Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New rules for sex and dating

I just wanted to take a moment and recommend that everyone, single or taken, straight or gay, christian or not, listen/watch this sermon series (4 parts):

The new rules for love sex and dating

Written by Andy Stanley, pastor at North Point Community Church (Georgia).

A refreshing and honest view of relationships and our responsibility, before, during and after dating/marriage.

Seriously, it's been life-altering for me. I think it needs to be mandatory viewing for all teenagers (and some adults), particularly those within the Church. Changing the way we view dating, commitment, and even relationships inside of marriage.

It all sums up in one simple question: "Are you who the person you are looking for is looking for?"

Watch it. I promise.

** Side note- when I went to pick the labels for this post, I just started randomly clicking on past labels that fit (i.e. dating, God, love). Then I saw "lust" and had two simultaneous thoughts. 1) Wow, I guess that does really fit with this topic. and 2) When the heck have I written about lust?!?! Turns out I didn't. I wrote about trust. Still related perhaps. :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Epiphany in the exam chair

****Side note: I began this post months ago. I'm not even going to state how long ago, because frankly, it's embarrassing. However, the story has such an interesting ending that I couldn't have even fathomed when I first started writing. My present life is facing some incredible challenges that I can't openly post about on here, but despite that I think it's finally time to share this story. It has truly impacted the way I am viewing and handling my current problems, and I hope someone else can take courage from it. That and my insomnia has hit. So goodbye sleep.****

First Posting
I have "God moments" in the weirdest places.

I promise to finish my thoughts started in the last post at some point; I can't be making false promises to my (one) reader (Hi Judy! ;)). However, God spoke to me in a life-affirming, faith-altering, goal-changing way today. I'm still processing it and I'm still attempting to come to terms with the convictions and changes I must make, but for now... here's my attempt to make sense of what happened.

I have said it before on here, and I will say it again. I don't have God moments all that often.  It's not as if I live my life with a consistent conviction that I am 'walking in his paths'. More often than not I agonize over every decision, trying to make sense of my choices, and discern God's will. Sometimes, in fact, I even forget to make God a part of my everyday life, let alone a priority. (Gasp, Shock, Horror... I know, I'm a heathen!).

But every so often, I get those nudges. Moments when I am certain, even for just a second, that I understand a small portion of God's plan.

God speaks to different people in different ways. For some it is through prayer. Some find God's word through the Bible. Others hear his voice through conversations with others or through nature. For me it is through books. Something about the written word communicates to me God's love better than any other medium. I've already discussed when God gave me clarity about my relationship trouble, and how I received comfort regarding disappointment through friends from a passage of The Shack. I shared how reading The Purpose Driven Life as a nightly devotion provided God with opportunities to give me clarity on daily struggles. And most importantly, I shared how my all-time favorite book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, was given to me by God at just the moment I needed it, and subsequently changed my entire perspective on life.

Ok on second thought, I do seem to have these moments on a semi-regular basis, however, they always occur when I am being intentional about seeking God's will. When I am so desperate for clarity and answers that I am devouring these inspirational books . My God moments spring up on me, always unexpected; the words on the page speak directly into my heart and for one moment I know that God is giving me the answers I am so desperately speaking.

My latest experience occurred at approximately 9:20 this morning as I sat in the lobby of the Nova Southeastern College of Dentistry awaiting my cavity restoration.

But I should backtrack. I apologize that this story will be lengthy, but the details are necessary to paint the picture. And hey. It's my blog. I can write what I want ;)

It's been years since I had gone to the dentist. I won't tell you how long, you'll judge. But growing up I never had cavities, even when we'd go long periods of time between visits. Given that we didn't have dental insurance until the end of my high school years, my parents didn't see the need to take us multiple times a year when our teeth were in great shape. I don't blame them, it did no harm, but I also have never had the discipline of regularly seeing my dentist the way I do my eye doctor and general physician. Then came college, grad school, internship, moving and starting my new job. It has only been in the last month when I finally began experiencing some pain in a back molar (and realizing I had great dental insurance) that I decided to put on my big girl panties, be a grown up, and get this situation sorted out.

I went to the dentist that my insurance assigned me, and suffice to say I left the office and cried in my car for about five minutes before I could drive home. Multiple cavities in every tooth, necessary braces, wisdom teeth extraction, multiple deep cleanings. I knew I didn't floss as often as I should, but given my perchance for brushing/rinsing twice a day like clockwork I was shocked to know I had let my teeth deteriorate so far.

I'll keep this brief, after praying to God in the parking lot and asking his guidance for how to pay for this ridiculous amount of dental restoration, I headed in to work and buried my feelings, too embarrassed to explain to anyone what had happened. However, I felt a nudge to confide in a co-worker, who quickly informed me that this same dentist had pulled a similar stunt on her. A second opinion revealed she had TWO cavities (not 15 as he told her) and her husband had zero (as opposed to seven). Why I felt the need to speak with her, I will never know, but I knew God was giving me clarity on the situation. I quickly called my insurance, got permission for a second opinion, and made an appointment with the dentist recommended by my friend (who also happened to be based out of the building on campus at my hospital).

My second dentist was amazing, and I highly recommend Town Care Dental for anyone in the Miami area looking for an honest, caring practice. They have many many sites, including some in the fort myers area, central florida, and all along the east coast of Florida, but I can only truly attest to the character of the locations in my area.

Regardless, my (new and current) dentist began recommending treatments to me other than expensive drilling. Nightly flouride treatments to fix the cavities that were barely forming. A mid-range cleaning instead of a deep cleaning (as I had no bone loss). The list went on, and I began to calm as I saw my teeth hypothetically healing in front of me (and my dental bill dropping!) It was later in the appointment, as my mouth trays for the flouride were being fitted, that she came in the room and said "I have an interesting proposition for you."

Long story short, it seems the new CEO of the practice was a dentist with 20+ years of experience who had just moved from California, and was thus required to take the entire certification exam/boards again. Part of these exams involved a practical hands on exam, where the candidate must actually restore the cavity on site. She informed me that my lesion was a perfect example and could be used for this exam. The experience would entail my attending the board exam, allowing him to fill the cavity (After waiting all day) and being paid $1000 in the process. Free cavity filling AND getting paid. I am so there.

Needless to say I took my dentist up on her offer, met the CEO, fell in love (so to speak) with his bed(chair?)-side manner, and agreed to go along with the experience. Fastforward a few weeks, and I found myself sitting in the front lobby of a dental school, waiting for my turn. Nervous of course, as I was about to get my first cavity filling, but excited beyond belief thinking about how this money was going to ease much of my financial burden. Excited that God had found a way to provide for my medical needs. But also with a lot of time to kill. Luckily, I had brought along reading material. Just two days earlier my copy of The Circle Maker (Mark Batterson's newest book) had arrived and something in me clearly knew to hold off reading it until that day. I opened and began to read.

Second Posting
**This is the part you will have to bear with me on, as many months later my copy of Circle Maker is in the possession of a friend who was also in need of a good pick me up/God moment**

Many parts of the book immediately began to resound with me. I read about the author and his experiences stepping back and giving God control. I learned about his friends and colleagues who had taken risks and put themselves out there, trusting God to provide. I began to feel a bit disconcerted. As I was reading a part of me commended my steadfast dedication to tithing (10% pre-tax every single paycheck), and my trust in God's financial savvyness.  

But a small voice began to whisper "but do you really give until it hurts? Do you really trust God to provide? Aren't you always giving... but not to the point that you are forced to rely on him to meet your needs"

I brushed the thought aside and kept reading, clearly God was using this very lucrative experience to come to my aid in a time of need. As I read, I came across a passage where the author comments on a time that he and his wife felt God very clearly tell them to give a certain amount of money away, although at the time they were unsure how that would be financially possible. Still they trusted.

"Maybe I'm supposed to give some of this $1000 away"

I brushed the thought aside as quickly as it came, but it returned again, like one of those really obnoxious gnats on a hot day. (You know what I mean. No? Must be a Florida thing).

"Ok God, I'll give some of it away. $100, that's tithing" Feeling really proud of myself at the moment for being so generous, but the thought continued "ok maybe $300, that's a third of it. I'm sure there's someone else who could use that money and that still leaves me with $700. It's a step above just a basic tithe and definitely shows my trust level. You know, maybe God's calling me to give it all away... oh Crap"

For the record, once those thoughts pop into your head, you are screwed. I knew right there and then in that moment that I would always feel guilty if I were too keep the money for myself. I really had no choice BUT to give it away if I wanted some sanity.

But still.I tried to push the thought aside. And kept reading.

And read about how God isn't there for our comfort. He wants us to trust. Started feeling even more guilty as I realized that this $1000, which had at first seemed like God providing for me, was really me taking control of my life into my own hands. Feeling comfortable that I could pay my mounting dental and vision bills without stressing. Getting the sense that God was convicting me of my need to truly trust him

And then God rocked my world.

I have said , over and over and over, that the Lion Book is special. I truly believe that it has a knack for finding people when they most need it. Seriously. The book drops into people's laps at the precise moment that they need to hear those words. Friends laugh when I say these thoughts, although they don't argue. But turns out, I was right.

In Circle Maker (forgive the paraphrase), Batterson gives examples of using prayer circles for his first baby, the Lion Book. He talks about the circles of prayer he and his team prayed around that book. Asking God to give it to people when they need it most. That it would find the ones intended to read it, at the exact moment they were supposed to read.

I broke down into tears. (Oddly no one in the room was concerned. Then again. It was a dental exam).  I knew, without a doubt, that God was speaking to me in that moment.

I felt confirmed. That my Lion Book experiences were real. And I felt empowered. In that moment, as fear for how I was going to pay my bills began to flood in as I truly considered giving away this seemingly perfect gift, I felt God speak to me.

"Don't you trust that I can find a way to get you through? There is someone else who needs that money. Someone else who does not have the opportunity that you do, and I put you here to get that money for them. Follow through on this for me, put yourself into my hands, and see what I can do."

A name also popped into my head, which I will keep anonymous here. But an acquaintance, whom I knew was suffering more than I. I also knew exactly how to get the money to this person without them knowing the source. Something about that fact made me excited; knowing that I was not getting any glory for this, that God was going to use me to answer someone else's prayers.

So I gave the $1000 away. I cut my losses, thanked God for the gift of a free cavity filling, told a few select friends about the experience, and felt stronger for it. I filed the whole encounter away in my 'crazy God moments box' and figured we were done.

I was wrong.

Almost two months after this experience I was driving to a coffee shop when I got a call from my dad. We were catching up on various things and then he stated "I have something to tell you."

Apparently 25 years ago a good friend started a college fund for myself (and any future kids my parents might have). Due to some issues with paperwork when my parents moved, the government assumed that the account was supposed to be closed and sent my parents a check. My dad informed me that $3000 had been deposited into my bank account that afternoon.

I nearly ran a red light I was so overwhelmed.

And God laughed. Not in derision, but in joy. In amusement at what was surely a hilarious expression on my face. In pride, of how incredibly intricate his plan became. And in love, I'm sure, for being able to show me his power and care in a way that truly taught me a valuable lesson.

Like I said. I have God moments in the weirdest places.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”~ Ann Landers