Tag Archives: Scripture

Sweet Spot

20 Mar

Today’s post requires an explanation. 

I’m taking a class at a local Christian College (the Kilns) called Personal Calling and Mission. For the midterm project, everyone had to give a “sweet spot” presentation to illustrate what each individual was passionate about, and to apply learned concepts in the class. The following post was my sweet spot presentation (given in speech form), so know before you dive in: It has nothing to do with pop culture, it’s quite personal, has no pictures, and, for a blog post of mine, it’s lengthy, my friend.

Quite lengthy. Should you choose to proceed, do so with caution.

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I have a name, but it might tell you more if I told you something different about myself: I am an INFP. According to the well-known Briggs Myers personality test, that stands for Introvert, Intuition, Feeling, and Perceiving.

In my case, or a condensed version of it, that means I’m a sappy, wildly imaginative person who’s bad at small talk and has a sometimes questionable work ethic.

I admit to a certain amount of temptation during the test to manipulate my answer. I was kind of hoping for a different personality type. I didn’t have a certain one in mind, but I was shooting for a specific niche, a sort of divergent style of personality with a whole new combination of letters (e.g., WOW), and it would lead to a secret encoded page in the back of the book that said, you were meant to do, no doubt about it, [fill in the blank].

That didn’t happen.

I actually ended up with the same personality as someone else in the class, which kind of felt whatever the opposite of empowering is.

I found myself wishing, against all the force of my common sense, that I had gone first so I didn’t, heaven forbid, look like a copycat. To explain away that last statement, I want to remind you, I’m the youngest of three daughters, and the closest in my family to being a toddler.

My prologue to this class, Personal Calling and Mission, starts several weeks ago. I was looking over the term’s available classes with a friend, and she pointed to one I was thinking of taking, and asked if at the end of the class, someone was going to hand me a slip of paper identifying my true calling in life.

I responded, pretending to joke around, “I certainly hope so.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t continue to hope so throughout the class.

A lot of things scare me, but few so much as the future and the massive and potentially damaging effect that I am capable of having on it. This fear, I’m sorry to say, definitely crept into my early approach to the class. For example, as I was writing down my five-year-out goals, I initially held back – because what if, in five years, I look back on these goals and haven’t accomplished them? Are my grades in this class dependent on the 22-year-old me being a successful adult? I feel very uncomfortable placing so much responsibility with someone I have yet to meet.

I think that says a lot about me.

And whose goals and priorities don’t shift through the years?

When I was about seven years old, I wanted to be a professional singer. I sang all the time, to the point where my parents were forced to institute a “no-singing” rule at the dinner table. Of course it seemed like the eventual best choice to sing and get paid for it. That’s what a life calling is all about, anyway, right?

Today, due to many, many issues with it for me, the singing dream is gone. But one thing that stands out to me about that age in my life is from when that dream was still alive and well.  I had just told an older friend about my aspiration, and she replied,

“Well, every little girl wants to be a singer.”

True. But few things really tear down a dream like being told that the dream is commonplace – and not only commonplace, but a rite of passage, a phase that you’ll eventually get over.

I’ll concede that it was a realistic point of view, but in the worst way. Reality has its place, and that place is at least three kingdoms away from the hopes and dreams of seven-year-olds.

Furthermore, I believe I stressed earlier that the last thing I don’t want to believe that I am a copycat. I’ve certainly never wanted to believe that I belong in a collective group entitled, “every little girl,” a group that will one day collectively grow up and develop realistic aims.

I find, however, that that little soundbyte has stuck with me.

Of course, it’s been several years and dozens of “when I grow up”s since then. I’ve been through detective, spy, librarian, waitress, receptionist, married to a rich guy, masked vigilante, and coroner, but as of the past few years, I believe God is calling me to write in some fashion. I would love that to include a career as an author or screenwriter, but I haven’t gotten to look at God’s road map yet.

It’s wonderful to know at least a facet of your calling, and to be able to meet with others who seem to have the same one. I have a lot of writer friends – being a writer surrounded by writers is the best thing in the world in a way. There’s a whole community of people who think like you, share ambitions with you, and can help you, but in other, more selfish ways, there’s also a downside. For example, you see firsthand just how much better your friends are than you at doing the thing you love. You see how many people there already are in the career field, doing the thing you love, and then, if you’re me, there’s also a little voice that chirps every so often in the back of your head,

“Well, every little girl wants to be a writer.”

Even without the original statement that this one is derived from, I believe I would still feel this particular anxiety. It’s a very me fear. I’ve already said I don’t want to be in the “Every Little Girl” class, but it it’s even worse to worry that I won’t even be part of the acceptably gifted ones in that class. The writers that inspire me so much are the ones I’m terrified to be compared to.

As a result of this sort of fear, I have found myself in a trap: believing that to succeed in my own eyes means to succeed in the eyes of everyone else. Therefore, to improve in this area, I start to think that everything about me has to point toward my someday writing something that everyone will like.

Earlier in the class, when we were writing our short-term and long-term goals, I remember being a little bit disappointed with mine, as they turned out to have nothing whatsoever to do with what I want to be when I grow up. However, if I have learned anything in this class, it’s that “what I am when I grow up” does not stop or start with a career. It’s just in the mix somewhere. Furthermore, if our primary calling is to make God happy and my principal aim is to make strangers like me, then I’m doing it very wrong. Why would the opinion of a clay pot mean more to me than the opinion of its potter?

Everyone has their own areas of expertise and “transferable skills,” as the class text, Live Your Calling calls them, and there’s only one opinion of how we use ours that should matter to us: the One who created them.

My transferable skills started with writing, editing, and designing/creating for preferred career inclusions.

Those three are  things I love – and coincidentally, things that seem to fit well into my personality type.

The book’s description for INFP said, among other things, that this particular group of people care intensely for people and ideas, and are drawn to careers in which they can foster growth and development in others. I really found this to be true in me.

Now first: Lord knows I am not exactly qualified to be the wellspring of growth and development. I still get a stomachache when I think about paying bills, and I’m undoubtedly long overdue for most of my impending maturity. But what I do learn, I want to pass on. And what I have learned, I have always learned through what I love: through stories, and though words.

The whole art of words has grown and evolved, and it is always shifting into some new, beautiful medium to touch more people. You must love words; you must love the magic of communication to learn.

Words were never meant to be kept silent. If something is worth writing down, it is worth being sung, spoken, shouted, or whispered. More often than not, it is the verbalization that makes the words something special. As flames lick at anything to come too close, voices ignite words with a new life, unlocking the potential energy and turning it kinetic.

You won’t ever be able to avoid it– there’s a sanctity in words, and we’ve all experienced its glory. Even if that’s not something you tend to think about, you will always notice when that glory is spoiled. For example, I feel I can safely assume that all of us have had that terrible moment, in a classroom, in a Sunday school, in a club, etc. The group is eventually asked to volunteer to read a selection out loud and as that one kid raises his hand, he lifts up the words in print, and he slays them. Every word containing over seven letters has been stretched to an unbearable seven syllables, punctuated with question marks and nervous laughter.

In that moment, as you try in vain to block out the near heretical voice, you realize there is something magical in words written and spoken well, and it doesn’t take much to break the spell.

People have used words to build wonderful causes for the advancement of good and to raise armies of terrible evil in equal measure.

The gift of words is so powerful that God literally filled volumes with his own purest and truest of words just for us.

How crazy is that?

One of the best bits for me in those heaven-inspired volumes is in Deuteronomy 31:8. It says, “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be discouraged.”

I always feel, when I read my Bible and trip over a verse about fear, anxiety, and discouragement, that God is trying to kindly slap me in the face. I do find most things terrifying, and as I said earlier, one of the primary subjects in that broad “most things” category is the future.

My typical strategy for overcoming fear or discomfort is pretending the cause of that fear or discomfort does not exist.

For a very vivid example, when my dog, whom my family and I had had for as long as I can remember, died, I didn’t even tell my oldest and closest friends about it for a week or longer. My infallible logic was that if I didn’t think about it or admit it, it didn’t have to have happened, and I didn’t need to be sad about it.

That might be more sad than pathetic if it happened years and years ago, but it didn’t. It happened last August.

So it follows that when I’m scared of the future, I tend to pull on my forever-young attitude and pretend none of my questionable and lazy choices will ever have an adverse effect on my life.

One of my core values, as I found during the course of this class, is laughter/fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that – but when it starts to take precedence over another of my core values, truth, then there is a serious problem.

That’s what I’m trying to change. If anxiety and the avoidance of it is the driving force in my decisions, then I’m not going to live up the potential God created me for.

That’s what I love about Deuteronomy 31:8; it’s tailor-made for fearful people. It says “He goes before you.” God is with you now, absolutely. But not only that – he’s already been there with you. He’s been there before you, with you, and after you. He is eternal – no matter how much we’ve messed up and we will mess up, we are incapable of messing Him up. He created us on purpose, and He personally tuned our unique weaknesses and strengths. He knows very well what we can’t handle, and He’s given us every gift that we possess to handle what we can. There’s no way you can cling onto God’s arm too hard. If you were to even ask Him to carry you for a while, He wouldn’t refuse.

He hasn’t refused so far.

He knows this path, and He’s far steadier on it than you or I will ever need to be.

Every little girl wants someone like that.

I know I am beyond blessed to be one of His little girls, and I believe that knowing that is the first half of anyone living their calling.

The rest is faith.

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What’s December Without Christmas Eve?

24 Dec

I’m munching a candy cane as I write this, and although the peppermint stickiness of my fingers is trying to tell me this brand of multitasking is a bad idea, I have to say something to everyone.

Merry –

Wait

I can’t do this until you’re feeling the Christmas spirit.

And you know what that means.

Everyone knows what that means.

It’s time for some seasonal goodies.

Whether that means a musical Doctor Who Christmas,

A present from the BBC straight to the Sherlockians (THANK YOU BBC),

A Balloonshop Christmas with all the joys of the holiday season,

Or whether you just still don’t know the lyrics to “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

Whether you’re set up to have a white Christmas, a green Christmas, or some sort of in-between grey Christmas, I wish you the very merriest. I know well that Christmas spirit has a way of being uncharacteristically elusive at times, but I still hope it manages to find you and your loved ones well.

I would love to help, if I can. Let me build you a fire and put on some music.

Merry Christmas.

I hope it is full of joy, song, and Christmas cheer. I hope no one plays “Christmas Shoes” or forces you to watch some horrendous “classic” Christmas movie. I hope you eat whatever you like. I hope you answer the phone with, “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” Most of all, I hope and pray that you are very, very blessed on the day of our Savior’s birth.

Now, I get it – at this point in December, it’s entirely possible that you have found yourself torn between the careful, yet ambiguous “Happy Holidays” wishers and the people who punch you in the face and aggressively wish you the Christiest Christmas that ever did Christ.

You definitely can’t please everyone, not even [especially not] at “the most wonderful time of year.” However, the angels in Luke 2:10 proclaimed that they had good news of great joy for all the people when they announced Jesus’ birth. All the people. Impressive. There are few things that are really universal, but love is one of them, and Christmas is about love. Plain and simple. 1st John 4:8 says “God is love.” John 3:16 says “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”

Jesus Christ, the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, is the embodiment of God’s love for us. It only makes sense then that the preferred form of Christmas celebration is, in fact, love (followed closely by singing loud for all to hear). Now, by no means should love be a seasonal affair, but the fact remains that it is often treated that way, brought out and dusted off just for special occasions. What if this Christmas could be the time when the love starts to stick?

Love isn’t about a feeling, after all, it can stay long after Christmas spirit has been boxed up for twelve more months.

Christmas is about love, but, really, so is everything else.

Shall we celebrate?

[Note for the Whovians: in case you were about to ask – yes, tears can be a relevant way to show love. I’m sure I’ll be there. But of course, as we bid farewell to our adored Eleventh Doctor on Christmas day, we remember: same software, different case. Merry Christmas, everyone.]

Priceless

28 Nov

In any given guide to writing, you are sure to find something about starting off with an interesting sentence.

The problem with that bit of advice is that what is interesting to one person is by no means interesting to someone else. I could start every one of my essays for college with a sentence about interesting parallels in the Marvel comics Civil War storyline and I would be hooked, but chances are my professor would be less than impressed.

Every Fanboy and girl knows very well: no one is required to be interested in what you are interested in.

What is to you

will at some point be  to another.

It’s something one learns to live with, as one learns to live with, shall we say, uncomfortable relatives at Thanskgiving (just to throw it out there). You accept it because it’s real, but darned if you’re not going to at least try to change your circumstances to make it easier for you. It’s understandable. Who wouldn’t do it?

Whether it’s placing those unfamiliar extended family members at the extra dinner table or forcibly making a friend watch a Sherlock marathon (because they’ll thank you later), it does happen, even if it doesn’t always work.

What you love and what you do can define who you are, but if everyone had those things in common, the world would be a disturbingly boring place to be. There’s a reason everyone is different, and that is because we all have a unique place and purpose, and no two of the 7 billion of us are interchangeable.

That’s why the thought of someone not thinking they are worth anything, or believing that they don’t matter, is, and should be, heartbreaking. There is every possible variant of diversity among humanity, but not a single one of us is inconsequential. That’s the one thing we can all say we have in common – our importance.

One of my favorite quotes on this topic, one that says it way better than I can, is from Asa Butterfield’s title character in Hugo,

“I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.

And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.”

You’re not an extra part. You are an enchantingly beautiful, incalculably valuable human being with an important purpose, and you are surrounded by people who have their very own brand of those things as well. Every person with a different type of beauty has a beauty all the same.

And of course, none of us are perfect, but our flaws alone do not define us, and we must not let them. They may contribute to who we are, but they do not change the fact that who we are is loved, cherished, and utterly priceless.

“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

And that’s something to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, and God bless!

Naturally

20 Sep

A choose-your-own adventure book, for those of you deprived of such a pleasure, is a tale in which you are the main character. The story has several conditional sections, and at the end of each section, the story asks you to make a decision. If you choose (A) then go to page 14, and if you choose (B), go to page 17.

I adored these, as any control freak would.  I’ve suffered enough pain at the hands of enough fictional characters – it’s time I made a decision or two, right? But I wasn’t good at these as I should have been. That is, I knew how to use them, but I still persisted in abusing them.

Whenever I read a choose-your-own adventure story, I made very questionable decisions. Intentionally. There was one story where I was on an island with some group of people, and I had the choice to go exploring all on my own, or to follow the group like a good little boy scout.

What I saw was a way to be able to make thoughtless decisions without being punished.

So it never turned out well for me.

As far as “choosing my own adventure” went, I died, was sent home in disgrace, and was rushed to the emergency room more times than should have been necessary.

And I don’t think I was the only person who did this.

I mean, let’s be honest, I am part of the human species. Rules don’t agree with us very well. You may have heard of a young couple who lived long ago, and were given one rule? Something about not taking fruit from a forbidden tree? Remember that?

We’re related to these people.

Human nature has a few defining qualities. If you hang out with humans for too long, you’ll find a few patterns in our behavior.

One of those is that we cross lines. Have you ever noticed that as soon as you are told you can’t do something, you want to? If someone tells you to not look down, where do you look? If they tell you to not turn around, what do you? If they tell you not to go near that door, touch that door, or open that door, what do you do with that door?

Those of you who have seen M. Night Shamalayan’s The Village will recall a scene where a group of teenagers play a dangerous game. The teens go to the edge of the forbidden forest and one of them is dared to stand on the boundary between their village and the forest: the object is to see how long he can do it without getting too afraid and running off.

This game would be utter boredom if not for the “forbidden” factor. If it had been allowed, it wouldn’t have been fun. If you’ve been human for two or more years, than you have figured this out by yourself.

Another thing you’ve probably witnessed by now is that misery loves company (How do you think fandoms grow so fast?), even if the miserable person in question isn’t intentionally trying to get people to experience his feelings.

Half a second everyone – I’m going to embark on a rabbit trail that I promise applies to the topic at hand.

I don’t know if you’ve experienced this before, but dropping your iPod or mp3 player on a treadmill is utterly terrifying, comparable to having a poster fall off your wall in the middle of the night.

one second you’re relaxed, listening to The White Stripes, and all is well. The next second, your earbuds are torn mercilessly out of your head, the music is cut off with a sudden snap, and your fallen musical device threatens to trip you as it cartwheels off the treadmill, careening to its death.

By the time your brain processes the unfortunate situation, your adrenaline is pumping like you’ve been maliciously attacked, and, shaking, you look around to see who is watching you fail at life.

Everyone is.

This has happened to me more times than I would prefer, but yesterday it happened to someone else. I watched as his phone was brushed off of the tiny desk-like surface, and then proceeded to leap around under his feet until he had to jump off the moving belt to avoid it. He looked around to see who had seen him fail at life.

I averted my eyes until his gaze was far removed from my face.

Then I smiled like some sort of sadist.

I mean, come on, people, look me in the eye and tell me you’ve never been slightly comforted when someone else besides you struggles to push open a door marked “pull.”

That’s a thing, right? Tell me that’s a thing other people do.

Maybe I should move on.

Sometimes, as now, I wonder if my intense love for good fictional villains has driven me to villainy. But in this case, I think not. Misery does adore company. It’s in our nature, as are many things that are less than benevolent and/or humanitarian.

No one has to teach us how to take what’s not ours, to rebel, or break rules. We figure it out ourselves.

We’re human – we’re born broken and we live broken. This is not to say we’re hopeless or irredeemable; we have boundless capacity for good.

This just makes our good choices even better. So much of the time, they go against our nature. Under most circumstances, you will not make an offhand comment that makes someone’s day. You will not accidentally love someone. And when I say love, I don’t mean

I mean

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

I’m not saying this because I’m fabulous at it. I’m human too, despite what you may have heard.

Love may not be the easy choice, or even the first choice, but love is the best choice a human can make, and the people who consistently choose it are the best humans.

And hey guys, Jesus loves you.

Pass it forward and love on.

Disclaimer: I will probably still smile if I see you trying to pull open a “push” door. Let’s not move too fast.