Vision Leaks

Vision

Where there is no vision, the people perish… Proverbs 29:18

Have you ever gone through a season where you felt you lost the spring in the step of what you do? Maybe you are there currently, and you’ve gotten to the point where you are praying, “God, just help me make it through today.”

I know what it’s like to go from being passionate about something, to feeling like I’m punching in and doing my time, asking God to give me the grace and strength to stand, even when everything in me feels bored, tired of my post and so wanting a bigger adventure and taller mountain to climb.

In those moments, the problem is often not our post, but our vision. Chances are it is lacking. The truth is, vision leaks.

If you have found yourself in a place where you can relate, I want to encourage you to be diligent about remembering why you are where you are, doing what you do. Think about the future you are working toward. What do you want to see accomplished in your relationships with your family and friends? How does what you do in the workplace or ministry contribute to making people’s lives better? What do you want your life to stand for?

When I find myself in the place of feeling unexcited about what I do, I go to God and ask him to show me again, tell me again, and fill my heart again with his passion for the lost, the hurting and the broken. I ask him to lead me by the Spirit and to use me. I take a step back from the tasks in front of me and scan the big picture again… and again, until I remember why I do what I do. And I spend a lot of time in prayer about it, because I recognize how important it is not to lose sight of “The Why.”

We extended the desire to live with vision to our family. We want to teach our kids to remember they were created by God to make a difference in the world. To help with this, we came up with a family mission statement. I am thinking about having it framed and hanging it on our door to remind us as we step into the world what our vision is, “ The O’Donnells live to unveil God’s love and glorify Him in our every day lives.” That statement pretty much covers it all for us – inside and outside the home.

How about you? What do you do to keep vision alive and fresh? Does your family have a mission statement? Do you personally?

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Naked and Unashamed

Adam and Eve walked together in the garden, in perfect fellowship with God and each other. They were connected in a powerful way – there were no secrets, no sin, nothing to hide. Before each other and God they walked out their days, naked and unashamed (Genesis 2:25).

The time Adam and Eve spent in the garden represented God’s best for mankind; it was the ideal. If we break down the relational components, we see that God’s ideal was not just the relationship between man and God. God didn’t make Adam and say, ‘I’m done.” Instead, After Adam was formed, He said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”(Genesis 2:20).

Then came that fateful day when Adam and Eve chose to eat of the one tree they were forbidden to enjoy. They elected to exercise their free will and take a chance to see if the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, really would make them more like God as the serpent persuaded them to believe (Genesis 3:5). They found instead their desire for independence from God brought sin, shame, and separation. Where they once walked in open fellowship, they now felt the need to hide the parts of themselves they felt were unacceptable to share.

The fig leaves used by Adam and Eve to cover themselves in the garden represent the barriers people still feel the need to place in their relationships today to hide those parts of themselves they are ashamed of or afraid to reveal. And, we still see the desire for independence from God and each other displayed by many, creating yet another obstacle for community. However God’s best plan for us has not changed, our lives are the most satisfying and enjoyable when we are connected in open, honest relationship with Him and with one another.

Thank God, that in his love for us he chose not to leave us in our sinful state, but to set a plan in place to restore us to Himself. A sacrifice was made; a sinless life was laid down to make atonement for the sins of all mankind. 2 Corinthians 5: 21 say, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This sacrifice is available to all, but in order to take part in it we have to come to Christ through faith, and when we do, we are restored to a place of right standing, or righteousness, with God.

Thank God also, that through out the Bible we can read stories of biblical figures that show us the value of being connected not only to God, but to one another as well. 1 Samuel 18:1 gives us an example of the level of connectedness King David and Jonathon shared. It says, “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” One is Spirit! He loved him as Himself? David was a man after God’s own heart and even with the closeness and openness he shared with God; he still recognized the need for companionship. He knew he wasn’t made to walk through life alone.

Jesus also modeled community in his time with the twelve disciples, as well as with the women and others who were in his close circle. He ate with his friends, prayed with them, had several accompany him to the garden of Gethsemane, and he appeared to them again after his resurrection. And, In John 17 we have the privilege of reading one of Jesus’ prayers on our behalf. Imagine you are sitting with in ear shot of Jesus as he is praying, and you hear these words he speaks in verse 20, “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us…” He longed for us as future believers to share in community with one another and with God. To be one as seen in the openness shared between Adam and Eve; or like the friendship between King David and Jonathon… to be one in spirit, joined together in community; sharing life – naked and unashamed.

Scientific studies have proven the value of friendship and living life together. Studies have found those who are connected through meaningful relationships have been shown to have better brain development, stronger immune systems and less psychological vulnerability to all sorts of problems like depression, anxiety, addictions, etc. They also have a higher resiliency in illness, fewer heart problems, and are less prone to cancer, strokes and a myriad of other diseases. It is amazing that the benefits of community affect us body, soul, and spirit.

A popular song of the 60’s asserts that, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” While the words are catchy, they are slightly off. The truth is, and the Bible spells it out and science agrees, we all need people. When we are connected; we experience happier, healthier and more fulfilled lives.

So how do relationships help us through life? What value do they bring in the good times or the hard times, and how do they contribute to our growth spiritually?

Our Pastor shared a joke one Sunday about a Pastor who called in sick and skipped church to play golf. He had the best game ever; he hit the best shot of his life which resulted in a hole in one. As the joke goes, Jesus leaned over to God and asked him if he was going to let him get away with skipping church to play golf. God said, “Don’t worry about it… Who is he going to be able to tell?” When we have cause to celebrate, there is so much more joy produced in being able to celebrate together. Romans 12:15 says to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” It is heartwarming to share joy with others, and it is bonding to experience memorable milestones with our friends.

Mourning with those who mourn is equally as important. When we share in the grief of our friends, we enter in to their world and show we care by empathizing with them. It is healing for the hurting to feel comforted and listened to by friends and family. There is nothing worse than feeling alone during the hard times.

Lastly, our friends help us grow. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” We know that with tools, the sharper they are the better they are able to accomplish the task they were made to accomplish. The same is true for people. When we are open to the encouragement, support, and even confrontation and accountability we receive from our friends we are fine tuned to better succeed in life. In this area, as in all the areas of friendship, love is the most important ingredient. 1 Corinthians 13: 4 -8, tells us that without love, we are only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal. In other words, we are only annoying to those around us. With love, we always have the greater good in mind – we are patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, proud, rude or self seeking. With love we are not easily angered and keep no record of wrongs; instead we protect, trust, hope and always persevere. Verse 8 ends by saying, “Love never fails.” Love is the strongest sharpening tool there is.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” We see here, just as we saw in the garden, the opposing plans of God and Satan. God intends us to have life abundant, and Satan intends to destroy that abundant life. The abundant life consists of both a good, vertical, love filled relationship with God and supportive, encouraging, and life giving – naked and unashamed – horizontal relationships with people. Relationships like these happen best in community, so if you are not already plugged in to a good group of friends in your church, it’s time to get connected.
Copyright © 2009 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

Failure to Success

Little Joey sat idly by, staring at the blank paper in front of him. In the past, he would have long since abandoned the assignment and settled for a failing grade. After all, wouldn’t it just confirm people’s expectations of him; of the things spoken over him in days gone by? “You aren’t good enough”, “You aren’t smart enough”, “You will never amount to more…” Ahhh, their words were still trying to hold him back. “Sometimes giving in seems easier than pressing forward…..”, he thought, “change is so hard!” But Mrs. Abernathy was different, she believed in him. She told him different things; saw a future in him that others didn’t seem able to see. Her belief in him was changing him; it made him more capable of seeing himself through her eyes. It made him press on and continue to move forward.

During his time in ministry, Jesus was the ultimate example of seeing in others what they didn’t see in themselves. He called fisherman and tax collectors to full time ministry to serve alongside him, the Papa of all ministry leaders. The stakes were high, the cost was immense, and yet he chose the simple of the world to partner with Him in laying the foundation for the future church. He saw in them what they and others didn’t see… he saw where they could be. He saw their strengths, hidden below the surface waiting to be discovered and used for His Father’s glory. And even in the messiness of transformation, he continued to believe in them.

Peter’s denial of his leader was about as messy as leadership mistakes can get. If anyone should have felt they had messed up too much, felt unworthy, or could have fallen back on old personal beliefs or words spoken over him, it was Peter. Yet Jesus continued to see the same future in Peter and after his ressurection, he returned to reinstate him (Luke 22: 31 – 34; 54 – 62, John 21). Jesus knew failure was a part of the process, as was his continued belief in Peter’s future. Peter’s failure and determination to move forward through the Love of the one who believed in Him, catapulted him to becoming one of the greatest leaders of the New Testament – A Rock.

Jeremiah 1:5 says “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you”; And Jeremiah 29:11, says “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out–plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” God created us in His image, and He believes in each of us and desires for us to press on. In the midst of our messy transformations, our failures, our hurts and our successes – he still wants to use us to fulfill the role he planned us for. He wants us to never give up, never give in, and never go backward; but instead, to keep moving forward.

Little Joey put his pencil down. A slow smile crept across his face. Ahhh – the feeling of a job well done was beginning to become more familiar to him. He looked forward to the look on Mrs. Abernathy’s face when she read his paper. He had no doubt, she would be pleased. After all, she saw the best in him and expected no less. And, even if there were corrections that needed to be made, her unconditional love made the possibility of failing on the way to success, less daunting. It kind of reminded him of the story he heard in his friend’s Sunday School Class. “Mrs. Abernathy,” he thought, “Loves me just like Jesus.”

Copyright © 2010 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

Bridge the Gap

Scared. Lonely. I can’t imagine how Saul must have felt when he was sent by God to join the Christians and preach the gospel. He watched Stephen’s stoning. He went house to house dragging Christians to prison. Christianity had been the enemy, and now he was called to be a part of the team. Talk about a complete 180!

And it is understandable that those he persecuted would be a little hesitant to accept Saul. They were afraid of him and didn’t trust him. That is, until one man, Barnabas, stepped in to bridge the gap. Acts 9:27-28 says, “Then Barnabas took him under his wing. He introduced him to the apostles and stood up for him, told them how Saul had seen and spoken to the Master on the Damascus Road and how in Damascus itself he had laid his life on the line with his bold preaching in Jesus’ name. After that he was accepted as one of them, going in and out of Jerusalem with no questions asked, uninhibited as he preached in the Master’s name.”

I can’t help but wonder, if God brought someone with a tough past into my world and called them to lead and serve in a major way, would I be a Barnabas? I would like to think I would be someone who would stand alone for another; helping to open the door to God’s call on their life and bridge any gaps to key relationships…someone who would:

B – Be willing to accept new people God sends to the team

R – Reach out to them and take them under my wing

I – Introduce them around

D – Defend them when needed

G – Give encouragement

E – Exhibit grace based leadership

How about you? I would love to hear your thoughts on this story, as well as stories of people who have been bridge builders for you in your journey.

Copyright © 2010 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.