Spirituality for Today – March 2012 – Volume 16, Issue 8

Same Story Told In A New Way

By Janice Alonso

God is all knowing and all seeing. He alone is the Master Planner. We humans are equipped with bits and pieces of knowledge and tunnel vision. Because of these limitations, the role in our relationship with God is to strive to be the best humble followers we can be. If we do this, not only is the joy we receive more than we can ever imagine, but it is also more joy than we could have ever created on our own.

A photo of a woman sitting with a laptop in shadow against a sun set background

Many years ago I wrote an article called "Job Retraining." Because I was an educator by profession, I believed it was God's purpose for me to teach. I taught Sunday school, worked with youth groups, lead Bible study classes... anywhere I could use these skills. God's purpose was for me to be a teacher. However, when He was ready for me to move into another service area, I resisted. I was not intentionally being stubborn or defiant. I realized later I just wasn't trusting Him. The joy and energy generated from that new role in God's plan would never have happened had I not trusted and followed His direction. In 2011 another series of events has added a new layer for me as a writer. The blessings I have received from this transition far outweigh anything I have contributed to God's work. God doesn't need me to carry out His work. He graciously allows me to share in the rewards.

Early last year I received a letter from an editor explaining his publication was changing its policy to accept work from writers by assignment only. He included an application with the letter detailing the process. I'd had numerous articles in this publication and so filled out the form. One of the parts asked for a reference from my church. I chose our Director of Outreach, a woman with whom I've worked on many projects, even serving on the Outreach Committee for a long period of time. Not only had we worked well together, we found we had mutual interests and became friends. But, as is so often the case: life happened. I moved to New York and she left Outreach. Flash forward to last year. I had moved back home and she had returned to Outreach. I called and asked if I could use her for this reference. We decided to meet for coffee to "catch up." While we were enjoying each other's company, she got a funny look on her face.

"Oh my goodness," she said. "You're the one."

She went on to explain that Outreach was being restructured and that she'd been praying for a chairman for the new Strategy Council that was being formed. Boy, did my jaw drop! I, too, had been praying... for a way to add a new freshness to my writing... not to be a chairman of any council. I promised I'd pray about it and get back to her. I knew God wanted me to write, spreading His stories. Hadn't He been generous with editors including my work? And I loved writing, too. Surely, He wasn't asking me to give up writing time to go back to meetings and committee agendas. You'd think I would have remembered my experience from years ago: God wanted me to move and grow. I definitely felt His nudge, and so I accepted the position. I won't go into the step-by-step journey through which God led me, but I will share with you the joy God has brought into my life, and the enrichment He has pumped into my writing with this new service opportunity.

Besides leading our meetings and working with the council members to understand how God wants our church to best use its resources, I maintain our Facebook page. With all her other responsibilities, our Outreach Director was unable to develop its potential. I began in September and admit that I've barely scratched the surface. I started out by being a "roving reporter" of sorts. I went to our Outreach events and took pictures and talked with volunteers and participants. I posted these stories and pictures on our page for others to read. On this page they can learn what our church is doing in our community, see who their donations are benefiting, and feel closer to being a part of God's continuing bounty. I am still very much a cub reporter, have so very much to learn, and know that there is a lot of work ahead of me. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I feel overjoyed. Notice how that word "joy" keeps popping up?

In just the few months that I've been involved, I've received joy from:

  • meeting and learning about our prison ministry from a woman who sits on this council
  • meeting and learning about our apartment life ministry from a young mother who sits on this council meeting residents in an apartment complex in our community where Outreach sponsored a Fall Festival, sharing God's message through pumpkin carving, face painting, games, and the story of Jesus
  • celebrating a meal at our church on Thanksgiving Day for families living in distress
  • participating in a Christmas party at a local nursing home
  • worshiping with families from a neighborhood school and our Hispanic congregation as we sang carols and witnessed the reenactment of the story of Jesus' birth

I learned, again, that what I was doing at the time of God's call wasn't wrong. What was out-of-sync was that I wasn't listening to God's plan for me to move into a another direction. By accepting His call, God moved me from my office where my writing was becoming stale, and led me into a new world where I can experience the message He has called me to write about: Love God, Love People. Isn't this what all His stories are really about?

I will continue to write devotions, essays, children's stories, Christian fiction, and creative nonfiction as I have done for so many years now. However, I feel this new dimension has made me a stronger writer in all these areas. Emboldened by the "internet journalism" I do on Facebook, I felt encouraged to write and produce a Christian video and post it on YouTube last fall. God has so much He wants to give each of us. We are the ones who won't open our hearts, listen to His bidding, and accept His gifts.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to be my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

– John 15:5-8