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A Feature Review of
Starting Something New: Spiritual Direction for Your God-Given Dream
Paperback:IVP Books, 2015
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Reviewed by Tiffany Malloy
I remember the first time I made bread from scratch. I remember emptying the tablespoon of yeast granules into a cup of warm water, stirring it gently, and watching the water begin to fizz and bubble. Soon enough, my bare hands became caked with the sticky dough as I mixed the fizzing yeasty water into the dry ingredients. After much squashing and kneading, everything was good and thoroughly mixed so I covered the bowl with a kitchen towel and set the bowl atop a slightly warmed oven. The directions said I now needed to wait and let the yeast do its thing.
A few hours later I lifted up the towel, peeked my nose into the bowl and was delightfully surprised by the huge mound of fluffy dough that replaced the much smaller one that had been there just moments ago (okay, not really moments, but I was chasing 4 kids all morning. Time goes by quickly in my life). I laughed out loud and thought, Amazing.
Just as the yeast needed some time to work through the dough to do what it was supposed to do, sometimes our God-given dreams need time for a different kind of yeast- a Holy Spirit yeast- to work in us and through us.
In her book, Starting Something New: Spiritual Direction for Your God-Given Dream, author and spiritual director Beth Booram shares guidance and wisdom to people who are somewhere in the process of birthing a God-given dream. Booram uses her own story of founding Sustainable Faith Indy, an urban retreat center in Indianapolis, as a backdrop for leading people through the winding process- the prayers, the questions, the doubts, the setbacks- and hopefully, eventually, the flourishing of the dream itself.
The book is divided into three major sections: Discerning a God-Given Dream, Shaping a God-Given Dream, and Birthing a God-Given Dream. In each, Booram walks us through a portion of the dreaming process offering stories of others who have already walked the path of realizing a God-given dream, Scripture to help shape our understanding of God’s work inside of us, and questions to help us sense the presence and promptings of God.
The stories she tells are of real men and women who have courageously and prayerfully seen this process through. For instance, Abby is a woman who opened a pro-bono legal clinic in her neighborhood, assisting low income families with immigration, housing, tax and family law. We also discover Chris, whose desire for community living ultimately led him to an intentional, Kingdom-focused community where Englewood Review of Books was born (I know, right?!). In another section, we explore how Suzy’s dream of helping care for orphans came to fruition after meeting a like-hearted woman who would team together with her to form Hands of Hope Adoption and Orphan Care Ministry.
Very early in the book, Booram differentiates between dreams and calling. While very similar, there is an important distinction. She understands calling as “an overarching life passion and purpose” while God-given dreams are “specific application or step[s] toward living out one’s calling (17).” Why does it matter? She intends the process and questions she offers throughout the book to apply to the latter.
I think one of the hardest things about pursuing a dream- the kind that keeps me up at night and the one I find my prayers keep coming back to- is figuring out if it’s all just my own idea or if it’s something that God is birthing inside of me. Doors open, doors close. An idea I thought would be received with open arms is given mere lip service. Do I keep pushing forward? Do I go back to the drawing board?
“The demanding journey of bringing a dream to life requires persistent courage and conviction because the path forward can be convoluted and the process confusing. In the midst of the milieu an important question often emerges: Is this dream really from God and for me?” (59)
While no book can answer that for us, Booram offers some excellent thoughts and questions to weigh while praying, discerning and naming the dream.
- What are you praying for earnestly these days? What prayers can you not help praying? (37)
- How do you envision God’s attitude or response to what you desperately desire? (37)
- Describe what you notice about yourself and your motives. (61)
- How would you describe your energy for this dream? What does this energy feel like? (61)