“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:something or other)

A good idea enlarges and superheats my soul like a bellows cranking air into a blacksmith’s fire. On one level, it doesn’t matter what kind of idea it is. It could be a picture in my mind about how to rearrange my garage to increase clearance for my Toyota Echo. It might be a way to create something most people would pay money for. It could be a flash of insight about what makes my teenager tick. Or it could be a sentence fragment in my Bible study that sends me on a rabbit trail tumbling after Alice, causing me to wonder how deep the rabbit hole goes. And whether I’ll meet the Mad Hatter on my travels.

Today it’s a phrase borrowed from Andy Stanley’s recent podcast: Make it personal. I think it’s going to shape my sermon this Sunday, and possibly a whole series next year.

It’s also this key, which I found in my pocket when passing through the metal detector at the airport after my writer’s conference. Oops. It’s the key to my room, the key I forgot to turn in before checking out two weeks ago. The thing’s been sitting on my bed night stand making me feel guilty until just this morning. Now it’s a symbol of hope, almost too good to be true.

I’ve been going to the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference for three years running. The first year I left shattered, realizing I had a lot of learning and improving to do before I could even hope to get into the position to get published. The second year I left deflated, knowing I’d made progress but unsure of how much and what to do with that. This year I left encouraged, affirmed in my craft and seeing the path ahead more clearly than ever before. I know what I need to work on, and I’m determined to fix it. I made some wonderful connections and by the time I boarded my plane I sensed in my spirit, “This year is different. This is a turning point.” And I had this mysterious key.

The key to the Conference, I sense God saying to me this morning.

What does this mean? Not sure yet. Does it mean next year I’ll break into conventional publishing world? Is it about my heart more than the results? Does it mean I’m finally understanding how to make the most of the Conference? Hmmmm. I’ll have to pray about that today.

Many people, grasping at snippets like this from the Holy Spirit, rush to conclusions about what the impression might mean. I’ve done that plenty of times. I’m determined not to do it with this one. God promises wisdom, so I pray, “Jesus, illuminate this for me. Show me what it means… in your time.”

And I know he will. It’s happening already.

Some people get ideas dropping into their laps wrapped nice, tidy packages. My friend gets them in almost a “sticky note” kind of form, where he keeps them on the fridge-door of his soul until they connect with other stickies and he can make some sense of them. Some people get pictures, some get songs, or sentences, verses or realizations.

The point is, ideas are a feast for the soul. What’s God been laying on your heart lately?

I’ll give the key back, by the way.

Next year.