July 25, 2016

Fear or Faith?

It is a good Monday. Yes, it is July 25, 2016, and that means that there are five more weeks until school begins for me at GCU. I am starting to panic a bit, given the fact that I am not ready to begin school AND the fact that I have so much work left to do on my proposal. Still, it is a good start to the new week, and I am thankful that I am home and able to do whatever I desire to do. Plus, the Lord has me well covered, I mean well covered. I may not feel 100% well covered today, but I know it is true. Yes, I know it is true. My faith doesn't rest on what I think or feel, but rather my faith rests IN whom I believe, and in the trust that comes from knowing and believing the truth about God, His Son, and the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Yes, my faith is in Jesus, even if I struggle today with not feeling 100% faithful. Let me explain...

Is it Fear or is it Faith?

It is one of those days where my life and circumstances seem to hit hard up against reality. I woke up this morning after passing a relatively peaceful night. However, I did have one very strange dream. I dreamed I bought two cars, both white. One was a Ford Mustang and the other a Toyota Corolla. Both cars were used, but they looked pristine, brand new. The Mustang was an older model. Not vintage, but a model from the 1990s. The Corolla was likewise, older, but still very sharp looking. I had purchased them from a used car lot, not sure where, but on a whim. I was driving by the lot with my Dad, and I saw them sitting by the front of the road. I stopped, and next thing I know is that I had bought them. I had taken them home, well, to where I thought was "home." At first it was a big lot, like a gravel parking lot, but later it appeared to be a rural place with a big garage or shop. I remember driving and parking on the gravel lot, and then next, I was inside the "shop" or garage, and I was going through the car, listening to the radio, checking all the buttons on the dash board. When I was sitting inside the Mustang, I started to notice things under the seat, behind car mats, etc. I quickly realized that what had been pristine on the outside (as in the car itself), was turning out to be filled with junk, weeds, clutter, old pieces of garbage on the inside. It was like someone had been living in the car, and the person who sold it to me had just cleaned it up on the outside so it looked like 'new.' As I cleaned the car out, I remember someone coming up to ask me how much I had paid for it. I said I had paid "$3500," which seemed like a reasonable amount for a car like this. Later, as I was moving the car, I heard a gasping sound from the engine. I thought,"Oh, no! This car is junk!" Then, I woke up. What in the world could this dream possibly mean?

This morning, I am still scratching my head, wondering what the dream meant. Was it random images, a series of disconnected events tied together in my head like a movie or comic strip? Or did the dream have meaning? Could it be the result of my inner turmoil, my financial struggles, or my worries over my financial situation? I don't know, I just don't know. The weird part was that I didn't have any panicked feelings while I was dreaming. I also didn't wake up panicked. It was like I accepted the fact that the car wasn't what it seemed, that the outside and inside mismatch was to be expected. Furthermore, I was proud of the fact that I had bought two cars for the price of one, and that my son, "now had his own car." It seemed like the entire ordeal was a good thing, but once I started to dig below the surface, I realized that perhaps I had been "taken" by the seller. Even though I figured as much, that I had fallen for the outside appeal, I still felt good that I had found a "diamond in the rough," so to speak. I mean, I always wanted a Mustang. I always hoped some day to have one. I really was excited about having this car, just for show, just to enjoy, just to use on occasion. The other car was practical. I remember thinking that the reason I bought the Corolla was because it was a good practical car. It would get really good gas mileage, and it would be dependable. I always wanted a Corolla too. My friend in high school had one, and I loved her little car. It was white, and a 4-speed. She bought an entry level car and had fat tires with mag wheels on it. It really was super cool. Of course, I never got either car in high school or college. I did get my baby blue Spitfire, and no other car could surpass that one, for sure. It was another "looks good on the outside, but tastes rotten on the inside" deal. Still, I treasured that car, enjoyed it, and was sad when it finally was sold for the cost of the new tires on it.

So what do I make of this dream? What is the story it hopes to tell to me (the real story, I mean?)

Things Aren't Always as They Seem

Yes, I think the moral of my dream is simply that things are not always as they seem. You know, metaphorically speaking. My life can be summarized in the same way today. What seems good on the outside, isn't always accurate of what is going on inside my life. I have hidden fears, deep secrets, and yes, even things I am not being honest about (truthful) with myself and others. My life looks pretty scrubbed out, clean and fresh, when in reality, there is a lot of dirt hiding in the crevices and cracks that make up the truth of my life.

The writer of Hebrews 4:13 says, "And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." This reminds us that while we may try to hide the truth of our life from others, the Lord God sees everything. He knows the heart of man, and He knows our innermost secrets. We can try to hide from the world, but we cannot hide from the Lord. As such, when we do try to hide from God that which is already known, we lie to ourselves. Or a better way to say that is that we fabricate a story to tell us what we want to hear. We want to justify and rationalize our thoughts, our feelings, our inner emotions so that our world, as we picture it, makes sense to us. This presumes that our worldview is correct, when the Bible tells us that the only worldview that is accurate is the one that begins and ends with God. Thus, as we try to tell ourselves what we want to hear, we often find that we must create new stories to replace the older, more faulty ones. In this way, we choose to create an opaque screen through which we can hide our vices and our sins from God and from others. Instead, the Word calls us to live transparent lives, to come clean, confess our sins and seek forgiveness from God through Jesus Christ.  Paul writes in Romans, 8:1-8 (AMP):
Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For what the Law could not do [that is, overcome sin and remove its penalty, its power] being weakened by the flesh [man’s nature without the Holy Spirit], God did: He sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful man as an offering for sin. And He condemned sin in the flesh [subdued it and overcame it in the person of His own Son],  so that the [righteous and just] requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not live our lives in the ways of the flesh [guided by worldliness and our sinful nature], but [live our lives] in the ways of the Spirit [guided by His power].  For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose].  Now the mind of the flesh is death [both now and forever—because it pursues sin]; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace [the spiritual well-being that comes from walking with God—both now and forever];  the mind of the flesh [with its sinful pursuits] is actively hostile to God. It does not submit itself to God’s law, since it cannot,  and those who are in the flesh [living a life that caters to sinful appetites and impulses] cannot please God.
In order to live a life that is pleasing to God, Christians must live according to the Spirit of Truth. In this way, believers in Christ are now living in a way that is no longer guided by the fleshly desires, but rather they are living in a way that is guided by the power of the Holy Spirit. They are able to live in peace, to "set their minds on the...will and purpose" of God.

This morning as I think about my dream, I realize that for the most part, the story itself is pure fabrication. It made very little sense when taken in context or as a whole. But, when looked through the microscope, the lens of clarity, I realize that the real story was about not judging God things with frail human eyes. This means that I am not to think that God's way, His purpose and His plan will look good on the outside, yet be rotten on the inside. No, that is what comes with the world's way, the fleshly way. In God's provision, He only provides good gifts, good fruit to His children. Thus, it is imperative to not think of our life or our circumstances as being inherently bad, even when they appear to be "good on the outside." I guess what I am trying to say is that we tend to view the gifts of God the way we view human gifts. We take everything with a grain of salt. It might look tasty, but it could really be bitter on the inside. This is not faith, but fear at work in us. Instead, if God has given us something good, we must believe in faith that it is good through-and-through. He will not lead us and guide us in His purpose and His will and then leave us with rotten, dirty, or broken resources whereby we cannot expect to do what He asks us to do. No, this is not our heavenly Father's nature at all. Jesus said something similar when He said, "You fathers--if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead?" (Luke 11:11 NLT). In context, this passage (verses 9-13) is worth reading again,
“So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!”
Note that it is Jesus who says that the Father will give His children the BEST gift, the Holy Spirit, when we persistently ask for Him. Thus, it reminds us that God knows what we need most, and it isn't always tangible, material, or other types of resources. Most often, we need a fresh in-filling of the Holy Spirit in order to withstand the temptations with which our enemy seeks to ensnare us.

Today, as I reflect on these passages, I remember that when I am frail, weak, and unable to produce one ounce of faith, my inner Helper and Companion, the Holy Spirit is with me, and He is able to produce the faith I need to remain strong. He is able to keep me steady, to not let me sink deep into fear, but rather, He keeps my eyes firmly fixed on the Lord, on my Savior, Jesus the Christ. I may struggle with doubts, with fear, and yes, with worry, but my best FRIEND is the Holy Spirit, the One who knows exactly what I need this moment, and the One whom has been given to me as a guide, a mentor, a counselor, and a friend. Yes, I need the Spirit of Truth, to comfort me and to remind me that God is in control of the events in my life, and that not everything I see is true. Not every rotten thing is good, and not every good thing is rotten. May I remember this story today, O Lord, so that I can remain faithful, trusting, and relying upon you for your good, good work in and through my life today. Selah!
Remembering Whom We Serve

As I close out this blog today, I remember that I serve a mighty God. Just as David remembered the strength of the Lord, His God, when he faced the giant, Goliath, so too must we remember that our God is more powerful and more able to accomplish His will than any other worldly or spiritual being. Yes, there is no one more mighty than our God. Thus, when I feel low, dejected, or overwhelmed by the nature of the events in my life, I must run to the ROCK that is more powerful, more steadfast, and more immovable than any other person or thing. In Psalm 61:1-4 (AMP) we read,

Hear my cry, O God;
Listen to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to You, when my heart is overwhelmed andweak;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I [a rock that is too high to reach without Your help].
For You have been a shelter and a refuge for me,
A strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in Your tent forever;
Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.

We must remember that it is our God, the Lord Jehovah, who is the ROCK, our shelter and our refuge. Today, Lord, may I run to my ROCK, to my shelter and my strong tower so that I can feel safe and no longer afraid of the enemy as he tempts me and taunts me. Give me this day your strength, O Lord, so that I can be strong, so I can be faithful, so I can remain resilient and do the work, the important and good work you ask me to do this good day. Selah!

July 24, 2016

Sunday Musings

It is a good day here in sunny, and yes, very hot Phoenix. I think we hit close to 114 yesterday, and I believe the high for today is going to be close to this mark. I am praying for rain! Please Lord, let the rains come! Today, though, I am home and resting. My stomach is a bit off this morning, but my head is clear (PTL!), and generally, I feel good. I didn't sleep well last night. I had a bad dream about midway through the night, and I awoke with my hands tightly closed (as in a fist). My arms are even sore this morning. I know that whenever I am stressed, really stressed, I will often clench my fists or my jaws as a way to control my emotions. This stress motion is something I have done since I was a child, and it was a reaction to my life back then, when I was deeply troubled or afraid. It has been a long time since I found myself doing this stress-reactive practice. I have worked very hard to train myself to stop doing it. In fact, I can almost always sleep at night with my body completely relaxed. I am not sure what prompted the reaction, but I am sure my dream (somewhat scary) had something to do with it. Needless to say, I am a bit worn out this morning. My mind is rested, but my body feels weary. O, Lord, please help me recover your blessed peace this good, good day!

It is Sunday, BTW, and I am praising the Lord this morning for He is good, so very good to me. I read Psalm 35 today as part of my morning study, and I was taken a back by David's prayer for the Lord's help. I cannot imagine what it was like for him when he had enemies who were trying to kill him. His prayer is a good reminder of the nature of the wicked, and the contrast between the wicked and the righteous. In this Psalm, David says that he was persecuted unfairly. He was a good man, a righteous man. He even prayed for people who were his enemy, and he treated them as if they were like a family member. Then, these same people, took joy in his calamity and in his downfall. I couldn't help but reflect how this seems to be similar to our current socially mediated environment. I mean, I see Christians lash out at other Christians, call them names, treat them rudely, and then turn and fain righteousness. It is serious business, and the Lord is not pleased when we eat and devour one another like this. We must stop doing this, stop treating everyone with such disdain. I digress.

Nonetheless, today, I am feeling sort of "off" and my heart is saddened somewhat. Again, I woke up this way, so I am not really sure what has prompted this oppression. I simply feel as if I was attacked last night, and now I am suffering the repercussions of that event. How I pray today for the Lord's goodness, His grace, and His favor. May I be protected, O Lord, from my enemy who encamps about me, and who seeks to steal my joy and my well-being, this good, good day! Selah!

He is Coming Quickly

In the latter days, the Word tells us that we are to be on the ready, to be alert, and to remain faithful because the Lord will come again quickly. In 1 Thessalonians 5:2 (NLT), Paul writes, "For you know quite well that the day of the Lord's return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night." He goes on to say, "While people are saying, 'Peace and security,' destruction will come upon them suddenly, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape" (verse 3). Many people will not be ready, many will not be prepared, simply because they will see what they want to see, and they will believe the day is far off in the distance. Yet, Paul tells us that His return will come quickly. Thus, he says, "But you, brothers, are not in the darkness so that this day should overtake you like a thief" (verse 4). And more so in verses 5-6, he stresses, "For you are all sons of the light and sons of the day; we do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not sleep as the others do, but let us remain awake and sober." Yes, Paul reminds us to behave, to live as children of light (sons of light), so that we are ready, alert, and watchful. He says in verse 7, "But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of our hope of salvation."

This word sober means "having or showing a very serious attitude or quality" (Merriam-Webster), and as such, Christians are called to be sober minded, to be serious in both mind and body. We are not to act or behave like those in the night. Paul uses an illustration of drunkenness saying that when people get drunk, they do so at night. He is suggesting that people do dark deeds under the cover of night, where their deeds are hidden. Yet, because we are of the light, children of God who walk in the light of truth, our deeds cannot be hidden. Therefore, we must walk in soberness, in seriousness, especially in regard to our Lord's return. Paul reminds us in verses 9-10, that the reason we are to do this, to remain sober minded and watchful is because of what is to come -- the promised reward -- salvation. He writes, "For God has not appointed us to suffer wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him." O, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not forget what we long for, what we are waiting for, and let us not lose our focus on what is to come -- the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ!

This morning, in particular, I am struck by these verses. They serve to remind me that we, as Christians, can get so caught up in world events that we forget our purpose, we forget our mission in this life. We are not here to simply "eat, drink and be merry," but rather we are Christ's ambassadors, chosen for specific work, in order to spread the good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How quickly do we become like the world, acting like the world, turning on every page in the world's handbook. Instead of standing on the Word of God, we become like those around us. We seek the joy, the satisfaction, and the scintillation of materialism and pursuits of godlessness. Yes, we become no different than the lost who live around us. We are called to be salt and light, yet our life doesn't reflect that fact. We are no different than the world if we seek after the things of the world, we pursue the these things, with ardent fervor and with passionate desire.

My heart thinks on these things today because I am often swept along with the current. I am often taken down a path where I do not wish to go, simply by the force of the stream. I want to stand firm, I want to remain alert, I want to be watchful, yet often when I am not steady and standing my ground, the enemy, my enemy comes and woos me to follow after him. I will not go, I say. I will not give ground, but I find that time and time again, I am easily moved, easily shaken. O, Lord, please help me to stand my ground, to not give way, to be as your word instructs -- alert, steady, on the ready! Selah!

Planning for the Day

Sunday is reserved by God as a day of rest. I know some Christians believe that the sabbath day of rest is Saturday and not Sunday, but I believe that God intends us to rest one day out of seven, and Sunday is historically (outside of Judaism) the day given to the people of God. Thus, today is a day of rest for most people in the world. I will not argue with those who prefer to rest on Saturday or who choose to worship the Lord on this day. What matters is that they rest, that they remember the goodness of God, and they take time to reflect on His goodness in and through their lives. This is what matters more than the day chosen to rest (in my view).

My plans include resting, of course, but they also include some work since I am now an online instructor. My students will be submitting assignments, so I need to be ready to return them with feedback. My plans today include some grading of assignments, some follow up with students who have not posted or attended this week, and some other small things here around the house. The Lord knows I need to rest, but today's rest is more mental than physical. I need to rest from my endeavors, from my work (as in striving), and that means that I need to consider everything I am doing now that runs counter to His will for my life. I am in assessment-mode, so to speak, and I need to assess my current workload, and determine a way for me to proceed this fall. You see, I am going to be really busy. I have five classes right now, though I think I will only teach four once my class at ACU is dropped next week. Still, with my classes and my dissertation, I have a lot on my plate. God be praised, I know that I can do whatever needs doing, and I am trusting Him to keep me on track, to hit my goals, and to complete all the work He has assign to me. He is good to me, so very good to me. God be praised, He is so very good to me.

I am thinking more and more about my timeline for graduation and for keeping my plan for finishing my dissertation. Right now, I am stuck. I am waiting on my professor to send me back revisions for chapters 2-3. I need his feedback before I can move to the next step: presenting my proposal. Until I hear back, I am on hold. This bums me, of course, but there is nothing I can do about it. I am praying the Lord covers me, the timing and all, and I know that He does know what is best. He will see me through this last push toward graduation, I know He will! He is good, so very good to me.

Thus, my plans for today are pretty simple: do whatever needs doing this good, good day. Selah!

July 23, 2016


Well, it is Saturday, and I am officially worn out. Yes, my desire to turn in early last night, to get my 9 hours of solid shut-eye, didn't work out as planned. I did turn in relatively early, but my night was interrupted by my cat, Winston, banging on my parents door -- twice! The first time was around 12:30 a.m., and the second, and final time, was at 4:00 a.m. In between, he spent the hours crying and carrying around his stuffed toys. It seemed like just as soon as I would fall asleep, I'd be awaken by his incessant crying, that long "meeeeooooow" that says, "Hey, where is everyone!" (Just as an aside, I swear I heard him saying, "Hello!" last night). Sigh!

Needless to say, I am a bit cranky this morning. My first cup of coffee does taste good, and hopefully, once the caffeine kicks in, I will start to feel like my normal self again.

Let's hope so. I sure do hope so...

Weight-Loss and Fitness Update

I am also feeling a bit depressed at my weight-loss so far. I mean, I know I need to "chillax," as my friend says, but frankly, I had hoped to see a better report by day 12. I started out so strong, and by Wednesday, I was down 2.8 pounds overall. Not bad. I was impressed. Weight Watchers scores again! But, then I had a weight-gain on Thursday and Friday, even after sticking to my points range, today appears to be on track again. If my weigh-in from early this morning is correct, then I would have gained back 1.4 pounds in three days. I realize that the first flush is water weight, but even still, I have to say that I am disappointed that my weight loss is running at 1 pound a week. I know, this is normal, expected, average. Still, I was so hoping to see that big 2 pound drop as a steady "hurrah" each week. I guess I need to accept that my loss will be slow, but steady. And, 1 pound of fat down is 1 pound of fat loss that shows my hard work is paying off.

I read a website yesterday that had an article called, "Why Your Scale Lies." I've read these articles before, and for the most part, what the writers say is absolutely true. Your bathroom scale doesn't accurately measure your weight because it factors in EVERYTHING including fat, bones, muscle, water, etc. Furthermore, your fat cells, once stripped of their excess fat, simply choose to plump themselves up with water so they keep their nice fatty shape. Yes, all the authors said the same thing. You won't see your fat cells shrink until a good 5-6 weeks have passed. And, to really get them to stop hoarding water, you have to flush your system with a lot of water -- like a gallon a day. The more water you drink, the more your body will not go into self-preservation mode. I know, I read that this is a fallacy too. That self-preservation mode doesn't kick in until you have been starving yourself for long periods of time. Still, I think most of what these articles are saying is true, like I said before. Your scale is not your best friend. It lies. It tells you a number, and that number makes you feel better or worse depending on what it is.

The truth is that our bodies are complex engines, and as such, to really grasp how well you are doing with your lifestyle change (diet and fitness), the rule of thumb is to check the way your clothes fit. Are you finding that your clothes feel looser? If so, then you are shrinking in size. Are you liking the way your body looks in the mirror? Then you are getting smaller, losing inches rather than pounds. I guess for me the big problem is the number on the scale. I don't like weighing what I do. The number is way too high for my height and size. On all charts, I am overweight. My BMI puts me in the "overweight" category, and my weight is outside the "normal parameters" for a person my age and my size. Thus, seeing the shape change is a good thing, a very good thing. But, not seeing the number go down, well that just bothers me to no end. UGH!

I've been really good on writing everything down that I eat. It has been 12 days, and I have stuck to my guns regarding my food choices. I am not eating perfectly healthy choices, but I am limiting my choices, and choosing easy to prepare foods that fill me up, yet keep me in my target range. I have gone over a couple days, and I have been under on some other days. My goal this week, priority #1 is not to give up, no matter what the scale tells me. My priority #2 is to eat my target points, and not go under at all. More so, I am going to drink more water, cut out the diet soda (which I was off for months, then gave in a couple months ago, and now am going off again) to see if this helps. I am taking my measurements, and so far, I have lost about an inch off my hips. My waist is the same, and my thighs are the same. I am simply looking at how my clothes fit me, and I will be content (yes, choosing to be content) to lose 1 pound of fat each week. This just means I will have to be consistent for 20 weeks instead of 10, but hey, this is a LIFESTYLE change and not temporary weight loss. My goal is to slim down, get strong, and stay that way my entire life. It is not about hitting that number for a big event and then letting it all hang out again. I don't ever want to be this number again. I mean it. I really, really mean it.

Jobs Update

So I received my background check information yesterday. I completed the online registration, and hopefully, I will have my paperwork finalized next week. It will be good to be able to post online and on my resume that I am adjunct at Regent University. I am so excited to be teaching at MY school. I have wanted this job, this particular job for years now, and to think I am "this close," to receiving it, well, it just gives me goosebumps. Yes, I am so over the moon excited to teach online at my alma mater.

I was talking with my good friend last evening, and I shared how I am looking forward to teaching this class come fall. Of all my courses, this one in particular is so attractive to me. I love the course itself, and I cannot wait to see what the class will be like once it gets going. I am loving teaching online! I cannot wait until I can do this full-time (all the time). I am happy to be on campus, but in truth, I am loving teaching from home. I am loving the freedom it brings to me, the good pay, and the experience -- yes, the experience. God is so good to provide for me in this way. I cannot think of any other job I want to do right now. I am blessed, so very blessed. He is good, He is good, He is good.

Moving, Fits and Starts

In other areas, I am content as well. Yesterday, I had to replace my tires. I was so not happy about spending the $500 to replace them, but I had known this was a need for several months now, and frankly, it was going to happen at some point in time. I went out yesterday to run to the store, and thankfully, on my way out of the shops, I noticed my tire looked flat. I was right next to a tire store, so I headed on over, and they put four new tires on the car. Now, at least, I don't have to worry about my tires blowing out on the freeway. More so, since my son is sharing my car for a while, this means I don't have to worry about him having a serious blow out. Now, all that is left to do on this car is get the brakes checked or replaced, and then keep the car in good running condition. I am still not sure if the Lord intends for me to trade this car in or pay it off. I owe about $7K on it still, and I would love to not have a car payment for a while. But then I think that perhaps it is time. It has 60K miles on it, and it is in really good shape. I could trade it in and I know I would get a really good deal.

With the new tires, of course, came worries of my debt burden looming ahead of me. Still, I had to swallow those thoughts, place my trust in the Lord, and just add this cost to my already climbing credit card debt. I hate the fact that I owe so much money, yet I cannot help it. I have been tapped low this year, and until I can get back to zero, I will be stuck paying these payments. Perhaps the Lord will bring me some other opportunity, some other way for me to crush the swell and pay my cards off. That would be sweet, so very sweet. Until He provides enough for me to do that, I will have to be patient and rest in His provision. I say "It is enough," and I believe that it is so. He is good to me. He is so very good to me.

My prayer today is to spend the majority of this morning replying to student posts, grading and housekeeping in my class at OCU. My hope is that I can finish this class strong so I get paid on time.

Debt-Free Living

My prayer, of course, is to honor the Lord in all the work He provides for me to do. I am at this place now, this place of utter and complete dependency. He has opened a door for me to teach at Regent, and if this is it (as in the only job I will be hired for this year), then I must accept that He has determined I have enough to live on, enough to get by, enough to be settled. You see, I have been thinking more and more about this whole "lack" business. I have been thinking about what it means to be tapped out. You know, when I first became single, my prayer was to never go without again. I never wanted to live "hand to mouth." I made it my goal, my priority, and I worked very hard to get myself to a place where I could live comfortably on what I earned in salary. Then, I started at Regent, and well, graduate school took me down another path. I started to work part-time, and with part-time work, my debts increased. I had to borrow money to make ends meet, but I did so with the knowledge that there was no other way to do well in school AND work full-time. In the end, I realized that I could have worked full-time, yes, I could have done so. But, I am thankful that the Lord permitted me to work part-time for this long. He was gracious to me, and He provided for me throughout these past years. Now, I am on the backside, and I am ready to finish up. I would like to have the freedom again to be financially settled. I want to have all my debts discharged. I want to live honorably before all men, and that means to be debt-free. I want to own my car, my house, and pay for my living expenses out of my earnings. I don't want to borrow from anyone. I don't want to pay interest or to even consider paying someone back. Yes, my hope is to be financially free again.

However, as I have prayed for financial freedom, the Lord has provided to me; not freedom, but rather dependency. Yes, I have not been set free. I have, instead, become indebted to the Lord for His provision, for His daily "bread." My hand has not produced freedom for me. My hand has only turned the soil and reaped what I have sown, which has been "enough," but not plenty. Many preachers today say that this is my fault. Some will say that because I took on school loans and debt, I deserve what I have received. In short, you sow what you reap. It is a biblical perspective for certain, but at times, it is hard to swallow. I have followed the Lord in obedience, and my student loans were part of the requirement for me to complete this level of school. Thus, they are a consequence of obeying the Lord, and this means that there will be a way to resolve them, to reconcile them, in time. Others who teach that lack is the result of sin or not commanding wealth (speaking to it), will say that I don't have what I need because I haven't believed the Lord, I haven't trusted Him for the provision. I cannot really say this is true because I have believed the Lord, and I have trusted Him for each need, for everything I have needed. So what is true? Is this constraint His will, His way, His provision for me? Or is it the result of my own faulty choices or some buried sin in my life?

I believe that I am where I am today because He has chosen for it to be so. I do not believe I have sinned in this matter. No, not at all. I am not buying to just "buy," rather I am living as I am able until He provides a different way for me, a different way. Right now, I am dependent on His provision, His sufficiency. In time, He will provide more for me and I will be debt-free. I believe it. I know it. My heart is confirmed in this matter. I believe His word to me is true. Until He opens that next door, I have to learn how to be content with what I have, to wait for His provision, and to look to His hand of blessing. I cannot step outside His will for me. I cannot do other work, not sanctioned by Him. I must rest in His provision. I must trust in Him, and His will, and I must exercise my faith to know that He will keep His word to me. He will be faithful. He will do what He has said He will do on my behalf.

As I wait, I must rest. Resting means to trust Him completely with the outcome. It is a measure of saying, "I believe you can do this for me. I believe you are able, and I believe you will do it because you have said it is so." It is saying to the Lord that you are taking Him at His word. You are not discounting His word as trivial or as not sufficient. You are saying, "I believe you are God, and as God, you can do whatever you think is best, necessary, good, in my life." Yes, this is what I am saying today. I am resting in Him, 100% resting. I can do nothing else but let Him deal with my situation, to make it work out according to His plan and to fulfill His purpose. I am resting in Him now, and in that way, I am letting this finally go. I am accepting the provision He has said would come to me, and I am waiting patiently for His timing. He will do it. He will perform it. He will make it happen. He is good to me, so very good to me.

In Closing

Today, as I rest, I marvel at His goodness toward me. I mean, He could just let me linger, flounder, stew, but instead, He makes me feel good about myself, my predicament, and in doing so, He gives me hope. I feel hopeful rather than afraid. I may not understand what will be or how my life will turn around, change, or become what He has promised me it would become, but I can know that He has this well-in hand. I mean, who better to control outcomes than the Lord of the Universe? Who is able to make something out of nothing, that the Lord of all creation? Yes, my faith rests in the creative God who spoke creation into being, who breathed life into mankind, and who patiently waits for us, to return to Him, to consider Him, to come back to Him so we can be reconciled and restored. He is good, so very good to me. He is good, He keeps His promises, and He is able to do all things in and through my life because it is His good will, His good work, and His good pleasure to do so. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!

July 22, 2016

God is Still in Control

It is Friday here in sunny and "very hot," Phoenix. Yes, we have another excessive heat warning, which is sort of laughable, because heat is heat in the desert. The high today is supposed to be 114, and in some desert locales, I am sure it will be higher than that (115 plus). The day is shaping up to be what is a "normal" summer day. I am so over this heat. I am so tired of the highs, the sun, and the never-ending shine. I would love a little rain right about now. Please, Lord? May we please have some rain?

My morning started very early today. I am not sure why, but I was awake at 6:30 this morning. It was still "dusky" out my window. I am thinking it is because I have been going to be earlier. I have turned in before 10 most nights, and well, since I am getting in my 9 hours of shut-eye, my body is starting to "rise and shine" earlier and earlier each day. It is funny, but I remember this happening to me when I was in Hawaii. Yes, the early sunrise always did me in. No matter how hard I tried to sleep in to 8 or even 9 a.m., my body clock would strike the alarm at 5-5:30 every day I was on vacation. Thankfully, this summer has been not like that at all. I have routinely been awake before 8 a.m., and just recently, started getting up before 7. Sigh!

I do have to say that I feel "well" today. I am feeling good, in a general sense of the word. I woke up without a headache (yay!), a stiff back (double-yay!) or aching hips (a triple yay!) What is more, Ike was no where to be found. He didn't saunter out to the kitchen until I was already out there getting the Keurig warmed up. Then, of course, he and Winston took up their normal "wait" positions while I cleaned their food bowls and rinsed their placemat. They were treated, as usual, and together we had a very quiet start to our day. I emptied the dishwasher, put the dirty cups and saucers from last night in, and then scrubbed up the counters a bit. My Mom used to leave the kitchen spotless before she went to bed at night, but with her dementia now, she most often forgets to put things away. I follow after her, cleaning as I go, but sometimes I don't get around to it until the morning. I like for the kitchen to be clean before my parents get out there. I normally scrub up, get my Mom's coffee ready and my Dad's cup out, and leave things ready for them when they finally get up and moving. I don't know, I guess I just like things to be a certain way. I am picky like that, very orderly, and I just do not like clutter on my counters or around my home.

Today is a good day, despite what seems to be happening in the world. Trump is our candidate for President, and like him or not, he is going to run against Clinton, and well, if you are a conservative like I am, you pretty much are stuck with this guy for your vote. A no vote is a yes vote for Hilary, and well, I just cannot go there. No, I will not go there. She hates women, is anti-right to life, and generally, is a socialist in sheep's clothing. I know many Christians who support her, and frankly, I think they are deceived. I am not saying that I am pro-Trump, because I most certainly am not. I don't like the man at all, and I think he is dangerous and runs perilously "close to the wind," so to speak. But, I do respect his business sense, and for that, I think he has the right kind of power to run this country.

Anyone who says that power is not a key ingredient to run for office is ignorant. The highest office of our land exists to feed the need of the power hungry. Black, white, or other; conservative, liberal or socialist -- the office of the President is for all intents and purposes -- the power seat of this nation. The days of hoping for a good man or woman to run are over. No, this is our future. Power hungry ideologues that are so grotesquely arrogant and over-the-top -- and yes -- that imagery does spring to mind visions of "The Hunger Games."

I pray for the Lord's grace as we transition through this next season of American political life. Oh, Lord, that the people would return to you! Zechariah 1:3 says, "Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Return to me,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the LORD Almighty." And in Joel 2:12 says, "Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." May America and the American people return to the Lord so that our land will be healed, the people restored, and our future hope, reassured. Selah! Amen, so be it! Thy will be done!

In Whom Do YOU Trust?

As I think about my life today, one thing is certain: I must remember who is in control -- of everything. I can easily become dismayed at the thought of what "might be" with our next presidential election or I can take hope in the One who is in control, who is on heaven's throne, and who already knows the outcome. I can be afraid of what is to come or I can wait patiently and keep on trusting God, my Savior and King.

In Psalm 146:2-3 NIV we read, "I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation."

O, Christian, in whom do you trust this day? 

Proverbs 16:20 reminds us that there is joy in trusting the Lord, and that joy comes from obedient, nay heedful listening to His instruction. We read, "Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the LORD will be joyful." Let us not be forgetful; let us remember that it is the Lord who calls us to account. We are to be responsible to Him first and foremost, and that means that we are to heed the instruction in His word. So often, Christians get caught up in the political machinations of our current environment. We lose sight of the practical truth of Scripture, which is to obey the voice, nay the Word of the Lord. This means that despite what we hear on the news or read online, we are to always wash everything through a biblical lens, and to consider the rhetoric from a Christian worldview. Sure, it is right and proper to elect officials that are honorable and good, but we must remember that neither our president or anyone who "promises" to deliver "goods and services" is really able to do what they say. We need to be wise, and we need to remember that the only One who keeps His word is the LORD. Thus, as a Christian, we must always consider our candidates as fallen men and women, heathen workers who are not seeking God or His word or His way. Rather, they are self-seeking proponents of the enemy, and individuals who are only out for their own glory. Of course, there are good men and women, Christian men and women who serve in political office, yet despite this fact, rarely do we find even these good people being motivated to seek and to serve the King. I know I am generalizing here, but I haven't seen many politicians who put God first in all things. I had hoped a couple of our presidential candidates (early on) could have sustained momentum to be on the platform, but as usual, it is only the powerful, hungry, and yes, the wicked who seem to triumph, are the ones to outlast the others. The good ones' get churned up, chewed, and spat out long before the conventions begin. Sigh - I digress!

Spurgeon's Gems

Charles Spurgeon wrote one of his "gems" titled, "In Whom Do You Trust." Yes, even in 1859-60, when things were about to get really nasty here in America (with the coming Civil War), Rev. Spurgeon was already asking Christian's to consider this very question, to consider in whom do they place their everlasting trust. In light of all the political uproar today, I think it is worthy of another read.

“Now on whom dost thou trust?” — Isaiah 36:5

Reader, this is an important question. Listen to the Christian’s answer, and see if it is yours. “On whom dost thou trust?” “I trust,” says the Christian, “in a triune God. I trust the Father, believing that he has chosen me from before the foundations of the world; I trust him to provide for me in providence, to teach me, to guide me, to correct me if need be, and to bring me home to his own house where the many mansions are. I trust the Son. Very God of very God is he—the man Christ Jesus. I trust in him to take away all my sins by his own sacrifice, and to adorn me with his perfect righteousness. I trust him to be my Intercessor, to present my prayers and desires before his Father’s throne, and I trust him to be my Advocate at the last great day, to plead my cause, and to justify me. I trust him for what he is, for what he has done, and for what he has promised yet to do. And I trust the Holy Spirit—he has begun to save me from my inbred sins; I trust him to drive them all out; I trust him to curb my temper, to subdue my will, to enlighten my understanding, to check my passions, to comfort my despondency, to help my weakness, to illuminate my darkness; I trust him to dwell in me as my life, to reign in me as my King, to sanctify me wholly, spirit, soul, and body, and then to take me up to dwell with the saints in light for ever.”

Oh, blessed trust! To trust him whose power will never be exhausted, whose love will never wane, whose kindness will never change, whose faithfulness will never fail, whose wisdom will never be nonplussed, and whose perfect goodness can never know a diminution! Happy art thou, reader, if this trust is thine! So trusting, thou shalt enjoy sweet peace now, and glory hereafter, and the foundation of thy trust shall never be removed.

When we read these words, sincere and devout Christians are hard pressed to disagree. How can we not place our trust in our ever faithful God, our ever watchful Savior?

Today, I am reminded that what God has started, He will indeed finish. The good work He has created in me will continue until my time on earth is at its end. Until then, my faith must continue to rest in the One who died to save me. My trust, thus, sits securely with my Lord and my Savior, Jesus. The world may spin further out of control, but my God is at the helm. He is the One who calls me to account, and He is the One who will see me through to the end. Amen, so be it. Thy will be done! God is good, so very good. All the time, He is good. He is good, all the time! Selah!

Moving On With Faith

I really have two choices today. One, I can succumb to all the fear-mongering that I read about on social media (the world is falling, the end is near), or two, I can remain steady and steadfast, and keep faith in God. Yes, I can choose to place my trust -- my sincere and abiding faith -- in what I know to be true. Furthermore, since my faith rests in a person and not material things, I can believe what I know to true about that person. I can believe what I know from Scripture, and I can believe what I know from experience (through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit). I can rest in this knowledge, and I can take heart to know that my Savior has me tucked tenderly under His ever present and loving wings of care. I am safe today because He is my Savior. I am cared for today because He cares for me. I am able to rest today because He is at REST. He is seated, and He is at rest. Thus, I too, can rest in Him. My needs are met with sufficiency, and His word reminds me that the plans He has for my life, well, they are good, so very good.

As I reflect on where my trust resides, I am able to take heart, to keep upbeat and hopeful, despite what seems to be a whirlwind of debate and dispute -- nastiness in all forms. I can be happy, filled with joy, and in some ways, completely oblivious to the maneuvering of the wicked who are positioned all around me. Yes, I can continue to do my work, my small and insignificant work, despite the hostile and difficult environment around me.

Is this the right attitude to have? Shouldn't I be more politically active, minded, so to speak? I don't know, I just don't know. I guess in some ways I should take more responsibility for this country and the political role it plays on the world's stage. Yet, I feel helpless to do anything. I do not feel that I can make a difference, not anymore, that is. So, I am not giving up my right. No, I am not saying I will not be a good citizen because that would go against God's word. Rather, I am choosing to serve God before I serve any earthly master. I will place God and His word as first in my life. Everything else will come second. This means that my desire is to seek His will, and in doing so, to follow after His way in all my dealings. I am no longer bound to do what the world says I should do. No, I am only bound to be a law-abiding citizen, but I must always remember that, in truth, I am a heaven-bound servant of the Lord most high. Thus, I have to keep my priorities straight, to keep my head screwed on, and to not lose sight of what matters most to God. And what matters most to God? It is people, of course. God is more interested in the condition of your soul than in the condition of your house. He is more interested in your everlasting salvation than in anything that is happening in the world today. Thus, His focus is on saving His creation, in seeking and finding the lost. Therefore, my desire is to conform to His desire, and as such, my priorities are reshaped toward that end. I function as an extension, a tool and a vessel of my Father, in that, it is His will that determines where I go and the work I do. I no longer seek my own determination or my own desires. I seek only to do His work. I seek to go and do His work in the place of His choosing. I seek to be employed 100% and busy about His business. Consequently, while I may be disgusted with the political hype and the clearly anti-Christian rhetoric, I must remember the state of this world, the predictions of Scripture, and the fact that I am destined for a different ending, a different outcome. Yes, I take rest in the knowledge that my eternal destination has been bought and paid. My ticket to heaven, as it is said, has been stamped "redeemed." I can rest in the fact that despite the world, the hub-bub, and the potential downfall, my life has purpose and has value. God has a plan for my life, and it is very good.

In Closing

As I rest in His sufficiency this good day, I am reminded that everything that is happening in the world today is part of His overarching plan of Salvation. Yes, there is Kingdom-mindedness in everything I see and read this good day. I see His work, and while I may not like the way things are unfolding, I feel like I am watching a grand drama, a la "The Lord of the Rings" in its scope and spectacular design. I am watching this great drama unfold this good, good day. May the Lord of ALL bring to pass His will this good day. He is King! He is King!

In Zechariah 9:9-13 MSG, we read this proclamation of His coming:

“Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion!
Raise the roof, Daughter Jerusalem!
Your king is coming!
a good king who makes all things right,
a humble king riding a donkey,
a mere colt of a donkey.
I’ve had it with war—no more chariots in Ephraim,
no more war horses in Jerusalem,
no more swords and spears, bows and arrows.
He will offer peace to the nations,
a peaceful rule worldwide,
from the four winds to the seven seas.

And you, because of my blood covenant with you,
I’ll release your prisoners from their hopeless cells.
Come home, hope-filled prisoners!
This very day I’m declaring a double bonus—
everything you lost returned twice-over!
Judah is now my weapon, the bow I’ll pull,
setting Ephraim as an arrow to the string.
I’ll wake up your sons, O Zion,
to counter your sons, O Greece.
From now on
people are my swords.”

Come quickly, Lord Jesus, come quickly!

July 21, 2016

Homesteading Plans

It is a blessed Thursday here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. The skies are blue again (sigh!) and the monsoon seems to have fizzled out. The forecast as of last night called for a drying-out period, which is a nice way to say "hot!" We have an excessive heat warning for our area for the next 5-7 days. Will this hot summer ever end? I am praying it is so. May it be so!

I slept well last night, really peacefully for most of the night. But, early this morning, I had a tornado dream. I haven't had one of "those" dreams for a long while. Sigh. Tornado dreams are not new to me, and whenever I dream about tornados, I am reminded that something in my life is "out of control." Whether this is true or not, my subconscious mind works very heard to help me "figure out" how to regain control or composure over some real element in my life by letting me dream about tornados! I guess it is just a childhood fear of mine, but tornados are my "go to" dream vision whenever my life seems to be chaotic or uncontrolled.

On reflection this morning, I am not sure what prompted that dream. I mean, my life seems to be very steady right now. There is nothing too out of control -- well -- nothing new or recent (just the same old stuff).  Hmm... In my dream early this morning, I remember being with a group of people in a hotel or tall building. Funny how that is, but most often when I dream about tornados I am in one of three places: a car, a home, or a building. Typically, I am somewhere unfamiliar, like a city or town in the midwest or plains. I recognize the landscape and even the infrastructure (like roads, malls, shops, etc.), but I don't really know where I am or recognize actual landmarks. Nonetheless, early this morning while I was dreaming, I remember looking out the window and seeing this massive tornado coming right toward the building I was in. For me, the tornado in my dream was one of those big scary things, the kind that have a massive center, and then have small embedded cyclones around the front and sides. It was like the ones you see on the Weather Channel -- you know -- the ones the storm chasers photograph during big tornado outbreaks. I digress.

Back on point... so in my dream, I was looking at the tornado as it approach the building. The interesting thing for me was that I wasn't afraid. This is so important because normally tornado dreams cause a rush of panic, a sense of fear, and I often wake up with my heart pounding and my skin clammy. This time, though, I wasn't worried about the tornado hitting the building at all. In fact, it was more like I was watching the storm pass by me. In the dream, I knew enough to take cover, but I wasn't frightened of this massive storm. I was as calm as could be as this massive storm raged outside the building. Then in one instance, I felt the tail of the tornado hit the roof, and instead of shearing it off, as it should have done so, the building gently rocked. It was like this massive storm barely hit me, just glanced me. I was safe. I was safe inside this building, and no matter how power the storm was outside, I was completely safe.

In another sequence of the same dream, I was in a home, and again, a tornado was coming toward me. This time, I was alone and I remember taking my cat and heading down to the basement for safety. Later, after that moment flashed before me, I had my cat in a carrier in the car, and as we were driving through the countryside, I saw that same tornado off in the distance. In this case, the tornado and the storm were off to the side of me, and while I was concerned about my close proximity, I wasn't afraid. I simply kept on moving, driving down the road to my destination.

These dreams seem to be a picture of my life or my soon to be life. In the entire sequence, which was fragmented and unclear, I saw this approaching storm, this dark -- almost black storm -- as it drew near to my vantage point. But, as I mentioned before, I wasn't frightened by the closeness or the intensity of it. It was like I was a spectator, standing on the sidelines and watching everything unfold before me. I knew I was safe. I knew that even though this storm was coming toward me, everything was going to be just fine. I was going to be safe. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Lord, for your gracious hand of protection over all aspects of my life! Amen, selah!

After that dream, I woke up to the sound of Ike pounding on my parent's bedroom door. I was already starting to wake up so I called to him to see if I could get him to stop. My son had gotten up about 30 minutes before to shower and then head out to work, so I was in this quasi-awake/quasi-dream state. Ike came as called, and after a short time of cuddling, I got up to feed him and Winston.

So here I am, bleary eyed, but awake. My first cup of coffee is helping to open my eyes, and frankly, I am surprised I can even type this early in the morning. LOL!

God is good, though. He is so very good to me!

Update on School and Weight-Loss

So, a brief update is in order. My class at OCU seems to be off to a good start. I have most of my students actively participating (today, I will check on them to make sure they all have posted) in class. The transition to this new system has been easy (hooray!), and overall, I think I am going to really like the class format -- a lot. In all, the Lord is so good to me. I am blessed with this teaching opportunity, and with the fact that the class seems to "run itself." I noted today that this format is strongly focused on independent student learning, which is such a relief to me. My on-campus classes are student-centered and require me to "teach." These online courses are mostly self-directed with group discussion activities embedded in the core content. Frankly, I am excited to be able to experience this type of learning from a facilitator's perspective. It broadens my horizon and helps me to see the various ways one can teach my subject (English). I see now, as an aside, why the Lord chose to have me teach FTF first, rather than to provide opportunities for me to teach online. In truth, teaching online is much easier and less intensive that teaching FTF. I needed to learn how to be a strong campus-based teacher so that I could 1) get over my fear of public speaking, and 2) learn how to present curriculum and content to students in a large setting (like a lecture-hall). I am so glad that I get to do both kinds of teaching. I think there is value in both, and as an educator, I need to experience these types of learning opportunities so I can be better prepared to teach as a career.

On other fronts, my temporary weight gain seems to be just that -- temporary weight gain. I weighed in yesterday morning and I was down .8 pounds from the previous day. This brings my total weight loss to 2.8 pounds in just 11 days on Weight Watchers Points. Today's check-in should continue that downward progression, but I will be okay should there be another set point or stall. After all, I remember when I lost the 35 pounds back in 2011. My weight loss was never as expected. I would lose some measure of pounds each week, but the number was not consistent at all. Over the entire 9 months, my loss averaged about 1 pound a week, but there were some weeks where I dropped a negligible amount and other weeks where I seemed to drop 2-3 pounds quite easily.

The hardest thing for me thus far has been dealing with misplaced expectations. I guess Atkins really set me up for faulty thinking. I mean, when I did Atkins in 2013, I dropped 6-8 pounds in that first 14 days. Likewise, when I used that program before my 2014 summer residency, I lost another 4-5 pounds in about 6 days. There is part of me that wants to lose this weight immediately. I know that it is better to lose it slowly, and over time, but still I would just like to see the 10 pounds I have put on since last year come off all at once. More so, I would like to be down to my "fighting" weight quickly. I mean, it has been almost 15 years since I was at a good weight for my height/body type. In hindsight, had I stayed with Weight Watcher's Points back then (after I lost the weight), I would have maintained my size despite the various trials and upheavals in my life. I would have managed my weight better, stuck with this routine of portion control, and kept the weight off all these years. Instead, I allowed my emotions to drive me to eat, and I tossed everything I learned and all the good habits I had created through hard work and discipline "out the window," so to speak. Yes, live and learn. Live and learn.

I now know that it is up to me to be in control of my weight. If I want to be healthy and to no longer have "weight issues," then I have to change my lifestyle to suit. I cannot eat out of control portions and think I will be a size 6. Nope, not going to happen. I have to eat in moderation, AND I have to exercise daily to keep my muscles strong and my bones healthy. I know better; I really do. It is time to grow up and to take control of my health and my well-being (Lord, providing of course!)

Homesteading Plans

So lately, I have been thinking more and more about owning and operating a small farm. I know, crazy! I have always wanted to own a farm, but not one of those big plantation type places. No, I would like a small "hobby" farm as they are called. I don't want to manage a lot of land, incur massive debt, or be tied to the land in such a way. I am thinking that a small farm, under 15 acres would satisfy my needs well. My goal in having some property is to produce a product. I want a sustainable product, and I don't plan on eating my farm produce (as in meat). No, I am thinking sustainable, renewable livestock. I just cannot butcher animals for meat. No matter how practical this sounds, I cannot do it. I will grow my own vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts, etc., but I won't kill my animals. Enough said.

My Mom and I were discussing this plan yesterday. Well, not really, but part of the plan. I had received an email from the SSA regarding my "benefits" when I retire. I get regular updates from the SSA, so yesterday, I logged in to see my statement. My retirement age is 67, but if I put off retirement until 70, my payout is much higher (this is my plan). I don't see any reason to retire before age 70, and frankly, since I am coming to this work-game late in life, I need the time to build up secondary sources of income for my later years. My retirement payout, should SSA still be around then, will be about $1500 per month. My spousal benefits (weird to think I can claim these benefits, but I can), will add another $500 to that amount, so in theory, I could retire and live on the $2000 per month I would receive from the government. I certainly could do this so long as I lived in the midwest where it is easy to find inexpensive housing (this was the conversation I had with my Mom).

As I thought more about the fact that I will have this "income" to bank on (in theory, not in actuality), I found such a sense of peace. I mean, I have been panicked over my retirement. Now, I feel better knowing that something may be there when I do get to age 70. Of course, I am not holding out for this to happen, but it is a comforting thought, nonetheless. My plan for retirement is rather straightforward. I hope to save between $24-36K a year between now and age 70. This will give me somewhere in the ball park of $600K set aside. I know that sounds impossible, but if you times $36K by 17 years, it is doable. Of course, with investments and such, that number should be much higher. My plan is to live on a farm, teach until I retire, save as much as I can, and then produce a self-sustaining crop whereby I can end my life in modest comfort. The key is to have my farm paid off, and to carry no debt into my later years. I feel relatively positive that I can do this with the Lord's help and His guidance.

Alpaca's are so ADORABLE!

I've thought a lot about livestock and produce, and for now, I am thinking that with a small farm, I could easily raise 6 Alpacas (one male, and five females). Alpacas are easy to raise, very easy to care for, and generally low-keep livestock. They are raised for their wool, which is what I would use them for primarily (to sell). They are not beasts of burden type animals, so they need less work than Llamas. Furthermore, as herd animals, they are grazers and they mostly eat grass. Pasture land is key, and a small herd, only requires about 2-acres of pasture land. They are not cheap, but they are not expensive either. Overall, I would need the pasture land and a barn to keep them in during the night and storms, etc. I would also need fenced land where they could graze freely. Plus, I need two acres for rotation so that they don't over graze.

Next, I thought about raising chickens for eggs. I need eggs for baking, but chickens just aren't my favorite poultry stock. I did some research last night on raising ducks instead of chickens. The benefits of raising ducks outweigh chickens in a snap. Not only do they produce better quality eggs, but they are hardier and less prone to illness. They also don't tear up your garden, and their poop is immediately usable as fertilizer. They don't roost, but they do need shelter and a pond. My hope would be to purchase a property that has a pond on it. If that is not possible, then I would make them a small pond as part of their duck-run. There are oodles of ideas on the Internet, and the cost of raising ducks is not intensive or expensive. Just materials to get started, some extra feed, and lots of grass for them to munch on. I am thinking I would need about 5 hens to produce eggs for my needs.

My other thought was to get a dog. I like dogs a lot, but I don't really care for their "neediness." I am a cat person, so dogs just don't appeal to me as much. I thought a dog would be necessary to keep on the property for safety, but now I am leaning toward geese. Yes, geese. Geese are superior guard animals and they are easy to keep. They could stay in the barn with the Alpacas and could share the pasture land, pond, etc. as needed. I would like 6 hens, which I think would be a nice gaggle size for my farm.

My two cats are inside cats, and I have no intention of letting them out of doors. However, every farm as varmints, so I am thinking I would need 1-2 feral cats (spayed/neutered, etc.) to live in the barn and keep the rodent population down. The local shelter should have feral cats that need a good home. Barn cats would be well cared for, loved on, but they would be working animals and not pets, per se. Well, I am guessing all my animals would be treated as pets. I simply would struggle to treat them any other way.

My mini-farm is complete, at the least, it is in my head. Now, I need to find the perfect property, relocate there, and get started. But, that is down the road. I have to finish my PhD first, find that second online teaching job, and then save up enough money to move.

All in His Time

I love to make plans, I really do. I have so many plans in my head right now, and all of them seem so worthwhile and good. However, the Word of the Lord says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jer. 29:11). The Lord has plans for my life, just as He has plans for His Church, the body of Jesus Christ. I would like to believe that the plans I have are His plans too, but until He leads, guides and provides for me toward this end, I will simply have to wait and see.

Right now, I have a lot on my plate, and with everything assigned to me, I have to make sure I don't lose my focus or become so enamored about going one way, that I miss His cue to go another. I am open to His will, seeking it, believing it, and hoping for it. But, until He moves me, literally moves me, I will remain where I am and as I am. He is good to me. He provides for me, keeps me safe, and is the keeper of my family. He helps me, gives me hope, and sustains me so that I can do the work He has called me to do. My goal is to be useable, really useable for His kingdom. I want to please Him, do this work well, and hear at the end of it all, "well done, my good and faithful servant." Yes, Lord, may my work today be pleasing to you. Selah!

July 20, 2016

Winning Wednesday

Happy Wednesday! It is such a good day here in sunny and very humid, Phoenix! Yes, the monsoon has finally arrived, and the past couple days have seen an increase in the chance of rain showers. Still not much happening in our neck of the woods, but in the southern portions of the county, strong thunderstorms have been popping up each afternoon. Hopefully, our turn will come very soon. Until then, the skies are muggy gray (yay!) and that is such a sweet change from our "oh so" normal blue.

I am feeling well today. I slept peacefully, and while I still had some dreams, they seemed less intense then the past couple nights. I woke up early to the sound of Ike pounding on the bedroom door. I usually can ignore him for a good hour, but this morning he was especially active. I got up and fed him before returning to bed to read the news on my phone. Oh my! The news is so depressing these days. I am so not political, and everything you read has a right or left slant. It seems good old-fashioned common sense has gone out the window. Lord, help us now!

Right now, I am sitting at my desk with a cat on my lap. Ike has "assumed the position," which just means he has taken a kitten approach (he is 6 years old) to napping. He has his head tucked into my arm and is kneading my armpit at the moment. I don't mind except that he uses his claws -- and -- OUCH! do they need trimmed! My bad, really. I have put it off, and now I am suffering the consequences! LOL!

Update - Job and Weight Loss

I found out that I am scheduled for the background check at Regent University. I hadn't heard anything since last week, so I sent an email off last evening to ask about it. Good news -- I am on the list. I guess they are a bit swamped with new hires. I know they just finished a big recruitment fair so I am sure they have many new candidates to vet. I will be patient, I will be patient.

I also started my first day of teaching at OCU yesterday. So far so good. I've got 20 students registered, and a fair portion have already participated in class. It looks like this 5-week class will be very easy to facilitate. A number of the students have turned in their first week's work already. I love those go-getters. This means I can probably grade assignments as they come in, though I think I will just wait for them all to be due. I am playing around right now, getting a feel for how the week goes. My hope is that this class format is low-key. I had the impression early on that it was going to be intensive, but now I am thinking it might be that way for certain classes (like Psychology or Math). In a writing class, the students pretty much submit their work as they complete it. I grade it. It should be easy for me to keep up with the workload. God is good, so very good to me. I am thanking Him for this provision today. This means that I can easily handle these types of classes as fillers to my normally heavy schedule. Depending on need, I could pick up 1-2 classes and earn an extra $1000 to $1500 per class. Sweet!

I was a little bummed at my weight-check in on Sunday. I had lost 1.8 pounds in my first week. Then on Sunday, my weight jumped back up .8 pounds. How disappointing! Yesterday, however, my weight was down .4, so today's weigh-in will hopefully continue the downward pattern. I have been good with my points, sticking to my 22 target. I did go over a little on Sunday, and I gave myself a treat that cost me 6 points (a Klondike Bar). With the Weight Watchers Points system, you can take an extra 35 points in the week for a special outing. I kept my points range between 18-24 all week long, so the treat was a nice reward for being so careful. Now, I need to get back on track, especially with my water consumption. I want to keep the 1-2 pound loss going. I've got a long way to make my goal, and consistency will be important in the long haul.

Making A Move Today

It has been a long, long dry spell, and today, I finally feel like I am ready to make a big move. I am finally ready, and I mean, ready to tackle my project, to make headway, and to get myself moving forward again. Perhaps it is because I now know what to expect with my new class, and I am feeling a bit more at ease. I don't know, I just don't know. All I can say is that today, I feel energized and ready to start planning, purposing, and walking in His promises. Yes, today I feel ready to begin the next phase of my development, of the plan the Lord has for my life. It is like up until yesterday, I felt stuck, really stuck. I was in this place of transition, like I was perpetually waiting for permission to move. I was sitting there, stewing, and not really feeling like anything I did would make a difference. After a while, I just gave up. I mean, why try, right? Well, I did accomplish some this summer, but not like what I had intended to accomplish. No, I just did the minimum, and I rested a lot. I guess the Lord knew that I needed to rest. I guess He knew that resting was just what the Great Physician ordered for my welfare and my recuperation. Now that I am well-rested, and I feel well-rested, I am ready to begin again. I am ready to take off, and that means, to really get myself up and out so I can fly away!

In some ways, I feel like the baby bird that has finally fluffed out her wings and is ready to take that first big leap off the branch and away from Mom and Dad's care. I should have done this a long, long time ago, but I didn't do it. I didn't fly free. Instead, I stayed very close to home, afraid to step out on my own and trust the plans the Lord had for me. Now, though I am ready. I am grown up, and I am ready to do this special and qualified work. I have what I need to do it, too. I have my PhD (almost), and I have a good job now. I am set. I am settled. I am ready to be established as a career professor, and to move to that farm where I can begin my life as a farm girl.

I can't believe I am saying this but this is what I intend to do. I have thought long and hard about it, and I have vacillated between living in a modern home and in a modern city with that of living in an old farm house in a rural area. I have gone over the pros and cons, and though I had made up my mind many times (new is better than old), my heart finally won out. I realized that what I wanted most was the lifestyle that accompanies farm living. In all my dreams, and buried deep in my desires is this one: to live on a small farm in rural America. It is the thing I want most, yet it is the thing I never thought would ever be realized in my life (my ex-husband had no interest in living a rural life).

As I confess it today, I realize that my Aunt Arlene is my inspiration for this dream. I never realized just how much of an inspiration she is to me until recently. I have blogged about her a number of times, and always with the utmost respect. She is charming, quirky and very self-sufficient. At 87 years of age, she still lives on her farm in Indiana. Although she has some challenges now, her attitude is still the best I have seen lived out. She still drives to see her sister who is living in assisted living (some 20 miles away) each week. She still is active in church and in the farm bureau, and yes, she still farms her land (though others do the work). She is my Dad's oldest sister, and her life has not been easy all these years. She was widowed in her early 40s, and left to raise four children on her own. She never remarried. She worked hard, lived hard, and didn't have a lucrative or financially secure life. Yet, she never complained. She never once complained about how hard her life was after my Uncle passed away. Now, all these years later, she is the same happy person. Always cheerful, always laughing. She is sharp as a tack, as my Dad says, and for the most part, lives very happily on her farm in Indiana.

I read this quote once, and at the time, I thought it was a nice saying. Now, I understand it better. The saying goes, "It's so easy to make up your mind but the hardest thing is convincing your heart." I believe this is true, that often we make up our mind about this thing or that thing, but we cannot convince our heart that what we have decided upon is the right or the "heart thing." How often do we side with our rational mind? How often do we make decisions that are logical, analytical, and yes, rational when all a long our heart (our deepest part of our emotional well-being) is screaming at us to stop, to wait, or to hold on for a time. I know this has been my experience, and while I pride myself on making good decisions, there have been some decisions that were life-changing for me, and frankly, they were not the best choices I could make. They were rational, logical, head choices, and after a time, once the logic wore off, I realized I had lost a chunk of my heart by following after my head.

Counselors and others will say to you, "be careful when you follow your heart" knowing that often the heart can lead us in the same direction as our head. Sometimes we can foolishly follow a heart decision only to find out that it wasn't in our best interest either. Yet, at least with heart decisions, the satisfaction comes from knowing that the heart is settled and content. In my case, I can say that following the path to become a teacher was purely a heart decision. I have wrestled with my career choice for close to four years, and finally this summer, came to terms with my decision. I realized that after all the analysis, my heart decision to become a teacher was in my best interest. Sure, I chose the path that produces the least income. I chose the path that isn't going to be as steady, say as a path in business. But I followed my heart, and my heart has been content in the matter. It was getting my head to agree, and that took a long, long time for me.

The same is true with my marriage. I followed my head into that marriage. I chose a mate based on logical terms, rather than for love. I made a decision that solved my problem, that promised me a good future, a hopeful outcome, but in the end, there wasn't love -- not the kind of love -- that stands the test of time. I didn't love my ex-husband the way I should have loved him. He didn't deserve my lack of love as much as I didn't deserve his. In the end, we parted as friends, and we still are friends. We just didn't love one another the way we should have because had we loved deeply, passionately, then we would still be together today. Our love, based on God's will and word, would have seen us through the difficulties we encountered. Instead, our love was based not on agape love, but on phileo love. In the end, our love didn't sustain us because it wasn't the right kind of love, it wasn't heart love.

Making a Decision

I have spent the better part of 50 years trying to figure out what I wanted from life. I went from childhood to teenage to young adult, all without ever figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I simply let life pass me by, and I sat on the sidelines for far too long. I let others choose for me, and then I tried to rationalize their choices, to make them "fit" my heart. Overtime, I came to resent the people who made choices for me. I came to resent the choices, and I resorted to behaviors that didn't serve me well. Instead of standing my ground, standing up for what I wanted or believed in, I simply kept silent. I didn't open my mouth because I was afraid to make waves, to encounter criticism or to endure hardship. In the end, I suffered regardless. I was still criticized. I was still forced into hardship. The worst part of it was that I suffered needlessly. I suffered as a result of other people's choices for me, when had I just said, "No thank you," I could have staved off most of that sorrow. Sure, I would have suffered other hardships, but they would have been the result of my own choices. I would have had to rationalize and make my heart happy, but, at the least, I would have been the author of my own destiny, so to speak. I would have made choices, lived with those choices, and learned how to make choices through life-learning and life lessons.

Today, I am ready to make a bold decision. Today, I am ready to take that next step, to begin the process of choosing to make heart decisions that are based on the desires the Lord has placed within me. I am choosing to go His way -- ALL THE WAY -- and that means to go and do whatever He wants from me. I am choosing to trust Him for the provision, the resources, and yes, the way (as in the path to follow). I am ready to begin to live the "second half" of my life, and that idea, that thought, excites me. I am so ready to begin again, to start over, to walk out that door and into the bright sunshine that will be MY LIFE! God has given me great desires. He has placed His heart within me, and I feel so strongly that I am ready to begin the life God has set aside, ordained, prepared, and planned for me. I am ready, Lord. I am so ready.

Heart Desire is Good

It feels so good to finally be decided, to finally make up my mind, and to know that what is in my head matches what is in my heart. I opened this blog post today with this quote from Psalm 20:4. In the Amplified, it says, "May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans." There are two places in the Psalms where this idea about God granting you your "heart's desire" is clearly spoken. One is in Psalm 20 (above), and the other is in Psalm 37:4-5.

I first became aware of this promise from Scripture when I was studying the Psalms back in 2006. I had made it my goal to read through the Psalms every day for a year. I ended up reading through the Psalms every day for three years. In all, I studied them closely, reading, meditating on them, and by using a concordance, Bible dictionary, and other sources, I really came to love the power and reflective presence of the Lord through this beautiful verses. More so, my relationship with the Lord deepened as I studied the Psalms, and as I came to rely on Him, seek Him, and yes, praise Him through daily recitation of the Psalms, my life changed. It absolutely changed.

It was during this time that I took Psalm 37:4-5 as my life verse. I made the decision to choose these verses because of the powerful way in which the psalmist places his trust in God for His provision, but even more so, for the deep petitions inside his heart. I asked the Lord about the words, asking if it was true or not. I mean, if I delighted myself in the Lord, would He really give me the desires and secret (my version of the AMP said "secret") petitions of my heart? His reply to me was "YES!" Since that day, I have endeavored to make Him my delight, and as a result, He has given to me many of the desires I held deep within the recesses of my heart.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
And He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
Trust in Him also and He will do it.

The sad part about this verse in particular is that many well-intentioned people misinterpret its meaning and sometimes say that so long as you are "saved," the Lord will give you the desires of your heart (the good and the bad). This is not how I read and studied this verse, and while I am not a Bible scholar, I believe good common sense and general biblical knowledge would suggest otherwise. You see, the Lord will never give you evil desires, sinful or lustful desires. He cannot. These are desires that go against His nature, and thus, as a Holy God, He could not give you desires that would 1) cause you to sin; 2) lead you away from Him; or 3) place you at odds with others in the family of God. No, desires that do these three things are of the flesh, and the only one who places such desires into your heart and your mind is your enemy, Satan. The Lord who is righteous, holy, and good, only gives His children righteous, holy, and good desires. Furthermore, any desires within your heart that are good will be predicated on the Father's will for your life.

1. Testing Our Desires

I have explained this idea to others before, and sometimes I will be asked how to know the difference between human desires and Godly desires. I typically quote Phil. 4:8 as a good rule of thumb:

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].

Any desire we have that resides in our flesh must be checked to see if it aligns with the will of God. This means that the desire should not go against the Lord's word (the Bible). It must not serve to hurt others, distance your relationship from others, or in any way, cause you to stumble in your walk with the Lord. It must not be born of fleshly pride, which simply is any desire that would cause you to be prideful rather than humble. Micah 6:8 is a good reminder of what God desires in us:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?

Humility or humbleness is a state of being. It means that a person who is humble or who chooses a humble lifestyle has done so in order to not elevate themselves above others. God loves a humble and contrite spirit (Psalm 51:17), thus any desire that would seek to elevate one to a "god-like" status would be of the flesh. Remember God's ordering in His kingdom: "So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last" (Matt. 20:16). Likewise, Paul said in Galatians 5:13, "But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love." Godly desires would reinforce humility, a love for God and for others, and would serve humbly rather than with prideful arrogance or exuberance.

2. Redirecting Our Focus

Therefore, once all desires have been tested against Scripture, and we have determined that the desire we have is not in conflict with the Holy Word nor are they desires that would seek to place us in a master/servant position, then we need to make sure we have our God-centered focus turned on. In truth, we should always be focused on God and not on ourselves. I know that it is difficult to always be God-centered, but as Christ followers, this should be our "normal" state of being. For some, following Christ is only convenient when it is convenient to do so. But, for others, following Christ is a way of life, as it should be. Thus, while it is hard to always be 100% outward focused on the Lord, it should be possible to be 100% focused inwardly, within the heart, considering the fact that the Holy Spirit of God is at home and lives within us.

In my case, there are so many times during the day when I lose my God-centered focus, especially when I tend to place the emphasis on me, my wants, my needs, etc. This is normal, it happens, and when family commitments come into play, I know how difficult it can be to spend time with the Lord. However, and this is key, if you want the Lord to grant the desires of your heart, you must place Him first, you must make Him the delight of your life. These two verses go hand-in-hand. You cannot have one without the other. Consequently, the Lord must have first place in your heart -- not now and again -- but ALWAYS. Your attitude, your mindset, and yes, your behavior should already be reflecting of this position (remember Phil. 4:8, 1 Cor. 10:31, and Col. 3:10-11). The LORD should be sitting on the throne room of your heart if you are truly born again. If you have any other thing (person, place, or thing, I mean), then you need to right your positioning first and foremost. Get yourself to your knees, lay before Him, and worship the Lord in His rightful place as LORD over all creation. Only then can you even hope to experience any "desires" that are of His heart.

If this is difficult to grasp, read it this way: if you want His desires to form the foundation of your life, then you must place Him as the locus of your worship and adoration. This means, in short, a life fully and wholly devoted to God will generate God-honoring, God-blessed, and yes, God-given desires that will fulfill and satisfy your heart. I believe this is true, and I bear witness to the fact that God has done this within my heart time and time again.

3. Accepting His Desires

The interesting thing is that many of the desires I have had placed in my heart are desires that have been with me for years and years. These are desires that seemed selfish, very self-motivated or oriented, and for a long time, I believed they were my own interests, wishes, etc. Later, as I matured as a Christian, I came to realize that often the desires that exist in our heart, the ones that last, that linger on for years, are really God's desires for us. Sometimes we miss the cue or sometimes we choose things that are not in His best for us. We walk the wrong way, for example, and we miss the alignment of a desire He has for us. I know this is the case in my life, and for many years, I felt the sorrow of missing out on His desire for me.

The good news is that it is never too late to experience these desires -- if you are willing to accept them -- and to trust God to bring them to pass. This was my situation completely. One of the desires in my heart from the time I was a child was to be a teacher. I had several opportunities to teach in college, to follow that educational path, but I listened to others, and in the end, walked a different way. I never lost my desire to teach. I never lost my intense desire to be a teacher. I suffered. I languished, and yes, I had great regret and sorrow for not following the Lord's desire when it was most convenient to do so (as a young single college student). My life would have been so different had I just listened and obeyed the voice, the call of the Lord.

Now, however, it is 30 years later, and it has been much more difficult to see this desire come to pass. I had to go back to school (at 47 and 50 years of age), and I had to incur some debt to do so. I had to give up a lot of "perks" and choose to work part-time while I pursued a PhD. I had to work hard at my studies, get really good grades, and give up friendship and family time just to do it. But here I am, working now as a teacher and doing the thing I love most.

There have been other desires that are also part of His will for me. Ever since I came to know the Lord as a teenager, I have been convinced that I was to live a singly, wholly devoted life. In this way, I was to live a life that was predicated on the Lord, and in some ways, a life that was to be lived in singleness. Of course, I didn't follow that path because whenever I said something to my family or friends, I was chastised for even "thinking such a crazy thing." I was not raised Catholic, but if I had been, I would have said that God called me to be a nun (as a good example). I was so devoted to the Lord as a young person, following after Him, growing in Him, etc., but because of peer pressure and family pressure, I gave up that path to follow the "traditional route" through marriage. I am not sorry, per se, that I took that route because the Lord gave me a beautiful child as a result. But I do bear great regret for not following what was clearly the Holy Spirit's calling on my life. Had I listened, followed the Lord completely, my life would have been different, so very different.

Of course, I didn't do that, I didn't listen. Instead, I married (30 years,) had a child, and lived an ordinary life. Yet, I was never happy in that life. I was never really happy, content, or pleased to be in that life. I loved parts of it, for certain. I loved being a Mom, and I loved being a stay-at-home wife, but there was this part of me, this strong part of my heart that desired God more than any man, even my husband. Yes, I desired God more than being married, and even now I am smitten with my Lord, and I desire to love Him, serve Him, and follow after Him, no matter the cost, or what that may mean to me as I move forward in this life.

I have accepted the desires of my heart, completely, fully, and now I am ready to move forward and take hold of the next desire that I believe the Lord has placed within me. I am ready to be bold, to have courage, and to step out in faith and go where He is sending me. I am ready, Lord. I am so ready to follow after you. Selah!

In Closing

Today is such a good day. I am blessed. I am so blessed. I am enjoying my everyday life, especially now that I have embraced the life I believe the Lord is giving to me. I have asked for my desires to be His desires, and I have embraced the desires I believe He has placed in my heart. Thus, I am receiving His desires daily, and as such, I am receiving blessing after blessing, time and time again, as He leads, guides, and provides for me. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!