An Open Letter to My Readers

An Open Letter to My Readers

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy. /

Ouvre ta bouche pour celui qui ne peut pas s’exprimer,
pour la cause de tous les délaissés!
Ouvre ta bouche, juge avec justice
et défends le malheureux et le pauvre!

Proverbs 31:8-9 / Proverbes 31:8-9

Do you ever think yourself into a headache?
As with everyone else, my heart is heavy.

I don’t have the words. And I don’t think anything I can say would be good enough. I am disheartened, angry, and hurting.

I genuinely think humanity desires justice in the heart of our being (because we were created by a perfectly just God). Justice, in some form or fashion, was embedded within us. I think of Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo when he says, “Je me suis substitué à la Providence pour récompenser les bons… que le Dieu vengeur me cède sa place pour punir les méchants!” (I have substituted myself for Providence in rewarding the good; may the God of vengeance now yield me His place to punish the wicked.) I think of allll the Bible verses discussing the need to seek justice, live justly, etc.

The truth is, we all desire to see evil extinguished and yet we know each of our hearts is capable of the evil we see in others. Injustice is everywhere. And we must not turn a blind eye to what makes us uncomfortable.

Problems of racial injustice are not new. Let us be quite clear about that. However, that does not diminish the gravity of the current situation. I have struggled to put my thoughts into words for weeks now, but I feel burdened.

As though I need to speak up.

As a Christian–first and foremost–and secondly as someone who grew up very much sheltered from the realities of racism in action. I grew up in the South of the United States. I had one (let me repeat.. ONE) black friend growing up. She died of cancer when I was six or seven years old. I carried with me an unconscious incompetence in my understanding of the lived realities of my fellow Americans. It was not until college that I began to understand this. COLLEGE.

Posting a black square on your Instagram or Facebook feed does absolutely nothing if we are not willing to simply have conversations.

So, let’s talk.

But not merely you and me.

I want to leave space in this post for voices that aren’t mine.

Voices that have experienced first-hand racial discrimination. And more importantly, people I love and care about. Let me introduce you to people who can say things much more eloquently and passionately than I. These dear friends of mine were willing to share with you their words of wisdom and their experiences as black men. And I want you to hear quite clearly and blatantly what they have to say.

Brandon Beneche

From: Massachusetts
Currently in: Georgia
Age: 25

Brandon and I met in college while working on the newspaper staff together.

It feels odd to share anything about myself considering the historic weight of this moment (our country is in upheaval, our president sucks, we’re reaping the consequences of an unjust system that’s been defended, supported, and perpetuated for generations.), yet I believe that we must value and learn about each other’s backgrounds now more than ever.

I’m biracial. My dad is a Haitian immigrant, and my mom is a white New Englander. My heritage is something I’m proud of, but it gets complicated. We were closer to my mom’s family growing up, so I was largely raised in a white, middle-class home in Massachusetts. We didn’t have many conversations about race, and I didn’t claim any racial identity for most of my childhood and adolescence. 

As I got older, it was brought to my attention that I was brown, and I eventually began to explore more of my black side. I took better care of my curly hair, and I began consuming more black content. I’ve even learned to make Haitian food.

It has been a worthwhile process, but it hasn’t been easy. I see issues that a lot of the white people in my life don’t, but I don’t have the upbringing or experiences that a lot of black people I know have had. Some days I feel too colored to be with white people, and other days I feel ashamed for not being black enough.

Right now, we’re in the midst of a racially diverse mass protest of police brutality and systematic injustice towards black people in America. I’ve lost so much joy in our country these past few years, and while I’m certainly not happy about the state of our nation, I am finally hopeful. I have hope that people will demand change and that they will be heard. I have hope that more white Americans than ever will be empathetic towards people of color, and I have hope that black people will have their voices amplified and valued. 

Being biracial can feel like a constant state of division, but this moment is reminding me of something important: I’m living proof that unity is possible.

Romel Juba

From: Miami
Currently in: Tennessee
Age: 25

Romel and I became friends over a game of Rockband
(and I still admire his awesome guitar skills).

Sadness. Anger. Frustration. Being pushed to my limits. Nearing numbness.  My Christianity calls me to love my enemies and pray for those who treat me badly; but I continue to struggle with that challenge.

Racism has reared its head numerous times in my life, dating back as early as the third grade. The part that, in hindsight, is troubling? I shrugged it off like it was normal…like it was okay. It’s hard to look at the climate of the world/the general lack of compassion and feel an ounce of hope.  As a black man, I’d love to see the world become a better place for people who look like me. Being a part of some of the protests that have happened, it was refreshing and rejuvenating to see the wide range of support from all sorts of ethnicities and races. The new generation and the intolerance for oppression makes me smile.

Politically, things are happening. Laws are being passed. People are being held accountable for their actions at an increasing rate. I worry that for the sake of social acceptance, people may jump on the bandwagon of change. Maybe that is a little pessimistic of me, but the fact remains: laws can’t change the heart. What we need is love. People loving their neighbor as themselves. The question is, how do we go about creating this deep cleanse? How to we teach people to love?

I wish I had an answer…

Phillip Warfield

From: Southwest USA
Currently in: Washington D.C.
Age: 24

Phillip and I met because of our mutual love of Michael Jackson!

Black people are tired. After years of trying to tell people that these things were happening all around them, very many of us feel unheard and unseen. Last year, I was invited to a wedding in Miami, Florida. My girlfriend and I piled into my car for the long ride and had an incredible weekend. On our way back, something happened that soured the entire trip. There was something in me that broke down in frustration. We were stopped by a police officer for doing absolutely nothing while parked at a convenience store near Orlando.

It was nighttime, so the police officer flashed his light into the passenger seat—on my girlfriend’s side. I froze and told her not to lower her window. I opened the door on my side and asked if there was a problem. The officer asked me what I was doing and why I was doing it. His facial expressions quickly gave away his distrust as I told him we were on our way back to our university in Tennessee after a late wedding in Miami. He asked for my license and registration. After sitting and waiting for what felt like half an hour, he returned and asked me something that left me dumbfounded: “Is there anything illegal in your car?” When I answered in the negative, he pressed me again, “Are you sure?”

I’ve never had anything illegal in my car. All I was doing was calling a family member to make sure we could come over. Instead I was caught minding my own business in front of a store and asked to surrender my identification. I felt powerless. I still feel powerless.

As I take a daily walk around my neighborhood, I think of Ahmaud. When I’m in my house at night sleeping, my dreams wander to Breonna. When I’m at school studying for my doctorate in United States history, I’m pained that our country has never cared about us. I just need everyone to take this time to think, read, and learn. Sometimes I’m tired of teaching, but if this is what it takes, then I’m willing to help people see. But I’m tired, so give me space to recover too.

Just believe me—believe us, and please listen to our stories.

Friends and acquaintances, let us “weep with those who weep” during this time (Romans 12:15). If we truly believe that Jesus “loves the little children of the world,” let us act in that.

I am extending an invitation to any of my black followers or friends: if you would like to contribute to my blog, sharing your experiences or information that my audience might not otherwise hear, please write to me. I will be happy to give you a platform to speak. I am in your corner. I am fighting for you.

Black lives matter.

I meditated for 30 days. Here’s what I learned.

I meditated for 30 days. Here’s what I learned.

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional nor a psychologist. I am simply sharing my experience.*

It all started because I was curled up in bed one night, getting over some sort of stomach virus. I was sick of being sick. I couldn’t catch a break. And my anxiety was beginning to cripple me again, both mentally and physically.

I remembered “Eat, Pray, Love” and writer Elizabeth Gilbert’s meditation journey in India. The thought of meditating always intrigued me. I grabbed my phone and started looking up guided meditations on YouTube.

I chose a Christian meditation on anxiety and figured it would easily solve all my problems.

That’s what meditation does, right?

To my dismay, I was still outrageously anxious after the 10 minutes had passed. Not to mention that I could not stop thinking about literally every other thing in the world.

Come. On. Kristen.

Let’s try again.

I took a deep breath, opened another one and closed my eyes.

Nope. Not working.

What is wrong with me? Why can’t I concentrate?

A million questions suddenly flowed into my mind as I tried to empty it. I laughed at how paradoxical this entire situation was.

It was 1 a.m., and I was thinking about my meal plan for the next week.

That night, however, I made a promise to myself.

Stick to it for a month and see if it’s even worth it.

Is meditation just a fancy buzz word or some little scam created by self-help gurus? What does it even entail?

What is meditation?

The word meditation stems from the Latin meditatum (to ponder). Essentially, the word encompasses any technique used to practice mindfulness and improve focus or awareness. According to many historians, meditation was first documented through art in ancient Indian culture around 5,000-3,500 B.C. Though the earliest written records of meditation come from Hinduism, most religions have some form or fashion of a meditative practice. It is not, however, a solely religious practice today. Western meditation moved from a religious focus to a philosophical and even scientific focus beginning in the 18th century. A growing number of psychologists believe that meditation is very beneficial for stress-reduction and physical healing.

There are six well-known types of meditation: mindfulness, spiritual, focused, movement, mantra, and transcendental.

My Meditation Journey

I’ll admit that I didn’t do a ton of research before jumping into this. Based on the research I have now done, I would say I practiced a mix of spiritual and focused meditation. I chose to listen to Christian guided meditation videos on YouTube, with the exception of one or two focused breathing routines. Here’s a little glimpse into my brain during this whole process.

Week One

I’m super excited about this whole meditation thing. It feels trendy. It also feels like a solution to my problems. So I lay in bed every night, clutching my pillow, listening to some sort of guided meditation. I treat is as some social experiment. I’m determined to do this and I’m prepared to share my results with the world. My mind still isn’t focusing like I want, but I feel good for trying.

Week Two

Okay, scratch that. This is stupid. All this effort is proving to be futile. I don’t feel any different, and it feels like a chore. Also, I keep falling asleep during my nightly meditations… Oops. Not very good at this whole focus thing. I might just have to change up the routine. Or maybe I should forget this whole thing.

Week Three

Okay, now we’re meditating in the morning! I still don’t feel like doing it all the time, but I have better concentration this way. I change my pose. No more lying down. I sit up straight and do deep breathing exercises. My meditations become more scattered and distracted. I pray and desperately try to clear my mind to no avail. It seems like the harder I try, the more my thoughts fight back.

Week Four

My brain still has a hard time sitting still, but I definitely can feel a difference. I can bring my focus back to the rise and fall of my chest with each breath. My prayers are less desperate. Time seems to pass quickly. When I close my eyes, I feel like I’m not even in my bedroom anymore. My inner monologue quiets as I appreciate the silence and stillness.

Final Reflections

I started out this whole thing near tears, covered in blankets, clutching a pillow. Reflecting back on that night, I think it was a symbol of how afraid I was of opening my heart to anything. Now I meditate on the edge of my bed, eyes closed, hands out. 100% still. Furthermore, meditation is now part of my daily routine.

Yes, I am still in quarantine and currently have plenty of time to meditate.

Yes, I know a mere 30 days of meditation is nothing compared to those who spend their lives doing it.

But I do plan to incorporate this practice into my life going forward.

It helps prepare me for the day, mentally, physically and emotionally. I feel so much more refreshed if I take even 15 minutes to meditate in the morning.

I guess my main takeaway from it all (thus far) is that it is so evident to me that my soul is longing for another place.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Got questions? Comment below! If you meditate regularly, I would be interested to hear your routine.

A Window to My Soul

A Window to My Soul

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Mark 9:24 (NKJV)

I pray as I walk to work. I pray as I lie down at night. I pray when I am scared. I pray when I am lonely. I beg and plead to God as tears trickle down my cheeks.


I feel absolutely nothing.

My heart longs for an inkling–a touch from the Holy Spirit. Something. Anything.

But nothing is there. No spark. No flame. My soul feels cold, and I begin to doubt.

I have silently struggled because I do not want to find pride or honor in sharing my grievances. But Christians are called to live in community with one another, and I am only disadvantaging myself by not seeking that community.

So here I am. Letting myself be seen–weaknesses and all. Which is truly a weird and uncomfortable thing for me. But at the end of the day, this is not about me.

I was listening to a sermon from my home church the other day about the freedom we enjoy in Christ, and it was very convicting. My heart twinged as the pastor fervently spoke. “The Gospel doesn’t save you and I just so we can twiddle our thumbs and wait for eternity… Being formed into the image of Christ is absolutely a process. But it’s a process that should be evident in your life if you claim to be a follower of Jesus. This change is not an option, it’s not a preference. You and I cannot consistently follow Jesus and not consistently grow into his likeness.”

My mind blanked. Where is the fruit in my life? I struggled to find evidence of my growing love and relationship with Jesus. I was staring into the abyss of my own thoughts.

An Aside

Let me outline what I know to be true and the things of which I am sure, despite my doubting.

  1. There is a God.
  2. I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, that He died and rose again, and that He alone is savior of the world.
  3. There is a lot I do not know.

On Feeling

“Hear my cry for help, my king and my God, for to you I pray.”

Psalm 5:2 (NIV)

I feel very out of touch with God. And it is hard for me to even write this because I do not quite know how to put into words the hundreds of scattered thoughts going through my mind.

I think the thing that scares me the most is my lack of emotion. While some find comfort in it, feeling nothing is absolutely terrifying for me because I typically swing between extreme depths of emotion. And what makes it worse is that I don’t understand why it is happening. I don’t know if it’s some hidden sin or simply a test of faith at work in my life. However, I want to reach out to my community. I am not going to pretend I am unique in this struggle.

One request I’d like to make is this: Join me in prayer. Pray for those who are in a season of doubt, myself included.

Proverbs 11:14 talks about finding wisdom in the counsel of many.
“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”

So consider this me seeking counsel. How do you deal with the chasm of nothingness in your life? My hope is to cultivate a little community that can share and grow together. Even if it is on this digital platform.

While I’m at it, I do want to ask how I can love and encourage all of you. Yes, within the community of believers, but also anyone reading–Christian or not. Comment below, if you’d like (anonymous is fine).

I am a listening ear for your struggles, just as you were for mine.

Thank you for reading.

In The Middle Of It All.

In The Middle Of It All.

“The unpredictable has found a hand to hold.”

Citizen, In The Middle Of It All

I’ve been getting a little overwhelmed by my mind recently. My tendency to internalize my thoughts and emotions has proven to add much more stress than needed to my life. I’m just so exhausted.

Exhausted by all the hurt my friends and family have experienced.

Exhausted by the feeling of being a passive participant in this life I’ve been given.

Exhausted by my own bitterness and anger and never ending questions.

Exhausted by the hatred and evil in the world. 

However, tonight in the midst of all the paralyzing thoughts and feelings stirring in my soul, I heard a still, small voice in my mind saying, “Do not grow weary in doing good.” God in His goodness immediately reminded me of that beautiful verse from Galatians 6.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

When it all falls apart,

When people hate you,

When you are utterly alone,

When you encounter those who defend immorality,

When you feel intimidated by the happenings of this world,

When those who profess to be Christians do not reflect Christ in any capacity,

When you feel like you can’t go on,

do not grow weary in doing good. 

Weariness of mind and heart makes sense for me right now. My life is on the brink of change. New things await, old things still beckon. Everything is in flux.

One song that keeps replaying in my mind during this season of life is “In the Middle of It All” by Citizen. I don’t really like the band, actually, but I love this song. My friend showed it to me while she was struggling with some similar things I am now. The band uses this song to proclaim despair and hurt and confusion. And then right before the chorus they sing, “In the middle of it all, I found you there.”

While it’s very clear the artist didn’t intend for it to be a spiritual song, I think God continues to show me more of Himself through things like this. In the middle of all my stress and anxiety and bitterness and resentment and excitement and confusion, I found Him. I found God in the storm of my life. And He alone is worth the pursuit. That alone gives me peace and calms the storms of my mind.