Coalescence of Our Dreams
I was tempted to ask the young lady follow-up questions regarding her alien abduction experience, but I felt that might evoke flashbacks to associated trauma. Besides, satisfying such curiosity would have only been a distraction from the mission. I had been distracted earlier, by the same panic a back-up quarterback feels when the first-string quarterback goes down late in the game when the team is within striking distance of going ahead in the score for the win. I was given a time-out between 10:00 AM, when I got the call to teach, and 6:00 pm, when the children’s Bible Club (AWANA), began to get my head in the game.
I had a standard routine for getting ready to get in the game that included prayer, planning, preparation, and more prayer. My prayers usually start out with prayers for an idea for the heuristic, because that usually takes the most planning an preparation. Unfortunately, my mind still wasn’t quite clear on the heuristic by mid-day, so I headed to a local shopping plaza to scavenger hunt for materials, at least that is why I thought I was there. After a futile search I ran into two fellow men’s chorus members in the parking lot. One of them was with another member who was no longer sings with us as he suffers from dementia. Recognizing the loyalty of fellowship shared by these men, was the slap on the side of the head that brought me to spiritual focus and the realization: Everything I needed was on the internet.
At 6:06 pm I took control of the zoom after opening ceremonies and began with having the club members pick a number between one and thirty and post it in the chat. Then I slid onto a slide, pictures from a random set of numbered pictures found on the internet that corresponded to the first six unique numbers. The imagination game was that the first volunteer had to pick one of the six pictures and start telling a story based on the scene the picture presented. The next volunteer picked another picture and did the same until six volunteers had composed a story. My young volunteers did compose a fine story:
I got in trouble for passing notes in class. Our teacher instead of getting angry sat us down and told us why we should not pass notes in class and why we should not misbehave. We all shouted "Yay" because we learned something. To celebrate learning something important, we went to the bowling alley to bowl and eat pizza. At the end of the day, I whispered in my dad's ear what was on the note and told him how I got in trouble. My dad was understanding, but on the drive home from the bowling alley we were abducted by aliens.
I so wanted to spend more time on the alien abduction, but at that point I had a clear downfield vision and a gameplan of how I was going to get this lesson over the goal line. After preparing the heuristic, the slide show and the key verses, the additional prayer is always about the moment of convergence with the Holy Spirit. I could see my lesson coalescing with the design of the Holy Spirit in that moment. The theme for the night was Dream. Each child had been told to bring something that was either a fulfillment of a dream or dream for their future. One club member showed us her new roller skates and told us about her love of skating and how she had outgrown the pair of skates with which she had learned. I identified with wanting something for a while and finally getting it. However, I found poignant convergence in one young lady who told about her dream of being a writer and another young lady who told about her dream of being an illustrator.
Planning and preparation are part of due diligence, but it is the things that I did not plan for that reveal the work of the Holy Spirit. I had jumped from the theme of dream to specific topic of imagination for our heuristic in which we had written our own illustrated story combining our imaginations with pictures. I was anxious to move to the PowerPoint because some of the slides were based upon my Illustrated Book, “A Gift for a Special Child.”
The children were familiar with the book because they were the audience for my first book reading. However, they did not know the story behind the story. The story for the book began when I was buying a gift for the baby shower for a young woman from Africa expecting her first child as a single mother. Just as I was picking a gift from the registry at Target, I heard a voice tell me clearly, “You can buy those baby monitors, but that is not the gift that you need to give this child.” I found the voice disconcerting, so I figured it best to just ignore it and keep walking to the isle marked on the registry printout to pick up the baby monitors, then past stationary to get a gift bag and tissue paper. However, when I reached checkout, I was a captive audience for the voice as I was seventh in line. The voice reiterated its point, “That is a nice gift and all but that is not the gift you must give to this child.” Being stuck there with no other check stand open, I had no other choice but to answer the voice, “So what is the gift I should give this child?”
The voice said, “The real gift you need to give is the story you will tell.” I answered promptly and directly, “I ain’t got no story -you need to leave me alone.” The voice did leave me alone until bedtime, but then it was back with, “Those baby monitors are a nice gift, but the real gift is the story you will tell. I said once again, “I ain’t got no story; I’m going to bed.”
I did go to bed, and I slept well waking in the middle of a dream. I was still in that state wherein reality and dream state overlap. I suddenly alerted and sat upright in alarm realizing, ‘The dream is the story I needed to tell.’ I quickly began to write down the story. That same day I went to the baby shower and was bold enough to say, “I have brought a gift for the baby, which is in that bag over there, but the real gift is the story I am about to tell.” Then, I told the story.
My experience of receiving the story so matched with our “Dream” theme, but there was more to the convergence. There was also the element of waiting for God to ordain the time just as that young lady had to wait a couple of years to get her roller skates. For me there was a 14 year wait between the dream that was the story and the illustrated book. I had asked my friend William, a career educator and art instructor to illustrate the book the same year the story was written, but he was not ready. After 14 years he was retired from teaching, had just completed his first illustrated book and was living in Las Vegas where he needed two things: something to do inside to keep him out of the summer heat, and something to do so that his wife Melanie would not complain that all he did was play on his iPad all day.
I sent William the story to read and we set a date to discuss the book. Before we had our first editorial meeting William had already sent me five images. Each image was better than I had hoped for. I soon learned that William had been given such a clear vision for the story that he did not need editorial direction from me. I originally asked for twelve images, but he produced 28 plus a cover. The theme for our working collaboration that summer became Ephesians 3:20,” Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen”. The same was the key verse for the lesson which I had one of the children read aloud.
One of the slides for the lesson showed me at the Translational Neuroscience booth at the Orange County Black History Fair and Parade. This was a moment of convergence of many things in my life. I told the club members about how in my senior year of high school I applied two five different colleges under five different majors Biochemistry and Biophysics, Civil Engineering, Journalism, Religious Studies and Art. I chose to study Biochemistry and Biophysics at UC Davis for the arbitrary reasons of the university having a wrestling team and more of my classmates were going there. That choice eventually led me to working for Translational Neuroscience. However, I had come to appreciate something very rare.
In my life the Lord has utilized all my passions and I have been rewarded by so doing. I remember being astonished the first month that I had over $500 of net income selling art. I still rejoice that the most cherished gift I ever gave my grandparents was a copy of a short article and poem, “Patchwork” about them published in Marriage Magazine. This brought me to my other key verse which has guided me through life, Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” More than financial rewards I find joy in my talents and abilities being used in ministry.
Let’s not completely disregard the need for remuneration. I admit that I stuck with biochemistry and biophysics because at the time the biotech revolution was occurring, and I felt that there would be a good chance of earning a living with the skills and knowledge I acquired with my degree. However, when I look at the unusual ways I have found jobs and my career trajectory, God’s provision becomes evident. I now realize that if I had chosen any other college and its corresponding major coming out of high school, God would have provided for me on my journey. This circles back to the main theme verse for the night’s lesson, Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
A recent extraordinary event was two young people, who were previously in AWANA, are now grown up and engaged to be married to each other. If such a wonderous coalescence can come out of AWANA, then the two young ladies, one an aspiring writer and the other an aspiring artist, one day collaborating to write a great illustrated book, does not seem so farfetched. I was fortunate to be called that day to deliver the encouraging message to them that they should draw near to The Divine and trust The Holy Spirit as they follow their hearts, knowing that The Divine can do more than all they hope for or imagine with their talents, and that The Lord will provide from the wealth of both heaven and earth for their provision along the way.
- Second Baptist Church AWANA Club.
- Translational Neuroscience Laboratory at UCI
- A Gift for a Special Child