Tag Archives: change

Mapping The Dotted Lines of Life

Brooklyn 1949
1949 Brooklyn by NuVue Studio

There’s a map of Brooklyn (and the greater NYC vicinity) on a wall in my apartment.  At first glance this map is ordinary with one exception: it’s old and from 1949.

Someone might glance over this map and say “oh, it’s interesting” not giving it a second glance, letting it fall into the background of an otherwise typical Brooklyn apartment.

And yet everyday I find myself enamored by this map.

Not only does the historic nature capture my mind but the details that the map contains keep me coming back to it day after day.

If you’re familiar in any way with Brooklyn and New York City you see all the familiar points of reference – Coney Island, Prospect Park, Atlantic Avenue, Borough Hall, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, the airports and the like – everything that would be on a map of New York City today.

But if you look closely you’ll see differences that only come with the passage of 60 years:

  • Some neighborhoods have disappeared, been renamed, or engulfed by others.
  • Street names are slightly different – some completely unfamiliar.
  • Train lines are present but you realize that there are no subway lines noted.
  • The famed JFK airport is known simply as N.Y. International Airport.
  • Floyd Bennett Field is a large focal point on Brooklyn’s southern exposure.

The most telling difference, though, is found in the City’s highway system.  Parkways reigned in 1949, even within the city limits, and the Eisenhower Interstate System had yet to take shape (both locally and nationally).  Most of the major highways as we know them were still being dreamed of throughout New York City.

On the map there are a series of dotted lines with these notations:

  • ‘Tunnel Under Construction’
  • ‘Proposed Connecting Highway’

The Battery Tunnel didn’t fully exist when this map was made.  The BQE – a now critical artery – was but a proposed idea in a city planner’s mind.  Other major roads are not even noted because they weren’t even conceived of at that early point in 1949.

Many features that shape our City’s landscape were thought of as mere dotted lines in 1949.

But yet now we can’t imagine a map without these critical transit components.

I realize everyday looking at this map of 1949 Brooklyn/NYC that it largely reflects my life as it is but not how I necessarily view it.

I have an imprint of what my life is in my mind.  I know what the past was because I’ve endured and experienced it.  And I have separate, sometimes grandiose ideas of the future that sort of guide me.  But these internalized maps are separated from one another, the dotted lines of proposed features in my life are vague when transposed on the map of my reality.

Not that I don’t have dreams and hopes for the future – I very much do – but there’s a part of my mind that doesn’t connect the future with the present.

The maps of our lives include three rigid views: the past, the present, and the future.  Very few of us, I believe, know how to live with dotted lines to connect our present with our future while retaining an honest and helpful vision of our past.  Unlike the city planner and mapmaker from 1949, we’ve lost the ability to preserve the present and still dream big dramatic changes to our current landscapes with realism and action.

Perhaps this is because dotted lines are tentative – they aren’t real.  They represent a best guess at what’s possible in the future.

2014 is not a time in which we easily or readily accept the intangible nature of dotted lines.

Dotted lines can change.  But dotted lines help us be dreamers of a future that isn’t yet realized.  They help us put on the map of the present not only what is currently changing but they help us make sense of a new landscape to come.

The truth is that in 10-20-30 years the map of my life won’t look the same as it is today.  Truth be told, even more, my idea now of the future won’t ever be the utopian desire I have in my mind.

It will be something better – something real – something that blends past, present and future.

What would it look like if we started putting dotted lines on our current map and we throw away the rigid map of a completely altered future?

Maybe we put these dotted lines down where our faith gets a little shaky and we start to understand what it means to be led blindly.

Maybe we put these lines down for our hopes and dreams – giving them a sense of purpose now instead of waiting for them to come down the road.

Maybe we document the changing landscape of our lives if only to show our future selves where we came from (the good and the bad) and where we have the potential to go.

Make a stake on the future with the full reality of the present.

Things will change as they always do and there’s no way to account for the unknown but maybe, just maybe, the dotted lines of our dreams that we build on today’s foundation will become a roadmap to our future reality.

Time will tell as we adjust our maps based on the ever changing present reality but let’s make a stake on our current lives and our current circumstances for the future.

Let’s be dreamers and walk together on the dotted lines of life.

The Angels’ Song

There in the beginning, did you hear the sound of darkness?
There in the beginning, did you hear the angels sing?

In the beauty of  creation, in God’s mighty hand

He was formed and envisioned, to be our one salvation

He lived a life of righteousness

You gave us your love

There in the beginning, did you sense the fall of darkness?
There in the beginning, did you sense the angels’ pain?

At the time of salvation, we nailed Him to a cross

His blood and spirit poured onto the earth you created

We broke our promises and turned our backs

Yet He showed us love

Now at the beginning, do you see the new sun dawning?
Now at the beginning, do you hear the angels’ song?

At the time of darkness, in our lonely state

You remind us of your promises;
in resurrection you’re here to stay

You give us hope and meaning

And in this we find your love

Were you there in the beginning when the angels sang?
Did you hear the angels singing? Do you hear the angels’ song?

We accept the image you gave us setting aside our selfishness

In the beauty of your creation, we are formed and molded

Surrendered to your love

Surrendered to your love

Half Built Walls

As I write this I’m looking out the window of a coffee shop in my neighborhood at a building being built.  It’s about half completed and it looks ugly.

Some walls haven’t been completely built.  There are no finishing aspects such as windows, air conditioner units, or landscaping.  Floors are visibly unfinished with wall studs open to the outdoor elements.  Construction debris litters the ground.  The exterior of the building is partially covered in ugly gray stone that clearly doesn’t look right and should be rethought by the design team.

I pass this building on my daily commute twice a day and every time I see it I wish they would tear it down and restart their efforts or at worst abandon the project altogether.

With cranes, scaffolding, and other sore sights this building could as easily be a dilapidated building as a brand new construction.  I can draw only two conclusions of the finished state by looking at what I see:

  1. I could be completely right and the building could be a complete architectural fiasco.  Much like this finished architectural anomaly on 23rd Street.
  2. I could be wrong and it could turn out to be a well designed and visually pleasing building that will add beauty and purpose to my daily commute forever and ever and ever.

Maybe that second opinion was slightly over the top but the fact remains that I can only see what I see.  I’m not the designer nor am I the architect with the master plans.  Moreover, I have a vision of what it could be that may or may not line up with the final outcome.

Seasons of renewal and transformation bring points of this important architecture critique (OK, it’s really fairly trivial, right?) to bear in my personal life.  These are the seasons where things are moving and changing, the times of life where I feel most uncomfortable because I am dealing with the tug of war in my heart, with my faith, in my being.  It’s the place of personal importance where I play critic to a process that is not entirely mine.  It’s the place where I want to give up pain for fleeting pleasure.

It’s the tug of war between something being made out of nothing.  It’s about change versus the status quo.  The moments where beliefs are being formed where nothing existed before.

I want to pass judgement, I want to make hasty changes, and most of all I want to believe that my opinion about my current state is in actuality fact.  The truth is that during these times of my life I have very little idea of up from down, let alone the prowess to critique my current state.

When I look at the past, I can see that growth comes often in a messy, chaotic, and disorganized form.

However, when I look at the present I want life to be ideal and orderly – most definitely without complications.

God knows we are broken vessels but from day one he has striven for us to live more fully and completely.  He is the architect and the designer of our lives.  He, not me, holds the vision of the final product – every intricate change, every minute adjustment, and every moment of growth.  Don’t be fooled by the sometimes cliche movement of God’s work.  When you look at the course of human history he has spent more time participating in the formation of mankind than any other endeavor.

Embrace the messy.

These seasons are painful because they challenge me to surrender control in areas that I would rather not.

They hold a bigger vision than what I can see.

Maybe the moment that everything click comes after this season or after the next or even at the end of a lifetime of seasons.  No matter when, today’s moment is worth it because one day you’ll look at it and see the beauty created under such unsuspecting circumstances.

The mess and disorder – the pain and chaos – in our lives might well be indicators of something beautiful, something profoundly important still to come.

Let’s Do This Together

If any of us are truly serious about bringing God’s love and hope to this world, we need to first get over ourselves and then join hands building something together. The only way to create true change is doing it together, putting aside our selfish ambitions – in relationships, at work, in our churches, in our communities, in our hearts, with God…

The only true way to bring effective change is through the denial of the self and embracing the radical concept of community.

One person can maybe make a dent but can you imagine what could be accomplished when we face the difficulties in this world together and not alone?

I need you and you need me.

Believe it – God gave us all different gifts and skills to leverage against one another – I think there was that one piece of wisdom saying “let iron sharpen iron”.  We’ve spent so much time believing that this is about what “I” can do for me and not about what “We” can do for others that the focus of our lives has become deformed, maligned, and malformed.

 

We were not made to encounter life alone.  Change will not be found unless we’re in it together.  We cannot approach God’s kingdom unless we join with him and with each other bringing love and grace to this broken world.

 

Stop trying to be a super-man and start being a brother – a sister, picking the other up so both can be destined for success.

This world is not our alone – the responsibility is shared and the work must be done together.  Let me start – what can I do for you?

A Flopping Fish, A Storyteller No Less

I’m great at creating content.  I love to talk; I thrive on conversations.

Whether it’s writing, talking, or something else I’m decent storyteller.

It’s what lies at the ends of the conversation, story, blog post, or relational encounter where I have trouble.

I’m terrible at starting or completing a thought – so I hold back and each time a part of my heart dies.

 

At the beginning and in the end, I struggle.  I don’t just have trouble – I flounder, I stutter – I’m like a fish flopping on the parched surface gasping for air.

I’m the guy that ends a conversation the long way rather than the short way.  I’m that awkward guy who’s looking for an opportunity to live out loud but punctuates the beginnings and ends so horribly that inside it feels like fingers scratching a blackboard.

I hold back often times because I don’t always know how to start.

 

I share this because I’ve noticed this is probably a more common thread in more people than admit it.  We focus on the things that hold us back than the things that move us forward.

We don’t pray not because we don’t know what to say but because its hard to articulate our thoughts in a way that feels yet worthy.

We put relationships at arms length not because we don’t want the communion but because we’re afraid of what the other person might require of us.

We don’t choose the path less traveled because we’re afraid of what we don’t know/understand or in some way we’re held captive by the past.

 

Our souls are crying out for something that we want – something that God wants for us but we hold back because we’re unwilling to encounter the passion head-on.  We try to get the same results by approaching a situation from a different angle because the path of least resistance, we realize, is not always the easiest one requiring the least amount of heartache.  The most direct path, the path that leads us to contentment, is not always the least dangerous.  In fact, I’d argue until the night grows old that the more something is “right” for us to pursue, the harder it will get – the harder we’ll have to push and overcome adversities.

I’m a storyteller – I love communication.  I love dissecting it, I love pursuing it, I love the joy it brings me when I can help others understand who they are by simply talking and listening.  That said, it’s not easy and sometimes downright difficult to bridge the gaps between myself and others.  Communication is not easy, it is obstinately difficult.

I’ve realized that when my passion – any passion – is surrounded on the bookends by challenges and difficulty, I can’t deny my heart – I can’t deny God the joy that my passion brings.  A part of me dies when I don’t live out who God made me to be.

We have to be willing to accept and embrace those difficult bookends (whether in the form of trials, challenges, awkwardness, etc.), moving closer to the center of God’s will for each us.  God uses these moments to shape and transform us – starting with the heart and working outward – however, it’s a direction we must choose.

When you face difficulty and challenge square in the face, Christ is with you – God does not abandon.

Push on – embrace those moments when you flop and flail.  You’re not alone.  Through adversity, your heart will be filled and your passions met with contentment.

Lent – Preparation for Renewal

During Lent we remember the silence that the cross beckoned.  For the disciples, life turned from revelry to a season of silence and reflection of their hopes, dreams, and future hanging on a cross.

Lent brings us back to the practice of silence and reflection and in the midst of different seasons of our lives we stop to find Jesus where he’s been all this time – with us and preparing the way:

In the silence let me hear you.
In the silence help me find rest and be renewed in anticipation.
In the silence wash me in your presence.
In the silence allow my heart to feel and be transformed.
In the silence open my eyes.
In the silence show me hope.
In the silence let me find you at the cross.

The greatness of the story of the cross is that though silence falls, new celebration comes piercing our hearts with hope, renewal, and new beginnings.

Embrace the silence that the cross brings and prepare your heart for the coming season – the presence of silence is deafening but its rewards are saturating, promising to heal the brokenhearted and push forth renewal.

Preparation Through Failure

This season of Lent is finding me in a contemplative place.  One thing I’ve been lost in is how my desire for perfectionism destroys my relationship with Christ (and others).

One challenge I find on my heart is this:

Lord, when I fail, let me be ushered into your grace, protection, and restoration.

Failure should not be a negative state; why not let it be positive?

After all, if Thomas Edison had allowed thousands of flawed designs to stop him would we have ever seen the light bulb?
If Steve Jobs had let him being fired by his own company (Apple) to hold him back, would we have ever seen the iPad?

If Peter had let his denials hold him back what would the Church look like today?

Some of the best opportunities and experiences in my own life have been born out of the ashes of failure.  It’s not an easy path and it’s not necessarily quick but if you could ask anybody who’s come before, failed, and subsequently experienced success would they say that it was the effort and worth the trials?

They probably would.

On the other side of failure lies the peace, security, and provision of a Savior who gave much to let our lives to be fulfilled in him.

Maybe it’s just me but if I have a choice between failure and just getting by, I’d rather take the path of failure, redemption, and restoration than the path of the status quo.

Move With Hope, Together

I love what the Apostle Paul writes in Romans regarding change and moving forward.  Check this out:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Romans 8:18-27 (Emphasis mine)

A forward movement works both in what is seen, tangibly, and what is not, by faith.  We have hope, as the children of God, in the things that remain unseen and unknown to us taking time to manifest in our hearts through efforts cultivated by us and by God.

This hope is not easy… but that should not be where our focus lies.

More importantly: we’re not alone.  Groans may pervade our bodies, our relationships, our communities, and our world but we’re meant to be united first with the Holy Spirit and second with fellow believers – it is most definitely not about us doing things on our own.  We have a guide in the form of the Holy Spirit who walks with us in the difficulty and the joy that comes with the forward motion.  There is someone who meets us and helps position us for this transforming growth movement.

Have rest – you are not alone, forward movement does not happen by our own volition when we cling to God, when we seek him continuously with the help of others.

The Hardest Motion

The world is constantly changing.

People are classified as ‘movers and shakers’.

“I’m constantly on the go”.

 

These are are three quick thoughts that come to mind when I think about how the concept of movement influences my daily life.  So much of life is influenced by the constant goings on of daily life that you would think that the entirety of time is constantly advancing, changing under our feet.

Yet there are times that I look at all of that movement and wonder what progress I’ve made.  I wonder what progress, if any, that we’ve made as a collective of creative beings when I read about the hurt and discrimination that spreads through our world.

I wonder, given all of the time, if we’re any different as a world than what Adam and Eve experienced that day after their temptation.  Are we getting any closer to the God that we crave intently for or are we merely changing how things are without moving forward with intent?

There is this difference of lateral change (what I would call faux ‘growth’ that changes things on a cosmetic and verbal level without actual movement) and forward change (movement that propels us past where we are while at the same time changing things to better position ourselves and others).

When it comes to bringing effective change – to ourselves, to others, to the world – we have to recognize this difference and ask ourselves ‘is what I’m doing actually positioning me for real change’.  Or are we really saying ‘I’m just mixing things up enough to make it look like I’m moving forward’?

Moving forward and bringing real change either to ourselves or the world sucks.  It hurts, sometimes it doesn’t feel good, and often we won’t see the full results for a long time.  This is probably why a lot of us, first and foremost myself, don’t always choose this route.  Moving and pressing forward does not rest in what can be tangibly seen but is an act of faith that God will deliver on his promises while we act in concert with the Holy Spirit, walking into the unknown.

Change by itself is superficial unless it’s accompanied by a forward motion that moves us into unknown territories – stretching and testing, making room for the new.

But then, at the end, it remains a choice: will you choose to live in a state of moving forward or will you choose the simplicity of comfort?  Will I choose a life that I know or will I choose a potentially better life that I can’t see?

Everyday Resolutions

The New Year time is a difficult time of year for me.  Not because of holiday gluttony or sometimes deathly frigid cold.  Not because of the inevitable passing of the Christmas season.  Not even because of the mass clamor, at this time of year, of people seeking change in their lives.

OK, well, maybe partly because of the clamor of New Year’s resolutions.

I used to have ‘faith’ that on January 1 I could flip a switch and things could be different.  I had hope that January would wipe all that was bad the previous year, as if to delete the unwanted stuff and empty the metaphorical computer recycling container of life without letting it form who I was.  I fully believed but never saw it fully realized.  But, to be honest, things were never that simple and there was a season of my life I gave up on trying to change who I am.  This time of year hauntingly reminds me of that old self but it inspires me now as well because there’s still hope.

January is indeed a great time to let go of things from your past, strive for something better, and renew the spirit to keep fighting the good fight.  However – it is, as any moment is, a terrible time to let go of things without first dealing issues and situations that hold us back from greater things which I’ve done so many times before while looking for an easy, quick fix.

This does not mean I’ve given up on change, rather I’ve shifted my perspective and view transforming change as something that happens outside of the month of January all year long, taking a little longer time than I’d like.

I’ve learned through past New Year’s moments – and more importantly other learning seasons in my life – that the things that you want the most, the things that God wants you to learn the most in your journey, come with different expectations than what we attribute.  Our expectations can be framed around the thought that the easy, quick approach is not necessarily spiritually ordained, though God wants us to commit to long-lasting change in our lives.

You are not destined to be who you are today, tomorrow.  God has invited us on a journey that spans time, patience, diligence and steadfastness.  This is not easy – mainly because it requires us to learn from our mistakes…  It requires us to not simply let go but to learn, to live, and let go – using our past as building blocks for a future.

The best way that we can transform ourselves is to respect the past, learn from it, and embrace what comes next.

Instead of treating January 1st as a singular season of change in our yearly journey, my prayer for myself, my friends/family, and for you is that we resolve to live a better life with every moment within each year.

Embrace who you are but never turn away the desire for change.

Stick with it, you’re not alone.