I recently had the opportunity to share a bare bones version of my testimony at a local Celebrate Recovery anniversary party. I didn’t realize how much of a story I actually had until I tried putting my story on paper. I spent the following week trying to cut it down to the time frame I had been given and it was tough because everything I’ve ever been through seemed pertinent. Anywho, since August brings my 3rd Sober Birthday I thought I would share my bare bones testimony with all of you:
Hi! My name is Jessica and I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with alcohol, anxiety, and self-worth.
When I write I like to have angle to work with and my angle for this testimony came from a song called Broken Vessels: “Oh I can see you now, Oh I can see the love in your eyes, Laying yourself down, Raising up the Broken to Life.” Because this is exactly what Jesus is doing for me!
You see I have been switching back and forth between two very different lives since I was nine years old. I grew up in church. I had a good family. I lived in a nice house in a nice part of town. I sang in the choir, I taught Sunday School, I went on mission trips, I led bible studies and I helped make the first Passion Conference happen. I did a lot in a few short and widely separated years of sobriety.
However, the majority of my life went more like a nightmare. I grew up with extreme social anxiety and had a hard time connecting to anyone. BUT, I quickly found that I could do anything and be anyone as long as I had alcohol in my system. My first drink was at nine years old. Nothing special, just a stolen beer shared between two best friends. It would be years later before I would have another alcoholic drink. I was 16 and made a new friend who introduced me to wine coolers. High school quickly became a blur as I routinely opted for spiked coffee in the morning, spiked soda at lunch and whatever I could get my hands on after school. I had a horrible relationship with my parents. I cursed them out daily and was out all hours of the night. My parents had no idea what to do with me. It was normal for me to drink until I blacked out and I did so every night of every weekend. My social anxiety made me dependent on alcohol, which brought a lot of depression so I was also a cutter for most of my teenage years. I hated myself, I hated my life and I only felt free when I was in the oblivion alcohol brought me.
As I mentioned earlier, I had bouts of sobriety that were broken by that lie alcoholics like to tell themselves. “I can control it this time. I just need a little release. Everybody else gets to let loose. One drink won’t kill me.” And down the rabbit hole I went faster than the previous time. Only now I was working and supporting myself. I was in Human Resources of all careers and I had found a new best friend in wine. Most of the time I was sober during the day, but I started drinking the second I was home. I longed for the weekends so I could go on benders and I got increasingly irritated with my co-workers, family members and friends due to my constant craving for oblivion. It got to the point that I was consuming multiple bottles of wine a night, often drinking until I vomited or passed out.
I eventually had another stint of sobriety that lasted about two years. It was all adrenaline and zero anything else and so I fell back into the arms of alcohol and told myself I would change my life once I left Memphis and I did just that – but it was not on my terms.
A few years later, I found myself living in a roach infested rented room in Los Angeles. By this time I was drinking a large bottle of Vodka a day and popping migraine pills to ease the suffering of my vodka based diet. I could barely walk to the mailbox because my muscles were so weak, including my heart, which palpitated non-stop. For the first time in my life, alcohol was not working. I could no longer reach oblivion. I needed something else, something stronger – and considering the state I was in – that something would have killed me.
I was at a very dangerous cross roads when God intervened in my life one last time. I had been seeking His help with a job. During a day of prayer and fasting I had a vision that scared the crap out of me. It turns out that Jesus loves me, but He was ready to let me die if I did not hand over the alcohol once and for all. I cried out – But it’s my Everything. Jesus replied, Exactly. Realizing that I had finally pushed God past His point of no return, I surrendered the one thing I had that made everything else okay and entered into a very reluctant sober state. I entered the rooms of AA in Los Angeles and I found a new home. After about 6 months of screaming into pillows and being afraid to even try going to the grocery store - something just changed. I started feeling more comfortable. Los Angeles taught me a lot. The Recovery out there is top notch and I needed to hear every word that was spoken. My favorite being “you’ve been upside down for so long that you have no idea what right side up feels like. Of course you feel upside down right now – it’s because You’ve finally turned right side up. Give it a minute.” And he was right! I also learned to like myself in Hollywood of all places. I made friends that liked me for who I am. My LA tribe helped me realize that I am funny, pretty, sweet, fun to be around and deserving of the best in life. After I got called to leave LA and found myself in Jacksonville, FL – I felt God nudge me to attend Celebrate Recovery instead of AA. I did not understand this at all. AA had saved my life. I live and breathe the AA logic in my soul. It keeps me from doing stupid things. But, I decided to follow God’s prompting and visited CR and I absolutely hated it. I felt so weird. I was a newbie all over again, but my AA logic quickly spit out the “Shut up and Show Up for 90 days” and so I did.
The first CR I went to, wasn’t my cup of tea so I sought a different one and met a super sweet woman and so I came back and I kept coming back here at the Beaches CR every Friday night. I have found that Celebrate Recovery offers me an atmosphere of love and acceptance where I can work on the root issues that cause my insane desire for escape. Thanks to CR I am staying sober while learning how to ground myself in God’s truth. I am learning to see myself the way God see’s me. I am learning how to serve, I am learning how to lead and I am learning how to deal with those unwanted emotions that usually make me bolt in every direction except the right one. I can say that after working the steps, I mean really, honestly working the steps, I no longer feel the need for alcohol. Sometimes I may want it, sometimes I may think about one drink, but I immediately tell myself that it cannot happen. I know where that one drink leads. For me it leads to my death. It really is that simple.
There is no going back, there is only pressing forward to the life that Jesus is calling me to lead and excitement about where He is taking me. He has given me a new vision for my life, which is the old vision I started out with years ago before alcohol took over my life. The good news is that the last 15 years have not phased God one bit. His plans for me have not changed. He still sees me as the same person I was before all of this mess started. This past year He gave me a verse that has been spoken in this room by others – Joel 2:25 - …He will restore the years the locusts ate away… – thanks to AA and Celebrate Recovery I get to live a life of freedom today and I get to be excited about the restoration of all the things the locusts ate away in my life while I was deep in my addiction, my depression and my self-torture.
AA Saved My Life. Celebrate Recovery is teaching me how to live and accept the new life that has been freely given. If you’re new – keep coming back! Keep doing the next right thing! Get a sponsor, get an accountability partner and Work the steps! Make yourself available to others! Surround yourself with the right people – people who have what you want, people that are grounded in God’s truth! Lean into Jesus and you too can sing that song with gratitude knowing that you are one of the broken God has raised to a new and awesome life. Thanks for letting me share.
And I really am excited for all that is to come! The vision God has given me seems so unattainable and so unreachable, but that’s also the fun part – I cannot remember who said this – Louie, Erwin, Russ or maybe they’ve all said it at one time or another – God never gives you something you can do without Him – I just have to be willing and God will take my willingness and make something awesome out of it. Like this blog, for instance, the readership has slowly been rising since the day I started it and I will keep writing until the day people stop reading it.
I am also working on some full-length (main speaker) versions of my testimony as I might soon have the opportunity to share with some other nearby Celebrate Recovery groups. Not to mention that I am delving into the Advanced Leadership training materials as I continue to develop my ministry leadership skills.
Looking back, I believe God had to take me out of LA so I could slow down and figure out where my life was going. My LA life was very hectic and due to the location of my work it made it very hard for me to be involved in after work activities. I MISS LA A LOT, but it is clear God brought me to Jacksonville so I could slow down long enough to truly change direction.
August 26th, I will be celebrating 3 whole years of sobriety: Three whole years of a different way of living; Three whole years of a better way of living; Three whole years of feeling my feelings; Three whole years of facing my fears; Three whole years of being the real Jessica. Three whole years of being someone I am proud of, someone my family is proud of and someone I know Jesus is proud of. Three whole years of better decisions, better relationships and better impact on those around me. Whoever said Sobriety is boring, uneventful and unattractive - doesn’t know Sobriety.
I turned 2 on August 26th. I have officially been clean and sober for two years. While I still have cravings and yearnings of times gone by, I can most certainly say that I do not have any desire to go back to the life I used to live. I cannot even imagine being that person again. When the cravings and yearnings come for that so called simpler time, I am immediately reminded of my inability to control my drinking and who that drinking made me become and the yearnings disappear.
What seems like an easy answer is often times nothing of the sort. More often than not, easy answers lead to even more trouble and don’t actually do anything to help one out. The way I see it, the use of drugs and alcohol is a self-induced mirage. Dude has a bad day, Dude goes to bar to blow off some steam, Dude forgets about how stressed out he is for a few hours, Dude crashes into bed, Dude wakes up and is stressed beyond belief all over again. Another example of this self-induced mirage is a woman getting over a heart break by going to the clubs and getting smashed out of her mind and going home with someone she won’t even remember, she forgets everything for a few hours, but come morning she is sneaking out of an apartment and trying to figure out where she is and how to get home and the heartbreak and loneliness return a few minutes later. Both scenarios are culturally accepted ways to deal with heartbreak and stress; the problem is that neither of them actually solves anything. They are easy, temporary bandages that take us farther down the rabbit hole. Only problem is that we don’t recognize our being in the hole until we find ourselves stuck at the bottom.
We as a society love self-induced mirages. We are all about distraction instead of answers. Don’t get me wrong, it is good to take a break from life and get into a good movie or go out and dance the night away. The question at large is the intent behind these and other distraction actions. Are you desperate for a distraction from feelings and thoughts you don’t want to feel or think or are you just allowing yourself a needed break? There is a giant difference and unfortunately, you often need a clear heart and a clear mind to tell the difference between the two.
The real answers to our unwanted thoughts and feelings involve facing them head on, sitting with them, getting comfortable with them and learning how to accept them as a part of life. Once we are no longer afraid of these feelings, their power lessens and we are able to navigate around them in a healthier way. Many of the greats say that if you feel lonely – you should do something for someone else; if you feel alone – you should become a part of something of significance; if you feel not worthy – you should lift someone else up; if you feel heartbroken – you should find a way to help mend someone else’s heart. The only distraction God has ordained is our focus on Him, his Goodness and His fierce love for each of us. For it is by focusing on Him and the giving of ourselves to causes that provoke positive change in our world that we receive healing. It all starts with a relationship with Jesus and a few good friends who are speaking truth into your life. If you don’t have either of these, then I suggest starting that relationship and getting involved in a good church or faith-based community. After this, I encourage finding a few more ways to connect. If you like hiking – join a hiking group. If you like painting – go to some painting classes to find others who enjoy your craft. If you love animals – volunteer for a local shelter or rescue group. In other words, get a grounding group of people around you, belong to a community and make sure you are involved in something that makes you come alive. And lastly, when those unwanted thoughts and feelings rear their ugly heads, share them with your grounding group of friends and be willing to let them carry you through when needed.
Happy Labor Day from a quiet cove in Malibu:
“Walk out of any doorway, feel your way, feel your way like the day before.
Maybe you'll find direction,
Around some corner where it's been waiting to meet you.”
Lyrics from Box of Rain, Grateful Dead
Have you ever been in a situation where you were so sure it was going to work out only to find yourself slapped in the face with calamity, disaster or even worse, humiliation? Have you ever had a person enter your life that you thought was the answer to a problem only to have them spit in your face and call you crazy? Have you ever landed a great job only to get settled in to find that the writing on the wall screams not your cup of tea? Well, that’s just God taking you in a different direction.
I’ve had a string of these situations recently and I find myself in the middle of such a situation right now. It’s not fun being unsettled, especially when the writing is so clearly written on the wall and you have yet to uncover your next destination as well as the how and when of your arrival. It’s like being stuck in two worlds. You know you aren’t staying where you are and you have some clues to where you are going, but the exact destination and route are still unknown. It’s all God leading you in a different direction.
I was recently handed a job that was a literal lifesaver in that I was about a month away from being homeless when I got hired. I was very excited to find that not only was I able to stay in California, but I also had a pretty easy job with awesome co-workers, kick-ass bosses and a general laid back, easy going vibe of an office. All in all, it was a good fit… well, all except for the fact that it is nowhere near my life’s passion. I knew when I took the job that it was not a forever kind of deal, but I had no idea the honeymoon was going to end so quickly! These past couple of weeks I have become very aware of how tired and drained I am at the end of the day and the general disinterest in all things pertaining to my job doesn’t help either. Moreover, God is staring to nudge me in terms of reminding me of why I came to California in the first place. He’s starting to build a fire under me regarding my writing. I told my God that I needed a day job that excites and energizes me if I was going to get my writing groove back. I also spewed something along the lines of this tired and annoyed shadow of a human being is hanging on to her sobriety by a thread and now You’re nudging me to get back to writing? When and how was that going to happen?
For all I know I’m just having trouble adjusting to working full time and you know – being fully aware of it. Luckily, I remembered something Mastin Kipp said in one of his classes… that confusion precedes clarity… so I’ve been hanging on to that invisible thread, and trusting God to show me whether it’s me or the situation and what my next steps should be and then something amazing happened. For starters a nocturnal owl perched in the room next to mine confirming my search for new digs…. Mind you I’m not sure where I should search for digs at this point as I also started hearing things at work about how the company was going to be changing over the next year. As it turns out, almost everything I love about the company will soon be non-existent. The people I love are moving to a different location, the laid back atmosphere is being replaced with an annoying high security ambience and the one thing I’ve always said I’d never partake in is becoming a part of my job duties. Well, how’s that for some giant and completely legible writing on the wall! I told my God I was beginning to feel like I was being shooed out of a town without any money or transportation to take me on to the next town. I then began to become acutely aware of the fact that the work I do in an internship capacity always energizes and excites me no matter how drained I am and that I needed to pay attention to that particular piece of information. It also dawned on me that I happen to hold a volunteer position in a different component of the same field. Light Bulbs Flashing! So not only was the writing on the wall as clear as day, but I finally had a clue as to what direction I needed to move towards. It’s all such an emotional whirlwind: this whole being where I am, while trying to figure out how to get to where God’s taking me. I like the people I work with and there are perks to my job, but it just isn’t my final destination. This job is more of a layover in that it is keeping me in place so I won’t miss the plane that is about to pull into the gate.
Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t and we can’t take it personally, we just have to realize that God may be taking us somewhere else. The next time something or someone doesn’t pan out, ask God what that was about… I’m sure He’ll tell you that it was just Him leading you in a different and better direction.
Happiness, hit her, like a train on a track
Stuck still, coming towards her, no turning back
-- “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence Welch & Isabella Summers
This year has brought a lot of necessary change as well as some mighty useful life lessons. After three years of wrestling with whether or not I should move to Los Angeles, I shifted into gear and drove across the country and landed in the San Fernando Valley. I quickly became accustomed to the LA area traffic windows, pedestrians and the unfortunate parking situation that is known as the City of Beverly Hills. I mean what is there not to love about this town? It is beautiful here and it usually boasts awesome weather to boot. While I wish I could say this journey has been all smiles and no frowns, I would be lying. I recall that in one of my resolutions from last year I stated that I felt God might have some intentions that were not on my radar and He did.
Enter Life Lesson #1: For reasons beyond my understanding at that time, God deemed it necessary that I get clean and sober and stay that way. After taking a couple of classes with Mastin Kipp (you can find him over at The Daily Love) I came to realize that my lack of sobriety was the one thing keeping everything from falling into place. It became clear to me that God was holding the key to my being able to stay in LA and that the only way He would hand over that key was if I handed Him my alcohol – something I wasn’t willing to do, but under the circumstances I had no choice. As the fog cleared and I started feeling feelings I’d never really felt before ( aka loneliness) I stumbled upon …
Life Lesson #2: I found my Creator and Sustainer and He wasn’t mad at me nor did He want to punish me; quite the contrary, He wanted to love me and prepare me for the gifts He still plans on giving me. As I continued on my sober journey and took a second class with Mastin, I came to realize…
Life Lesson #3 … that my fear of not being good enough is the root to every problem I have, including the alcohol. I learned that I continually sabotage myself by subconsciously seeking out people, places and things that reinforce my status of “fuck-up” or “black sheep” or “not good enough”. I learned that I have continually put myself in situations where I either didn’t have a chance to shine or never could shine so that I could keep my comfort status. I apparently decided that I’d rather amount to nothing and never achieve anything than face the fear of finding out if I am indeed good enough for myself, my family, my friends, much less a good man and the lovely masses.
So for 2013 I only have one resolution and that is to reinforce the positive in my life, which in turn allows me to face my fear of not being good enough on every level possible. This means putting myself in situations where I have responsibility so I can start changing that comfort status of mine. God, being several steps ahead, already has things set in motion. I have a new job where I am learning how to handle studio assets and accounts, a volunteer position where I am learning how to handle the media portion of a church service and an internship where I will be handling a live show or two come spring. I am also reinstating my writer status and have three projects to kick me off. Reinforcing the positive also entails spending time with quality people that have good hearts and good minds and are supportive in nature and you know actually give more than a flying hoot when it comes to my world.
Happiness does indeed sometimes hit like a freight train, especially for those like myself who fear anything that is actually good for us. I define happiness as a change that you don’t want or fear because you don’t realize that it sets the stage for all the things you want to come into your life. For me, sobriety hit me like a freight train. I hated it. It turned my comfy, miserable world upside down and made me realize what was actually keeping me in a deadly holding pattern. It also set the stage for me to uproot my greatest fear from my life and thereby make it possible for all the things I have secretly wished for to finally make an appearance in my life. So as we start this New Year, my only question for you is what is your freight train? What change do you need to make? I cannot promise it will be an easy ride, but I can promise it will most definitely be worth it.
Trust in the Trenches
Once a tissue box, now a prayer box.
They say that Jesus loves you. What about me? - Jewel
Oh, the T-word… I spoke about it last month, but it is has been a serious struggle for me this month. Yes, the word I am referring to is TRUST. I have to say that I have been in and out of church my entire life, but I don’t think I ever grasped the real, everyday concept of trusting God. I guess in a way, I have always had other people to rely on in the event I got myself in any sort of physical or financial strain, whereas, now I do not. While it is important to trust God for a roof over my head rather than a park bench, which is a reality that is extremely too close for comfort at this moment in time, my main concern is my seemingly inability to trust that God really does love me.
A Christian man at one of the meetings I attend always asks me why I’m having such a problem because as a Christian the twelve steps should come easy to me. This made me think about the things I easily trust God with versus the things I have a hard time handing over to Him and leaving in His care. What I found is the things I have absolutely nothing to do with are easy to hand over, but the things that I play a part in are the things I keep taking back. As it turns out, I have a serious trust problem. I mean the Bible doesn’t say our works makes us righteous; it says our TRUST makes us righteous. Never mind the fact that my inability to trust states that I have more control than my Creator and Sustainer. I mean come on! Yes, the choices I make and the actions I take do have consequences, but if I am honestly doing the best that I can and seeking God’s will daily, does God not honor that effort and add His touch to the situation? Did I not write about this last month?
I guess I should add that I am having a problem seeing myself as a person of worth and value which is why I am having a hard time grasping the reality of God’s love for me. All of my self-sabotaging ways are a result of this deep inner feeling that somehow, some way I’m just not good enough, but God has an entirely different view. God created me to be a blessing and not a curse. He created me for a specific purpose and has a specific plan for the contributions I will make to this world. I’ve been trying to force myself into agreement with God’s view of myself and getting absolutely nowhere except for Discouragementville. Then I heard God whisper that I am trying to make a leap where I need not make one. All I need to do is be willing to accept that what He says about me is true. If I am willing to accept that what He says about me is true then I can be willing to act like what He says about me is true and as I act like what He says about me is true I will eventually become His truth. I will become all that He says I am. I just have to be willing to accept His truth, which allows me to act on His truth, which will at some point down the road make me His truth. AWESOME.
I’ve started praying the following prayer each morning: Lord, help me to trust You. To believe that you really do love me and to know that what You send me is good. Because sometimes the best presents arrive in the ugliest wrapping paper.
Just Keep Showing Up!
And when the rain falls down
You know the flowers are gonna bloom
And when the hard times come
You know the teacher's in the room
Excerpt: MICHAEL FRANTI - HAVE A LITTLE FAITH LYRICS
To say this past month has been an emotional rollercoaster would be an understatement. I stay very busy between job hunting, my internship and other projects I have on the burner, but my addiction has been making a very convincing play for my life. I find that nights are the worst, which is when I would typically drink. I am also in amazement at how quickly I am returning to the person I was ten years ago. I thought I had evolved, but it turns out I was just drunk all this time. Today happens to be a good day and by that I mean that the monster living somewhere inside me is asleep. I see my addiction as this little green monster that stays locked up in a cell and from time to time he wakes up and throws a temper tantrum, which is when I crave like a crazed maniac. I just have to remember that if I feed the monster, he will get bigger and eventually break out of the cell and destroy my body and my life. But, if I do not feed the monster, his temper tantrum will eventually give way and he will give up and go back to sleep. The key is to not feed him.
I recently read in 2 Corinthians that Paul talks about feeling as though the end is near, feeling as though there is no way out, but that his God continually rescues him. This made me think about my own cravings because when they come, they come strong and hard and I feel as though I will die if I don’t drink. It occurred to me that during these times I need to just talk to God about what I’m feeling and ask Him to handle that monster. I find that sometimes, just talking to God about my cravings and the fear and depression that comes with them can help restore some of my sanity. It also occurred to me that if I am having a craving when I have somewhere to be and feel too overwhelmed to go, I should make the decision to do nothing more than show up and tell God that He will have to handle the rest. Just showing up, after all, is something I can handle regardless of my state of being and I have found that when I am honest with God, He tends to honor my weakness by adding His own touch to the situation whether it be a friendly person, an easy on ramp, a parking spot right in front of the door or a renewed mind and spirit, I find that He shows up when I do. In fact, this entire post is an example of God honoring my weakness in that I honestly chose to sit at the computer even though I didn’t think I had anything to say for this month.
With holiday season nipping at our heels, it turns out this is a great time to post about reliance on God. If you have a roof over your head, food on your table and people that love you then be THANKFUL for the gifts God has given you because these things we refer to as necessities really are nothing more than gifts from our Heavenly Father. If you are lacking in one or all of these departments don’t feel bad or unworthy. Instead, turn yourself over to God all day everyday, surrender to His will and ask for His plans for you. I have no doubt that He will see you through not only this holiday season, but through the rest of your life as well. Let me just put it this way, if He still has a plan for my self-sabotaging and addicted butt, then He has to have a plan for you too so talk to Him daily, get in His word and just keep showing up. Do these things and let him do the leading and you will have peace in knowing you are exactly where you are meant to be in order for His plan to unfold in your life.
I have to be honest that these first two months in Los Angeles have not been easy. For one, I am up in the valley and apparently “no one hires people from up there”. Second, I happen to live with six female college students who don’t speak a lick of English as they are all from the great land that owns us, China. Being from China you would think they would be at least a little tidy, but they are just like American college students in that they are filthy and apparently under the impression that a fairy is going to clean up after them. My biggest problem as of right now is parking in that I am not use to having to have cash on hand 24/7 to park and I happen to be out of cash at the moment. Dear State Farm Bank: Please send me my debit card, as it is of utmost importance that I receive it. I am also not use to pedestrians being everywhere so if you, a pedestrian, see a silver Impala please look before crossing because I am probably not even aware that you exist. On the bright side, I am finally starting to get a handle on navigating this giant city and as a result only make one wrong turn per trip, which is an improvement of gigantic proportions.
Boredom and lack of human interaction has also been a major problem in these first two months. As is being stuck in a hot, un-air conditioned house in the valley that could use some serious TLC. Moreover, I am facing the fact that I need income as medical bills keep arriving that I cannot pay. Adding to the boredom and impending financial doom is the fact that I am getting sober for the umpteenth time. Needless to say, I need something to give and I need it to give now. Unfortunately, I seem to be sending out resumes left and right and nobody seems to be interested. Moreover, those that are “interested” only seem to be interested in telling me that I need to “move to the city” or better yet “you need some experience before you can intern here”. Um, really? I thought internships were for experience and as a matter of fact, I am in the city! And for the love of God, the 405 is not that bad! Suck it up Lalians, Suck it up!
Any who, things got to the point that I felt like I was suppose to receive some sort of key in order to actually live here and without that key I would be doomed to wander the streets as a beggar. No matter how much I prayed or cried, nothing seemed to be changing. I felt locked out and I had no one to seek advice from and I didn’t know what to do so I did the only thing I could do… I unloaded all of this on the poor messianic pastor at the messianic synagogue I have been visiting and I did this unloading during the service. He, obviously having dealt with a bunch of crazy people in his life, asked if I had ever tried fasting and prayer. He said that whenever he needs a breakthrough in life, whether it is financial, relational, emotional or physical, he sets aside a day or a weekend to fast and pray. He told me that Yeshua, himself, in the seventeenth chapter of Matthew, told His disciples that some problems require fasting and prayer. As luck would have it, the congregation was having a day of breakthrough prayer and fasting the very next day. I assume you think I went. You would be wrong. I got scared at everyone trying to get me to go so I left the service as quickly as possible. I must have resembled a dear caught in headlights. Note to self: flight response is alive and kicking; fight response – not so much.
After I got home, I looked up Matthew chapter seventeen and found in verse twenty-one that Yeshua did indeed say that some things can only be conquered through prayer and fasting so I decided to do my own little version in the solitude and safety of my little rented room in the hot, sticky valley that everyone pretends doesn’t exist. Being that I have never done this before and being that I always have a bit of method to my madness, I decided to plan out my six hours of prayer and fasting… I’ve never done this before and thought a whole day was a little presumptive of myself.
Hour 1 (12-1pm) – Praise
Hour 2 (1-2pm) – Prayer
Hour 3 (2-3pm) – Praise
Hour 4 (3-4pm) – Scripture
Hour 5 (4-5pm) – Prayer
Hour 6 (5-6pm) – Praise
Okay, so maybe I did a lot more praising than I did praying, but due to a recent realization, I actually connect to God through praise much more than I connect through prayer. While, I could probably do a whole post on all that thought encompasses, it will not be done today.
I do have to say that the experience did not disappoint. I thought I was going to be bored. I thought I would not be able to concentrate or run out of things to say, but let me tell you that when the God of the Universe wants to talk, He has a way of commanding your attention beyond all of your human capabilities. I used the Praise & Worship channel on Pandora for my praise hours and actually found some songs and artists that I really enjoyed. As for the first hour of prayer… I began by telling my God and King my purpose for this time and explained in detail what I was feeling and what I felt I needed from Him. After that, I opened up the floor for Him to speak and well, let’s just say He relayed what He needed from me before He could give me what I claimed to so desperately want! I had recently taken a class entitled Actualizing Your Soul’s Goals with Mastin Kipp from The Daily Love, an online blog and community. In this class Mastin taught us the difference between goals and intentions and lead us through a series of exercises designed to bring out our own individual purposes for this life. By the end of the class everyone had a list of intentions, goals and grounded action steps to help them reach the goals that would bring true fulfillment. I have to say the class was awesome and I was immediately hit between the eyes with the realization of what was keeping me in a very unhealthy cyclical holding pattern from which I was desperate to break free. I thought the work from that class was done, but during the first hour of prayer God took all of my class work and went much, much deeper. I ended up spending the last thirty minutes of prayer completely re-writing my intentions, my purpose and something Mastin calls my Major Definite Purpose. I had gotten ahead of myself in the class and while the majority of what I wrote was and is true, I have work to do before I actually get there. AMAZING!
After the initial prayer hour, I continued with my itinerary until I came to the scripture hour. I actually didn’t have a clue as to what I was going to do with that hour. I suppose I was planning on looking up some verses on some particular topics I am struggling with but I ended up just asking God to guide me as I opened His book and He did. It seems He has some things to tell me about life and how one is to live life. He directed me to several scriptures, one of them being 1 Thessalonians where Paul talks to the new Christians regarding how they are to live their lives and why. He also led me to look over the Ten Commandments again. It seems as though God wanted to remind me that He has some advice on this thing called life and that it would be good for me to familiarize myself with such advice both on a physically practical level and on a mentally practical level.
And don’t think the hours of praise were a vacation either. I strained to really listen to and contemplate the meaning of the words I was singing and in those words I found God speaking loud and clear regarding many aspects of my life. It is interesting to note that I now feel that my own personal life purpose is to… “Be a blessing to everyone I meet by empowering myself so that I can empower others to live out their own individual purposes thereby sharing their own unique gifts with the world and making the world a better place by having done so.” … When I am so far from being a blessing in any sense of the word to any other human being on this planet. In simplest terms, I have a lot of transforming to do in terms of what I say and what I do blending into a recognizable harmony.
All in all, I am very happy with the outcome of my first ever day of prayer and fasting and feel it is a great way to reconnect with God, empower yourself when feeling vulnerable or need divine insight into a person or situation. It is especially useful for times when a breakthrough is needed. If the door is locked, go to the Person with the key… You know, the Person who created the door and the lock or at least allowed the lock to exist. Of course, the challenge is to keep your focus on God and His love and NOT on the end result because God will only give you that which you are ready to receive. Though you can be sure that He will reveal exactly what you need to cultivate in your life in order to be ready for that which you want.
As for me, I guess I was ready. Let’s just say that the giant door on the entertainment industry appears to now be unlocked. I have received a multitude of internship opportunities and am in the midst of the selection process as I type this post. On an even more pleasing note, I am beginning to receive interviews for paid positions within the industry too. Hopefully, I will land an offer soon and be well on my way to obtaining a place of my own in this land known as La la.
A Transforming Love
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.
The Activity of God
I have to say that these past two weeks have been a very exciting and busy time and while I do have several blogs in progress I do not yet have any of them finished. After finalizing my new digs, I had to find a bank, find health insurance, contact my car insurance, clean out my entire life and decide what’s coming with me, change my mailing address with the entire world, get my car checked out and the list goes on and on does it not? One thing I can say for sure is that I have been at the feet of God begging for discernment and confirmation throughout this entire ordeal and I thought I’d share a few things with you because it is awesome and not all that often when you ask Almighty God for something and He delivers immediately.
As always, I have to take you back to the beginning. It was Thursday, June 14th and I was going insane with worry. I mean I was seriously starting to question this whole move because I simply could not find a roommate due to my location. That night, I begged God to let the next puzzle piece fall if this move is right and good for me. The very next day I had three roommate options. I felt in my heart that this was God saying a gigantic YES in regards to Los Angeles and that it’s not some stupid dream I’m chasing, but is instead an actual part of God’s plan for my life. So after I got this information, I was still on the fence as to whether the time to move was upon me and so I begged God to make it abundantly clear to me that now is the time. I specifically asked Him for another Los Angeles area employer to contact me regarding a position and reminded God of all of the crazy things people in the Bible asked of Him in order to confirm His will in their lives and how, to the best of my recollection, He always answered these requests. Now, I knew I couldn’t make God answer me, but I sure could plead my best case and I did have an honest desire to know whether or not I was moving within His will and more specifically, whether or not I had His provision. The very next day a film production company in Hollywood contacted me regarding an opportunity. So at this point I know it’s LA or bust and I needed to pick the right roommate option and this time around I simply asked God that if He had a better place for me to live, He needed to bring that place into my life before I finalized a move-in date with one of the three options I mentioned earlier. No, another roommate did not show up, but God brought to mind a lot of positive things about this option and my brother spoke to someone who lives in the area and was told that it is a really nice, safe, family area and great for a newcomer. So at this point you would think I’d feel good about picking up my life and relocating it to Los Angeles, right? Well, wrong. There is another huge piece of the puzzle missing. It is called income. It is important. You know what else is important? Health Insurance. I have applied for an individual policy, but due to that giant C word, I do not know if I will be allowed entry into the health insurance club plus there is the fact that I might not be able to afford the premiums due to that giant C lurking in my past. I find it rather harsh and rude: Congratulations you are a survivor, but please accept our sincerest apologies because if you get it again we will most certainly not help you survive it again! Anyhow, that’s a soapbox for another day. Where was I? Oh, yes, you would think that I would have peace about Los Angeles at this point. After all, God provided immediate confirmations, but I was still freaking out. What can I say? I am human. So my last and final request concerning the whole money issue was that I would have an interview set up in Los Angeles before I leave Memphis in order to confirm that a job is coming my way and soon! Of course, this would also confirm that I would either be able to afford the insurance premiums or be under a group policy in the not too distant future. I have to admit that I felt very wrong making such a request, but I was reminded of the outlandish requests made of God in the Bible by those, who like me, just wanted to make sure they were in God’s will and had His provision. If you haven’t guessed already, I have an interview set up for Tuesday, July 10th with a staffing agency in West Los Angeles. That call came two days after I made the request. So as I drive Interstate Forty west this week I do have an overwhelming peace that I am in God’s will and that I do have His provision and that knowledge makes the trip that much sweeter. I know the first few months are going to be a little rocky, but I have faith built on evidence of God at work in my life that I am going to be just fine.
I hope all of my readers that are celebrating this holiday week have a safe and happy 4th of July and if Winston is reading this from over THERE: Stay Safe & Come Visit When You Can!
Praise be to God who blesses us according to our ability to accept His gifts and administer them appropriately.
Sounds great doesn’t it? But if you look deeper you will realize that wanting something and being ready for something are two very different things. I personally believe that God has a giant storehouse of blessings for each of us. Unfortunately, most of us only receive a minute portion of those blessings due to the simple fact that we are not ready for the majority of what He wants to do in our lives.
A wise Rabbi once said, “God will give you the small things to see if He can trust you with the big things. You’re responsibility with those small things is to show God that you can be trusted with the big gifts He has planned for you.” It’s scary really, to think of the possibility that many of the things we are begging God for are being withheld for our own good since we are not ready for them. What’s even harder to conceptualize is that we should be grateful for this. After all, what good is getting everything we’ve ever wanted if we are not ready and fully equipped to handle it?
I cannot offer a one size fits all way to prepare for God’s blessings, as we are each on our own path with our own obstacles. What I can say is this: every single one of us is fully capable of tuning in to hear God speak to us and I have no doubt that He speaks much more often than most of us realize.
Sometimes it is a small voice in the back of our minds, other times it is a strong gut reaction, or a desire for a specific cause. God has equipped each of us with a certain set of talents, skills and interests and it is usually within these three that we find our purpose, that one thing in life that propels us forward no matter what happens to be going on around us.
If you have not found that one thing that propels you forward, then I urge you to have the courage to explore your talents, skills and interests…even the ones that do not earn you “cool” points. If also urge you to simply ask God to make your purpose known to you. I have no doubt that He will answer you…It may take a while, especially if you are not ready…but never stop seeking…If there is one thing I do know it is that He will answer you, no matter where you are on your journey. It’s funny, so many Christians seem to think that acknowledging that God exists and that Yeshua is His Son is the end of the journey, when in all actuality, it is only the beginning.
This Thanksgiving let’s all choose to be Thankful for both the blessings we have been given and those blessings that God intends to give us somewhere down the road once we are ready for them. Let’s also make a point to start asking God to direct our steps equipping us with what we need in order to accept all He has to offer us. A few prayers I say aloud every day on the way to work are:
The Prayer of Jabez
“Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause any pain!”
May Your will be done in my life and on this planet, completely uncontested, just as it is done in Heaven.
My Father, My King, Have mercy on me, even though I have no worthy deeds, answer me and save me.
I wish each of you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving regardless of where you are on your journey.