The Dream Giver

Lately, I’ve been trying to challenge myself with writing. I try to write or edit everyday so that I can make it a daily habit. After all, practice makes perfect. Or at least in my case, a little bit better. Another challenge is to make public the pieces that I know aren’t perfect. I struggle as a perfectionist and I’m hoping that this practice will open my mind to the process of becoming a writer. I can’t, I won’t ever be perfect. I wrote this poem this afternoon in a few minutes. Instead of picking it apart, I’m leaving it as it is. Raw. Please enjoy its oddities and let me know if you see how it can improve! I’m always open to critique.


The Dream Giver

Today I dreamed a dream that felt too big

My heart sped up just as I pondered it

With trembling hands I held it up to God

I longed to see, to hear just what He thought

With baited breath and head held low

I paused and listened for that dreaded “no”

But lifting up my chin

with nail-scarred hands

Love whispered to me

“Child, know ye not who I Am?”

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I am a Pathological Liar

I am a pathological liar.

       Every day, sometimes several times a day, I lie. I look into your eyes and, with a natural smile, create a sort of fiction. The reason: I know it’s what you want to hear. So to avoid bogging you down with the full weight of my truth, I kindly oblige in a myth.

Pathological Lying  

a behavior of habitual or compulsive lying.

I am a pathological liar and, chances are, you are too. Every day we are all asked the same question, in various forms by various people, usually with good intentions.

“How are you?”

It’s become so common that it’s no longer a question but a simple greeting. Our brains naturally equate it with words like “hey” or “hello”.

“Hey, how are you?”

“Hello , how are you doing today?”

These words flow automatically from our consciousness without the essential  implications and weightiness of the question. Many times, we respond within a second of the words being uttered. Sometimes, we take a moment, perhaps just a breath, to decide  whether or not we should tell the truth. Of course, in the end, we all revert to our instinctive and well-rehearsed lie:

“I’m good, thank you.”

“I’m doing well.”

“I’m great. And you?”

       Maybe this doesn’t relate to a lot of people. Maybe you are actually “doing well” most of the time. Maybe I’m a bit of a melodramatic with a negative mindset: someone who just needs to “think positive”. Whether I am or not, know that when I ask this three word question, I don’t want a one word answer.

I actually want to  know how you are.

If I ask you how you are, it’s because I care to know. Chances are, I’ve already looked in your eyes, noticed your body language and it has given me some sort of indication of the answer I expect from you. Chances are, if I thought you were “fine” or “good” or “blessed”, I just wouldn’t have asked. Don’t get me wrong – if you are all of these things, I’m happy for you, but when you’re not, I want to know why. I don’t want to sympathize with you.

sym·pa·thy

ˈsimpəTHē/

noun

feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.

I don’t want to pity you. I am asking for a chance to join you in empathy. Some days we may not be “great” or “good”. Some days we may not feel “blessed”(even though we are). It’s on those days, the ones that aren’t quite fine, that the vulnerability of empathy can heal us. There is a saying that tells us “misery loves company”. While this idiom comes with a lot of negative connotation, it bears a lot of truth. It is based on  this idea that, just because someone is unhappy, that person desires to drag others down to join them. Although this is sometimes true, I believe we can find more helpful meaning in this phrase.

       In science, the concept of conduction is common when considering energy, particularly heat energy,  transfer. Now, before you start snoring, hang in with me for a moment. The idea behind conduction is, when two objects meet and both are at different energy levels, they touch and the objects transfer energy until they reach equilibrium.

con·duc·tion

kənˈdəkSH(ə)n/

noun

the process by which heat or electricity is directly transmitted through a substance when there is a difference of temperature or of electrical potential between adjoining regions, without movement of the material.

An example of this is picking up a hot pan. When your hand touches the pan, your nerve endings sense the heat energy in the pan begin to transfer into your hand. Your brain wants to maintain the normal temperature of your body and instinctively draws your hand away from the pan. Through the process of conduction, heat energy would transfer from the higher gradient to the lower gradient until both temperatures were the same. In order to meet in the middle the pan would transfer half of the heat difference to the skin until they reached the same temperature. Consider this concept of conduction, this transfer of energy. Is that not similar to empathy?

em·pa·thy

ˈempəTHē/

noun

the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

       Often, sympathy is associated with compassion and love for another. Although care and concern are definitely necessary, sympathy is defined as a “feeling”, therefore  I would not equate sympathy with love because love does.

Jesus was “moved with compassion”. We are moved by what we love. We are challenged to act when we love. ( Matthew 9:36)

While a sympathetic person is willing to look on your “misfortune” and feel for you, an empathic person decides to share your “misfortune”, to feel with you. This is what makes empathy an “ability”.

       Psychologist Brené Brown once exemplified the difference between empathy and sympathy in this way:

Situation: A friend has fallen into a dark pit.

Sympathetic Response: You stand at the top of the pit and offer condolences.

Empathetic Response: You climb into the pit along with your friend and share in the discomfort.

While both sympathetic and empathetic responses reveal a person that cares, there’s a measure of vulnerability and self sacrifice that empathy reaches that sympathy can not touch. While sympathy offers to stand next to you, empathy offers to hold your hand. Empathy requires a greater bit of vulnerability; in the moment, we too are exposed to the pain that our loved one is facing. That is the main point of feeling empathetically; if we can share a loved one’s pain, perhaps we can decrease it, even if just a little. If we, as conductors, let someone transfer a bit of their hardship onto us, their load is lightened. This is the grandeur of human connection.

When we humans connect, we feel a safety that transcends the state of our being.

No matter what situation we are in, we are not alone, and because we are not alone we will be alright. This is the point of empathy. Empathy is the creation of human connection where a connection does not yet exist simply for the purpose of comforting one in pain.

If misery loves company, then love should become company to a loved one’s misery.

We ask and are asked this simple question every day: “How are you?” In these three words range a myriad of opportunities for human connection, for empathy… for love, but these opportunities are too often lost to the fear of vulnerability, the state of being vulnerable.

vul·ner·a·ble

ˈvəln(ə)rəb(ə)l/

adjective

susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.

We often avoid this question because of this fear of vulnerability. Perhaps we don’t want to open up. Perhaps we don’t trust the person asking. Perhaps we don’t think they really care to know. Whatever the reason, we rationalize in our minds until we believe the lie in our answer. We brush shoulders with the hurting and instead of reaching out and grabbing a hand, instead of hurting together, we confine ourselves to the solitude and “safety” of our own pain. We choose the security of isolation over the vulnerability of empathy.

I no longer wish to be a pathological liar.

I am a human conductor.

I love you.

Let me be the company of your misery.

And so that I am not a hypocrite, I will try my best to be honest and vulnerable with you, too.

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Swing Sets

     My favorite form of writing is poetry and April happens to be the National Month of Poetry. Therefore, I’ve decided to post my first poem on this blog. This particular poem was written at 4am one night when I couldn’t fall asleep. I’ve always been enchanted by swing sets for reasons I’ve never understood. I was at the park one day when I noticed swinging didn’t quite have the charm it once used to. As a child I was never so aware of my distance from the ground. I was never so conscious of the possibility of falling. I used to swing with reckless confidence, having no notion of danger or fear. I would get as high as I could. Often times so that I could jump off from the top. This, to me, was as close as I could get to actually flying. I was unaware of the ground. I only thought of those split seconds in midair. I only thought of flying. Somewhere along the way I came to the knowledge of my very real chance of falling. I stopped swinging as high as I could. I stopped jumping off of swing sets. I stopped being able to fly.

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Swing Sets

Can we, if just for a moment, go back to swing sets?
When knees were bruised instead of hearts

When we jumped
Never fell,
But always flew.
Before we fell for fear of falling,
a thing we never knew.

Before the laws of gravity applied,
When the ere of an heiress reigned in our gentle stride.

We were limitless,
Only bound by how high we chose to fly.
Nothing could stop us
Not the stars, not even the sky.


Oh, curse the day we grew aware
Our eyes opened, our ears able to hark.
Such painful irony

That when we saw the light,
We’d found the dark.

In consciousness our immortal hope
found its eternal grave,
When hero finally encountered that foul, treacherous knave.
His name being fear,
His intent being the same.
He lives within the mind
Making even strong men lame.

Thus our eyes were opened,
Finally, we saw the “truth”.
Our hearts were broken,
The day we fell from youth.
Through conscious sight we saw our dangerous world,
The seams of this fabricated dream tore, came unfurled.

Then with open chests and missing hearts
We walked and wept.
Forgetting the Lord
Whom thus far our souls had kept.
Aware, “enlightened”
Yet too dim to rise, to fight
We foresaw the waves of loss, crashing, growing in mountain-like height.
In cowardice indignation, we refused, we dared not swim
Dreading death, fearing failure, we rebelled to trust in Him.

Perhaps it’s only in mid air that we can sprout our wings
Flying, soaring, completely unconcerned with grown up things.
And maybe it’s only the blind,
Who can really see
For childlike faith ne’er doubts, but always willingly believes .

Can we, if just for a moment, go back to swing sets?
When we were chased by winds instead of fears,
The fear of failure ne’er touching our virgin ears.

Can we be blissful, once more, in our hope-filled ignorance?

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The God of Greater

        Every Christian, at one point or another, has had to “sacrifice” something to God. This “sacrifice” could entail the surrender of finance, a job, a relationship, a friendship, or any other life decision. We have had to “give up” something as a result of the Lord asking us to head our lives in a different direction.


sac·ri·fice

ˈsakrəˌfīs

  1.     an act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to God or to a divine or supernatural figure.

Recently in my own life, I’ve had to grow familiar with this word. I’ve had to learn how to surrender. A thing that I wanted so badly, when taken as petition to the Lord, was answered with a firm “no”. My humanity could not understand this. This thing was a GOOD thing. It was something that had enriched my life, challenged my Christian walk and even brought me closer to God.

But sometimes a good thing is not the RIGHT thing.

        Years prior to this moment I had made up my mind that no matter what the will of God was, no matter how contrary to my own desires, I would follow it to the best of my ability. Distraught and heartbroken, I walked away from the good, but wrong thing. In my heartfelt lamentations and prayers to God I recall, with no right I might add, asking God for a reason, for clarity on the answer He gave me. In my humanity, I reminded Him how good my good thing was, because clearly the God of all the universe had no idea. In my pathetic weeping a thought from the Lord popped into my mind:

“Will He not do greater?”

The notion stunned me out of my piteous state. I paused. After taking a few breaths and mulling this over, conviction poured into my heart. Of course He will.

He is the God of greater.

        God is in the business of doing GREATER. Although, I’d hardly consider the Lord business-savvy. If God’s supply was not as endless as it is, His grace and love would cause Him to go bankrupt; He makes a lot of unfair trades. He takes our ashes and replaces them with beauty. He takes five loaves and two fish and feeds a multitude. He’s a God that delights in doing “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). He delights in spoiling His children.

        Earlier, when I mentioned the word “sacrifice”, I used quotations because I hold a firm belief that:

Nothing I’ve ever given to God is a “sacrifice”. For everything I’ve placed in His hands He’s exchanged for greater.

If you are at a similar place in your walk with God, rest assured that no matter what your good is, whatever God has asked you to “sacrifice”, He is a God of greater. Anything you place in His hands, anything you surrender to Him, He will always replace with greater. Thinking on this, I couldn’t help but thank God for His grace. He could’ve let me have my good. He could’ve said “Fine. Have it your way. I’ll keep my greater.” But He’s a sympathetic god, a god moved by compassion. He understands that we don’t understand. Instead of allowing us to make our own poor decisions, He steps in and let’s His will be known.

        On my daily prayer list, one of the focuses I have written is:

Help me not be so focused on the temporal, the immediate, that I miss Your vision for my life.

I never want my misplaced focus, my lack of understanding, to keep me from fulfilling the will of God in my life. I never want my faithlessness to move me to do things my way.

His vision is greater than my sight.

        I was blessed to spend this past summer on AIM in Vienna, Austria. While I was there, Brother and Sister Shock, as well as their son Bradyn, came to help with a training seminar. In one of the sessions, Sister Shock spoke on the importance of obeying God’s word even before we completely understand “the why”.

“Obedience precedes revelation.”

– Sister Melani Shock

Eight months later, I still find myself recalling this sentiment. Sometimes God asks us to obey before He gives us the revelation or understanding of why we have to do what we’ve been asked. Sometimes the revelation, “the why”, comes at a later time and we have to trust God enough to obey anyways.

        We endanger our promises when we allow our human understanding to lead our actions. A prime example of this is the story of Abraham and Sarah. Abraham was told by God that his “seed” will be as numerous as the stars in the sky (Gen 15:2-5). After receiving this promise, Sarah is still barren. Taking matters into her own hands, she suggests that Abraham should conceive with her handmaid, Hagar. As a result, Hagar has a son named Ishmael. In the very next chapter, God promises Abraham and Sarah that they will bare a son named Isaac. Abraham and Sarah’s impatience created Ishmael. For the rest of his life Ishmael would get to watch Isaac live as “God’s chosen” while he, the technical first-born heir, is treated as the handmaid’s boy.

        Anytime I think of getting impatient with God about His promises this story quickens my spirit about the dangers of making my own way, of creating an Ishmael. Thankfully, God was gracious to Sarah and Abraham. He still allowed them to have their promise, Isaac, but for the rest of their lives Isaac and Ishmael were at odds with each other. Abraham, their father, had to helplessly watch the conflict that his impatience created.

God is faithful. His word is forever settled. His promises WILL come to pass.

Don’t force an Ishmael. An Isaac is coming.

        I am at peace knowing that my King will order my steps, correcting my missteps along the way. I trust God and His word that says He will work together all things for my good just because I love Him (Rom 8:28). I trust in His love for me. I have an amazing earthly father who loves me dearly. He works to bless me in every way he can. My baba loves to bring me joy. He loves to see me happy. He wants the very best for me. How much truer is this for my Heavenly Father?

I have faith in His promises.

I trust in His plan.

I don’t want my good, I want His greater.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:9

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.

1 Corinthians 2:9

I Am Becoming.

I am a lifelong antithesis.


An·tith·e·sis: anˈtiTHəsəs/

noun

  1. A person or thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something else.
  2. Direct contrast; opposition.

     An antithesis is a rhetorical device in which two opposite ideas are put together in a sentence to achieve a contrasting effect. One of the greatest examples of the rhetorical use of antithesis would be from the classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

     On this Earth I live in a continual state of contradiction, being both flesh and spirit. As long as my spirit is robed in flesh, this juxtaposition continues. There will come a day when I will be freed of this Earthly garment, but, until then,

I am a lifelong antithesis.

My spirit lives in disagreement with my flesh. My flesh lives in defiance of my spirit. My fickle heart grows weary as it is torn between the two. It waits, in limbo, for a decision to be made.


So which wins?

      Propaganda, a Christian hip-hop rapper, is one of my favorite artists. I use the word “artist” very intentionally because everything he does is truly artistic and poetic in nature. I was scrolling through my Instagram feed one day and I noticed that “Prop”, as he sometimes refers to himself, was working on a book. As a lover of literature and words, this was extremely exciting! Not only was it a book, but it was my favorite form of literature: poetry. I couldn’t wait to order this masterpiece, convinced that it was sure to be nothing short of poetic genius. I clicked on the link he posted and followed it to the site of his project, “I Am Becoming”.

I Am Becoming.

     That phrase resonated with me in a way no phrase ever had before. It hit home. As a 20 year old sophomore in college fighting to establish myself in this world, I found myself thinking, “ I’m not there, yet. I’m not where I want to be. I’m nowhere close to who I want to be, but slowly, surely, I am becoming.” I had never heard a more fitting phrase to express exactly what I had been telling myself so often. Being the perfectionist that I am, I have a hard time with the idea of “becoming”. “Becoming” elicits an expectation of the long road that lies before me. The word is filled with hope, yet unsatisfying. I do not want to “become”. I want to BE. I want to BE spiritual. I want to BE prayerful. I want to BE wise. Today. Now. I do not want to wait. I do not want to struggle through. I do not want to “become”. Still, there is such power in that word: becoming.


Be·com·ing: bəˈkəmiNG/

noun

1.the process of coming to be something or of passing into a state.


     There was the answer I was searching for and yet dreading to hear. “Becoming” is how I am to achieve my passage into the state I so desire to live in: the spiritual. In the very definition of the word “becoming” is the word “process”.


Proc·ess: ˈpräˌses,ˈprōˌses/

noun

  1. a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.

 


     The simple question, “which wins?” when considering the battle between spirit and flesh has been answered throughout the course of time as “whichever you feed”. It’s very logical to think that whatever you feed will grow and whatever you starve will die; however, the key is to remember that becoming is a process. Every day, with every “action”, every “step”, you grow closer to meeting your “end”. This very idea is what Paul was referring to when he said “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). This is how we become so that one day we may BE.

      This blog is an invitation for a front row seat to my “process”. I am a lover of words; I am a writer. As a writer, I believe that life consists of  intangible beauties that are both inexplicable and indefinable, too complex to encompass in the languages of men. Yet I feel a deep desire,  a burdensome yet exhilarating responsibility, to express these intangibles in tangible ways. I believe that it is when we stop trying to understand ourselves and the lives we live that we become disenchanted by our world. I believe that, if one seeks and yearns to see beauty, they will find it interwoven in the very fabrics and primitive hierarchies of their everyday lives. Like many aspiring young writers, I long to explain the inexplicable and define the indefinable. I want my words to be your words, his words, her words, and their words. More than just an organization of syllables, I want them to be a set of truths working harmoniously to express. I want my words, our words, to soothe the soul even while chilling the bones. I want to capture the soul’s cries, but even more so I want to discover its almost-silent whispers. If one person can identify with just one line of my writing then I consider every minute, every hour, every day I’ve spent pouring over these words a success. If, for one moment, for one second in the grand scheme of time, I helped someone feel the kindrance of understanding, then I’ve done what every writer has ever sought to do.

      As a Christian, my life is devoted to becoming, to reaching the perfection of Christ. The prophet Paul referred to this journey as a “race” and a “fight” (2 Timothy 4:7). I want every step I take to be in His direction. I want every word I say to sound increasingly like His voice. When people enter my presence, I want them to feel the same peace and love they feel in the presence of the Lord.

I am not there yet, but I am becoming.

I am a lifelong antithesis.

This is my process.