Be careful what you pray for..

The last couple of weeks, a theme that I’ve been running across in my devotional time has been the need to be quiet after praying in order to actually make room for God to speak to us.

To me, theoretically, this made sense.

I mean, in no other conversation in my life do I speak incessantly for a couple minutes then turn around and jet off to do something else.

Every other relationship requires a steady back and forth of ideas, thoughts, hopes, and fears. Only in my relationship with God do I find myself constantly bombarding him with a laundry list of requests, questions, emotional status updates, and then turning on a podcast and wondering why he remains silent.

This week I got the opportunity to travel away from home and my normal routines for a work trip.

Because of the different age groups in the line of work, I found some of the conference to be somewhat isolating. Even worse was when I got back to my lodgings. I found that nothing greeted me at my abode but the sound of a ticking mechanical clock that hung over the double doors to my bedroom.

I can literally hear the seconds march by.

round silver colored wall clock
Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

This silence filled me with unease at first. It felt unnatural.

Initially, I tried to fill it with social media. That worked for a while. Eventually even the infinite scroll of beautiful places and faces was not novel enough to distract me.

Then I tried Netflix. I made it through a season of an intriguing show or two before I felt boredom and an unsettledness invade my streaming habit.

Eventually I hit the wrong button on the remote and seemingly nixed the TV’s internet connection. My friends were already in bed in a different time zone. The coffee from the conference lingered in my bloodstream, keeping me alert as I watched the minute hand  sweep the roman numerals on the clock face.

I was left alone, awake, and in silence.

Somewhere in this process I realized that I was not just trying to entertain myself – I was  also avoiding, not just silence, but stillness.

I finally capitulated. I pushed my phone away from me. Turned off the television and I laid in the bed and allowed my mind space and time to hear from God.

Discomfort with stillness became more comfortable.

Soon, thoughts bubbled up from somewhere deep inside and led me to tackle and complete a sermon topic that had laid unfinished for longer than I was comfortable with. Even more important than finishing this project was the comfort in knowing that God had been waiting to talk to me.

It was comforting knowing that although He wouldn’t yell above the noise He would always find a way to whisper into the void in my heart. A God-shaped space that is always yearning for something more fulfilling than the newest Netflix original series.

The previous weeks, I had been praying for God to speak to me. Little did I know that He had been speaking to me the whole time. He had probably been praying for me to be quiet enough to hear him. I’m grateful that He forced me to slow down and be quiet, and yes, be uncomfortable until I could discover Him.

I still have some time before the din and noise of regular life resumes.

I’m hoping that I can make the most of the quiet by not making the most of every moment.

Fly or Fall,

OFO

Uncomfortable Conversations.

What’s the most difficult conversation that you need to have?

Do you need to save more money? Stop self-sabotaging yourself in relationships? Stop dating people who remind you of painful relationships? Stop dating potential? Start saving for retirement? Go back to school? Be more trustworthy? Be more disciplined? Be less rigid and more relaxed with the people who love you?

Maybe you suspect that some or one of these things may apply to you but you can’t be certain.

Things get a lot more simple when we’re trying to figure out what physical appearance we’re presenting to the  world.

We simply find a quality mirror.

How do we do that with the internal blemishes that we aren’t even aware are there?

You have to create room for friend-mirror’s.

You have to invite people into your life that are empowered to give you bad news in a way that’s not malevolent or aimed at creating pain but to inform and encourage change.

I had this conversation recently with my girlfriend when she commented that there are certain truths that I wouldn’t be able to hear from certain family members.

 

I bristled at that comment at first, protesting that of course any member of my family could give me bad news about myself.

When I stopped to think about it – she was definitely right.

There are certain topics that it would be hard for my younger siblings to talk to me about.

And not so much hard for them to tell me as it would be hard for me to listen.

And I mean really listen.

Take-it-to-heart -&-figure-out-how-I-should-change listen.

..

In a sense I’ve made it so that the people with the best mirrors who are close to me can’t use them.

I think I’m going to work on making space so that the people in my life can speak and I hear.

Fly or Fall.

OFO

 

 

I got some good news.

And I’m very thankful to God.

He’s been good to me in ways that I’ve yet to come to terms with.

I’m learning how to be more vulnerable.

I’m learning how to recognize fear and move forward regardless.

I’m learning how to love.

I’m learning what my triggers are.

I’m learning.

I’m growing.

I’m grateful.

-OFO

 

Growth

“Growth only occurs in a state of discomfort.”

“Complexity is nothing more than changed order”

I was listening to a great ted talk – about how discomfort is the siamese twin of growth. And how comfort is the true enemy.

It’s really made it clear to me that the growth i’m searching for is hidden behind tackling new challenges.

I’m going to look for ways to switch things up and find new complexity this week.

OFO

Blind.

This is less a post for other people and more of a reminder for my future self.

The last couple of days have been eye-opening.

I’ve been stumbling across example after example of the limits of my reason. Most of these examples have involved watching the run-on sentence of thoughts that elucidate on the risks vs. benefits of a particular decision.

Its also making me realize how many amazing (but risky) things I’ve avoided because my brain has rationalized the opportunity away.

The ability of my brain to explain why I shouldn’t do something is absolutely astonishing. I’m been blown away by how solid, how real, and how rational the explanations I’d been giving myself have seemed. I have also been realizing that if I sit with the emotions and try not to react negatively (and give the fear life) the emotional storms eventually fade away like morning mist in July.

woman with blindfold
Photo by Bruno Feitosa on Pexels.com

I’m finding out that in certain situations – it might be better to be blind. 

Finding out that my brain is capable of such subterfuge has effectively reconfigured the way I need to look at the world. Being that my brain acts as my primary sensory organ, this realization is the equivalent of finding out my eyes have been deceiving me.

If I was blind – at least I wouldn’t be fooled into thinking I was right.

Now I’m trying to figure out the best way to move forward.

How do you move forward when you find out your eyes are lying to you?

I’m thinking the answer may have something to do with Faith (and walking sticks).

Fly or Fall

OFO

 

 

Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

-Jeremiah 17:9

The last couple weeks I’ve seen wild swings in my feelings.

Wild Swings.

people riding on swing rides under gray sky
Photo by Isabelle Taylor on Pexels.com

It’s made me realize that I really don’t know what drives my emotions and even worse, in certain situations, I can’t really trust my emotions.

Fear can hijack my emotions and leave me moving in a direction that I don’t want to simply because I can’t see the underlying motive.

It’s crazy.

What’s been interesting is that in this particular sphere of life, I’m learning to live more on faith. I’m suppressing the voice in my head that seems to be “logical” but is really just fear parading around with my voice.

Instead I’m having to trust God/the Universe to guide me and to take anything out of my path that I don’t need.

I’m thinking that I’m going to try to do more of this conscious living by faith and stop depending so much on the logical part of my brain.

Lord help me.

OFO

Pressure.

I recently had a long talk with a good friend about some of my concerns surrounding commitment.

Something about having to spend everyday with someone for the rest of your life, with no route of escape, makes me shiver a bit inside.

He thought that some of my fear might be related to the pressure that comes with making a lifelong commitment to someone else. He says that pressure is going to produce some stress, and what it squeezes out of me may not always be pretty.

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So I’m trying to come to terms with the maelstrom of emotions inside and trying to tease out what is healthy and real, and what is fear.

It. aint. easy.

Also, there is this concept I just ran across – courtesy of this blog that talks about the limits of knowledge and thus the limit of reason. Being that logic operates on the back of our available knowledge – we must not forget how much we don’t know.

The fact that we actually know so little should give us pause as we try to “engineer” our lives.

For me this is super important because my primary sensory organ is my brain. I try to slice the world up into digestible pieces and avoid anything that doesn’t intellectually make sense. Not only that, I tend to be VERY dismissive of things or people who operate from a framework that uses anything other than logic as a basis.

This is perhaps short-sighted. Maybe not in the realm of things like Vaccines or breakfast cereals but perhaps in the wider world of human interactions, love, etc.

In those fields, logic may not reign supreme. You might need to lean on things like faith, hope, and trust.

working it out.

-OFO

 

B-HAG

What’s your BHAG this year?

And no I’m not talking about your momma.

BHAG is a term I think I came across when reading about Harvard Business School (HBS).

What does it stand for?

Big. Hairy. Audacious. Goal.

I’ve started (hopefully) a new habit of writing weekly priorities to conquer at the start of every week. The first week went swimmingly, and I knocked out my list before the end of the week. Now I’m here at week 2 and realizing that I don’t have a cumulative goal for this week.

Even more troubling, I don’t have an overarching goal for the year.

This is a problem.

Not a world-changing problem. Maybe not even a lose sleep problem but a problem nonetheless.

Not having a long-term goal that I’m applying daily pressure to is short-sighted.

I think it may be time to revisit some of the bigger goals that I’ve given up on in the past and see if there are ways to make something shake.

BHAG, Here I come!

-Okenna

Making it up (as you go) & Risk.

I’m approaching the mid-point of my thirties this year.

And I have no idea what I’m doing. Still.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve accomplished a good bit. And I have a semi-idea of how to proceed to make sure the lights stay on. To make sure that I can afford to feed and clothe myself.

Went to school. Got the doctorate. Did the training after school. Got the “dream” job.

And yet,

I look into the horizon and I sometimes feel like the thing that I most need is the exact opposite of what’s in front of me.

people playing baseball
Photo by Lino Khim Medrina on Pexels.com

The older you get the more that the world tries to imply that you should avoid discomfort and risk. We look down at people who are still figuring it out publicly at an older age. The 40 year old rapper is admired by exactly zero people. And while I can’t comment on the viability of that plan, I can say that I admire people who are willing to swing wildly, enthusiastically and intently at life.

I grew up in a immigrant household, whose whole life was built on decreasing the amount of risk that was inherent in their decision to leave their home country and build stable lives in America.

They tried to decrease any tendency towards risk-taking by encouraging all of us to take “stable” jobs in “stable” industries. As we are all finding out, the future is no respecter of the past. Change is happening so fast, there is no guarantee that the stable jobs of yesteryear will continue into the next decade.

Also, somewhat unrelatedly,

Risk is a part of life.

I think this pressure to avoid risk is what slowly kills men in relationships.

I’m not advocating for unnecessary and unsafe risk. But, I am confident that men die inside if the opportunity for adventure is stolen from them.

And it may not be actively taken, it may be something that we give up because we think the people who surround us are asking us to give up that part of ourselves.

There has to be a way to ensure that adventure remains a part of our lives.

Let me speak for myself.

I know I need to find ways to challenge myself daily, weekly, yearly.

fly or fall,

OFO

Love for me.

Love for me feels like:

What would you fill the blank with?

I’ve been thinking a lot about love.

About love and how my childhood shaped the way I look at love.

I grew up the first son of two African parents.

In African households (or at least mine) – the first son is often like a third parent. Caring for their siblings early as they can, doing errands around the house, being responsible.

So for me, love feels like responsibility.

Usually when people say they love me, it means they require something from me.

I’m working on figuring out how to redefine this for myself.

It’s not easy.

Wish me luck.

OFO