An inspirational devotional style blog offering encouragement and guidance to job seekers and people in career transition.

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Thank You

Beth Colley

Great is Thy Faithfulness

A hymn that I’ve been claiming lately is Great is Thy Faithfulness. Call me old fashioned but I really enjoy singing the traditional hymns in worship. This simple hymn points to God’s constant faithfulness, mercy, provision, grace, love, and blessings.

Self-employment has its advantages, but it also has its disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is that business can be inconsistent and unpredictable. When you’re facing a time of uncertainty due to career change, job loss, divorce, financial trouble, slow business, illness, or whatever the case may be, it’s easy to overlook God’s constant faithfulness. I’ve been singing this hymn daily as a reminder to myself that God is faithful in ways that I typically forget.

If you’re in a job search, career transition, or some other kind of personal or professional transition, keep reminding yourself that God truly does know your every need. He’s even aware of the needs you have that you’re not aware of, and it’s easy to take His provisions for granted. He hasn’t forgotten you, even if you think He doesn’t hear your prayers. He hears them, receives them, and answers them with a Yes, No, and wait. Waiting for His provision, especially a new job, is always the most trying and stressful.

One of the things that I would urge you to not forget, especially if you’re waiting on God’s provision, is that God knows what you need before you can ask for it. He has already taken care of your biggest need, which is GRACE. I know, it’s much easier and natural to focus on the earthly things we desire in the present, therefore we lose site of the fact that we’re going to spend much more time in eternity than we ever will on earth.  I don’t wake up in the morning and say, “Lord, I really need your grace today.” I should, but I don’t. More often than not, most of us probably wake up saying, “Lord, I really need for my boss to be out of the office today.” Or  “Lord, I really need a new job today.” Or “Lord, I need to sign that big contract today.” Rarely do I honestly wake up saying, “Lord, thank you for the sunrise” or “Thank you for your grace.” (In fact, if I wake up before the sunrise, I’m usually cursing the morning that hasn’t yet come)

If you’re feeling beaten down or feel as if the world is against you, re-think today. Perhaps the WORLD is against you, because as Christians, we are living in a foreign land. What we hope for, and what we receive, can only be given by God, and that is His grace. God has already taken care of that for us. The fact that He provides for us is just an abundance of His blessings and an outward sign of His love and faithfulness to you. You already have what you need. Look to God for the daily blessings and you will find them. Great is God’s faithfulness, day in and day out.

Here’s a reminder of this great poem written by Thomas Chisholm in 1923:

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father! There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not. As Thou has been Thou forever wilt be.

 Refrain: Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

 Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above. Join with all nature in manifold witness. To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. (Refrain)

 Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide, Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow – Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! (Refrain)

 

 

I admit that I don’t know a whole lot about jazz music. But one thing I do know is that a good jazz musician understands how to improvise and make things work, when and where they seemingly shouldn’t. When I was studying music theory in college, I learned that there were certain types of chord progressions that sounded natural and others that didn’t. The ones that didn’t progress to some natural resolution sounded out of place, unnatural, and required additional strategy to make the musical patterns sound right.

Sometimes our faith and our career take us to a place that feels unnatural, perhaps even a little uncomfortable. We may not quite be able to put our finger on it, but something feels uneasy, or not quite right. Music can feel/sound the same way if the chord/note patterns don’t flow in a logical progression that sounds “right” for our Western trained ears.  As with all music theory rules, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the musical pattern that is established, but the natural inclination is to resolve the chord pattern to where it sounds “right” again.

So, what do our careers, faith, and jazz have in common? The short answer…at some point we may find ourselves stuck and we have to improvise, rely on what feels right, and in some cases, break a few theoretical rules in order to resolve the situation.

We have this mindset that our careers should take us to some logical place. Just as in music, there is supposed to be a logical progression of patterns and steps that make sense. If you’re the kind of person that lets your faith guide you, there may be some unexpected turns and twists along the way, but in the end, you find yourself in the right place. And finally jazz… there are certain “theoretical rules” that are typically followed, but due to the art of improvisation, we may hear and experience an unexpected musical pattern of artistry that awakens our senses and invigorates us along the way.

The story behind the arrangement of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot that accompanies this blog post, is that I needed to change things up a bit. The melody had been floating around in my head and I was having fun with it. I was supposed to sing a more traditional church piece, but at the last minute, the regular accompanist was unavailable. So, I had to improvise. Fortunately, the music director, an extremely talented jazz musician and bass player, was open to the idea of the Swing Low, Sweet Chariot improvisation. We met for a brief rehearsal, included the drums on Sunday morning, and we went for it.

I’m sure there were some that Sunday morning in church who probably didn’t appreciate the arrangement, but what came from this non-traditional improvisation was a freedom and joy of expression that had been missing for me from worship. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is a song that usually isn’t sung in most churches today. It has become more of a concert piece. However, on that day, I sang it with a heart of joy, knowing that I am redeemed by grace. I encouraged those listening that morning to celebrate that promise of redemption and grace with me, and I encourage you to do the same.

And a final thought…if you’re feeling stuck in your career, and aren’t quite sure what steps to take, try improvising a bit. You may surprise yourself and begin to feel a sense of freedom and joy that is missing for you in your career.

Not a Good Fit

Not a Good Fit…the words seemed to jump off the screen and pierce my heart.  It hurt worse than finding out through mass email to the choir that another individual was selected as the interim choir director at my church. The church where I have spent countless hours attending choir rehearsals, substituting as choir director on occasion, singing solos in worship, leading the congregation in song, and assisting the Director with the choral music selections for two years.

Not a Good Fit…Seeing those words in a half-hazard email apology from the pastor who admittedly should have contacted me prior to the distribution of the mass email to the choir announcing the decision, just ripped open the scars and revealed the wounds left by church members and pastors elsewhere.

Those words hurt, and in a very philosophical way I started thinking about that phrase. “Not a good fit.” Paul used other words like ALIEN and FOREIGNER. I felt like (and to a certain degree still do) a foreigner, an alien, in my own church because the pastor wrote four simple words, “not a good fit.” No phone call, no discussion…the shepherd of his flock simply casting my heart aside in an email with those words. A friend who read it even exclaimed, “That’s not an apology at all!”

I’ve been quiet for a few months on this site and that’s why. Simply put, rejection sucks! But, I’ve put on my big girl pants, sing with the choir each week, attend a women’s bible study, and have a smile on my face. But behind the smile there’s still a lot of churned up emotion. Only a small handful of people know the story that didn’t get told. Now, anyone bothering to read this will at least know a portion of the very long, complex, unbelievable events that unfolded in a church music ministry over three years.

What I’m feeling is certainly no different than finding out you weren’t selected for the job you had your heart set on and seeing those same words…somebody else was a better fit. I get it, and personally, you don’t want to work for an organization where you are considered to be an alien, an outsider, a foreigner, or simply, NOT A GOOD FIT. You’ll be miserable, aggravated, and banging your head against a wall in no time. I do career coaching on this all the time with my clients…but this time it was deeply personal. In a sense, it was even spiritual.

But when the pastor of a church uses those words directly in an email to me, how am I supposed to feel? Part of me is somewhat thankful, as I can only imagine what it would be like to work for a pastor who would write those words in an email to a church member who sees him on a weekly basis. Another part of me wants to say, “Oh Yeah! I’LL show YOU who’s not a good fit.” It’s a struggle of words, a struggle of emotion, and a struggle with sin.

I have a lot more to say about this but here is a little bit of the wisdom gleaned from my experience thus far:

By God’s design, I am a foreigner or an alien. I’m not a good fit…I’m in this world and struggle to try to not be worldly or materialistic. I am a sinner and at the same time, I am redeemed only by grace through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

I’m trying to gain wisdom from this and know that it will only come from God. He does have a plan and one day; it will be revealed…1Cor. 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”

There is hope. The choir at our church is growing and new people are joining. I’m glad, and the person directing is highly qualified and doing a fantastic job. It’s nice and I’m glad I didn’t walk away as I was tempted to do. Admittedly, I enjoy singing as much as I do directing; I always have.

Pain caused by others in the church lives, regenerates, and rears its ugly head time and time again, no matter how deep we’ve tried to bury it. Volumes of encyclopedias saved in millions of gigabytes could be written about how imperfect the church and its people are.

I’m battle tested, I’m walking wounded, I still survive, and I will never give up…because God will never give up on me, even though I’m not perfect. Or better still, not a good fit.

Faith Test Anxiety

Knowing that we all walk through all kinds of trials as Christians, I recently started labeling these types of journeys as “Faith Test Anxiety.”  (Yes, I was experiencing that in my entry from a few weeks ago and I am still experiencing some of that “faith test anxiety” although things have somewhat improved.) Most of us at some point in our lives have experienced some level of test anxiety. When materialized to an extreme, test anxiety is actually labeled as a learned psychological condition. I found several online resources that provide tips on ways for managing test anxiety and I think a few can be applied, with a spiritual twist, to our own individual lives. So here are a few ways to keep things in check and better manage “faith test anxiety.”

1. Develop good study habits: Spending time in prayer, meditating upon the scriptures, and knowing the Word serves as a great example to help prepare us for any challenge. Whether this is done individually through personal devotions or participating in group Bible studies, it’s important to develop this regular discipline. A solid knowledge of the scriptures keeps us grounded. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

 2. Talk to your teacher: Getting feedback from people who have mentored you in your faith, such as Bible study leaders, Christian friends, pastors, elders, or deacons is a good place to start. We are all called to disciple one another, teach others, gently correct others when they sin, and carry one another’s burdens. Having others around to support you, pray with you, keep you in check, and encourage you is essential. Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burden, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Ephesians 4:2 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

3. Don’t ignore a learning disability: Ok, this is a little tongue in cheek here, but how many times does it take for us to learn something and believe in God’s holiness? If I didn’t have a solid understanding of the meaning and evidence of God’s grace and mercy in my life, I’m sure He would have enrolled me in a faith learning enrichment program by now. Just review some of Peter’s actions and you’ll likely feel better about yourself.  Matthew 15:15-16 “Peter said, ‘explain the parable to us.’ ‘Are you still so dull?’ Jesus asked them.”

This of course follows chapter 14 where the disciples had just witnessed Jesus walking on water, Peter jumping out of the boat, walking on water, then getting scared. Peter starts to sink, yells at Jesus to save him; Jesus grabs Peter and comments, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Followed by the boat of Disciples saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:25-33)  How many miracles had they witnessed at this point? {Perhaps there IS such a thing as a faith learning disability?}

4.  Get some exercise: Getting some aerobic exercise releases tension. I don’t get nearly enough, but I personally find exercise to be less mentally taxing than most of the other things I do throughout my day.  A walk through the neighborhood allows me to concentrate on other things and provides me with new visual stimuli. This is also a great way to get some alone time and have an informal conversation with God.

 5.    Visualize Success: When I’m wondering, “What the heck is God trying to tell me and where will I end up,” it’s hard to visualize much of anything. But envisioning where you want to be will help you verbalize your thoughts and feelings adequately in order to, “present your requests to God.” Once you can visualize yourself in a certain place, you can analyze how you got there and see things more clearly. Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

 Managing a career transition or job loss is stressful. For those who are unemployed, the financial burden alone is incredibly difficult to manage, not to mention the emotional turmoil of self-doubt, lack of confidence, and questioning your own self-worth.  But you’ve got to remember to keep putting one foot in front of the other, get into a productive routine, get out of the house, meet people, and manage your “faith test anxiety” with as much courage as you can possibly muster.

Yes, your faith is being tested. Some days you may fail miserably; other days your performance will be average. And yes, there will be days when singing “It is Well With My Soul” is completely contrary to the truth. Thankfully, each day with Christ is a new day. He knows what is in store for us, and He walks that road with us, and nothing can separate us from the Love of Christ. Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As I sat in church this past Sunday, and sang the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul, I couldn’t help but feel the contrary. My family and I are facing some very difficult decisions in the coming weeks and I was definitely not feeling like all was well with my soul. I want to be angry. I want to blame somebody else. I want these problems to go away. They will in time, but everything seems really magnified because the lens I’m looking through is quite small.

I have to step back and look at the bigger picture. Our situation will improve in time and there are some tough lessons to learn. Our world won’t end, but the window through which we look may be a bit different. In time, it may even be a bit brighter. But I still wish the problem would go away. I wish the problem had never occurred. I wish I hadn’t acted upon some really bad financial advice from my accountant, or it wouldn’t have.  I am resentful, angry, and I don’t like feeling that way.

Facing a time of unemployment or indecision in your career brings the exact same feelings and emotions. Maybe you are resentful. Maybe you’re angry. Maybe you wish the problem would go away. You want/need something fixed, but there is no easy answer. Perhaps you feel lost, stuck, are out of options, and are just plain worn out. Unfortunately the Deus ex Machina sometimes used in Greek dramas does not exist.

So, what to do? What do you do when the decisions you need to make regarding your career, finances, or seamlessly unending period of unemployment and job search begin to overwhelm you? Well, singing It is Well With My Soul doesn’t help; I’ll say that for sure!

The ironic thing is that all the angst we feel is related to our own individual plans and desires. Our lens is quite small, finite if you will. We need to remember that God’s lens is much bigger. His lens is infinite. Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” The King James Version states it a little differently, “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts will be established.”

The common language between the two is “Commit to the Lord.” How committed are you to serving the Lord in all that you do? How committed are you to turning over your career to Him? Personally speaking, how committed am I? Commitment to God requires total abandonment of our own personal will. The Hebrew word in the passage is “Gal” which comes from the Hebrew root “Galal”. The meaning in this case is to “roll away” or “heap.”  (Translation according to Beth, heap your cares/concerns/problems onto the Lord, and then He will show you what to do next.)

Psalm 55:22 comes to mind, “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.” 

The scriptures consistently reiterate God’s faithfulness, love, mercy, and provision. God’s word consistently tells us “cast your cares upon the Lord,” “commit to the Lord,” “trust in the Lord.” Why is it so hard? Why can’t we, as the Nike add says, “Just do it?”

My friend sang a song by Casting Crowns entitled Caught in the Middle shortly after we sang It is Well With My SoulCaught in the Middle is the song that really described how I felt. Parts of the chorus rang true: “Deep water faith in the shallow end…with eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is, But will we trade our dreams for His? Or are we caught in the middle?”  

In some ways I really wish there was an easy answer, but the only thing we truly can do is pray for wisdom, commit ourselves to serving the Lord, and wait upon Him. In the mean time, try to recognize His blessings in disguise, and I’ll do the same. You’re not alone. It’s ok if you feel like it is Not well with your soul, and most importantly; God truly is in control and will make us stronger. 

Blessings in Disguise

I was speaking with a woman at my church recently who had just experienced a period of prolonged job search. Her story was familiar; she was Middle Aged and unexpectedly found herself unemployed. She spent over two years seeking work, praying, seeking God’s direction, getting feedback on her rèsumè from friends and anyone who would give her advice.  She was nearly at her wits end as she saw her savings and retirement dwindle to nearly zero.

 She finally caught a break, heard about a position through a friend at church, and spoke to the business owner about the job. She actually knew the business owner, again through church, and approached him about the vacancy. Turns out, after nearly two years of unemployment, she didn’t even need a rèsumè for the position that she landed. She was totally thrilled with the job and loved the environment in which she was working.

 As she reflected on her story, she shared the emotional and spiritual journey, roller coaster, I might add, that she had been on. You see, during those two years, a family member was diagnosed with terminal cancer. That family member underwent chemotherapy treatments, surgeries, numerous doctor visits, hospital stays, and everything that accompanies a cancer diagnosis. She, more or less, became that person’s caregiver and advocate. She saw God doing amazing things with that relationship and even grew in her relationship with God.

She found herself suddenly spending more time in prayer, meditating on the scriptures, and questioning, “What does God want me to do with my life,” as she suddenly realized how frail and precious life can become. She began to realize that she was at God’s mercy for everything good and bad in her life and put herself in a position where she was totally reliant upon God.

Perhaps that is why Laura Story’s song “Blessings” touches so many people. Most everyone finds himself or herself in a position seeking blessings in disguise. This person admitted that she had never been in a position where she was totally reliant upon God’s blessings and provision. Those two years taught her that it wasn’t about her will, her work, her choice, her savings; she was totally reliant upon God’s mercy. As she saw her savings dwindle and continued being rejected from employers, the anger and bitterness set in. But as she became more involved in the care and advocacy of a family member, she had to let the anger and bitterness go. God used that time to bring her closer to Him and to her loved one. She began to understand what true loss meant. Yet she began to cherish the spiritual freedom we receive through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. The light bulb went on; sacrifice equals loss, and redemption equals grace.

The rest of the story is that when she truly fell down at God’s feet and surrendered to letting Him lead, the door finally opened. She didn’t even have to submit a rèsumè. She had an informal interview, confidently shared the value that she could bring to the company and was offered the job. Turns out, it really was the kind of position that she never knew she was seeking. She was using old skills in a new way, was re-energized in her professional life, and her spiritual life was awakened from a long slumber. She had a new way of looking at things and appreciating God’s blessings.

 What was refreshing to hear about “this job landing in her lap” was that she realized it didn’t just land in her lap. She worked for it in a very sacrificial way. She sacrificed long-term financial security, she sacrificed time for her job search to care for a terminally ill loved one, and she sacrificed her own self-reliance and became more reliant upon God’s provisions. She had to live on faith.

She realized that even though she had been a Christian for many years, she never put herself in a position where she was totally reliant upon her faith. When we see ourselves in that position, it’s scary. It’s really scary. Faith is invisible. Faith is intangible. Faith is looking to a face we never see, and listening for a voice we never hear. Faith is total reliance upon God’s presence, love, and blessings. Faith is also the recognition of, “blessings in disguise.”

In paraphrasing Laura Story’s song, Blessings, God is always working in our lives even when He seems very far away. Even through the storms, and sleepless nights. Even when God seems very far away, these kinds of trials could be how He works in our lives and shows us His mercy. If you have never listened to the song, I would encourage you to do so. It’s among my favorites.

 

 

 

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