Why Are We Here?

Christians Living in the Real World: Ep 1

WELCOME to the Christians Living in the Real World Podcast Podcast – Episode ONE! I am SO EXCITED AND HONORED to be here today!! 

Please allow me to introduce myself and briefly talk about why I have ventured with you on this journey. I am Jani Burke… I am a mother, daughter, sister, friend, business owner and former corporate executive. Beyond that I am Mimi to three of the most beautiful children on the planet, personal bias acknowledged, but beyond all of that, I am first and foremost a follower of Jesus Christ, failing forward each and every day of my life, in the grips of His mercy and grace.  

This podcast has been created as a place of refuge, information, humor and encouragement for Christ followers like me… A place where we can look inward, examine our hearts and minds, laugh at ourselves and lean into God’s perfect plan for our lives, God’s PERFECT plan…. even when it scares us to death! 

This is a place for everyone who has to fight the well worn tapes that play in our minds that tell us we don’t measure up… we are not good enough… For those who are tempted to believe that God must just want to be done with me because of my lackluster spiritual journey. 

I will tell you up front, I absolutely do not have the formal education to speak on the Scriptures as so many others do. Rather, my (air quotes) ‘education’ has come from a place of walking with the Lord through a rollercoaster life. Okay…  walking is far too passive of a word! I come from a place of hanging onto the Lord AS IF I am clinging to the bar that locks you into the roller coaster, only many times, it has felt like my body was on the outside, instead of securely locked in, as the coaster goes up and down and around the fiercest blind corners! 

Of all of the people we read about in the Bible, the person I most closely relate to is Joseph! Someday, I will fill y’all in on the details, but today is not about my story. Today is about why we are here…. Not why we are here on this earth… If it were that question, I would say, ‘to know God and make him known’. That would be a 30 second podcast. 

No, I am referring to why we are here together, today. 

I honestly don’t know why you are here, thank you for being here… but I am here because God told me to be here! 

I am gonna guess that most of you are familiar with the story of Jonah and the whale…. Well we are going to drill down on that in a few minutes, but THAT is why I am here. Bottom line, the Lord said to me, “Go to Nineveh!” Not exactly…. He said, “I want you to start this podcast for those who just feel like they are getting by in life, who need reminded of MY strength in their weakness, and that I love them NO MATTER WHAT!”

I, being the promptly obedient child of God that I am, I have instead found anything and everything else to do, places to go, projects to focus on! Not even consciously, but unconsciously avoiding doing the very thing that He has told me to do. 

I am a certified life and business coach. There is a term for this kind of behavior in the coaching world. It’s called ‘buffering’, which means basically, doing something… sometimes anything except that which we know we should be doing. There is a Biblical term for this, when it is something God has told us to do… That word is disobedience. (haha) And again…. Not because I want to deliberately be disobedient, but because instead of stepping into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory, I have subtly, or not so subtly avoided His direction! “Do you trust me?” He asks, as He has patiently and consistently reminded me that He does not make mistakes…. 

Let’s begin with some very real world circumstances that we all face, that which I liken to what my daughter’s school used to call, “Opposite Day”. Opposite Day was a day when the kids would wear and do everything opposite from what was assumed to be normal. If you look it up in the Urban Dictionary, you will find this definition: Opposite Day · A contrived holiday, in which everything you do or say means exactly the opposite. A day on which everything is done backwards, for example “yes” means “no”. 

A CONTRIVED HOLIDAY…. Did you catch that?… CONTRIVED… As in ‘made up’….. Satirical…. “It is a JOKE!”… And yet, doesn’t that sometimes feel like the world we are living in? In today’s world, we see ‘Opposite Day’ applied as though it is reality! That good is evil and evil is good…. Every time we turn on the TV! This IS the world we are living in, so how do we navigate that? How do we influence the next generation in God’s Word, when so much of what they experience on a daily basis… seems like Opposite Day… to us…. But to them, this is the ‘new normal’, and it is in direct contrast to God’s Word? We will be exploring that as well in future episodes.  

With that said, please know that this will be a spiritual and emotional ‘no judgment zone’…..  Especially from me! Oh dear friends, trust me….  There are some things that have come into my life, that were disastrous that I had no control over.

And there have been other things that crept in like a thief in the night without me standing guard at the door, that I unwittingly found myself a part of, left wondering…. How did I end up here?

And, sadly, there have been other times when I willingly have walked headlong into situations that I knew would disappoint God, but I made that choice anyway!  

Trust me, there is no one, ESPECIALLY ME, flying here around in a spiritual Wonder Woman outfit. First of all, let’s be honest, the only one who ever looked good in that outfit was Linda Carter! 

Funny side story… About 20 years ago, when live drama was a big thing in churches, I was part of the team. One weekend we did a ‘Super Heroes’ sketch and I was cast as Wonder Woman… When I showed up on a Friday night and found that aside from the cape that was neatly hanging on a hanger, the rest of my costume was in a baggie! Be careful what you say ‘yes’ to… Even at church! Haha 

I will say…. I am passionate about God’s Word, but I need to be clear that this new journey is not just a result of my passion, but rather, I am confident… no, actually, I am Convinced… CONVICTED… that God has CALLED me to do this. But as I said, it has taken me a while to get here…. 

I don’t know how your brain works, but mine never seems to take a nap! 

Our minds are fascinatingly complicated… A true miracle of God’s design, but I also know that my mind can come up with ALL kinds of crazy ideas. In fact, it HAS, and I tend to be a somewhat of a risk taker, so all told, I am delighted to report that a few of my ideas have actually worked out… Many did not! But my point is, ideas are different than a calling. 

So often, if you look through Scripture, those who were called to do something, pretty much responded as I have to the Lord…. “Uuuuuhhhhmmmm… No, no, no Lord… You’ve got the wrong girl! I’m not implying You ever make mistakes Lord, but dang….. You got this one AAALLL WRONG! I am NOT the one for this …. What else ya got for me?”

I lost my job during Covid. I have never been let go from ANY job! I am a super hard worker and I pour myself into my work. For months, I kept hearing the words of my coworkers, “How is that possible?? No one fires Jani Burke!” Oh, how I wanted to believe that! To this day, I do not know why from the company’s perspective, but one thing I do know for sure….. I DID INDEED, get let go! I am not gonna sugar coat it…. It took me several months to get my mind wrapped around that concept. 

But here is the thing…. The plan was to resign at some point anyway because I knew God was directing me out of that position, into this journey with you, but boy, when the decision is made FOR you, your brain takes you in all kind of directions that span from ego to anxiety! There were lots of days when my brain felt like that spinning wheel on your computer, where its looking like its doing something… lots of windows open, but nothing is really happening… Just spinning!!

The Lord had to show me that it was because He was directing me to do a new thing, but here’s the thing…  left to myself, I may have never resigned from that position. It was comfortable. I loved the people I worked with… After all… our mind reasons… Who would leave a great salary, benefits…. CERTAINTY, for the unknown?? 

Since then, I have spent A LOT of time at the foot of the Cross… a place that I have always said is the ‘best and worst place to be all at the same time’. That is actually NOT TRUE! It is ALWAYS the best place to be, but we only tend to find ourselves there when we think our life is unraveling. So that was where I found true peace in that circumstance, and that is all it is… a circumstance…as I once again hear the whisper of God…. “Do you trust Me?”

Each time, when I oh so dramatically cried out to God for direction, He had at first, gently, directed me back to the story of Jonah… Then, I started to feel like maybe He was lining up the boat, the storm, and yes…. The maybe even the whale because He HAS told me enough times, that if I do not take action on His direction… THIS podcast, He is going to have to do something drastic in order to set me in motion. 

Let’s look at the story of Jonah…. In Jonah 1:2, Scripture says, “A word of the Lord came to Jonah, son of Amittai: Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 

Oh friends…. Have you ever had this experience? You know, where ‘you just know that you know’ that God is directing you to do something… or go somewhere… or say something…. that is completely out of your comfort zone?

Well, you and I look at Jonah’s story, and it seems pretty clear, right? There is no ambiguity AT ALL in what God is asking Jonah to do! Three simple words…. “GO TO NINEVAH!” 

Or if we are feeling empathetic, we might want to give Jonah a pass because after all, was he SURE that was God? Maybe he was thinking, “I must be getting my wires crossed… that wasn’t God… That was just one of my hair-brained ideas!” Do you ever do that? C’mooonnn… we have all that at some point or another, right? God tells us to do something and we rationalize our way out of it, trying to convince ourselves that it wasn’t really God at all!

But that was not what was going on here…. Because when you and I have those thoughts and right or wrong, we talk ourselves out of believing that it was God, what do we tend to DO? 

NOTHING! We tend to do nothing! 

We just go on with our day like nothing ever happened. That is NOT what Jonah did! He was crystal clear that this assignment came from God, Himself. He just didn’t want to go! And can you blame him?? 

Nineveh was a wicked, wicked city, it was the culmination  of everything the Jewish people hated about the Gentile world. Its name was a synonym for ‘godless tyranny’

So, what did Jonah do? HE RAN. He RAN FROM GOD!! Running… hiding…. From GOD! As if that’s ever worked out! Ahem…. Adam & Eve…. 

He boarded a ship that was headed for Tarshish, which we now know as Spain. 

Once on the ship, verse 4 tells us that ‘Then the Lord sent a great wind and such a violent storm rose up that the ship threatened to break up!’ 

Well, I am not sure how this was even possible in that environment, but Jonah had gone down into the depths of the boat and fallen asleep, while the sailors were all running around off-loading materials into the water to lighten the load, while they each prayed to their own individual gods. Spoiler alert – That did not work either!

In the meantime, the Captain went below, woke up Jonah, and I am assuming, yelled at Jonah, saying, “HOW can you sleep? Get up and call on your God! Maybe He will take notice of us so that we will not perish!”

Jonah apparently wipes the sleep out of his eyes, goes up to where the rest of the men were and again, while this on the surface, makes very little sense, the men decide to ‘cast lots’ to figure out who was to blame. 

I have to admit, while I have read this passage many times, I never paused to really understand why they did that. So, I looked it up, and found this explanation: 

There is actually a name for this activity, when applied in this type of circumstance. The word is cleromancy. Cleromancy is a form of sortition (sorting), casting of lots, in which an outcome is determined by means that normally would be considered random, such as the rolling of dice, but (most significantly) are sometimes believed to reveal the will of God. 

So, they believed that they could determine who was to blame for this very sticky situation they found themselves in by casting lots. Well, apparently it worked! While it was not used to determine the guilty party, it was used to create the order in which each person would have to confess their wrongdoings, which of course, who’s gonna sign up to go first in that discussion! I am not sure if they used dice or one of those old bottles that they used to send notes in across the ocean, and just spun it around, but whatever they used, it landed squarely on Jonah! 

He was like…. “GUYS! I already TOLD you I was running from the Lord, but they were, like, “WHOAH, Dude! What in the world did you do…. And what are WE supposed to do?” 

On the surface, I’ve gotta them all props for trying to handle the situation the best they could. Jonah told them they needed to throw him overboard. They actually tried NOT to! They tried rowing back to shore, but to no avail. But were they really all that worried about Jonah’s fate? What was their real motivation? I think they didn’t want Jonah’s death on their hands, especially in light of the fact that it was pretty apparent what Jonah’s God was capable of in terms of discipline! 

Well, long story short, they prayed for forgiveness in advance and then they ‘eliminated the problem’! They tossed Jonah overboard! Now, if you were ever in Sunday school as a child, or taught it to kids as an adult, you know where Jonah ended up! 

And while it is a super cute story to demonstrate on a children’s felt board, can you imagine ending up in the ACTUAL belly of a fish? We assume that it was a whale, given the size, but even with the upgrade in the size, these were not luxury accommodations. 

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. At one point in the discussion, the teacher remarked that it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow an entire human being because

…even though the whale was a very large mammal, its throat was very small.

“But the whale swallowed Jonah,” the little girl insisted.

Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human. It was physically impossible, she said.

The little girl said, “When I get to heaven, I will ask Jonah.”

The teacher asked, “What if Jonah went to didn’t go to Heaven?”

The little girl replied, “Then you ask him.”

 Anyway….  Jonah spends three days and three nights in the belly of this giant fish. Talk about getting put into a serious time out! 

At the end of the three days, the fish, commanded by God, actually did do what HE was told…. He vomited Jonah onto dry land!

Now, HERE IS THE REAL PUNCHLINE, and the reason that we are talking about Jonah at all….. When it was all said and done, and Jonah was so happy to be alive, he oh so carefully listened for God’s voice….. what did God say??? 

“Jonah…. Go to Ninevah!” 

When God gives us an assignment, He does NOT CHANGE HIS MIND no matter what kind of hissy fit we throw, no matter if we run and hide from Him….. HE DOES NOT CHANGE, nor do His plans for us. He must sit back, roll His glorious eyes, cross His arms, and be thinking… “Okay… here we go… Just let me know when you are done with all of this foolishness so we can get back to your assignment! 

HOW MUCH heartache and angst could Jonah have saved himself if he would have just listened the first time?? Can you relate? Have there been times in your life when God told you to go to YOUR Nineva, and after all of your detours, you found yourself sheepishly admitting the chaos that ensued by not following God’s direction, and packing your bags for that which He first called you to? 

So THAT is why I am here…. That is why I am so glad you are here…. We will embark on this journey together…. And as I close, I will leave you with this…. Is there something that God is calling you to do? Are you reluctant to take the next step? In our next episode, we will take a look our brains… We will think about our thinking and what God’s Word has to say about that. 

Until then, peace and grace to you my friends… May you find joy in the journey!