Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Challenge: Month 2

On April 5th, I completed my second month of no dating. Ten more months to go! This month was actually pretty staggering. God had a lot to teach me, and boy did the message sink in hard. It was a very intense month for personal growth. It's even more intense to think I have ten more months of these kind of lessons. Hoo boy! Anyway, I learned two main points. I learned about the nature of desire, especially a particular desire that's been plaguing me all year, and I learned a little about fairy tale love.

Lately, I've been reading a lot of John Eldredge's works. God speaks to me pretty clearly through his ministry, whether it be a section of his book, "Walking with God" or one of the Ransomed Heart podcasts. About two weeks ago, I had an odd urge, as I was getting ready for bed, to read the next section.

Bear in mind, this is not part of my routine. I've gotten into the habit of starting my day with coffee and a devotion, just so I can live out my day with His words on my mind. But for some reason, I had the distinct feeling to read the next section of "Walking with God" that night. So I did. And good gracious, it had a lot to say to me.

The section was called, 'Unmet Longings'. That should've been my first tip off. Eldredge wrote about desires of the heart, talking about what to do when the same longing crops up over and over again. He said that a common practice is to bury this desire. Eldredge stresses the danger of burying longings, writing that it is a slow form of starvation for the heart. God awakens these desires for a reason.

This hits waaay too close to home. I wrote before about how there has been a certain longing that's constantly been at my heart and no matter how much I pray for relief, it keeps happening. I'd started to shut it down, to close off myself from it. I quickly learned that this wasn't a good idea, but what was denied to me was the answer--what to do with this unmet longing.

Here, God pointed me to the answer. He forced me to examine this desire carefully and critically--something I most certainly did not want to do. But it woke me up, and I realized, that at the heart of this desire was a want for God. A desperate want to have God at the center of my life, my family, and all the things I love, both now and in the future. This seems like a simple revelation, but for me it was groundbreaking. My desire was an indirect desire for God. What a relief this was! Because God wanted me too, and He was using this desire to awaken my soul and answer my heart's longing.

The second thing I learned this month has to do with fairy tales. Bear with me. If you've been around me at all, you'll know that I'm currently obsessed with the show, "Once Upon A Time". People have been telling me to watch it FOREVER but I very foolishly ignored them up until last weekend. Now, it's by far my favorite show. It has everything I love--fairy tales, multi-dimensional characters, tributes to Disney movies, an engaging plot, heart-wrenching romance...sigh. But it does not escape me that there are several allegories that can be made from this show.

For instance: The plot revolves around an evil queen transporting all the fairy tale characters to a town called Storybrooke and ruining their happy endings. These characters don't remember who they are or who they're meant to be.

Sound familiar? Satan holds this world in captivity, convincing the majority that all we are is ordinary, piddly little humans with no expectation for greatness.

But the character Emma Swan, arrives on the scene, and immediately begins to change the town. Slowly but surely, the characters begin to remember their past lives and start fighting the evil queen to win back their happy endings.

Christ came down to our fallen earth and reawakened us. Through His majesty, we can fight sin and fight the Prince of Lies who tell us that we are not enough.

And that's just a glossing over the plot. There is sooo much more to this show. My next blog post will detail the episode "Skin Deep" and the allegories therein. See you then--and next month, May 5th, for the month 3 recap!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In Which I Get Angry

We interrupt this series of thoughtful, spiritual blog posts with an angry rant. Apologies in advance.

I may have mentioned this in a previous blog post. Three years ago, my dear friend Avlbane started a literature/creative writing group with me. We called it the Inklings--basing it upon the same group C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were a part of in Oxford.

Inklings started out as just the two of us meeting at a coffeehouse talking about our respective stories. It grew. Oh, how it grew. It is now a formalized club on campus. We have blossoming new writers every semester. It is an incredible experience.

Inklings is Avlbane's and my baby. We have a great deal of love and affection for this club and all who are a part of it and all who've helped publicize and really make it into something.

So when some condescending smart-ass professor insults both the club AND us AND one of our good friends, we get irritated.

Let me back up. One of our friends asked to do a really awesome project on Inklings. She interviewed us, recorded one of the meetings, took tons of pictures, and even did a bunch of professional shots of Avlbane and me. And let me tell you--they were good. They were REALLY good. I had a lot of people ask me why I'd gotten professional pictures taken--they were blown away when I told them a student took them. She worked really hard on this project.

She recently had a conference with this jackass who basically told her that her project was not very good (which in fact IT WAS.) and proceeded to tell her that Avlbane and I were silly, immature, full of ourselves, and thought we were equal to Tolkien and Lewis.

Let's clear up some things right now.

First off: The silly remark. Yes. Avlbane and I are silly. We like to laugh, we like to make jokes--most normal people do. I'm not sure how this is an insult. Is this somehow insinuating Tolkien and Lewis weren't silly? Let me tell you something. Here's what the original Oxford Inklings would do every Tuesday. They would go down to a pub, read from some of their stories, have literary arguments, and get drunk. I mean totally drunk. They would drink and drink and get louder and louder until they were all bellowing with laughter. Imagine a bunch of old, drunk, medievalist Oxford professors slurring their words and arguing about subtext in Beowulf in the original Icelandic. I'm not kidding. This is the EPITOME of silliness. Lewis devotes an entire section in "The Four Loves" to how laughter is a huge component in love.

And seriously. Lewis invented marshwiggles and Tolkien invented hobbits. The argument is now invalid.

Are we full of ourselves? There is a difference between being full of yourself and being proud of something you accomplished. Alex and I literally started this group with two people--just her and me. Around eight to fifteen people show up at every meeting nowadays. Are we proud of this? Yes. Does this mean we're arrogant and think we're better than everybody else? No. People start clubs at my college every day and I'm sure many of these clubs will go on to be way more successful than the Inklings will ever be. But you know what? Inklings is our baby and we're proud of it. Deal with it.

Do we think we're as great as Lewis and Tolkien?

Let's recap. C.S. Lewis is and was a renowned theologian. He's been dead since 1963 and people are STILL using his works to back up their research in apologetics. Nearly every recent publication dealing with modern Christianity cites Lewis at some point. Not only that, he held a chair of poetry at Cambridge and worked at Oxford for nearly thirty years. He published over fifty books--at the least--nearly all of which were raging successes. His lectures were among the most popular at Oxford. Not only was he an incredibly intelligent man, he was an incredibly kind man as well, helping fund over thirty students' educations, giving a significant portion of his earnings to charities, and overall being the kindest, humblest guy you could know. Tolkien was pretty much the most talented philologist you will ever meet, not only helping doing the research for the Oxford English Dictionary (no lie) as well as translating Gawain and the Green Knight and several other Middle English works. He studied Icelandic poetry. IN ICELANDIC. The very first recorded Inklings meetings focused mainly on this subject and yes, the meetings were in Icelandic. (Lewis came to one and didn't return till they started speaking English.) He earned a professorship at Oxford over Anglo-Saxon, with a fellowship in 1925. And you know what this mofo did for fun? He wrote the Lord of the Rings in his spare time. IN HIS SPARE TIME. Have you seen those books?! Not only that, being a badass philologist, he created the languages WITHIN Lord of the Rings.

No. Avlbane and I do not think we are anywhere NEAR these guys' level of greatness. Nor do we claim to be. All we can say is that C.S. Lewis is my favorite writer and J.R.R. Tolkien is Avlbane's. In no way do we ever claim to BE them. When I say, "Avlbane is the Tolkien to my Lewis," I am saying that my friendship with her is reminiscent of theirs. REMINISCENT. I am saying that Avlbane and my early arguments about Christianity vs. Atheism had a very similar ring to Lewis' and Tolkien's arguments about the same thing.

But I could ignore all of this. Writers have thick skins. But what really irritates me the most, is that my friend, who worked SO hard on this project, had to sit there and listen to this jackass professor talk down to her work and insult her friends. THAT is the final sting that makes me want to find this professor and verbally flay him.

Here's the summation of Inklings. Avlbane and I created it for ourselves and others who get the same enjoyment out or writing and reading as we do. We created it because we like to laugh, we like to learn, we like to share our stories and hear others'.

It was my understanding that's why Lewis and Tolkien were Inklings.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Princes and Prizes

I was thinking today about romance and the desire for romance. What a mess the world is in today. I've mentioned before how I think that society views love in a totally warped way. This isn't to undermine romance--I am, at heart, a romantic, but as any of my friends can tell you, this has been buried. It took me a long time to acknowledge my longing for love and romance.

The desire for romance has a strangely double-sided view by the world. On the one hand, there's the 'all you need is love' philosophy, the belief that finding that one true soulmate is the one thing you need to complete you. It's an easy trap to fall into.

On the other hand, it's mocked, especially when this desire is seen in women. Women who wish for a Prince Charming are seen at the best of times as idealists. At the worst of times, they're viewed as hopelessly naive. We are told to settle. Settle for the nice guy who does not inspire adventure within our hearts. Settle for the bad boy who is exciting but beats us--emotionally or physically. Settle for whatever comes along, hush up your desires, carry on with your life. But when we long for the idea of a prince--someone immeasurably kind, who understands us but who has the strength to fight for us and slay our dragons--we're immediately scorned.

Not to say that we can't fight our own dragons. Women are powerful creatures. We were made that way. Sure, we were made as the manifestations of God's beauty--created in His own image, you know--but there is a ferocity in women. You don't want to mess with us. We are tigresses in our battles. Think of the movie Mean Girls--women fight in ugly, terribly powerful ways. If you don't believe me, go to a woman you know and insult her best friends or her children.

But I think there's a desire in every woman that someone might want to fight for us. That someone might want to take the burden of fighting alone from us. Someone who will be our comrade on the battlefield and when the world gets to be too much, someone who take up arms and slay the dragon that feasts on our insecurities.

What the world tells men is no better. There is an underlying message of settling told to them as well, but worse still there is this--treat your women as prizes. Collect, capture, lure, entrap women and after all of your effort, be done with it. You're a free agent after all. You can't be tied down, you're a real man. Going through an avalanche of women, no strings attached, is an easy way to get through life. A string of broken hearts behind you? Good for you. Pat yourself on the back. Get yourself a beer. The world will celebrate your success at being an asshole.

If this kind of thing sounds familiar, it's probably because a lot of these thoughts come from John and Stasi Eldredge's books. They wrote the books "Captivating", "Wild at Heart", "Love and War", etc. Books that celebrate femininity and masculinity to their fullest extent, as seen through the eyes of Christ. I recommend them to anyone.

Basically what I'm getting at is to fight the lie that romance is weakness. To tell my fellow sisters that it's okay to want a prince. It's okay to long for love and hope to be romanced. To my brothers, I want to tell them that emotion does not make them weak and that each and every one of them has the strength to fight for the ones they love. Christ fought for us. Christ wept for us. He is the most perfect example of love--and possibly the only true example of love--that we will ever have. Let's learn to follow in that.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why, God?

Today I asked God why.

For the past few weeks, God has been gently telling me to do something. Something I didn't particularly want to do. Something that would cause me continual pain--but something that I knew would be ultimately to His glory. Something that would probably break my heart into a thousand pieces.

Understandably, I didn't want to. I didn't want to suffer pain for the sake of someone else, someone I didn't particularly like. This issue has been causing me pain for a while now. It's been sort of a continual misery to me and I have hated being helpless about it.

Over spring break, after a moment of closure with one of my closest friends, I decided to guard my heart against it. I imagined my heart, I imagined all of the pain, and I visualized locking it away. Kate Voegele has a song called "We the Dreamers" and one of the lines is, "So I'll buy myself a cheap apartment and I'll buy my heart a secret compartment." That's what I was going to do. Every time the issue made my heart hurt, I imagined myself walling up my heart again. Bricks, barbed wire, cement blocks, just locking it away so the pain couldn't get to it. I even attributed the idea to God and thanked Him for it. Eventually, I got to a point where even when the issue was at its strongest, I was emotionally numb to it. I'd stopped caring.

It was such a release not to have this pain pierce my heart. But it was a false release. I learned that tonight.

Basically, at house church, in no uncertain terms God told me to knock it off. He told me that He still wanted me to do the thing that I did not want to do. He wanted me to make an effort at it. He wanted me to put my whole heart into it, not lock it away.

This upset me. I resigned myself to it, but that didn't stop me from being upset with God. I railed at Him on the ride home. Why? Why do you want ME to do this? Why can't someone else? Why can't someone else, who won't be hurt, who won't be pained do this instead of me? Why do you INSIST on me feeling this pain?!

I even added in a very nasty voice, "And all I get as an answer is silence. As usual."

I stomped into my house, slumped into a chair, and popped open my computer. Scrolling down the facebook page, I noticed someone from my old church had posted a Skit Guys video. I don't know why I clicked it. But I did.

I wasn't even paying full attention to it. But right at a very timely moment--I heard the bit talking about where Jesus knelt before his disciples and washed their feet.

And then I burst into tears.

Because I got my answer.

Christ was a servant to us. His life was a life of pain. When he washed his disciples' feet, he wasn't just washing their feet, he was washing my feet. He was washing Pilate's feet. He was washing the man who hammered nails into his palms' feet. Christ's life was all about servanthood. And now, God wants to teach me to be a servant.

This isn't an easy task. It certainly wasn't for our Lord. And I don't exactly know what will come of it. But I know, right now, here in this place in my life, God wants me to learn how to be a servant to others. To humble myself and wash others' feet--even people I don't like, even people who inadvertently hurt me. All I can do, is pray for His strength and that Christ may create in me a servant's heart.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Challenge: Month 1 Recap

So, it has been exactly one month since I made the decision to devote a year between me and God, and abstain from dating.

One month down, eleven more to go.

How's it gone so far?

Pretty easily, actually. This shouldn't really come as a surprise. I'm kind of a homebody, I don't get out much. My idea of a wild Friday night is chilling with Avlbane at her apartment or my house watching movies or Doctor Who or Sherlock. I mean, occasionally after Inklings we'll stop at Cleo's or Scotty's for a beer. But that's about it.

I don't like partying. When I am forced to go to a party (usually because a friend drags me) I end up in the corner, nursing my drink, and reading a book. I am the epitome of lame.

So it's not really like there's been a line of boys behind me, begging to ask me out. Which is just dandy for me!

I think what's become most noticeable is the lack of possibility. I may be the only one who does this, but sometimes, I'll see a cute guy in one of my classes, or talk to one in line for a coffee or something, and there will be a little bit of chemistry between us. Naturally, because I enjoy overanalyzing an event to death, I'll imagine the first date, what it'd be like to be this person's girlfriend, yadda yadda yadda.

But this month, my imagination usually gets cut short with a quick, "He's cute, but I'm not dating for a year." Sometimes it's disheartening. Generally it's a good way to stave off my overactive imagination.

My friends have been very supportive which I greatly appreciate. My house church has also provided me a lot of fellowship with this endeavor, occasionally asking me how it's going, if I need prayer or anything. It's nice to know I have this kind of support when things get difficult.

Because I know. Things will get difficult. They always do.

But for now, I'm enjoying the time with God and me and I like to think He is too.

One month down, eleven more to go.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Guys, I really need your help. I'm trying to win a Kate Voegele cover contest. The most 'likes' on youtube wins. I am perilously close to winning this week--it's between me and another girl, literally neck and neck. If you guys could help a girl out and 'like' this video on youtube, I'd be eternally grateful.

If you have already 'liked' it--do you have any other gmail or youtube accounts? :D

If you have already 'liked' it with all of your accounts--could you get your friends to 'like' it too? Then tell me you did so, so I can thank you properly in my next blog.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Job and God's Gambling Problem

Warning: Christian thoughts ahead!

A while back, I read somewhere--not sure where--about how God is the ultimate gambler. Not just the ultimate gambler, the ultimate BAD gambler. He bets on us when, chances and history tells Him, we're more likely to lose.

There's Biblical evidence for this. Consider Job 1&2. I'll let you read it for yourself, but here's the summation. God and Satan have a bet that if Satan curses Job and makes his life miserable, that Job will turn away from God. God readily agrees to this. The rest of Job is Job, in his suffering, calling out to God asking him why he was doing this and God responding.

I'll be honest. I've never really liked Job. It was my least favorite book of the Bible. It seemed to show a very callous side of God. It put to mind a puppeteer or a chess-master, moving and manipulating His pawns about the board. The idea of God wagering on us, especially against the vindictiveness of Satan, seemed horrible to me.

But lately, I think I'm beginning to understand Job a little more. God doesn't just bet on Job, He bets on all of us. Against all odds, our crazy in love God continually insists on believing in us and loving us. It makes absolutely no logical sense. How many times has God said to us, 'I'm counting on you,' and we've let Him down? How many times has God pulled through for us compared to when we have pulled through for him?

But I suppose God loads the odds for as Scripture says, 'If He is with us, who can stand against us?' If we call on God as our protector, as our Savior, there is no losing.

It's funny how often we forget that.