Pursuing the Kingdom Dream

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14)

Through the journey of writing the You Are Priceless book and bringing it together I have realized I’m foregoing the American dream. In my flesh, I would love to sit and relax. I would love days where the demands of life are minimal. I would love to watch a good tv show and just spend time vegging on the couch. Sometimes I just want to sit and do absolutely nothing.

The American dream is filled with promises of happiness when you get the bigger car, bigger house, greater job, accolades, and awards. It comes with temporary satisfaction and temporary rewards. I could pursue it. In my flesh, I desire to take the easy road and leave the challenges far behind. But in my spirit something cries to be used by God… to make a difference…. to make a Kingdom Impact. Something in me won’t be satisfied until I pursue everything God has for me in this life.

Yes, I choose the Kingdom Dream. I choose the dream that will last for eternity. My days here on earth are short. David says they are but a breath. It’s possible that I won’t wake up tomorrow morning and what would my life have stood for. Would I leave a trail of someone who pursued this riches of the world or the riches of Heaven? Would it show a heart sold out for the Lord? Would it show someone who loved Jesus enough to share Him with every person I could? Would my life show that I’m living the Kingdom Dream or the American Dream? Would my life have fruit beyond my final breath?

This is what I have lived for my whole life. My greatest desire has been to share Jesus with as many people as I possibly can. To equip and encourage those who are new to the faith and help them get their legs sturdy in following Christ. To disciple one more. To equip one more. To love on one more. This is my dream! It’s not an American dream. You won’t see a closet full of designer clothes, you won’t even find a perfectly upkeep house when you come to visit, and you certainly won’t find that I waste a lot of time.

I spent many years of my life on a couch barely surviving. Years asking God to just take me home if this is all my life was going to amount to. Years wondering is this really all I’m going to do with my life. But all of that was a precursor. It was all producing in me a drive to fight. A desire to do whatever it takes to get healthy. A steadfast confidence that said even if I lose everything, following Christ is the best thing I can do with my life.

That time spent on the couch showed me that I want to waste little time. I want to be effective. I want to pursue the Kingdom Dream. A dream that doesn’t die. A dream that pays back dividends for all eternity. Are you pursuing the calling God has on your life? Have you put your yes on the table? You were designed on purpose for a purpose. I encourage you to ask God what His Kingdom dream is for you and pursue it with all your heart.

I can promise that it won’t be easy. I can promise that it will involve sacrifice. And I can promise that you will want to quit some days. But I can also promise that you will feel more free then you ever have before. You will experience rewards far beyond what this world can offer. And God will give you the strength to continue when You’ve got nothing left. Trust Him! He’s got a big plan for your life!

Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. (Psalm 144:4, ESV)

Dear Father God, Please help me to constantly be aware of how fleeting my days are here on this earth. May I make the most of the time that I am given and advance Your Kingdom purpose in every possible way. May my heart be sold out to the things of you and may pursuing you matter more to me than pursuing the American dream. I pray that I will pursue the Kingdom Dream and live with purpose for Your glory!

Pursuing the Kingdom Dream,

Sarah Malanowski, author

There Are Still Days

There are still days that I have to fight. “Against what?” you ask. Some days against the enemy and some days against myself. Some days I am my own worst enemy. Some days life throws things my way like a bill that shows up that should have been paid or someone you know with a less than great attitude. Let’s face it, sometimes life isn’t what we want it to be. Sometimes I have to fight against myself and my thinking. What am I choosing to think about? Where are my thoughts taking me? Is what I’m thinking the truth or a lie? 

There are always going to be those days. The Bible says in John 16 verse 33 (NLT) that “In this world we will have trouble”. In the New King James version, it says tribulation rather than trouble. The word “tribulation” means “a cause or state of great trouble or suffering”.  In other words; suffering, hardship, tragedy, sorrow, pain, misery, unhappiness, anguish, grief, and heartache. In verse 33 He says “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. Then also tells us that we should “be of good cheer, because he overcame the world. 

That seems like a tall order when I’m looking at everything going on around me. We can expect to have problems in this life, but we CAN also EXPECT to have Peace. How do we get this “Peace” you ask? It’s only when I get MY Focus off my problems and PUT (intentionally-on purpose) MY FOCUS on Jesus that I find Peace. We can only truly have Peace when we spend time with Jesus. We do this by reading His Word and by just talking to him. Getting in a quiet place and making a choice to stop thinking about what’s going on and start thinking about Jesus, everything He is and everything He has done. Peace doesn’t come on the outside as much as it is an inside, heart (spirit) issue. 

You may be thinking, “You don’t understand, you don’t know what they’ve done, I bet it’s easy for you to say because you haven’t gone through it”. You are right on all those accounts, but I do know the one who does. The Bible says (Hebrews 2:17-18) that He was made like us, He suffered and was tempted. By this, He then is able to be merciful to us and help us when we are in trouble. He also says that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

What it comes down to is my fight of faith. Do I believe what His Word says? Am I thinking and doing what He says? Am I taking my thoughts captive and putting them under the microscope of the Word? Am I then making the correction? Am I fighting to keep Him first place in my life? Am I going to choose to believe what He says about me or am I going to believe what others say? Am I going to choose to believe that I can rather than I can’t?

Dear one, my prayer is that you will continue the fight with me. Fight to hold on to our faith in Him and everything He has done. That you will fight to keep our focus on Him. That we will be intentional in our pursuit of Him. That we will choose to believe who He says we are and what He says we can do and have. Don’t ever stop fighting the good fight of faith and holding tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you (1 Tim. 6:12). There’s so much more and He has such a great plan for your life. Fight for it!

You Lift Me Up

but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.  (Isaiah 40:31, KJ21)

We all know that feeling. The feeling of weariness, being tired, running out of breath, and wanting to give up. We also understand the anxious waiting for God to do something when we are in the middle of an imposing trial. Isaiah 40:31 comforts us with a vivid promise for everyone who patiently waits for God to move and to help you.

As I was reading this verse, a well known song popped into my head. The message of this song is to remind us that no matter what, God WILL take care of us.

“You know my heart is heavy
And the hurt is deep
But when I feel like giving up
You’re reminding me
That we all fall down sometimes
But when I hit the ground

You lift me up when I am weak
Your arms wrap around me
Your love catches me so I’m letting go
You lift me up when I can’t see
Your heart is all that I need
Your love carries me so I’m letting go”

(“Lift Me Up”, credits to The Afters and to A-Z lyrics)

Sometimes God puts us through trials and tribulation to prepare us for something that is yet to come. For instance, Abraham had to wait 100 years before God gave him a son, who would continue the chosen family line. Moses had to get past his stuttering to become a leader of the Israelites. Ruth had to become a widow and travel into a new country in order to meet Boaz, marry him, and eventually become the Great-Grandmother of King David. Even Paul had to give up his popularity, his health, and ultimately his life in order to share the Gospel to the rest of the world.

So no matter what you are going through, remember that if you wait upon the Lord, He will lift you up!

Isabella

I Bought the Lie

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither a son of man, that he should repent.  Shall he say and not do? and shall he speak and not make it good?  (Numbers 23:19)

What does one say of a thirteen year old girl who was nothing more than another run away? On the run for three days. I tried to run from a painful past. One of sexual abuse that seemed to torment me with guilt. I ran from it only to run into the arms of another man who would stain what was left of a cold night. I could smell the stench of oil and gasoline as he towered above me in the back of a van. This time I didn’t shed one tear. I don’t remember closing my eyes; the fear was gone. This time I would retreat to a place that was neither good nor bad. A place of vacancy filled with nothingness. If I were in grave danger then everyone around me was oblivious, including me.

Certain thoughts raced through my mind. “Just Scream, ask for help, anything but this.” No, not me. I was groomed into believing life was about sex. Groomed into believing that it was my fault. I bought the lie just like a naïve young couple, racing to buy their first home. The salesman is good. “Take it slow, look around. This house is steal.”  “We’ll take it.” The young couple eagerly agrees. I bought the lie just as they bought the house, without having the property inspected and surveyed. The perfect house would turn into the perfect nightmare. A nightmare that would cost them more than just money. It cost them their joy. While there is no joy in exposing a terrible truth… there is no joy in concealing it.

As the years toiled by anger grew in my silence. A deadly conformity of revenge began to live in that place of nothingness. I remember having one foot in the Church and the other in Prison. I thought of all the ways I would kill them, as if it were mapped out on a table before me. Thoughts of killing them became an intrusive obsession. My heart was hard. I was bitter and reckless, now nearly nineteen and living on my own, I was free. Free to come and go as I pleased. However, nothing could prepare me for what happened next…

I was about three blocks away from the condo I shared with a neighbor. A neighbor I had met just a few years earlier. A neighbor who went to church; a babbling church lady with more rules than the bible. One being keep the basement clean. On that night I left just before nightfall with my clothes scattered all over her basement floor.

I was sitting at the bar with a drink in my hand and fake I.D. in my back pocket when a man sat down beside me. The conversation moved rapidly from one topic to the next with ease. After a few drinks and a wild invitation to take a ride on the back of his new motorcycle I thought ” Why not? It’s three blocks away.” What’s the worst thing that could happen? A question far from my inebriated mind, now muddled with thoughts of keeping my drinks down and getting home.

This seemingly harmless man talked me into getting on the back of his bike, then refused to take me home. Again, I bought the lie. Under the “It’s my fault, I deserve it.” fate. Oddly enough, I was worried, but not nearly as much as I was worried about my roommate. A woman in her 40’s with children of her own. I knew she would not come looking for me and if she did, her eyes would be wide with curiosity, her face white with terror as the indignation of a broken rule set in. All I wanted to do was go home and clean my room.

That’s what went through my mind going 90 miles an hour on the freeway. My heart began to pound with one sharp turn after the next I could feel my body lean into it. He sped up then with a sudden stop, he jumped off the bike, gazing at me with a wicked smirk. He pulled his helmet off and waited for me.  I reluctantly stood under a street lamp in a normal neighborhood. The house he led me to did not look like it belonged to a rapist. Then again, what does a rapist house look like? The structure itself wasn’t deteriorated. It didn’t look haunted.

I did not want to take his hand, but I did. He led me into that house, mumbling under his breath “We are only going to be here a few minutes. I have to pick a few things up.” Ironically, the same thing I thought about on the way over with two very stark differences. We were not there to pick up his things anymore than we were there for a few minutes. We passed through the living room where an elder man looked up, seated in his recliner, he shook his head. His eyes shifted with disdain, irritated by me, by my presence. An eerie feeling overwhelmed me as I continued to follow the stranger up a flight of stairs.

I stood in the smoldering hot attic crunched down because of my height, my head touching the ceiling. I knew what was happening the only thing I did not know was whether I would get out of this one alive? My eyes scanned the floor intensely at the hundreds, and I do mean hundreds of Polaroid pictures of naked women that lay toppled upon the next. Women I have no doubt he kidnapped the same way, and victimized for days. Eventually, I convinced him that I cared about him. I choked on the words, “I love you.” While begging him to take me home to pick up my clothes. I know God saved my life. That’s just the beginning of my story. While looking back on my past, I realize I was someone on the run for thirty years.

It grieves my spirit to know that what is now well into my past is someone’s beginning. I have been raped by different men throughout my life, at some point I knew I had to let go of all those dry bones. I did not begin to live until I began to forgive. Forgiving them for what they did to me did not mean they had my approval. Instead it evicted all those thoughts that held me captive and demolished their building. A new foundation has been laid. “Upon these rocks I shall build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” -Jesus Christ

I am alive by Gods grace. God kept me then and God is keeping me now. God is not a man that he should lie. He is a God of Love and protection. I had no clue I would one day trade my shame, trade my sorrow, trade my bitterness and hate for a garment of praise. No idea.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for protecting us. Heal our inner parts, minister to that pain that tries to take us captive only to victimize us all over again. Give us a healthy perspective when it comes to men. Touch us with the boldness to come to your throne of grace that we may obtain mercy in our time of need. Show my sisters Lord, that they need not be ashamed of their past and it is not their fault. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and we don’t have to apologize for it. Father, teach us to truly forgive that we might find life. In Jesus name I, we, pray.  Amen.

 

When I Feel Weary

Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in. (Galatians 6:9, AMP)

Sometimes that weary feeling just hits me. I can be doing well but then the words of others or their actions just drag me down. I don’t do well with negativity and today I reached my limit. It dragged me down more than I would like to admit. I know better. I know better than to let anyone’s words or actions affect me in such a way, but sometimes it just happens. That feeling of weariness. I ran to the Word. I needed fresh strength. I needed renewed vision. I needed a fresh outpouring of the Lord as I was supposed to get on the phone for a recorded radio interview. Yikes! Right now, really?!? Not feeling it! LOL.

So what do I do when I feel weary, I run back into the Lord’s arms. He is my Abba Father. He saw this weariness coming. He knew I would hit my limit. He knows me. He sees me. He never lets me down. In these moments I choose to trust Him, I seek guidance in His Word and comfort for my weary soul. The words that breathe life right back into me are familiar at this point, they are some of the same verses I’ve run to since childhood. But yet, each time I arrive at this weary place God uses those very same verses to infuse strength back into me one more time. I’m so glad that God never runs out of patience. That He is loving and kind! That He knows me better than I know myself. Today, one of the verses that I find refuge in is…

But those who wait for the LORD [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; they will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not grow tired. (Isaiah 40:31, AMP)

I wrote a book about this very passage at one time. It’s called His Hope for Your Destiny, it was a book I wrote during a storm in my life. A storm that was determined to take me down but I was ever focused on what the Lord wanted to teach me through that storm. That’s the same kind of laser like focus I need right now as I face a current battle. A battle I find myself a little consumed by. But that right there gives you an idea of where my eyes have been. My eyes have been looking at the storm, not looking at the Protector in the storm.

That’s it! Today, I will wait on the Lord. I will not let this storm overcome me. I will use this current storm to rise on the wings of an eagle. I will not let my enemy win. God has a plan. A purpose! I’m on the front lines with this whole Priceless thing and the enemy will do whatever he can to distract me from God’s calling on my life. Today, I’m making a decision to run. I will keep my eyes on the Author and Perfecter of my faith. I will not let this storm or any storm after this dictate how I feel. I serve the Lord who is in control! He will never fail me.

I will choose to focus on my Savior. That is my word for 2018! My theme. Funny how that word comes into play during this storm. Focus! Yes, I will focus on what matters. I will focus on the King of Kings. I will focus on my Savior! I will focus on the Maker of the Universe! Today, I lift my eyes up to the hills. I know where my help comes from. He’s got me! And He’s got you! You can trust Him!

Shall I look to the mountain gods for help? No! My help is from Jehovah who made the mountains! And the heavens too! He will never let me stumble, slip, or fall. For he is always watching, never sleeping. (Psalm 121:1-3, TLB)

Lord, I took my eyes off of you today and focused a little more on my troubles than I should have. Thank you for catching me and reminding me that You have me! I’m Yours! I can trust You! So though my heart still aches a little and my body still feels a tad weary, I will focus on You! I will trust Your plan for my life and press into You with a little more today!

Living Loved,

Sarah Malanowski, author