Becoming Lazarus

January 8th, 2018

With the New Year, there is much talk of goals and resolutions. #NewYearNewMe is trending. But what about the dreams and desires we have held onto for decades? 

I started Love In A Big World as a non-profit organization back in 1996. As a small non-profit, we ran strong on a shoe-string budget for thirteen years, positively impacting kids, schools and communities with the message of character education. Then in 2008 when the recession hit, our funding bottomed out. Money was redirected to basic needs organizations, helping families and communities with food and shelter. At the same time, I was going through a divorce. My world had fallen apart in a matter of months. I was devastated. 

In 2009, as we wrapped up our work with the non-profit, I made the decision to apply for graduate school for my Master’s in Education. Attending Peabody at Vanderbilt in 2010 as a single mom of three kids was one of the best decisions of my life. Not only did I benefit from a top-notch education, but I was surrounded by people who encouraged me to dream. 

Although friends and family asked me about Love In A Big World, I wasn’t ready to pick up the work again. I was still dealing with what I perceived to be personal and professional failure. I began to explore the entrepreneurial community in Nashville, and with the support of generous business mentors acquired my “street MBA”.  They taught me much about the differences between non-profits and for-profits and how to strategize for a success.

One day in 2014 as I was sitting at work with a healthcare technology start-up, I gave myself permission to acknowledge my passion for kids, education and social and emotional learning. Not long after that I was working on staff at the Center for Safe & Supportive Schools at Vanderbilt, where my learning and research on school culture and climate continued through hands-on experience. 

Fast forward, Love In A Big World has been relaunched with curriculum, professional development and live events. The vision God gave me over twenty years ago for empowering kids to know, be and show love in their big world still burns in my heart. The team and I are closer than ever before to seeing that dream realized, but there is quite a lot of work to be done. 

This morning I was reading the story of Jesus and Lazarus in John 11. Amidst the anguish of family and friends over the loss of their beloved, Jesus stands at the tomb of Lazarus and demands, “Lazarus, come out! (verse 43)”. The dead man came hopping out of the tomb with his hands and feet still bound in the grave clothes. “Untie him and let him go,” Jesus told the bystanders (verse 44). 

How many times have I heard my Savior calling me out of the depths of despair, out of the gloom of the grave and into new life? His voice has awakened new hope in me, challenging me to dream again with Him. I believe each one of us is fashioned to live our God-given purpose. Our job is to join our faith with His plan and say, “Yes”. 

Just as Lazarus needed his family and friends to “untie him and let him go”, we need our community of faith to set us free. We cannot live this life alone; we cannot accomplish the purposes of God alone, either. We need intentional interaction, conversation and prayer with our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers in the family of God.

I believe one of the challenges before us in 2018 is to be brave enough to look at the dead places in our hearts — the long-forgotten dreams and desires that have brought much pain — and say “Yes” to Jesus as He calls us, through the voices of those we do life with, out of darkness and into light. As we are free, we, in turn, can bring others to freedom, including our kids.

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