Wednesday, March 31, 2010

So what's the battle plan?

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 13, The Heart of a Warrior, of The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Are you a Warrior? According to Wikipedia, the word "Warrior" is defined as follows: A warrior is a person experienced in or capable of engaging in combat or warfare. Are you a Warrior? If you are, you need a battle plan.

Brief re-cap of The Heart of a Warrior
In this chapter, our Dream Coach introduces us to our many different Giants that we face today. The most popular, Unbelief. He also explains to us the reason for our Giants. On page 143, Bruce Wilkinson writes "Giants are the primary opportunity to make God's power and goodness known to a doubting world. And when He chooses to defeat a Giant through a miracle-that is, an event that cannot be explained in any way other than "God did that!"-He receives all the glory." Our Dream Coach reminds us that a risk of faith will take us towards our dreams and most importantly the biggest Giant we will ever face is Unbelief. He then tells of a time he made a list of over twenty five miracles in the Bible to help him conquer his Giant of Unbelief. He encourages us to pick up our stones and to be Warriors.

I want to share with you the one thing that impacted me the most in this chapter. Yes, the entire chapter was incredible and did wonders to help equip me for my battles. However, there is one part of this chapter that I feel like God keeps bringing to my attention and I'd like to share it with you.

"Then I suggested we stop thinking about the Giant and start listing aloud the miracles of the Bible. By the time we had named twenty-five, our Giant had shrunk dramatically and our faith had grown greatly." - Bruce Wilkinson page 144-145

So, let's do it. Let's make a list. A list of miracles throughout the Bible. Let's conquer our Giants through believing instead of letting our Giant of Unbelief trample upon us. In no particular order, I'll start the list.

1. Creation. God created us! (Genesis 1)
2. Parting of the Red sea. (Exodus 14)
3. Jesus healing a child with Epilepsy. (Matthew 17:14-18)
4. Jesus feeding 5,000 (Mark 6:30-44)
5. Miracles of Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings; 2 Kings)
6. Jesus heals a man who was born blind (John 9:1-16)
7. God speaking through a burning bush to Moses (Exodus 3:1-21)
8. Jesus heals a man with leprosy (Mark 1:40-45)
9. The birth of Jesus Christ. (Luke 2: 1-20)
10. The death of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 27:50-53)
11. The resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Romans 28:1-10)
12. Ten plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7-12)
13. Joshua and his battle of Jericho (Joshua 2; 5:13-15; 6:1-27)
14. Jonah and the whale (Jonah)
15. Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14)
16. The great miracle fish catch (Luke 5)
17. Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4:35-41)
18. Jesus heals a bleeding woman (Mark 5:21)
19. Jesus heals a paralyzed man (Matthew 9)
20. The Flood (Genesis 6-9)

These are all miracles in the Bible and there are so many more. If God can do all of these things on this list, I believe He can help us defeat our Giants today! Our God is so awesome and so strong. Stronger than any Giant we shall ever meet.

This list, it's our battle plan. We need to make our list as long as possible. The longer our list, the stronger our battle plan. When we feel like our Giants are towering above us and we can't find our stones, we need to read this list and even pick up our Bibles and read the scriptures in the Bible. God is with us today as He was with Moses back in the day. We have the same power over our Giants today as David did way back when. When we feel like autism is swallowing us up whole, we need to remember Jonah and the whale. We need to remember that God is with us and is helping us every step of the way. Yes, we are Warriors. No doubt about it. Now we have our battle plan so let's go take down some Giants of Autism!

Bible Verses
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29

So do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold with you my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" Hebrews 13:6

But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said "Be of good cheer, daughter, your faith has made you well." And the woman was made well from that hour. Matthew 9:22

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phillipians 4:13

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Invitation

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 12, A Surprising Invitation, of The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

In Chapter 12 of the Dream Giver, Ordinary has made it through the Wasteland, wakes up near a stream and is invited to enter into a new place by his Dream Giver know as the Sanctuary. Sanctuary can mean different things. According to Merriam-Webster it can be the most sacred part of a religious building, dedicated to worship. It can also mean a place of protection and refuge (think of animal sanctuaries where endangered and injured animals can live in a protected environment). In Ordinary's journey this is the place where God cleanses him and renews him and surrounds him with His presence. This is also the place where the Dream Giver asks Ordinary to surrender his dream.

God invites us into His Sanctuary when we need extra rest and comfort. Sometimes we just need to slow down so that we can hear from God. On page 129, our Dream Coach, Bruce Wilkinson tells us, "Sanctuary is a special time in your life. And it will change you. But sometimes we don't heed God's invitation to rest-and He has to press it upon us." There have been many times when I have refused to slow down until I was so physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted that I had no choice. It's as if I think that by constantly striving I am working towards my Big Dream in a more effective manner. It's so easy for things to get out of balance. Sometimes I definitely need a "time out" to regroup and come back stronger.

In the light of His presence we can sometimes see our own sin clearer and are lovingly convicted of how we need to change. On page 130, our Dream Coach tells us this cleansing is necessary for us to become closer to God. He encourages us to "Allow God's light to enter those dark areas of your life. It's a wonderful and humbling experience. Ask for and accept His love, forgiveness and healing." (Bruce Wilkinson, p. 130) Just as we so long to bring healing to our children, our Heavenly Father seeks to first heal our broken hearts. There have been moments, deep in prayer, where I felt the love and presence of God. Often after I have struggled with something on my own and grow weary, I realize that I need to seek refuge in God. I find the comfort, healing love and restoration that I so desperately need when I seek Him with my whole heart.

He uses this time to flood us with His love so that we are able to trust Him with every thing we hold dear. This is when we must believe that God truly knows what is best for us above and beyond all that we can see and understand. I very much relate to our Dream Coach's assertion that surrender is not a one-time deal (p. 132). I have found God pressing on my heart, little by little to surrender more and more of myself to him. First it was the music I listen to, my choice of TV programs, eventually progressing to not just trusting Him with but completely giving Him my Big Dream.

Bruce Wilkinson reminds us on page 135 that "Just ahead is the Valley of the Giants, and God is preparing you to succeed there. If you don't trust Him with your Dream now, you'll probably fall to Unbelief when you face the Giants." He also cautions us against making an idol out of our Dream by making it a higher priority than God. Not surrendering our dream can lead to this. It is interesting that our Dream Coach tells us that we can still pursue our Big Dream without taking care of business in the Sanctuary but our success will not be fulfilling. God's vision is so much bigger than ours could ever be that the only way to the perfect and complete fulfillment of our Big Dream is by allowing Him to own and then give it back to us.

These times in Sanctuary are a precious gift. It is true that reaching an important milestone or an amazing opportunity can really energize and motivate me. Even greater is time spent in the company of my Creator, where I can turn for the love, mercy, correction and healing that will make me into a better Dreamer. This is the ultimate safe place I can run to and the only place where I can find true and lasting peace.

Bible Verses:

Psalm 23: 1-3
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Matthew 11: 28
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

John 7: 37-38
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. "

Isaiah 55: 8-9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.

As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

John 15: 4
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Transformation

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 11, Diamonds in the Desert, of The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

In Chapter 11 of The Dream Giver, we are taken back to the story of Ordinary. At this point in his journey, he has entered the Wasteland. Ordinary can't see his Dream any more and he blames the Dream Giver for this in saying that he took his Dream from him and left him in the Wasteland.

Our Dream Coach, Bruce Wilkinson, begins to open our eyes as to the importance of the Wasteland. What may seem like the biggest, longest waste of our lives is actually the moments when we learn the most. On page 117, Bruce says "it is the place where God transforms you into the person who can do your Dream." He continues on saying on page 119 "God's motive and plan in the WasteLand is to prepare you to become the person who can succeed at your Dream. But the outcome of His actions is up to you." We are then provided with two very important questions to help us.

1. How much do you want your Dream to come true?
2. Do you believe in the Dream Giver enough to trust His purpose and accept His plan of preparation, even if you don't understand or agree with it?
We are then given five things that we can do while we are in the WasteLand. Identify if you are actually in the WasteLand. Isolate the main areas where you need to grow in your trust with God. Install safety nets to encourage you. Increase the amount of time you spend with the Dream Giver. Instill the commitment in your heart so that you don't turn back.

I can't tell you how often I have been in the WasteLand. How long I've been in the WasteLand. Not even realizing the blessings I could be experiencing. You see, my Dream is quite simple, I dream of the day that my son is healed from autism and becomes a world changer for God. I want him to be a healthy, successful, God loving, world changing young man. I was given this Dream about 4 years ago when my son was first diagnosed. I expected this Dream to come true with in a year at the most. Then, I met my Border Bullies when he was 3 and 4. When he turned 5, I reached my WasteLand. After all, this was the age that I was told by so many people (Border Bullies we can say) that if they don't recover by 5 we've missed that "Window of Opportunity." I was in this Wasteland for a very long dark time. I prayed to God as often as possible to show me if this isn't my Dream. He always showed me very strongly that it was. I struggled with what therapies, supplements and schools to try. I was angry that my son had autism and I wasn't seeing the improvement that I wanted to see. I was scared for his future, my future and worse yet why my Dream wasn't coming true. Maybe I hadn't heard from God like I thought I did. Then slowly, Border Busters began to open my eyes to all of the blessings that I have been given. During our WasteLand we experienced numerous amount of blessings. I can truly say that God has transformed me and is preparing me for my Dream. The most important transformation is my faith in God. Growing up I was always a believer. I knew what the Bible said and I believed it. But I didn't feel it. I didn't have the relationship with God like I do now. I didn't truly know who Jesus is and what He did for me in the past and is doing for me now. My husband likes to say "we knew it in our heads but not in our hearts." During my WasteLand, I was baptized again as new believer in Christ. I also realized that during my journey to find my Dream, it was my job to reach out to other moms who were hurting like me and to show them how awesome our God is. My marriage grew stronger. Yes there were moments when I wanted to give up. Yes there were disagreements, ok I'll be honest, there where full blown fights. It's a stressful WasteLand. But our God is so awesome that He showed me what to do and how to reach out to my husband. Now our marriage is that much stronger. I think of all of the friends I have made since my son's diagnosis. Therapists who went the extra mile to be there for us. "Autism moms" who have become my closest friends and strongest Border Buddies. I look at my children and how strong their love is for God. They are seven and they know Jesus better than I do now. I also look back and realize that my son has made more strides since he turned seven then he has his whole entire life.

So now I can not say that my WasteLand was a waste. I am very thankful and blessed by my WasteLand. I honestly can tell you my faith would not be as strong as it is now if God would have healed my son right away. Sure that first year or so would have been. But my faith wasn't strong enough at that moment for it to stay for eternity. God already knew this. God knew that I needed to grow. I still do. My walk with Christ is getting better and better.
The funny thing about our WasteLand is that we have no idea how long we will be there. I would have never thought I needed this much time in the WasteLand. However, only God knows how much transforming I need. When I realized that I was in the WasteLand, I dove right into His Word. I opened the Bible as much as possible. Attended church every Sunday. Joined Bible Study groups. Reached out to others who may also be in a WasteLand. I continued to spend as much time as possible with my Dream Giver so that if He was trying to tell me something, it didn't take me so long to recognize his voice. I continued to reach out to others who don't know Jesus in hopes that their lives can be transformed as well. To me, if during my years in the WasteLand I could introduce one lost person to Jesus and help change their lives, then the WasteLand is well worth it.

I am hopeful that my time in my WasteLand is coming to an end. I can actually see my Dream slowly coming true. I'm also noticing that my Dream, like Ordinary's, is a little different now. Yes, I still dream about my son being healed, but I'm also dreaming of all of the new Believers that we're reaching along the way. I believe that my Dream has changed because God has changed me into the Dreamer He needs me to be so that we can accomplish this Dream together.

When it is time for our Dream to come true, it will. We just have to embrace our life as it is now. Do what we can to help God, our family, and each other. Spend as much as time possible with the Dream Giver. Let God change us into the Dreamer we need to be. If you are currently in your WasteLand, I highly recommend that you spend as much time as possible in God's Word. Find out what He needs for you to do during this time. Let Him transform you.

God is transforming us. Can you feel it?

Bible Verses

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7-8

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. Psalm 34:17

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3: 5-6

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

See, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh, is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27

Your father knows what you need before you ask him. So do not worry saying "what shall we eat?" or "what shall we wear?" For the pagans run after all of these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today's trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6: 8b, 31-34

By his light, I walked through darkness. Job 29:3

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Border Patrol

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 10 of The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it, please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

In Chapter 10, Unexpected Opposition, our Dream Coach speaks to us at the point where we have broken through our Invisible Wall of Fear and have officially decided to take action and leave the Comfort Zone. We find ourselves at the Border and in order to continue we must confront and get past the Border Bullies, or those who oppose the pursuit of our Big Dream. This was one of the most striking and ironic parts of Ordinary's journey for me, the identity and purpose of the Border Bullies.

"Ordinary was speechless and bewildered. He'd heard a rumor about Border Bullies. But he supposed that if it were true, Bullies would be Nobodies he didn't know. He never imagined they'd be some of the Nobodies who knew him best! Now his Mother, Uncle and Best Friend all stood silently before him, blocking his view of the bridge to his Big Dream." (Bruce Wilkinson, page 100)

In church this week I heard the phrase "A prophet is never accepted in his hometown" in the sermon. Now I know why. Our Dream Coach, Bruce Wilkinson gives us several reasons why people who love us and want the best for us can be the most opposed to our greatest ambitions. Sometimes the people who know us can feel like they are losing something that helps them feel secure or have a negative view of success. Sometimes they are afraid that they will lose us (or who they see us as being in relationship to them).

It is hard to believe that anyone would object to the pursuit of what you feel is best or could ultimately be the greatest help to your special needs child. Some of the most convincing Border Bullies I have had to get past include doctors and specialists, educational experts, extended family members and even other mothers. In some cases I was able to get the "Bully" to see and help my cause, others I have had to choose to rise above and press on without them. On page 106, Bruce Wilkinson states "The single biggest reason Border Bullies stop most of us from pursuing our God-given Dream is our fear of man." I have always been a "people pleaser" and it has usually been with great distress that I go against the will of or risk upsetting anyone, let alone an "expert". (Notice the quotation marks there) Although it is still not easy for me, I am able to do it solely because I know that in the end, this is all I can live with. This has made me so much stronger as little by little I learn to trust God and follow where He leads me. Sometimes your greatest trials will yield your greatest blessings. We have to ultimately choose to please God over other people, which is not easy.

Fortunately, in addition to Border Bullies we will also encounter Border Buddies and Border Busters. Border Buddies are the people who love, stand by and support us no matter what. They help us to stay positive and encourage us on our way. Ordinary was able to convince his mother to change from being a Bully to a Buddy, which helped him to get across the Border. I have some very special friends and family members who I rely on when I am struggling to help keep things in perspective. These Border Buddies also include everyone who keeps us in prayer. Prayer Warriors are important in helping us to overcome obstacles as well as work in partnership with God. Border Busters take this a step further. They see your ability to reach your God-given Dream and take steps to help you pursue it. In Ordinary's parable, Champion was his Border Buster. I see my Border Busters as being not only those who actively support me in a concrete way, but also those who have gone before me. Other amazing autism moms who have "been there" and are willing to save me time,effort and even heartache by sharing their knowledge and wisdom. The amazing specialists who actually listen to us and our children and use that information to help us improve their lives. These people are knocking down walls that would keep us from our Big Dreams for our children and helping us to overcome obstacles. Border Busters are people whose help we treasure and never forget. People with amazing testimonies are also Border Busters that bolster our strength and enable us to get past the Borders and Bullies.

In the spirit of growth, it is also important to take the time to carefully listen to what the Border Bullies in our lives are saying. Although some may not have our best interests at heart, there are times when we can learn from constructive criticism. I like how our Dream Coach reminds us that this can be an opportunity to learn something important about ourselves. Sometimes we need to listen to them, and shouldn't proceed until we have convinced them that it is best to do so. Sometimes we just need to hear them out. Bruce Wilkinson advises us to "Listen carefully, asking God for discernment". (p. 110) Once we have discerned what our Dream Giver (God) is leading us to do, we can cross the Border from Familiar (our old life) and into our future.

Bible Verses:

Proverbs 29: 25 "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe."

Psalm 119: 125 "I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes."

Psalm 27: 1 "The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?"

Proverbs 19: 20 "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Invisible Wall of Fear

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 9 of The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it, please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

It's amazing what fear can do to us. Fear can keep us from doing many things, including pursuing our dreams.

In Chapter 9 of The Dream Giver, Bruce Wilkinson a.k.a. our Dream Coach, shows us how to find the courage to push past that fear. Chapter 9, Living Past the Edge, starts off with our dear friend Ordinary. Bruce reminds us of the time Ordinary pushed through his Wall of Fear and broke through his Comfort Zone. We all face these times in our lives. The time when we have to push past our Wall of Fear to break through our Comfort Zone. Bruce even shows us how Moses had to do this as well. Moses felt "Unworthy and Unable." On page 91, Bruce writes about how the Bible says "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty." Bruce goes on to say "God purposely picks Unworthy and Unable Dreamers like you and me." We just need to find a way to push past the two most common Comfort Zone misconceptions. They are "Since I feel fear, my dream must not be from God" and "I can't go forward unless God takes my fear away." Instead of taking away our fear, God wants us to have courage. On page 94, Bruce writes "When you do act in courage, you discover that fear doesn't have to stop you." To me, the most important thing coming out of this chapter is how Bruce tells us that we should be constantly breaking through Comfort Zones. It should be an on going thing for us to be going through. I really like how Bruce ends this chapter by telling us that if we, as Dreamers, are not facing a Comfort Zone issue regularly, something is wrong. "Maybe we're once again stuck in Familiar."

I think this Wall of Fear and idea of breaking through our Comfort Zone would not be so much of a struggle for us if we knew what would happen next. What is on the other side? We all have our dreams. Your dream may have always been to teach people, to entertain people or even to have your own family. Maybe it's to reach out to others who are hurting, maybe it's to introduce more and more people to Jesus and show them how great life can really be, or maybe it's a miracle you've been waiting and waiting for. Whatever our dream, when we get to that Wall of Fear it can be paralyzing. It can make us stop in our tracks and not continue on or it can make us run the other way. It's hard to break through that Wall of Fear. But what if....what if our dream is right there. Right within arms reach. Maybe our miracle is two days away, two hours or even two seconds away. What if by you pushing through your fear of talking to that mom whose child was recently diagnosed and sharing with her how God has helped you, makes all the difference in the world to her? What if you push past your fear of rejection and share the gospel to another and it ends up saving a life? And what if, what if your miracle is just two steps away? Are you willing to give up any of these things because of fear? Because you don't want to leave your Comfort Zone?

I believe that God has all of us exactly where He wants us. He knows how difficult our lives can get. He knows how heartbreaking and confusing autism can be. However, He is here with us every step of the way. I don't know what each of your dreams are, but I believe that God wants to use all of us while we are pursuing our Big Dream to not only help each other but to reach out to moms who don't know God and don't know how much He does for us and how much more He can do, if we let Him.

My prayer this week is that we can not only get through our Wall of Fear, but that we can also be courageous enough to break through our Comfort Zones as well. Let's keep facing our fear head on. Let's keep breaking through our Comfort Zones. Let's imagine what we've been waiting for is right around the corner. Let's push through that invisible wall and do what Joyce Meyer always tells us to do...."Do it afraid!"-(Joyce Meyer)

Bible Verses:

Joshua 1:9 "For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid of them! The Lord your God will go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you."

1 Chronicles 28:20 "Then David continued, "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don't be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly."

Isaiah 41:14 "Despised though you are, O Israel, don't be afraid, for I will help you. I am the Lord, your Redeemer. I am the Holy One of Israel."