Be moved. Be changed. Love because you are loved.

Tag: Jeremiah 29:11

woman backpacking

Leaving Familiar

With graduation around the corner, I was inspired to re-read The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. The book’s first half is a parable about a Nobody named Ordinary, who the Dream Giver gives a dream, but to see it fulfilled, he must leave Familiar.

The parable follows what writers call the hero’s journey. The hero, Ordinary, has a call to adventure—his dream. He initially refuses the call until a mentor (Ordinary’s father) and a sense of discontent encourage him to act and cross a threshold into a new environment. Along the journey, he battles enemies (self-doubt, bullies, giants) and makes allies until he reaches the innermost cave (Salvation), where he realizes the tools and strength that he needs have been given to him. He summons the courage to face the greatest challenge and is rewarded with victory. Then he returns home (in Ordinary’s case through a letter to his father) a redeemed or resurrected person.

The hero’s journey and the parable of The Dream Giver apply to our lives, too, so much so that I want to break it down over the next couple of weeks, starting with the call to action and leaving familiar.

We all are born with a purpose.

I was born creative. Since I was little, I loved to build things, draw pictures, and write stories. My friends and I would often build forts in the woods, but once constructed, I never played in the fort. The fun was in the creating. However, when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say a dentist. I had it in my head that creating was playing, and work had to be something—well—more like work. It took some time to realize the two could coincide.  

God has plans for us.

God knitted us together in our mother’s wombs and laid out our every moment before a single day had passed (Psalm 139). In Jeremiah 29:11, God says, “I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” There is no may or might in that statement. God has plans for you.

Also, God isn’t willy-nilly. He’s a God of order and divine purpose and instills that same desire inside us. He plants the seeds early on. David was anointed to be king years before it even seemed possible. Joseph was given the dream of being a leader when he was a boy. Abraham was shown the stars and told his descendants would number the sky long before Sarah became pregnant.

Expect God to use you for His glory.   

handing over diploma

Our purpose may or may not be apparent, but if we ask God to reveal it, He will. Often our dreams can lie dormant inside of us until God reveals His plan. Or, it can be developed and trained like a skilled instrumentalist over time. We can test different waters to see where our talents lie or establish new ones. Or be tested, like the parable of the talents—those who were faithful with a little were then given much. Our dreams can also change over time, maturing as we develop and fulfill our dreams. We’re never too old to have a new dream.

If you move, God will move.

To reach our potential, we have to leave the familiar. I remember feeling overwhelmed at my first writer’s conference. I felt overwhelmed and out of my league, but God placed valuable mentors in my life who to this day help encourage and edit my works. It can be terrifying to strike out and try something new but don’t fear making mistakes. God won’t let a few mistakes ruin His plan for your life. Also, don’t wait on perfect conditions. Make room for your opportunity. There will always be some risks to mitigate, but if you don’t step out in faith, there is a chance you could miss out on God’s blessings for your life.

Step out of the familiar in faith, trusting in God’s plan. We do the possible so that God can do the impossible.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. – Ephesians 3:20

man with drawn muscles

How to Handle a Bully

words describing a bully

I was petrified of a bully on my bus. She looked tough, acted tough, and sounded tough. She dressed in all black and always sat in the back of the bus. I intentionally avoided sitting near her and never made eye contact lest I became her next victim. I stayed off her radar, until one day, she needed a quarter. She asked the people around her, but either no one had one, or they wouldn’t give it to her. She started moving up the aisle seat to seat saying she needed a quarter. I could tell something was wrong. She looked a little paler than normal. Her voice was a tad more shrill. She seemed panicked. She passed by, overlooking me. (That’s how good I’d gotten at going unnoticed.) But something inside me told me to give her a quarter.

“Wait!” I yelled.
 Her head whipped around, and a pair of dark eyes locked on me.
“I have a quarter.” I dug into my backpack, pulled out a quarter, and handed it to her.
She took it, issued me a nod, and got off at the next stop.

The next day I was standing at my locker when I heard “Hey!” I turned around to see her walking with her friends. She held my gaze. I fought to keep my knees from shaking while she walked by me. I was now on her radar. So much for doing the right thing, I berated myself. Then the oddest thing happened. After her friends passed, she glanced back at me over her shoulder and waved with a smile.

I can’t remember smiling or waving back. I think I was too dumbfounded to move. I just stared at her as she walked down the hall. From that day forward, she always waved to me. We never held a conversation or socialized, but she had become an ally.

Over the weekend, my sister-in-law, Liz, and I discussed how to handle bullies. This Tuesday marked the first week of school for our kids, so I thought it might be helpful to impart some of her wisdom. Here’s what we decided to tell our children:

Man with chalkboard drawn muscles
  • It’s never wrong to do the right thing – It’s good to defend the defenseless. Our courage must be stronger than our complacency. Standing by and watching a bully only makes them stronger.
  • Know who you are and who you represent – Be confident in the person God has created you to be. No matter what a bully says, God made you beautiful, and He made you for a purpose. He has great plans for you. Plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • Stand bold and speak loud – Bullies feed on weakness. If you stand tall, speak clearly and firmly, often they will back down.
  • Don’t take yourself for seriously – Bullies can often be set off-guard especially if you can laugh at yourself. They’re trying to upset you, but if you can take their insults and joke about it, they won’t know what to do. If they say your shirt is ugly, say “yep, the 1980s called this morning and asked for it back.”
  • Remember bullies are broken people – Bullies bully to feel more powerful. The reason they need power is because they feel insecure. Someone has hurt them in their past, and they essentially are crying out for help. Remember that God also created them and He loves them. If you see a need or an opportunity to help them, it can go a long way as a peace offering, but it can also be a way to show them a bit of God’s love. Sometimes all it takes is a small gesture, like giving them a quarter.

This advice doesn’t necessarily apply to cyberbullying. Technology takes things to the next level fast. Sometimes too fast for a young person to fully understand the danger and the consequences. It’s always good to discuss situations where you believe you’ve been bullied with an adult, trusted friend, or in some cases the authorities. You don’t have to struggle with a bully alone. Remember you are the head, not the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13), that you are to be a light to the world – a city on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14-16), and part of a chosen people, holy and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12). This is truth, and nothing a bully can say or do will change it.

For more information on bullying go to https://www.stopbullying.gov/.

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