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!

 

Travel: Visiting Dubai – Part 1

“How was your trip to Dubai, did you feel safe?”

“How do they treat their women? Did you have to wear a burka?”

“Can you drink alcohol?”

“Where exactly is Dubai anyway?”

“Did you see that hotel fire on New Year’s Eve?”

These were just some of the questions friends and acquaintances peppered me with when I got home earlier this month. The questions were interesting, amusing and made me aware just how little we Americans know about the Middle East. So here’s a snapshot and quick history of this fascinating place.

 

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Some of the many skyscrapers

Dubai is one of seven emirates that make up the federation of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). Six of them were founded in 1971 and the seventh in 1972. Emirate is another name for sheikdom and each one is ruled by a sheik – an Arab ruler or prince. It’s located along the Persian (Arabian) Gulf and borders Saudi Arabia and Oman.

This vibrant, innovative and luxurious place is defined by its wealth and extravagance. Although it’s Islamic, they are very tolerant of other religions and welcome tourists and expats with warm hospitality. It may surprise people to know they’re strong allies of the U.S.

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This Christmas tree in our hotel was too big to fit in the picture!

I wore my every day outfits and of course didn’t have to wear a burka, although they’re prevalent among religious Muslim women. However, in respect to the country, it’s important to wear modest clothing in most places. We actually bought my daughters some clothes before we left because we live in a beach town and flaunting shoulders and bellies isn’t acceptable there.

Dubai defied my expectations and I was surprised to discover how “western” it seems. Picture a clean (and by clean I mean sparkling) New York City. I felt safer there than I have in any other city I’ve visited. They’re extremely safety conscious and security cameras are everywhere because tourism is their chief export.

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Christmas display at JBR

You can get anything you want but pork is hard to find – a pork license is required! Alcohol isn’t served in restaurants but is easily obtained in hotels. Drinking is allowed in private homes, however, drunkenness is frowned upon. Not only will it get you in trouble from the police, you can be expelled from the country. Also, alcohol is super expensive, often costing more than the meals itself. If you want to drink, I suggest purchasing some liquor from the duty free shops at the airport for personal use.

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Diamonds are a girl’s best friend

We stayed in the Jumeira Beach Resort (JBR) area located on the gulf. We left our hotel early on New Year’s Eve as it’s a prime party area packed with tourists. Instead, we went celebrated with family at amazing party in the suburbs. Like many people, we watched the inferno at The Address Hotel on television. It was a real testament to the ability of the fire department – with no loss of life, thank God! At midnight, several of us kissed our loved ones and drove to the side of the highway and watched the fireworks with hundreds of other folks. Months of planning and millions of dollars were spent on the dazzling display.

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New Year’s Eve with family

It was an incredible way to start the new year!

 

 

 

 

The one word standing between you and your dreams.

By Erika Rizkallah

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:4-6

Years ago when I was thinking about my life plans and goals, this verse shone like the noonday sun on my dreams. After all, who doesn’t want God to give us the desires of our heart?

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Certainly not me, I want it all! I want the full life Jesus wants for me and I must say He’s done it. He has given me the desires I desired and even ones I didn’t know about. But first I noticed three things were required of me:

Delight – To delight means to take great pleasure in him. I first needed to get to a place of joy in him, to take great pleasure in his presence and in his word. I achieved that by devoting my life and spending quiet time with him each and every day.

Commit – Next, I determined to commit my way to him. This means I decided to make his cause my cause. I needed to obey his requirements and plan for my life – not choosing my own path, but seeking to know his will for me in Christ.

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Trust – Trusting in someone we can’t see is difficult but our God is the living God. When we spend time in his word and prayer and then follow Christ’s lead, he hears and makes himself known to us. We obey and see him working everywhere. Trust then follows.

When I was in second grade my teacher introduced me to other worlds and cultures through studying two countries: Japan and Ghana. I loved my lessons and decided to be a world traveler so I could see places with my own eyes. Pippi Longstocking was my adventure hero and I wanted to be just like her.

The answer to my 7-year-old heart’s desire came much later, but now I do travel the world. I want to share my experiences with you through my writing. I want you to know that God is waiting for you to delight, commit and trust in him.

Sometimes there’s only one word standing between you and your dreams. That one word is . . .

YES!

Your turn: What desires are hiding in your heart? Do you believe he wants them for you as much as you do?

 

Bloom: living and thriving in God’s great garden

Pressure. We all feel it at one time or another. It’s the feeling of being squeezed, suffocated and ultimately stagnating.

Stagnating is a fancy word for being stuck.

I almost wrote that I’m not sure why I’ve felt this way lately but that’s a lie. As women we can inadvertently become potbound. Being potbound looks like this . . .

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I hate when I see this in one of my plants because it means that as the gardener, I’m not paying attention. I’m not giving this girl room to grow (all my plants are girls).

If I’d taken better care of her she wouldn’t be in this mess, so now I have to tease her roots a little – I call it tickling. Then I have to move her into a different pot.

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When I do this she will thrive and bloom.

It’s important to note that as a human, I’m a flawed gardener. But God is never flawed. He never forgets to water, prune and tickle the roots of his precious children. Sometimes he keeps us in one season as preparation for another.

Now I realize that God’s been doing this for me. After living potbound for a season he’s moving me into a new place where I’ll blossom, bloom and flower – and ultimately produce fruit for his kingdom.

Oh how I love spring and the changes it brings!

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Your turn: Do you recognize the season God has you in? Are you potbound, growing or blooming?

“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my father.” Jesus (John 15:7-8)

Still Dreaming? This book will move you!

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” ~ Walt Disney

When I mentioned my struggle about dreams to my close friend Terri she instantly shot back, “What about your guy? That author who wrote that dream book you love so much.” Her reminder was a gift from God.

When I said, “This book will move you!” I meant it. It inspired me to pursue my dream of moving from my hometown in the Washington DC area to the beaches of North Carolina. The book is Wide Awake by Erwin Raphael McManus.

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I didn’t hesitate. I pulled it off my bookshelf and began reading immediately (again).

When I grow up I want to write like Erwin.

My take on the premise of the book is that God works his purpose in and through all of us, but we have to live wide awake – we have to dig deep to discover the potential lying within. One of my favorite chapters is about staying focused on the dream.

He writes, “If you don’t lock into the life God has called you to live, you will find yourself pulled and torn by everyone else’s desire and expectation for your life. . . If you do not develop the ability to say no to many important things, you’re going to lose the big yes of your life.”

Ain’t that the truth! This is where I have trouble – being pulled in different directions by others.

But here’s the amazing part. Midway through the book, God opened the door of opportunity to pursue one of my life’s dreams. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for 25 years but was starting to think it would never happen.

You know what? I took the opportunity. I’m in. I know it’s going to take loads of energy and faith to see it through, but I’m grateful for the chance to try.

God, if you read my blog, thank you for giving me a YES after all this time.

And of course, I would highly recommend this book if you’re looking to live wide awake too!

Your Turn: Do you have a delayed dream you’re praying about?

 

 

 

A Decade of Desire

I have been trying to get to Sedona, Arizona for ten years.

I’m not kidding.

When I got married twenty years ago, my husband and I decided to travel all 50 states together before we die. It’s harder than it seems and we go someplace every year – not always in the U.S. – but we try to hit at least one new state a year. The one place I’ve always wanted to see is Sedona. I can’t explain why. I’ve never been there, but it attracts me like a magnet to metal.

So a few weeks ago when my husband said, “Where do we go next?” I gave him the standard answer.

“Sedona.”

“Ok, book it.” (yeah, right).

So, I pretended to do research. Again. We went back and forth about dates and blah, blah, blah, I thought. Same ‘ol, same’ol.

But he surprised me and my patience paid off. With the exception of Palestine and Paris, I’ve never been so excited!

And when we landed in Phoenix and he didn’t feel well, I didn’t panic when the paramedics were called. Nope. I waited patiently while five paramedics/EMTs hooked him up to an EKG machine, right there in the middle of the terminal.  A couple of the cops made small talk and I could tell they were trying to assuage my fears. Instead, I peppered them with questions about Sedona.

And my kids took selfies.

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I’m pretty sure, they thought we were a little too casual about the situation. But you have to understand, we’re used to stuff like this. Almost every year before or during a trip, we have to call the paramedics for him. We have an enemy who comes to kill, steal and destroy. (John 10:10)

Our dreams are his for the taking unless we stand firm, trust in God and believe that only He holds the key to life.

Pursuing my dream was worth it and I have so many stories to share with you. As soon I recover from my jet lag, I’m going to post photos of this incredible area so please stop by and visit again.

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The gorgeous view from my room!

 The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: To do what is right, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8