It’s been a year since I penned Corralling Part 1 and I never wrote a part two, but then again, this special one is still in her holding pen. I was driving the other day and reflecting on life in Florida and life in Los Angeles and the vast difference between those two lives. I was also reflecting on my financial situation, which as we all know was just re-torn to smithereens. I was thinking, ‘how can I be in this situation again! How is it that I keep winding up here. Why can’t I get anything going for myself!’ And just before I would come to a place of movement, I would think I guess I am just in a burning season. I have thought this many times before, but this time God had something to say about it. Abruptly and with force He interjected the following: You are not in a burning season. You chose this. And you keep choosing it.
I knew exactly what He meant. You see, I have a history of talking myself out of amazing opportunities and shrinking back into my little shell. I also have a great talent when it comes to pulling out all the stops for a job that I won’t like and won’t pay me near what I am worth or need.
I have been going through a CR Step Study so that in the future, I can lead a CR Step Study and we just had our burning party. In this particular CR, after Step 4 and 5 are complete, we burn our inventories. Since my focus for this step study was to rip out all of the lies I have believed about myself, I wrote all of those lies down on a couple sheets of paper and threw them into the fire and watched them turn into ashes. It was only a few days after this that God told me that my so called burning season is due to my own choices and those choices have been rooted in fear due to the lies I have believed about myself for so long that I don’t even know where I first heard them. Or perhaps I do know where they come from – experiences and events that scarred me and made me think less of myself.
This brings me back to that sermon from Erwin McManus that I seem to recount over and over again on this blog and in my life. That sermon where he asked, “whose voice are you listening to?” Whose voice is getting the last word in your life? Is it God’s voice or someone else’s?
Well, if you want to know if you are listening to God’s voice then you have to know what God says about you. While I am not the best at knowing scripture, I do know that according to scripture God delights in me. He knit me together and considers me a masterpiece. He loves me more than I will ever understand and while He is not always proud of my actions, He is always proud of the lady I am becoming while I venture through life with Him. I also know that the Bible says we can do anything He has called us to do. Maybe that is my hiccup. Maybe I don’t know what I have been called to do. I do know that we all have a calling to love God and to love others, but I believe we each have personal callings that match a passion burning within us. And I am a lady of a million passions so maybe as Kim McManus said the other day, I am overwhelmed by choice so I keep not choosing. I fear I don’t know how to choose correctly, or I fear I am biting off more than I can chew or maybe my fear in choosing allows the voices that aren’t God’s to flood me with lies and so I choose wrong again.
My life is about to get turned upside down all over again. My roommate situation is ending at the end of March and I am desperately trying to get out of my latest job choice mistake by the end of May. I am unsure if I will be renting another room in Florida for a few more months or if I will go back to Memphis, but I do know one thing – If a good opportunity that excites me ever crosses my path again, especially in the next few weeks, I am going for it. 100%. Let the Lion Roar. I am done with talking myself out of amazing opportunities. I am done believing the lies. I know the difference between my gut telling me something’s not right and plain old fear so from now on, - I am going with my gut. It’s what brought me to Los Angeles and it is what brought me to Florida and one of these days my gut will lead me out of this holding pen. After all, my life verse is Joel 2:25 and I do believe that God will restore the years the lies ate away.
Outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens.
What can I say folks, sometimes life hurts. And my life is hurting bad right now. I think it is safe to say that I left a physical desert where I was in a mental, emotional and spiritual oasis in sunny SoCal, and now find myself surrounded by water in a mental, emotional, and spiritual desert in sunny Florida.
Physically, I am back in a complete standstill. I threw out my back a few weeks ago and went from being able to do a forward bend with my nose against my knees to having to fight to barely touch my toes! I thought I was on the mend and went for a short walk a few days ago that reignited all of the pain and so I am back to gentle yoga and absolutely nothing else. My lower back and right hip are the main culprits with my right hip taking the trophy for intense sharp pain shooting around all the day long. Emotionally, I might as well be the only person in this town. Every time I think I have made a new friend they start treating me like an afterthought by routinely making plans with me and then canceling at the last second only to say something like “hey, I’m doing this now so can’t do whatever with you.” My roommate says she has experienced a lot of that herself. Who knew small town Jacksonville would have bigger and more blatantly rude flakes than that of Los Angeles. At least in LA people make up an actual excuse! Here in Jax people actually tell you what they are going to go do instead of hanging out with you! So Rude. And then there’s that job I have. There’s nothing like working with people that you know hate you. It gets even more fun when your job doesn’t even begin to fulfill, engage or excite you. I am one of those people who need to be fully engaged in my activities because if I am not, my mind rolls over to everything in the world that I should not be thinking about and so with the pain, the rude treatment from could be friends and the nothing but time to focus on all the wrong things – folks – I am mentally, emotionally and physically spent. I have no idea how long I am supposed to be in this town, but let’s just say that unlike LA, I don’t think I’m gonna feel terrible if I suddenly have to move elsewhere.
The only good news is that I have finally sort of picked a church home. It is a church I just keep going back to because I really dig the pastor. I am actually going to be spread across two churches this fall – a class at one where I will be taking on a major issue in my life and a life group at the one I am calling home at the moment. The other good point is my continued involvement at a local Celebrate Recovery where I am getting my ministry feet wet. I am learning how to lead a group of ladies, learning how to connect to people and learning how to speak in front of others and hopefully slowly gaining a stage presence. It is this ministry stuff that needs to become more of my life – that is where my passion is, that is where my excitement is, that is where I come alive and activate the best version of myself.
You would think year 3 would sound better wouldn’t you? I thought about that too and then it hit me – I spent 15 years in rebellion to God in an addiction that I repeatedly chose to stay in. Yes, I gave God the one thing I didn’t think I could live without, but I’ve only worked off 3 of my 15 years. Thank you Jesus that You are not that kind of God! While it is true that I am still an infant when it comes to sobriety, God is not sitting up there with a stick marking off each day waiting for me to equalize the situation before He can bless me, love me or work in my life. We humans tend to find ourselves thinking that way because it is how we were taught right from wrong. You intentionally break your little brother’s tricycle so he can’t follow you around, chances are your parents will take away your bike as punishment. It’s how they teach us to treat others the way we would like to be treated, but it is not how God deals with us, especially when we come to Him and admit what a shattered disaster we have become. I fully admit that I have absolutely no idea how I am gong to go from where I am right now to the vision of my life that has been laid out by God. The good news is God does! My job is to stay close to Him, stay in His word, abide by His word understanding that any parameters are there to protect me and not keep me from having fun, and trust that as I grow in faith, God will open the doors that I so desperately want to open right now. I guess for me, year 3 is the year of being a grown up, digging in and doing what I don’t want to, being faithful to the positions and places God has put me in until He opens another door.
That door I am so desperate to open is a position under a successful and dynamic ministry where I can learn how to be a leader and grow my abilities for speaking God’s word, teaching God’s word and leading others through discipleship. Until that happens I am continuing to learn and grow in the ministry I am currently serving in and hoping for a career opportunity in the same realm.
I recently heard a mega gator fan give his CR testimony and in that testimony he shared this line from Tim Tebow’s book: Use the platform you’ve been given for God’s purpose and not your own. That line made me start thinking. I know what I want out of my potential ministry involvement, but I haven’t asked God what He wants out of it. I haven’t asked God what He wants out of my life, my work, my writing, my relationships or any platform that He might bestow upon me. And that’s a question I probably should have asked at the beginning. I am currently meditating on that question with God. So far, I feel like He has told me that His purpose and Plan for any platform He gives me is to help change lives by changing habits and to promote true healing by helping people live in true alignment with Christ mentally, emotionally and physically. I really need to start making this my purpose in all of my dealings whether it is in a CR group, the grocery store or with my less than desired co-workers. I may not be living the life I wish to yet, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t act as if I already am that person.
I am a Rom-Com geek if there ever was one. When I say Rom-Com, I am referring to the film genre of Romantic Comedy. In fact, if a movie is not a romantic comedy, then I most likely have not seen it. What can I say? I just love romantic comedies.
If you are not familiar with this genre, I can enlighten you on the main plot points. (Note: men can be leads in this genre, but to simplify things I am using the common female lead) We usually meet the lead character in a low point in her life. She is usually single or in a bad relationship and she is usually battling some sort of career dilemma. She almost always has some character flaws that need to be tweaked as well. More often than not, the lead character will go through a small metamorphosis brought about by an external situation, whether it be a new job, a break-up, the marriage of a friend, the death of someone close, etc. This small change usually brings about a determination to focus on what can be controlled in life, like a career or a long-standing passion that has been ignored. Once the lead character is on this new journey, we see her begin to change on a deeper level as she struggles to make her dream a reality. Sometimes the main character struggles so much, that she wants to give up, but she usually preservers thinking that this undertaking is all that she has left in life.
I pause here because God recently made it very clear to me that this is where I am. I feel lost. I do not see anything changing on the career front or the personal front. And so I have done the one thing I can do, and that is put my writing back on the front burner. I mean, if God keeps telling me that my job is to write and that He will handle everything else; then I should write, right?
I cannot lie and say it has been all roses because it has been anything other than roses. I have not been able to open a door much less a window and I cannot give an answer as to why this is the case. I am trying to count my blessings, but I am facing the grim fact that I might be spending a very hot summer in a condo without air conditioning. I have been tossing around the idea of getting my own place, but after crunching numbers, I have come to realize that I can actually afford to be in the exact neighborhood I want to be in provided that I wait one year and pay off all of my debt. Insert sad face here.
I can say that I do have a decent day job with a laid-back company that has the high-class problem of growing by leaps and bounds. This company also allows for flexibility as long as I am getting my job done and that is a major plus too. I know there are many more pluses in my life, but this whole not being fulfilled at work and wanting my own place and needing to make more friends and not being in a relationship and turning 34 in a couple of weeks and watching my chance to have my own family fade away and missing the family that claim me as their own and wanting a reason to be 2800 miles away other than the fact that I like it better than the South… all of it has really had me beat down this past month. There were days I did not even get out of bed. I was just in a deep depression. Nothing in my life makes sense and on top of that, I have felt that I am in an answerless season. A season where I just have to trust that everything I am doing right now is going to lead me somewhere good.
During a recent bawling session, my Creator finally spoke. His words were few, but they were powerful. My Creator, the ultimate screenwriter, simply wanted to remind me that I have not arrived at the twist. No, I am not talking about Chubby Checkers. I am talking about the twist in plot that comes in every Romantic Comedy on the market. You see just after loosing hope for the upteenth time and somehow finding a way to continue in some form an existence, the lead character encounters a twist of fate. This twist of fate usually happens after the lead character has cleaned up some of her character flaws and started chasing whatever dream is in her heart. This twist of fate can come in the form of a person, an opportunity or both. The main thing you need to know about this twist of fate, this chance meeting, this divine appointment… is that it changes everything and instantly connects all of the dots.
God was revealing my place in the movie that is my life. He was letting me know that once I arrive at the twist, everything will make sense. And I have to say that judging by my own decisions (the decision to get clean and sober, the decision to come back to God, the decision to make my writing a priority, the decision to be more aware of my attitude and make a moment by moment effort to be a light to those around me) all of these personal transformations point to one thing – the twist is on the horizon. I know where I am in the script of my own romantic comedy and I have a peace and a joy that I cannot even explain. Might I dare say, that I am HAPPY.
So the question I leave you with is where are you in your life script? Wherever you believe you are, please do not forget that while you cannot control everything that happens, you can control the overall theme, tone and message of the script that is your life.
As I approach the end of this year, I am hopeful for many changes in the year to come. Namely, my job, my place of residence (I want my own pad!) and I really need to show some people currently in my life, the door. Just because someone has a good heart, does not mean you have to keep that person around. Good heart or not, if they drive you insane to the point that you want to set them on fire – perhaps you need to let their good heart be good to someone else.
They say the only way to change where you are at, is to change the actions that got you there in the first place. A lot of people like to use this line, but they never stop to think what it actually means. It means going against your own grain, it means doing the exact opposite of whatever your instinct might be, it means not being you – at least that’s how it feels. This uncomfortable existence of going against my own grain has been the bulk of my reality for 2013. I am beginning to think that getting sober was the easy part in that all of things I was evading with the alcohol are coming to light in a succession similar to that of a hundred clowns exiting a Beetle. It’s fast, it’s quick and it’s confusing. Walking through this new circus, I feel like I am doing more damage in sobriety than I did while drinking. The good news is that I am starting to have fleeting moments of feeling like myself again – albeit a different version of myself and I am hopeful for a complete resurrection in the year to come. They say that as long as you stay in the program, things will get better and I am counting on this testimony from those who have already been here and done this and have moved on to a life they couldn’t even dream of having, yet they do.
I must apologize as this post is not well put together, but neither am I at the moment. I actually thought about not even posting anything at all. The only thing I can say is that whatever changes are flowing into my life – I am ready and I hope to be able to share them with you soon. I am going to try to have a better plan for this blog next year, but I do still want my life and the lessons I learn to drive its direction. Maybe that is the issue I am facing this month. Maybe I am in the middle of a lesson right now and having not yet learned it, I cannot yet share its wisdom.
But I can share this morsel of truth: If there is one thing you do this holiday season, make it this – do something nice for someone else, hell, go a step further and do it anonymously and then do it again! You will be the one with the present in the end. I don’t know much folks, but I do know this to be true: it is only by helping others, that we truly help ourselves.
To you and yours… May you have a wonderfully Happy New Year!
In continuation from last month, I need to ask what does it mean to act like you are the answer to someone else’s prayer? How do we break that down into bite size pieces that are small enough to apply to our lives? I guess I can start by stating what it does not look like. I know it does not look like complaining about the lack of or perceived lack of planning at my church or giving the worship leader the coldest shoulder I could muster this morning or coolly responding to someone who was just trying to make small talk before service. What can I say? I was having a moment.
Anywho, when I think about what it means to act like I am the answer to someone else’s prayers, I am reminded of a short message given by the very person I spent all morning complaining about. Coincidence? I think not. The message regarded Being Your Best For God and was the central theme of a production meeting held earlier this year. In this meeting, our worship leader spoke about how God wants to work in us, with us and through us. By working in us, God wants to challenge us to be on a continual path of improvement with ourselves, the responsibilities He has handed us and the people He places in our lives. And yes, this includes, those pesky horn honkers on Wilshire, that co-worker who makes your skin crawl and that obnoxious new friend of your best friend. Our end goal being, of course, to love our neighbors as ourselves just as Jesus demonstrated. Once God is able to work in us, He can start working with us to build His Kingdom. He has a role for each of us to play and has therefore, equipped each of us with a unique set of abilities and interests. It is as we begin working with God that He is able to show Himself to others through us. Instead of living in a world of me, we begin to live in a world of we and as a result we begin to treat others with kindness and respect. We begin to change and so do the people around us ... in that they don't seem so bothersome anymore. What's really happening is that we have stopped being a part of the problem and started becoming a part of the solution.
Yes, we are all still going to have our moments, but the goal is to have less “me moments” and more “we moments”. More smiles, more kindness, more generosity: these are the ingredients of a much happier you and a much happier world. So I end with asking what is God stirring up in you? What is your first step? Do you need to become more reliable? Do you need to be more proactive with the responsibilities God has handed you? Do you simply need to be more welcoming to the people that cross your path? Whatever it is that God is stirring up in you, I challenge you to improve in that area and see what God does as a result. One thing I do know is this: He works in you to change you for the better so that He can work with you and through you to … well, answer prayers, yours included.
This might come off a bit conceited, but bear with me because those that know me, know that I am not the least bit of the sort. And with that said, I think the problem with America today is that we have a lot of Christians living in the infancy stage. They haven’t gotten to a point where they are able to be tolerant of others and not have it impact them and their faith in a negative way. I was once such a Christian and after some agnostic/Wicca years and a long rocky road back to God I can understand the ever-present right and the ever-present left of our society. I think the ultimate aim of a Christian is to represent Christ to the world. We are to live our lives as a testament to Him and His love. Unfortunately, many Christians find themselves doing the exact opposite even though they are blind to the fact. In order for one to be tolerant of others, one must be firmly rooted in their own beliefs and confident in their own preferences and choices regarding lifestyle. I firmly believe this is the biggest hurdle to why many Christians are not able to be tolerant of others beliefs or lack there of while still showing God’s love and acceptance while living a life of love and service to others. It takes a lot to be surrounded by those who don’t believe the same as you or live a lifestyle the same as you and still love and support them without loosing some of your own personal convictions. The simple truth is many of us are just weak when it comes to certain sins. I know that was my hang-up. Each of us has our own area of weakness. Some of us have trouble keeping our pants on while some of us have trouble telling the truth while some of us have trouble coveting the blessings of others. After all, to God, it is all sin. No hierarchy, just sin and it puts all of us on a level playing field whether we want to admit it or not. And don’t think I don’t realize that there are plenty of non-religious people that could use a good talking to… because for every infant Christian there is an infant non-religious zealot doing the exact same thing, but I cannot speak to them since I am no longer one of them.
God loves us where we are. He doesn’t require us to change who or what we are in order to receive His love. He takes us as we are and He slowly molds us into better human beings as we progress in our relationship with Him, our creator and sustainer. He sends the Holy Spirit to be the convicting force in our life. Our friends might support the notion, but it’s not their job to convict. Conviction belongs to the Holy Spirit. That’s why Yeshua said, “Those without sin shall cast the first stone.” He knew no one would be able to stand in judgment against another and instead they would be compelled to stand in love with that other human being.
My personal walk has held inside it a lot of scenic routes and I am thankful for these adventures as they not only help me better understand those with opposing beliefs, but they help me to firmly ground myself in my own beliefs as well. I’ve made no attempt to hide the fact that I once left God because of the church- hell; the church almost cost me my life. The reason being I once mistook the church and it’s leaders for being God, which they are not. The only convicting power on this planet is that of the Holy Spirit. I believe that our job as Christians is to be an example of the love of God for every human being on this planet. We are to tell others of His love and live that love out, but we are to leave the convicting and the changing of life or lifestyle to God. He can do it. He’s done it in every follower of Christ on this planet and He can do the same for every follower of Christ to come. It saddens me how so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are so hard hearted to those a little different from themselves. Even when they admit to being full of sin they don’t seem to have any compassion for others nor care to find out why someone believes or acts the way they do. How can anyone impact another without even trying to understand where another is coming from or trying to imagine walking a mile in another’s shoes?
I come from a long line of southern pastors, but I have not always believed in the existence of God, but He never held it against me and even after I believed and decided for a time that I might have been wrong He still loved me. He was always standing beside me with arms wide open ready to welcome me home. And when I finally did come home, He didn’t scold me and He didn’t make me change into this person I was not – He just loved me and that’s what He asks of those who follow Him - to simply love others in the same way that He has loved each of us. We are all full of faults and a whole lot less than worthy than we would like to believe, but He accepted us as we are and we should do the same for everyone and especially those who have yet to find Him.
If you are a Christian looking to make an impact in this world I challenge you to just love people. Tell others of how much God loves them and follow it up with examples of how God proves His love to you everyday. If you want to push something, push an honest and ongoing conversation with the creator and sustainer of this universe. Be kind; treat people the way you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes… After all, Yeshua, himself, said everything rests on loving God first and then loving your neighbors as yourself. For He said there is no greater commandment than these. Yes, it is true that Christians need to step up and take back this country, but not in the way it is being propagated: For it is by our love for not only one another, but for all of mankind that we shall be known as His.
Zeal is defined as an enthusiastic devotion to a cause, ideal, or goal and tireless diligence in its furtherance. On a similar note, love is defined as an intense feeling of deep affection. Given these two definitions one could easily say that if one loves something or someone that one would also have zeal for that something or someone.
Now, according to Matthew 22: 36-40, Yeshua states that the greatest command God ever gave was to love the Lord your God with all of your heart and all of your soul and with all of your strength and the second greatest command God ever gave was to love your neighbor as yourself. He goes even further to say that everything depends on these two commands. What’s interesting is that these two commands are actually not new. The Lord God ADONAI actually gave these commands in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Since both the Lord God ADONAI and His son, Yeshua, made a point to tell people this don’t you think we should do more than glance over them?
So I ask you: are we living out these two commands?
Unfortunately, more often than not, the answer is no and so I ask, what’s your zeal?
Zeal For the Law
If you have zeal for the law, then you tend to do your best to obey the law. You tend to inadvertently ignore the heart and thereby ignore the motives and intentions behind your actions. You probably have a daily relationship with God, but you tend to try and barter for blessings since you keep all of those pesky laws. Your attention is on the Law and what obeying the Law can get you. In short:
An outward focus
The underlying belief is that the law brings you closer to God
Your focus tends to stay on your actions and the actions of others
You force obedience on yourself and possibly those around you
Zeal for God
If you have zeal for God, then you tend to try to do your best for God. You probably have a daily relationship with God and as that relationship grows you find yourself wanting to understand Him more and as you understand Him more you find yourself surprisingly wanting to obey Him all the more. Your attention is on God and what He can do through you. In short:
An inward focus
The underlying belief is that your relationship with God brings you closer to Him
Your focus shifts to the motives and intentions of your own heart and the hearts of others
Your relationship with God is what makes you want to obey His commands
The Bible states over and over that God is more concerned with the motives and intentions of our hearts than He is with our actual actions. Why? Well, it is the motives and intentions of our hearts that create our actions. An easy and yet still very controversial example is the use of alcohol among Christians. The Bible never explicitly states it is wrong to drink, but it does state it is wrong to get drunk. This might seem contradictory until you look at the intentions behind those actions.
For most people in most situations, the action of having a couple of drinks results from the desire to relax or celebrate; whereas, the action of getting wasted results from a wide array of negative desires. The most common being to run away from a problem, to become someone you are not, or to commit a sin. You know the saying if you have to get drunk to do it then you probably shouldn’t be doing it and you are probably going to regret it to boot. The point is, when you look at the probable intentions behind those two actions it is easier to see why God might not be too concerned about the first and doubly concerned about the second. No parent on this earth wants to see their children behaving in potentially dangerous ways because of stress or ill motives and neither does God, our heavenly Father. I guess to put it another way, if the heart is in the right place then the right actions will ultimately follow.
So my question for you is simple. If you are going to love God and love others in the same way you love yourself, which those of you who follow the Old Testament or the New Testament have been commanded to do… Do you need to have zeal for the law or do you need to have zeal for God? And please, don’t get me wrong because I am not saying the law is bad, but what I am saying is that in order to really know or love someone you do have to know his or her heart, right?