Thursday, April 22, 2010

You Gotta Have FAITH!

No, I'm not talking about the George Michael song from many many years ago, but rather I'm talking about our personal faith. In this world, most of us are slaves to something. We're slaves to money, possessions, jobs, addictions, and so many other things. This brings me to a question: why do we let things control us? I'm going to hazard a guess and say maybe we're focused on the wrong things. Can money bring you happiness? No. Can things make you happy? I don't think so.

Nearly two months ago, I was released from my employer of over 18 years. I made a very good salary, received good medical benefits and had many good friends there. Heck, they were even paying for my continuing education at Cal Lutheran University. On the surface there was a lot to like. You would think that given all of that, losing my job might have really gotten me down. On the contrary, it's probably been the best thing that EVER happened to me!

Why do I say this? Well, the place I used to work had a very NEGATIVE work environment. Negative reinforcement was preached and practiced and it absolutely killed the morale there. Being a very positive person, this kind of environment and I were just not a good match. By the end of the often nine+ hour workday, I was physically and mentally exhausted. The 25-30 minute drive there and a 30-35 minute drive back home were also draining as we have people in this state who believe the right lane is a passing lane and it's their right to do 80+ MPH in it! And while going to the gym and doing an hour on the elliptical, the weight machines or in a mat pilates class helped me deal with that stress, it didn't resolve the inherent issues. Effectively, I was a SLAVE to my job!!!

As last year progressed, I could see myself falling downward in a spiral. I focused less on God and stressed more and more on things. Then, my self-confidence started to wane. If you know me at all, you do know that I'm usually very confident in my abilities... By September, I was an absolute basket case! I was trying to juggle school, the gym, and a 45 hour a week super stressful job while trying to spend time with family and friends. Can you say EPIC FAIL?? So what happened as a result? Friendships suffered, I missed commitments, I asked for extensions or changes on school projects, and I was feeling less and less like my normal positive-minded self. My sleep pattern had become ridiculous, varying between two and 11 hours of sleep depending on how I was feeling. There were even three "all-nighters" where I got NO SLEEP at all! Yes, the list was VERY long and it was just all bad! Sadly, I also almost stopped going to my church... I was still so drained from my Monday-Friday on Sunday mornings, that I often just wanted to hit the snooze button 20 times!

Toward the end of last year, I started to realize that I needed to do something different. Although I was somehow maintaining a 3.2 GPA and getting to the gym six times a week, there wasn't much else positive to say about how I was living. I was praying a little, but not nearly enough. I feel into some VERY bad habits. To make a long story short, I decided to go to my church the Sunday before Christmas after missing three straight weeks... the normal 11am service. So as I drive past Angela St. on Winifred, I notice there just weren't very many cars on the road... Strange, I thought. As I got closer to the parking lot, I could tell something was up as it was nearly empty! As me and about five other cars drive by the church, we see these little signs saying "ALL CHURCH SERVICE AT ROYAL HIGH SCHOOL at 10am." I was crushed! I REALLY needed to have my pastor speak to me. I REALLY needed to get some wisdom and encouragement from my friends there. Instead, all I got was nearly an hour of a wasted 50 mile roundtrip to the east end of Simi Valley from the west end of Thousand Oaks. Sadly, I was THAT out of the loop with my church and church body! As my cousin Scott would say "NO BUENO!" All I could think to myself was "this can't happen again... I REALLY need to get my focus back on HIM!"

So the next Sunday, the last one of last year, I finally made it back to my church. My pastor was there. A couple of valued friends were there. And I felt a peace. A comfort. A reassurance. A feeling that God was going to answer some things I had been praying about a lot. And HE did... the next night, He restored a valued friendship which had been torn apart mostly thanks to what I was dealing with at work... I started reconnecting with long, lost friends (mostly on facebook). As 2010 arrived, I just felt like there were going to be a lot of good changes happening in my life...

Fast forward to today. Not to boast or anything, but we're near the end of April, and I have managed to make it to my church EVERY Sunday this year! As I get further and further away from the thing that brought me so much stress, I've been getting closer and closer to God and also my friends. I'm also sleeping better than I have in a VERY long time. My family and friends all have remarked about me being so full of joy all of the time these days. And I really can't help it, because I'm truly happy and enjoying life. I see a friend in need posting a message on facebook and I can pray for them almost instantly. I can text or call my friends almost anytime to check on them... Heck, I can even drive over to visit some of them now too! Last week, I shared about the Lord to several different friends. I've even been listening to the sermons of other pastors online... As I told a good friend this weekend, I feel like God is finally working through me again to make a difference in this crazy world we live in... and that's a feeling not money, a job or anything else can buy!!! Thank you, Lord!!!


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