How Does Faith in a God-Given Dream Change the World?

Companion Blog Post for:

Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016)

September: A Month of Faithfulness

Concept Week 4

“Faith turns God-given dreams into reality for the benefit of others.”

What I love about the reality shows American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and The Voice, is the raw talent that seemingly comes out of nowhere. How many times has there been a contestant who lived in a town of 300 or 3,000, had never been on an airplane, and when they open their mouth to sing it brings the audience to a frenzy of jaw-dropping tears and thunderous applause. The waiter or single-mom barely scraping by is suddenly thrust to the world-stage belting octaves only an angel can touch.

Every fiber of our being is electrified when we witness a person using their gift.

What makes me crazy is the number of people who waste what they’ve been given, falsely believing they are not talented enough, smart enough, or good enough. We all lose when a gift is not opened.

What holds you back from stepping into YOU and all that you were created to be?

We’ve been talking this month about faith (trusting in God’s character). How does faith work in regards to our dreams? If we replace the word faith with its definition, it might look something like this:

(Trusting in God’s character) empowers a God-given dream to change or impact someone’s life.

That’s a nice way to look at it. It takes some of the weight off of my plate and moves it to God’s plate. But it still needs fleshing out because there is more to the equation.

God’s character: trustworthy, wise, infinite resources, all knowing—past, present, future, creator of all things, provider, lover of all people including you and me, giver of life, joyful, humorous, and good.

God-given dreams: God is the Dream-Giver; He places dreams in ALL of our hearts along with the necessary passions, skill-sets, talents, and unique gifts to make them reality. Why? To benefit the rest of us. To fill the world with color, inspiration, love, charity, wisdom, healing, order, and provision. Your dream has a purpose.

God did not put resources in your soul to benefit you. God put resources in your soul to benefit us.

If God puts a dream in your heart, doesn’t it stand to reason He would want you to accomplish it? Would He give you a dream and say, “Good luck!” No. Would He give you a dream and say, “You’re not good enough or talented enough to pull this off”? No, because He has people waiting to receive your gift!

Your dream and the resources in your soul are not about you. God’s character is to empower you to be a blessing. His character is to use His resources in conjunction with the resources He put in your heart so that together you can be a game-changer to benefit the world. But you have to trust Him. Don’t waste that faith opportunity.

–Tara Schiro is the author of the newly released, Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016, Xulon Press), and No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, the memoir of bronze-medal Paralympian (Quad Rugby), Bob Lujano. Both books are available on Amazon.com, Ingram, and Barnes & Noble. TaraSchiro.com

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How Much Faith Do I Need to Cure an Illness?

Companion Blog Post for the Journal

September: A Month of Faithfulness

Concept Week 3

Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016)

“Faith opens the door for miracles to happen.”

At 2:00 a.m. this morning I awoke with familiar pain. My immediate response? “Please, God, not again. I’m begging you. Not. Again. Please. Take it away.”

I’m at the tail-end of a three-week-and-counting stint of my third round of pneumonia (my lungs are seriously out to get me) and here comes bladder infection #432. I’ve been getting them since I was four years old. In fact, I spent a week in the hospital at the age of four so they could look for my second kidney. After many traumatic explorations (this was 1971), they found it hiding out in the front. Weird anatomy should be my sub-heading. Begging for healing has become my default.

In the two hours of lost sleep, aside from looking for my stock of pain pills and making six trips to the bathroom and telling the dog ‘we’re not getting up yet, go back to sleep’ and marveling that my husband snored through the whole disturbance, I wrestled with God.

“You can heal me. You created me. I have faith in you. I believe you can heal me.” Uh-huh. And then I started laying out the situation to Him. As if He wasn’t already aware. “Look. I have barely been off the couch in three weeks. And now this? My mom and my husband are already freaked out enough. Why worry them even more? I will need more antibiotics. Don’t you know how bad it is for the human body to take all that crap?” And then I began reciting one of my favorite passages from John 15. The summary that I repeated over and over is this: “’If you remain in Me and I remain in you, ask for anything in My name and I will give it to you’…So, what I want, Lord, is for you to remove the infection immediately. I can’t work when I’m sick. I can’t do anything when I’m sick. I can’t be taking more antibiotics. Make me healthy.’”

What do I expect God to do in my life? Does He say that He is a genie in the sky?

This is where I have to tell myself to get a grip. And this is where I have to talk myself off the slide of despair. If what God says is true, that He is more interested in our character than our comfort, that we will have troubles in this world but He will overcome them all, that the point isn’t to get rid of problems or pain but to allow Him to mature us through them, then I have a choice to make.

Either, I must choose to believe Him (faith in His character) and put the pain to good use, look at it as a tool to grow my character and bless others, or, choose to be a victim, depressed, frustrated, and cranky.

Can I be honest? I really don’t want to keep going through this. It’s easier, and sometimes more fun, to complain and be angry. But if the goal is to leave a healthy emotional legacy, to develop a character that I will be proud to take with me when I meet my Maker, then I have no choice but to choose faith in God’s character as I trudge, yet again, through the doors of the doctor’s office. And I will try really hard not to cry as I look for my miracle.

*****UPDATE 32 hours later: Normally I am in a tremendous amount of pain for several days with these infections. The pain pill I took at 2:00 a.m. was the only one I needed. I’m on more antibiotics, but have zero pain. Faith opened the door for this miracle! God. Is. So. Good. I’m so grateful to Him for my health!

–Tara Schiro is the author of the upcoming release, Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016), and No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, the memoir of bronze-medal Paralympian (Quad Rugby), Bob Lujano. Amazon.com TaraSchiro.com

How to Engage Faith Instead of Fear

Companion Blog Post to the Journal

“September: A Month of Faithfulness”

Concept Week 2

Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016)

Living with fear affects my life in negative ways.

“When I live life with fear instead of faith, I exaggerate my problems, underestimate my abilities, get discouraged, complain, give up, and blame God.” –Rick Warren

Fear is paralyzing. There is nothing worse than seeing your child in pain, or getting a phone call that your health or finances have tanked, or that your spouse is leaving, or that yet another terrorist attack or police shooting has occurred. And then there are political leaders, cyber-hackers, the registered sex-offender down the street, mental health issues, the Syrian refugees, hurricanes, earthquakes, famine, genocide; our world is broken. And it’s scary.

At the point of emotional paralysis during a tragedy, it doesn’t feel good when a well-meaning consoler says, “Just have faith.” Or they throw a Bible verse at you, like, “All things work together for good for those that love Him.” (Romans 8:28) At the time, it can feel trite and dismissive. As if we shouldn’t be feeling what we are feeling. As if the situation isn’t really that big of a deal.

There is a difference though, between a fearful situation and living with fear.

People who live with a fear-based mind-set can be controlling, insecure, critical, perfectionistic, defensive, judgmental, anxious, and have a victim mentality. Constant health issues become a problem. They wonder when the next crisis is going to hit. It’s not living; it’s surviving, and not very well because there is no anchor to hold onto. They are constantly tossed by the waves.

Faith is the opposite of fear and worry. From last week,

problem + faith (trusting in God’s character) = outcome

The key is God’s character and whether or not we trust Him with our life.

People who live with a faith-based mind-set will react to a fearful situation but will relax in the living because of Who God Is; He is in control, He is secure in His promises, He is stable and solid ground.

One of my favorite verses is, “Be strong and of good courage, Fear Not, for the Lord thy God will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) That’s a promise that no matter what happens, we won’t sink or be destroyed. And with God, beauty comes from the ashes. Tragedy is never the final word. We can rest in His wisdom.

Once we allow Him to take over our life (which is different than simply saying “I believe”), life is actually easier and less frightening because He has our back. He’s watching out for us, going to bat for us, protecting us and providing for us. He adores us! So we can trust in God’s character and take joy in the outcome! Knowing that the right kind of faith will grow our character for bigger and better things.

–Tara Schiro is the author of Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal, October, 2016 and No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, the memoir of bronze-medal Paralympian (Quad Rugby) Bob Lujano. Amazon.com TaraSchiro.com

How to Bring Peace with the Right Definition of Faith

Companion blog post for the book:

 Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016)

September: A Month of Faithfulness

Concept Week 1

“The size of my faith prepares me for the size of my problems. If I have a small faith in a small god, my problems are bigger. If I have a big faith in a big God, my problems are smaller.”

Faith is one of those words that elicits eye-rolling and snickering. The connotation being that faith is equal to fluff; it’s a nice idea that makes a person feel better but doesn’t have the power to really DO anything.  Like, cure cancer, or, save a marriage, or, reverse financial ruin.

First, we misunderstand the definition. Faith is not desire or pretending a different reality or a feeling or a bargaining chip with God.

Second, we mistakenly insert our own desired solution. We want the cancer cured, the marriage saved, or the finances replenished.

So our version of faith might look something like this:

problem + faith (desire/feeling) = cured, saved, replenished.

This is when you hear people say they have lost their faith. They were putting their desire into the outcome they wanted and when it didn’t come true, they walk away from God as if He let them down. That isn’t real faith and that isn’t how God works.

Faith is about Who God Is. Faith is the action word between our problem and God’s character.

A dissertation could be written about God’s character as evidenced in the Bible, but the short version is this: The God of the Bible is good, faithful, trustworthy, all-knowing, all-seeing, protector, provider, counselor, wise, just, infinite, loving, personal, creator, judge, gentle, father, present, relevant, perfect, healer, redeemer, restorer, patient, etc.

So if faith is the action word between our problem and God’s character, then it looks something like this:

problem + faith (trusting in God’s character) = outcome

Notice the difference in these two equations. In the first equation, we decide what we want and then tell God we have faith He will make it happen. This makes God god, nothing more than a genie in a bottle. We take away his power to do our bidding (which doesn’t really work). In the second equation, God is God and the outcome is left to Him.

Scary?

Not if we put our trust in His character (see above). When we give our lives to God, and allow Him to take charge, He always does what’s best for us. Always. We may not understand His ways, or agree with His decisions, or enjoy His way of doing things, but His character is perfect. And ultimately, when we leave the outcome to God, knowing He will do what’s best, our stress level goes down and our sense of peace goes up. That’s the right kind of faith.

–Tara Schiro is the author of Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal, October, 2016, and No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, available on Amazon.com  TaraSchiro.com

Mass Burial in Los Angeles—1379 Unclaimed Laid to Rest on December 9, 2015

FullSizeRenderThey had been sitting on a shelf in the crematorium for three years. They waited for someone to claim them, to take them to a crypt for eternal rest among family or bring them home to a cozy mantle above a fireplace or to be sprinkled over their favorite quiet spot. They waited while a county employee searched for someone, anyone, who might know them, who might want them. For three long years, they waited. No one came. Each with a story, each with a mother and father, now buried together en-mass under a grave-marker that bore only the year they died: 2012.

 
The grave-site is in a grassy corner of the Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights. A violinist from the LA Philharmonic welcomed mourners with “Meditation” from “Thais” by Jules Massenet. The media stood poised and ready behind their large video cameras atop man-sized tripods; still cameras with long lenses hung around necks and notepads were held by ready hands.

 
They’re here for a story, she thought. We all are. This is odd. It doesn’t make sense.

 
Finding a spot beside a tree, she stood where she was close enough to hear but where she could observe the entire scene. The urns had previously been covered with dirt and the year marker had been placed. A giant wreath on a stand stood at the opposite end of the grave marker among a few potted flowers and plants. A green plastic border outlined, presumably, the length and width of the ashes below.

 

One thousand three hundred seventy nine people are under an area normally allotted to one casket.

 
Roughly 150 men and women stood with the media around the grave. The gatherers were there to offer final respect to people they had never met. Pseudo friends and family, stand-ins, for the real friends and family who might have been there if only…

 
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe began by thanking the quiet crowd for “attending the annual ceremony that has been taking place since 1896. We are surprised and happy there are so many people here today. Just two years ago only a couple dozen mourners came.”

 
Psalm 23 was read in English by Father Chris Ponnet and in Hebrew by Rabbi Avivah Erlick. Prayers were offered in Spanish, Korean, and Fijian. There were readings from the Koran and from Buddhist and Hindu literature as well as a poem about life in Los Angeles. Raquel Salinas sang the Native American Indian Traveling Song while photographers took pictures of the sun shining through her dress as she drummed. After each reading, the crowd was led in a chant: “You are not forgotten. You are remembered. We hold you in our hearts.” The mourners were invited to take a handful of flower petals to sprinkle over the grave before leaving. Photographers hugged the ground to capture the petals falling from strangers hands to the dirt.

 
Of the one thousand three hundred seventy nine people buried in the mass grave, there were no personal stories or remarks about any of them. No names were read. Nothing was told about the places of birth or death or the life in-between. Not even categories or statistics  were given about who, exactly, was under there and why.

 
The county calls them the unclaimed dead. They are people who die alone in hospitals, homes, long-term care facilities, on the street, or in jail. They are disintegrated to ash and put in a box on the shelf; babies, into an envelope. Those that sit unclaimed are those with no living relatives, or who have relatives that can’t be located, or who have relatives that don’t want them or cannot afford to bury or claim them. At the third anniversary of unclaimed-ness, they are blended together and buried as a collective.

 
What should we call them? Unknowns who made mistakes? Unknowns who ran with the wrong crowd? Unknowns who couldn’t get out of their own way? Or, should we say they were human beings who deserved our attention before it got this far?

 
We came to give them “a dignified burial and recognition,” but did we dignify and recognize them when they were alive? Did we visit them in the hospital? Talk to them on the street? Feed them? Clothe them? Tell them they mattered? Did we leave them alone in life, only to come three years after death to tell them, “You are not forgotten, you are remembered, and we hold you in our hearts?” Is this ceremony more for us than it is for them?

 


Tara Schiro is the author of No Arms, No Legs, No Problem: When life happens, you can wish to die or choose to live Now Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble www.TaraSchiro.com

 

http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-unclaimed-dead-20151211-story.html
http://graphics.latimes.com/unclaimed-dead-2012/
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/18/nyregion/dying-alone-in-new-york-city.html?_r=0
http://photos.sgvtribune.com/2015/12/09/photos-l-a-countys-annual-burial-for-unclaimed-persons/#1

 

The Week in Review: Debates, Paris, Homeless, Buckeyes, and the all-important Red Cup

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A dizzying array of events in the span of a few days seems chaotic. From the 10,000 foot level I see a mass of human beings side-by-side and then frantically separating into groups, and endless re-groups, to stand behind each new issue as the day presents.

The political parties launch mud-balls from opposite corners of the screen. Two undefined (I’m not really sure who these people are) groups debate the sanctity and identity of the red cup because apparently the beverage is heavenly. The mentally-ill homeless man beats actress Pauley Perrette in front of her Hollywood home. Bombs explode and gun-fire erupts. Again. These mini-groups of ‘for and against’ stop fighting and scurry together into a large group to pray for the most recent fallen; this time it’s Paris.

The mass stands arm-in-arm for a few hours to mourn the horrific but like a Kaleidoscope, it separates yet again and new groupings appear as solutions to the problems are argued (it’s always the other group’s fault) and the calendar turns to Saturday. College football re-organizes the pseudo-communities that fight against each other socially or politically or religiously to chant in unison for the scoreboard to move in their favor.

Social profile pictures change or colors are added with each new event, to reflect the group we now stand in in light of the trauma of the day. ‘Stand-up for this group!’ ‘Raise money for that group!’ ‘Don’t purchase that product!’ ‘Protest!’ ‘Don’t talk about that!’ ‘Those people are the problem!’ ‘Everyone has a right to be heard! Everyone has a voice!’ ‘Do what’s good for you; your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth!’ ‘Don’t say that; it offends me!’ ‘Don’t take away my rights!’ ‘Score!’ ‘We are the champions!’

Sometimes I’m not sure where to stand.

I wonder if God ever looks at his creation from the 10,000 foot level and shakes his head as if to say, ‘Y’all are missing the point.’

“I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
“Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
“So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you.””
(Lyrics are from the song, “Do Something” by Matthew West)

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he will never leave you.” Deut 31:6

I’m standing in God’s group.

–Tara Schiro is the author of “No Arms, No Legs, No Problem: When life happens you can wish to die or choose to live,” now available on Amazon, Ingram Spark, and Barnes & Noble.

What is the “Why” Behind Your Goals? Keeping it Real.

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A frequent phrase out of my mouth in high school was, “Just be real.” My history teacher overheard and asked me what I meant by that. Back then I explained it this way: stop playing games, don’t manipulate, be honest, don’t keep secrets, stop trying to control me. There was a lot going on back then. I was desperate for some realness.

Even though I had the insight to understand what wasn’t working for me, I had no idea how to BE real, or how to find people who would be real to me. I lived with pretense and denial, and as a consequence, fear and shame settled in and took residence in the pit of my gut. The wasted years of potential and impact, because of the false beliefs I adopted, breaks my heart.

Fast forward thirty years to this blog and to this post. In the last several months, I see I am in good company. These are direct quotes from people I’ve had interaction with.

“I’ve always wanted to be in music, but I landed here instead.”
“I’m just surviving, getting by day-by-day. I’m not really living.”
“I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant, but there’s too much to lose if I fail.”
“I’ve always wanted to publish a novel; it’s still sitting in my drawer.”
“I work myself to the bone so I can retire and live the good life.”
“Life isn’t fair. It constantly throws stuff at you. It’s like a card game. Some people are dealt good hands, they are the lucky ones, and some are dealt bad hands, we are being punished. That’s just the way it is and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“My life didn’t turn out as well as yours.”
“I was given a bad lot in life. Luck of the draw.”
“It’s too late to get an education.”
“I’m too old, my time has passed.”
“I’m so ugly.”
“Who else would want me?”
“Of course this is happening to me, why wouldn’t it?”
“I’m not good enough.”
“My product isn’t good enough to sell. I don’t want to sell something that isn’t perfect. It takes too long to make it perfect.”
“I have no idea where I’m headed in life.”
“People will make fun of me.”
“I wasn’t born with any kind of privileges. I didn’t come from a good family.”
“I have kids. What dreams? What purpose?”
“I want to start this new product line, but, who would want what I have to sell?”
“Nothing is ever going to change. This is my life until I die.”
“My insecurities cause me to view myself as less than. But I am smart.”
“I really just want to die.”

Fear and shame permeate this list. This breaks my heart because every single statement was uttered by an amazingly talented and beautiful person and we are missing out on real fulfillment.

One of the reason’s I love shows like American Idol and The Voice is that it highlights the fact there is real talent lurking around every corner. Didn’t tears fill your eyes when Susan Boyle first sang, “I dreamed a dream” on Britain’s Got Talent?

A plain farm girl with no formal training brought the house down with a voice she was created to use. Her voice is a gift that was given to her—not to keep, but to share—and that makes our heart sing as well. When we are in the presence of a person who is doing what they were created to do, when they are operating in their sweet spot, it’s an out-of-this-world-experience.

And when you hear your favorite artist hit a high note, or your favorite band blend into magical harmony, or you see a craftsman build or create something or witness a philanthropist donating time or resources or you experience a person who has overcome tremendous odds to achieve or you watch your favorite team win the National Title with their third-string quarterback—doesn’t that make your heart resonate with the hallelujah chorus? Aren’t you filled with unexplained emotion at that moment?

Why am I asking this question? Why do I keep writing posts about fear and shame and boundaries and pretense and character and co-dependency and insecurity and passive-aggressiveness? Because these behaviors are anchors; they hold us back from not only living our purpose but from being real and having real relationships that last.

If we refuse to let go of our fears and insecurities (shame), our gifts and dreams die out and they do not have the chance to make a positive impact on the world. We can actually miss our purpose for being here. We are then unfulfilled and our relationships suffer.

If we are intentional about our lives, instead of passively letting things come down the pike, everything changes. We have to believe we are worthy, that we have been given gifts to share, and that there is a God who loves us who has given us a purpose.

I’ve poured through a large amount of resources to help untangle the chaos, to live with intention, to begin building and living a legacy before it’s my turn to go. I don’t want to miss my destiny. We all have one. And I don’t want you to miss yours either.

Many of the organizations and programs that I have used, that I trust, and that are safe and solid places to learn and grow are listed on the resources page on my website. Books will be added soon.

At my funeral, I don’t want people to simply acknowledge I was here. I hope people will say that I learned how to be real, that I made a difference, large or small, and that I loved God so that I could love others with my gifts with intention and purpose.

–Tara Schiro is the author of “No Arms, No Legs, No Problem,” the inspirational memoir of Bronze-Medal Paralympian, Bob Lujano, NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon, Ingram Spark, and Barnes & Noble. www.TaraSchiro.com