Follow your dreams or your mission?

By Erika Rizkallah

Follow your dreams.

In our individualistic culture we’re bombarded with the idea. All forms of media fill our heads with bucket lists and the notoriety of easy celebrity.

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I admit I’ve been fascinated with following my dreams since I was a kid. I was convinced I could be so many things: a model, a marine biologist an Egyptologist . . .

It didn’t matter I was too short and plain for modeling, or that I was afraid of fish and  hated sand. Those careers appealed to me. Then the reality that I lacked certain skills became obvious and I settled for the unglamorous job of working in human resources.

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Until recently I pursued some other dreams but chronic illness, aging and parenting issues edged them out, making them seem frivolous. I struggle with that – after all, aren’t we supposed to follow our dreams?

I wonder if it’s a modern construct. If it’s part of Paul’s warning about the last days, People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God . . . 3 Timothy 1-5

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So I looked to the Bible for wisdom. I found nothing about following dreams. I looked to Jesus’ life and wondered about his dreams. Was he content with his carpentry career?  Did he talk to his buddies about it?

Then it hit me. We were his dream of the future.

He focused ceaselessly on God’s purpose, not veering from his mission. Mark 1:21-39 offers a clue. He taught with authority in the Capernaum synagogue and dramatically drove a demon out of a man. Later he went to Peter’s house and found his mother-in-law suffering with a high fever. Jesus healed her and that evening the people brought him all the sick and demon-possessed. The Bible says, the whole town gathered at the door and Jesus healed many and drove out many demons.

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Early the next morning he left the house and went to pray in a solitary place. Peter and his friends found him saying, “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. 

He was so focused on his mission that he left the comfort of Peter’s home and the certainty of local celebrity to spread God’s good news to others in the region.

We benefit as a result of his obedience and in turn, his dreams for us (and himself) came true. It seems to me that when we follow God’s purpose for our lives, somehow they intersect.

What about you? Do you find God’s purpose and your dreams are in sync? Please share and tell us how!

 

Unexpected Enemies

By Erika Rizkallah

A couple of days ago I wrote about the Orlando shootings and prayer. In a comment to a reader I mentioned that one of Jesus’ commands is to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And then I thought, I’m so glad there are no enemies in my life.

Then, bam! All of a sudden I have one.

Don’t you just hate that?

Someone I began to care for deeply, betrayed and hurt one of my family members. His pride and inflated ego caused him to do and say some things that can never be undone. Though I’m not at liberty to discuss, I know it’s an opportunity to practice the command I mentioned to someone else.

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But I don’t want to. I don’t want to stretch and grow this way. I don’t want to encourage my family members to do the same because they’re not ready to forgive. It’s difficult because the unrepentant culprit is eaten up by his own need for vengeance. I don’t want to take the high road because it doesn’t seem fair.

I suppose that’s the point. Did you know many of Jesus’ commands were appalling to the hearers of his day? After all, the Israelites followed a tradition of law codes recorded thousands of years before.

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Jesus’s words flipped everything upside down; they cut straight to the heart of humanity. He was known for his phrase, “You have heard it said . . . but I tell you.” Whenever we read it we know he’s shattering the status quo. We know he expects something different of his people.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:38-39

In the ancient world, striking someone was considered more of an insult than a beat down. Jesus was a reformer encouraging his followers to lay down their natural rights to retribution. If I’m a disciple I must submit to his authority and do the same. I will but I still don’t want to and that’s ok.

I’ll get there eventually.

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It’s funny because today someone told me that my enemy said, “Miss Erika is the nicest lady I’ve ever met.” But it’s not me, it’s Him living inside me. Because of that I can trust Him to change this guy’s heart – and mine as well.

How about you? Do you find it hard to love your enemies?

 

 

 

5 Tips for Conquering Procrastination (aka Resistance)

By Erika Rizkallah

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5 tips for conquering procrastination

Yesterday I was talking with a shrink (that’s what he calls himself) about procrastination. I was listening in on an open conversation he was having with a family member and as soon as he said the word my ears pricked up. I struggle with procrastination and he told us it’s really a symptom of anxiety.

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He said if it were laziness we would be fully lazy – we wouldn’t do anything at all. But if it’s procrastination it’s a matter of choosing to do something other than the thing we’re avoiding. I think there’s some truth to that and it got me thinking about  Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art.

It’s a great book for people of a creative nature. He talks about resistance being an impersonal but powerful force that immediately appears as soon as we delve into the creative.

While it’s secular in nature, it speaks to me and I turn to it as as way to shake the grip of procrastination from my spirit. Here are 5 of my tips to help you conquer this inevitability.

Tip #1 – Be prepared: There are always things in life that will make us anxious. Whether it’s a task, conversation or event, rest assured, resistance will come. Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is a good time to run the “what if” scenarios through our minds. We can ask things like, What if my computer crashes? or What if the boss doesn’t like my presentation? By thinking through things that could thwart our efforts, we’re preparing ourselves for success.

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           Think through problems

Tip # 2 – Pray for God’s strength: We’re simply human beings, only flesh and bone. We are inherently weak, but when we ask God for strength to persevere, we’re accessing his power. He’s generous and he loves to give us gifts.

Tip # 3 – Face the obstacle head on: Yes, there may be resistance but we don’t help ourselves by avoiding it, we just delay the inevitable. Or worse, live with regret.

Face obstacles head on!

Face obstacles head on!

Tip # 4 – Get an accountability partner: Grab a friend and ask for help. Ask her to help you stay on top of the issue by calling, e-mailing or standing with you as you reach for your goal.

Tip # 5 Stand firm: At the end of procrastination is a gift waiting to be opened. In his struggle to preach the gospel, the apostle Paul suffered beatings, hunger, shipwrecks, sleepless nights, and more. It’s likely we won’t suffer physically, but if we do, we’re in great company.

Your Turn: Can you share tips for conquering procrastination? What tip will you use from my list? 

Taming clutter one day at a time

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary the word clutter means “things lying in heaps or confusion.”

To my mind everything about that definition is well, definitive.

Clutter not only makes a great mess, it also causes confusion in our homes and minds. Since I’ve opened my shop, the clutter creature has once again surfaced . . . all over my home. It sucks. I killed that thing once and here it is again.

I learned long ago that clutter in the home of people with ADHD is a real no-no. It creates a sense of chaos in every area of life and hinders the well-being of my family. I used to be very well organized and stuck to the motto “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

It creeps in slowly like a turtle hiding its head when you notice it. I’ll just plop down right here on the edge of the coffee table for a while. Or on the stairs. Or on (my favorite place) an unused easy chair.

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Before we know it, we’ve got heaps.

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But I think I’ve captured it in time – before my husband freaks out and I get overwhelmed. Last month I figured out a manageable solution to the problem. Inspired by the tiny house movement and my secret desire to live in one of those adorable mini homes, I tackled the trouble by picking out five things a day to either donate or throw away.

It’s kind of like “nesting” before a new baby comes . . . without the sweaty panic.

By picking just five things each day, I’m ridding myself of 35 items a week. Breaking it out like this makes it manageable and is actually super fun! I’m freeing up space in closets, bookshelves and dresser drawers. Space that will not shelter the clutter creature again! If I happen to miss a day, I pick ten things which is double the fun.

More importantly, I’m also ridding myself of the confusion that comes with clutter.

Your Turn: Do you have a way of keeping the clutter creature at bay?

Quiet Time Musings: The Difficulty of the Christian Life

Last night a friend and I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning discussing the Christian life. We lamented the fact that being obedient to God’s calling and will for believers is challenging. Here are some of the questions we asked:

Why is it so hard to be obedient?

Why does God allow certain things to happen in our lives even though we’re wholeheartedly trying to follow Him?

Why do we not do the things we know are right and instead, do what we know is wrong?

We both went to bed pondering. In fact, I assumed I’d be faced with a sleepless night if I continued to think about it – fortunately I was wrong and slept like a baby.

In my quiet time this morning God gifted me with an answer through the day’s devotional reading in My Utmost For His Highest. The scripture was this: Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

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The author, Oswald Chambers says, “If we are going to live as disciples of Jesus, we have to remember that all noble things are difficult. The Christian life is gloriously difficult, but the difficulty of it does not make us faint and cave in, it rouses us up to overcome.”

I often forget Jesus’ words . . . Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me (follow me), he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 emphasis mine

Jesus’ cross was heavy. In fact, it was so heavy that when he stumbled beneath the weight of it, the Roman guards called another man to help him carry it to the road leading to the place of his crucifixion.

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Our crosses are heavy too. In order to carry it we have to have Jesus’ help. And with his help, we too can overcome.

Are you struggling under a heavy load right now? As Jesus frequently reminded his disciples, Take courage! He is with you.

Your Turn: My challenge for you today is to find a friend. Speak aloud your needs, confess your sin and ask for prayer as you struggle to journey through the narrow gate.

6 Lessons to remember when your child is bullied

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23 (New Living Translation)

In my last post I promised to write out the lessons we learned about bullying. There are two types: One from Kat’s perspective (teenager) and one from mine (parent).

I’m breaking them out and giving our bully the nickname “Brutus” for easier reading and because I still love him.

Lessons Kat Learned

Don’t put too much trust in your friends – We all crave family in one way or another and research shows that teens value the opinions of their friends and peer groups above all else. Kat put all her energy into one group of friends and Brutus was her bestie. He’s also the most popular, so when their friendship crumbled . . .

Teens are apt to choose sides, much like adults do when close friends divorce. Making friends in multiple areas of life is essential for helping teens get through relationship adversity.

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Forgive people when they make mistakes – Forgiveness isn’t only a biblical mandate, it’s a life skill . . . and it’s freaking hard! In this case Brutus was unwilling; he’d built up weeks of simmering anger. He’ll need to learn how to forgive an offense. Kat learned to forgive herself and others as Jesus does.

Pay attention to warning signs – In other words, trust your gut! God gave us powerful instincts. Kat knew something was “off.” She noticed Brutus’ behavior change and repeatedly asked him if something was wrong. He denied it so she decided to trust his word despite contrary evidence.

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Lessons I learned (not including my husband because he just wanted to beat everyone up).

Be available – Like most parents, I’m busy. But years ago my other daughter endured a bullying attack so severe it landed her in the psychiatric ward of our local hospital. When you see your teen suffering or notice a drastic change in their behavior, drop everything. Be available day or night and seek a professional for help.

Listen and don’t judge – Although angry with Brutus, I leaned on Jesus. Who better to lean on than the one who forgives us all? I turned to him in prayer, trust and faith that he knows more than I do and would work it out because he loves all of us.

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Mother and mentor – Teens often don’t listen to parental advice despite our best effort. In this case we met with a trusted mentor who knows both kids well. This amazing woman validated all I’d said to Kat in our tearful late-night chats. That felt great!

She ministered to her which allowed me to step back from the situation. She comforted and encouraged Kat to endure through the trial as a strengthening experience. I can’t say enough about making sure your kids have Godly mentors in their lives.

Your turn: I’d love to hear any bullying advice you can give!

Love and lies: Have you gotten sucked into a gossip triangle?

Three weeks ago, my 17-year old daughter was the object of a severe bullying attack by several of her best friends.

She considers these kids her family and so do we. We love them like family, minister to them when the need arises and eat hundreds of pizzas.

They are all Christians doing ministry together.

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My beautiful girl (in blue) doing what she loves the most! None of these kids are involved in the situation.

Have you ever been hurt by people you’ve shared everything with?

If so, you know the pain and suffering she’s enduring – WE are enduring. When one member of God’s family hurts, we all do.

Gossip is an age-old problem and our situation began with an “innocent lie” (no such thing) between a guy and girl. My daughter took part in the lie in a misguided attempt to spare someone’s feelings. Then someone lied to another person, and the offended party learned about it through gossip.

It was the spark that lit a wildfire of lies, accusations and slander. Despite her confession and begging forgiveness, her name and reputation is ruined (for now).

According to the Bible, gossip is a sin and causes all kinds of strife. In fact the Apostle Paul writes about it in his letter to the Corinthians. He says, “For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorderly behavior.” 2 Corinthians 12:20

She got caught up in the middle of a gossip triangle that sucked her in and spiraled out of control.

The Gossip Triangle

Life is full of hard lessons and while attempts at forgiveness and restoration are finally being made, the damage is permanent.

Yesterday in my quiet time, I read from My Utmost For His Highest and the wisdom is a perfect fit. The author, Oswald Chambers says, “Jesus Christ never trusted human nature, yet He was never cynical nor suspicious, because He had absolute trust in what He could do for human nature.”

In my next post, I’ll write about the lessons we’ve learned from this fiasco. I hope it helps you keep your kids from being sucked into a gossip triangle.

With love and peace, Erika