Monday, March 16, 2009

The Best One-Liner Ever

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

OK, so, here it is: the deepest and most desperate longing of my heart is for inspiration. I get inspiration most strongly by making other people making them laugh.

Praise God, He has created me in such a way that all I ever want to do, all I most deeply yearn for, is to make other people happy. Sounds great, right?

Oh, would that it were so simple.

I could copy and paste countless portions of my personal journal where I write about the euphoria of making someone laugh - I describe it as the kind of high I'd imagine I would get from a drug. One of the best nights of my college career was when my friends and I went to a couple's house from church for dinner and for some reason I was particularly witty and kept thinking of one-liners and the husband of the couple saw my friend on campus two weeks later and raved about how funny I was. One of the best days in my Master's program was when we were working in small groups on a project and I kept coming up with (apparently) hilarious ideas. It was five years ago, but I remember like it was yesterday the moment my ex-boyfriend told me I should be a stand-up comedienne. It was the nicest thing he ever said to me - at least, to me it was. (To that I say...HAHAHA. Now that's a good one!)

My heart yearns for and feeds off of people's laughter like it is my life's blood. But's not.

My problem was that the deepest desire of my heart is so obviously anointed and so obviously from God that I couldn't see that I had put it in place of God. I had put the inspiration I only sporadically got from people in place of the inspiration I could always have if I would just look to my Lord.

Of course, God knew it, too. For years and years now, God has constantly been telling me "I have to come first." I was constantly saying, "I know!!"

But I didn't, really. Here's a quick word - if God keeps telling you something over and over, and you keep saying "I know!" back to Him, but He continues to tell you that same thing over and probably don't actually, like, have it. I'm just saying.

Cause I certainly didn't.

If the (ahem, repeated, and also ahem, frequent) conversations God and I had about this were instant messages, they would have looked something like this:

Me: Hi God!!!

God: Hi!!!!! <3 <3 <3

God: How are you??

Me: Good!

God: <3

God: I missed you yesterday! :( I was online all day hoping to talk to you. *sniff*

Me: I'm sorry! I just got so busy. Forgive me?

God: No probs. I already have. *hugs*

Me: So guess what?? I have to tell you something!

God: ??

Me: I am so excited to do Your will in my life!

God: Awww. You are totes presh. :)

Me: I mean it!! I want to go out and use everything You have given me to show everyone Your love and bring You glory! <3

God: Really?

Me: OMG YES!! It's going to be so great!!

God: *pout*

Me: Ahh, sorry! That was fail!

Me: * -OMG

God: :D

Me: So anyway, let's get started!! I want to do and experience and receive everything you have for me!

God: Awesome! But remember...I have to come first.

Me: I know!

God: Are you sure?

Me: Of course! You've been telling me that for years!

God: I am your source of love, of joy, of hope, of life, of everything.

Me: Yeah, like, I know! We're good!

God: You can't look to other people to inspire you. I have to be your first source of inspiration.

Me: OK, I got it! Really! :D

God: Great!!

Me: Now, please to be bringing a bunch of people into my life who think I'm funny? And could you maybe make one of them a cute boy?? Cause, I would, like, REALLY appreciate it. K THANKS!

Me: GTG. Love you! Bye! <3

God: *facepalm*


Now, please don't mistake me - all of the things that I was asking God for were Biblical, and they are all things He very much wants to give me. He has placed the desires of my heart within me, and He can and has and will continue to bless me by fulfilling them. He wants to surround me and put me in relationships with people who will inspire me and who I can sow into with humor and laughter and love every single day. Absolutely.

But God did not give me the desires of my heart for me to be an inspiration junkie - euphoric for fleeting moments and desperately longing and miserable and unfulfilled the rest of the time. Unfortunately, that's the way I've lived for years, up until just a few weeks ago. Oh, there were times I'd feel particularly spiritual and I'd sort of temporarily get it - during times of training or healing or restoration by God when I was in constant communion with Him, but I would always sort of let it drop and lose it, convinced that now, surely I was ready and God would now, surely bless me with constant inspiration from people and I'd finally be happy all the time! But invariably, I'd fall back into despair when the people around me couldn't satisfy the deepest longings of my soul. I didn't understand that God had been trying to give me inspiration all along - from Himself.

So how did He finally get to me, you ask?

He allowed my heart to be broken.

Well, first, He isolated me (again). He had me move into my own apartment at the beginning of February after three months of living with my best friends. I knew the apartment was a blessing straight from God - it is closer to work and closer to church and is pretty much perfect for my puppy and me in every way at this time in our lives. Oh, also, He told me it was straight from Him. So, naturally, I moved.

And then, right after I moved, He cut me off from everyone. All my closest friends became either sick or busy or...unwilling to spend time with me anymore. The last of those three shattered my heart in a way that it hasn't been broken in years...possibly ever. And when that happened, He had arranged it so that I had no one else to turn to but Him.

But He allowed it to happen because He knew that this time, I would come running to Him not just for comfort and healing and His divine wisdom to make sense of it all (all of which He provided, of course, praise God!), but also, at long last, for my life's blood. For sustenance. For inspiration.

At the moment when my heart was most raw and vulnerable and needy, He pushed through my stubbornness and blindness and after a lifetime of self-deception, I finally understood what He has been so desperately trying to tell me all along - the vital lesson that I had to learn before He could continue to further His plan and pour out His blessings in my life. For some inexplicable reason that only He knows, praise God, this time, I finally got it.

He is my inspiration. He is a well of light and love and joy that will never run dry.

And so, four weeks ago tonight, I found myself jumping around my apartment singing praise songs (a wonderful benefit of living alone!), and God and I had a much different - much improved - instant message conversation:

Me: God!!! I love you!!! You are my everything!! I finally understand!!

God: YAY!!!!!! This is wonderful!!!! I LOVE YOU TOO!!! :D :D :D

I finally opened my heart and allowed Him to fill me up with the constant inspiration that can only come from Him, and I have been walking around euphoric with it ever since.

And let me tell you, His is, without doubt, the most brilliant smile I have ever seen. ;)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Gripped by Stupidity

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalms 27:1

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

Fear is stupid.

I am positively convinced that stupidest thing you or I can ever do is let ourselves get caught up in fear and let it dictate our decisions. It is utter madness. But we do it so often, because we don't even realize we're doing it. We do things under the guise of protecting ourselves when really what we're doing is saying no to the callings and the blessings and the wonderful things God has for us, if we'd only step out on the limb and take a chance on them.

So often, we're just stupid. And it is such a shame.

Have you ever stopped to think about what it is you're afraid of? What is it that has you so paralyzed with fear? And why?

Insecurity? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Failure? Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Revelation 21:5

Rejection? He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

In the summer of 2007, God made it clear to me that He wanted me to move from my hometown of Bedford, Pennsylvania to Raleigh, North Carolina. I visited my newly-married best friends there in August, and it was as if I had stepped into the very center of the Holy Spirit. God pointed and said "GO," and not just "GO," but "GO NOW!" There was absolutely no question in my mind: He wanted me there. He had a future for me there. He had blessing and anointing and purpose for me there and nothing else significant was going to happen in my life until I went.

So, by September, I had an apartment waiting for me in Raleigh. I was finishing up my part-time job at the local art gallery and framing shop in my hometown, while packing and making plans to move.

To a casual observer, the move itself seemed crazy. I didn't have a job in Raleigh. I didn't even have enough furniture to furnish the apartment. Plus, Raleigh is, like, a city. I come from a tiny farming town - just driving in more than two lanes of traffic turned me into a nervous wreck. I had no idea what I was doing, and I was scared. (Yes, I followed God to England by myself twice, but North Carolina terrified me. I know - stupid!)

I'd been working in the framing shop for about two months. It was the nicest job I'd ever found in my town. Several local artists would bring their work in to be framed and sold, and they would talk to me about literature and theatre and traveling abroad. My hometown was safe. Almost unbearably boring most of the time, but still, safe.

And so, one night as I was driving home from work, I found myself thinking about just staying in Bedford. "I could work in the framing shop and keep talking to the artists," I thought. "Maybe that would be ok. Maybe that would be enough."

God immediately interrupted my thoughts with something He has never said to me before: "It's your choice."

I started. I hadn't even realized how deliberate my thoughts had been. Also, I didn't realize that God was, like, listening. (Again with the stupid!) It was startling. Up until that point, God had never given me an option. Usually, He pointed and I went and that was it, no questions asked.

But God said again, "It's your choice. It's up to you. But you know what I have for you in Raleigh. If you stay here, can you honestly say that in 20 years you won't look back and wonder what could have been?"

Dangit. He knew I couldn't.

And now, a year and a half later, three apartments and debt and unemployment and fights with my friends and my second-ever heartbreak and finally, a job and a wonderfully supportive church family and my own poodle puppy and more inspiration than I could ever have dreamed of later...I truly wouldn't change a thing. Because God has worked, mightily and palpably and sometimes shockingly, through absolutely everything, and I am closer to Him now than I ever knew I could possibly be.

It would have been so stupid of me to stay in safe little Bedford. I would have missed out on so much.

(Side note: I'm sitting in Applebees with a mango martini and spinach dip in front of me as I write this. The manager just walked by and asked, "How's all that working out for you?" I replied, "Very well, thank you!" If only he knew.)

The bottom line is that anything we are unfamiliar with, anything new God calls us to do, is going to seem scary at first. It's unknown. So many things could happen. It could blow up in your face. You could get hurt. God never promised us a life without trials. When I was growing up, my dad always said, "Anything that's worth doing, you're going to want to quit at least once." I've found that to be maddeningly accurate.

But, happily, God did promise us that He knows what He's doing and there is absolutely no reason for fear.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10

What is it that is making you afraid? A new job? A new calling? A new...risk? Think about it - if you turn it down, can you honestly say that in 20 years you won't look back and wonder what could have been?

It's up to you. But please, I implore you, don't let yourself be gripped by stupidity. Don't say no to all the glorious blessings God has for you because of stupid, irrelevant, pointless fear.

Believe me, it would be such a shame.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The (In)Famous iPod Story

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:12-14

"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Mark 11:22-24

During the summer of 2006, I was alone in London.

In point of fact, I was in the middle of my Master's program, and we had five months off for summer break. I was living in my little dorm room on campus with nothing much to do. Everyone in my Master's program lived at least an hour away and we had no classes and no deadlines and I had nothing else to keep me busy.

Now, when I say I was alone in London, I don't mean I was just living alone or spending a lot of time alone or, really, what "alone" normally means to most people. I mean alone in the sense that I literally did not see one single person that I knew for eight weeks straight. I was alone.

Turns out it was all God's doing, really (y'know, as most things are). He isolated me so He could get into me and work in me, mold me and shape me and get to me. He had to, had to get me by myself with no one else to talk to but Him, because otherwise I wouldn't have paid enough attention and would've just missed all the absolutely vital lessons He wanted to teach me. So He purposefully got me by myself - all by myself - so that the only voice be able to hear was His And oh my, then, did He ever speak.

(Side note: I've found that He does that a lot, actually. If He's trying to get to you - which He always is - because He longs for you and is desperate for you to hear Him and wants so badly to share Himself and His love and His will for your life with you, and nothing else works, He will get you by yourself so the only voice you can possibly hear is His. The only person you can possibly talk to is Him. The only question you can ask is "Why, Lord?" And He will happily answer, and come to you, and love you, because it's been what He's been trying to get you to let Him do all along. Believe me, He will.)

Anyway, back to the story...

Even though I've been a Christian my whole life, and God had spoken to me and given me many revelations and many lessons before then, by August in the summer of 2006 I was deep in the midst of His refining fire. He had been speaking to me about, among many other things, having confidence in faith and standing on His word when I asked for things in His name when I know He can do them (because, obviously, He can do anything) and I know it is His will to do them. I'd never really been confident in that before. I'd say "Well, God, if this is your will, could you please, like, do it? Maybe?" and then leave it at that. God was speaking to me now about the authority that He has given us in Jesus' name to ask for things that we know are in His will and then believe that He will do them, because we stood on His word and He is faithful to it, always. Always.

And so on August 7th, 2006, I was sitting on a train going from Lancaster, England, where I'd been visiting my wonderful friends, back to London. For those of you not in the know, trains in England are very quiet and train journeys can be very dull, especially when one is traveling alone. I had my iPod on and was happily listening to the poetic lyrics of Rob Thomas when I noticed that the battery on my iPod was very low. So low that it was red. Not green, but red.

I've had my iPod battery die on me before (yes, I'm attached at the hip to it) and I wasn't anxious to have it happen again. What's worse, I still had over two hours left in my trip, and the thought of sitting silently in the train for that long seemed excruciating. (Yes, I'm also a bit melodramatic sometimes. I know...shocker.)

So I started to fret. "Oh no!" I thought. (Well, it might've been more along the lines of "Crap!", actually, but this is supposed to be Christian blog or something, so I thought "Oh no!" sounded more polite.)

God immediately, in the "still, small voice" kind of way (He always tries using that method at first with me, and about half the time I'll actually listen to it), reminded me of everything He had been teaching me and that all I had to do was ask in Jesus' name that He keep the iPod battery running until I got home, and He would do it.

So I did. I bowed my head and closed my eyes and dutifully and humbly obliged and asked in Jesus' name that God please keep the iPod battery on until I got home.

I opened my eyes.

Nothing happened.

I waited.

Rob finished his song and began another one. The red battery light glared up at me defiantly.

Still nothing.

So, naturally, I immediately gave up and resigned myself to what was clearly going to be my woefully music-less fate and turned the iPod off to conserve what little battery there was left.

God instantly spoke to me, using His Much Louder Voice with which I'm quite, ahem, well acquainted. "What are you doing?"

I was slightly startled. "I'm sorry, Lord?"

"Do you believe I can keep that iPod battery on until you get home?"

At that moment, as opposed to 10 seconds earlier, the answer seemed obvious. "Of course!"

"Well then turn it back on! You asked for it in My name, you obeyed My word, so now believe that I am going to do it!"

I turned it back on. (Because, really, what would you do?)

The battery light was still red. Rob Thomas picked up where he left off. (I'd love to be able to say the song was "The Difference," because that would be, like, SO totally meaningful right now for a whole host of reasons, but I honestly can't remember. Ah well. Let's say it was, just to make the point, eh?)

And right then, I can't logically explain it, but all I know is that I was changed. He changed me. He changed my head and my heart and I was suddenly absolutely convinced that that iPod was going to stay on for the rest of the trip. Didn't matter that the battery light was red. Didn't matter that it had died on me before. Didn't matter that it was impossible. I believed. I knew.

I sat and gazed out the window, listening to the song.

When I looked down at the battery light again after it was over, it was green.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15

Suffice it to say, I don't resign myself to woefully music-less fates anymore.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

In which I start shouting, too.

To say that I've been stunted with my blog posting for the past, well, since August of last year...would be an understatement. Oh, I tried. There was a time when I wanted more than anything to be like some of the fun and witty women blog writers that I read every day, and I set out in, uh, right, August of last year to finally pin myself down and be all disciplined and just do it, for crying out loud, instead of just wishing about it, because, dangit, I can do it too and so help me I'm going to prove it! I can be just as funny as they are and you just watch me!

...yeah. We see how well that worked out.

Honestly, it wasn't because I can't do it. It wasn't because I don't have a one-liner or some sort of snarky observation for pretty much everything that happens ever in life. (My entire family is nodding in agreement right now. So are my coworkers. And my friends. And...well, never mind. I think you get it.) I know I haven't really, like, shown that in this blog to any kind of consistent degree, but really. I do. I could. I can. I love it. Really.

But I was censoring myself. Because you know what? That's not all of me. And despite my previous notions of omg, this is what I want to do too! - it's not even the best of me. Not by a long shot. Because, when it comes right down to it, the best of me isn't me at all.

I was censoring myself, because I wouldn't let myself talk about God - about the most important, vital, ever-changing, ever-growing, deepest, and most meaningful relationship in my life. I told myself that I wanted a more secular (whatever that means) blog - that is, one that would attract a wider viewership and, consequently, get me more attention. There. I've said it. That was it. My great, grand vision was to make this blog about self-promotion and not about God-promotion.

No wonder the well of material dried up almost instantly. I mean, duh. I can't believe it took me this long to get it.

So tonight, as I've been moving through a very intense, wonderful, growing spiritual time, tonight as I cocked my eyebrow and examined this skin-and-bones caricature of a blog, tonight as I literally could not for the life of me come up with one single solitary thing to write about that didn't include, involve, or, truth be told, revolve around my great and loving Lord - I finally realized what God was telling me to do.

Like the leper Jesus healed in Mark 1:40-45...I'm going to start shouting too.

I'm leaving the previous posts up because I wrote them, they are me, and there's nothing really wrong with them per se. But from now on, I can't censor myself anymore. I can't keep myself from talking about what my Lord is doing.

Because He is the best of me. And He. Is. AMAZING!