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Posts Tagged ‘God’

So, what type of hermit am I?  I am a fearful hermit or rather; I have the natural tendency to be one.  I realized this about myself early into my walk with God as I sorted through deep scars from my past.  I had to admit that, through a series of harmful relationships in my formative years, it was hard to believe God desired me and nearly impossible to think that I was likeable to people.  I had to wage war on the lie that I was merely tolerable, a lie that many people believe.

By God’s grace and incredible love, I was able to break the chains of that binding mindset.  He also blessed me with a few incredible people to really cement this.  Unfortunately, through a semi-recent loving confrontation by a dear friend, I have been forced to realize that this mindset still follows me around and can, when ignored, affect me even now.

To be humbled by the truth that I am still affected by my past to admit present damage.  To admit present damage is to recognize pain.  To recognize pain, quite frankly, sucks.  Now, I’m certain that His power and love are limitless.  I do, however, believe that tendencies we once held can resurge for a variety of reasons (though never because He’s failed us.)  Even knowing that, however, admitting that this lie still stalks me is a bitter pill to swallow.

So, what am I going to do with this renewed awareness?  What can I do to break my eremitic tendencies?  I wish I had some beautifully-written advice drenched in profundity, but I don’t.  Honestly, there are two straight-forward actions that I’ve found effective.  Theoretically, they should work for all aforementioned types of “faith hermits” (though it’s just a theory.)  Here they are:

  1.  Surrender.  Ask God to strengthen your heart and consistently look to Him for your identity.  You can’t be in any sort of healthy relationship if your senses of identity and worth aren’t grounded in Him.  (Psalm 139, Ephesians 1:4-5, 1 John 3:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:5)
  2. Put yourself out there and let people prove you wrong.  Whether it’s a love of comfort, pride, or fear, we need to give people the option to prove that they are worthy of our trust and that God honors and protects life-giving relationships.  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) Now, not everyone is worthy of our most intimate details nor is it healthy to divulge our life stories to everyone.  This only applies to those who are trustworthy and equally committed to authenticity.

Personally, I find the second action to be the most difficult.  I find strength in the fact that God designed us to be in community and therefore He’s ultimately in control.  He knows we need other people and other people need us.  This truth takes the action from highly difficult to incredibly rewarding, to the point that it gets easier every time I’m transparent.  It’s quite wonderful and even kind of addictive.

Until next time…

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ARE YOU SURE?

What hideous words. To most people, these are just three small, monosyllabic words making up a simple question with a simple “yes” or “no” answer. To those of us who struggle with anxiety, more specifically those of us who have actual anxiety disorders, the words are not so meek. Rather, they come with slings and arrows aimed at an already-sore spot in our psyches.

Yes, I did just admit to having a mental disorder. For some of you, this is simply surprising, neither negatively or positively. Perhaps you’re completely unfazed. Some of you felt a sudden onrush of discomfort due to pure fear or the adoption of the stigma attached to mental illness. Lastly, I pray that some of you felt a surge of relief in hearing the implicit message that tells you that you are not alone.

I heard a pastor once say, in reference to seeking counseling during a difficult period of his life, that “counseling isn’t just for crazy people.” In the same way, mental illness is not exclusive to the clinically insane. The stigma of mental illness is rather ridiculous considering the statistical prevalence of mental illness, but that’s another rant for another time.

As of late, this is what I’ve been obsessing over. There have been several situations over the past few weeks that have made me extra aware of my anxious thought patterns. I am a very self-aware person as it is, but these circumstances have added a new level of understanding by showing me my anxiety in a new light.

Let me just interrupt this for a brief moment to state my intentions for sharing this. First of all, I am sharing it simply for the sake of sharing it. Secondly, I love the field of psychology and its practical applications. Thirdly, I hope that by sharing this that some may find some encouragement—be it ever such a small drop—through my ponderings. That’s it.

Anyway, one recent situation that brought about new understanding occurred at work. Currently, my day job involves detailed data analysis to create more meaningful data for the use of my department. Your eyes just rolled back as your neck simultaneously craned backward in a momentary episode of narcolepsy, right? Understandable. My point is that I spend my daytime hours breaking down numbers (which is hilarious given my extreme lack of mathematical ability.) When presenting a report to my supervisor, he glanced at the figures, and then opened his mouth to ask, “How sure are you of these numbers?” Without hesitation, I answered, “Very,” with confidence. Shortly after, I turned and left his office. As I walked back to my desk, I thought, “That man has no idea what that question just did to me.”

What it did was to start a relentless, swirling cycle of follow-up questions asked by none other than my own tenaciously analytical mind. In a matter of seconds, my brain was filled with unyielding uncertainty, impatient inquiries, meta-thoughts, ambiguous feelings, and overall mental chaos. Here’s a sample of my rapid-fire thoughts for the next several minutes following my manager’s inquiry:

Was I really sure? What if some are wrong? What if ALL of them are wrong? No. You checked them as you typed. Did I? The numbers might be transposed. I could’ve had my hand on the wrong keys. What if I looked at the wrong data in the first place? What if this trickles down to affect the whole department? What if I did the wrong formulas? No, I checked them just like I checked the numbers. Did I? Maybe I mistyped them. No, I typed them all carefully. My data entry skills are incredibly accurate. But what if they’re not this time? What if they’ve never been and I’ve just been really lucky? That’s ridiculous. Is it? Yes, it’s ridiculous. IS IT?

The above is just a sample of the amount/types of thoughts that can occur simultaneously in one minute alone, continuing for any number of minutes, hours, or even days depending on the situation. It can be about something as seemingly small as this or something much larger. Looking back, I know that the numbers were/are right. I knew that the logical side of me fighting to be accepted as true was correct. I didn’t feel that way though. I couldn’t believe it at that moment. That was the nature of the “episode.”

I recently finished the book Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, a fascinating account of the author’s actual 18-month stay in a mental hospital in the late 60s. In one chapter, she describes an inner dialogue between two “interpreters” responsible for perception. “One needs data, the other needs an overview; they influence each other. They get dialogues going.” One observes, the other translates (not that we are limited to two.) She describes mental illness as being an issue of miscommunication between interpreters one and two. An example:

INTERPRETER ONE: There’s a tiger in the corner.
INTERPRETER TWO: No, that’s not a tiger—that’s a bureau.
INTERPRETER ONE: It’s a tiger! It’s a tiger!
INTERPRETER TWO: Don’t be ridiculous. Let’s go look at it.

The person then picks him/herself up and walks over to examine the corner. She states, “If you are not crazy, the second interpreter’s assertion…will be acceptable to the first interpreter. If you are crazy, the first interpreter’s viewpoint…will prevail.” She goes on to further describe it using the scenario of waiting for your train to move out of the station. When the train next to you starts moving, it feels like yours is moving. The first interpreter makes the claim that it is your train, so the second steps in to set the first straight. However, you can find yourself “suspended between two realms of consciousness: the one that knows you aren’t moving and the one that feels you are. You can flit back and forth between these perceptions and experience a sort of mental vertigo.” (137-141) I think this is a brilliant explanation that can be applied to episodes of anxiety. You’re not sure of anything in these moments, even though you know you should be.

My question is this: what if there was a third interpreter with the final say? An anxious mind is one in which certainty seems rare, nearly unreachable, or even impossible in severe cases. Dynamic and unstable thoughts lead you to a lack of constancy in an ever-changing battlefield. But what if there was something that was always true and always true in the same way? What if there was something or someone you could go to that you could rely on to always tell the truth, always be the same in nature, and always be available?

I believe there is. I know there is. The Bible shows that God is immutable, meaning that He is always the same in His nature, character, and will. He never changes and can never be made to change. It is this truth that has caused my own anxiety to be in remission (if possible.) I am able to accept my mental processes and live with anxiety, but not be controlled by it.

Imagine yourself in the midst of an apocalyptic storm. Torrential rains pound down upon you like showers of nails. Tempestuous winds toss you around like tumbleweed in a tornado. Earthquakes throttle the earth violently making stability non-existent. Then, you spot a tree in the middle of it all. A lush, emerald-hued tree stands tall and beautifully, defying the death-seeking threats that swirl around it by remaining perfect in form and structure. Not one leaf is moved though the atmospheric conditions are crumbling mountains into the turbulent sea. Not one piece of bark is even considering relenting to the winds. In holding onto this tree, you too can enjoy that perfect stability. That’s God. No matter what we feel, think, see, or experience, He is the same loving, perfect, beautiful, true, strong, all-powerful, holy, good, gracious, and infinite God. He always has been and always will be.

It may sound odd to say this, but knowing this enables me to see my anxiety as beautiful. I think it has placed me in a unique position to appreciate this truth in powerful ways. I know what it’s like to be unsure about everything so, to know that God is always God, even though my own thoughts, feelings, and perceptions wage war against themselves, is utterly amazing. Even if 90% of me feels totally unstable and only 10% can remember God’s constancy, I am able to hold onto that 10% and find peace, comfort, and joy. Supernaturally, the 10% actually becomes bigger and more powerful than the 90% (and eventually overtakes it.) I realize that’s mathematically impossible, but it’s true. And hey, I mentioned my lack of arithmetical ability.

Well, I know that this was bit longer—even for me—but I truly appreciate any of you who hung on. I hope you enjoyed it as I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. I have a sneaky suspicion that it’s actually just Part I as I feel like I have so much more to say on the matter. Stay tuned.

Works Cited:

Kaysen, Susanna. Girl, Interrupted. New York: Turtle Bay Books, A Division of Random House, 1993.

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A mystifying blanket of fog had descended upon the entire metropolitan area that night, coating everything in a dark grey veil.  Like a phantom gliding down from a belfry, it drifted in with unnatural speed and mystery.  To call it dense would be a vast understatement.  Impenetrable would be more appropriate, though still not entirely accurate.

Traffic was non-existent.  Streets were virtually abandoned, not that one could see the form or figure of any living creature amid the earthbound clouds.  Even streetlights, whose sworn duty was to illuminate, could barely utter a whisper of a yellowish glow.  Homes emitted such little light that they appeared more like old pieces in a Holiday Village collection on the cusp of burning out for good.  The typical buzzes of Suburbia were nearly completely silenced.  Only the whir of such things as power lines and air filtration systems seemed audible, though noticeably stifled.  The town was draped in forced peacefulness which was intriguing and eerie all at once.

Somehow, I found myself called to leave the house for the sake of a mission, humble as it was.  A friend was trapped at her office due to the conditions and subsequent lack of visibility.  Luckily, this friend worked within walking distance of my residence, charging me and a walking companion with the task of rescuing her and welcoming her into a more hospitable setting.  I can’t recall why it was our duty; I only know that it was.  So, we set forth with flashlights in hand to retrieve her.

As we reached the top of a hill, exhausted by the weight of the damp air, we stopped to breathe at a four-way intersection.  It was bizarre to see this typically chaotic point of traffic as vacant.  Normally filled with impatient drivers, it was often difficult to cross on foot.  As we resumed our journey, we found ourselves walking with conditioned caution despite the obvious lack of threat.

Proceeding through the crosswalk, I looked to the right and saw a faint figure in the distance.  How peculiar.  It resembled an animal of some sort.  A donkey.  Was this a fog-induced mirage?  No.  There really was a small beast of burden standing calmly across the street.  It seemed to be positioned towards me, as if to specifically attract my attention.  It probably goes without saying, but this was highly atypical.  This was a busy intersection in a highly-populated suburb of a large city.  Donkeys, or any animal categorized as livestock, were not native to the locale.

For whatever reason, as I stared at the creature, the story of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on such an animal came to mind.  So humble, yet worthy of great reverence. A seemingly random thought, I admit, but considerably normal given the nature of the overall situation.  Eyes fixed on what stood before me, I found myself wishing that Jesus was the rider of this particular donkey.  No doubt, this came purely from a deeply-rooted and ever-present desire to see him face to face.  The thought had barely concluded with a mental period when I saw a figure appear on the animal’s back.  My eyes began to widen as the figure came into focus.  It couldn’t be.  It was.  The figure of Jesus Christ, remarkably clear despite the darkening power of the iron-colored mist.

Before taking the time to analyze the situation, my mouth had involuntarily cried his name and my feet, without my consent, began to carry me swiftly towards him.  With tear-filled eyes, I ran.  The mirage thought crossed my mind again, but my heart was too drenched in the hope that it was real to entertain any skepticism which is so often a part of my thought processes.  The risk of looking foolish was insignificant.  It was more worth it to find out that he was there than to worry about what would happen if he wasn’t.  So I ran..

I reached him and my arms thoughtlessly and immediately found their way around his neck.  Heart and eyes flooded with indescribable love, gratitude, humility, and immeasurable joy, I held on tightly with no intention of letting go.  Something tells me that he initiated the embrace, though my speed of reciprocation blurred those lines.  It was a moment of perfection, peace, and incalculable bliss.  I was overwhelmed by the supernatural.  Enveloped by the sacred.

After what seems like hours and seconds at the same time, another set of arms joined the embrace.  My friend was but a step behind me, unable to contain what swelled within her at the sight of the Savior.  This only increased the inexpressible joy of the situation.  The fog was forgotten.  Any negativity that had existed prior to these moments had vanished.  Only love existed.

Not long after this had taken place, I woke up.  Yes, dear friends, this was a dream and a tremendously beautiful one at that.  I have to admit that I was hesitant to write this, risking the loss of the dream’s sacredness in the scrutinizing light of this worldly reality.  It’s like trying to describe the majesty of The Himalayas to someone who’s never been.  Or trying to share the ecstasy felt by the powerful presence of God in a night of worship to an absent friend.  Try as the hearer may, there’s no way to fully share in the narrator’s experience.  Just the same, the human tongue cannot adequately describe my experience through this dream, at least not to the point that anyone could relive it with me.  Despite this, I decided the dream should be shared.  Something so truly lovely should be written, even if it’s just for my sake.

I woke up from this aglow with a deepened love for the Lord.  I was so honored that God elected to reach out to me this way.  He always reaches out to me (and always will,) but this was certainly special.  It’s interesting to think that my roommate had prayed, before going to sleep, that God would speak to me in a dream.  This specific prayer isn’t a ritualistic one for her.  Something (or Someone) inspired her to pray this prayer.  That, in combination with the startling fact that I remember this dream so vividly, seems to allude to something greater.

The jury’s still out on the interpretation, and I patiently await the revelation, but I know it wasn’t just another random combination of the daily debris that enters my subconscious.  I know the fog is heavily symbolic, and I’m fairly confident that the donkey represents Jesus’ humility in pursuing me, but that’s all I’m able to understand for the moment.  I know there’s more to it.  Perhaps, when the full meaning is revealed to me, there will be a Part II to this post.  In the meantime, I pray that it is simply enjoyed as a beautiful story that represents a beautiful truth.  May you find increased excitement, hope, and fervor as you remember that God never ceases to passionately pursue us in increasingly creative ways.  May you always continue to revel in such loveliness.

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A few weeks ago, my roommate and I were discussing books, ambitions, and other lovely topics.  On the topic of writing and written works as a whole, I once again mentioned my love for fiction. I shared my declaration of devotion to the genre with a speech that finds a constant home on my lips.  Several days later, while talking with another friend, the subject of the monomyth and its ever-increasing popularity in modern fiction came under discussion.  This perpetuated my already-constant mulling over why so many of us connect with certain stories.

What is a monomyth, you ask?  Is it the creature that lives in the dryer and feasts on singular socks with the malicious purpose of creating odd ones?  Or isn’t that a town in New Jersey?  Nope.   It’s actually a literary concept, also known as the “Hero’s Journey.”  This concept of story-telling was described by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces in 1949.  The term monomyth was apparently coined from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.  History lesson concluded.

More practically, the Hero’s Journey is the story of someone seemingly ordinary being called to fulfill an extraordinary task.  It involves a calling to adventure, encounters with the supernatural, a road of trials, atonement, supportive journeyers, and ultimately a return from a successful quest which empowers the hero to live a life transformed.  There are more details to the steps, of course, but I fear it would overtake this post.  However, if you’re geeky like me, and wish to learn more, you can check out these sites:  http://library.thinkquest.org/05aug/00212/monomyth.html, http://changingminds.org/disciplines/storytelling/plots/hero_journey/hero_journey.htm.

Anyway, the Hero’s Journey is displayed in countless books, movies, and other artistic expressions that we hold dear.  The Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Harry Potter, Spiderman, King Arthur, Odyssey, Star Wars, and Avatar are all examples of this type of story.   The list goes on for days.  I realize that the list I’ve described is composed of fantasy/science fiction, but the Hero’s Journey appears in other genres outside of these, albeit less directly.  In any case, this story structure is apparent in a great deal of popular fiction.  My point?  I think there’s a larger reason why this type of story appeals to people, a reason beyond the obvious.  I think it’s actually a parallel to the reality of life.

Let me lay down a little bit of premise about human nature.  Naturally, we humans label, compartmentalize, minimize, and categorize.  We put things in containers and formulas to make them more comprehensible and manageable.  We do it with everything, including our views and experiences of God.  We read his word with monotonous or matter-of-fact tones.  We predict how he will answer our prayers.  We focus on the attributes we can understand with human terminology the most.  We put the supernatural God in a human-shaped box to make him easier for our earthbound psyches to digest.  I do it all the time.

The real truth, which He’s been revealing to me more and more over the past several years, is that He is wild, magical, mysterious, humanly unpredictable, larger than time itself, infinite, grand, etc.  I find a great deal of symbolism in fictional works that forces my imagination to go outside it’s human parameters to imagine a world where trees send messages, the weak are used to slay the monsters, and love, good and truth know no bounds.  I’m forced to confront the truth that God has the power to create such things and even more beyond my puny perception’s reach.  I think, deep down, people want to believe that such a world and such a God exist.  Now, I’m not saying that parallel realms exist in which enchanted purple dragons cut through the night sky and 400-year-old willow trees have tea and walk about freely.  I have no proof that they don’t, but even my head isn’t quite that far into the clouds.  But I digress.

People are created with the intrinsic knowledge—however deeply buried—that they’re meant for more than that which is visible and tangible.  We all need to find this.  Typical human behavior and tendencies provide proof to the fact that everyone is looking for better and higher experiences all the time.  Some seek it in drug-induced states.  Some in human love and sex.  Some in TV or material possessions (the less socially damned but equally as dangerous mediums.)  They’re all reaches, conscious or unconscious, towards that “something more.”  We all want to be and experience more and were divinely created to feel this insatiable desire which points to God Himself.

Coming back to the Hero’s Journey, I believe it is appealing because it involves all of the things that life is actually supposed to involve.  Each Christian testimony (the story of how a person came to know Christ) is a version of the Hero’s Journey.  He calls and pursues us all our lives.  He intervenes supernaturally.  We join with others on this journey, experience challenges/temptations, and eventually experience death, rebirth, and transformation.  We are then called to live this transformed life for the benefit of the entire world (i.e. The Great Commission, Matthew 28:16-20.)

To summarize, we are natural creatures created for experiencing the Supernatural and this literary structure outlines it and speaks to that created mindset.  That’s why people are drawn to it.  The twist, however, in actual reality is that we’re not the heroes at all and there is little personal glory to be found (which I find incredibly freeing.)  God is the protagonist and the supernatural influence.  He is also the author of each of our stories (Hebrews 12:2 and Acts 3:15,) and an incredible one at that.  He writes them as sagas that are constantly building towards the climax.  Yes, undeniably, they are dynamic tales filled with ups and downs, triumphs and trials, joy and pain.  Thus is the Hero’s Journey.  It is, however, never dull and filled with unlimited potential to find joy in abundance.  Even more beautifully, the ultimate ending to these adventures we live, though unseen by the living, is an eternity of perfect bliss with He who holds the quill. (Revelation 21:1-5)

How truly wonderful indeed.

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Dearest blogging world, I have missed you in these last several weeks of chaos. Now that the crickets have been shooed, the mantle dusted, and the curtains opened to rejuvenate the space that is my blog, let us move forward with our friendship as I share with you my most recently mulled-over topic.

Are you a New Year’s resolution maker? I am not. I have the heart of a punkish nonconformist in general so I typically reject traditions like this. That’s another topic though. I am actually making some resolutions this year BUT, I have already made and starting working towards these goals, now, thus making them general resolutions relatively unattached to the New Year. One of them regards my seemingly terminal status as a single woman.

For those of you who don’t know, I am about as single as a gal can be. I haven’t been on a date since 2004—gasp if you must—and have no prospects at the moment. Please don’t misread any of this to be written in a tone of woe, it’s not. However, if I told you it’s all been a pleasant ride through flowery meadows free of conflict, my nose would grow in Pinocchio-esque fashion.

Well, throughout all of the tough and peaceful times regarding this issue, I have never experienced anything as weird as what’s happened this year. Apparently, for me, the age of 25 is the official age that several people have decided that my singlehood is pitiful. I am no longer a young independent woman, but a lost soul that must be ushered into a relationship as soon as possible. Such people may even be reading this. If you are, please know that I love you and appreciate the loving intentions behind the actions. This weirdness, which I have come to refer to as the “25 = Sad Sack Phenomenon,” has led me to an epiphany. By the way, I acknowledge that this issue has happened to others prior to or after age 25.

First of all, in total disclosure, I have to admit that I have personally believed the “25 = Sad Sack Phenomenon.” This was the first birthday that struck a chord with me for a number of reasons in the form of a lovely quarter-life crisis. Among other reflections, I was confronted with some gusto by the long-held idea that I would not be single by this age. Shortly after, something started changing in my heart, subtly but powerfully.

Skipping ahead to the past couple months, I’ll share my resolution with you. My resolution is to BE SINGLE. Of course, I am already single in terms of status, but that’s not what I mean. I mean that I want to strive to truly love my singleness (and have already begun to do so. I don’t want to be “single and waiting” or “single with eyes always roving for ‘the one’.” I’ve been this person at times. The truth is, though I’ve often felt that marriage is in my future, I have NO way of knowing that. God alone knows what my future holds and it could very well hold a lifetime of singlehood. Therefore, I want to live as one who is single…period.

What would a real epiphany be without a hearty dose of conviction and self-realization preceding it? Not to worry, friends, as I have had such a helping. A couple weeks ago, I was chatting with God and all of a sudden, I realized a belief I’ve held for a long time which seems to be at the core of my difficulties in this area.

First, I must acknowledge the fact that we, as people, find the task of contentedness with the present to be a near-impossible feat. I am absolutely no exception. In fact, I have a great deal of difficulty living in reality in general, not just this present reality. This, however, is not what I want to focus on for the latter part of what’s becoming quite a long post.

What I’ve realized is that I’ve been looking at singlehood through a very specific lens, a lens that I think many people utilize. I think we have a tendency to look at being in love, or even just being in a relationship, as the ultimate “high” or goal. I remember sitting in a circle of women in college sharing life’s ambitions. I kid you not, at least 90% said “get married and have a family.” I acknowledged wanting to get married as an ultimate goal (though not the only goal.) For the sake of avoiding a tangent, I’m not going to go into why I think that is.

To realize that I regarded marriage as “the ultimate” and grasp the full weight of this realization has been light to a formerly dark corner of my psyche. The flipside of this realization is even more enlightening. If I was regarding relationships/marriage as “the ultimate,” what was I labeling this lengthy period of singlehood to be? The answer: a trial or punishment. A trial or punishment!

Realizing this has given me a new perspective and the fantastic ability to point at such thoughts and exclaim, “That’s ridiculous!” This comes from God alone as I don’t even know how it came to be. It’s the truth though and I think a lot of singles, especially single women, need to face their own tendencies/perspectives in this area and ask with great scrutiny, “What would happen if I actually found full-blown joy, not just tolerance (which we Christians often cover up by saying “contentedness”), in being single?” What would happen if we all did?

I’ll close with a brief look at someone from the Bible. A persecuting Pharisee-turned-Apostle, a Jewish tent-maker and Kingdom-builder…You know him, you love him, you’re probably convicted through his words ALL the time…it’s PAUL! Paul was certainly a man to take notice of, but how often have you thought about the fact that Paul was single? Dramatic pause…

Paul was largely responsible for bringing the good news of Christ to the non-Jews (a.k.a. Gentiles) of his day. He wrote a tremendously large portion of the New Testament. Most sensationally, though, Paul was not about what he did. He did what he did because he knew God in such a way that many modern Christians can’t even fathom. I’m sure he wasn’t perfect, but he was wholeheartedly God’s and God, in turn, blessed Paul with Himself in great Love, Power, Joy, Peace, and Wondrousness. Paul was meant to be single. It was God’s gift to him. Paul was even aware of the magnitude of the gift and regarded singles as highly blessed (1 Corinthians 7, especially verses 34-35.)

That, my dear friends, is my deepest desire. I want to be wholly God’s and experience Him as fully as possible. This isn’t possible if I don’t regard my single status as the gift it truly is. It’s a gift, a blessing, a way of living with phenomenal potential. I must have been breaking His heart to regard it as a punishment. Was He lovingly saying, “Dear Child, you’re missing it!” to someone with cotton-stuffed ears? I think so.

I’m not saying that I’ve renounced dating (not that I’ve much to renounce.) Marriage is blessed in its own way, as the Bible states, though clearly distinct from the single life. Furthermore, I’ve seen some amazing couples that are clearly nestled in the center of God’s will by being married. This past weekend, I was beyond honored to be a part of one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever been to, for one such couple. It was a breathtaking and powerful reflection of God Himself. If I am to be married one day, grand!, though I will not settle for anything less than my own version of such a coupling.

What I am saying is that I don’t want to miss God’s plans for me as a blessed single person any longer. This is the heart of this non-New Year’s resolution. I am devoting myself to seeking, and no doubt finding, all the love, joy, and enchantment He has for me as a single woman. It’s not about patience in waiting, controlling desires, or preparing myself for future marriage though all of these may occur. It’s about living the life I have right now to the fullest. (John 10:10.)

Another great blog on this topic as written by a pastor at one of my best friend’s churches: http://www.facebook.com/notes/stephanie-williams/my-story-making-the-most-of-your-single-life-bethel-university-chapel-october-20/10150920565550217

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You know what I am great at avoiding and even better at screwing up?  Money matters.  Yes, I know…I just said the “m” word.  I recognize that this is nearly a swearword to many people, often inducing anger, depression, fits of panic, and even hives—sometimes simultaneously.  Though I can understand the desire to scream at the computer and flee from this post in arm-flailing terror, I’m asking you to give it a chance.  You see, I’ve had money on the mind for the past several weeks and I’m pretty sure God wants it that way.  I feel that He’s showing me that it’s completely impossible to have the intimate relationship He desires with us if we don’t pay more attention the contents of our bank accounts and coin purses.

“The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”  Church-goers or not, most people have heard this phrase.  It’s more than just a phrase, though.  It’s a Bible verse, 1 Timothy 6:10 to be exact.   So what does it mean?  Simply put, I think it means that loving money leads to all types of problems.  Not just small, pebble in your shoe type problems, either.  I’m talking about the heavy types of problems more akin to a boulder over your head suspended only by mint-waxed dental floss.  I don’t think it applies just to money either.  I think it applies to all material things.

Does that mean we shouldn’t desire financial stability or want nice things?  Is it corrupt to like vacations, fashion, home décor, or restaurants?  I don’t think so.  Maybe I’m looking at it with too child-like a perspective, but the verse says that “the love of money” is a root of all kinds of evil.  “Like” is very different from love.  Ask any person with a commitment phobia and they’ll confirm that someone saying “I like you” is quite different from a spoken “I love you.”  That being said, I think there can often be a fine line between the harmful love of material things and the more innocent like of them.

In this case, I think love refers to worship.  Worship is defined as reverent honor paid to or adoring reverence or regard for something.  To worship something—truly worship—is to put something in the highest possible position of love, honor, respect, adoration, and devotion.  There is only One who is meant to be in that position in our lives, and that is God Himself.  When He is our object of affection and worship, peace, love, strength, patience, joy, etc. flow in and through our lives.  When we put anything else in that place meant for God alone, chaos ensues.

Think of a beautiful antique grandfather clock.  A clockmaker put his heart into it and carefully positioned each cog, spring, and vital part.  When the original design is respected, it runs beautifully.  If you decide to replace the original metal parts with lesser materials like Styrofoam, temporary and cheap, the clock is unable to function as it was originally designed.  This haphazard replacement will result in brokenness and, if left unchanged, the complete destruction of the clock.  Unfortunately, I have a lot of experience in replacing timeless, pure Goodness in my life with cheap, easily accessible things.  Amazingly enough, God never ceases to pursue me and jump back into His rightful place the moment I turn to Him.

Okay, though this seems to be something I will always be working on, I’ve known all of this for a while.  So what new perspective have my mental mandibles been chewing on?  It’s a misconception actually, that I only recently realized I’ve held.

During a very recent period of financial hardship, my mind was spinning with numbers and red currency symbols causing serious stress.  To put it plainly, I was freaking out and was losing control of my thought life to this very specific worry.  Through this, God spoke to me and basically told me that I needed to let go of my love of money.  At first, it seemed ridiculous.  I had no money to love.  As I thought about it further, I realized the truth in his rebuke.

I think we, as lower, working, or middle-class folks, tend to look up the socioeconomic ladder when we think of materialism.  Materialistic people are those obsessed with big houses, fancy cars, extravagant boats, and $2000 pairs of cashmere socks.  Not us though, we’re just trying to get by.  We think about money and things in the sense of lack and need.  I often obsess about the same types of things, though my big house is a nice apartment and my lavish socks are a six pack of Hanes.  I have been viewing it as “being concerned with needs” and my bankroll’s inability to meet those needs.  I’ve been trying to justify it, but the truth is this: obsession is obsession.  This is what I mean by the “Empty Pocket Idol.”  It’s a dangerous form of materialism (or love of money) that involves being obsessed with the lack of money, not the presence of it.  I don’t need to have funds to spend in order to be evaluating whether or not my heart is in my pocketbook

Now, I would love to tell you five fantastic steps to loosing the holds of the “Empty Pocket Idol” or his equally terrible brother, the “Full Wallet Idol.”  Here’s the thing though…I am not an expert or motivational speaker.  I am a work in progress, especially regarding this subject.  However, by the pursuit of God, I have been shown a couple solutions that I’ve actually been able to experience as life-changing.

  1. Keep yourself full of what—or rather Who—it’s supposed to be full of.  The way to do this is to turn your attention from your worries and desires for things to God.  Even trying to focus on materialism for the sake of fixing it, ultimately leads to obsessing over it once again.  The only way to truly fix a spiritual problem, as this is, is to focus on the Solution, not the details of the problem itself.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also.”  Matthew 6:21  In other words, what you focus on and cherish, will always take over the center of your being including your mind, will, and emotions.  Also, unlike the love of money, loving God is not unrequited.
  2. Practice generosity.  I know that I can’t be free from materialism’s hold until I actual pry open my tightly-closed purse and literally let it go.  I believe this is true for everyone.  It’s an act of faith.  For instance, you can tell me that you trust the train, but your faith in the locomotive will never transition from theoretical to authentic until you actually take a ride.  Plus, giving is a cyclical blessing.  God promises that if we give, as in the case of tithing (giving 10% of your take-home pay to Him,) He will bless us in ways we could never imagine.  See Malachi 3:10…it’s literally God promising immeasurable blessing to those who tithe.  This doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win the lottery or the HGTV Dream Home, but God promises to bless the generous.

I’m sure there are other things we can do to keep materialism at bay and the related idols in the dirt where they belong.  I’m still discovering these though.  I am delighted, though, that the God who holds all wisdom seems to have taken such an interest in me (as He does with ALL people.)  He is beautifully patient as I stumble my way through this on my way to experiencing the full life of He desires for all His children.  How truly marvelous.

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Greetings, blogging world.  I hope this finds you well.

This is a big day for me.  As I mentioned in my About Me page, I am a bit of a dreamer and aspirer.  One of my aspirations, is to become a writer.  This blog is a first step in that direction, a step that is long overdue.  You see, in order to write anything, one must have skill, of course, but also courage and belief in oneself.  If we are honest, I think many of us could agree that doubt and fear come a little more naturally as it certainly does to me.  Regarding writing, I’ve been resting in the familiarity of said doubt and fear, choosing not to take a chance…until now.

Though I have little desire to climb rocks, snowshoe in Antarctica, or whitewater raft, I actually have a rather adventurous heart.  My adventurous desires are for experiencing new places, meeting new people, and trying new things.  However, I often yield to fear, which is what I consider to be the greatest enemy of dreaming and adventurous undertakings.  As I’ve discovered, through a series of God-led wonderings, there have been two types of fear with particular influence in my life.  I found this understanding to be quite revolutionary and hopefully, you will too.  The fears I am most prone to are as follows:

1.  The Fear of Failure.  No one can argue that this is the most common.  Failure is an unavoidable possibility in any undertaking.  A  friend once sat on a swing and hilariously fell right through.  The swing failed to do what it appeared to promise.  There was no way to know that, at that very moment, the chain had reached its maximum rust capacity and would’ve come undone by the weight of a paperback book.  A silly example–maybe–but it rings true.  The possibility of failure is a ferociously daunting and all-too-often crippling reality that we all have to face when taking a first step towards something.

2.  The Fear of Relinquishing the Fantasy.  This may not seem related to fear, but it very much is.  It is quite related to the blanket fear of failure.  This was the hardest for me to conquer.  It’s something I’m still working on.  Since I was a young child, I’ve been a dreamer.  In the last quarter-century, I’ve dreamt of being a singer, illustration artist, ballerina, architect (the necessary math shot that one down,) English teacher, psychologist, and of course, a writer.  I’ve let my imagination run free and uninhibited within me about what it would look like to do these things.  These are the fantasies which can be based on  memory or pure imagination.

To actually try to pursue a dream or idea results in an unavoidable trade.  We are met at the gate leading to the first step with this proposition.  Going through the gate means giving up the fantasy we’ve cherished in exchange for reality.  What was once a perfect imagined scenario is now under the scrutiny of the light of reality.  Perfection is shattered.

For example, I love to sing.  I suppose I have some skill as my past would display with awards, successful auditions, etc.  However, this is all in the past.  I haven’t sung much in the last three years.  I’ve often thought of auditioning for the band at church but I’ve yet to do so.  Why?  Because I have a beautiful memory of how good I was which fuels a fantasy of how I could be.  To actually audition for the band would mean immediate surrender of my precious fantasy in exchange for the possibility of an unsuccessful audition.  That’s frightening to me!  After all, isn’t safer to be comforted by a perfect dream than it is to be confronted by reality?

So, I wonder, how do we conquer this?  What does it take to make the trade at the gate?  To be completely honest, this is something I’m still finding.  I can tell you that a form of gumption is most necessary, but it’s something more than this.  It takes faith.  Faith in yourself is often a vehicle which can only carry you so far, as I’ve found out.  Truthfully, it’s been my faith in God and His care, provision, and protection over every part of me (including the hopes for myself) that have driven me to make the exchange and open the gate.  This blog is my very first step towards writing.  I’m trusting in God to inspire me (it was He who first inspired me), believe in me, and make a way if He wants to.  It’s in His hands, not mine.  And that makes it tremendously easier to relinquish the fantasy in hopes of a more wonderful reality.

This concludes my very first blog entry.  Please check out my About Me and About the Blog pages and thanks a heap for stopping by!

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