What I Know (The Hurt and The Healer).

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As we grow up, we start to lose a sense of wonder. For me, at least, I think losing my dad at fifteen was one of those things that shattered my already fading notion that the world is some perfect place made up of fairy tales, and unicorns. The thing about growing up is that you never really feel any older. You remember going to things when you were six or seven and now you’re 22 and wonder where the time went. I grew up going to church. In fact, some of my fondest memories as a kid, besides going to Disney World religiously and the love I felt from my grandpa- were those Sunday services. Now, my mom would have to drag me to church on Sunday since I was and probably never will be a morning person, but I love her for it now more than ever. I think it’s interesting how Jesus describes the process of rebirth in the Bible. It’s interesting how Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night so he doesn’t have to feel ashamed. Christianity doesn’t tell one that one has to be perfect or without blemish. It simply requires one to make a recognition out of humility and love that we were never as perfect or as holy as we thought we were, to “Confess with your mouth that Jesus is LORD and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:9-10).

C.S. Lewis once wrote- “No man knows how bad he is until he has tried really hard to be good.https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/99392-no-man-knows-how-bad-he-is-till-he-has

This whole notion that’s really popular today in a lot of circles that “we’re all very good people” so there is no hell and God must love us is simply a feel-good theology designed for maximum clicks and leverage.

It is also quite a shame that some think their salvation can be bought or paid for, as Jesus has already paid that price and made this very clear: ” I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes through the father except through me.” (John 14:6).https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+14%3A6&version=NIV

Trying to buy your salvation via money or other goods is like trying to buy someone’s affection or true love. You can’t.

The good news is Jesus laid down His life so we could live ours in freedom and humility.

That’s perhaps why a prideful Christian is not only an oxymoron- it’s something that cannot exist in the Kingdom of God. Pride destroys relationships and builds a false sense of security. Combine this with money? Well, that’s a lethal and potent combination.

“Again, I tell you- it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” -Matthew 19:24

The Weight of Brokenness

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I moved this past year from an on-campus dorm to an apartment. It’s nice. Nice amenities. Nice location, but somehow I look at the niceness of this place in comparison to the brokenness that is surrounding me and start to wonder a simple, yet seemingly profound question: How would this environment change if people knew the true source of love? Now, I see parties with girls going into houses and I wonder- what will they encounter there? Would I feel 100% at ease if it was my daughter going into those houses? Probably not. Paradoxically, in a search for more belonging and meaning they encounter more hurt. This, of course, is because true meaning and love can only come from knowing the source of that meaning and love. The world is full of placebos and false-promises. Just do this and you’ll be satisfied! Just try this and you’ll belong.

Friend, there is only one person in which you can achieve your full-identity and self-worth in.

His name is Jesus. The Jesus who knew you before you were born. The Jesus who still knows you inside and out. He knows you’re not perfect. He knows you’ll never be perfect. You don’t have to be. He lived the life that you and I could never had lived- all so that we could be set free from our sins and past vices.

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“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.””
‭‭John‬ ‭4:13-26‬ ‭ESV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/59/jhn.4.13-26.esv

Come to The River- Housefires

To The One Searching

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To the one who’s searching,

I see you. I know you. I empathize with your pain and the deep inner longing that you have for something more. I’m telling you this because I was you. I see the Instagram posts and Snapchat stories filled with alcohol, loud music, and the rooms filled with other like-minded people looking to have a good time. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with having a good time, but if I had to bet, I’d bet that the alcohol, partying, and sex that almost always follows are all placebos in your search for true meaning and belonging. We all want fulfillment and go through different ways of trying to find that fulfillment. I was you. I remember the feeling of desperately wanting love, attention, and a sense of fulfillment that nothing from this earth could quench.

You wake up from your hangover and possibly in a stranger’s bed with the stark realization that nothing you did the night prior propelled you forward in your quest for fulfillment in belonging. If anything, you’re still stuck at square one.

The answer to your search and your brokenness is Jesus.

You may have heard about him through church or your Christian friends, but I want to challenge you to personally make the first move and ask Him to reveal himself to you.

When Jesus does reveal himself to you, I promise you that you’ll be blown away at what you discover. He was here for you all along. He didn’t judge you for your past mistakes, but instead waited while you tried every other thing besides Him. He doesn’t love you less because of your sins, he loves you in spite of them.

He doesn’t want to be a Sunday thing, he wants to be your everything.

The thing about Christians are that we are just as broken as anyone else. The difference is that we have the answer to our brokenness.

Revelation 3:20 says this,

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

What’s stopping you from answering the door?

A Night In “Rehabilitation”

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I would like to preface this piece with several things. First, this is something that really occurred in my life and is in no way fictionalized or exaggerated. It’s taken me a long time to process what occurred in my life five years ago, but I have come to a point of forgiveness and grace for how I was treated. I am in no way trying to make others feel sorry or take pity on me. I am merely publishing my treatment and my account as it exactly happened. Sometimes, or well, all the time- the truth is the simplest explanation.

In many ways, this night helped to steer the course of my life in a radically different, yet radically beautiful direction.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quite waters, he refreshes my soul. Even though I walk through The darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever.” – Psalm 23

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I was acutely and ravingly psychotic. My blood sugar was rising, I feel my eyes blurring, and my head starts to pound. I am here for help, but I am not receiving it. I was without sleep for a week, a stressed-out high school student worried about exams and girls. I thought I’d be fine, but everyone needs sleep. My mind blurring reality and fiction together, I start pacing frantically around the halls of this “mental health facility” in my hometown of Raleigh. I was taken back to where the patients were, and I saw a group of people in a room with hospital gowns on and looks of complete and utter despair. I had never seen this before, and my mind, already sleep-deprived and in a precarious state, starts to tell me that these people are actors. I repeat this several times out loud, and some thought it to be amusing. Two security guards each laughing at me. They take my phone and place it in a baggy. They tell me to untie my shoelaces and give it to them. They jokingly give me their ID’s when I ask who they are. They let me see them and continue to joke around.I need insulin. I repeatedly beg for my insulin kit. I heard someone say to get my insulin kit from my mom in the next room, but I assume this was either unheard or ignored. I am livid. Both acutely aware that my blood sugar is soaring and my grip on reality is fading- I grow angrier. The two security guards keep laughing, telling the nurse jokingly that I think there are listening devices in everyone’s ears. I did say this, and my mind did believe it at the time. I suppose that I expected wouldn’t be laughed at and mocked for saying it. In my darkest and most trepid time of need, I was failed by a mental health facility that should’ve known better. It’s 2019 now. I’m working towards two degrees at the school of my dreams. It turned out to be OK, but I wish I didn’t have to experience what I did. Too often, we compartmentalize emotional and mental health They are interdependent. There is no shame in asking for help. There is no shame in getting treatment. What is shameful though, is the current state of mental healthcare in our country. For a time in 2014, I experienced the brokenness of the system. I pray that no one has to experience anything remotely similar.

The Prodigal Son (Searching, But Not Quite There).

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This is the second part in a series I’m starting on my blog. I hope this insight into my walk with the LORD will prove valuable and insightful. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

I remember when I first stepped foot on campus at Carolina as a student. It was last year, and as a transfer student in particular, I was thrilled to get my first taste of real college life. No more community college. Not that I hated Wake Tech at all, but I just found the social scene to be lacking. I had only been through the 10th grade in high school before medically withdrawing and earning a GED, so the very fact that I even got into Carolina was nothing short of a miracle.

I soon forgot about this miracle, however. I joined a Christian organization on campus and loved going to Bible study and the people I met there. I loved the genuine conversations I’d have with the new connections I made on campus late at night. I loved all of it. But, there was still a large part of me that hadn’t given into Jesus. I had plenty of head knowledge of God’s word from growing up in church. However, it never really sank into the depths of my heart. I would go out, meet girls, and feel a rush of excitement and optimism. I felt I belonged here. I do belong here. But, you see, the problem lies in the fact that I used other people and emotions to try and find a sense of belonging. The girls would come and go. It’d be an exhilarating rush of emotions- only to end up at the end heartbroken and wondering what I did wrong.

This was millennial life, I would sheepishly tell myself. No real commitments. Just one night stands. Swipe right. Swipe left. They’re just faces. It was all a game. She’s hot, she’s not. Slowly, I’d use this logic to devalue and place women in a bubble. It’s OK. I’m a guy. I mean, this is what everyone else is doing, right? Emotions and the other person be damned- as long as it was “fun” and consensual. It’s just sex. It’s not like it’s cocaine or heroine. After all, sex is natural, right? Sure it is. In fact, God made sex. To try and shame sex and to describe it in a way that makes it taboo does a disservice to God. The problem is this- sex was designed specifically for those in marriage. Now, this isn’t a popular opinion.

The argument against this goes something like this, “Well, if two people love each other and are in a consensual relationship, what’s wrong with expressing that love sexually?”

I won’t go into the Christian viewpoint in-depth regarding this yet, but I will say I think each one of us knows in the depths of our souls that sex isn’t merely some cavalier thing that a lot of people, particularly in my generation, treat it as.

Needless to say, I was enjoying myself at UNC, but I always felt like there had to be something more. I mean, seriously? This is it? This is what everybody raves about in college? Drinking and girls? Maybe I’m just doing it wrong. Nope. I was sick of myself. I was tired of the letdowns. The confusion. The mixed emotions. This isn’t as fun as it was all made out to be. I once heard a pastor say, “Sin gets an A for marketing and an F for results.” Yep, I had fallen for the marketing trick. The beauty, however, is there’s a key to your heart that is no gimmick or letdown. He doesn’t promise a life full of leisure or pleasure, but He does promise an unconditional and unwavering love. A love that only He can provide. He is, after all, the maker of you and me. Who would know us better than the one who created us?

Continue reading “The Prodigal Son (Searching, But Not Quite There).”

The Prodigal Son (To Walk With Him)

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I’m releasing a series in several parts that I hope will be useful to everyone who reads it.

Below is a part of my story from darkness to light. I will be continuing this series for quite some time.

If you ask me how I know the Gospel’s real, it’s because I’ve experienced it and felt it in a personal and real way. And when I say personal and real way, I’m not talking about the way you know someone on a first name basis. I’m talking about the intimate kind of way two lovers or friends know each other. This sort of intimacy takes time, of course, but with that time it brings deep attachment and trust. This is the sort of relationship God desires with you. We are all sinners trapped on a desert of sorts. We may come across a slight puddle every now or then, but in the end we recognize it does nothing to quench the undeniable thirst that is within each of us. We all want to feel completely vulnerable. We all want to feel completely loved. That is a basic human desire. Now, what tends to happen is that we look at the the Bible or church and we simply see all of these rules. “Well, that’s no fun.” Would be a natural response to going to a lot of churches nowadays. Too often, churches are focused on the bad instead of the good. They think that by highlighting the darkness somehow humans will come into the light. However, doing this tends to have the opposite effect. As Martin Luther King Jr once wrote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” And yes, part of true love is pointing out someone’s obvious flaws. Wait, what? This is completely different from the kind of “love” we see today. Not only does Paul acknowledge his weakness, he invites it in and makes a home for it in a sense. God told Paul essentially that his power would be even more perfected through his weaknesses. Not because of them. With this in mind, here’s a snippet of the first entry.

There was always the truth. I knew it deep down. I just never grabbed ahold of it and ran with it. I spent my time as a believer, but as a believer in the mere name of Jesus. I knew the man- or so I thought. But as one might expect, there’s a real difference between knowing someone in name and truly knowing them. Sure, I was at the point where I knew Jesus truly existed and was most likely God, but every excruciating inch of flesh resisted. Think of it. How many churches exist and preach the same Bible that most every American is now accustomed with? In the south, where I’m from, their are too many to count. However, look at the fruit of this. The South ranks nearly bottom in every quality of living poll. Just because a place has plenty of Churches doesn’t mean God is an everyday part of people’s lives. In fact, churches without the Gospel are some of the worst establishments to exist. At its core, the church should be a place of community, growth, and fellowship.

A Church without God is not a church. It’s like having an Oreo without the cream. It simply cannot happen. Who is this God, then? Because there are plenty of God’s out there- and they don’t even have to be of the deity type. At its core, a God can simply be thought of as something that aims to offer fulfillment and longing without any negative side effects. However, there is something very different about this religion we call Christianity. It doesn’t promise a life of pleasure, comfort, or any real sense of permanent safety. What does it offer? It offers, as a promise- that Jesus, the son of God and God himself, will never leave us or forsake us.

Uber Adventures: Recapping My Short, Brief, All-Too Crazy Time as an Uber Driver

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I remember my first ride like it was yesterday. It was a 2-minute pick-up from my house, and as I left the house in a dizzying rush of excitement and nervousness I haphazardly called out to my mom, “See you later!” The very prospect of sitting around and driving people for decent money was alluring to say the least. I would be my own boss and pick up my own hours. I wouldn’t be another cog in the system. I could stick it to the man. Little did I know, the man was about to stick it to me.

Don’t get me wrong; it started out fine enough. It was late July, and I enjoyed driving in my air-conditioned Corolla. The first few rides were nerve-racking and scary, but soon enough, I had let my guard down enough to allow any stranger into my car. All I had to rely on was a face and a name. My next passenger could have very well been a serial killer or rapist, but they paid for me to drive them from point A to point B, so I didn’t really let that slightly troubling potential prospect bother me. I’m in college. I don’t have an extravagant amount of money. I need to be able to eat Chick-fil-A on a somewhat regular basis. If I can get paid to drive and I can get the occasional tip? Perfect. Where my passengers are going to or what their purposes are for going there should be irrelevant to me. Three-hundred rides in and this mindset worked well enough for me.

My last ride, however; was one I will never forget and one that will be charred into the depths of my imagination forever. It all started on New Year’s Eve. It was in downtown Raleigh. The pedestrian foot traffic was through the roof. Sensing a prime money-making opportunity, I excitedly entered my mobile office with dreams of a big payday, and all of the potential things that money could buy me. Little did I know my dreams would turn into heartbreak and that night would be one of the scariest of my life. This is a true story and is a small glimmer of what a lot of Uber drivers have to deal with on a daily basis! So unless you’re driver smells or is rude to you, please do tip your driver!

The notification popped up on my phone screen. “Mike” was in need of pickup and I was only five minutes away. I was excited. This was going to be the first ride in a long-line of rides to come. I quickly navigated downtown Raleigh’s streets and ended up at a bar. I parked outside and indicated in the app that I arrived. Soon, I see a man come stumbling out of the bar and towards my car. I internally start to panic inside. He comes up and opens the passenger side door. He states his name in the unmistakable manner of intoxication. I smell the alcohol coming from his breath. I confirm his destination. It’s in Durham. Shi*, I think to myself. I have twenty minutes at least with this guy merely a couple of inches away from me. It starts out fine enough. I make my way towards the interstate with this man in a drunken stupor. He is somewhat asleep, somewhat babbling incoherently. I’m speeding to try to get there. The sooner I can get him out of my car, the better. Then, chaos erupts.

He starts to unbuckle his seatbelt. “What the fu** are you doing?” I exclaim. I don’t normally curse, especially at passengers, but my insides were panicking. I was in full fight or flight mode. “Unbuckle your seatbelt; we are going to get craaazy!” He retorts. “No the hell we’re not!” I desperately replied. I’ve watched Dateline NBC. I know how this could end. Thankfully, he puts his seatbelt back on, and I try to use the pseudo-psychology skills that I’ve learned from Dr. Phil to the test. I start to ask him questions and try to keep him talking and focused on himself. Keep in mind this is happening on the interstate, so I have no margin for error. I am going 60+mph. If I screw up or lose control of the car, we both die. I didn’t want to be on the local news forever to be known as the Uber driver who crashed into a guardrail. Calm and steady, I think to myself. We are almost there. I arrive at the drop-off location, and he doesn’t know where the house is. He tells me to stop the car so he can search for his phone. He’s having trouble finding it. He gets out of the car and starts to go towards the back of the vehicle. I put the pedal to the metal and book it out of there. The door is still fully ajar. It closes itself thanks to me putting my full foot on the accelerator. But wait, there’s more. I look over at his seat, and it’s damp. It has the faint but unmistakable scent of human urine. I call Uber and inform them of the pissy events that just transpired. I was awarded a $150 cleaning fee. Thank you, Uber support, for that very generous gift.

I nearly lost my life that night and had my seat urinated in, but hey, I was $150 richer.

$150 can buy a lot of chicken nuggets.

A Day at the Lake

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“How are you? She asked in that typical drawn- out southern way that I have grown to love over the years.

“Just fine, ma’am,” I replied. I was trying my best to feign a southern accent, but I’m pretty sure she could tell I was a city slicker at heart. We had stopped at a convenience store on our way up to the lake, and as I walked in I was greeted by her. Navigating around the store and basking in the cold air, I look around to see all of the various snacks and items. Oatmeal cookies, crackers, and even live fishing bait. He was done filling up the car, so I hurriedly walked back out to the parking lot and hopped in.

In many ways, rural North Carolina is like its own little world. Being from the city, it’d be easy to dismiss this place as backward or redneck, but truth be told there is something uniquely raw and real about the rural parts of NC. There are generations of farmers, tobacco, and the like. Driving down those country roads to the lake, I start to see all sorts of fields and little white houses. There are kids and their families sitting out by the porch, and I wonder what stories they would tell if given the chance to.

After arriving at the lake, we quickly launch the boat in and head out on the lake. The breeze in your hair, being surrounded by still water, and the smell of freshwater somehow tames yet reinvigorates your soul at the same time. It is dinner time now. We won’t be eating catfish today, but those turkey sandwiches that we have a love-hate relationship with.

The sun is going down. It is cooler now. The sky starts to turn a brilliant hue of red and pink. It’s a shame we have to leave, I think to myself. Life must go on, though. It sure does seem like life goes on a little slower up here. We walk back to the car and make our way back to the city and its hustle and bustle.

For a few hours, it sure was nice to escape the trappings of city life.

Until next time.

I’m an Immigrant (And You are Too).

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It was a beautiful California day. The sun was shining through the clouds, making the cool, crisp, weather at the sign declaring the entrance to Redwoods National Forest almost dreamlike. As we pulled into the pit stop to take a picture at the sign, an elderly woman walking up with her phone came into view. Seizing an opportunity for someone to take our photo, we eagerly inquired if she’d be willing to take our photo. She obliged, as she wanted someone to take her photo as well. While exchanging the usual pleasantries, there was something she said that has grown increasingly troubling in my heart. We told her we started at San Diego and ended up at the Redwoods- planning to go another several hundred miles up the coast before we reached Oregon.

“Did you leave San Diego to escape the immigrants? She jokingly asked. I let out a nervous chuckle before tersely replying, “We’re all immigrants.”

We ended up getting our picture taken and saying our farewells, but I want to touch on a few things that made this statement so troubling to me.

First off, the statement implies that their is something inherently wrong with immigrants that would cause someone to want to pack up their belongings and flee from them.

Secondly, when one uses such a broad brush by asking if we are fleeing “the immigrants” it begs the question, which immigrants were she referring to? I’m assuming that since we said we departed from San Diego, she was referencing those of a Hispanic culture and background. However, unless this woman was native American, which she clearly wasn’t, she’d have to be an immigrant as well.

I’m starting to realize that this is how xenophobia, racism, and other forms of bigotry fester. Someone says something racist or xenophobic as a “joke” and then no one calls them out on it. Left alone and unencumbered, racism, xenophobia, and other forms of bigotry will only fester. To see or hear racism or bigotry in any of its forms and not condone it is simply a silent endorsement of it. We’ve seen throughout history the impact that ignorance, scapegoating, racism, and bigotry have had.

The question now becomes- will we learn from our collective history to avoid repeating it, or will America have to endure tougher scars in the future?

So my full answer now to the woman who asked me if I left San Diego to escape the immigrants is simply this: We are all immigrants. To simply ignore or chose to forget about this fact is simply ignorance. At its best, America is a place of unmatched opportunity and promise for those who are willing to work hard, follow the rules, and incorporate themselves into our society. I don’t ever want to escape from immigrants. I want to welcome them. I want to invite them in and show them what makes America so special. I hope one day you feel the same way too. After all, you wouldn’t be here today if someone hadn’t given your ancestors a chance at America.

E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many, One.

Imperfectly Perfect

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I think there’s a certain beauty that comes from brokenness, an ascertainment of what’s important and what’s not that very often comes from a place of pain and brokenness. To a certain extent, we’re all broken to varying degrees. It’s to be expected, after all. I mean we are merely humans. However, that doesn’t stop some people from trying their best to tell themselves otherwise. I’m convinced that one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is: that person has it all together. No, nobody has it all together. What you’re seeing is somebody who’s frantically trying their best to act like they have it all together. We’ve become masters at this balancing act. We tell ourselves that something must be wrong with us if we have an off day. We love to compare achievements and accomplishments, seemingly neglecting to realize that we are all individuals who were each made with our own unique gifts, talents, and purposes. We’re not going to succeed at everything we put our mind to, but it still helps to give a decent effort and to at least try before resorting to giving up. I refuse to subscribe to the idea that there are accidents in life, that some things are just the result of some random process completely and entirely out of our control. Yes, sometimes terrible things happen to good people, and it is useless to try and derive some meaning or explanation as to why it happened. However, by and large, life operates by individual choices and decisions. There may be some things that are out of our control, but it doesn’t mean that we should just give up and go wherever the wind blows. This life was made with no do-overs or second chance opportunities. The tragedy of life lies in not being intentional in one’s time and interactions with other people. The nature of this life leads to no guarantee of a tomorrow, no assurance that we will be able to tell the people we care about how we honestly feel about them. Instead of resolutions for 2019, I’ve been meditating on a few words that I want to define the year. Intentional is definitely a leader on that list.

How would your life look different if you were intentional about every interaction/moment in your life?

—- B

This Christmas Season: Lessons in Retail and Uber

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I was at the Target I used to work at the other day returning various items, and I could not help but notice some familiar faces in the check-out lanes. The recognizable faces were few and far between, as the nature of the retail business often lends itself to high turnover rates. However, I couldn’t help but think of the completely obvious yet often forgotten thought that these people are human beings too. I forget that sometimes. Maybe it’s consumerism and a culture that pushes products and material goods over intrinsic value and connection. Or perhaps it’s just the fact that we’re all too busy doing whatever it is that we deem important to take time out of our day and recognize that the retail worker, just like everyone else, is a human being too. On similar lines, I’ve been driving Uber for the past couple of months as a way to bring in some income while on a hiatus away from Chapel Hill. I enjoy the people, for the most part, however, there are some who clearly just see me as there Uber driver and not as Brooks- a human being with likes and interest just like everyone else. I guess what I’m saying is that small gestures matter. The simple, “Hey, how are you?” Or just not being impatient and showing kindness truly does go a long way. The longer I drive for Uber the more I realize just how much the small things really matter. The trip could be five minutes or forty, but regardless gestures of gratitude and kindness are always appreciated, perhaps even more so than the cash tip. This Christmas, let us remember that most everyone is fighting an unknown battle and has their own set of struggles and worries.

How Stroke Struck My Family

On January 4th, 2004 my life flipped upside down. I was merely a kid, unaware of what was happening, but that turned out to be the day where nothing would ever be the same. That was the day my dad had a massive stroke, a day that will forever live in infamy. It started out normal enough, but as my dad left the house and went to the grocery store, he could tell something was wrong. He kept dropping his grocery list, and when he arrived home, he told my mom what was happening. They eventually decided to go to the hospital, and I vividly remember looking out the window of my house and seeing my dad and mom hop into the car. Little did I know however, that was the last time I would see my dad in a normal state.

The next time I saw him, he was in urgent care with tubes all over him and desperately fighting for his life.

He survived, and spent months in the hospital relearning how to do the once simple tasks he took for granted.

The stroke had left him completely paralyzed on the entire left side of his body, and with significant brain damage.

Gone was the dad I once knew, replaced with someone almost unrecognizable.

This dad had verbal outbursts, and would often get angry over trivial things. This dad could no longer play with his sons, or help them with homework. 

This dad required 24/7 care and support, and was hardly even a dad anymore, at least in the normal sense of the word.

When I was fifteen, I would later get a call telling me that my dad was dying, and that I needed to take the next plane out to Tennessee if I ever wanted to see him again.

He died as I held his hand, and I can still hear the sound of his breath growing shallower and shallower, until it stopped.

This all happened because of a stroke, something that was a random and unfortunate occurrence, and just so happened to choose my dad.

I guess I’m sharing my story in hopes that others can see just how devastating the effects of stroke can be, and to bring more awareness to the victims and survivors of strokes.

If you or anyone you know has been personally effected by a stroke, hang in there. Have faith that tomorrow will be better, and that the best days are still yet to come.

Stroke might make some things harder, but there are still things that are possible.

Here’s a picture of my family before my dad’s stroke:

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Reflections on Life and Death

Dying doesn’t really scare me anymore. It used to, but I’ve seen enough of it to know that everyone must go on at some point or another. What scares me is not really getting to fully live, to experience life to the fullest extent possible. As I write this in the very room my dad died in, I can’t help but to remember the events in this room that occurred while he was on his death bed. I was merely a kid back then, with no real clue of the value of life. Sitting beside him and holding his hand, I began to somewhat comprehend the true value of life. I began to understand that this life is the one chance we get on this earth to make an impact, and that it’s up to each and everyone of us to live a life with meaning and purpose.It’s funny how we go through everyday life and rarely take the time to think about the things that truly matter, as we are too busy doing this and that. But then in the end, some of us realize that we spent our whole lives never really living, merely going through the motions.

I don’t want to come to that conclusion at the end of my life. I want to have loved well. I want to have given more than I took. I want to be able to truly say I have no regrets, and that I spent my time here to the fullest extent possible.

Holidays and Loss

It was nearing 9:30PM, and I had only a few more minutes before I finished my dinner and headed back to work. It was dark, and as I stepped outside, I was suddenly surrounded by Christmas music and the lights from the recently lit Christmas tree. I made my way over to Starbucks to get a better view of the tree, and to gather my thoughts. I spoke out loud now, softly, almost in a gentle whisper. 

“I’m so sorry, Dad. It shouldn’t be like this, you know? I love you.” Those were seemingly the only words I could utter, in what seemed like eternity. Staring at those lights, listening to Christmas music, I found myself desperately wishing that my dad could be there, that I could say one final thing to him. That would never be enough of course, but it was all that I could hope for.

There’s something about the holidays that makes grief stronger. Maybe it’s the Christmas music, the way everything is lit up in a beautiful way, or maybe it’s just the fact that during these special times when we gather with family, there will always be an empty chair there to remind us of what we are missing.

I’d like to think that this is going to get better with time, that somewhow this pain is going to subside over time, but I seriously doubt that’s going to happen.

In the meantime, it’s time to take in to account all the things that I do have, and all the family members that are still around.

After all, one day they simply won’t be anymore.


Reflections on CPAC 2017

CPAC 2017 is now officially over, and as I sit here trying to digest all that I’ve taken in over the last couple of days, I keep returning to the same few thoughts. One, the conservative movement seems to have completely bought into what Donald Trump is selling, which is sad for some reasons. Two, every time I want to start liking Donald Trump, he does or says something that reminds me why I never have nor probably never will like President Trump.

Yesterday as President Trump spoke, he went on a ten-minute tirade about the fake media and news. He then went on to say that “Nobody loves the First Amendment more than me.” He says this, and then just today I read where he’s skipping The White House Correspondence Dinner and has banned several media outlets from his press briefings. Keep in mind that Sean Spicer, his Press Secretary, has said in the past that he would not ban the press and that doing so is something a “dictator” would do. So yes, that’s hypocrisy to the max.

I then listened to Education Secretary Betsy Devos talk about how there’s no such thing as a “free lunch,” but I guess she forgot about how millions of students receive free and reduced lunches.

Finally, there was Scott Pruitt, who says that those who want to kill the EPA are “justified.” Mind you, this is the very agency he leads, so I’ll let you think about that one.

In short, CPAC was a very eye opening and thought provoking experience. Donald Trump seems to have hijacked the  GOP and conservative movement, and it seems as if no one is willing to stand up to his hypocrisy and dangerous rhetoric.

Let me be clear: Donald Trump is not a conservative, and he never will be one. He is a con artist, someone who is obsessed with himself and his image.

This is no Ronald Reagan.

This is a President who desperately wants to be king.

What Easter Means

For far too many, Easter simply means a chance at free chocolate and a visit by the Easter bunny. However, Easter is so much more than that, and one would be gravely mistaken to just treat it as just another holiday, because it’s not. Easter is so much more than chocolate and Easter eggs, Easter has real meaning. Easter represents one man’s conquering of death, so all of us can have life. Easter is a time to recognize a greater love, one that knew no bounds. It’s a love that caused a flawless Savior to be nailed to a cross, only to rise again three days later. It’s a love so revolutionary, so unlike anyone has ever seen, that it completely flipped the world upside down. It’s in times like these, when death seemingly abounds and suffering seems endless, that we must remember this love. We must remember that death, although hard beyond measure, is not permanent.

Easter reminds us that love conquers all, and that death is only temporary.

Now that is something to be thankful for.