorway into adulthood and so many dreams about the future.

Think of all the other important life passages people pass through:

  • Getting your driver’s license
  • Your first paycheck
  • Graduating high school
  • The first date
  • Marriage
  • Children, one by one
  • The big promotion

The journey of living is one filled with doorways. We pass through them, sometimes prepared but so often uncertain about what lies ahead. I can’t even remember what was going on during my three different college level graduations. It’s almost certain that I’m now in decline – I can’t remember most of last week! I do know that I’m learning lessons again and again – until they become “automatic” and I no longer have to ponder too long at the same crossroads.

“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.” ― Mark Twain

When it comes to teaching and mentoring young people who are deliberately marching every day into a bold and frightening future, there are two contradictory lessons to be wrestled with:

  1. We have to pass through one door to proceed to the next. Sometimes this is too difficult for us because a part of us remains in the past with some unfinished business. Sometimes we leave someone important behind, because we need to or because we have no choice. We get stuck and can’t move because a part of us is too wounded to travel any further. There’s just too much pain and change threatens another possibility of hurt.
  2. The only life we are assured of having is the one we hold in our hand today. While dreaming and building a ship to sail on the winds of tomorrow is an important part of who we are – it is still an intangible hope. The risk is losing today and all of its opportunities while we long for the future. We just can’t miss today and all that it holds while peering out the window watching for tomorrow.

Semester after semester, watching all those college graduates strut, stroll and march across the stage to accept their diploma and pose for pictures, I sometimes wonder about what awaits at the other end of the stage. Once the happy family and friends have all left, the next chapter awaits.

Like two sides of the same coin, it’s always a tremendous challenge to balance these two great lessons about living. My wife is now trying to find her post brain surgery balance as she practices walking straight lines. It’s probably a similar feat, keeping one eye on our dreams about tomorrow while still seeking all the blessings in today’s path.

“Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” – Matthew 26:41

 

Bind My Wandering Heart to Thee

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“Always hopeful, yet discontent.”- a line from the epic Tom Sawyer by Rush

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” (Genesis 22:2)

You remember how the story turns out. God stops Abraham just as he holds the knife ready to strike his son.

I wonder what they talked about on that long road trip to the mountain? Probably a very different conversation walking downhill, back to a different kind of relationship.

Did God need to learn something he didn’t know or did Abraham need to prove to himself (and his son) that the promise from God would never become bigger than God himself?

I want so much. There’s always the danger of wanting something other than God.

Can you imagine Abraham watching Isaac growing up and all the dreams he shapes around his future? And then God calls out of the deep.

Sometimes I pray for God to slay my hopes and dreams. They are too painful to bear when I watch them crash and burn. I am afraid. Fearful that I want what I think God has promised more than I want God himself. There’s always that danger that they will become an Isaac to me. Not a chance to declare his purpose and glory to all who see, but just another opportunity for me to prove something to myself and others.

What will He ask me to do? How will He awaken me to see that He is of more value than anything I could hope or dream?

 “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” – Philippians 2:13

I am not alone in my efforts to distinguish between the gift and the giver. His Spirit is working within me, leading me up that mountain of revelation. He wants me to see for myself that He is the true delight of my heart. It’s one thing to say this, it’s another to actually seek it. Abraham worshipped God while he cherished Isaac. I worship God and pray to him all day, but the desire of my heart is typically for earthly and mundane hopes. My soul is torn between desires.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

– Robert Robinson, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

What a conversation Abraham and Isaac surely had scaling back down Mount Moriah. Isaac must have gotten a whole college degree learning about faith from his father on that trip.  I wonder what I will learn as I walk back down the mountain with my Isaac (dream), back toward the God I love.

“I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul.”   – Charles Dickens

Find Your Way Back

That’s the song from Starship I was hearing today on the drive home. Someone in the parking lot had called me “sir” and I was once again reminded that something had changed in my life.

  • Fewer and fewer people that I encounter know what I’m talking about when I make references to comedy routines from the television show Laugh-In (67-73).
  • More and more strangers that I casually encounter are calling me “sir.” Even the old men at church started calling me “sir” a few years ago!
  • I almost never look forward anymore. These days I am mostly looking backward.

I don’t usually sit for photographs, ask anyone in my family. But nowadays when I do see a photo with me in it, there’s this old guy looking out. Something has changed and I’d sure like to find my way back!

There’s not much I can do about fewer and fewer people in my world who are aware of 70’s pop culture. I just need to raise awareness, right? So if you see me approaching you with a funny TV clip of Joan Worley betting her bippy, bear with me. I’m trying to stay young.

Maybe if I stopped talking to myself so much people wouldn’t call me “sir” so often. They’re just trying to be helpful, right? I think norms that help us all to get along, like showing respect, are good for us as a society. I need to just accept my new status as a good thing and just get over the shock.

The most troubling aspect of all this is my new habit of spending too much time in the past and not enough in the future. Sure I’ve gotten wounded by some awful giants, but who hasn’t? That’s no reason to hide out, lick your wounds and fear the days ahead. Who am I, a caveman who’s retreated back to my stone age cave? No, I’m a man of the future and what I need is a constant reminder to tighten my grasp on hope. To never stop dreaming, even after the nightmares have come and gone.

Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.
― Langston Hughes

The longer you look backward, the more stooped you become, and the faster your heart spoils. Maybe that’s why people are stopping me in the parking lot, calling me “sir” (and asking if I need any help)?

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

– Psalm 103: 1-5

 

cs lewis