Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Your dream stinks

There is a great musical number in the movie Tangled where a bunch of scary misfits confess their dreams in a tavern. It’s comical because the scene is full of tough, ruffian Viking characters—who are large and in charge, brandishing massive weapons—all singing about wanting to be concert pianists and die hard romantics. The song simply says over and over again, “I’ve got a dream…”

At the end of the musical number there is a funny one liner. Rapunzel is leaving the tavern and one of the Viking’s says to her, “Go. Live your dream.” Flynn Ryder, Rapunzel’s costar/romantic interest, answers back, “Thanks. I will.” The Viking turns to him and says, “ Your dream stinks. I was talking to her.” My wife has watched this movie at least a dozen times since we bought it and I still laugh every time I hear that line.

Your dream stinks.

Perhaps we haven’t heard someone tell us outright that they think our dreams stink, but maybe we’ve felt the sting of our dreams not working out. We really thought we could play professional basketball one day and only grew to be 5’2. We were certain that the music gig would have turned into a record deal, and it only landed us playing at birthday parties and church coffee houses. And of course, the silver screen was going to be our destiny until we realized we weren’t Disney Channel “material.”

Undoubtedly, we’ve all cringed when watching a show like American Idol, witnessing the candidacy of the judges, shattering the dreams of hopeful pop stars. We’ve thought: How can they be so cruel? Most of the time when we’re criticized, especially when it’s directed at something we’ve grown passionate about, it translates in our minds as a critique of our personhood and character. Someone tells us we’re not good at something and we think that means we’re not good. If our dream stinks, then, well, we as person must stink too.

I wonder, though, if there is another way to look at it. Perhaps at times our dreams do stink, but not because of anything we’ve done. Our dreams stink, rather, because we’ve been sold a lie about dreams. And so a lot of us have been pursuing dreams that aren’t giving us life or producing goodness in the world. Our dreams stink because they are motivated by selfishness.

One of these dreams in particular is the dream for fame and wealth. Naturally, we seek recognition, status and prominence. Our world has told us that to be of value we have to be of a certain caliber. This means we need the looks, the job, the money and the swagger (yes, we might even need to hire a swagger coach). A combination of wealth, fame and talent give us great worth. Furthermore, it is only when these things are recognized by others (and by others I mean lots of others) that we truly have worth.

No wonder Youtube is full of people singing, acting and pursuing their dreams. They long to be discovered. We are taught that only in discovery can our dreams be reached. We are advertised a version of success and asked to consider how we might reach that too. The problem, however, is that not everyone in the world can be famous. There has to be a chasm between the rich and poor, the un-famous and the superstar, the unknown and the “it guy or girl.” There needs to be those who can support the famous. And this is what we dream about—making the move from unknown to known. The world has influenced us so heavily that at the core of our dreams, we are really searching for someone to tell us we’re valuable.

We should pause for a second. Every one of us probably in some way shape or form desires a little fame and fortune. Who wouldn’t? It’s not necessarily a bad thing to want to be known for your contribution to the world. But if that is all our dream is— a chance to be famous and rich—it really does stink.

A glance through the Scriptures reveals that God is a perpetual dreamer. He is involved in creating and recreating life in the world. He pursues relationships and surprises us with mercy and grace. He coordinates miraculous signs and wonders to take place. He waits patiently for his people to respond. The Zohar (a book of Jewish mysticism) states, “God creates new worlds constantly.” He is a creative, dream pursuing visionary. Then we reach Jesus in the New Testament. He is a dreamer too. He challenges the status quo and invites his follower to pursue a different existence; he invites them to dream radical and life-altering dreams and does this all under the title of “His Kingdom.”

God’s kingdom—his reign, rule and place of authority—is an invitation to dream. It’s a place where actors act, artists create, leaders lead, and authors write. God’s kingdom is a realm where dreamers don’t stop pursuing their wishes, but there is a change of focus.

Back to Tangled.

Flynn Ryder’s dream was about making lots of money. That was it. It’s not hard to see why that dream stinks. I often wonder what God thinks of some of our dreams. If we want riches, God might say: “I’m not impressed with the size of your bank account or your accumulation of stuff—it’s meaningless.” Or for those who desire fame, He might add: “Why do you so desperately need to be known? I know you and that is all that matters.”

We need a different foundation for our dreams. Instead of following a pattern of dreams that only a few people can ever reach, we start thinking in terms of God’s Kingdom. Is the focus of our dreams utterly selfish, or is it self-less? When we join God’s Kingdom, we begin to dream the type of dreams that bring healing, life, love and forgiveness to the world. We pursue a different way to live and desire to tell good stories with our lives. Our attitude changes to become like that of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Moreover, instead of weighing our lives down with impure expectations and motives, we embrace God’s dreams and find ourselves lost in a cause so deep and wide that anyone can join in. There is room for every dreamer out there to have a different kind of dream.

So, how do we know if our dream doesn’t stink? Does your dream involve others? Fame and fortune are fleeting. No matter how big your hearse is, you still can’t take it all with you. That leads us to wonder if a dream, inspired by God, is something that lasts in a different way. Rather than building our dream upon a foundation based on what the world says is success, we build our dreams upon the very things that God believes in: love, justice, acceptance and redemption. Dreams with an altruistic foundation outlive our lives and find fruition in the people we’ve helped along the way.

Perhaps, then, there are times when we need to reevaluate our dreams. We ask probing questions of our dreams and see if they line up with God’s dream in Scripture. In this way, we pursue something beautiful and lasting. Our dreams, fused with God’s purposes, are light in a dark place. They have the potential to bring healing and real change in our world. Rather than accumulate awards and riches, we practice the wonderful act of surrender in order to receive from God.

What do you think? Does your dream stink? 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Love Wins

It seems like everyone and their mom has been blogging about books lately, especially Love Wins. I thought I should blog about it as well: it was awesome.

Here is another awesome book about the power of love--perhaps even God's love. Maybe you remember reading this book when you were younger or receiving it as a gift and thinking: "Thanks, a book." Compared to Nintendo Games and Ninja Turtle action figures, it did little to impress me in childhood. The ironic thing, though, about most "children's" books is that they are about something more. Exploring the "more" later on usually results in gratitude.

Check out this short reading of the book by Brennan Manning:

"'And that, Shel Silverstein said, is my understanding of Jesus Christ.'" Have you reflected lately on the unstoppable, passionate love of Christ for you? It's a love that knows no bounds.

"If God is for us, who can be against us" Romans 8:31