You have to find your contentment in Jesus, not in the blessing – Joby Martin
Crushes are pointless correct? I mean how many times have you liked someone from a distance only to meet him or her and find that you have absolutely zero chemistry. That if it was between spending thirty minutes trapped in an elevator with this person or fighting off a lion with your bare hands – you’d probably pick fighting the lion to having to spend another painstakingly awkward second with that guy or gal you were crooning over. I only mention this because as I type this post, I am staring into the eyes of a current crush. I have his photo pulled up right beside my doc. He is giving one of those cocky come hither stares that lets the world know that he knows he’s got it. Unfortunately, these are the guys that tend to land on my radar. Christian or not, they leave a lot to be desired in the companion department. They are not good to themselves and they certainly aren’t good to or for anyone else.
So why are you staring at him you ask? Well, the topic of idols came up in a recent small group conversation. While I have not found a church home here in Jacksonville, I am in a ladies small group for the mean time. The discussion centered on the things in our lives that can become idols to us and replace the only idol we should ever have – Jesus Christ. You see an idol is anything that we are waiting on to complete us. Anything that we can put in the sentence that goes something like this: “If I can only have/get/attain __________, then I’ll be happy/set/satisfied. The danger with thinking like this is that there is always going to be something else we want. If we are not careful, a new idol always crops up in our lives and wreaks havoc by stealing the joy from what is and placing the focus on what could be soon thereby keeping us in an unhappy loop that is forever stuck on repeat.
I have a short quiet time each morning where I read a chapter of scripture and pray. In one of my recent morning prayers I popped out these words “… and apparently the idea of a relationship has become an idol to me and I am very sorry for that…” As soon as the words came out of my mouth I felt a jolt within me and I started to cry. I didn’t know a relationship had become an idol in my life until I unknowingly spoke the words in prayer. It is true that I have been struggling since leaving my friends in Los Angeles. I am very lonely here in Jacksonville and I guess my mind has been on a relationship a lot more lately. I am also turning the big 35 this year so I am officially hitting the status of Old Maid/Spinster for Life. I guess that’s what has been really eating away at my soul. My life has not turned out the way I wanted it to and I have no one to blame but myself. It is just what happens when you live for a bottle for 15 years. And there’s that sentence again “If I can just find my partner everything will be better… I will feel like I have someone or something to belong to” Ugh, I really need to shake this need for a significant other. I can want one all I want, but needing one is a problem and I believe that I have crossed over the unhealthy threshold from wanting a partner in life to needing one. I mean how can two days of relaxation turn me into boohoo city? Why do I freak out the second I find myself alone with nothing to do? Why does going to church alone make me want to kick God in the face? Yes, we are creatures designed for community, but community comes in many forms.
Truth be told, we all have that something special that is missing from our lives and we allow it to be the reason we are unhappy, we allow it to steal our joy. … “If I can just buy a nice house I will be happy,”, “If can just afford nice vacations each year I will be happy” or “If I can just get that promotion”, “If I can just work my way into that crowd” , “ If I can just get pregnant”, If I can just… etc, etc, etc to infinity. These sentences are not true. We like to think they are true, but whatever we are hoping for whether it is a partner, a career, a house, a friend or even that cute pair of wedges in the store window– all of these things bring new challenges and I am old enough to know that nothing is ever how we imagined it. I am beginning to realize the old adage is true – if we are not happy with our current circumstances, we will never be happy. Period.
One of the biggest problems with putting our happiness in the future is the simple fact that we never get to enjoy the present and if we don’t enjoy the present – Well then what’s the point? The present is all we have. If we do get to the future we have imagined, we will most likely realize it wasn’t exactly what we thought it would be. It might still be great, but it will not match the fantasy we have built in our heads and so we will begin hoping for something else and the unhappy cycle will keep on repeating until we reach the end of our lives and look back and wonder why we couldn’t enjoy every second we had. We will wonder why we never learned to enjoy our present for what it is – our present. Our gift. We get another day to create something beautiful with God.
There’s also a reason Jesus Christ should be the only occupant of our mantle. He is the only person that will never fail us, never leave us and always sustain us. If we are looking for satisfaction outside of Him, we’ll never find it. It doesn’t exist apart from Him. Making Him our focus, living a life pleasing to Him, being an example of His love to others and leading others to Him – that is where real happiness exists. You just have to clear your mantle and make Jesus your focal point. This is how you learn to be content, like Paul, no matter what your current circumstance might be.
So what does all this mean? Well for me, it means I need to make Jesus and the vision He has given me for ministry my focal point and I need to leave the man out of the picture. Whether God has someone in mind for me is irrelevant because that man does not deserve the pressure of being my only source of happiness and the same can be said for any friends that enter my life. Only one person can take that kind of pressure and only one person ever should – Jesus Christ.
I have been praying the words of an older song from Hillsong titled “I Surrender”. I just found myself singing this song non-stop and realized there must be a reason this song is staying on my heart. Reality is this: God needed take over because I was unraveling. I was lonely, I was upset and I was becoming more impatient every day. I needed God to step in and give me direction. And so I decided to stop asking God for anything and instead I just began praying the words of the song – Lord, Have Your way in me! Have Your way in my every minute of my every day, Have your way in my thoughts, my words, my actions, my interactions. Help me to know how to honor you at work and in my daily life. Lord, Have Your way in me!
Funny thing is the moment I made Jesus my focal point by inviting Him to have His way in me, a lot of the character changes I’ve been writing about over the past year just sorta started happening all on their own….
There are times in life where everything seems so unfair. Whether it is treatment from co-workers or so-called friends, an inability to build a community around one’s self or a constant financial struggle. Life can, at times, seem very unfair.
I feel like I am on a rollercoaster of emotions these days. I have somehow gone from supreme happiness and contentment to the deep seeded need of belonging to a community. I feel more alone than I have ever felt and I do not understand where this feeling is coming from. While it is true that I have had a hard time building a community in Los Angeles, I have also stayed very busy so it has not been a bother until now. For a woman, feeling alone equals feeling unloved and you would think that my Father in Heaven would be very sensitive to me at this time. That He would gently remind me of His love and that He has great plans for me.
Instead, my Heavenly Father is in full on DAD mode. He has made me acutely aware of the fact that while I may feel like He is not taking care of me, He actually is doing that and so much more. It started with my learning of a gentleman who had a car accident very similar to the one I had several years back. The only difference being that I landed upright and he landed upside down. That one difference means I walked away with lesions and a life long case of whip lash, whereas, he has endured multiple surgeries to fix an internal problem that has yet to be fixed. He remains in constant misery, unable to work and lives on the verge of suicide due to excruciating pain from an internal problem that cannot be found much less cured. I could have been him, but I was not. I function normally, have no pain other than the reactivation of whip lash which means I cannot rock climb or do any thrill riding. What a difference in our lives! Favor was definitely bestowed on my indignant soul.
My Heavenly Father went on to remind me of all of the favor He has bestowed upon me in all those paying the bill jobs that I routinely tell Him I could do without. The only reason I even landed my first job was due to the fact that my boss just liked me and felt like I could be a friend and a co-worker. It was a similar situation in the second full-time job I acquired. The woman who was doing the hiring, wanted someone closer to her age that could be an accountable co-worker and friend and that is exactly what I was to her. I also received favor in the form of the president of the company taking a liking to me. This man was a ferocious human being, but when he saw me, his whole demeanor changed. Not once, did he ever accost me like he did everyone else. Moreover, once I had put in my notice to move to Los Angeles, I found out that he only kept me on the payroll for the previous year because he liked me. Work was very slow and there really hadn’t been a need for me at the company, but I was able to keep my job and my paychecks, which allowed me to save money to move to Los Angeles all because favor had been bestowed upon my indignant soul.
Once in Los Angeles, I was able to find a job in what I thought took eons but according to LA locals, I was “so blessed to get a job that quick because it can take up to a year or more to get a job in LA”. Again, a man at my company just took a liking to me from the start. If you ask me, I think I remind him of a younger version of his wife, but he has been on my side since day one and has also managed to get me two raises in a company where no one is getting raises even when they get un-asked for promotions. This last raise is what has finally moved me out of living paycheck to paycheck and allowed me to create a plan to get out of debt over the next year. Even though I tend to see nothing but what is wrong and missing in my life, God has yet again bestowed favor upon my indignant soul.
While I am not completely content with life as I know it, I guess I need to stop complaining and start thanking my Heavenly Father for being my DAD and making sure I have everything I need to live a decent life. Los Angeles is both great and horrible at the same time with the main issue being that I have not found a place to truly belong. It is this inability to belong that has me wondering if I only came LA to get clean and sober. The aloneness I constantly feel is eating away at my soul and it has me thinking about that job in Nashville that I so rudely kicked back to God while screaming “Hell No”. The very unfunny truth is that clean and sober Jessica would absolutely love that job! Go figure, right? I have also been thinking about the fact that if there were one other city in America that has the same self-publishing and writing community as Los Angeles, it would be Nashville. While Nashville has a few too many rednecks and no ocean, it is close to family and boasts a great city where I can afford to buy a single-family home. I guess I can say it is on my radar as a possibility in the next couple of years, but even as I type this, I am reminded of my mother who was bound and determined to get out of Tennessee and back to California – she never made it back because love has a way of happening when you are making other plans.
So here’s to staying up in the air, keeping an open mind, making choices that keep my writing a priority, having a thankful heart instead of a complaining one and most importantly… Here’s to a great summer full of whatever blessings God has in store for this indignant soul.
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.
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.
If God is still talking… then He hasn’t given up on you yet and if you are a believer in God, then you should know that coincidences are the actual footprints of God in our lives. So with that said, you don’t open up to the same page in a book twice and think nothing of it… at least I don’t. I was actually browsing books for a gift and happened upon a title that caught my eye. I took the book off the shelf, opened it up, appalled at the topic it opened to, shut it quickly and put it back on the shelf. I continued browsing books and eventually came back to the first book. I again, took the book off the shelf, opened it up to the exact same page and thought “Ok, maybe I need to read this” and so I did. As with many stories I have to take you back to the beginning, which would be the prior evening.
I was in bed reading Joel Osteen’s book, It's Your Time. One of the main themes of the book is along the lines of as long as you are doing your best for God, He will create doors where walls once stood. That particular night a sentence jumped out at me. That sentence read: Your attitude determines whether you move forward in God’s divine plan or whether you stay put. The next day while driving home from work I turned the radio dial to 95.7 to hear a daily broadcast from Bishop Brandon Porter. His message that day was in regards to how ‘our little is preparing us for our lot’ and that when God gives us something, whether it be a small thing or a huge thing, we are suppose to make it better than it was before. In other words, we are suppose to do our best for God knowing that there is a reason this task was given to us and not someone else. This reminds me of Steve Jobs when he said you just have to have faith that the dots are going to connect somewhere in the future. Anywho, like I said I was driving home and on the way I stopped by Barnes & Noble to pick up a book for my mother. I was actually planning on picking up Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind Devotional, but the store did not have it in stock and so as I browsed the rest of her books my eye immediately fell on Be Anxious For Nothing. After opening up to the same page twice I decided to read that page against my will and it told me that while we are waiting on the Lord we are suppose to bear the fruits of the Spirit and not walk around angry, miserable and defeated. Hmmm…. Right then and there I knew God was really speaking to me.
I had recently told Him that while I used to pride myself on being on the scenic route in life that I was no longer enjoying the ride and that I was ready for the direct route. I told Him I had goals that I wanted to accomplish and that I was even interested in having a husband, possibly even a family and a place to call my own where I don’t get attacked for putting too much of my stuff in the fridge. Most of my friends spent their twenties climbing the ropes in their preferred careers whereas I spent my twenties doing everything but my preferred career. My friends are now enjoying the fruit of their labor while I have a whole lot of labor and absolutely no fruit: Nothing to be proud of or enjoy. I feel like I’ve been on a loopty loop for ten years, seriously. Interestingly enough, it was the very day that I said this to God that all of the above began. I personally believe that God is trying to tell me that the key to my getting off of the loopty loop and boarding the express rail is to start producing the fruit of the Spirit and keep producing them no matter what.
And I do have to admit that it has been these last ten years of personal and career dissatisfaction that have helped me get rid of the shyness and timidness that plagued me for most of my younger years. In fact, I can say that had I not had these ten years of “ugh” I would not be mentally, emotionally and spiritually ready for where I am headed. I can also say that even though I personally did not care for what I did career wise, I sure did learn a whole lot that I can take with me because everything I’ve done is of the universal kind. From overhauling a human resource department to helping run a utility construction office, I’ve either worked in or been exposed to every possible department within a business and I have a feeling that this experience is what is going to land me my next job only this time I’ll be in a preferred position, within a preferred company and in a preferred industry. I will have gotten off the loopty loop, boarded the express rail and finally be in a position to make something of this life that I am living. But as God has beaten over my head, it all starts with the fruit. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control…These are the fruits of the spirit and we are to produce them no matter what. Life doesn’t wait to start until you are in your perfect position so neither should your production of spiritual fruit. You just have to know that where you are right now is preparing you for where you are going and once you get there you’ll have the ability to look back and just marvel at how much God knows and just how much we do not.
And sense I'm being honest here, I do have to admit that this post was birthed about a month ago and there have been several instances since then where God has tapped me on the shoulder regarding the whole doing your best for Him no matter how much you detest your current circumstances. As far as He is concerned until you are out of those circumstances you are suppose to be doing your best for Him no matter how much you want to burn down that building, shoot that boss or strangle that coworker. And wouldn't you know, here I sit about 8:45 pm on May 30th half listening to Piers Morgan Tonight while reading through this post very aware of a slight stay of execution regarding my move west and BAM! Crap! I mean if I'm going to put something in my blog I should be practicing that which I preach so I am going to do my best from this day forward to be my best in my current so-ready-to-be-out-of-here circumstance until I am actually out of the circumstance and if I happen to find myself in another similar position until I get my footing in Los Angeles, then so be it. I 'll just keep producing spiritual fruit knowing at some point the tides will turn and I will get the personal and career satisfaction I desire.
P.S. All praying folk are welcome to pray for traveling mercies as I make my way across the country sometime this month and while you're at it… a job with benefits would be nice too! Love, Light & Laughter to all my readership!