Sunday Sermon: Possess the Land

I’ve been thinking lately about the things we let pass us by. Things we really want, we are actually meant to have, but we settle because we are too afraid to trust God in the process of him providing his purpose in our blessing. I’m not regretting anything, but today’s Sunday sermon  reminded me of a few things about being trusting enough to just go for it. In Numbers 13:30 Caleb speaks and tells the people “we should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” They just viewed the land flowing with milk and honey, but started giving excuses why they couldn’t take it over. Ever seen an opportunity but talked yourself out of the blessing? Like “I’m not smart enough”, or “I don’t have the money now”. Or maybe “I don’t have the time to put into that project” which is tailor-made for you to begin creating your own work schedule.”  God always sees the bigger picture before we do. So when he tells us to go, do, and step out on faith, and we pout and insist on giving him excuses, we are judging his promises. I love how the Pastor put it today. He simply said, if we really have a relationship with God, we ought to act like we expect him to work on our behalf. We ought to continue to praise him even when we are unsure of what the outcome is. I raise my hand and admit guilt because  sometimes I forget  that God’s promises pertain to me especially when things aren’t  going like I expect them too. My finances still aren’t where I need to be especially after 6 months earlier in the year of freelancing (because of job loss)and having sporadic work. But the thing is, that time was simply a distraction from God’s promise to be Jehovah Jireh. This year more than ever has taught me to focus and not get distracted by what’s going on around me. The uncertainty, the loneliness, could easily take over and force me to start fending for myself. But God has given me clear direction. And it’s never been to give my opinion about his word or the direction he’s leading me.

Today, the instruction was to own the land. Not question God, not give my two cents  about it, and certainly not try to go behind His back and design my own “CandyLand” that looks like what I think is best.  In other words, stop looking at my abilities and assuming I can’t write as well as others, can’t create a healthy relationship again, and can’t overcome my own issues with self-doubt. God never asked me my thoughts about any of that. He really didn’t. What he did ask me to do what to stop looking my abilities but start looking at abilities of the God I worship. I’m not opposed to receiving God’s blessings in my life and I thank him that even when my perspective is off , he’s willing to correct my vision.  So,  I don’t see my obstacles as giants anymore, but more like the tiny grasshoppers that I can easily overcome by simply following God’s hand and move around them.


Bringing Me Back from Captivity

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all you heart. “I will be found by you” declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity. Jeremiah 29:13-14

Certain scriptures stick out in my head. They pop up when I’m struggling and need a reminder of God‘s promises. But every now and then, there’s a different word that stands out and gives me an even greater understanding  of what God is saying.

“I will be found by you” declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity. Jeremiah 29:14

The past couple of days I’ve been a hormonal moody mess. The majority of the week left me feeling trapped more than  empowered,  and definitely un-“able to do all things.” Why wasn’t my life moving?  And why wasn’t it working like it should? It wasn’t that I didn’t have ideas but everything fell short. I felt stuck. In my messy captivity. Not that I did anything wrong,  or that I was being punished. But nothing was working. And nothing I did made any difference. That’s when I pulled out my Bible and saw the end of Jeremiah 29:14. In my arrogance, I read the verse thinking, “yea, I know what it says, I’ve seen it before a million times.” This time was different because I finally read the end of the scripture. The part where God says  “I will bring you out of captivity.”

Then it hit me. Some of the problems I’m dealing with (created) are not designed for me to easily wiggle my way out of. And with this being the kind of year where I’ve had little to no control (except in how I react) over things, my first thought as of late is to “I gotta do it on my own.” Which is why nothing was working. Which is why I’ve been exhausted. And tired. And grouchy. I can try, but I can’t  do anything on my own. My writing, my work, my singing, cannot be done without the favor of God on my life.

So when I saw  the word “captivity”, the stress in my shoulders relaxed because I realized I’ve tried to DO  and BE everything on my own. And doing without inviting the One who knows how to DO it best is a futile attempt. I prayed for help. I prayed that God would lift my burdens and remind me that if I honestly call on him, he will answer. Not to give a passer-by prayer, but a real-time, “I need you to help me God because if you don’t, I’m liable to do something stupid really soon” prayer.

As a single woman, I do a lot of  things on my own. So I admit I need help letting go and remembering God is the piece of the puzzle that keeps me from being overwhelmed. Unlike Britney says, it’s not me against the world. And unlike Beyonce sings, it’s really not me, myself, and I.  And even when I feel trapped, if I just remember to seek God, he’ll bring my out of whatever stressful thing I’ve gotten myself into. Again.

My Conviction: What I Will and Won’t do..#30in30

Conviction: a strong belief or persuasion.

My career allows me to  have one foot in the world of entertainment.  I am always auditioning and working  in productions with people who are from all walks of life. In a short amount of time, I’ve learned that everythang ain’t for everybody. And so it is that I have to make the decision of following my instinct and deciding what’s right  for me to engage in as a follower of Christ. Networking  in entertainment is not via conferences, but with the after parties during rehearsals or the show’s run. We hang out. We eat and drink with other performers who are in the biz. It’s the best way to find out whose producing a new show, where the next audition is,  and who I’m competing against for gigs. It’s probably no different from your workplace environment, but the Christian faith is often attacked for what we believe and how we choose to live it out. Some say it’s too rigid, or no fun, or all fairy tales.  Nonetheless, I do my best to live by example in the word of God. I don’t  judge others, and I certainly don’t argue or force my faith on anyone, but I lean on the Holy Spirit when deciding what’s best for me.

Sometimes, this requires I turn down jobs because they simply don’t reflect who I am or what I believe.  My “type” in the industry is the young  mom, or the professional career woman like a nurse or teacher. I’m cool with that and rest easy when I get the scripts because I’m very cautious of my image. And my  desire though I fall short is to  glorify God in everything I do. My friend always teases me if I have a skirt on as he asks sarcastically, “where you coming from, Bible study or Sunday school?”  I laugh because it’s a large part of who I am and I don’t hide it. And while I’m down to hang with friends and support them in their endeavors, they know if I don’t agree with, I’m not doing it. Period. End of story. Further more, I hold myself accountable and try not to do anything I wouldn’t claim or be proud of years from now. I like to have fun,  but I also have limits.  I’ve chosen to live it out this way because I know I’m someone is always watching.

Every now and then,  I’ll meet someone who insist I do things I’m uncomfortable with.  To date,  I can say I haven’t had to compromise my beliefs in any role. While  I don’t stand up and scream “Thank you Jesus!!” in rehearsal, he’s on my mind and I know I need him as my strength to help me be the best I can.   So it surprised me when I a cast member asked me to take a picture pretending to snort a drug used by another character during my current show. We’re playing nuns and my character is sassy, fun and bossy, but keeps the crew in line.  So since it wasn’t my character on stage or off, I didn’t have a good feeling about joining in the escapade. The rest of the cast all agreed to take the pic for group photos but there were a couple of ideas that just left me with a pit in my stomach. I struggled with it at first because while it wasn’t a real drug, it just wasn’t something I wanted to do. It wasn’t something I’d be proud of even as a joke.  I would feel like I was compromising my standards and quietly wondered how to handle it without offending the others? I finally ended up being honest and saying thumbs down to certain pics and letting them know which ones I would.  I felt good, they felt good, but I’m sure there were some confused thoughts about it.  One cast member  even asked her father, who is a minister, were the pics  with the drugs okay, and he said they were fine.  But what she didn’t understand was they weren’t fine for ME.  I talked it over with a friend  and he reminded me: don’t ever do anything you are uncomfortable with. So I didn’t. It wasn’t a reflection of me, the God who allows me to sing and glorify him, or the professional counselor (my other job) who helps people with addictions and strongholds like drugs and alcohol. I’m sure I lost cool points with the group, and even came off as “religious or churchy”, but I call it my conviction. And convictions pop up to tell you….nope, that’s not for you. That’s not who you are. And more importantly, stand firm and don’t even think about it. And so I stay back. I’m not a perfect person, and I make mistakes everyday all day. But some things aren’t up for discussion.  Honoring how I feel and what I believe is a principle I’m not willing to compromise. Society will tell us we never want to make waves, but sometimes you have to swim alone to keep your integrity. If I learned anything from the situation, it’s that I will always be challenged to fit in and go with the flow. It didn’t feel right, it didn’t look right, and it didn’t fit with my purpose. I’m glad I said no. And I’ll continue to do because I understand that my beliefs will always be reflected in my actions.

Knowing When It’s Time to Leave

“I want to remain committed to a purpose, not a position.-Cory Booker

I ran across the Mayor’s comment  at a time when I was questioning my commitment to a leadership role in church ministry. An interviewer asked him how long he anticipated staying in office. I was surprised by his answer because it wasn’t the pat political response. By nature, I feel like I tend to stick around too long in situations that I’ve outgrown  for one reason or another.   I  didn’t want to be the colleague  who drives everyone  nuts at work by asking questions during the  last five minutes of an 1 1/2  staff conference call. Seriously, who does that?!! That person doesn’t understand the beauty of boundaries and honoring limits.  And I really  didn’t want to feel like the woman in a relationship whose waiting for the words she already knows have been spoken in the crevice of her heart:  it’s over. Like any relationship, or job,, it’s important to check in and evaluate what’s still effective and  useful. 

I’ll be honest and say I’ve held on too long  in relationships, jobs, and even petty arguments just so I’d feel like I had some sort of control. (That’s a story for another day). But even more so, I kept positions  because I worried what other people would  say. That ranged from my working as church ministry leader to being in a half-baked, terribly unhealthy relationship. Would the church volunteers  be proud of the work I attempted, or say I didn’t do enough? Would I be called disobedient in the spirit or faithful for trusting my voice? Even in my relationship, I didn’t feel comfortable anymore but I was too afraid to let go. What would he say in the end? Was I good enough as a woman or was it truly a bad fit for two people who just wanted  love?   It wasn’t a good time in my life as I struggled with these decisions.   As I look back, I knew what was best for me, but hadn’t learned to trust that God was leading me in the right direction in spite of the negative chatter spewing through the grapevine.  

I was stuck as a result  of not learing  the art of release. To me, the art of release simply means being self-aware of what’s working and what no longer fits in a person’s life. Then, having the willingness to make  changes before being forced to do so in crisis mode.   If you need an example: what about being fired from a job because you are underperforming? For my Love and Hip Hop Fans, what about staying in a relationship that puts you at risk for STD’s as well as constant emotional abuse? And my sports fans, what about Dwight Howard sticking around In Orlando when he knew that’s not what he REALLY wanted to do? Perhaps you can identify with this.   Staying put was hurting my ability to heal and move on in relationships and my career. 

This was the time in my life where I just wanted to be needed. If I wasn’t seeing anyone, I’d  take on project after project at work and church  as most single women do. See, it  fills up your schedule and you  can avoid instead of learning how to balance work and your personal life. I’m writing this from the perspective of a woman whose heart belongs to God and loves to serve him. I grew up  in church and believe strongly in  the power and purpose in serving in ministry. If anyone asked me to work on a project, I did it. Because they asked. And that may have been part of the problem. Who knew there were would be a time when I  have tapped out my  potential in a position and really needed to move on? It’s tricky and sometimes difficult to know when you are serving connected to your purpose and simply being busy  and stagnant after the goal has been met. I liken the word stagnant to dirty, muddy water after a rain. Stinks, huh?

In my relationship, we tried to adjust and it didn’t work. I pretended he was happy, he continued being unhappy, I was unhappy and the both of us kept bumping into each other with fake hearts.  It made us more uncomfortable. The truth was we weren’t a good match for each other and our needs weren’t being met. Now,  my involvement in ministry has the same concepts. I chose to step down at a time when there were multiple departures in other units within the church. And I stayed longer than I wanted to because I felt guilty. And it made leaving worse, and more difficult, and like a slow death both my volunteers wanted the transition to be done.   Thank God for his grace. Through that, I learned that  part of growing is moving forward. And knowing most of all, when it’s time to let go.  I was sad, but I would have been even  more despondent if I stayed. Not because I didn’t love what I was doing, but because there were other lessons for me to learn outside of the church I spent most of my time at. 

 I now pay more attention to the signs of change in my dating and career world. I am often the first to say, “I think it’s time for  a change.” Not because I’m bored or disatissfied. But because my purpose  and my understanding of who I am has become more clear.  And  that’s a good thing. I now know when it’s time to leave and have less  worry of what others will say. Guess what? Those who talk about you will talk whether you are present or gone. But that’s no longer my focus. I am.