From the Archives: Dream Big

From the Archives: Dream Big

I posted this in my old blog on 6/11/2007.  I gave a speech (or a sermon as the pastor wanted to call it) on 6/10/2007 at Light of Life Church in College Park, GA for their Youth Day.  I just felt like sharing today.  Hopefully, it inspires someone.

I started by telling a story of a little girl with huge dreams to be successful in school and go on to become some sort of leader—maybe a judge, maybe a scientist, but definitely someone who would make a difference in the world. The little girl experienced extreme hate from her 5th grade math teacher, who berated her daily and told her she’d never be anything and that she was dumb and not as smart as people thought she was. Her ma gave her some wonderful advice that she can’t let negative people have a negative effect on her life, and eventually the little girl got her grades back up and started turning the teacher’s discouragement into encouragement and made the decision to prove the teacher wrong. The little girl ended up graduating from high school at 16, earning two bachelors degrees in math by the time she was 20, and has a Masters degree <now 2 Masters degrees>. And now she’s giving speeches. Imagine that. I told them, of course I’ve gone through many trials and tribulations since then, but that particular experience was an early lesson in how to handle people’s negativity and just the world in general.

I encouraged the audience (congregation) to pursue the dreams God gives us, no matter how big or impossible or crazy they may seem. I told them a story I heard Joel Osteen give once–there was a man who went fishing, and he saw another man fishing and noticed that every time he caught a small fish he kept it, but each time he caught a big fish, he would throw it back. Finally after watching this for awhile, the man decided to ask him what’s going on. The guy told him that he only had a 10″ frying pan. We have got to throw away our small frying pan and invest in some larger ones. We can’t limit God, so we shouldn’t limit what he puts in our spirits to do.

The underlying tool we need to pursue our dreams is faith–we have to trust God and the Holy Spirit and have faith that ALL things are possible. Sometimes the trouble is that the idea just seems odd. When God told Noah to build the ark, they had never seen rain ever before. They had no clue what it would be like for water to fall from the sky, let alone water coming so much that it would flood. I’m sure Noah was like what the heck? You want me to do what? Build a huge boat in the middle of the desert?! BUT he had faith and he did what he was told, and it came in handy, eh? You can’t let the size of your dream intimidate you.

Sometimes we’re worried about what other folks say. I can only imagine how much Noah was made fun of. But those people ended up drowning. You can’t let people stop you from making the mark God intends for you to make on the world. You have to stay true to God and yourself. Don’t change your dreams for your critics!

Sometimes the trouble is low self-esteem. We underestimate ourselves. God told Moses to go tell Pharoah to let his people go. Moses said what the heck? I can’t do that! I stutter! And to that, God replied, who made your tongue?! God doesn’t make mistakes. He put you in the life you’re in for a reason. And he equipped you with everything you’ll ever need to conquer all your storms.

Then I shared 6 pieces of advice.

1. Make it a habit to talk to God when you get up in the morning and before you go to bed at night. Read your Bible, for it will equip you. You can’t receive your dreams and assignments from God if you’re not in touch with him. Pray for guidance and help in being in the right place at the right time to meet the right people.

2. Plan ahead! Proverbs 14:16 says “The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence.” When I’m going somewhere, I don’t just hop in my car and start driving, I have to look at a map or get directions. Same in life–we have to know how to get to where we’re going. Once you make the choice to pursue the dreams God has given you, you have to do your research. Find out what is needed to go to the college you want to go to; find out what you need to get that internship; ask someone what you need to start a business; find out what you have to do to become a minister; find out who you need to know to work on a political campaign. Get an idea of where you’re going before you start walking.

3. Don’t believe everything you see! Proverbs 13:7 says “Some who are poor pretend to be rich; others who are rich pretend to be poor.” Don’t pursue other people’s dreams because of what you think they have. Pursue what God has especially for you. You don’t know what people really have or what they had to do to get it. Some people who drive fancy cars and live in big houses may not have it made like you think. For all you know they’re on the verge of losing it. And don’t judge the poor looking man on the corner trying to tell people about God or handing out flyers for his new business. The rappers and folks on TV look like they have it all, but you don’t know what goes on when the cameras stop rolling. Don’t believe everything you see, but do believe what God has said to you.

4. Know that everything does not come easy. You HAVE to work for it! Three verses here:
Proverbs 13:4 “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.”
Proverbs 13:11 “Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time.”
Proverbs 14:23 “Work brings profit, but more talk leads to poverty.”
We’ve all heard that saying “don’t talk about it–be about it.” Don’t spend your time talking about your dreams and waiting for success to find you! Once you’ve received your dream, once you’ve done your homework and figured out what you need to do to achieve it, go do it! Know that there will be rough times and everything won’t always seem to work out, but remember that God has a master plan. Your trials and pitfalls are there for a reason, a reason you’ll find out later. So thank God in advance for the lessons you learn and for divinely setting up life to get you to where you’re supposed to be. Be diligent. You can’t stand on the sidelines. You have to stay in the race for God to get you to the finish line. As my ma told me, in order to enjoy the rainbow, you have to endure the rain.

5. Hang around people who can help you and who know more than you do. Proverbs 13:20 says “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.” Proverbs 14:7 says “Stay away from fools, for you won’t find knowledge on their lips.” Surround yourself with positive people who also strive for success. Take advantage of the adults in your life. Listen to their experiences; ask them for their advice; ask them if you can help them with a project in which you’re interested; get to know them. You never know who people know, what opportunities they may know of, or who may be willing to write a letter or make a phone call for you. Stay away from folks with a 10″ frying pan, who think small, who are negative, and who don’t know any more than you do. What can they offer you but bad advice? Don’t get stuck thinking you can’t do something or making wrong decisions. Hang around people who will keep you moving forward.

6. Accept constructive criticism and loving guidance. Do not reinvent the wheel–learn from others! Proverbs 13:18 says “If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept correction, you will be honored.” People have been where you are. Even when you feel like NOONE can POSSIBLY understand what you feel, what you’re going through at home or at school, chances are someone does, and God will put them in your path. Those people who love you just want to help you avoid some problems and help you out of others. But you have to LISTEN. Don’t get angry if someone tells you there’s a better way to do something. Don’t get an attitude when someone tells you something you did was wrong. Hear them out. Don’t get wrapped up in the fact that they may be fussing–listen and consider what is being said. You’ll probably be better for it!

I finished by giving them a quote by Benjamin E. Mays:

Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive, and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done.

And I’ll finish this post with a song by one of the best bands of all time, Earth Wind & Fire.

For you, here’s a song to make your day brighter
One that will last you long through troubled days
Giving your heart the light to brighten all of the dark that falls in your way

Speech: Live on Purpose

Speech: Live on Purpose

Today, I gave a speech at my Toastmasters meeting.  I had been putting this speech assignment off for the last month because I just wasn’t amped about any topics.  Last night, right before bed, though, I was given inspiration.  And lemme tell ya, when I’m inspired, I can’t be stopped.  I went to sleep with an issue on my heart, and I woke up with this speech in my brain.  I didn’t read it the entire delivery (working on my speaking skills so I can’t be at the lectern reading the whole time!), so I’m sure I didn’t say exactly what’s written below, but you get the gist.  Enjoy!

I had another speech planned, but last night, my godsister Schana had to be taken to the hospital because of complications with her diabetes.  I was told that she has to have a toe amputated.  This, of course, led me to think about a college classmate and friend of mine named Nakemia, who passed away last year due to complications with her diabetes. I also thought about my 17-year-old mentee Bria who has diabetes and had to learn to give herself insulin shots when she was in elementary school.  At first, as I thought of people I love who have been taken and affected by diseases, such as breast cancer, kidney cancer, and heart disease, I thought that I would write a new speech about diseases that affect our communities, but then it dawned on me—there’s another lesson here.  One that is much less dismal.  WE have to live our lives to the fullest because life and health aren’t promised.  We must live with intention—so today, I want to encourage each of you to live on purpose, starting with these three tips: love yourself, strive to accept your calling, and don’t put off until tomorrow what you could do today.

The first tip seems very simple, but putting it to action isn’t always so easy.  Love yourself.  What does that really mean?  Well, you should make yourself a priority and take care of yourself.  So many times, as human beings who love others, we put others before ourselves and forget to do what we need to do: eat properly, exercise regularly, get adequate rest, meditate, have fun.  When you first get on a flight, what does the flight attendant say?  If there is a loss of cabin pressure, a person should put on his or her OWN oxygen mask FIRST, and then put on the mask of someone needing assistance.  This is because loss of oxygen is disorienting, and in order to help someone else, you need to be keen and alert with all your senses.  This can be applied to life in general.  When you’re at your best, you can do a much better job of helping other people than you can when you’re mediocre, or just making it.  One thing I’ve started doing for myself is going to Bikram yoga, also called hot yoga, which is a form of yoga performed in a 103-105 degree room.  Sounds like death, right?  Well, it’s actually very refreshing.  The heat allows me to zone out and clear my head and center myself while focusing on my poses, challenging my balance and increasing my flexibility.  It’s great for meditation.  I feel like a thousand bucks after each and every session.  Whatever your method, make yourself a priority today!

Once you’re actively loving yourself, you can be much more effective in other people’s lives.  I strongly believe that everyone has a calling, and living on purpose requires my second tip: strive to accept your calling.  Who knows the Bible story of Jonah and the whale?  Well, briefly, God told Jonah, who was from Galilee, to go to Nineveh, which was enemy territory. He was to go and preach to the Ninevites and get them to repent.  Well, Jonah was not hearing that, and he ran away, which many of us do by ignoring that urge we all get to do something.  He ended up being thrown overboard a ship and swallowed by a whale, all to end up doing what he was supposed to do in the first place.  By living up to our purpose for being here, we live intentionally.  As you all know, I do a lot of community service, and one of the things I love most is tutoring and spreading the joys of math. nerd smug But it’s not just about tutoring, it’s about being there for my students when they need me and being a positive role model for kids.  One of my current students, a 9th grader who lost her mom some time ago, told me last week that she wanted to drop out of school because of family issues.  That really disturbed me and even after I had a long talk with her, reminding her of all her goals, the importance of education, and all the activities at school she loves, I still thought about her all weekend and came up with a strategy to use if my talk didn’t help.  When I saw her last night, she was back in good spirits.  She had changed her mind, and she reached out to me, asking me to spend more time with her this summer even after our tutoring sessions were over.  I decided then to make it my mission to make sure she gets through the next 3 years of high school.  I don’t do these things for pats on the back—I do them because I was called to.  It’s a part of living on purpose.

Finally, don’t put off until tomorrow what you could do today.  We all do it.  Oh, I’ll call my brother tomorrow.  I’ll fix up that old cabinet next weekend.   I’ll reorganize my office soon.  I’ll go get a massage when I have time.  I’ll donate to a charity once I get a raise.  Don’t keep putting off your goals and wants and needs.  Do them now.  Be intentional with your life!  Write down your list of tasks and give yourself a deadline to get them done.  Log on to Google calendar and put them where you can see them and set reminders.  But also, when you feel an urge to do something small but thoughtful—call a loved one, or write a letter or send a card to someone, or ask a friend to go to dinner, just do it.  Don’t wait until next week.  Life is not promised.  And you never know—that urge may have been God-sent.  That person may have needed that at that moment.  I was near a friend’s house yesterday and although it was 9 o’clock, I called her and asked her if she had eaten.  Although she wasn’t at home, she was still touched that I had thought about her.  It’s the little things sometimes.

So today, in the midst of all the chaos in the world, I want each of us to live on purpose.  We need to love ourselves, strive to accept our callings, and do today what we can do today.  Thanks.