California Dreaming

On an early fall morning in 1996, I stood with a dear friend, Suzanne, watching the antics of our neighborhood’s children when my 4 year-old son ran up to us with an important announcement. Poised wide-legged, chest puffed and wearing his new Ninja filename-1Turtle Halloween costume he proclaimed to the world, “When I grow up, I am going to be Ninja Turtle Michelangelo and I am going to stop all the bad guys!” Not requiring any sort of response or advice about his new career decision, he ran on.

Turning to Suzanne I asked, “When do I break his heart? When do I tell him he cannot be a superhero? When do I tell him he will probably grow up to be something practical – maybe an accountant like his Dad? ” Suzanne whispered, “Don’t tell him Jean. The world will tell him soon enough.” Quietly that morning I prayed that Mark would find work when he was grown that brought him joy and fulfillment as well as a means of support.

Several years later during a family vacation in California, we strolled through a park overlooking the ocean. Mark pursued the dozens of seagulls grouped along our path determined to catch one of them. His whole body squealed with delight each time the birds took flight. Catching his breath on a bench before returning to the hunt, Mark made another announcement. “Someday I want to live here! When I grow up I am moving to California!”

Now, 15 years later, Mark no longer wears a cape or carries a plastic sword but his desire to right the wrongs of this world did not fade. He involves himself in organizations and causes that raise people up and him in the process. He lives his life with kindness and fairness even when the world is not always kind or fair to him. In many ways I see him living the superhero life he dreamed of as a child though it looks very different than what either of us pictured.

I cannot help but grin as I tell you that Mark is a newly graduated accountant from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is preparing to start his first job in San Francisco next month. He knew business was a practical IMG_1078degree but had difficulty imagining his life as an accountant. His job opportunity in California is not a traditional accounting job path recommended by his school advisers but it unfolded magically and effortlessly for him. The expression, “It was meant to be” comes to mind. He is excited to get started. I am brimming with joy for him and the new life he is creating but also experiencing worry, sadness and grief at his leaving.

As I summon the courage to kiss my son good-bye before he boards the plane that will fly him to his future, I call on my faith to steady me. My faith over the years has grown into a solid platform from which I can stand firmly and look around. From that platform of faith I can see the happenings of life unfold without being bowled over by them. My body feels the multitude of physical and emotional pain that life brings, but my soul knows I can stand against the current. I have emotions, but I am not my emotion. I have a body, but I am not my body. I am a soul encased in a physical body, learning and experiencing this world but not overwhelmed by it. It is a source of inner strength that comes when I let go of expectations and simply have faith.

I have come to believe that God wants all of our dreams to come true. He hears the desires of our hearts and wants them to be realized. So many times this world derails us. Society often tells us we are not good enough or brave enough to achieve our dreams or face life’s challenges. What if we placed our hopes and dreams in God’s hands without attempting to imagine how those desires should come to be? It is not an easy or simple task but I believe that by putting the longings of our hearts into God’s hands without expectations, we exercise our faith in God and that faith forges the path for God to enter our lives in spectacular and unexpected ways.

Dear God,

Thank you for hearing and caring about the desires of my heart. Help me to let go of how I think my dreams should become reality. Please show me the path to follow and give me strength to bear the pain of the journey. Also dear Lord, please give me the clarity to recognize hopes and dreams realized even when they appear in unexpected ways. Thanks again – for everything!

Love, Jean

Jeremiah 32:27  “Behold, I am the LORD; the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for me?”

Trust in God–even in the hard times

Editor’s note: Thank you to Pastor Paul, for sharing the following devotion: 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, 
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  –-Romans 15: 13

In my late teens I had a great struggle with the Christian faith in which I had been raised.   After rejecting Christianity as both irrelevant and untrue, I found myself in a terrible disquiet of heart.  How could I live in a world without God; a world with neither moral nor spiritual guideposts?

After many turns and twists of mind and heart, I came back to a faith which for the first time was mine.  In was at this time I memorized this hymn, “Praise the Savior,” which remains for me forever associated with my new-found joy in knowing the Savior:

 

Budding leaves--Trust in God--Julie McCarty - Cropped CopyPraise the Savior, ye who know him
Who can tell how much we owe him?
Gladly let us render to him,
All we are and have.

 Jesus is the name that charms us,
He for conflict fits and arms us,
Nothing moves and nothing harms us,
While we trust in Him.

 Trust in Him, ye saints, forever,
He is faithful, changing never,
Neither force nor guile can sever,
Those he loves from him.  

Keep us Lord, O keep us cleaving,
To thyself and still believing,
Till the hour of our receiving,
Promised joys in heaven.  

Then we shall be what we should be,
Then we will be what we would be,
Things that are not, nor now could be,
Then shall be our own.
(Words: Thomas Kelly, traditional German melody)

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord,
be with us in the times when it seems that we are alone in a dark world.
Give us light for our paths and hope for our journeys.
May your Holy Spirit give us the gifts of unquenchable hope and joy.
As we pray with whatever faith there is in us,
give us courage to believe and the strength to follow you
whether we see you or not.
Amen.

 

Pastor Paul Harris has been serving at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, Minnesota since 2000. His special emphasis is adult education, and he is also known for his dedicated ministry to the people of Tanzania.