Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Without a Hope?

You open the newspapers and the images you see assault everything you believe to be decent. You read devastating news that shifts your world from its axis like an earthquake. What do you do? When you switch on the TV and what you hear is the spectrum of destructive human failings. Men so engorged in their depravity that they unleash wanton acts of wickedness on one another. What do you do?
What do you do when what you hear and see makes you wonder how men could become so depraved that they loose their humanity to the extent that another person’s life holds no value? You wonder what cause could justify such calculated destruction of lives.
Or is it the destruction of initiative and creativity that faces you everyday, working in an environment where power is wielded with stifling control. The thought of going to work each morning brings trepidations to your heart. The undercurrent is charged with suspicious and malicious scheming. Discouraged, distressed and aggrieved, there is no one to turn to—none you can trust. Frustration turns to bitterness as the arm of flesh like a reed breaks under you. What do you do?
For you, it was a phone call that brought chaos into your ordered and stable life. A call from the doctor informing you a shocking diagnosis had been made, you sit as if rooted to the chair and gaze into the space yet seeing nothing. Slowly the news sinks in, and tears begin to flow as you sob in agony. What do you do?
Perhaps, you do not even need a doctor to tell you something is gone terribly wrong. You have been testifying of the joy of feeling full of life and strength, and within what seemed to be less than 48 hours, you see symptoms of affliction return with the ferocity of a wounded animal to harass you as if to challenge your right to live and enjoy life to the full.
What do you do?
Throw up your hands over your head and bowed in despair?
Wail and bemoan the situation as one without a glimmer of hope?
Live each day in fear of what will happen next?
Then is their mission not doubly accomplished?
Where do you go when you seek a refuge for your soul? To whom do you turn when you need a friend?
David's men were bitterly grieved when they found their wives, sons and daughters had been taken away—they might even have been killed—they wept until they had no power to weep. They were so grieved that they were ready to stone their leader. David also suffered the same calamity as his men—his wives had been taken away, he was greatly depressed.
But, he did something else –
He encouraged himself in the Lord.
He looked up to God to lift up his wounded spirit.
Then he asked God for direction and guidance as to what to do next (1Sam 30:1-8).
What do you do in time of great distress and calamity? When life serves you lemon so sour it set  your teeth on edge. Like David, you turn to God for comfort. It is only with Him you can make a meaning out of what life has dealt you. It is God who delivers from the hands of wicked and cruel men.
When a man loses hope, he loses a reason to live. Hopelessness brings heaviness to the spirit and causes depression but God strengthens the heart of those who hope in Him – Be strong and take heart all of you who hope in the Lord (Ps 31:24). We can not survive without the hope that Jesus gives.
Living in a world where calmness can easily turn to chaos in a moment, we need the Rock that never fails to depend on. We need to hold on and be anchored to an unchanging God Who provides us with stability and support in the midst of chaos.  It is a joyful experience to discover God as the pillar that can sustain all our weight. He is the pillar that holds our lives. We need the help and support of God for each day and the assurance that He is there for us come what may. We are always secured in the hands of God.
God is seeking to show Himself mighty in your life in each the situations described above. Anchored on the solid rock, you can make lemonade out of the lemons.
Your experience may put you at the right place at the right time to bring comfort to someone else struggling with the same problem.
You are not in that ‘toxic’ environment by accident. Your presence there has been ordered by providence to bring about a change—starting on your knees.
The devastating news may indeed be a call to rally—“if my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray …”
Perhaps this is the birthing place of the new thing God has planned for you. Ultimately, if only in this life we have hope in Christ then we are of all men most miserable.

How do you react to devastating news? Share your story and encourage others.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stay with Your Dream

I spent long hours travelling especially by road while I was working as a nutrition specialist. This provided me with the unique opportunity of time to reflect, dream and plan. During one of such trips in 2002, between Tamale and Yendi in Northern Ghana, I wrote down my desires which I hoped to accomplish by the time I retired. I recalled that list a couple of days ago and asked myself, what have I done with that dream? How far have I gone in pursuing it …?
My teenage son participated in a summer camp last year which had a profound effect on him. It was related to the major he is proposing for college (university) and it gave him his first opportunity to fly a plane. Subsequently, in preparing his college application, he was required to write an essay on where he hoped to be in 50 years’ time – at the end of his career. He vividly described the position he desired to be at and clearly articulated the process, his achievements and struggles along the way using his first flight experience as a guide.
I was impressed with the clarity with which he envisioned the end point of his career and articulated the process towards accomplishing it. The changes I observed in him after these events have been astonishing. He became more focused and disciplined in the use of his time and more diligent in his study—there is a passion driving him—a desire to see his dream come true.
Having a dream and a vision gives us a compelling reason to make the effort, to keep trying and to be focused. When there is no vision, people perish—they cast off restraints (Prov. 29:18). There is no compelling reason to stay on course. A vision dictates the course of action you take, what you permit to happen and what you begin to take charge of. It is a revelation of the will of God for your life. When you know that your dream is a revelation—an envisioning—of the purpose of God for your life, it drives your passion and guides what you do and how you do it.
Someone who has no dream, no vision and no revelation of God’s purpose and will for his/her life—no future ambition—will live his/her life aimlessly and without purpose. Such a person will accommodate whatever comes his way without making good choices—live wildly and casting off restraints.
You may never know it, but by staying with your dream, you will touch lives along the way. Your courage and resilience may be just what another person need to keep on in their own journey. If you give up on yours, you may cause many others to miss the way, be delayed or have to take a detour. Your life may just be the beacon God wants to use to guide others to the shore. You never know whose life you are impacting for good when you press on in the race.

If it seems hard or difficult today to find a reason to get out your bed or to take the next step, let this be an encouragement or a driving force for you—someone is waiting along the way to light his/her candle from yours, to receive an encouragement or a comfort because you stayed on. So it is not just about you alone, it is also about the lives you touch along the way.
Determine to take a step each day towards your dream. Even when it is difficult to continue, stay with it, don’t give up on it and hold firmly unto it. Sometimes it may require some tweaking here and there along the way as you fine-tune it. Fan aflame the passion that once fired that dream.

God has a good plan for all of His children to give us a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). The things that He has planned for us are beyond what anyone can recount to Him, they are too many to declare (Ps. 40:5). His plans for us are too numerous to list. He has many remarkable interventions that surpass what we can anticipate. No word can describe nor any language express what God has prepared for those of us who love Him—no mind can conceive it to imagine it.  God’s dream for you is bigger than your biggest and wildest dream. If your dream is anchored on such a promise as this, you can not afford to give up on it – you stay with it.

“We must have VISION TO SEE our potential,
And FAITH TO BELIEVE that we can;
Then COURAGE TO ACT with conviction,

To become what GOD MEANT us to be!

So, possess the strength and the courage,
To conquer WHATEVER you choose;
That is destined FOREVER to lose!”

~ Author Unknown ~

Poem is from Your Dimension of Greatness.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Time to Prepare

I like the month of January for a number of reasons. Not only for the hope it offers for a new beginning but also for the opportunity it provides to dream—to look beyond the realm of the physical—and see our desires and goals fulfilled. It is also a time of preparing what is needed for dreams to come true, that is, a time to set the platform from which to launch a pursuit of our dreams in the New Year.
A time to dream: In our dreaming—conscious and deliberate—we see a vision of what we desire beyond our existing realities and there, in our dream, we set in motion the path needed to see what we desire come to pass. When we dream big we have the potential to impact not only our own lives but the lives of others around us. It is seeing the end from the beginning—envisioning the manifestation of the things hoped for. It is like possessing the promise, claiming what has been given or seeing it fulfilled before it becomes manifested physically. Dreaming of the kind I am referring to here is not a set of wishful thinking. It is forming a mental image of something or events that are yet to be perceived in reality—to conceive, imagine and have deep aspiration for a desire to be fulfilled.
A time to make it plain: Having seen with our inner eyes—seeing by faith the promise fulfilled, we must then come to the beginning and make the vision plain or tangible by writing it down. It is not sufficient to dream alone if we are not prepared to take the next steps to make the dream come to pass by initiating the requisite actions. Dream that is not supported or followed with actions is a wasteful venture because it is the action that will connect our dreams to reality.
One of the things we therefore want to do in January, after a time of dreaming, is to set realistic goals that will take us towards our dreams. This is not just making a list of New Year resolutions but a process of breaking the dreams down into chunks that are achievable and planning towards each of them. I have found it useful to write down all my dreams, desires and goals in every sphere of my life.
A time to receive encouragement: Joshua was giving the task of leading the Israelites into the land God had promised their forefathers to give to them - Promised Land. His task was not an easy one, he knew the Canaanites and others who lived in the land were battle ready people, he had seen them before. But he had an assurance of a promise from a God of integrity who does not renege on His promised or go back on His Word. He was told it is God who will go before him—“He will go with you. He will not leave you. He will not fail you. He will not forsake you. He will not abandon you.” So in addition to the Promised Land, he had the promise of God’s unfailing presence and help. Along with that also came the encouragement—be courageous, be strong and be firm – Deut. 31: 6-8.
The situation around you may be discouraging or terrifying. Your circumstances may dictate a limitation your dreams. Yet in that situation God is charging you not to be discouraged or terrified, but to be strong, bold, and full of courage. Do not let challenges deter you. Get rid of the cowardice, doubt, shyness, timidity and fear. These will hinder you from going forward to possess the promise. Do not flinch or become broken in the spirit. This is the time to receive encouragement for the task ahead. It is the time for hope, courage and faith to be stirred up. It is the will of God for us to possess the things He has promised us according to His Word.
A time to retreat into the place of prayer: It is a time to wait expectantly to hear the voice of God for direction on how to move forward. God always communicates, when we take time to listen. He speaks through His written Word. He also speaks through dreams, visions, His servants and in still voice into our hearts but these channels too must align with His Word. It is also time to ensure that our desires are aligned with the will of God. He has promised to grant us the desires of our heart in accordance to His will for our lives. Taking time to seek His face in prayers is therefore an important element of the preparation. I lift before God at this time the goals and dreams I have written down. It provides a reference point to count my blessings later on in the year.
Do not be afraid to dream big as we go on in 2012. It is possible that the dreams and desires God has placed in our hearts are so mind-bungling and beyond the ordinary. God specializes in doing the extraordinary. No one can question God’s right to do the never-done-before and jaw-dropping act of wonder in our lives that will cause people around us to be amazed and bring praise to His name. So we must not limit God or allow our circumstances to set limits for what God can do in our lives in 2012.
We need strength and courage for the journey ahead of us in 2012 but no matter how strenuous the journey may be we know from the onset that we have been promised victory and success. We can keep our gaze focused on that promise—come what may!!!
Let this be your time to prepare to launch out in pursuit of your dreams.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A New Beginning

A few years ago, the manufacturer of my skin care products went through a process of rebranding. Already a mature product with strong market presence worldwide, I wondered what more they wanted. But they wanted to be relevant to the current times and more relevant to the younger generation. The same high quality products came out in new packaging with a more interactive website among others.
At the end of last year, I received the news that a number of friends and old colleagues I worked with several years ago came to the end of their contracts with the organization. For some it was early retirement and for others it was separation. Their positions were abolished. Still full of energy I wondered what next especially at such a challenging time as this.
The New Year thus began with different scenarios for different people—uncertainties about the future, seemly dead ends, simply dissatisfied with the old ways of doing business or with unyielding hope—whatever our story may be it is an opportunity for a new beginning. God is timeless but He has given us times and seasons to help us number our days so we can apply our hearts to wisdom. Wisdom dictates we don’t waste time bemoaning our challenges but we redeem time and use it profitably because we know He has control over all the changing times and seasons of our lives.
The beginning of a new year therefore stands as a milestone to which we can connect as we set goals and from which we can measure accomplishments and recount God’s victories in our lives. It is a good point to revisit dreams, goals and aspirations.
When flowing water meets an obstacle, depending on its volume and the speed at which it is coming, it may pile up behind the barrier until it has enough volume to flow over it and if the force with which it is flowing is strong enough it will push the barrier out of its way. Water—full of energy and force will change course—bounce over rocks, meander around bends or spread out across the plain—it will keep flowing until it finds a new level. Hence the saying that water will always find a way to move forward. Sometimes it will flow through crevices and ridges—very tight places—to keep moving.
There is never a dead end for flowing water. Although a giant dam may hold it back for a time while its energy is turned into another form until the right conditions trigger it to move forward. Never a dead end is a mind set we ought to have in this year. Not a dead end but an opportunity for a brand new beginning. Limitations then become a launching pad to a new level.
Faced with obstacles, limitations or challenges we must refuse to stagnate. Like flowing water, we need to find a way to overcome them—a way for a continuous flow—drill a tunnel under it, build a bridge over it or find a way around about it. This will involve recognizing our latent gifts, skills and talents, and identifying how to package or repackage them to be relevant in our current environment. We may need to rebrand our image to satisfy the needs of those we serve.
For some this may be a time to prepare for a new level—for an opportunity to show up—by acquiring new skills or adapting old ones. For others it may be necessary to redirect talents or channel them in a new direction. As the energy in water gathering behind a dam is harnessed to produce electricity, so also can we harness our energy and gifts to produce something new when we are faced with what appears to be a dead end. The point is to resolve not to be satisfied with the status quo but determine to set out to gain new levels. While waiting for the full manifestation of answers to prayers, dreams to come true and desires to be fulfilled, we must not be content to idle away the time.
By keeping our goals and dreams in focus we can find a different way to reach that goal. We need a relentless determination not to give up, a willingness to keep trying and passion or desire to make our dreams come true. When there is a will there is always a way. We just have to be imaginative and creative. Above all of these, we need to trust in God who has promised to make a way where there seems to be no way.
As 2012 begins, if we put our trust in God and look up to Him, He will instruct and guide us in the way to go and counsel us with His eyes upon us – Ps 32:8. In the words of Avalon’s New Day, I thank God it is a brand new day. It is a brand new year and a brand new opportunity for a new beginning.
I wish you a happy and prosperous 2012 filled with hope for brand new beginnings.