Do You Want To Be A Real Boy?

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Do you want to be a real boy?

Don’t give 50 people strings to hold,

To pull you in 50 different directions.

Don’t dance to the most stylish rhythm,

Or sing the everyone’s-doing-it song,

Or bathe in the praises of puppets,

Or win races you don’t want to run.

Don’t paint on one single expression,

Pretending joy, faking happiness, beaming confidence you don’t have.

Be imperfect. Because that’s what you are.

Because real boys are never perfect.

With their embarrassing moments,

With their hurtful mistakes,

Because real boys hurt people sometimes with their imperfections,

And they don’t rewrite it, or reframe it, or pretend it didn’t happen,

They feel it.


Do you want to be a real boy?

Listen to your own thoughts.

Not the should’s but the wants.

What do you want?

How do you feel?

Listen.

Know the spinning wheels in your mind,

Know the cause of every spine tingle, every bubble of anger,

Every choked down tear, know your own self.

Do you want to be a real boy?

Be with people. Not to impress them,

Or to get something from them,

Or to impress someone else,

But to know them.

Because life is short and not worth a single moment if you’re nothing but a porcelain doll on a string.

I hope you’ll be a real boy -

Offering yourself to other real people - and even fake people,

People who need so badly to be real.

Because real boys help others cut their strings,

Wipe off their painted-on emotions,

Hear their own thoughts,

Break through the porcelain to the vulnerable skin beneath.

Do you want to be a real boy?

A Formula For Getting More Of God

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The first few times I fasted, I experienced amazing God moments. I told everyone - you've got to do this, you have GOT to do this fasting thing. It's amazing. It's life changing.

Now, years later, I can't remember the last time a fast resulted in any amazing word from God. No crazy connection. No huge heart change. No big prayer answered.

And it isn't because fasting isn't a good thing. It isn't because God doesn't respond to a fast anymore. 

It's because He wants me to know and trust in HIM.

What I did was incredibly human - I did a thing (fast), God moved (yay), I connected the one to the other and made fasting prescriptive in my own heart (oh, humans.)

"Want more God? Easy! All you have to do is fast!" said my precious little salesman heart. 

But God doesn't want me to trust in methods or prescriptions or rituals - He wants me to trust in Him, in His voice.

The how is less important - scripture gives us so many varied exchanges where God speaks. My takeaway is not a list of ways God might speak to me - instead, my takeaway is that GOD SPEAKS.

He speaks, and He is creative and complex and personal in the way He does it. 

Specific stories can be helpful. Rituals can be helpful. Methods can be helpful.

But they can also be a distraction. They can become an idol even.

Know He speaks, expect Him to speak, listen when He speaks, and share what He spoke in your gatherings.

Trust His voice, not your method of hearing it. Trust Him, not your ritual for feeling His presence.

Enough

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All around me I see people saying “enough.”

Enough of consuming.  Enough of seeking things to fill me up when there are so many who exist on the tiniest fraction of what I already have.

Enough of spending time on myself when there are people around me who need something tangible – someone to sit with them, talk with them, pray with them, advocate for them.

Enough of conversion amounting to little more than fire insurance, self-righteousness, and some good feelies.  Enough of filling my life with “good” things to the exclusion of the best things.

Enough of doing things to impress people.  Enough of wasting precious minutes striving to be something which in the scope of eternity doesn’t even matter.

I am saying it too.

But God is teaching me to say it again, in a different context.

Because, unchained, I will rush out into the world like a freaking typhoon.  I will give everything away and judge you for keeping your stuff.  I will move to a war torn country, dumping every last bit of energy I have, and I will throw it in your sweet privileged American face.  I will scream about injustice and live frustrated when the world is not bending to my will.  I will rage against entitlement and consumerism, forcing me to swallow a large helping of guilt with every Pumpkin Spice Latte (because you’re crazy if you think I would give those up willingly).

So He says “YOU are enough.”

I am enough.  I could sit in this little room across from this computer, or with my nose in a book, for the rest of my days on earth.  And I would still be enough.  He loves me as I am now, as I used to be, and as I will be.  Because I am enough.  Nothing I can do will make me more or less worthy of anything He offers because He has already decided I am “enough.”

And then He says “I am enough.”

He is enough for me.  I need nothing else.  The world needs nothing else.  Anything I do apart from Him will be worthless, but anything I do with Him is priceless.

So I have had enough.  Enough of living selfishly, with a consumer mentality instead of a servant mentality.   Enough of trying to fit in at church instead of just being the church. Enough of doing what I think is right instead of resting in the Father, following His lead.  And I will change. Today, tomorrow, and the day after, I will be changing and growing.

BUT I am also remembering I am enough right now.  And He is enough for me.

I hope I can wake up each day, or 7 out of 10 at least, believing this with my whole heart, my whole mind, my whole strength - I am enough, and He is enough.

I Do What I Want

I do what I want www.stevieswift.com

Years ago, I took a last minute trip to Iraq. It was two weeks away from my two year-old and it was traveling to a country perceived as dangerous, which made the trip selfish in the eyes of some.

In hindsight, it is easy to see God’s hand in the entire process, but in the middle, as I prepared to leave, I worried whether I was doing the right thing and acting with the right motives. 

I wanted to go.  I wanted it badly. 

I wanted to travel back to the country I last saw as a soldier. I wanted to be a part of something positive there.  I wanted to meet the people under different circumstances. I also wanted adventure.  I wanted to get on an airplane and do something exciting. I wanted to do this thing – go to this place.

I told a friend what I was feeling, how I was scared this was a selfish act, a selfish decision. He responded, “How many people do you know who ‘want’ to do this?”  

And something clicked for me.  A big something.

A life-giving, freedom-giving something.

Wanting to do a thing, wanting to be a thing, wanting to go to a place – these do not poison an action.  They are a part of every poisonous action, which is why I was confused, but wanting is not the poison.

If I am walking with God, abiding in Him, listening to the Holy Spirit – if I am ready and willing to stop when He says to stop, to go when He says to go, to stay when He says to stay – I don’t need to be afraid of my own desires.

If I am seeing Him for who He is, if I am daily giving my life to Him, I don’t need to stress, to strive, to stumble over every decision.  

For six years, I have been doing more and more of what I want to do. Mostly, I avoid doing things because I think I should. Mostly, I avoid doing things because other people think I should.  

I do what makes sense based on my circumstances, my strengths, my weaknesses. I walk closely with my God, so that my desires align with Him and I do the things I want to do.  

I am a servant, but I am a servant to a freedom-giving God. I’m not a slave to my own expectations, nor a slave to the expectations of others. I’m not a slave to God’s expectations either – I could never meet them, they’ve already been met for me, and there is new grace and mercy for me every single day. 

And for you, too.

You are free. Are you living free?

Why I Don't Pray For My Son's Future Spouse

Why I Don't Pray For My Son's Future Spouse

I used to pray for my son’s future wife, but I don’t anymore. I stopped when I realized something - I have no idea if he will ever get married.

I don’t pray for his future college or his future career as a doctor because I don’t know or care whether he goes to college. I don’t know or care what he will do for work.  

And I don’t know or care whether he gets married.

In my five years of being intentionally single and navigating American church culture,

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I Am His Exclusive Possession

I Am His Exclusive Possession

Attempting to read through the book of John in Arabic and making great use of my dictionary. Also gaining new insight into the word. 

First, because I am forced to slow down and focus on the meaning of the words.

Second, because – especially for the words I am looking up – I am finding new meaning in the scripture.
John 10:3 in the NASB reads “. . . he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

The word translated into English as “His own” was translated into Arabic (in the version I am reading) as “خاصة.” (Khassa). In my dictionary, the first translation to English of Khassa is “exlusive possession.” 

The original greek word (idia) being translated here doesn’t necessarily convey the meaning of “exclusive possession,” but it doesn’t NOT convey it either. 

The word (idia) is also used to describe someone’s own family, home, or other possessions in other parts of scripture.

I like “exclusive possession.” I think it drives home the point, in my own heart, that I belong exclusively to Christ – always have – even when I rejected him, even on days where I reject His authority, I belong to Him and to no one else. I am exclusively His, from the beginning of time and through all eternity.

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Their Bunny Might Have Died

Their Bunny Might Have Died

I played basketball one year in high school. For some reason we practiced in the morning before school, and one morning I was late by about twenty minutes. 

The details are shaky, but somewhere in the middle of gathering two groggy toddlers and getting everything ready to shuttle me to practice, my mom or I found our rabbit outside shaking uncontrollably. Thunder was laying on the little cement path from the house to the garage, his body convulsing and his heart racing. 

We sat there with him until his shaking stopped and he was dead. Then I went to practice.

I ran in and joined the line for lay-up drills. It took a few minutes for the coach to realize I was there, but when he did, he laid into me. After what felt like a thrashing, he stopped to ask me why I was late.

My composure, completely intact until that point, crackled like cheap paint. Tears leaked and I wanted to disappear. I squeaked out “My rabbit died,” and proceeded to cry like a teenage girl. Which, in my defense, I was.

That poor coach. 

He had every right to hold me accountable for being late, but I suspect, had he known

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Dear Mom, Thank You

Dear Mom, Thank You

When I was 2 weeks old you discovered that my face would not be the same as the other kids. By the time I was 6 months old, my birthmark was the first thing people noticed and the cause of stares and calls to CPS. Yet not once as a child do I remember feeling as if my face - my differences - mattered much. 

Even as an adolescent and a young adult, my insecurities in my appearance paled in comparison to many of my peers. While I was self-conscious about my mark, my value was rooted deeply in other things. That is thanks to you. 

You gave me the confidence to stand at the front of classes as a new student and explain my mark - to allow the other kids to ask questions. You taught me how people make fun of what they fear and they fear what they don't know and I had the power to help them to know. 

You taught me how the fastest way to make a person regret an unkind word or action is to respond with sincere kindness and generosity. I'm sure I was pointed at, stared at, commented about, and teased, but I recall almost none of it. I know that at times you must have shielded me from it, and took the hurt onto yourself. 

Thank you. 

And whatever you didn't deflect - none of it left a lasting mark because I knew that my mark was only a part of my face. You told me it had purpose - it gave me the kind of compassion and vision which can't be learned. 

This mark could have moulded me into someone timid, insecure, and weak. But you didn't let it. You were so young and I'm sure you were scared. Now that I'm a mom too, I imagine you felt like you were messing it all up. 

You weren't. 

You loved me the best that you could and your best was exactly what I needed. Thank you. Happy Birthday Mom.

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My Unfinished Painting & My Unfinished Faith Race

My Unfinished Painting & My Unfinished Faith Race

This is the background of a painting I’m working on. It’s meant to be a background, a foundation, a first layer. I started this piece with unbridled excitement. It’s experimental, it’s a leap, it’s not like anything I’ve done before, and I couldn’t wait to see it finished. 

But something happened over the last couple of days, as I waited for it to be ready for the next layer. I became fond of the background. I became comfortable with it. I started to wonder if I couldn’t, maybe, just leave it the way it is.

It has a simple complexity to it. It reminds me of both the ocean and the sky depending on when I look at it. 

I like it the way it is.

Instead of excitement over the finished project, today I felt fear over losing what I have now. Even though it was ready for the next step – I left it as is.

But tonight, I turned my eyes back to the plan, back to the reason I began this painting. I started to dream again. I started to envision the next layers, to get excited about the original vision. Tomorrow, I'll start work on the next layer. 
* * *
I have purpose in this life. A race. A mission. 

But sometimes I stop and I survey and I see how far I’ve come and I become fond of this place, this season. 

I become comfortable. 

Comfortable with my community, comfortable with my family, comfortable with my routines, comfortable with my habits. I forget the race. I forget the mission. I let fear freeze me. 

I take my eyes off of eternity and dwell on the temporal. And when my focus is here and now, the excitement is drowned in fear.

I have to turn my eyes back to the plan. I have to dream again, to envision the next layers of the journey, to get excited about the mission.

The difference between the painting and my walk with God is this painting could end up total garbage. I could hate it. I could regret the moment I turned my eyes back to the plan.

But I won’t regret turning my eyes back to eternity. I won’t regret adding layer upon layer of surrender. I won’t regret any loss or failure or pain associated with the mission. I don’t know how the finished product will look, but I know it will be a masterpiece.

As for the painting, we’ll see.

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