I used to live in Orlando, Florida. In fact, I lived there twice. The second time I lived there was from 1997 to 2004. And, surprisingly enough, I’m back in Orlando again and staying temporarily in a friend’s home. At the end of March I had to move out of my apartment in an old house where I had been living for 4+ years just north of the St. Pete/Clearwater area in Florida due to the fact that new owners purchased the house in late December 2013 and significantly increased the rent I was paying to the previous owners.
Extensive renovations of the house and property (except for my apartment and one other apartment in the house) have been ongoing since the second week in January to include a new roof and paint job. Due to the significant increase in rent and the fact that I have been unable to find employment in that area during the 4 1/2 years I have lived there, I gave my notice of intent to move out of the apartment before the rent increase took effect on February 1st. Due to an unusually cold and wet winter I ended up staying until the end of March, but was told that since I did give official notice in January the extension could not go beyond the end of March, and I was told that they had already found a tenant who signed a lease for the apartment to move in after renovations are completed (but the renovations wouldn’t start until after I had moved out). They were also going to be increasing the rent again at that time after the renovations are completed by another $150/mo. on top of the $100/mo. increase I had to pay for February and March. And that was way too rich for my blood as an unemployed person with no income who really doesn’t want to be unemployed anymore (and I never found a job there, either).
About a month ago a friend in Orlando offered me the spare bedroom in her home if I wanted to come back to Orlando. It was a generous offer and I told her I would consider it if I could not find an apartment where I was currently living at the time. I spent the rest of March trying to find an apartment within my budget and while I found several “senior apartment complexes” in the area with reasonable rent for a one-bedroom apartment, none of them had a one-bedroom apartment available for April 1st. As the end of March quickly approached and I couldn’t find a one-bedroom apartment available within my budget (the only one I found that was available was in a complex where the rent was quoted at $775-875/mo.), I decided to take my friend in Orlando up on her kind offer.
I arrived in Orlando a few days ago and decided to attend a church I was a member of during the seven years when I lived there the second time. It is a very popular megachurch in Longwood, a suburb of Orlando, and the senior pastor has been there for almost 30 years now. Since I have not been attending church since 2011 in the area where I lived and I loved attending that church in Longwood during those seven years I lived in Orlando, and I knew they had built a new worship center/sanctuary not long after I left in 2004, I decided to attend one of the Sunday morning services this past Sunday.
Well, the new building is absolutely beautiful, and the sanctuary is very impressive. There is also a bookstore, a cafe, and a room called “The Hub” where folks can hang out and get connected to resources in the area and at the church. As I entered the sanctuary I sat near the front (I’ve never been a “back row” person). When the worship music started at the beginning of the service, I recognized several of the singers who were there years before, and when Pastor Joel came out to preach, it was like those ten years that I had been gone from Orlando just disappeared. After the service was over I visited with some folks and ended up in the bookstore (I’d rather buy books than clothes). One of the books that caught my eye was titled “I Don’t Do Crazy Anymore” (2011) by Pastor Joel (Dr. Joel C. Hunter) and I purchased it.
On the back cover of the book is this statement:
If you’re facing tragedy or loss, this book is for you. If you’re struggling to cope with difficult times and difficult people that are a part of everyday life, this book is for you.
Compact and compelling, “I Don’t Do Crazy Anymore” brings into focus the picture of who God really is and gives readers a deeper understanding of why He allows difficult people and circumstances into our lives . . . along with practical advice on how to deal with it all.
The book starts out with the heartrending story of when his little five-year-old granddaughter, Ava, died at the age of five over Labor Day weekend in 2010 from a very rare form of brain cancer that was only diagnosed ten weeks earlier. He talks about the crazy circumstances they struggled through and a few crazy folks in the mix, too, as they learned quickly how to face both of them in order to survive, and how they (and any of us going through dire circumstances) have to have an accurate understanding of who God really is (p. 12). And he uses the example of Job and his wife and friends in describing the two types of people we will run into during those very rough times (see pp. 11-15).
The book contains four chapters “based on a series of sermons preached by Pastor Joel that lead readers away from a life of fear and regret toward abundant life in Christ. He writes, “There are crazy times in this life, and there are crazy people in this life. But I’m not going to set my life according to crazy anymore” (quote from back cover of the book).
While I found Chapter 2 to be the most intriguing chapter (it’s titled “Dances With Wolves”), it was the last chapter, Chapter 4, titled “Public Enemies,” that most related to my experiences from my unemployment saga. In that chapter on page 38 he states:
The reason we have enemies is God has arranged them for our benefit. Romans 8:28 says, “All things . . . work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” The Spanish philosopher Baltasar Gracian said, “A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.” So what benefit can enemies possibly add to our lives? Consider this: When we are attacked, when we are threatened, when we are hated, the first place we go to is our source of security. Our ultimate security lies in what God has already done for us, rather than in defending ourselves from what other people might do to us. When we are attacked, we rely on God, and we remember, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31). “We are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37 KJV). “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper.” (Isaiah 54:17).
“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper”. . . . He also states that “our natural tendency when we’ve been hurt or threatened by our enemies is to take vengeance” and how, on the issue of forgiveness, “forgiveness is tough because it is inherently unfair” (see p. 36). And he states on p. 37:
Forgiveness is acknowledging who has hurt us and declaring that we now forgive them. Does that mean we somehow dismiss what they have done to us? No! Does that mean what they did to us was not important? Not at all! Does that mean somehow we have to be reconciled to them and are now their friends? No! It means we have determined, “I am not going to give them power over me anymore. I am not going to let them have my attention. I am not going to be preoccupied with them anymore.” When we make that declaration, it is done spiritually. Will a flash memory of it come back? Probably. We may have to renew our forgiveness. Matthew 18:21-22 says: “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'”
And then he adds on pp. 37-38:
Does forgiveness cost? It does. But unforgiveness costs way more. And when we don’t forgive, it harms our forgiveness with the Lord. In Matthew 6:12, when Jesus taught us to pray, He said, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In case we miss that correlation, He said in Matthew 6:15, “but if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Are you really going to let your enemies take away your forgiveness? That’s a crazy way to live, and we don’t do crazy anymore.”
“We don’t do crazy anymore”. . . . As I have traveled through these past five years in my journey in the land of unemployment, I have mentioned in previous blog posts that the issue of forgiveness has been an ongoing venture for me. And forgiveness is tied into loving our enemies. In Chapter 1, Pastor Joel made this statement that “we need to understand that the opposite of love is not hate. It’s fear. Satan will always try to get us to be afraid. When Jesus walked in this world, he didn’t say, ‘Hate not’; He said, ‘Fear not.’ Our enemy is fear.” And while fear is definitely our enemy (and a big one, too), I do believe that our enemy is also hate. Hate runs deep, in ourselves and in our enemies. It is what sent Jesus Christ to the cross. It is why we judge others we don’t even know; it is why we condemn others. And there is a lot of hate walking around nowadays. Fear is often a subset of hate.
Anyway, it was wonderful to be back in the church I loved the most of all the churches I’ve attended since 1992 when I moved to Florida in the first place. It had a sort of feeling like “coming home” after being gone for ten years. And Pastor Joel has always been one of my very favorite pastors. It was great to see him again and listen to his sermon. And the worship music doesn’t get any better than what they produce at Northland (the church). If I end up staying in Orlando (and who knows at this point in time), I’ll make it my church home. After all, I went through their membership class and became a member back in September 2001, and even though I’ve been gone from there for ten years now, I found out on Sunday that once a person becomes a member they are a member for life. That’s good news!
As we all know, we don’t live in a perfect world. That won’t happen until Heaven. Difficult people and circumstances are everywhere, and they hit us when we least expect it. They can send us reeling and devastate our lives. I never expected to be unemployed for five years nor did I ever expect to get fired seven months after I took that job in Houston. After all, I had 20 years of successful professional experience in higher education before I landed in Houston to start that ill-fated job. But do I hate my enemies who caused me to lose that job? No, not at all . . . .
And do you know why I don’t hate them?
It’s because I don’t do crazy anymore . . .
As hate is a crazy way to live . . . .
Everybody’s got secrets, now you know that it’s true
They talk about me and they’ll talk about you
Something happens to the pledges of trust
Down through the years they begin to rust
Now here we are amid the tears and the laughter
Still waiting for our happily ever after
We’ll keep on dreamin’ as long as we can
Try to remember and you’ll understand
Ain’t no livin’ in a perfect world
There ain’t no perfect world anyway
Ain’t no livin’ in a perfect world
But we’ll keep on dreamin’ of livin’ in a perfect world
Keep on dreamin’ of livin’ in a perfect world
~From “Perfect World”–lyrics compliments of www.azlyrics.com~
YouTube Video: “Perfect World” by Huey Lewis and The News: