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Zedric Noah Teague “In a Sentimental Mood”

Performance at the Omega Psi Phi Talent Hunt, Sigma Mu Mu Chapter

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Dreams, Interrupted

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Last night, I had a dream that I was boarding a plane to the Bahamas.  Out of all of the family vacations I took when I was young, I had the absolute best time there.  I remember staring out into the ocean, thinking that I’d never seen water so blue.  Since then, I’ve often dreamed of going there, but it’s interesting.  In my dreams, the final destination of the beautiful Bahamas, is always interrupted and ruined by all that it would take to get there.

I never actually get to the Bahamas in my dreams.  Something always happens in the plane, stopping me from getting there.  I think that, subconsciously, I’m always thinking about how much I hated that little plane we took, flying over the endless ocean.  Again, last night I tossed and turned, imagining that the plane started going down because of the weight of my family’s bags—I know, crazy!  I woke up, thankful that my family and I weren’t on that plane headed down.  In my dreams and in real life, I haven’t made it back to the Bahamas because I’ve been too terrified of the flight there.  This really has me thinking a lot about how we can stop ourselves from even achieving our dreams if we focus on the “what ifs” of getting there.

Writing my second novel was much more difficult that the first.  While I wrote the first story, I had no expectations, really, except to write the story that I had in my heart.  At first, I was just writing the story for fun, never even imaging that it could be published.  I was totally free to write—free of agendas and expectations.  All of that changed with the second story.  I got bogged down, thinking about what would sell, who would buy the story, and how would it connect with readers.  As a result, it was a stifling experience at some points.  It also took me longer to write.  I kept thinking, “What if I’m writing this for nothing?  What if nobody is interested in this?”

Of course, this type of thinking is, for the most part, unproductive.  While we might all question ourselves and it isn’t always negative, part of achieving our dreams has to do with letting go.  We have to let go of the stifling limitations and short expectations that others have put on us, and especially the ones that we have put on ourselves.  When I really think about what’s stopped me from having written at least ten books by now, I know that the answer is—drumroll—me!

If you’re like me, and you’ve been dreaming about achieving something, but you get stuck on the whys, hows, wheres, and whens, try to stop yourself.  Breathe.  Pray about it, and then, write your vision down.  Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.”  These steps have been so important for me.  There’s something special about writing a thing down—even if you’re not a writer.

After you write down your dream, don’t allow negativity to destroy what God has given you.  The enemy doesn’t want us to be fruitful, but God is for us.  We have to be the ones to focus on the goal and not the obstacles.  People have told me how horrible the climate is right now for Christian fiction and I’ve waded through quite a bit of disappointments, but I know what God has given me to do.  It’s just up to me to continue to do it until my change comes.

As I write my third novel, I’ve been experiencing a freedom, knowing that it’s not up to me to get all the details worked out beforehand.  It’s up to me to refuse to allow fear of failure, rejection, or negativity stop me from doing what I’ve been called to do.

It pains me to hear about people who have dreams but are too afraid to go for it.  We have to refuse to allow Satan to stop our productivity.  We can’t allow him to stop us from having joy and spreading it others.  When we realize our dreams, we are happier and able to share our joy with others.  Of course, this is infectious when we our motives are pure and right. When we experience the joy of achieving our dreams in spite of challenges, we want others to do the same—with no limits on what God can do!

As for my future trip to the Bahamas, I’m going to write my vision down.  I’m not going to focus on the fear of the plane going down or air turbulence.  I’d much rather focus on laying on the beach with the warm sand beneath my feet, sunny sky in view and crystal, clear waters in the distance.  When my time comes to board the plane, trust me, I’m going to be ready—in Jesus’ name!

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What Needs to be Said

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As one who generally always avoids conflict, it’s difficult when those rare times come when I am compelled to confront an issue with someone.  I usually do all that I can to bypass a potential disagreement because, like most, I thrive in a drama free existence.  Yet, I’m recognizing that sometimes the almost exact situations that I’ve previously avoided with one person will circle back around to a totally different person.  Finally, I’ve figured out that maybe God is trying to work some things out in me.  Not all of the time, but sometimes, the risk of speaking up is worth the potential fall-out.  If you’re like me, and you’d rather suffer in silence, believing that it’s the Christian thing to do, you might want to reassess what your motivation is for not addressing a situation.

First of all, things always must be done decently and in order, remembering the importance of using God’s wisdom in all interactions with others.  It’s unwise and harmful to shoot off at the mouth, saying whatever we feel and why.  It’s dangerous to speak without regard for others’ feelings and without really thoughtfully thinking through the consequences.  James 1:19-20 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Being led by the Holy Spirit is crucial when it comes to tackling difficult situation and problems.  That being said, God will not make us confront an issue.  He gives us the choice, and in the end, it’s up to us. 

I realize that the word confront has all sorts of negative connotations.  However, by confrontation, I just mean facing an issue, and not with malicious or hostile intent.  While confrontation seems to ignite a fire in some, others, like me, cringe inside at the thought and will do just about anything to avoid potential conflict.

As I prayerfully consider whether an issue needs to be addressed or not, I’ve found it helpful to ask myself if I’m avoiding it because I don’t want to risk ruining a relationship.  Is whatever is bothering me really worth severing ties with the person?  In other words, is it really that important?  I also ask myself if I’m avoiding an issue because of how it might make me feel if I speak up, instead of saying what is right or what needs to be done.  For example, if someone is being negative and hurtful to themselves or others, chances are, the best thing to do is to discuss the issue with the person.  If we make the choice not to address the issue out of fear about the outcome, it may not be the best choice, especially if we have to live or work for or with this type of person.  The stress of not addressing the hard things can sometimes far outweigh the actual act of doing something about it.

Once we speak up, confident that we are speaking with the love of Christ empowering us and not from our emotions, we can rest knowing that even if our words aren’t received well, we have done our part.  If our words are accepted, of course, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that addressing the problem was effective.  Either way though, tackling the giant of fear, is worth the risk when there is an issue that needs to be confronted.

Recently, I confronted an issue that needed to be addressed and the outcome wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.  Afterwards, I questioned and doubted myself, but inside, I know that I said what needed to be said, how it needed to be said.  As a result, the only regret that I have is that the person didn’t respond the way that I had hoped.  I feel better knowing that I said what needed to be said.

Many verses, such as in Proverbs 17:28 when it instructs, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent,” remind us of the importance of keeping quiet and measuring our words carefully.  In fact, Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”  We have to be confident that what we are saying is not being said to prove our superiority or ‘rightness,’ but it’s being said, rooted in our love and care for our person, in hopes of a good outcome.  Being led by the Spirit with the right motive is of the utmost importance because again, regardless of the outcome, we won’t have any regrets.

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” We have to really be led to know how we should confront issues, but usually a soft, kind approach is best.  Even in doing this, some won’t respond well, but we have to remember another scripture in Ephesians 4:29 telling us, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  Even when we are met with opposition and unkind words, we are instructed to only say things that build up, remembering never to tear down in retaliation.

When our motivation to say what needs to be said is not out of any selfish ambition or motives, but instead comes from a pure place, grounded in our love for God and His people, we can stand in the face of a negative response.  We can know that we’ve done all we can do to help and improve our relationships and situations with others.  Although we are called to be compassionate, loving, and kind-hearted, we are also called to be honest, courageous, and bold, recognizing the need to say what needs to be said when the time arises.