March 21, 2018

Making Meaning in the Middle of the Week

Happy Wednesday or Hump Day! It is a beautiful day here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. The outside temperature is already in the low 70s and while the skies are a bit cloudy (sort of gray all over), the expected high today will be near 80. WOW! Just like that (snap!) we end our wonderful spring and prepare for the onslaught of summer! Yikes!

The funny thing is that 80 is about right for late March in Arizona. This is the peak month to see wildflowers in bloom, and most of the winter visitors come here just to play tennis and golf in the warm spring air. My good friends back East are lumped under snow -- again! My cousin in Maryland posted a picture on Facebook showing at least 6 inches of the white stuff outside her window. In truth, I am really glad to be sitting indoors today, looking out my window and knowing that it is warm, mildly warm and that there is no real threat of bad weather coming my way. Selah!

News and Notes

On Saturday, I sent my hiring paperwork packet to Liberty. I am expecting to hear back from them as soon so I can complete the final steps. I did email the Hiring Coordinator today, and I am waiting to hear back on training. It is funny how things work out. I mean, I am finishing up the hiring process to teach online for Liberty University, and then at the same time, I receive a phone call from GCU asking me to teach in the fall -- on campus. As of right now, I am settled with my online schools. In fact, I prayed about GCU, and while I do miss those students and teaching FTF, I honestly cannot teach on campus and online. It is just too much work.

I am thinking that "when it rains, it pours" is pretty apt right about now. I mean, I have four schools where I teach online. Grantham keeps me very busy, and ASU and Regent are simply steady rocks. I feel confident that I will be a regular adjunct for both schools for as long as I desire to do so. Now, with Liberty coming into the mix, I really think I am in a good place financially and materially to remain as an online faculty teacher. I am open to teaching on campus, mind you, but with my parents' situation and everything associated with their needs, I just think that the Lord intends to keep me planted online for a while still.

Awaken Victory

In other news, I received an email letting me know that my son's worship project (well, not really "his project") is available to stream through Spotify. The ACU Worship CD, "Awaken Victory," is available for free to anyone with a subscription to Spotify. I believe the actual songs and the entire CD can be purchased via iTunes and through CDBaby as well. The project was a long and hard effort by many of the faculty and staff at Arizona Christian University. My son was a big part of the project, and I am proud as punch to champion his efforts. He served in many roles from playing keyboards and synths to recording the tracks, mixing them, and then producing the finished work. He did not master the tracks, but he certainly did do a lot to take what was a really rough set of songs (original compositions) and turn them into Hillsong/Bethel like worship music. The combined effort, the student soloists, and musicians produced an amazing album, and it should really cause a great deal of promotion for the school and the music department, in specific. I stand amazed at how the Lord has used my son at this school. Granted, he was given a full scholarship to study here, and praise the Lord, he will be graduating on May 4th. But, despite that fact, he has come into his own as a musician and now has good work offered to him as an adjunct instructor and as the school's chief sound engineer. He has come such a long way over the past 6 years and despite some fits and starts, he is really, really developed as a strong and gifted musician. I am so proud of his hard work and effort.

I think about this result, how he has become such a significant part of his school's worship department, and I cannot help but think that the Lord has a good plan for him and that part of that plan requires that he remain here, in Phoenix, in order to do this good work. Yet, I struggle some, you know, with the remaining thing (thoughts, I mean), and as I blogged last night, I finally felt so ready to begin the next steps in my own transformation experience, part of which, includes moving. Or MOVING as in moving forward. Now, though, I think perhaps I need to let go of the place (again) and instead I need to focus on the work that is being done here and now. I am in a good place spiritually and financially, yet I know that remaining in Phoenix is hard, difficult, and well, so expensive. I believe my God is bigger than my needs, so remaining here is not really that big of a deal to Him. It is to me, of course, and I do worry about how I will make ends meet. The Lord reassures me that He has me so well covered, and with this prospect in place, I am finding it hard to think about leaving Phoenix now. I mean, what's the point?

The Lord seems to be doing good work here in and through my son's life, and in my life, well, I am portable, so to speak. I am caring for my parents, teaching online, and generally, I am well positioned to remain as I am. I don't think of gaining full-time employment anymore, and unless it comes from an online opportunity, I am pretty much content to remain as I am -- an adjunct instructor. More so, while I like the idea of moving to another place, another not-so-hot place, I am really content to just live here because it is easy, convenient, and well, ready at hand. I mean, I don't like moving my stuff, but if I had to do it, I'd rather it be across town than across the nation, know what I mean. More to the point is the fact that I am here for a while longer, and my parents cannot live without me. So, the entire point of moving becomes mute unless something changes that free me completely to go and to do without care or worry for either my parents or my son. Until that time, I am where I am, as the saying goes. I am content to remain. I am content to go. I am content to follow after the Lord as He leads, guides, and provides for me. Selah!

Interestingly, after my trip south to IKEA yesterday, and my ephiphany moment whereby I felt so confirmed that it was time to go, I started to think last night that perhaps I was right in the whole "moving house" option. Now, though I am starting to think twice, not waffling, rather being more consistent in my thoughts and taking in the reality of my situation as a strong factor and possible reason for not going anywhere soon. Yes, I am seeing "settled" as a real possibility and I am starting to feel more ready to put down roots right here in the desert, if that makes sense.

God is good to me, of course, and whether I go or I stay, I do everything for His praise and glory. So, I close this blog post, get my horse saddled, and prepare myself to take a little drive north. I have to run some errands, and I need to pick up a few items at the store. I am moving, I guess, but not far, just around the area today. God knows what I need, and I rest in His ability and power to persuade me to sit still, to listen, and to abide in Him this good, good day. Selah!

March 20, 2018

Gaining Strength

It is a late Tuesday evening, and I am sitting here on my laptop, thinking about and reflecting on my day. It has been a good day. I spent the majority of the morning busy as a beaver or "beavering" as the British like to say. I graded most of the morning, and then after lunch, took a drive down to IKEA, just to get out of the house for a bit. Actually, I wanted to go and sit on some sofas and touch some rugs, to be honest. I just needed to see and feel the product in order to make up my mind. I got home around 3:30, and then worked for another couple hours before calling it a night around 7:30.

It is now almost 9:30, and in between, I watched an episode of "Inspector Lewis," one of my all-time favorite mysteries. I am kicking back on my bed now, really relaxing and enjoying Bethel Music's album, "After All These Years" (2017). In so many ways, I really believe God is near to me. I feel His presence as I listen to this wonderful instrumental music. I marvel at His goodness, His gift of life, and His gracious provision for my needs. In truth, I am in this very good place, this very, very, very good place.
Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

As I drove to IKEA this afternoon, I spent the drive down (about 30 minutes) praying aloud. I lifted up a sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psalm 116:17). I felt my spirit lift as I drove quietly down to Chandler. My heart was soaring as I recalled the goodness of the Lord, gave praise, honor, and witness to His faithfulness and His mercy and kindness. I mean, honestly, I am where I am today because He is GOOD. There is no other reason. I take no credit, no pride in my achievement or ambition. Instead, I bow before Him, and I acknowledge that He is good to me. Psalm 100:3 says, "Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture." The very word, "good" stems from His being, and we recognize that all good things come from Him. James says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (chapter 1, verse 17). All goodness comes from God who is the Source and Being of Goodness. He is Good, and therefore, all goodness emanates from His Personhood. I stand in awe of His goodness this good day. I am well within my soul because the goodness of God exists and rests now with me. I feel GOOD, and I am GOOD, simply and wonderfully because He is Good to me!

Making Strides Forward

As I write this very short post, one thing is certain; what has come before is no longer, and what lies ahead is yet to be seen. I am betwixt and between, so to speak, and as such, I patiently wait for this moment to end and the next to begin. I was thinking about this fact today, how I am ready to go at a moments notice, but I cannot go until He releases me to go. Thus, I have to wait in "ready mode" for as long as He determines necessary. It is a weird place to be, like being on call without ever having any break. If the Lord says, "Go now!" I must pick up my things and go. I cannot delay. I cannot forfeit His command and His provision. I must be ready to go.

I thought about this fact today like I said, and as I walked through IKEA and then drove back home, I simply pondered the reality that the Lord says I am ready to go. I feel it in my bones. I feel so ready. Yet, I know I don't have everything I need just yet. I need some special provision to help me go physically to the place He is calling me to go. I need some things to wrap up here, and until those things are settled and finished, I have to wait for His approval, His final nod. Then, and only then, will I physically get going!

However, today, I made some good strides forward. I spent the time praising God and in doing so my mind began to clear and my vision returned to me. I began to see more clearly what God wants to do in my life. I realized that the good plan He has for me includes a good life. I was thinking about this earlier, how so often pastors will say, "God never promised you comfort! God never promised you it would be easy!" I thought that while this is true in theory, it is not always true in practice. I mean, not everyone suffers in the same way, and not everyone is put down into poverty or cast into the wilderness to strive for years like Jeremiah or like Moses. I mean, some are sent this way, placed this way, but not everyone. It is not fair to say that God doesn't promise comfort because His word is filled with statements about comfort. More so, His word is filled with the promise of prosperity. Now, I am not saying uber wealth or anything of that sort, but simply God is a God of all resource and He chooses to lift up, provide for, and bless who He chooses.

I live in comfort, but my measure of comfort is apportioned to me alone. It is not the same kind of comfort that you may have. My wealth and blessing are given to me, again, apportioned to me. It is not the same as you may have, but that is OK. I am comfortable. I am good. I am blessed.

I close this blog tonight giving Him praise for His faithful reward. I am ready to go, but I wait for His reward to come to me. As soon as I receive it, I will have everything I need and then I can physically pack and move. I will go where He sends me. I am ready, Lord, please send me!

March 19, 2018

Shaken, but Not Stirred

It is a good Monday here in chilly Arizona! The skies are blue, and the air is calm. It is 62 outside right now, and our high today is only expected to hit about 70. Woohoo! This really is springtime in the desert Southwest!

I am sitting at my computer today, sipping my coffee, and eating my English Muffin, and as I do, I think to myself, "Lord, what a glorious day it is today!" In truth, I am feeling less than my best, but I am determined to put on a happy face and make the most of this blessed gift of life.

I took some time this morning to read my devotional, and Psalm 144 was the selected text. I love that the translators of the Amplified note that this psalm is a Prayer for Rescue and Prosperity, a Psalm of David. I think that is curious -- rescue and prosperity -- in one prayer?  As I read the psalm and meditated on the words written by King David some 3,000 years ago, I couldn't help but think that his words were pertinent to me today. In verse 1, we read,

Blessed be the Lord, my Rock and my great strength, Who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle;

I think to myself, "Lord, I am not a warrior, trained for battle," and deep within my spirit I hear Him say to me, "Oh, yes, you are, my child! You are a warrior princess, prepared, trained, and equipped to battle your enemy with my help!"

I sigh because I don't feel very warrior-like today. Then I read this question in verse 3,
Lord, what is man that You take notice of him? Or the son of man that You think of him?

Who am I, Lord, that you care for me, think of me, desire the best for me? I am nothing but dust, and I deserve no good thing from your hand of blessing or your good, good favor. Yet, the Lord responds that I am His and He is mine, and together, we are journeying toward His desired end -- being made like Him, conformed in a similar way (to His understanding and His knowledge of things). My end goal in life is to become like my Lord and to do that, I must learn how to bend, to bow, and to submit and yield to His Master tutelage. He is my Master Teacher, and as His student, I must learn the art of war as well as I must learn how to behave in consistent and dedicated ways. I must learn the key strategy of what I call, REMAINING, or being still.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth.”  Be still and know. Oh, yes, Lord, may I be still before you and may I know that you are God.
The Art of War

It was written by Sun Tzu in the 6th century B.C. and according to Wikipedia, for nearly 1,500 years it was part of an anthology on military tactics in use by the Chinese army. It is still considered a leading text on East Asian Military Strategy, and it has been used as an influence in not only in the military but in business and in leadership. 

In its brief 13 chapters which cover such important topics as laying plans and waging war, readers are schooled in the strategy of successful approaches to war. One might wonder if such a text is necessary today, but I would simply respond with a rousing, YES! I cannot think of a better time to be on guard than in today's hostile and heated controversy-laden environment. I mean, not a moment passes where we do not see men coming to blows, arguments rising, and reality and truth being tossed aside in favor of fallacy and lies. Now is the time to understand the art of war, and in spiritual terms, knowing how to stand against and defeat one's enemy is providential and proactive care.

In Chapter Two, Waging War, we read in line 19,

In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns. 

The statement suggests that campaigns must be short in order to lead to victory. Long sustained wars deplete resources and they wear down the army as well as the innocents caught in between opposing forces. In spiritual terms, I cannot help but think that this is the game the enemy plays with God's people. The purpose of the long protracted battle is to win through an exhaustion of means. If the enemy can wear down the solider as well as his family and community, then as Tzu says, the weapons of war become dull and useless for battle.

I am thinking of an analogy here that suggests that if we do not keep our weapons of war sharp and battle-ready, when the enemy attacks, the solider will find no support in them. In spiritual terms, this would equate to the full armor of God, from the helmet of salvation to the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6). Thus, the two most powerful weapons needed to stand against and defeat the enemy of Christ are the last two mentioned by Paul: the shield of FAITH and the sword of the SPIRIT (or the Word of God).

How can these two spiritual weapons become dull and useless to us? I think they simply can fall into disuse when we do not take time to read Scripture, memorize it, and then actively practice our faith when pressed to do so. When the chips are really down, we find ourselves rusty and unable to defend against the enemy's constant assault.

Psalm 46, verses 1-3 say,

God is our refuge and strength [mighty and impenetrable],
A very present and well-proved help in trouble. 

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains be shaken and slip into the heart of the seas, 

Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains tremble at its roaring.  

Our God is our help, and as such, He is "mighty and impenetrable" (Amplified). This is why David likened God to a strong tower or a fortress. With the enemy's protracted war against us, we must recognize that our God is the fortress for which we must seek. We must run into Him, and we must find our rest in Him. "Rest, my dear One," the Lord says to me, "You must rest."

I often think He means to sleep, you know, to rest each night so I can wake refreshed and ready to take on the day ahead. But, He is saying that I must rest in Him as a soldier finds rest in the fortress. My protection, my safety is not found in the weapons I wield, but in the One who provides the safe haven for where I can return after each battle and find the security I need. My rest, therefore, is spiritual and indeed restorative, but not in the "sleep" sense. I need to refresh and rest my soul, my weary soul, which is tired, and at times, laden heavy with burdens such as care, concern, and yes, even worry and doubt. I rest in God alone, and in doing so, I am able to find peace again.

The art of war for the Christian is summed up this way: REST in and KNOW well the God you serve.
Moving On, but Remaining Still

Consequently, as I consider my life as it is today, and I think about the plans the Lord has for me, I know now that the reason I feel the way I do is simply that I have misunderstood His command to me: Remain, Carol. I assumed He meant to remain here, in Phoenix, or that He meant I was to remain spiritually connected to the Vine (as in abiding or leaning or trusting). Now, though, I think His call to remain is a reminder to me that in order to move forward and take ground, I must remain still. I must KNOW and RECOGNIZE that He is God, and in doing so, I must come to this new level of understanding that attests to the fact that "if God is able to do all things," then "there is nothing He cannot do." In short, if we say we believe God is mighty and impenetrable as David does, then why do we doubt His abilities or His veracity? Are we not double-minded, weak in our comprehension of who He really is?

Lately, this idea of God as all things has been percolating in my mind. In the Hebrew language, there are a number of names for God. The one we, Christian's I mean, most often mangle is YHVH, which is improperly translated as Yahweh or Jehovah. This is incorrect, and the "four letters" as many Jewish people will say is the "unutterable" name of God. In short, it cannot be pronounced and we do not know the real name of God, only the name He chose to reveal to the Israelites. In the Old Testament, we read that the name given to call upon the LORD is Adonai.

Adonai means "lord, Lord, LORD, master or owner" ( The word, Adonai, is used as a substitution for YHVH in order to not profane the name of God (Exodus -- commandments). Thus, when we address the LORD, we are to address Him as "Adonai." 

I know this seems odd, especially to Christians that have been using God's name for millenia, but I think it bears hearing. Do we take the Lord's name in vain or use it out of context? Do we ascribe to it proper attribution?

If you take some time to study the Names of God, and then to see how the Jewish people referred to G-D, always leaving out the middle letter so as not to profane His name, I think it can function as a reminder that the God we serve is a consuming fire. He is holy, righteous and pure, and as such, He is to be worshipped with fear (awe) and trembling.

I sit here today and I ponder this thought: how do I call upon the name of the LORD? Do I call on His name with reverence and fear? Or do I call upon Him with disregard to His holy estate?

I am guilty, so guilty of using His name without proper awe. More so, I am guilty of not believing that within His name is all power, all authority, and all sovereign order. I mean, He is, after all, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. Should I really disbelieve His word to me?

I must remain still today, to KNOW AND TO UNDERSTAND whom it is that I serve. I am to remain as I am, wholly dependent upon Him, but I am also to remain still, perfectly still as He is the One who goes before me into battle, and it is He who has the victory in His hand. I rest in Him, I let my worries, doubts and fears rest in Him as well. In this way, I say today that I am at REST, in peace, and with joy and contentment, I am able to sit and listen as I abide in the True Vine, Jesus the Christ, the Savior of the World. 

March 18, 2018

God is Good; All the Time, He is Good!

It is a blessed day here in sunny and cool, Phoenix. The skies are clear, and the air has a slight "nip" to it. In all, it is a stunningly beautiful day. I am sitting here at my computer, thinking about my life, and wondering what the Lord has in mind for me today. I will attend church, and of course, grade later on as I have oodles of assignments that must be reviewed today. But, mostly, my day is set for quiet reflection as I meditate on the Lord God Almighty and His marvelous and magnificent presence in and through my life.

This morning I woke up after a rather stressful night. I am not sure why I am sleeping so poorly, but I had another round of very weird and disturbing dreams. In one dream, I was being chased by a tiger. Yes, a TIGER! Thankfully, as I was trying to run away, a very large Lion attacked the tiger. I remember feeling safe, and then just as soon as the dream started, it ended. As I think about the vision now, I believe the tiger was synonymous with Satan and the Lion was the LORD. I remember being afraid briefly, more surprised really, and more out of breath than scared to the point of panic. It was like I turned and I saw my accuser, my attacker, and for a moment, I was afraid. Then, whoosh! He was gone, and I was well. The funny thing is during this whole dream experience, I heard the words to this song run through my head:

Our God is the Lion
The Lion of Judah
He's roaring with power
And fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before You

Our God is the Lamb
The Lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world
His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb

And then I heard:

Who can stop the Lord Almighty
Who can stop the Lord Almighty
Who can stop the Lord Almighty
Who can stop the Lord

With the lyrics and melody running through my head, my heart settled down, and I drifted back to sleep.

In another dream later in the night, of which I cannot only remember bits and parts, I was on my own and I was walking along the side of the road. I was dressed informally, and the weather was nice. Then, it turned cold, and I was undressed so to speak. I felt helpless, and I felt as though I was unable to care for myself. At that moment, I thought, "Oh, no! What can I do now?" But, as quickly as the thought came to me, I found myself in a much safer, much warmer place.

My dreams, it seems, are running in step with my life at present. I have so much UNKNOWN in my life right now. I am in this very good place, very safe place, and my future appears secure. But...there is still so much that is not known and this unknowable element really causes stress for me.

As I prepare for my church service today, I confess to Him that I am in such desperate need of His power and His peace in my life. I mean, it is not that anything is out of sorts or the ordinary, but it is more to the fact that I realize today just how much I need His presence to see me through the coming days. I simply cannot fight the battles that lay ahead for me. I cannot stand. I cannot remain as He calls me to remain (steadfast and faithful) on my own. No, I must have His power, His authority, and His presence. I must have Jesus, my LORD and my SAVIOR God leading the battle charge. He has overcome. He has guaranteed the victory, and it is in His Name that I find my rest, my peace, and my hope. Forever, the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God!

Our God is the Lion
The Lion of Judah
He's roaring with power
And fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before You

Our God is the Lamb
The Lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world
His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb

Who can stop the Lord Almighty
Who can stop the Lord Almighty
Who can stop the Lord Almighty
Who can stop the Lord

Revision, Revelation, and Realization

I guess my thoughts are focused on this duality. I mean, our God is both Lion and Lamb. He is the fierce warrior King, who is coming again soon. He is also the Lamb of God, the sacrifice offered to pay the penalty for humanity's sins. In this way, He is Savior and King, and what is more, He is coming soon and His kingdom will be established once and for all eternity. Selah!

Until that time, I am reminded that as Christ followers, my response is faithful and obedient service to God and to others. I am to be on guard, at the ready, but I am also to be active in working to help the poor, the marginalized, and of course, to preach the good news to the lost. My responsibilities in His Kingdom work are part-and-parcel with who I am and with His call on my life. Though I struggle at times to understand my exact role and the nature of it, I know that He expects me to keep busy, to remain active, and to be found doing good work -- His work -- when He comes again.

My heart flutters sometimes because I feel positive that I know exactly what to do. I feel it, I sense it, I recognize it. Then there are other days when I feel as low-down as possible, and when I dwell in that negative space, I often begin to lose hope. I feel down, depressed, and as if I am off the mark, moving in the wrong way or simply not moving at all. Sigh!

What is more is the fact that when I look around at my life, I see plenty of really good things, really good things. Then, just as quickly as I see the good, I see the not-so-good things as well. For example, yesterday, I had the unpleasant experience of witnessing my Dad's decline again. I cannot put my finger on it, but he appears to be so forlorn and sad. I would say "distressed" is the better choice of word. I know he is worried about their finances, and he is struggling to care for my Mom. However, his health is not good. The doctor's say he is in good shape, and that they cannot see anything wrong with him outside of his PPS. Yet, he is losing weight, and he appears ashen, gray, in color. His blood pressure was low last week, and as such, he was concerned about it. He has returned to normal this week, but each time there is a scare like this, it simply takes something out of him. I see his condition, and I wonder how much longer can he remain, I mean. He does what he can for my Mom, but he admits he is losing his memory, and there are times when he does things that worry me. Still, I look to him and I am thankful for his provision of place, for if my parents were not here to help pay the rent, it would be difficult for me to remain here as well.

Thus, as I think about tomorrow, or even attempt to make plans for my next steps, I cannot do much without thinking about my parents. I guess I realize that all the thinking toward moving, even locally, is just thinking. I cannot do anything to move until my parent's situation is resolved. I must think about their needs first, and then once I know what will be, I can begin to think about my eventual destination.

The same is true for my son, though in less desperate terms. He is in a good place as well, and he is set to graduate from college in a month's time. He has a good job offer, two in fact, and he is content to remain here in Phoenix. I am glad for that fact since he wanted to leave for so long, and now he seems happy to remain. He is in Las Vegas today, working as a sound engineer for his school's praise band (the second Advanced Band) as it travels this week to perform at several churches and schools in Nevada. Next week, his band travels to Southern California for the same work. He, of course, will be performing on keys instead of manning the soundboard.

I sit here now, thinking about all of these facts, and I wonder how I could ever consider moving -- even soon -- with so many details still unresolved or unrevealed. I see today that my desire to go, wanting to go, is another attempt to control my future. I cannot control my future, so I must rest in what I know today, and that is the Lord has me well covered. He has me well-kept. So I let go today, accept what I know to be true, and I let the rest -- all the unknowns -- rest in the Lord alone.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, 

do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV)
The Lion and The Lamb

I close this post today with this thought. After I wrote this post this morning, I attended my church service at Scottsdale Bible Church. Dr. Larry Crabb was preaching again, and while I don't care for his style (per se), I thought he delivered a good message. Again, as I blogged last week, his audience is a different demographic, and right now, I am not part of that group. It is not to say that I wasn't part of that group because I was, but it was many years ago, and since that time, I have come to experience God in a different way. Again, not to say I am in a better place or better in any way, shape or form, I am simply saying that right now, I feel as though I am walking in peace and calm and not in the storm of life. I was in the storm of life, for many years, and it was brutal and unbearable. I made the decision 12 years ago to do something about that fact, and the turn I took was toward God and not away from Him. As a result, I experienced increased hardship, pain, and deep sorrow in my personal life, but I also experienced incredible joy, blessing, and favor in my spiritual life. Thus, where I am today is a far walk from where I was just 12 years ago.

Dr. Crabb's audience last week and this week is clearly addressed to those who are in the midst of the storm of life. His message, therefore, was encouraging, but not overly optimistic. I guess that is where I have an issue with his approach. Perhaps it is because he is a Psychologist and Counselor. I mentioned this last week, that perhaps when you counsel people in the throes of terrible circumstances for so long, your optimism for human betterment lessens and you become a bit hardened to those of us who choose to see HOPE around every corner, PEACE in and through every experience, and JOY as it overflows our spirits just like that proverbial fountain. I get it, I do. Today, like last week, I scratched my head at some of what he shared, and I wanted to shout out -- get to the JOY part -- please! Move off the sorrow. Stop repeating the pain and tell the people how to keep hope during times of faith crisis. After all, this was the purpose of his message -- how to remain faithful during times of faith crises. Yet, in two messages, both taken from the Old Testament, I simply didn't hear any words of hope. I heard --DUTY and DILIGENCE -- no encouragement to as to where to find hope when life seems bleak.

My point here is not to bash this man of God. Clearly, he is a scholar and a teacher, and God has used him in many ways over his 70 plus years on this earth. I know many people like his books and they find his weird sense of humor likable. I simply didn't see too much happiness in this man, and as I mentioned last week, perhaps living with cancer is the reason. I don't know, I just don't know. I felt sad, really, and part of me simply felt depressed after listening to his message. I wanted to hear about the glory of God. I wanted to hear about the greatness of God. I wanted to hear about the goodness of God, but instead, all I heard was about the tragedy of the failed prophet, Jeremiah. I didn't find Jeremiah's story encouraging at all. I simply found it depressing. I have never really liked the book of Jeremiah, to be honest, and while I recall his story, his writing is much like dear Job's. DEPRESSING, DARK, and DIFFICULT. No, I am a Psalm's girl, and I want to sing praises to God, to lift His name up, and to walk in His goodness -- bearing witness to His good, good love -- for all His children. Sigh.

I guess as I close now, I am reminded that we are all called for different reasons and purposes. Some are called as prophets, and they do speak words of darkness (Woe is me!). Others are called as pastors and teachers, and they illumine the scriptures in order to bring insight and help. Still, others are called as evangelists and preachers of the good news, and well, they preach the gospel message, in season and out of season. And still, others are called to bring compassion, care, mercy, goodness, kindness, and so forth to help build up the Body of Christ, to help ease the sorrow, the sadness, the pain, and the grief of suffering.

As I think about my role, I know this: I am called to equip and to encourage the Body, which is why I think Dr. Crabb rubs me the wrong way. It is not that his message is wrong, it is just that it conflicts with my message, which is all about hope, help, and healing. I am to preach that God is good and that in His goodness, His love, His care, and His mercy are from everlasting. They endure. They never fail. They will ALWAYS be available to those that need a fresh infilling of goodness, of love, or of mercy (grace). I preach; no, I exhort. And my exhortation is simply to tell the world that God is good and that His goodness is available to anyone who desires it. I point the way to Christ, either to guide those who have never met Him personally or to remind those who do know Him but who have forgotten the blessed relationship experience they once had and enjoyed. This is my calling, and I do it without hesitation, without reservation, and without fear of reprisal. I will preach and teach hope in Christ because without hope, there is no reason to go on living. Paul writes these words in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV):

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

More so, in Ephesians 2:13 (NLT), Paul says,

But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.

And likewise, 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT) says,

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.

Consequently, I simply believe that as true worshippers of the LORD GOD, we are to be filled with hope. Hope is our hidden treasure that we have and that no one else in the world can have or possess unless they too enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no hope outside of Christ, and without His life, there can be no eternal existence, no "next life." 

I couldn't help but wonder what Dr. Steven Hawking said when he met Jesus this past week. I mean, a long-time atheist who believed that when he died, he would cease to exist. Yet, he is alive, eternally alive, but without hope. He had no hope in this life and he has no hope in the afterlife. Yet, he lives, and he will live without God, without saving grace, and sadly, without never-ending pain, sorrow, and suffering. His earthly life will repeat for all eternity. There is no paradise for him, nor is there paradise waiting for all who discount, discredit, and disclaim the sovereignty of God and the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.

Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29, NLT).

It is not too late to experience JOY, HOPE, and PEACE, but they are found in Jesus alone. More so, as Christ followers, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit who gives us the comfort we need, the care and compassion we long for, and the blessed HOPE we so desperately need to sustain us until the very end of our days. Come now, Jesus! Fount of Every Blessing!

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Robert Robinson (1758) and Martin Madan (1760)

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount I'm fixed upon it
mount of God's redeeming love.

Here I find my greatest treasure;
hither by thy help I've come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
bought me with his precious blood.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee:
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it;
seal it for thy courts above. 

March 16, 2018

Step One: Understanding His Will

Happy Friday! Yes, it is a good Friday in sunny, but not so warm, Phoenix. The skies are clear, and the air temperature is a wee bit on the chilly side for mid-March. Still, the cool air is refreshing, and it is a far cry from snow and bitter cold. Just saying...

I am home today (always home now), and I am enjoying the bustle of the morning here in my house. My Mom is doing laundry, my Dad is in his room on the computer, and my son has just left for school (before leaving to drive to Las Vegas for a week). I have already checked on all my schools, logged into Blackboard, and even graded first-week submissions. And, it is only 10:00! Woohoo! I am feeling quite accomplished considering I am typically a late-riser/night owl!

The plans for today are pretty low-key. I graded all my assignments at Grantham yesterday, and my ASU students are just turning in their reflection papers (yesterday), so really, I have a bit of a break. I do need to take my HR paperwork to the bank to be notarized before sending off to Liberty University. I am also thinking I will record a welcome video for next week's Regent start, but if I do or don't, it will not be a "deal breaker," as they say.

My boys need some new food so I will have to visit PetsMart today at some point. My Mom has a dinner date with some ladies from church, and that means that I will need to think about dinner for my Dad. I am thinking perhaps we will go out, but I am not sure if he is willing or not to spend the money. I've got a backup plan in mind, just in case, he says "no" to my suggestion that we do dinner together somewhere. Oh well.

Recounting His Blessing and Faithfulness

I've been busy the past couple days thinking and beginning to put a plan of action in place. I think the welcome email from Liberty really caused me to think more deeply about my future as a part-time instructor. Yes, I was hoping to be hired there, and yes, I am happy to finally be approved to teach. But, there was something about being hired "yet again" for part-time work that simply caused me to spin down into a funk. Now, though, I realize that the word of the Lord has come to pass, and in that way, His plan for my life is starting to take shape. Let me explain...

1. His Word Fulfilled

I could probably go back in my archive on this blog and find when I felt the Lord first said to me that there would be "no" full-time work in Arizona. I am thinking it was sometime back in 2012. I was working at UOPX as an advisor, not very happy in the job, but thankful for full-time work. I was completing my Masters' degree, and at that time, I still had a little bit of hope that I would find teaching work. I wasn't sure if I would be hired full-time as a teacher with only a Masters' degree, but I thought perhaps I could teach online or in the evenings, thus looking toward teaching English as a second income-producing job. Unfortunately, jobs were scarce and I didn't have any experience so it was really hard for me to find work, any work I should say, at all. Out of the blue, I remember receiving a call from a small business school located in Phoenix. They wanted a teacher to teach General Studies, and I was contacted because I had submitted my resume earlier in my graduate career. It was an open door, and the Dean said that she could keep me employed steadily, but there was no guarantee. It was a "contracted position," term by term, based on need. In short, it was as an adjunct job, and well, I simply was too afraid to trust the Lord for His provision of good work that didn't come with a bi-weekly paycheck and benefits. I declined the offer, remained at UOPX for another 7 months before moving to CVS Caremark for a year.

I knew then, after I moved to CVS, that I was treading in difficult waters. The Lord had clearly said that CVS was not going to be a good fit longterm, but that for the next year it would be a fine substitute for UOPX (closer to home, more money, etc.). His word was fulfilled in short order. I was only on the job a good two months before I realized that the work and the work environment were "toxic" and highly charged. I loved the company, but the group I was in was not the best, and the new manager was difficult and emotionally unstrung at times. It was a challenge to do the work, all the overtime, and keep up with my plans for doctoral studies set to begin in May 2013. In truth, I was a fish out of water at CVS. I liked my peers, and I did like the work (the actual job duties), but I felt so off purpose as if I was swimming upstream rather than down. I lasted a year at CVS before realizing that it was not going to be a good fit long term and that I needed something else that would be more conducive to my doctoral studies.

Hence, in the summer of 2013, I left the corporate world and took a real teaching job at GCU. I worked there (well, I still do, but not actively) for nearly five years. It was a good fit, and I tested out teaching, little by little, and after several years, figured out that this was my true calling. I was called to teach English, and I was called to mentor and equip students.

Zoom forward to 2018, and today, I teach online at four different schools. Two of them are major schools. Both ASU and Liberty have nearly 100k students. I should remark that GCU has now close to 100k students as well (between campus and online). My smaller schools, Regent and Grantham, are actively growing, so in all, I work at some really good schools, but only part-time, and with no real prospects forever moving to full-time.

All of this is to simply say that the word the Lord spoke to me has been fulfilled. You see, He said, "Carol, there will be no full-time work in Arizona." I assumed that meant that I would not find a full-time job longterm. But, as sometimes the Lord's word is not clearly understood, I assumed incorrectly. Clearly, He meant that there would be no full-time "teaching" work here in Arizona should, and I mean, should I follow this pathway. I did follow it, and as He spoke to me, so it has come to pass. Of course, this truth didn't preclude His provision because He has provided for me and He has sustained me through multiple part-time jobs.

As I prepare for my future life here in Phoenix, and as of now, I see this as the only viable place to stay, I cannot help but think about the path I chose and whether I made the best decision for my financial future. I am content, mind you, really content. I love the work I do, and I would readily do this work again, even without a full-time teaching contract. Yet, I cannot stop and wonder what would have happened had I remained in the business world. I am sure that by now, I would be a manager. I would be well-employed, and I would have had less stress come tax time and less headache regarding healthcare benefits.

My heart tells me that I chose the better option. Yes, I can hear the grizzled old knight from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," say, "He chose poorly" in regard to Donovan's choice of the grail cup. If you recall, the choice of the cup would determine the path the holder would take. If chosen wisely, there was life to be had, healing for Dr. Jone's father who lay dying at the doorway to the chamber. If chosen poorly, death, and a morbid and highly disgusting one at that. Donovan gets what the old knight foretold -- a grisly and gruesome death. Elsa, the scheming German scholar, however, chooses the humble cup supposedly used by Jesus at the last supper. The knight replies, "You chose wisely." Life is given, but only so long as the cup doesn't cross the great seal on the floor. Jones takes the cup, rushes to his father who is healed, but the earthquake begins as Elsa takes the cup and steps across the threshold. Crash, destruction, and well, you know the ending. Elsa is lost because her eyes are on the prized cup only and not on the true meaning of life, which according to the lore of George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg, has to do more with friendship, companionship, and the knowledge that happiness (not riches) comes with boundaries and at a high price. As such, with the closing credits and booming music beginning, we see Henry Jones Jr., Henry Jones Sr., Brody, and Sallah, escape with great fun and fanfare!

According to MyGeekWisdom, this particular scene is a great reminder about the choices we make in life. They write,

"In this day of age, we seem to rush through a lot of major decisions in life. We tend to not take stock of how important choices can affect us, both in the short term and in the long term. A lot of times, it’s this shortsightedness that can impact us the most, especially if we regret them in the future. It’s always a good idea to weigh our options just to make an informed decision. Sometimes, all it takes is a few seconds. Other times, it may take hours or even days. It’s okay to mull over life-changing decisions."

I agree. Sometimes the choices we make do create problems for our lives, and sometimes the choices we make clearly show us or support our path in a way that brings us good tiding, farewells, and generally, a sense of hope.

As I look back on my teaching decision, I can say that I went into the process knowing two things:
  • The Lord was telling me that teaching would provide a satisfying career option for me
  • The Lord was telling me that teaching would never provide a strong source of income or longterm financial blessing
I recall now, clearly, the Lord saying that I had to choose which path to take. The practical path was to remain in business, to stick to jobs where my analytical skill would earn me the BIG BUCKS. I, however, was more concerned about satisfaction, about purpose, about meaning, and as such, I carefully weighed the choices based on values, ethics, and deeply felt conviction, rather than on the outward trappings of income and all that income can procure.

In short, I chose the path that suited me best. I didn't choose to teach because it would earn me a decent income or that it would provide financial comfort. I chose a career that would be fulfilling to me. I am content with that decision, and every single day, I am thankful that I chose wisely. I made the best decision given the choices, and that decision while not the most lucrative has surely benefitted in more immaterial and non-specific ways. In short, I have made lifelong friendships, empowered students to reach their goals and to consider life in more important ways. I have even been said to have been an instrument of His hand, helping students find their way through some very dark and stormy periods in the life. I have been blessed in this path, and I have come to feel comfortable and good in the work I do each and every day.

2. His Word is Reliable and True

Today, I sit here and I think about my next steps. Yes, I have blogged and blogged about my steps, and the path I am on for several years now. I write these things, in a like manner to what the Apostle John said in his gospel and letters (John 20:31, 1 John 5:13). He was writing to tell us the truth of the Messiah, Jesus, and so that we would know and remember that eternal life is the reward for faithfully believing in Him and His name. Subsequently, I write these things on my blog to help me know the truth and then remember it because sadly, I am a frail and fallible human with an imperfect memory.

Yesterday, I wrote that I was ready, willing, and looking forward to beginning the next phase of my faith walk with Christ. In truth, every single thing I do is simply part of my faith journey. I am on this path that leads to eternal life, and thus, every step I take moves me one step closer to my eternal reward: heaven. The work I do, practical and good, is part of my faith journey. The relationships I maintain, also, are part of this marvelous pathway. The choices I make, good or bad, often support or diminish the work He is doing in and through my life. I focus a lot on choices because as a good steward of His manifold blessing, I want to make only good choices. In my literal and rather black and white mind, good choices equate to blessing and favor. Poor choices are the opposite. They bring hardship and often difficult or challenging byways. No, I long for good choices, always good choices, and as such, I spend a great deal of time weighing the consequences of options.

My step one, a plan of action, is the first major decision in a long line of decisions yet to be made as I move through my faith walk with Christ. Where will I go? How will I get there? Will the Lord be pleased with my decision? I ponder so many questions, but in the end, I know that so long as I am trusting and relying on Him, the choice I make will be a good one.

His plan of action has multiple components, and for a while, I found that thought frustratingly complex. I don't like multiple components. No, I am black and white, very literal and analytical, and anything that is complex, well that just requires more effort to compute. I like easy choices, red or green, blue or yellow, pink or orange. I want easy choices, not hard ones. 

The Lord, sadly, prefers to give us choices that challenge our minds and turn our hearts in dependency upon Him. He wants us to face choices that require more than a casual remark. He wants us to be deep in study, to seek Him through His word, and in prayer, to confess our reliance, our trust, and all our hope upon Him for His help and guidance. Thus, in order to cause us to draw near to Him, the questions we ask most, the decisions we wrestle with often are not quickly decided. No, they require time, and with time, they often need careful and introspective analysis.

Take my decision to remain, to stay where I am, to continue to live in Phoenix. Many people I know have moved house, so to speak. In fact, one of my colleagues recently moved her family from Pennsylvania to Florida in about 6 weeks. They sold their home, bought a new home, took new jobs, and within 5-6 weeks were living in sunny Orlando. I marveled at their ability to move so quickly, so easily, but as she likes to say, "it was a God thing!" My turn at moving has been fraught with difficulty. In fact, I would say that over the course of my entire life, with the exception of my childhood, I really was not at ease with moving. In my adult years, I moved several times after I was married. Before leaving San Jose in 1996, I had moved three times in 12 years. After arriving in Phoenix, I have moved five times in 22 years. I really do not like moving, even when I have to do it. I would prefer to stay put, to keep in one place, and as such, moving and the thought of it just panics me. It is funny to write this, but in truth, when added up with my childhood moves (five times in 15 years), I have moved 13 times in my 55 years of life. I guess that is not that many moves, but I can tell you that each one was frustrating and anxiety producing for me. Sigh!

Now, I face the thought of moving again, perhaps just locally or perhaps over some distance. I have a lot riding on this decision. I have my parents to think about, their care situation, and I have my son's needs as he will be working as an adjunct instructor in the fall, and he will be following his mother in working multiple part-time jobs for while (at least until he completes graduate school). Thus, what do I do? Is it practical to remain? Is it better to go?

The Lord has permitted me plenty of time to weigh the decision and the benefits and so forth. I made my choice a couple weeks ago, and I felt that my decision was a good one. It aligned with the Lord's will for my life over the short course, and it does align with His will for my son's life as well. It also supported my parent's long-term care, so in short, the decision to stay was a good one.

I have thought about moving, though, nonetheless, since. It makes better financial sense to move to a place where I could live with less effort, on my part-time salary and so forth. It makes better financial sense to move to where I could hope for a comfortable retirement. There are many positives to moving elsewhere, but the decision to remain is strong, and as such, I decided in favor of short-term rather than long-term best.

3. His Presence Negates Any Doubt

Despite my second-guessing, I am content to remain where I am. I said to the Lord the other day, "No matter what happens, you will be with me, Lord." I felt His Holy Spirit say, "Yes!" I mean, no matter the choice, the Lord has promised to never leave us or abandon us. Thus as the Psalmist said, "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there" (Psalm 139:8, New International Version). Where can I go that the Lord is not already there? He is everywhere, and as such, since He has made His home within my heart, where I go, He goes (or vice versa). He is with me, and His presence is a daily reminder that I am, in effect, right where I belong. We are companions on this faith walk journey, and as my Eternal Guide, He leads me to the finish line, the end of my race. My human fleshly steps are guided by Him as well, so I can rely on and rest in His judgment as to the best possible outcomes in each and every decision-making moment.

I still struggle, though. I doubt His word to me, and I find that my own brain and my inability to be consistent often gets in the way of satisfaction, you know, of feeling well-satisfied and good about the choice I have made. It is in these moments when I return to my blog and read some word of encouragement I wrote to myself some 3-6-9 months past. Sometimes, I read a post that is 2-3 years old, and my spirit is renewed and refreshed. Sometimes it is the Word of God that I have written about on my blog and then applied to a particular moment in time. As I read the very words of the Lord, I am reminded of His presence, then and now, and I am restored to faith. I move on again because I look back and I see Him, His faithfulness, and I look forward and I see Him standing there waiting for me to return. His presence negates any and all doubt I have, and because He is true, I can rely on Him to help me through, to help me make good choices, and to help me see a way where there may not be a way, one that is visible, I mean.

4. His Overarching Will Determines My Course

Regardless of the immediate, midrange, or long-term decisions I make, His overarching and supreme will is my guide and navigator. The decisions I make often do not even concern His will, per se. I mean, I am going to heaven regardless of whether I live in Phoenix or I live someplace else. My temporary habitat is of no consequence to my future life with Him in paradise. Yet, the choice of a home, a physical place, does have bearing on His will. I mean, the work I do, the ministry and practical work does need to be framed properly, and as such, if the Lord has work for me to do here, then I should remain where I am as a result of that need. Likewise, if the Lord needs me to go someplace else for the same reason, then my choice is obvious; I go where He sends me, He needs me to go.

Most of the time, though, the choices I make are based on comfort. My comfort, I should say. Is living in this shared home with my elderly parents comfortable to me? Not always. Not usually. It is a good solution, but permanently, it is not the best for me, personally. I need my own space, and as an adult, I need to be in my own place. For the time being, however, it has been a good solution and it has met our needs (combined).  More so, if I take a job at Liberty, for example, is that job a deterrent to His overarching will. Absolutely not! I can do His work at this school as much as I do it now at ASU. The job demands could be a factor, and of course, the pay rate and workload might not be feasible or practical. But the work I do is not a major factor in His will for my life, which is to grow to maturity, to become a fully developed Christ follower. This will happen regardless of where I live or work. My comfort in that growth process could be influenced, and that influence could produce a measure of additional happiness. For example, living where there are trees and grass, is a blessing to me. I love the forests and byways with wildflowers. Nature has a strong call on my heart, and I often find I am drawn to these places as a way to connect with God, the Creator. Yet, living in the desert, while not my favorite place when compared to the treed state of New Hampshire, for instance, is neither here nor there. It is simply personal preference.

Yes, personal preferences really cause me to lose my focus. I think the enemy uses our personalities and our style preferences to keep us off the mark, so to speak, to cause us to lose our focus on His work and His will in our life. We can make stylistic and personal preference a god if we allow it to consume our time. I spend a lot of time on Pinterest, and I love to pin styles -- clothing, homes, decor -- to help create boards that represent my likes, my passions, and my interests. It is a fun hobby, but if I allow style preference to determine an outcome, especially as a major factor in the decision, I could end up choosing poorly (as the knight said). Instead, I must recognize the difference between style and His will, between personal preference and His overarching and supreme will.

His will is what gets me out of bed each day. His will is what drives my performance. His will is what I seek, wholly and completely, and it is His will that makes me want to complete the tasks He assigns to me. His will, therefore, trumps all my style preferences, my wishes, my wants, and even my desires. I want His way, but His way is part-and-parcel to His will, consequently, when it comes down to it, I want His will and no other will.
In Closing

As I close this blog post for today, I sit here and I marvel at the Lord's goodness in allowing me the time to blog in order to get my thoughts connected. I need to write things down, it helps me, and I am better able to recognize truth when I write it and then review it. In this way, my blog is a record of my life, a truth journal, whereby I write whatever is on my mind, and yes, sometimes I contradict or conflict myself, but the words I write at the moment, reflect my life, my mind, and my thought processes. God uses my blog to help me learn what I need to learn, and in this way, He provides guidance to me as I share my thoughts, my hopes, and my dreams, and then move one step further down the line toward the marvelous and most desired finish line.

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness! (Matthew 25:21, New International Version)

March 15, 2018

Ready, Willing, and Waiting

It is a good day in sunny and cool, Phoenix! Yes, compared to yesterday, which was so lovely and warm, today's high is expected to hit the high 60s only. In fact, the entire week is set to be in the high 60s to low 70s. We are having weird and wacky weather, but at least no snow, right? LOL!
Blessings From Above

It is late morning, and I am sitting at my desk thinking about all the blessings I have received recently. Yesterday, I received my email welcome from Liberty University. I am an adjunct instructor at the College of General Education. This just means that I have been hired to teach the freshman or first-year courses, ENGL 101 and 102 as well as COMS 101. I don't mind, really. I am teaching such a wide variety of courses at my other schools, so these seem pretty standard fare. The good news is that I've yet to teach Speech, so hooray! I am excited about that experience, and like all my other competencies, I will be able to add Speech Communication to my list of courses that I regularly teach.

More so, as I logged into my Grantham Capstone class this morning to check on my students, I read some of the wonderful introduction emails that they have posted. My heart was so warmed, and I felt this immediate sense of purpose. You see, I have spent the better part of the past five years teaching on campus at GCU, in particular, teaching ENG 106 whereby I tweaked one of the assignments (the proposal essay) to be focused on service and influencing change regarding a social justice issue. Of all the assignments I taught out there, this one was closest to my heart. Over the last couple years, I really pushed my students to consider how they could impact their community, and as a result, most of my students told me that they loved the fact that I was so passionate about this area of ministry/service. Such as it is, I was sad when I left GCU to teach online at the end of last year, simply because I knew that I wouldn't be able to teach this type of class again, well, I didn't think I would. That is until I was assigned GU299 as a contract this past week. I blogged earlier how this class is a service-learning course, but I didn't really realize just how close to my previous course influence this class would match. I mean, it is almost spot on. Reading my student's emails where they talk about their service work, and how much they feel for veterans, homeless, and the poor just brought tears to my eyes. I sat there thinking, "Oh, Lord! You gave me back my class!" I cannot tell you how much joy I felt this morning simply knowing that the work I do will not only be practical (as in teaching core content) but that it will feed right into my spiritual area of influence. I am so excited, and I am so humbled that the Lord has used me, and continues to use me in this way. Selah!

Thus, with all this in mind, there is no reason for me to be wary or to panic. Yet, I am panicked somewhat as this new course seems to be filled with amazing opportunities, but it also is fraught with some really BIG unknowns. For example, the more jobs I work, the more complicated my taxes become each year. I have dealt with multiple W-2s before, but I was a full-time student, and my overall income was moderate, to say the least. Now with my four schools providing part-time work to me (2 courses is part-time), I am working the equivalent of 2 full-time jobs (8 classes). I know that sounds crazy, and well it is pretty crazy, but I need to work this many jobs in order to keep a consistent level of income each month. As an adjunct, there is no guarantee of work, so I may have 1 or 2 classes or I may have no classes each term. My income is difficult to predict, so having four schools open just pads my opportunities. I should be able to live comfortably on any number of combination of courses as the schools have a need for me to teach.

I am not savvy when it comes to things like taxes, and since I have never had to pay taxes before, I really find the whole process scary and mystifying. Sigh! I am trusting the Lord for His guidance, and I know He will provide someone to me to help me figure this path out. I know it will be okay, but today, I still feel a bit concerned. You know, like I am being penalized for not having one job, and for not being able to earn a modest income through that one job. Yikes!

I am choosing, though, to praise the Lord, and to lift up a sacrifice of thanksgiving to Him this good, good day. I may not understand this path that He has me on, but I know that I do not walk on it alone. He is with me, and as such, I can take comfort in His hand of blessing, of favor, and of prosperity as I walk on in obedience toward that upward calling in Christ Jesus. He is my King, my Shepherd, and my Redeemer. He has me firmly by the hand, and He has promised to never let me go! He has me so well attended, and while I panic at the sight of some of the details that are before my eyes, I must look up and say, "Abba, I don't understand! Please help me today to understand so I don't have to be afraid!" He assures me, "My child, I have you. I will take care of you." I rest in the knowledge that my Lord has me well-covered this good, good day. Selah!
Ready -- I'm Set, Let's Go!

I am ready today, ready to take the next big step of faith as the Lord leads, guides, and provides for me. I struggled a bit the other day, simply from the panic of receiving Liberty's email and thinking that I have just added another layer of difficulty to my life. I am thankful for the added increase in salary, but I am physically upset over the tax burden and how I will deal with it. In truth, I am afraid of what is required of me as I continue to walk down this path. I recall so many years ago that the Lord said to me that the road as an adjunct would be difficult for me. I assumed He meant that I would not be able to make ends meet working part-time, and well, He was so right. I could have skipped teaching completely and chosen to remain in corporate business. I was on the fast track for success, but the corporate world was not conducive to my educational pursuit, and frankly, I just didn't like the environment much at all. No, I loved college, and I loved the campus life, and my heart's desire was to be a professor. I thrust all my cares aside to follow after my desire, and the Lord opened doors and made a way for me. I cannot help but think that what He meant by difficult was the experience I have today. I think He was saying, "I can sustain you, Carol, but not without a lot of hard work, effort, and difficulty." I remember thinking that the easier way would have been to go into business, have one good job where I could make good money and be done with it. But, as I never take the easy way out of anything, I asked Him which career path would be best for me, as in best for my overall well-being, and guess what? He said this one. Yes, I would have a better quality of life as a teacher than I would as a corporate business leader. I would have less stress overall, and while the path would be difficult, in the end, the lifestyle would suit me better. I chose this way, and with the exception of the whole difficult income and tax aspect, I can say that it was the very best decision I could have made. I love my life!

In hindsight, I realize that the easy way would have produced good results, and those good results would have pushed me in a very different direction. I would have been able to move into a managerial role, into leadership, and by this point in time, I would have been earning what I am now. It would have been a good way to go. I vacillated for a long time, asking if I should go this way or that way, and in the end, I chose the path of teaching because it gave me such deep personal satisfaction. Now, though, I wonder if I made the right choice, all things considered? I mean, the easy way would be to have one job and one less headache when it comes to paying the tax man. But...

No, I know that the decision I made back in 2015 was the right one. My life has been transformed since that time, and my dependency on the Lord has deepened, so much so, that I cannot make a move without Him. I mean, I cannot move without Him. In a corporate business job, my salary and benefits would have been provided by my employer, so really my provision, while blessed by God, would have been earned through my own hand, my own effort. Now, my provision comes from the Lord. I can do all things, but only as Christ leads and guides me, and then as He provides the strength, discipline, fortitude, and so forth so I can actually do the work asked of me. I am 100% dependent on Him for my sustenance, and truthfully, I am just as content -- no -- more content that this is the fact of the matter. I trust Him and no man! I trust the Lord to provide for me, and I do not look to the government, a boss or supervisor, or any other company to meet my needs. He is all I need, and I look up to Him today as I say, "Abba, please help me! Please show me the way to go today!" He says to me, "Rest, my child. I have you. I will care for you. I will never leave you." I rest. I trust Him. I lean on and I abide in Him. He is my everything, and as such, I give Him all my praise this good, good day!
In Closing

Though the waves of panic wash over me, I know that the One who calms the seas and winds is with me, right here in this tiny boat. He is the One who controls all things, holds all things together, and because He is with me, I don't have to be afraid or worried or filled with doubt. Instead, I can be victorious and overcome all trial, all difficulty, all things because I do all things through Christ alone, and it is in His strength that I move, I live, and I breathe. To God be the glory for the GREAT things He has done! Amen!

March 14, 2018

Testing and Trials

It is a good day here in sunny and warm, Phoenix! Yes, the skies are blue, and the air is warm and sweet smelling. It is spring in Arizona, and that means that the flowers are in bloom, and the birds are nesting and singing as they prepare for their soon-to-be new arrivals. It is beautiful outside right now, and the high today is supposed to hit 83. Yes, it is a perfect March day!

Plans for the Day

Today's big plan is simply work-related. My new class at ASU started on Monday, but students aren't assigned to their individual instructors until today, which just means that I don't have anything to do there until tomorrow (I checked and so far I have no students. My hope is that I will have 20-25 by end of the day).

My Regent class ended on Saturday, and I posted final grades yesterday. Woohoo! I am off until next Monday (sort of a spring break), and while thankful for the downtime, I do miss the daily routine of teaching there. The good news is that come Monday, I will have two sections of ENGL 205 - Western Literature to teach. I am SO thankful to Regent! They keep me busy, and I love that I get to teach at this wonderful, wonderful school. More so, they seem to give me this one class, and of all the courses I teach for them, this one is my favorite.

Grantham University is my new FAV school. I am ashamed to admit that I "pooh-poohed" the school early on, especially after all the struggles I had getting approved to teach there. Then, my first-course experience was not good (I am not sure what happened, but the EN101 course was not designed well -- it was messed up -- and I really feel that the students were the losers that term). Since then, they have corrected all the mistakes, and thankfully, now both EN101 and 102 are really good classes with a good curriculum. This past term, I started teaching Technical Writing (my new favorite course at Grantham) for them, and I have to say I LOVE IT! It is a great class, and I am enjoying the combination of marketing, communication and writing curriculum. On top of that good experience, I have a brand new Capstone class starting today. It is a service-learning course, and I think it is going to be phenomenal! I am so excited to see what the Lord plans to do with me at this small Kansas school. In all, I have six classes in the works. I am well set for teaching contracts through the end of April / beginning of May.

And, if that were not enough reason to celebrate, there is the fact I am still waiting for final confirmation from Liberty University. I checked online, and my application is still in process. I did notice that they are seeking adjunct professors to teach undergraduate and graduate courses, so perhaps I will get the opportunity to teach graduate students! Whew! That would be so sweet! For now, I simply must continue to wait. I cannot imagine this process taking much longer, but when I spoke with the Chair some three months ago, he said to not be concerned about the wait. So, I will wait as long as it takes for this school to hire me as part-time faculty. Selah!

Satisfaction Complete

Just yesterday, I was saying to the Lord that I appreciated my work. I mean, I really do love my work. I don't enjoy grading student papers all that much, but I do love the student interaction, and the feedback my students give me reminds me that my skills and experience are highly valued and useful to them. I feel needed, and for that fact, I am so thankful, so very thankful.

It is so odd really to think about the fact that just three summers ago, I was unsure if I was to continue on as a teacher. I was poor as a church mouse, as the saying goes, and I was feeling desperate. I thought I would not be hired full-time, and I believed (in error), that I couldn't make ends meet on an adjunct's salary. Little did I know that I actually could earn a decent living by working part-time at multiple schools. I just didn't understand the possibilities of it. I remember thinking that teaching 5-6-7 classes seemed outrageous, but I had a number of colleagues who actually did that work. In fact, I had several that taught online and handled 8-9 courses at a time. Yes, I thought they were crazy, but now I see that they probably were crazy, but they were highly productive and aggressive workers (like me), and through their hard work and effort, actually earned a pretty nice income as a result.

Needs Met With Sufficiency

I am thankful and grateful that my needs are met through His sufficiency. With the abundance of good work, I have everything I need right now to live comfortably. I have plenty of good work, and while I still need to get my living situation settled, for the short term, I am in this very good place. In truth, I have my rented home and it is a good place to remain for the time being. Of course, longterm, I need a more permanent solution. More so, I need to figure out where I am to remain fixed, as in settled. I am not sure if I will stay in Phoenix, but for now and the foreseeable future, it appears to be where the Lord has me planted. Thus, I rest in that fact, and I relent and let go ideas of moving, leaving, and relocating. Yes, I let all of these desires go, and despite the fact that I have blogged about my desire to go elsewhere, I am not convinced one way or another that I am to move physically at this point in time. My heart says go, my head says stay. Consequently, I have this desire to move,  but the overarching desire that outstrips all others is the desire to do His will. My heart, my mind, and my soul are committed and convinced that if His will requires a physical move across town or across the nation, then I will go. I say so be it; I will go wherever He sends me!

Until other plans are revealed, though, it seems like He has me well-set right where I am today. I am blessed, and I am favored by His good will and His good way. I am financially starting to earn a good wage, and though I have significant debt to consider, I am confident that He has a way, a plan figured out. More so, as I think about my taxes, I need to come up with a solution on what to do -- how to deal with tax liability as a self-employed educator. I have some issues like these still unresolved, but I am confident, and I trust the Lord for His blessed solution. I know He will show me how to go, how to live, how to survive and how to endure until the very end of my days. Selah!
Moving On Means Moving On

With all of this in mind, one thing I have determined is that I am ready to move on -- like MOVE ON. The Lord has said, "Let's move, Carol," and for the longest time, I just thought that meant physically picking up and moving. But, now I see that He means moving on from where I am spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. I need to move on, to let go of the past -- all of it -- and be free to focus on His work and His way completely. I can have no tangles or entanglements, no "thing" that traps me and keeps me from moving forward and into His perfect plan for my life. This means that I must let go of people, places, and things; but also, I must let go of past hurts and the memories that haunt me. More so, I must not allow the feelings of emotional instability (ups/downs) keep me from performing at my best. I cannot allow my human flesh to be my downfall. Instead, I must surrender my thoughts, my memories, and my mind to the Lord so that He can help me be delivered from my past experiences. In this way, I don't forget the reality of the experience (the past did happen), but I no longer let it control my thoughts or direct my efforts. I let it go, and I move on to the present where I engage fully in the blessing of living. I mean, I start to LIVE and I LIVE well.

Moving on has been most difficult for me. I have allowed my past to haunt me, as I said, and I have allowed my memories to direct my emotions far too often. I have been concerned with people who are no longer part of my life, and while there is nothing wrong with thinking about people you once cared for or remembering to pray for them, what can cause problems is when we allow these people and their daily life choices to become the focus of our time and thoughts. I am guilty of this very thing, of allowing people who once were a part of my life to direct my thoughts and my feelings. I follow their comings and goings on social media, and even when I read what they post and find it disturbing, nonsensical or I feel unrest in my spirit, I still follow them. I remain connected, and in this way, it is like I am dragging around a dead relationship simply as a reminder of what used to be. Sad, I know, but I think we all do it to some extent, we all hang on to things we cared about long after we should have let them go, know what I mean?

Yes, I find that I spend too much time thinking about, watching over, and hanging on to the comings and goings of people who are no longer part of my life. What is more, my desire to engage in this behavior is not seeking their best, rather, my concern reminds me that I was once part of their life and that my life was once important to them. Hence, the need to feel wanted, needed, and necessary is motivating me to remain connected when I need to really pull the plug and let the Lord meet that emotional longing for relationship.

Over the past couple weeks, and even months, the Lord has said that I must let these people go -- to no longer follow after them because the time I spend doing so is not helping me focus on what He needs me to do now in the present. My focus is corrupted so to speak, and without a clear vision for my future life, I might misread or mistake His plan for what He intends for me to do in the future. I have said to Him that I will let them go and that I will live my life fully committed to His way -- all the way -- with no turning back, no turning to the left or the right. Unfortunately, I have not kept my commitment to Him. I have returned to my old ways, and in doing so, I have been kept from moving forward in my life. Sigh!

Obedience a Choice, Always a Choice

As I process this fact today, I realize that I have done this "regret" thing far too often. I have looked back, much like Lot's wife, and in many ways, I too became paralyzed like a pillar of salt. Instead of looking ahead, as the Angel of the Lord commanded Lot and his family to do, Lot's wife turned backed, longingly for the life she had in Sodom. She was unable to let go of the life she had, even with all the wickedness that existed in that community, she still wanted to remain there. I have done this recently, and even when I confessed it to the Lord, I still returned to those thoughts, those feelings. I regret the behavior, but more so, I regret the fact that I wasted the time. I didn't do what the Lord asked me to do, and instead, I engaged in behavior that only resulted in slowing down my forward progress.

Today, my vow to the Lord is simple: I will do what you say when you say it. It is first-time obedience, and as a parent, I required this from my child. I would say, "Son, pick up your shoes." If he didn't obey, he was cautioned. If he still didn't obey, he was told one more time to listen and obey. If the third time, he chose not to obey, he was sent to time out, lost a privilege, etc. The key was to teach him, train him to listen and obey. Not for the purpose of creating a robot to serve, mind you; but rather for instilling right thinking and right acting as a result of his position as a child under the leadership and headship of a parent that loved and cared for him. Consequently, as a child of God, I am in a loving relationship with my Father, and when He asks me to do something once, I need to heed and obey His command. I need to not try Him, testing Him, and see how many chances He will give me to obey, but I need to respond from my position of submission. My Lord asks it of me, therefore, it is a good thing to listen to His voice and follow His instruction.

I confess today that I have disobeyed the voice of the Lord in regard to my social media use. He has asked me to stop using Facebook, specifically, and to only use Instagram and Pinterest. The latter is okay for me because they are not as socially-charged as Twitter (which I don't really use that much) or Facebook. I find it difficult to stay off Facebook, and because I am connected to groups, family, and friends, I tend to gravitate there. But, so much of what I see is distressing to me, and like I said, there are certain people whom I have had to unfollow (not unfriend) because I cannot read what they post without feeling emotionally pained. Now the Lord is saying for me to remove the links, to delete the buttons, the app, and all connection (not my account) so that I don't access the site unless someone contacts me (like a colleague through Messenger). I have tried to do this three times, and three times, I have failed to stick to my guns, so to speak. Today, I am choosing obedience, and today, I am asking for His help to remain disconnected from this platform/channel.

Secondly, my thoughts are connected to my actions, and as such, I need to work on my thought life some more. I still think about certain people that once had a greater stake in my life. They have moved on, and as such, I find that I am left standing as I look for traces of their life. They are gone now, and I must move on. I must let them go, wish them well, and move toward the greater plan that God has for my life. It is hard to let these people go, but I must do so, and in this way, I must seek to fill my time with His work, and I must let Him minister to and meet my emotional need.

Last, as I grasp the significance of moving on, I realize that I cannot keep filling up a cup that is already full. What I mean is that if my life is fully charged, fully engaged, and fully responsive to the Lord, to His call on my life, and to His work in and through it, then there is no need to fill my cup/life with any other liquid. The Lord is all that I need. He has sustained me, and He is the One who fills me with peace, joy, love, and so forth. He is everything I need, and I can rest in the knowledge that my needs -- all of my needs -- will be met by Him alone. This simply is to say that when I seek to fill any area of my life with worldly things, I must make room to allow them in. Assuming of course, that I have allowed the Lord to fill that area. Think of it this way...

If you have a spare room in your house that is used for guests, and you have it decorated, setup, and made ready for guests to arrive. You are ready for them, and then they come to your home, set up residence in your beautiful guest room. The room is OCCUPIED and as such, the room is serving its intended purpose. But, then you realize that you need some space to place trash, collected leftover things, storage items that have long since been packed away. Instead of letting these things go, you move them from your overstuffed garage and bring them into your beautiful guest room. Your guests are concerned as their space is now being used for more than their needs. After a time, your guest room resembles a guest/storage space, and before long, it has been turned into a secondary place for you to store your unused, unneeded, and often old/moldy, and worn out things. Your guest or guests no longer have a place to stay, and the room's purpose, its intended purpose has been reallocated and changed.

In this example, what I am trying to say is that if you have the Holy Spirit of God living within you, then the space He has access to has no been repurposed for His praise and honor. He has been working hard to remove the clutter, the refuse, and to clean up space so that He can live comfortably within it. But, the flesh needs space too, and rather than be restricted to its purposed place in the body, it longs to retake the entire house. If you give in, you will find that you allow all that junk, new and old junk, to come back into this beautifully cleaned and prepared home, the place the Lord has been creating for His presence.

When we do not allow Him to purge thoughts, especially, and emotional attachments, it is like we turn into a hoarder on one of those horrible TV shows. Our house (our spiritual dwelling place) begins to look rundown and shabby, unkempt, and the longer we allow our home to appear the way, the more corrupt our thoughts, our emotions and feelings become. We can easily lose our effectiveness by allowing the garbage to come back into our life after He has purged all of it.
My Heart, Christ's Home

I am reminded of the Navigator's pamphlet, "My Heart, Christ's Home," that was popular back in the 1980s. Robert Boyd Munger was a Presbyterian minister, and in 1951, he wrote this devotion that later became a staple of many missionary and discipleship handouts. I remember receiving one printed booklet at my church, Los Gatos Christian Church, and I can tell you that this book changed my life completely. It was foundational to my walk with Christ, especially early on. You can still find the booklet online (for a PDF version, click here). InterVaristy Press as well as offer bulk purchases. You can even buy a single version through The amazing thing is that nearly 67 years later, this little book has sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, and as a result, lives have been changed by this simple question and answer: "Who's that knocking at your door? Open it wide and welcome a special Guest into your heart!"

This text really opened my eyes some 37 years ago, and the metaphor of a house belonging to Christ has stayed with me. I still think about my life is this way, and I know that over the course of my faith walk, Christ has made His home in every single room inside my heart. However, I must be careful not to allow the junk, the things of the world, to return back to the rooms that now have been swept clean and made presentable. I must keep my heart/home in order, and to do that, I must check my thoughts at the door (as Kay Arthur likes to say). I must choose what thoughts to allow in, what thoughts to percolate, and what actions to take root based on those thoughts. If I am to make obedience a way of life, as I say that I am, then my thoughts must demonstrate obedience and my actions must follow suit. It is not rocket science. It is not that difficult. But, obedience is difficult especially if you attempt it through sheer force and will. It can be managed, adapted, and administered by the Holy Spirit, however, and in this way, it is possible to obey the voice of the Lord, and be still as He leads, guides, and provides for you.

My heart belongs to Christ. It has been this way since I was a child. I am no longer my own person, but I belong fully, completely, and forever to Him. As such, there is no other junk allowed -- not in this heart, not in Christ's home. I cast all things aside, and I run with great speed and endurance the race set before me. He is my King, my Savior, and my Lord!