The Crash and Burn of a God-Sized Dream

It all started as a strategy for outreach. We sat around a table and began to dream out loud, trusting that the fire of shared passion and the wisdom of group process would yield creative ideas for communicating the love of Christ to our community.

I don’t mind confessing that I loved my dream. We would offer free oil changes to those in need: the poor, the elderly, single parents, come one, come all! Coffee and brownies would make the most of the waiting time as those of us less talented with a wrench would fill cups and keep the conversation flowing. We prepared colorful informational brochures about our church and its programs. We bought supplies, spread the word, and waited.

Not one person signed up.
Not one person called to inquire.

Rebounding from Disappointment

The spectacular crash and burn of my dream rang in my ears for a long time. In fact, it was all I could hear, and it was ages before my idea spigot found its way back to the on-position once again.

Reading through Jeremiah this year, I’m finding a soul mate in this life of perpetual rebound from disappointment. For 23 years, God’s Word came to Jeremiah. He rose early, and he burned the midnight oil. His words were the key note in a chorus of prophecy straight from the heart of God, urging Israel to back away from the abyss of their bad behavior.

They did not listen.
Yet, Jeremiah was persistent.

Looking back, there are plenty of reasons why my outreach brainstorm yielded not even a passing shower. In the nearly twenty years since, I’ve learned a lot about planning and about the unique ministry climate of my mid-coast Maine context. It was an idea that was doomed to fail before it even started, and yet . . .

Our story does not end with the death of one dream.

God’s new morning mercies jogged Jeremiah out of bed every day to share a message that burned like fire. Living in persistence requires showing up.

Our story does not end with the death of one dream.CLICK TO TWEET

Showing Up with Fresh Creative Energy

Our little band of believers has gone on to host dinners and day camps. We’ve caroled in December and picnicked in July, always inviting our community to the party.

Sometimes they come.
We have great conversations.
They hear the Truth about a loving God who spread His arms wide to embrace the world.

Sometimes, though, on event day, we sound like Jeremiah:
“You never listened or paid the slightest attention.” (Jeremiah 25:3-4)

For Jeremiah to show up every day for 23 years with fresh creative energy for each day’s attempt took supernatural strength. I want to persevere in that same strength.

It takes holy persistence to press into a task when all around you wafts the stench of failure.CLICK TO TWEET

It takes holy persistence to press into a task when all around you wafts the stench of failure.  Holley Gerth, author of You’re Made for a God-Sized Dreamreminds me, however, that “success isn’t about outcome; it’s about obedience.” When the God-sized dream that we launch like a bottle rocket crashes onto the rocks below, we start over.

Committing the dream to God, we begin again with all the enthusiasm of an encore: “Lord, this is for you!”
The curtain rises.
By faith, we begin again.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts (and maybe your shared experiences?) on the holy persistence that presses into a dream when all around you wafts the stench of failure.


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This post first appeared at God-sized Dreams.

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Fire Bearers

Archaeologists have unearthed a tale to delight the heart of every conservative in America, and to answer the question posed by Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet in Restoring All Things.  How can the church act in ways that are restorative and life-giving without being reactionary?  The story is set in Ephesus, seat of Artemis worship and home to the temple which housed the perpetual fire for their  worship.  Now, it happened that the priests, keepers of that fire, were essentially the utility monopoly of Ephesus, for they made it known far and wide that obtaining one’s fire elsewhere was an affront to the gods.  Evidence now reveals that members of the early church in Ephesus would freely share their fire with the needy, simultaneously providing life-saving fire to the poor, contributing to the demise of Artemis worship, undermining the pagan temple’s source of revenue, and ending their tyranny over the people of Ephesus.  The point of the story is that these first-century Christians accomplished all this without benefit of  political representation, legislation, or so much as a single demonstration outside the temple.  Bearing fire was an act of kindness –, a militant compassion —  that met a need and effected change in the process.

In chronicling God’s Audacious Plan to Change the World through Everyday People, the authors skimmed the cream from thousands of stories from the archives of BreakPoint and World Magazine, both of which exist to answer the universal questions:  What’s wrong with the world?  What can make it right?  How can I be part of making it right?  Each of the stories demonstrates with boots on the ground practicality how twenty-first century Christians can serve as fire-bearers, carrying the message of reconciliation, redemption, restoration, renewal, and resurrection, because all those “re” words from the Bible are gifts from God to our fallen world.  The authors skillfully demonstrate that Christianity is the only worldview with the moral and philosophical resources necessary to:

  1. Provide a basis for outrage over evil.  If there is no ultimate authority, who gets to decide what’s wrong?
  2. Support a level of forgiveness that leads to healing and reconciliation.
  3. Offer a more robust understanding of identity than what is offered by a culture that seeks to devalue life.
  4. Bring meaning, significance, and value to life in the womb and life characterized by disability and suffering.
  5. Fuse artistic expression with “bedrock concepts of truth and beauty . . . redemption and healing.”
  6. Restore dignity and worth to those in poverty through meaningful work, because “the poor matter to God, and work reflects His glory.”
  7. Integrate worship on Sunday with one’s 9 to 5, Monday to Friday occupation, since both are a means of participation in God’s “restoration of all things to Himself.”
  8. View all of humanity with respect (regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation) as image-bearers of God.
  9. Address the “why” of education in meaningful ways that exalt the life of the mind as we fulfill our chief end:  “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

Practical expressions of faith are a powerful apologetic, and Restoring All Things translates a theology of redemption into meaningful steps that any believer can tackle.  Many items from the “To-Do Lists” at the end of each chapter have found their way onto my to-do list for my family.  For example, I want to watch “Shark Tank” with my kids to encourage their already blossoming entrepreneurial spirit.  I want to read several of the books the authors recommend.  (More information about one that I’ve already read and reviewed is available here.)  I want to continue to invite those on the fringes into the circle of warmth and acceptance available in Christ-centered community.

Restoring All Things is a call to the classic understanding of vocation which is masterfully defined by Frederick Buechner:

“The place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

One person’s deep gladness can transform a family or a faith community into an army of fire bearers.

Let the restoration begin!

This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.

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