I had a birthday last week, complete with feeling amazingly celebrated by friends, family and colleagues and I am so grateful.  But some birthdays fall hard (especially on a person who is a strategist and futurist) on the terrain of life.  Am I going to make it up the proverbial, over-simplified hill we call “fulfilling my destiny” in time?  Will I be too tired from the jagged climb to plant the flag of life victory? One ponders these things on a birthday, resolving to keep an open ear to the Spirit’s inner adjustments.  It might not always load immediately, but encouragement is always on its way!

Last night while watching American Idol (and please know we are shameless in our fan-ship of this current incarnation of this show), a gloriously unusual contestant did a cover in his own special way of the late Jim Croce’s song, “I’ve Got a Name”–one which I know  by heart from my past, but hadn’t thought of in perhaps a decade. Like the voice of an old friend, the lyrics seemed to be calling out something of my 20-something self.  Each of the verses:  I’ve got a name; I’ve got a song; and I’ve got a dream.. are statements of commitment to live life staying in your own beautiful God-ordained lane, and then the chorus kicks in with, “moving me down the highway…moving me on so life won’t pass me by.”  This song has everything for this moment in my life–connecting honest emotion (he desire to be strongly still “in the race”) with the sense of recommitment to the name, song and dreams that are uniquely you! It was just what I needed and, to quote Jim, I welled up with the renewed courage he expressed in the line: “If it gets me nowhere; I’ll go there proud!”

But there was one line in particular that beckoned me deeper, offering wisdom beyond mere encouragement!  It points to the culprit we each face in the discouragement we encounter:  “They can change their minds, but they can’t change me…I’ve got a dream…”  Dreams are powerful when we hold them directly in front of the Creator who inspired them!  Dreams are life-giving when they wrap our identity around a destiny that is so perfectly matched we must declare we were born for this!  Dreams are enduring energy meant to power us through the hard times because they link us to a realm where purpose trumps pain!  And all of this works unless we start listening to the bad press our dreams attract and let people–the proverbial “they” of the song–who did NOT author the dream in the first place–tell us why they are impossible or of little value!

I was taught that it was arrogant blindly ignore other people’s opinions–especially my elders in the faith.  I respect wisdom and history and others in the body and still believe this principle.  However I have also learned the contrasting value of what William Butler Yeats said: “But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

You’ve got a name; you’ve got a song and you’ve got a dream–those are each reflections of YOU being made in God’s good image.  (As well as a lifetime quest provided for you!) No matter how dim they grow, they cannot be removed from you. And now and then, birthday or not, you just might have to shake yourself and warn your critics to TREAD SOFTLY!  And if that doesn’t work, just go ahead and go full Jagger and sing, “Hey, you, got off of my cloud!!!”  Your identity is tied to your destiny and both are worth contending for in this life each and every day and year.