A young artist starting out in the demanding advertising world; challenged through trials.
| As the months went by and winter turned to spring, Mica and Jen became closer friends and spent many lunch hours discussing their faith; the Bible and what God was doing in their lives. Mica had grown so much in her faith and was going to share the responsibility of holding a Singles Bible Study on Thursday nights with Jen. Pastor Martin had provided them with materials to get started. The meetings would be at Jen’s apartment, but Mica had promised to help Jen with what ever needed to be done to prepare the apartment for the group of singles.
Thursday afternoon, Jen got home as quickly as possible and finished straightening up her apartment. She took out chips, dips, cookies, brownies and sodas. Mica was expected any minute with pizza bites and mini sandwiches. Jen looked around the room to survey her work and make sure there wasn’t anything she had missed. The doorbell rang, so Jen quickly opened her door and let Mica in. After getting everything laid out, including the Bible Study booklets, they sat to wait for the first arrivals. As they sat there waiting, they discussed the schedule for the evening.
The singles started showing up around seven. Jen and Mica were both excited. They had invited friends and co-workers with the hopes they would have a decent turn out. The first to arrive were the two couples, Susie, David, Laurie and Mike. Mica had met them the first night she went to church. Then, Cindy and Danny came from work. Some of their other friends came and after twenty minutes of eating and visiting with each other, Jen announced that the group should take their seats so the Bible Study could begin. Later in the evening as they were having a lively discussion, the doorbell rang. Jen got up and opened the door to find Pastor Martin standing there. Jen smiled warmly as she invited Pastor Martin into her apartment.
“I thought I would drop by to see how your Bible Study was going.” Pastor Martin explained.
“Come on in and join us. We were having quite a discussion about the paralytic man sitting beside the pool. We were trying to determine whether he was really paralyzed or whether he was using that as an excuse to get out of his responsibilities. We were also, talking about our own problems that paralyze us, so to speak, and whether we allow them to hinder us, as an excuse or do we try to get over them and move on.” Jen told him.
“Well, you seem to be doing quite well. I’d like to stay for a little while and at least listen. It will help me have more insight into what the singles in my congregation need.”
Pastor Martin settled in and the group resumed their discussion. An hour and a half later, Jen and Mica were saying their goodbyes as everyone began to leave.
“So, how do you think it went?” Pastor Martin asked as he helped Jen and Mica straighten Jen’s apartment.
“I am thrilled! I think everyone had a good time and were able to see that Bible Study can be fun and enlightening.” Jen answered.
“What do you think, Mica?”
Mica looked at Pastor Martin.
“It was really great! I can’t wait for next week. Are you going to come again, Pastor Martin?” Mica asked innocently.
“I really don’t want to intrude. If I came every week, you two might not feel like it is your Bible Study any more. You two girls have started a wonderful Bible Study and I don’t want to impede.”
“But we would really like to have your input, Pastor Martin. Remember, I am new at this and am just here giving support to Jen. She’s the one who is really leading this group.” Mica pleaded.
Pastor Martin thought about it for a few minutes.
“I tell you what, I will come once in a while and then only to sit and listen unless I am asked to respond. I want your group to not be intimidated by me being here. I want your group to grow and flourish.”
“Pastor Martin, I think that it is going to flourish and having you here will just be the cream on top. Don’t you think so, Mica?”
“Yes, I do. Oh, please join us and help us. I have so much to learn.”
Pastor Martin agreed to come again and then he left.
Jen and Mica prayed to God thanking him for the great turnout and the Bible Study. Mica left feeling full and satisfied from all she had learned in the Bible Study. She thought about how she had heard other Christians being fed with the word. She knew that this was what they meant. She also left with a sense of peace.
Jen stepped into the cable car the next morning and found Jonah sitting there waiting with a smile on his face.
“How’s my favorite designer?”
Jen smiled and shook her head as if she didn’t believe he was saying that.
“Don’t you ever give up?” she asked.
She felt comfortable enough with Jonah and how their friendship had grown, that she could tease and be serious at the same time without making him mad.
“No, I don’t. Jen, I really would like to take you to dinner.”
“Jonah, we have rehashed this over and over. I just can’t.” Jen said exasperated.
“Okay, what if I had you transferred to another part of our company, so I wouldn’t be your boss and I went to church with you. Would that be the key?”
“It would be a start, but I would not want to promise that I would go out with you.”
“Okay, I’ll think about having you transferred in the future…when is your next service at church?” Jonah asked jokingly, but hopeful that she would change her mind.
“It is this Sunday.”
“Can I pick you up, Jen?” Jonah asked as a glimmer of hope sparked in his dancing blue eyes.
“No, but I will give you directions.”
Jen gave Jonah directions and told him what time the service started.
“I’ll be there.” Jonah promised.
Later that morning, as Jen sat in her office taking a break, she thought back to Jonah’s conversation.
“Father, please help me keep my head on straight. It is so hard to keep my mind fixed on what you want me to do and not want what I would like to do. I really like Jonah, but I know what your word says. Father, I ask that you will take this situation and change it for your good. I pray that Jonah will really listen to Pastor Martin and not spend the service thinking about how he can get me to go out with him. I pray for Jonah’s salvation. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”
Jen felt better now that she had turned the situation with Jonah over to God.
Sunday morning came and Jen was standing in the foyer of the little church, where she attends. It was ten minutes before the service was to start and Jonah hadn’t shown up yet.
“Maybe he changed his mind,” she thought.
Just as she was about to give up, the front door opened and Jonah strolled in with a stressed look lining his face. Jen noticed that he was as striking as usual. He wore a black turtleneck with a khaki sports coat and pants. She greeted him with a smile and then led him in to sit in the same pew, where Mica was already sitting. Mica raised an eyebrow as she saw who was sitting down with Jen.
“Good morning, Mica.” Jen greeted warmly.
“Good morning, Jen…ah…Mr. Stevenson.” Mica answered with a bit of confusion registering on her face.
“Good morning, Mica, and please call me Jonah.” Jonah instructed.
Mica smiled as the first hymn began to play.
As Jen stood to sing the first hymn, she noticed quite a few eyes staring in her direction and people whispering to each other. She knew too well that the whispers were more than likely about the tall good looking man that had just slipped into the pew next to Jen.
Jonah stood and listened to the music as well as the rich alto voice, which resonated from Jen. The music was upbeat and not at all like what he had expected. After the singing, Pastor Martin began the message. Jonah sat and listened half heartedly as he thought about the woman sitting next to him.
“How can I possibly get her to go out with me? She is everything I have ever wanted in a woman, but she won’t have anything to do with me.” Jonah was considering at great length what he could do to convince Jen to go out with him.
Just then, Pastor Martin said something that brought Jonah out of his musings.
“Many people think they are Christians or pretend to be Christians, just because they are good, but God know their hearts. He knows when people are true believers and when they are just putting on a front. If you have not made a true commitment to Christ and asked him to come into your heart, then you need to know that Christ is waiting on you to open the door of your heart. None of us know how long our lives will be or if the rapture will happen in the next few minutes. If you haven’t made that decision don’t wait, too long. It might be, too late.”
Jonah thought about what the pastor had been saying. He knew at that moment that he needed to think more about this. He also knew that he wouldn’t be able to pretend to be a Christian.
After the service, Jen and Jonah stood and started to move out of the pew. Several people walked up to them and inquired who this nice looking man was that was with Jen. Jen inwardly cringed, knowing that there would be speculation that she and this man were dating. She quickly introduced Jonah as her boss, to those that were standing around inquiring.
As they were leaving the church, Jen introduced Jonah to Pastor Martin.
“Jonah, I don’t think I’ve seen you before. Is this your first time to visit?”
“Yes, Pastor Martin. I enjoyed the service.”
“Several of us are going out for lunch, Jonah; would you like to go with us?”
Pastor Martin asked.
“Sure, that would be great!”
Jen secretly squirmed at the thought of having to spend lunch with Jonah and the rest of the group with their probing questioning eyes. She had agreed to church, but she had not been prepared to include Jonah into the group of singles; that always ate lunch out together every Sunday.
The group of singles headed to a nearby restaurant for Chinese food. They sat and chatted around a large table that seated ten, after Jen had introduced the other singles.
“So, tell us Jonah, what you do for a living?” asked Pastor Martin.
Jen and Mica both held their breath as Jonah informed the group that he was a senior partner for Davis, Kelly and Stevenson.
“That means you are Jen and Mica’s boss,” Susie stated.
“Yes, Susie, you could say I am their boss.”
Jen’s cheeks reddened and she suddenly felt very uncomfortable and started shifting in her chair. “Would her friends think she was seeing him or would they realize that she was reaching out to him as a Christian to a non-Christian? Would they understand that he was here to learn about God?” she thought to herself.
“Being a partner of a major advertising company must be very interesting,” David said
“It is very interesting, but it also has its challenges.” Jonah replied.
“Jonah, did you enjoy the service this morning?” Laurie asked.
“I’ve never been to a church service before. It was different than I expected it was going to be. I enjoyed the music and Pastor Martin’s sermon was very thought provoking.” Jonah answered.
“Are you going to visit again?” Mica asked with a twinkle in her eye.
“Yes, Mica, I believe I will come back. I want to know more about this God that Pastor Martin talked about.” Jonah replied with a smile.
“Say Jen, are you going to invite Jonah to your Bible Study? Mike asked.
“Uh…yes, I just haven’t had a chance to ask him yet.”
Jen could feel the redness creeping up her throat and hoped Jonah wouldn’t notice.
The group continued their conversation which ranged from church to what was happening in the world. They joked and laughed as they all enjoyed each other’s company.
Soon lunch was over and the eight friends bid each other goodbye and headed in different directions.
Jonah walked Jen over to her SUV.
“Jen, I would like to come to your Bible Study. I have a lot of questions about God and would like to learn more.” Jonah stated, trying to sound sincere and not like he was just trying to get an invitation into more of Jen’s life.
“That would be great, Jonah. We meet on Thursday nights at my apartment.” Jen stated.
“I will try to make it. I’ll see you tomorrow on the cable car.” Jonah said with a smile on his face.
Jen got in her SUV and watched as Jonah walked away. She wasn’t quite sure what to think, but she quickly prayed that God would unlock his heart and soul.
Thursday came faster than Jen would have imagined. She had seen Jonah only on Monday morning from afar, but that wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Jonah often was out of town on a business trips to lure new clients to the advertising company. Jen was on her way home and had just climbed onto the cable car when she heard a familiar voice.
“Jen, wait up!”
She turned around as Jonah hopped on the cable car.
“How has your week been?” Jonah asked.
“Great! What about your week?” Jen asked sincerely.
“It has been very trying. My dad was in the hospital and I needed to fly home for a few days.” Jonah said as he winced at the thought of almost losing his dad.
“Jonah, I am so sorry. Is he alright?”
“He is now, but it was touch and go for a couple of days. He had a heart attack on Sunday evening and I flew out Monday morning. The doctors did an angioplasty to open up the veins that were 90% blocked.”
“Is he home?” Jen asked with genuine concern.
“Yes, he came home yesterday and is settled in to take it easy for a couple of weeks, which will be hard for my dad.” Jonah stated as he thought about how hard working his father is, “You know going through this gave me time to think about my life and what is missing. Jen, you seem to have everything in your life. You are so self-assured, but in a way that I can’t explain. It isn’t arrogance or conceit. It is more like you have life all figured out.” Jonah stated with more consideration towards his lack of spiritual life than he had given before.
“Trust me Jonah, I am far from having life figured out, but I do have God in my life and I seek his counsel in every area of my life. He wants me to check with him even on the little things.” Jen explained, hoping that Jonah was starting to open his heart to God.
“But you seem so free. What you described sounds more like bondage to God than freedom to live your own life.” Jonah stated with a confused look on his face.
“God doesn’t put us in bondage, Jonah; he gives us more freedom than we can imagine when we seek him in every area of our lives.” Jen explained.
“Jen, this God of yours sounds phenomenal, but how can I be sure he would do the same for me?” Jonah asked, feeling very unsure.
“Jonah, there is so much to tell you and show you in God’s word, the Bible. I would love to show you, but I need my Bible. I can tell you that God promised to be with us even until the end of the world.” Jen stated, “Are you going to come to the Bible Study tonight?”
“I have so much to do before I go back to work tomorrow, but I would like to come and learn more about your God…yes, I will be there.” Jonah answered after thinking about it.
Jen smiled as she gave Jonah directions to her apartment.
“I will see you tonight, Jonah. By the way don’t worry about a Bible; I have one you can borrow.”
“Thanks, Jen, I’ll see you tonight.”
Jen hopped off the cable car and quickly walked to her apartment with a spring in her step. As she readied her apartment for the Bible Study, she quietly prayed for Jonah and his family. She also, prayed for guidance as she sought God’s help in what to do with Jonah and how he was affecting her.
“Father, I praise you for this beautiful day. Father, I ask that you would be with Jonah’s dad. I pray that you would heal him. I pray that you will wrap your loving healing arms around him and allow him to feel your presence. Father, I don’t know if Jonah’s parents are Christians or not, but I suspect they are not. I pray that you would use this trial in their lives to open their eyes to you. Father, I pray for Jonah. Lord he is beginning to search for you. I really feel that he is starting to really want to get to know you. Father, I pray that you would deal with the feelings I am beginning to have for Jonah. Lord, I need you to keep my mind fixed on you and not lead astray by this man who is my boss and an ever present friend. Father, bless this Bible study tonight and use it to make your word more clear to all of us. Father, I don’t have all the answers and I pray that you would speak through me tonight. I am just a facilitator of this Bible study, not a teacher. Please make your word real to us and open our eyes and minds, so that we may learn what you want us to know, in order to live our lives for you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”
Everyone had quickly gathered for the Bible Study and as they were getting settled, the doorbell rang. Jen opened the door to a smiling Jonah. She invited him in and began introducing him to the others in the group.
Jonah looked around and was surprised to find Cindy, Danny and Mica all a part of the group.
“Is everyone on your team a Christian and a part of this group?” Jonah teased.
“No, we are still working on Sam.” Jen stated with a smile.
“Tonight, we are studying about The Parable of the Great Banquet.” It is found in Luke 14:15-24.” Mica informed the group.
The scripture was read and then the discussion began.
Jen explained that we; like the people who were invited and those who ultimately came to the banquet, had to make a decision to accept the invitation. She explained that we are all alike in the respect that God invites everyone to open his or her heart to him and accept his invitation no matter what we have done in the past. She concluded by saying; that just like the banquet invitation was good for only a short time, God’s invitation to accept him as our Savior is also limited by either our death or the rapture.
A lively discussion continued, discussing the excuses that each original invitee had used and how their excuses often mirror those of the parable. They then discussed the lack of real excuses that they all come up with when they are faced with a decision as to whether they should follow God’s direction and gentle nudges in their lives or choose to do what their earthly bodies urged them to do. They finally, discussed how the invitation had probably changed the lives of those that did accept the invitation; the beggars, tax collectors, harlots and outcast of society. A prayer was offered up asking God to help all of them look for the subtle invitations and to act upon them, instead of turning them down. After the prayer, everyone helped to clean up and then they began to depart.
“Jen, may I borrow your Bible to read?” Jonah asked as he walked toward her door.
“Of course, Jonah, as long as you would like,” Jen answered, “You might like to read the book of John.” Jen said as she and Mica stood at the door to see him out.
“It helped me to make more sense of what God is all about, after I became a Christian,” Mica explained as she contributed to the conversation.
Jonah left and then Jen and Mica plopped down on her navy camel back couch and prayed for this soul who seemed to be seeking God.
“Father, Jonah seems to be seeking after you. Father, Please help him to open his heart to you. Father, use me in whatever way to help Jonah see that he needs you. Help him to recognize your invitation and to accept it,” Jen prayed.
“Father, I know I am still a new Christian, but I want you to use me in any way that you see fit, to be a witness to Jonah. Please open his eyes, Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.” Mica finished.
After talking about the Bible study and how they each felt it went, Mica gave Jen a hug and then, walked out the door to head home.