March 31, 2010

Chocolate Donuts do a Girl Well

I had another one of those mornings, but this time, I came "loaded for bear." I sent the "boys" out of the room, closed the door, and retreated back to bed -- at the very moment the pouncing and pawing, and other generally disagreeable behavior began. Oh my, they weren't expecting that one at all. In cat behavior/psychology, the one thing that a cat doesn't like is to be isolated from the rest of the pride. This social isolation is how cats treat other cats when they are behaving badly. They get sent out of the cattery. Ha! I did it, and afterwards, my two were sitting quietly outside my bedroom door -- just waiting for me to "let them back in." It was magic! LOL!

With a little triumph under my belt, I am sitting at my desk having my coffee and a couple chocolate mini-donuts. I have to say that even though these are the fake "Dolly Madison" ones, waxy chocolate coating and all, they are so GOOD. Yum! There is just something about mixing hot coffee with little chocolate covered donuts -- the combination is just so GOOD!

More to the point, as I sit here, I am thinking on some things (like normal), and wondering about how I got to where I am, and how I am going to get to where I need to be. Oh, my was that a mouthful. True words, though. I am at this cross-roads of sorts, mid-way between where I was and where I am going. I guess everyone gets to this point at some time in their life. Perhaps it is midlife (40s-50s) or perhaps it is after some life altering event (like illness or divorce)? Perhaps it is a deep spiritual turning point, a moving away from a self-centered life and towards a God-centered one?

It doesn't really matter how one gets to this spot because we all will find ourselves here one day or another. What does matter is what happens next. The choices made from this point on will determine where you end up, so they had better be wise ones. I am right in this process, trying to make good choices now, and it is the most difficult thing I have ever done. I think this is normal...regardless of your situation. When you are young, you tend to toss decisions up into the wind, just to see where and how they land. You are less concerned about the outcome, but mostly, you are just glad to move on. It is as if the decision is made, the motion is propelling your forward, and the thought about tomorrow or five or ten years ahead is minimized. The future is some far off distance place; a place, you know you will get to some time down the road.

When you are in your middle ages, though, the choices are more carefully considered. Life is not so open-ended. Often you have already experienced some measure of loss, be it a friend, a loved one, or even a relationship/job/opportunity/health, etc. You are more wary of making a wrong decision because you have seen the outcome of wrong decisions before. You are more concerned now with how things turn out, and you are less willing to take changes and leave those end results to chance or fate or luck (or whatever you hope in).

It is a very different approach when you are older and trying hard not to mess up the remaining years of your life. Truthfully, there is little chance of messing things up, so long as you are trusting the Lord, listening to His Word, and carefully considering His ways. If you approach decisions from this standpoint: "What would Jesus do? Or What would Jesus WANT me to do in this situation?" you will not fail. You will, perhaps, even find something quite wonderful; some experience that far exceeds your expectations and initial needs or wants.

I want to make sure that all my decisions are based on His assessment of my needs. I want to make sure that I have all the facts correct, that I am not making up things or trying to justify things that need exposure (let the truth be told). I also want to make sure that I am willing and agreeable to what He wants. In doing so, if I am trusting Him to lead me and guide me, believing that He has my Best in mind, and then following His Word...my outcome, my end result, my future should be nothing short of wonderful. Granted, I am not saying it will be "wonderful" in the sense of perfect, never sad, never sorrowful, etc. No, of course not. I understand that this is what our life is to be -- He said it would be so. I am just saying that the Psalmist was correct:

Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked. ~Psalm 84:10

This is where I am at in my life right now. I would much rather be the lowest of lowest servant in the house of my God, than have all the riches and wealth and power and presence of a king or noble person. I still have dreams, mind you. I still have lofty thoughts; thoughts about doing super terrific things and going to far off places. Yes, I even have fantasies about accomplishing great feats, conquering unscalable mountains, and living a truly undefeated life.

I am not old, after all (only 47), and I do have at the least 40 good years left of my life (should the Lord choose to give me that many days). There is plenty of time to scale mountains, and to go to the farthest reaches of the earth. Yes, I can do these things, Lord willing. I can also live a humble, and wholly devoted life; a small and insignificant life, but one filled with His Praise and Thanksgiving. I can live a life of the lowest servant as well as the life of the highest esteemed. I can do either, depending on whether or not He chooses that for me. I am content to be at either end of the spectrum because I know Him, and blessed of all, He knows me. He knows me. He knows everything about me, and He knows all those thoughts, those dreams, those wants. Yes, He knows them all, and even has offered me the opportunity to experience some of them (not all, but some). He knows my innermost thoughts, my deepest hurt, and my humblest want. He knows that when it is "all said and done" my chief desire is to hear Him say to me: "Well, done, my good and faithful servant." Yes, when it is all over, my chief desire is to be His servant.

Now, I have to make choices based on that very thought. How can I serve you Lord? How can I live my life as a servant regardless of where I may be today or tomorrow? How can I move or sit or stir and still be serving you? I don't want to deviate from this path, I don't want to consider other options. I want to serve the Lord with Gladness (Psalm 100:2), and give Praise and Honor to Him all the days of my life. My whole being desires to serve Him, and in doing so, I will be serving others because of Him.

This makes my choices easier to make, because now I know what I must consider. Does this opportunity enable me to serve you and others? Yes, then consider it. No, then move on. Moreover, in considering where to go, what job to take, or perhaps even what career to consider, I must always keep firmly in focus any plans that the Lord may have in store for me. Does the Lord want me to study a particular discipline or field? If so, then I need to consider choices that will allow me to do this very thing. Does the Lord have a specific ministry in mind for me? If so, then I need to make sure I am serving in ministry that is SIMILAR to what He wants from me. It needs to be a ministry focus that will provide training and experience for me so that I will be ready when He is ready for me to do whatever he has purposed and planned.

As I ponder my road in life, I am certain of one thing: loving the Lord with your whole heart will ensure the greatest possible chance of success. You can never lose with this as your focus. The Word calls us to Love God first and foremost, and to place all things in second position. In doing so, we are bent towards His will, and are far more agreeable to His Spirit's leading. I am fully bent, fully agreeable to His will. My heart is simpatico with His -- I want what He wants, I love what He loves, I see the needs that He sees. It is a perfect wish, a perfect want, and in truth...I am not there yet (not by any stretch of the imagination). I am on my way, though; I am on my way to becoming the kind of servant He desires and so much wants me to be. I am becoming like Him, and my mind is being transformed to think like He does, to consider like He does, to do the things that please Him and bring Him honor. Yes, I am being conformed to His likeness and it is a wonderful thing. I still do the things I shouldn't (rats!), and I still think about ME far too often; but, generally speaking...I am starting to get it. It is starting to sink into my thick head. His ways are Perfect. His ways are so High. His ways bring Him esteem, elevation, and exultation. His ways are the best, always the best. I am choosing this day to serve Him and to serve others because of Him. My decisions, therefore, will be solely made with this in mind: they will conform to His Will, His Way, and will ultimately be servant-based. They are being made so that I can serve the One whom I dearly love; and are being made out of direct response to the Love that is coming from Him, and the Love that encircles and enfolds me and keeps me in His Sheltering Arms.

Selah (Pause and calmly think of that!)

March 30, 2010

Frustrated with Slowness and Other Things

Ugh! Today, is one of THOSE DAYS! I am sure you can imagine what I am thinking here...just pick one of YOUR DAYS, the ones where you are totally frustrated, fed up, and looking to poke someone just for looking at you cross-wise! LOL! AND MY DAY JUST STARTED! Agh!!!!

So I woke up this morning to an unusual amount of pouncing. Gus and Winston decided that the bedroom would make a fine race track, complete with hurdles and ditches to fly over. I think they must have made the circuit at least five times (whose counting? I lost count after three!) I could hear the carpet pulling as they made their way round the bend, up the hallway, and onto the bed. It was like one big race, or chase, with them coming full speed ahead and then crashing to a dead halt right on my bed. I must have yelled or screamed or tossed the slipper or something to get them to stop, because when I finally was awake enough to really get mad, they were sitting calmly on the foot of the bed, staring at me with that look that says, "What? Who Me?" Yes, you. And you (with fingers pointing right back at them both!)

I made it out to the kitchen, started my coffee (Oh, praise for Java), and then after feeding and doing the kitty duty (boxes, etc.) I settled into my chair by the window. I wish I could say "Ah, relax," but I couldn't settle in like I usually do. I was fed up. Plainly put, my level of frustration about just everything was at the boiling point. I was tired of this whole mess. I was mad that my morning was roused up by a race through the house. I was feeling blue, and then depressed because I haven't gotten a job yet. Have you experienced this same thing? Sometimes it only takes one thing to set your spiral downward into motion. One incident can turn a pleasant attitude into grumbling and despair.

It shouldn't be this way, but I find that it happens so often. Perhaps it is just because I have a lot of my plate (not a good excuse, but it is mine today) or perhaps it is just because I truly am feeling pinched by frustrated plans?

I cannot come to terms with my life right now. I am living it, but I don't like it. I don't want this to last much longer, I want it to be over. The problem is that my wants don't seem to match up to His timing. My wants are taking over my life, they are first and foremost, and the more I focus on them, the more frustrated I become. I know that I shouldn't do this. I know that if I focus on Him, then I feel much better. But, I still do it. Especially when I feel pinched by the unfairness of life.

Unfairness is an interesting thing. We cry foul a lot, don't you think? It doesn't matter what the actual issue is, we just always seem to be able to spot injustice. Rightly or wrongly, with proper motivation or not, we tend to zero in on unfairness and how it affects US. "It is not fair," you cry. "It is just not right." Yes, I know. I say it too, now more frequently than before (as I recall -- in truth -- probably just as much as ever! LOL!) We want everything to be fair. We want people to treat us kindly, to be respectful, to be thoughtful. We raise our children and train them to be the same way. We teach them the golden rule, and when the rule is broken, either by them or others, we try and explain this whole messy thing called, "Free Will."

Free will is something I wish never existed. It is the bane of my existence and yours. Not only did free will get you into deep doo-doo with your Heavenly Father, it still wrecks havoc in your daily life, throughout all your relationships, and ultimately within your self (your psyche). It is the reason you are on the outs with God, your Mother, your Father, your brother or sister, your husband or wife. It is the reason you are sitting miserably right now, lamenting over some poor choice, some bad decision, some option or path taken, that didn't deliver all that was promised to you. It is the reason you choose to do your own thing, to go your own way, to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. It is the very reason you are who you are, and it can prove fatal spiritually if you leave it go unchecked.

Free will is what gets us into sin, and then keeps us there. It is what makes us what to do the thing we know we shouldn't. It also forms our opinions (how did we get so opinionated? Free will of course!), our attitudes, and our character. It is the impetus for so many things, so many failed and faulty ways and means. It really is a sham, a noose about our neck, and it leads us away from God and into the arms of Death.

Thank you, TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL. Yes, it was this little fruit that sprang forth this blessing called "Free Will." The tree itself wasn't to blame, for after all it was GOOD and was one of God's creation and provision. It wasn't really the fruit either. The fruit simply was the catalyst or the outward sign of an inward choice. Man was created by His creator with the ability to choose to obey or disobey. This was inherent within man at the time he was formed from the dust of the earth. The desire to choose to obey was there. The will to obey was there as well. The problem was that temptation, that little nagging doubt, those first few troubling words were absent...for a time. Once doubt was added to the mixture, and stirred up a bit, the choice of whether or not to obey came into question. The matter of the will, the desire and then the motivation to do what the desire wanted, swung into action. Sin was birthed as a result of one single choice.

Not all our decisions are sinful. Not all our choices are bad. Some of them are null and void, simply choices that neither better nor harm our present circumstance. Some choices, however, are clearly of the sort that they can bring great blessing or serious hurt. Some choices can literally change our life, upset the balance of our nature, and cause incredible damage to the hearts and minds of others. It is hard to believe that one little choice has the power to alter another person's entire spectrum of being, but it is true. Consider adultery or suicide. One choice to indulge in a passionate thought outside the sanctity of marriage can ruin an entire marriage built upon the foundation of trust and fidelity. One time, that is all it takes. One moment of pleasure, can change the balance of a relationship, damage not only hearts and minds, but the lives of children, extended family, and one's own relationship with the Lord. It just takes one moment of FREE WILL to utterly destroy the blessings of wholeness.

Suicide is a similar choice, often made by the most desperate of individuals. Studies have shown that the after effects of suicide damage and destroy the lives of those around the person who chose to take their own life. In one moment, a person chooses to end their life, not giving any care or concern to those they leave behind. The wave of their FREE WILL choice will utterly destroy the family members who are left dealing with the whys and wherefores and hows of that decision.

Our will to choose is an incredibly powerful tool, given to us by a God who loved us and made us to be like HIM. We can choose to obey a loving God or we can choose to obey our own lusts and passions. Why did God give us the right and power to choose to obey? I believe it is because He wants us to freely choose to worship Him. He didn't want to create a race of robots who were programmed to obey. Rather, He wanted to create individuals who would come to see the truth of His Goodness and Grace, and then CHOOSE to honor Him based upon that understanding. In short, He wants us to come to Him because of who He is, because He is God.

As I reflect on my situation, I am reminded of just how my own power of choice has affected my life. I have made some good decisions over the course of time. I have made some real stinkers too. Thankfully, most of my decisions turned out OK. They may have brought frustration, anger, and hurt; but, these results lasted for a short time only. I got over them, got through them, learned from them, and hopefully, made better choices the next time round. Some of my choices were repeat offenders. You know the kind...you make a bad choice once, learn the lesson AND then sometime in the distant future, do the same thing over again. I have done it a number of times. You would think I would have learned, but in some situations I am hard headed and stubborn. I am a repeat offender in many ways.

So how do you deal with frustration and the feeling that you are fed up to "here?" Do you sulk and moan and complain about it? Do you get down to business and start taking inventory and make new choices, hoping that your mere activity (doing something instead of nothing), will move you forward, propel you into some less frustrating place? Or do you sit down in the dust and think about it, really stew about it (I do), and then determine a course of action? Or better yet, do you go to the Lord and inquire of Him, asking Him if there is any reason for the feeling, any motive unpure, thought off the mark, or movement out of the "river of His will?" How do you handle the times when you are up to here and feeling as though you are going nowhere fast?

I am a stew-er (not sure if that is a word, but I will use it anyhow). I tend to stew. I sit and think, and think, and think some more. I think, think, think. I am like Pooh Bear and I pound the side of my head and say to myself, "think, think, think." Not a whole lots comes from this type of torture (grin!), but I do it anyway. I guess it is the way I am; I am just a "bear of very little brain."

Sometimes though, I go right to the Source. I go right to Him and I ask Him for clarification. Sometimes I do this without thinking, I just go right in to my quiet place and say, "Lord, I am confused. I don't get it. What is going on?" Sometimes, I go in after stewing a bit. I think the Lord sighs greatly when I do this, as if to say to me, "Finally! Why do you always wait so long? Why do you try and figure this out on your own? If you would only come to Me, I would help you to understand what my will is and why this is happening to you." Yes, Lord...that is the question. Why do I wait so long, allow myself to become so frustrated and angry, and then even take it to the next level, and begin to despair? Why? Because I can. Because of that dog-gone FREE WILL of mine and the desire to figure it all out on my own. In short, I want to do it MY WAY.

Yes, yes, yes...it is always about ME. Isn't that the most rotten thing possible? My entire life, my entire being, my entire mindset is always thinking about ME. Sure, I think about other people, and I even think about God too. Generally, though, from morning to evening, I think about ME. I think about my needs, my wants, my this or that (said with a significant whine in my voice!) Me, me, me, me on ad infinitum.

Yikes...this should not be. No, no, no, it simply should not be. Please Lord, why is everything about Me and not about you?

Dear Lord,

You know that I love you. You know that I want to obey. Why is it that I always end up with a whole lot of me, and not enough of You? Please help me turn this around so that my focus is on Your will, Your plans, and Your Love and Grace. I cry out with the Apostle Paul and say, "may I decrease so that Christ may increase in me." Yes, and Amen. May it be so today.

March 29, 2010

Psalm 9


To the Chief Musician.
To the tune of “Death of the Son.”
A Psalm of David.

1 I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart;
I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
2 I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
3 When my enemies turn back,
They shall fall and perish at Your presence.
4 For You have maintained my right and my cause;
You sat on the throne judging in righteousness.
5 You have rebuked the nations,
You have destroyed the wicked;
You have blotted out their name forever and ever.
6 O enemy, destructions are finished forever!
And you have destroyed cities;
Even their memory has perished.
7 But the LORD shall endure forever;
He has prepared His throne for judgment.
8 He shall judge the world in righteousness,
And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.
9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed,
A refuge in times of trouble.
10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;
For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.
11 Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion!
Declare His deeds among the people.
12 When He avenges blood, He remembers them;
He does not forget the cry of the humble.
13 Have mercy on me, O LORD!
Consider my trouble from those who hate me,
You who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 That I may tell of all Your praise
In the gates of the daughter of Zion.
I will rejoice in Your salvation.
15 The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made;
In the net which they hid, their own foot is caught.
16 The LORD is known by the judgment He executes;
The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.
17 The wicked shall be turned into hell,
And all the nations that forget God.
18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten;
The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.
19 Arise, O LORD,
Do not let man prevail;
Let the nations be judged in Your sight.
20 Put them in fear, O LORD,
That the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah

Taking Responsibility

Oh, I am so tired this morning. As I sat in my comfy chair, sipping my coffee (thank you, Jesus, for more coffee!), I asked the Lord, "Why am I so tired this morning?" I mean, TIRED, not just tired. I am literally worn out, feeling as though I have not had a decent nights sleep in weeks or months. I know the answer: stress. I just wanted to know why, after all these months of resting, and I still feeling so much "unrest". His answer to me: stress.

I decided that it was time to get to the bottom of this stress issue. I know where it stems from; I have lived this way so long, stress and I are very good friends. I wanted to get down to brass tacks, so to speak, to finally accept and do whatever was necessary to elevate the AMOUNT of stress in my life. As I have blogged before, stress is a normal part of our 21st century life. It will always be with us, in one form or another, but not always in control of us. Our attitude and willingness to submit to stress is key, at the least, it is for me.

I pondered this thought and the reality of what is what came clear. I am suffering from internalized stress simply because I am failing to take responsibility for it. I cannot completely remove stress from my life, but I can diminish it's effect upon me. I mean, if I know where the stress comes from, then I should know how to turn it off (or at least close the valve down to a trickle). In my case, I know exactly what causes me stress. I have for years, I just wasn't willing to accept the responsibility for it's growth in my life.

Some stress is brought about by other people; some stress is internal and comes from worry or doubt. Some stress in unavoidable; but some stress (in fact, a lot of stress) can be avoided, if we understand where it comes from and how it affects us personally. This is me to a tee. I know my STRESSORS, and I know how to avoid them. The BIG QUESTION is why haven't I done so in the past? Why have I waited to now, to the point when I am at the breaking, to finally address and take responsibility for the stress in my life?

Oh, what good questions! Glad you asked them!!

I believe the reason or answers are quite simple. I wasn't ready to accept them because I was of the mindset that my stress was the direct result of another person in my life. I believed, erroneously, that I was unable and without the power to affect the change needed to stop the stress. In short, I felt powerless to do anything about the stress, and so I set about to "manage" it. I will admit that I am not a good stress manager. Well, that is probably not true, since I am here still and still able to talk about managing stress! LOL! I just am pretty banged up, pretty worn out, and pretty done in by it (grade me if you want...I would say I am pretty much a failure at this stress-game.) I liken it to the movie, "War Games," where the computer says that the FINAL ANSWER IS NOT TO PLAY THE GAME. This is probably the most accurate answer to many of the world's toughest questions. If we choose not to play the game of stress, we will not suffer from it's control. If we choose not to engage in arguments, then we will not suffer the anger or other emotional upset that comes along with arguing. It is pretty simple when you think about it: just don't do it (the opposite of the Nike slogan, "Just Do It.") Sometimes it is better for us to NOT ENGAGE THE ENEMY. Sometimes it is better to turn the cheek. Sometimes we must engage, and sometimes we must fight back (or fight for what is right). We must pick our battles and then act appropriately to ensure our safety and success.

My two greatest fears (which I now know are the top fears of almost all people) are a lack of safety (security) and food. My need to be protected (sheltered) and fed are natural instinctive desires, given to us by a loving God, who is the PROTECTOR AND PROVIDER for all creation (His Name is Jehovah-Jireh). My desire, therefore, is normal and natural. Everyone, you included, are concerned at some level about the very same thing. How you or I deal with this concern really is the driving point in the matter. Do we take responsibility for ourselves and do whatever is necessary to ensure we are protected and fed? I think we do (well, most of us will do this; some rely on the provision by others -- some because they cannot help it; others because they choose to do so, but I digress).

I have blamed my poor home situation on several people, none of whom has looked and acted like ME. While it is true that my DH is to be the God-given provider of my family; ultimately God is the PROVIDER. Ultimately, God provides and He uses husbands and wives to do so. He gives us good and profitable work to do (honest work) so that we can keep a roof over our head and food on the table. God does this, and He uses us as an instrument of His Divine Grace. There are times when the work is not enough. There are times when the economy is rough. Nonetheless, God still provides for us. He always cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

My problem I think is that I never learned how to depend on myself. I went from living under the shelter and protection of my earthly father (who was and is a good provider) to living under my husband's shelter. My husband was young, as I was, and struggled to be a good provider for himself. He was older than I was, and had lived on his own for a while. He had a good job and made good money, but didn't always use his money wisely (as so many young people do these days). I came from a situation whereby I was always given everything I needed. I never experienced not having something. I simply asked my father and if he agreed (which most of the time he did), I got what I wanted. I didn't take my father's generosity for granted, and I rarely asked for big things or things that I knew he wouldn't agree with. My Dad was old-fashioned so if you wanted something out of the ordinary, you had to prove to him that you really needed it.

This was how I learned to get what I wanted (my needs were always met). I learned that I had to justify each expense. I had to think clearly and then present a logical argument to my Dad. If he agreed to my reasoning, my rationale, he would support me. I learned that with my Dad, logical approaches and cautious analysis worked!

This wasn't the case with my husband at all. His family didn't work that way. They were missionaries and full-time ministers so money was never available. They often had little, yet the Lord provided for them. My husband learned early on that if he wanted something, he had to go get it himself. He worked hard, worked a lot of part-time jobs, and made his own way. His parents never gave him anything. This created a strong and disciplined work ethic in him and his sister. His sister has raised her children the exact same way (my nieces and nephews all work and go to school). They were taught to be self-reliant because Mom and Dad simply couldn't afford to provide anything but the base necessities.

You can see where I am going with this, can't you? I went into marriage thinking that my husband would be just like my Dad, that if I wanted something all I had to do was justify the expense. I found out that was not the case. My husband made his money and it was his money. He didn't want to share it with me because in his eyes, I didn't earn it. I assumed that it was my husband's responsibility to provide it to me, free, simply because I was his wife. Biblically, this is truth, however, in practical application it doesn't always play out that way.

I had many friends whose husbands were raised to provide for their wives and children. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying it is to be one way or the other (I used to believe this was so). I also had friends whose wives worked and they shared everything (which is also Biblical). They simply split it down the middle, with the husband providing for some and the wife some other. It all worked out in the end, the family was provided for and so be it.

In my life, however, it never worked out that way. I have spent the past 26 years believing that my husband was responsible for providing for me and my children (finite -- finis -- finished!) Although I have worked many years, and contributed to the welfare of my family, I never once saw any of the money I made. I gave it to my DH, who then took responsibility to manage our finances. The problem, like most money-management problems, is that our money was not managed wisely. There were times when we had more money that we needed. There were also times when we had not enough (like now). They money never seemed to take care of the needs. It was used for fun things, trips, gifts, and other niceties, but not to take care of the IMPORTANT THINGS.

I never said anything contrary because I really didn't have a good grasp of what was what. I saw the money being spent incorrectly, and often expressed concern, but I never stood up and said, "Hey, wait a minute, this is not right." I didn't think it was my place to do so.

I know, I am sounding like this is not my fault, that I am some innocent victim here. No, not really. I am just telling it like it was, but with the understanding that it was my lack of judgment and my unwillingness to take responsibility that landed us where we are today. It was my fault simply because I saw it happening and chose to do nothing about it. I get it. I totally get it. And, even more, I see how I have to change my ways, pronto!

Now, that I am faced with a life alone, I have to learn to take responsibility for myself. Yes, I am still trusting the Lord as PROVIDER AND PROTECTOR, but I am also acknowledging my part in His Provision. I have to do the work. I cannot wait for a knight in shining armour to come to my rescue and give me the money I need to pay my bills. I have to be willing to let the Lord direct me to some work, some good work, and then do it. I have to be willing to stand up and say, "Yes, Lord...I will do whatever work you have for me. I am ready to be responsible."

It has been a long time for me to come to terms with our financial situation, and in just writing this out, I realize some truth. I have blamed my husband for all his failures to provide, when in reality, he was doing what his parents trained him to do: to be self-sufficient. I am sure they expected him to take care of his wife and child; but they also have expected me to help out. I have done this, but not to the extent they expect (and it has caused great tension between us). I have always felt criticized by them for not working enough or hard enough. I, in turn, blamed my DH all the more because he didn't seem to be working hard enough. It is a cycle of blame, something that should never started, nor been allowed to continue.

In my own defense, I acted just the way my parents raised me to act. I expected my husband to be like my Dad and to care for me just the way he has cared for my mother (and still does). My expectations were formed based on experience, just like my husbands. I have learned that it is time to be realistic and rational and to face the truth: expectations often are unmet. How we deal with them determines how well we function within relationships. Poor relationships often are the direct result of an error in expectancy. If you expect a certain outcome from a person, and that person doesn't meet it -- you begin to doubt their ability to meet any expectation.

The Biblical approach is this: GRACE. God's Grace is sufficient to cover all our unmet expectations. We are to approach relationships from a null position. This means that we don't walk into them with expectations. There should be no expectations at all. This is how God enters into relationship with us. He already knows we don't deserve His Grace. He simply meets us where we are and we go from there with Him. We are to do the same thing with others. If we enter into fellowship expecting anything in return, we will be sorely disappointed. Nothing can prepare us for relationship, but walking around expecting others to do for us, will simply end up causing us to be frustrated and disappointed in them.

My lesson for today is this: God's Grace is perfectly suited to our needs. His Grace covers an abundance of missed expectations and opportunities. We, in turn, need to be Gracious to others in our midst, realizing that often they way they were raised will determine certain behaviors and attitudes. These behaviors and attitudes may not be our cup of tea, and in some cases, may actually be detrimental to their well-being or the families; however, they are simply actions and thoughts and internalized needs that are being lived out. They need Grace. They need God's Grace and they need to see His Grace living out through us.

I am now convinced more completely that Grace is what is needed in every single relationship. It is the thing that determines how well we will get along with our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we go into relationship attempting to set everything right (as we see or as we were raised to see it), then all we will find is failure to measure up. If we go into relationships with the understanding that none of us measure up (to His Standard), then we can set aside our own measuring stick and simply learn to live with His Beautiful and Bountiful Grace.

May God's Grace and Peace fall fresh upon you this day. In His Name.

March 27, 2010

Indiana Jones

Tonight, we watched the newest installment in the Indiana Jones saga. I hadn't seen the latest movie, but my son went when it first came out. He said it was "pretty good," and I found it at Target and bought it. I need to get the original three movies, which I personally love, at some point. Tonight, though, was a trip back in time with Indy and the gang. It was good fun, though a bit off (isn't that the case with George Lucas these days?) I wish George would have stuck with his old way of doing things. I think he is just too into all the technology, and it colors his perspective at times. Oh well!

I am sitting here now, just before turning in for the night, and thinking over the day. I am confused, again! Why? I guess it is just because I have never ever been faced with making life decisions before, and I am frankly, not very good at it. My last decision, real decision, was to return to school to complete my Bachelor degree. This was in 1989, and I really didn't even decide to do it. My friend, Martha, was at the Junior College down in Long Beach, CA, and she was miserable. She missed her family (in San Jose) as well as her friends, and felt like she was going no where fast (ever been in that position? I have. I am right now!)

On one particular day, she called me at work. We had previously worked together, that was how we met. She decided to go back to school to become a writer, but wasn't having a lot of luck with her school choice. She wanted to get into UCLA, but didn't have good enough grades. She was lonesome for home, feeling blue, and wondering if her life was ever going to turn into something. I was still working at the same job, pretty satisfied with the overall responsibilities, but still feeling as though I was lacking an education (we both had AA degrees, but not BAs).

On a whim, I suggested she come home and go to our local University. She didn't want to do it, made a bunch of excuses, and then finally said she couldn't go there at night (it was in a bad part of town). I said, "I will go with you." Oops...that quickly I had committed myself to going back to school. I hadn't even asked if it was Ok with my husband (money was tight back then). I just told her that I would go and "take some classes with you." She retorted by saying, "But, you don't want to study Creative Writing!" I just said, "Oh, I am sure we could take different classes and meet up afterwards." I had no idea if that was even possible. I just wanted her to feel better and for her to see that her life did have meaning and purpose. Martha was older than I, single, and feeling as though she was moving from one dead-end job to another. She really wanted a career she loved, and something she could do for the rest of her life (Oh, how I identify with her now!)

Two and one-half years later, we were graduating from SJSU with our BAs in Humanities. Yeah, I got my way. She gave up Creative Writing for a degree in Humanities. I took a minor in English Literature. We both loved this program, and we both did very well in the course work.

Martha went on to work for Apple Computer (and still does). I got pregnant and stayed home. Before graduation, though, I had made up my mind (Oh, another decision) to go to Graduate School and get my Ph.D. in English Literature. Actually, I wanted to study Classics, but lacked the Latin and Greek language studies. Then I thought I would like to study Humanities, but there were few good graduate programs in Humanities. I settled on Literature, specifically Literary Criticism, simply because I found out I could write well, and loved criticism. My professor/mentor suggested Literary Historicism, which he said was a better fit. There weren't very many programs that focused on that specific field, so I just was looking at regular Lit programs.

I felt that this was God's will for me. I had the grades, I had the references, and I had the skill to do it. I just didn't have the proper timing of it. I wanted it so badly, but never expected I would wind up pregnant. My DH and I had been married 9 years, and had considered a family, but never really got serious about starting one. I wanted a career too. I wanted a good job that would allow me flexibility to have children. I thought being a College Professor was the best job ever. I thought it would be a perfect fit for me.

Now, sixteen almost seventeen years later, I am on my way to graduate school again. I feel that the timing is now right. The Lord has said so, and I have followed His lead. I am just unsure whether I am to become a college professor or use this MA as a lead-in to a different Ph.D. program. I feel confident that I am to get my Ph.D., I just don't know whether it is to teach English or to do some other type of administrative/research analysis type work (also a good fit for me).

Oh, how I wish this was easier for me. In truth, it is really easy. I want to study English. This is what I want to do. I just don't know if it is what the Lord wants for me. Joyce Meyer says that we are to wait for peace, that peace will guide us. If we don't have peace, we need to pray and wait for it. What do you do if you have peace in both paths? That is how I feel. I feel like I could do either degree and be happy. I THINK I would be happier being a professor, but I am so unsure about it. How do you know for sure?

I think back to my friend and how frustrated she felt at not having a career path. She felt that her life was passing her by and unless she got moving, she was going to be left in the dust. I feel that way now. I feel like my life has passed me by, and that unless I make the RIGHT decision, I am doomed to fail. I don't think this is of the Lord. I think it is Satan's way of distracting me from choosing the right way. In fact, I don't think there is a right way. I think either way is right, and that it simply is a matter of choosing the way I think best. Oh, why is this so difficult for me?

Dear Lord,

Please help me to know what I am to do? I want to choose the best way. I want to please you in all things, but I also want to make sure that I am doing your will. Please let me know if this is your will? I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

The Colors of the Wind

Do you remember this song from the Disney movie, "Pocohontas?" It was one of my favorite songs for a very long time. I particularly loved Vanessa William's rendition (she does have such a lovely voice). I found the song lyrics and a video online:



You think I'm an ignorant savage
And you've been so many places
I guess it must be so
But still I cannot see
If the savage one is me
How can there be so much that you don't know?
You don't know ...

You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew you never knew

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they're worth

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers
The heron and the otter are my friends
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends

How high will the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you'll never know
And you'll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon

For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind

You can own the Earth and still
All you'll own is Earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind

I was thinking about this idea, "painting with colors" today and this song just popped into my head. I realize that this song is about earth (Mother Earth, etc.,) and conservation (taking what is not yours to take, etc.), but I like the symbolism in it. It reminds me of something I recently discovered, and I think the two ideas "painting with colors" and the concept of learning to do the Lord's will are related.

Bear with me, while I try and explain. Today, as I was talking with the Lord, once again I ended up confessing my confusion regarding what exactly His will entails and how it works out in my life (or anyone's, for that matter). I have a firm grasp on the basics of the Lord's will. I know what the Word says in regard to His will for His children. I get that part, and my heart, my mind and my soul are united with it. The part that causes some head scratching has to do with the daily stuff, the career/job/where to live/what to do stuff. This is where I get a bit foggy.

I know that God often calls people to a specific work. Sometimes it is directly to ministry, sometimes it is to some professional capacity (and then by extension into ministry). I never have had any specific career goals, never had any specific ministry focus. I have always been involved with Children's ministry, and have loved it, but never really felt like I was called to do it. I just did it because I had a child, and I saw the need for more helping hands.

Over the course of time, I have become more and more interested in ministry as my main goal. I want to spend my time being in His work. I would like to be in full-time ministry some day, and I feel that the Lord is guiding me in that direction. However, right now, I am stuck sort of. I am in this weird in between stage in my life. Not to mention the fact that my life is topsy-turvey at the moment (with my DH), but generally speaking everything is really out of whack.

Two years ago, I probably would not have forseen this day. I was working full-time as a website designer, making OK money (every little bit helped), home schooling my son, and serving the Lord in Children's ministry. I was normal as normal could be. I was active at church, in home school groups, helping to care for my parents, etc. I wasn't super happy in my work, but I was thankful that I had the opportunity to work at home. I really wanted to do something different, something less stressful and intensive (on my eyes and body). I wanted to do something that stretched my mind, and required a different set of abilities.

Nothing really presented itself, so I just did what I could to help us out financially. The Lord, however, was moving in my life. He was shaking things up, changing the status quo, and altering my heart and mind. He was calling me into a different kind of work. I knew it, but I couldn't put my finger on it. All I could say to my Dh was that I knew I wasn't long for website design. I knew that the Lord was leading me out of it, and into something new.

In the interim, my life hit rock bottom. I struggled through my husband's illness, and came face to face with real financial stress (looking at huge medical bills and such). I was working, but my work was shrinking, not increasing. My clients were telling me to expand, expand, expand; but, a little voice inside kept saying "No, not that way...this way." This way was leading me to unemployment, harder financial times, and some really difficult choices. I followed the voice because it was a voice I trusted. I didn't know what was up the road, I just knew that I would be OK, if I followed closely.

Little did I know that my entire world would come crashing down on me, at the very same time that I found myself unemployed. I started out 2009 dealing with a life threatening illness (stroke) and ended the year, contemplating divorce. I started 2010 with the idea of a new beginning, a new way of living (alone and single), but with a persistent feeling that there was a job and career out there for me.

I am now at the end of March (so are you!) and still without full time work. Life has not gotten easier for me, only harder. The Lord has provided, every day He provides abundantly. I have this feeling of what I should do, but I have no way of doing it. I am being led to follow a certain path, but the way through is all muddled and confused.

So today, while out shopping at Walmart, I just melted and asked the Lord what was up. I mean, I really cannot take much more of this whole mess. I need to know what to do. This was when the color thing came into my head. You see, the Lord, in His Graciousness, was trying to get me to understand how His will works. I get the big stuff, it is the little stuff that throws me. As I sat there in the parking lot, the Lord pressed in on me with this analogy: "What are the key components that make up a car?" Yes, I know...you think I am weird. Not really, this is just how my mind works and the Lord seems to send me these types of images. Anyhoo, as I rattled them off, the question came again: "Do you need an engine to make a car work?" I answered, "yes, of course!" As I pondered that thought, it suddenly became clear to me. A car consists of key components, some of which are critical to it's function. Some components are simply colorful additions to the car itself. (See, I would get to colors at some point!) The idea being that a car is a car regardless of what color it is, what kind of radio it has, or whether it has leather seats or not. None of those things are critical to it's function. They are nice additions, colors so to speak. They simply are means of convenience.

All of a sudden it dawned on me. I have spent the past several months focusing on colors and not on the critical necessities of life. I have been distracted by the constant thought of colors, when I should have been fixed on the critical aspects that are necessary to do the Lord's will.

I plead ignorance here, because I really did want to do His will. I just got distracted by options and choices. In hindsight, I can clearly see how I got off the mark, how I ended up where I did, focusing on the non-essentials instead of being doggedly pursuing the BIG things.

After a time of confession, I began to see it all in focus once again. Several months ago, the Lord told me what to do. He made my way clear, but there were choices to be made, options to sort through first. I sorted, I chose, but in doing so, I lost sight of the purpose and plan. I became more enmeshed into the little things, rather than directed to deal with the BIG things.

For me, the BIG things are this:
  • Graduate School - this is something I am sure of, and I know that the Lord has chosen this path for me. I was focused on this path until I started worrying about work, jobs, and such. The Lord has consistently said not to worry about these things, yet I have done it any way. I know now that I need to stick to my guns here and follow His leading on this point.
  • Language Study - this is something the Lord has asked of me. He would like me to learn a new language in preparation for ministry. I know what to do here, I just got distracted by smaller things and put it off for a time.
  • Bible Study - the Lord has asked me to spend more time in His word. I know what I am to do, have some good ideas on study materials and such. I have been distracted here as well, thinking about other things instead of His word.
  • Lastly, I am to spend time working on my music studies. The Lord has gifted me with the ability to learn a new instrument. He has given me permission to study it, provided a teacher (whom I dearly love), and even provided a free cello. He has blessed my studies and asked me to spend time focusing on this one thing.
So, how did I get all mixed up? It was colors really. It was whether or not we would stay in Phoenix or move away. Either option was Ok to the Lord, but staying put was easier for us. Getting a job was part of the process, but so far no job has materialized. However, I still am being considered for a position here in Phoenix. I guess I got so sidetracked by what the big needs were as far as moving, that I missed the opportunities right here in front of my nose.

Today, I learned that when it comes to the Lord's will (at least in my life), there are essentials and colors (options). The essentials are those elements that must be completed because He has said so. The options are simply colorful add-ons that bring comfort, joy, happiness, and the like. They are not bad in and of themselves, but they can be a distraction if you allow them to be. If you keep them in proper perspective, and only focus on the essentials, then you will enjoy these options, but not allow them to control your decision making process.

In short, a home is a home. It may be blue or brown, but neither the color nor size nor location will really change the fact that it is warm and dry and provides security. Whenever we focus on these things, while at times nice and sometimes important in the sense of lesser decisions (such as good schools for your children, safe locations, close to work, etc.), we lose sight of what really matters to God. Our Father already knows that we need the essentials. He has Graciously provided for some add-ons too. For me, I just needed to come back down to reality and realize that the Lord was already providing both essentials and colors to me. I was just thinking that the colors were more important than the BIG TICKET ITEMS.

News Flash: in light of my recent discovery, I have decided to focus on those things that I know the Lord wants me to do. I have already applied to graduate school. I know what is involved in getting a Master's degree, and I am hopeful that after I finish, I will be able to teach college English. I am also committed to pursuing my Ph.D. (Lord willing) in English here at Arizona State University. It is local, well-respected, and a program that fits my needs and desires and interests. In doing so, this means we will stay here, we will stay put until the Lord actually decides to move us.

God's Timing

Another good lesson was learned this week. I have been working very hard on trusting the Lord for His specific timing of things. This is probably the hardest aspect to walking in relationship with the Lord. My idea of time is fixed. It is not movable. There are 24 hours in a day, and the clock, while not always precise, it pretty close to bet a race on. I know when 6:00 a.m or p.m. comes. I know when it is noon or Midnight.

The problem is that God's timing doesn't always coincide with our 24 hour clock. His time is out of sync with ours. He pops into our time and works within our limited frame of reference, but He lives within and without time itself.

When we ask for certain things, believe in certain things, hope for certain things, we often do so with the expectation that they will come within our time. Our time could be today, tomorrow or a week from now. Typically, it is within our frame of reference...at SOME POINT IN TIME.

God doesn't always deliver His promises to fit into our sequence and understanding of time. We have been waiting a very long time for the Lord to return, yet Scripture tells us that it is imminent (now, soon, at hand). We are told to be on the alert, to be ready, to be watchful for His return. We wait, we do what the Word says, and we wait some more. Now, 2000 plus years later, we are still waiting. In my frame of reference, 2000 years is not IMMINENT. It is not NOW. It has been a really, really, really long waiting period.

If you keep that in perspective, it does help you deal with waiting for other things in your life. The Word says that in God's timing, "one day is like a thousand years." God is not limited by our time or our perception of time. He is there in TIME, but not bound by it.

I have been praying for a certain thing, something I know is the Lord's will for my life. I am hoping this certain thing will come about very soon. I feel that it is possible. I believe it can be. I just continue to wait for it. It is so hard because I really do need this thing. I am ready for it, prepared for it, and wanting it desperately. Yet, it doesn't come to pass. I question the Lord, "Why, Lord? Why has this thing not come to pass?" The answer is always "in my time, and not yours." Ugh! Oh how it could be in our time, kwim? I can think of how cool it would be to say, "Lord, I need this thing." And, poof, I would have it. I laughed when writing this out, because it is so true. I really do want it to be that way. I really want to be able to ask and receive just like that, poof! I know what I want is some magical lamp that I can rub and make God do whatever I want Him to do. I don't mean to put Him in this small of a thing, to condense His IMMENSENESS into a tiny magic lamp, but often that is exactly how I think and feel about Him.

I would never go before Him and say it to His face (figuratively, you know), but I do treat Him that way at times. "Why, Lord? I rubbed the lamp (I believed), I shook it up (I trusted), I said the right words (I prayed), I held onto it so tightly (I waited), and nothing happened. No magic poof with the answer (the thing) appearing before my eyes." Yes, I do it all the time. I do it without even thinking about it. I am still living and functioning within my time and space. I believe He is able to do all things, but I forget that all those things will be done in His time only. I can act like Aladdin and use a magic lamp, but all I will get it sore fingers and a whole lot of waiting around for nothing.

I laugh at my silliness, and think my Father in Heaven must think it is pretty comical too. I know Him well, and He knows me even better. He doesn't want me to do this anymore, but my mind only wants to think this way. I need to stop treating Him like a magic ATM. I believe He is able to do all things, but I must believe with the understanding that all things come in His time and according to His will. Even when I am believing for all things WITHIN HIS TIME AND WILL, I must never think I can control when they will be. I must wait with patience and with the expectation that they will come, but not treat it as a done deal, something that I have made to come to pass.

No, the Lord of Glory will not be put into a box, an ATM or a magic lamp. He is God. He lives within our time and without our time. He functions to His Glory only. We are privy to some of that Glory. We are able to share in it, to have relationship with Him, but we cannot know everything He knows or demand or want or even ask to be kept in the "inner circle." There are some things that the Father only knows. Some things are kept within the Trinity, and some things are made known to man. It is important not to cross wires and THINK you are in the know when you are not.

Praise Be to God that even when I am mistaken, and think I know more than I do, He is kind and gentle to remind me what is what. Even when I believe with my whole heart that something will be, He is kind and gentle to help me learn how He does things. Even when I feel downcast because something I believed didn't come to pass when I wanted it to, He is kind and gentle to remind me that He is God and that all things are possible with Him...but only in His Time.

I am thanking Him today because while I may be disappointed, I am not discouraged. I learned a valuable lesson in timing, and know with all the more certainty that all things are possible with Him. I must wait, I must be patient, and I must trust that He will bring those things to me of His choosing, and in His time.

March 26, 2010

I'm Dancing for Joy

Yesterday, I took the time to drive down to central Phoenix and visit the Covenant Home Resource Center. It is located at:

1117 East Devonshire Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85014-4433
(602) 277-3497

http://www.chsrc.org

I am on their email list, have been for the past six years, but have never actually gone done to their center. The CHRSC is a non-profit organization devoted to helping home schooling families in the Phoenix metro region. They have some co-op classes, but their big draw is their bookstore.

I usually purchase my home school curriculum online or through other cheapie sources like used book sales, library sales, Half Price Books, etc. Sometimes I will just buy new, but I try to buy used as much as possible. I am a spend-thrift, you know...a miserly person. Oh well! LOL!

I needed to pick up some textbooks for my son. We are almost finished with his Y11, but we are missing a few minor things, and I figured I could find a used textbook to fill the gap. I ended up buying two books: Apologia Chemistry (1st Edition), and The American Pageant. I needed the science textbook so that we could document our lab work. We didn't do science labs when we studied Chemistry. I used an online lab website that demonstrated the concept via video instruction. It was super interesting, but some colleges want to see the actual lab work, so we are going to do them over the summer. The History textbook was a super find, only $1. I went looking for BJU History, but they only had the old edition. It would have been just fine for our use, but then I spotted this copy, and knew it would be better. TAP is an AP/Honors text, very popular in the PS. I needed something for us to read through the end of this term as well as something to read for next year.

I came away with two wonderful resources, all for $22! Apologia would have set me back at least $60 new, and TAP would have been well over $100 to buy off Amazon. I am so excited at my finds, and know that they will work wonders for our schooling needs.

On a related note, I am now convinced that I am to home school my son through 12th grade. I have waffled on this point, back and forth, for the past couple months. I have put it to him that HE MIGHT have to go to public school for Y12. He is OK with it, either way he says, but I know in his heart that he would prefer to stay home and finish out his school this way. He is so ready for college, but he is intimidated by public high school. Go figure! Anyway, I feel confident that this is the Lord's will on this matter, so we are set for home schooling Y12.

My plans are well-set, have been for a while, but I didn't have the confidence to say "this is it." Well, until now. I have been waffling, looking over choices, and then finally the choice presented itself and it was like the Lord was saying to me, "Carol, choose." I don't think either choice was bad, they were just different ways to accomplish the same goal. My son would have done just fine at a PS for Y12. He will do just fine at home too. It really came down to making a decision and then saying "this is it." The Lord's will was fine, it was set, and I knew that He would provide regardless of the option I chose. I chose to home school because it is easiest for us to do. It is what we have been doing all along, it is almost finished, and there is no set back as far as getting into college. My son can do the Lord's will as far as college with either a home made transcript or a PS one. It is "six or one-half dozen" -- both are equal in essence. The one way is just more convenient, that is all.

So that brings up an interesting dilemma. I have been looking and applying for work since December. None of the jobs I have applied for have come through yet. I am waiting for some notice, but nothing is coming. Twice now, I have felt the Lord say to me: "Carol, you will do no work." I blogged about my need for rest awhile ago, but this is different. I know the "work" He wants me to do, and it is not "job" work, but rather ministry work. I know what is required for me to do this work. I am proceeding on that path, but it is something that will take many years for me to complete. Until then, I believed that I needed a "job" to make ends meet. He has been saying to me that I didn't need a job, but that I could do this work with His provision. I believed Him, I trusted Him, and I wanted to do this work His way. I guess I just couldn't give up the idea of working, you know, job working.

My friend (whom I am waiting for now to go have coffee and bagels with) said that perhaps the Lord wants you to only do school (graduate school) now? She is so smart. I thought that too, but then was feeling like I had to have a job. Now, I am thinking she is/was correct. The Lord has told me, literally told me, that I am to do no work other than this preparatory training (which includes graduate study). I know this. I believe it. I just didn't think it could possibly be -- I mean -- without some source of income. Too many "hows" are left unanswered, so for now, I am simply choosing to believe that this is the Lord's hand. This is what He wants for me, and it will be up to Him to bring it to pass.

Therefore, this is my decision. I am choosing to pursue the course of study laid out by the Lord (graduate school and all). I will believe that He will bring it to pass. It is His will, after all, and He is responsible for making it possible. I am going to begin to think this way, starting today. I am a full-time graduate student, working towards the degree of the Lord's choosing. How I will pay my bills, how I will live, as well as where I will live...that is totally in His hand.

I cannot tell you how weird it is right now. I am convinced of this being the case, yet I have no real answers or solutions to prove it (like a way to pay for graduate school). My heart is at ease, my mind is calm, and my Spirit is simply convinced this is the case. So be it. Thy will be done.

I am content to follow this path as it appears to be the one He has put me on. I am to stick to this trail until He tells me otherwise. How and when and wherefore, I do not know, but the One who is leading me forth; well, Him I know well. It is in His name that I pray, and it is in His Person that I believe. Therefore, there is nothing else that is needed. He is my all and all and my sufficiency, and my hope and trust lays solely with Him. To God be Praised forevermore. He will provide. He will do it because it is His will and He always keeps His promises and performs His will in our lives. Amen. Selah!

March 25, 2010

Options: Choosing the Positive

I just got off the phone with my Mom. She had just gotten back from the hospital (routine test) and was calling to let me know that everything was OK. I am glad for her and my dad. Right now, the last thing they need is the possibility of further illness or complications with existing conditions. My Mom has been pretty healthy, and recently had cataract surgery. She had her knee replaced two years ago, and is doing fantastic. Overall, she is in good health (just a few minor issues for a person in her mid-late 70s). My Dad, on the other hand, has suffered with Post Polio Syndrome now for nearly 20 years. He was a polio survivor, having had a serious bout when he was a freshman in college. It left him disabled, but not unable to live a normal to very full life. Now, at his mid-70s, he is struggling with the effects of this horrible disease. He is getting weaker and weaker, and is not able to get around like he used to do so. It is a God-thing that my Mom is in such good shape, because I don't think my Dad could physically take care of her.

The funny thing is that now with my parents in the later years, I am privy to all sorts of "TMI" type information. I get the low-down on the bulk fiber, laxatives, colon, and other gastro-intestinal issues they are dealing with daily. I also get advice, loads of it, from them and their friends (who have similar disorders). Not a day goes by when I don't get a call telling me about some new thing, some new pill or procedure, or latest invention to stave off "such and such." I laugh about it, but in truth, it just is sort of annoying. I think I am like my son, who is all of 16.5, and who will wriggle up his nose when his Mom gives him advice. It is like he is saying, "Mom, that will not happen to me!" I am shaking my head and telling him to be wary of it anyway. My folks are doing the exact same thing to me, and I in turn, am doing it to them! LOL! "No, Mom, that will not be an issue for me."

As I think about this generational advice-giving, I am reminded of this old axiom on thinking: "is the glass half-empty or half-full?" How you view life will directly determine your willingness to accept certain limitations in it. If you are a "glass half empty" person, then you tend to see the boundaries and limitations every where you look. Yes, the economy is bad; yes, the housing market is slow. Yes, jobs may be scarce; but some people are actually getting hired. Not everyone is standing in line at the unemployment office, kwim? If you are "half glass full" person, then you tend to see the upside to everything. "Well, everything is bleak, but I am happy and contented. It will get better, you say to yourself. Just hang on, it will get better."

My Mom is definitely a "glass is empty" person. I love her dearly, but she does fear everything unknown. She worries about illnesses, viruses, and other ailments, regardless of whether or not they are really that worrisome. I am reminded of the invasion scare tactics used in the 1950s -- and everyone built a bomb shelter in their backyard. My Mom is sort of like that. She is the most caring and sensitive person ever, and she would literally do anything for you. She just accepts what people say as truth, and then panics over it.

My Dad tends to be more moderate in his views. He tempers Mom's worry and fear. He has always been so stalwart, such a good solid man, and a great provider. Mom has never really had to worry much over the course of her life. Perhaps that is why she worries about things she hears on TV or the news? Perhaps, I don't know.

I do know this...I used to be a worry-wart too. I get it -- you know, "the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree." LOL! Yes, I would characterize myself as an anxious and worrisome person. My personality is really not this way, but I have been habitually trained to be this way (if that makes sense). Some people are born as worriers, while others are made. I fall into the latter category. I learned how to worry partly from seeing my Mom do it; but also, partly from conditions in my adulthood whereby I was confronted with realistic situations that were fraught with worry. In short, I have spent my entire adulthood living with the fear of never having enough of anything. Though, the Lord has graciously provided, I have learned how to pinch pennies. I am a miser in all things, afraid to spend a dollar needlessly.

Over the course of the last seven to eight months, I have had to let go of my miserly tendencies and learn how to rely on the Lord for His provision. At first it was very difficult for me to do. I was given some extra cash, and I saved it all, still following my guidelines for buying the cheapest and most base things, just in case, I might need that $.50 later in the week. This is the truth -- I am that much of a miser, that I will not spend $.50 unless I absolutely have to do it.

The Lord has been working on my heart in this matter. You see, even though I have little, He has asked me to be a cheerful giver. I am not to horde the little I have, but to share it freely. Learning how to share freely has been one of the hardest life lessons for me to learn. I like giving things away, I like to help people...it has just been getting my hand to let it go, that has required the most effort on my part. I see the need, and my heart breaks over it. The Lord has said, "Let it go. Let it go, and I will provide you with more. Trust me."

Trusting the Lord has not been the issue, but rather the simple act of opening up my hand and letting the precious thing (whatever it might be) go. It is knowing that the Source of all things has plenty in His storehouse. I know this, I just don't act like I really believe it. The other day, the Lord asked something of me. I was willing to do what He wanted, but I couldn't let the thing go. I cried over it, prayed about it, and finally had to acknowledge that my fear of losing this particular thing was keeping me from actually obeying His will. I laid it down, gave it over to Him, and asked Him to heal me from my miserly tendencies. Just like that, I was healed. I wish I could say that I heard the peel of bells and such, but I didn't. I just felt like this incredible weight was lifted off of me, and I suddenly got it. I grasped the significance of the Lord's Abundant Life.

There are lots of "get rich" preachers out there, so don't get me wrong. I am not speaking about "wealth and health gospel" like some of the TV folks do. I am simply saying that there is some kernel of truth to the idea that wealth and prosperity are of the Lord. The Lord chooses whom to bless. He is Sovereign, and He has the ability to use whatever resources He chooses to bless His children. The Word says that the Lord chooses to exalt (lift up) some and to bring some low. The Apostle Paul said that he had learned how to be comfortable in all circumstances, to be happy in low times, and in high times. He had learned the secret of being happy REGARDLESS of his actual circumstance.

We tend to view this idea of contentment as sort of a way to deal with the ugly and unpleasant parts of life. We say "well, you can't always be happy." Or, "sometimes a little rain must fall." We like to think that the sun rises and sets on our happiness, that somehow God is up there in Heaven worried to tears about our well-being. In truth, He does care very much about our welfare, but His Word tells us that He has already taken care of our needs. Our Father already knows what our basic needs are, and according to His Word, He has already provided for them.

So if God is not all hung up over our welfare (above and beyond our basic needs), and we are told in the Word, not to worry about tomorrow (and not to worry about eating and drinking and going here and there); then, what exactly is God worried about (and by extension we should be worried about as well?) Ah, isn't it interesting to think that the Lord of the Universe is not worried about material possessions or wealth or health or anything of that sort. Nope, not one iota. He has that covered in spades. He worries about us, about our spiritual state and well-being. He worries about whether or not we are actually growing and changing and becoming more like His Son. He worries about people who are dying without any knowledge of a Savior. He is worried about the end of all things, and the fact that the end is coming very, very soon.

I use the word, "worry" here, simply because it is a word we can all understand. Does God actually worry (fret, fear, etc.) No, of course not. But He is concerned, deeply grieved, and deeply moved by the plight of humankind. The Lord Wept, says the Word. Jesus is deeply moved at the loss of life, the loss of hope, and the misinformation Satan and his followers are teaching people about Him.

The Lord has provided everything we need to live out our lives on this planet. He is well aware that we need a home, a roof over our heads, money in the bank, a car, and food/clothing. He knows our children need medicine at times. He knows that we often need more than what we have, and that we work very hard to try and provide a good and stable life for our families. Yes, He knows all this, and He is prepared to help provide all that truly is needed to us. If only...if only we would come to Him, and ask. The Word clearly tells us that the reason we don't have is because we don't ask. You may say, "Yeah, sure...I ask. I ask all the time, and I don't get anything in return." Yep, I know. I have been there and done that one too.

If we don't attempt to read more into the Word than what is actually there, we will find out that the key to receiving something from the Lord's hand is that we must believe He is able to provide it. The problem is not our asking the Lord; but rather, the problem is that we don't believe He will really answer our prayer. The problem is a mindset that is focused solely on the getting and not the giving. We want the Father to fix the problem, a problem that perhaps we created. We want the easy way out of a situation of our own making. We want. We want. We want. We want everything to go away, but we don't want to take any responsibility for the getting of it in the first place. Now, not everything is of our doing, some things do really happen to us without our cause. Most things, however, are simply of our own hand, and we want the Lord to make things right. We actually demand that He make them right, fix them, take the pain away. We plead, we bargain, and we cajole Him into helping us. The Lord doesn't work this way. It is always Him first, always.

My understanding has been changed in this point. I used to do the exact same thing, I used to bargain with the Lord all the time. I learned something of value and it has changed my entire perspective about Him and how He chooses to deal with us. It is summed up in this word only:

SOVEREIGNTY

The Lord is Lord of All. He is Sovereign. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. There is only Him. He is God, we are His creation. He owes us nothing, not one thing. Nada. Yet, the Lord of the Universe loved us, His creation, so much that He chose to not let us die in our sins. He chose to save us. He did this because He loved us ("yet while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.") You see, if you want your problems to reverse, your situation to improve and your life to miraculously get better...All you have to do is this: stop looking to the Lord as some heavenly ATM and start looking to Him as Sovereign Lord and Savior.

If you begin to see Him as He really is, as Lord, then you will realize that everything in the world belongs to Him. All possessions, all material wealth, all prosperity, all health and well-being. Everything is in His hand. Nothing is out of His reach. Moreover, as you look to Him in this way, you will begin to understand how much He loves you. You will grasp that He loves you so much, that He cares for you so deeply, that He wants you to understand the truth about your purpose for being created. He wants you to stop believing the GREAT LIE. He wants you to know that you were created for one purpose only. He wants you to know that even though you have a mind, a will, a heart, and many talents...your purpose is single-mindedly set (before the foundation of the world, your purpose was created in Christ Jesus). You may think you have a job, a family, a home, a career...all these things. Ultimately, your purpose includes none of these things. These are all blessings from His Hand, but they are not what makes you tick or what drives you to achieve. No. Your purpose is one and only and the sooner your realize it, and get about to doing it, the more quickly your life will change. Your purpose is this:

YOU WERE CREATED TO WORSHIP THE ONE TRUE GOD

There is no other calling, no other job, no other prospect, than this simple statement. You were made to worship God. Once you wrap your head around that little ditty, your life will change forevermore. You will no longer seek material things, long for things you really do not need. Your priorities, your goals and dreams and aspirations will conform to His Will. And, then...Something wonderful will happen. You will begin to be transformed into a creature of His own design and choosing. You will begin to move in the direction He desires. You will do the things He wants you to do. You will stop doing all those things you shouldn't do, and will start doing the things you should. Your life will sprout roots and fruit and you will begin to become like Him. You will be like Jesus. You will be His hands and feet. You will act and speak and think similar things. You will love what He loves, and hate what He hates. You will be mature and ready for every good work.

Then, and only then, will the Lord use you. You may be used now, or think you are being used, but unless your work is sacrificially laid at His feet...even Christian service is "wood, hay and stubble." No, you must do His work, His way. You go where He sends you; You do the work He provides for you to do. You are able to say as the Apostle Paul said: "I know how to live in both poverty and riches, in warmth and cold." Your mind and heart will be aligned with His, and you will be like the Word says, "You will have the mind of Christ."

Dear Brother or Sister,

Are you struggling with life? Are you trying to figure out how all this works together? Are things not so good in your life right now? Consider whether or not you are worshipping God as Lord or whether you are worshipping an idea, an image or a thought about God. He is God. He is and acknowledging His Sovereignty is the beginning of a life-long relationship of true worship. Consider His Kingship now, and watch what will happen. Your worries and fears will melt away as you finally grasp the truth that the King takes care of all those in His Kingdom. Are you in His Kingdom? Then you are under the Kings provision and security. Every need is met with His sufficiency. Trust Him today as Lord, and see what you will discover about Him. The King is in the House -- let all the saints Praise Him forevermore.

March 24, 2010

Learning the Cello...a lesson in Patience!

I just got back from my weekly cello lesson. I have to tell you that the cello is not the easiest instrument to learn to play. It takes so much work, so much thinking, so much fingering skill. Agh! I am really pleased with my progress, however. I wish I could play better, but I think overall, I am getting the main points of it, and with daily practice, will be able to accomplish my goal (of playing at church or in a small group/ensemble).

Today, I worked on two Schumann pieces. They are from the Strictly Classics Book 2 series. They both required a great deal of pinky use. My pinky finger has a good callous on it, but it has a slight crack in it from dryness (I think). Anyhoo, I think it will be ok, just needs a little rest. I was really pleased with my ability to play both these pieces. They are not easy pieces, but I did it! Hooray! I also played through Strauss' Emperor Waltz and Handel's Bourree. Overall, I would grade my performance at a C+. I would like to be in the A range, but I am still struggling with hitting the correct notes. As I mentioned to my teacher, on the piano, when you play C, you always get a C. On a stringed instrument, when you play C, unless you are right on, you get C# or Bb. You really have to hit the string right on target and with the right amount of pressure.

So much to remember. But, I still love the cello. I am having a ball learning how to play it and know that in time I will indeed be able to say, "I can play the cello well."

Update: on my plans. I am now convinced of the plans the Lord has for me. Funny, how that is...one day you are completely lost and feeling clueless, and then after a humbling experience where you have to confess and acknowledge He is Lord...everything just seems to clear up. At the least, this is what has happened to me.

I was pretty well set on these plans, having discussed them in prayer before the Lord, inquired as to His Will, and then waited for that "sense of peace" to let me know that I was doing the right thing. I cannot really explain it, but for me, that "sense of peace" is the ticket. I recall Joyce Meyer saying the same thing one time. She mentioned how she knows when she is doing the Lord's will, and that the key for her is "peace." I think once we have a "sense of peace" about a particular decision, we can pretty safely say that it is Ok to proceed. Now, just have peace doesn't necessarily mean everything is good to go. No, there are too many variables and factors at play. I do think it means "green light," in the sense of "go ahead and start walking that way." If you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, you can walk out and know that you are going in the right direction. If He needs to redirect you, He will do it. I think waiting until you have peace is critical for success.

Too many times I have stepped out without the peace only to find that chaos reigned as soon as I got my foot out the door. It was like a little windstorm was brewing, and as soon as I started to move in that direction it took on a mighty fierce nature. I knew right away that I had made a mistake. The important thing to remember is that sometimes we step out when it is windy (a little off course), and the Holy Spirit of God gently pushes us into a new path. Just slightly off, and He comes along and rights us. However, there are times when we do it without His guidance. We walk our own way, thinking it is right, and then we find out it is dead-wrong. The good news is that we can turn around quickly, admit that we made a mistake, and get back to waiting for His Perfect Peace.

This is what I have done. I have been charting the waters and watching the winds. I thought I was right on target, but when I started down that path, the winds kicked up and blew me right off course. I retreated to the safe harbor of His Will, got my bearings adjusted and waited for calm conditions. Once that peace came, I set out again, this time with fair weather and the forecast of clear skies. The big thing is to wait for clear skies and calms seas. There is no point in forcing your way against a raging tempest. You will get thrashed and trashed mighty quickly and may end up seriously off the mark.

My good news is this: I feel calm seas and clear skies are ahead of me. I see the future and it looks bright and sunny. No more rain and storm clouds. It looks like smooth sailing. I am not so naive to believe that I won't ever have some storms in life...I just believe that for the next little while, it is all clear.

I am blessed, so blessed to be in this relationship with the Lord. He is my God, and I love Him with my whole heart. Even when I mess up (royally mess up), and do the wrong thing or say the wrong thing, or simply am just foolish, silly and willfully stubborn...He loves me. He waits for me. He knows me. He knows the plans He has for me, and that they are very good. I wish I could be like Him, could face life like He does. He is so strong. So fearless. So amazingly calm. Of course, He is God, and I am not. He does everything perfectly, in His perfect timing, and with perfect provision. I flutter and fly and sink and swim. I tend to mess up a lot. He is my cheerleader of sorts, always encouraging me to try again, to not give up, to not give in. He wants me to succeed in His Will. He wants me to live the life He created me to live. He wants me to be blessed in the living of it, to experience the depths of joy in a relationship with Him and with others in the family of God. He has so much that He wants me to experience. My problem is that so much of my own experience is messed up, royally messed up. I am psychologically mixed up, I am mentally and physically challenged. I am spiritually stunted. Though I walk with the mighty Grace of God, my human body is not perfect. I am not perfect. I still do the things I know I shouldn't do. I wish this weren't the case, but it is. Instead of waffling and wailing and acting all uppity (like I have in the past), I have decided to trust Him, to believe what He says is true. I have decided that no matter how messed up this life seems, from His perspective it is very good. I have decided to praise Him in the midst of the sorrow, just like when I praise Him in the midst of joy. God is so Good to me. His Mercy endures and His Love never fails.

Oh, how I love Jesus...Oh, how I love Jesus!

Being Right

I woke up this morning with this thought: is it every OK to say, "I am right about this or that?"

As I pondered this thought, I was checking my email and KLOVE's word of the day said this:

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT

I read this Scripture before hitting the delete button, and immediately I had my answer. YES! There are times when we are RIGHT, and those times always align with the Word of God. Therefore, if we say "I am RIGHT about this point" and we can back it up with Scripture, then indeed we are RIGHT. We are using the Word of God for our standard, and not our own arbitrary and flawed system of justice.

God's Word is the only thing that offers true JUSTICE. It is the only place where evil is clearly exposed, and righteousness clearly championed. If we need to know if something is forbidden by God, we go to His Word to find out. If we need to know if something is good and profitable, we go to His Word and find out what those things are.

Phil. 4:8 says "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."

If we do as the Word says, "fix our thoughts" on these kinds of things, we will help control our behavior, and we will choose to do things that are RIGHT, that are righteous in accordance with the Word of God.

The more I thought about this today, the more I understood that when we say "I am right" and are using our own system of justice and justification, then we run the risk of being arrogant and foolish. Our system, no matter how noble can never truly be JUST. It will always be tilted towards our advantage, towards ourselves. Why? Pride, of course. Out of our pride, stems our need to be right. We must be right. We can never be wrong. We know best. We can have the loftiest of intentions, but ultimately we are seeking only to glorify our own self, our own image, our own thinking proccess. We want what is not ours to have, but only that which belongs to the One who is JUST and RIGHTEOUS.

This is why the Word says that "there is no one righteous. There is no one who does good." As Christians, we no longer are to stand in our own righteousness, because it accounts for nothing in God's system of FAIRNESS and RIGHTNESS. No, we come before the Lord wearing only His Righteousness. Therefore, it is important to remember that before we demand any "rights" from any person or organization on this side of heaven, we need to make sure it is not our rights, but those RIGHTS that are granted to us by God in Heaven.

If His Word says this is evil, and this is GOOD, and we agree with Him; then we can say "I am right about this because God said it first." God called a "spade a spade" and He calls this behavior sin. Therefore, I can say it is sin as well. I am not judging the sin, but the Word of God is the final authority and JUDGMENT on what is sin and what is not.

I think the biggest mistake we make (and have made for years and years and years) is to believe that somehow we are guaranteed rights in this flawed and faulty world. We want JUSTICE that is fair. We want to know that if we are offended, hurt, oppressed, etc., we will receive a fair hearing, a righting of the wrong, and JUSTICE for our cause. Unfortunately, because of the world we live in, justice is never fair. It is arbitrary and contrary, and often benefits the perpetrator and not the victim. However, we can take comfort in the knowledge that God is impartial and that He will JUDGE everyone fairly and according to the deeds (behaviors, actions and outcomes) in their lives.

FAIRNESS, RIGHTNESS, AND JUSTICE are coming. We must be patient and wait for His return. We will find only a shadow of these things in this life. We must also be careful when we assert ourselves as being right or wrong in a matter. Scripture is our best defense, and it is our ally. God has given us His Word so that we can know His Mind. We can know how He would decide a case or situation. We can know how to act or react, how to judge, and how to meet out justice with fairness. We must make sure we are following His RULE and not our own or not some mix-up version of Scripture/Mankind.

The Word of God is FAIR. It is TRUE. And, if you seek JUSTICE from the One who is always JUST, you will find that He is an impartial JUDGE. He will rule honestly in all matters. If you seek JUSTICE from the hand of God, know that you will need to set aside your own petty and personal attempt at fairness, and be willing to accept His pronouncement. He will be FAIR with you, but you may not be vindicated of all your righteous behavior. You may find that you have some humbling to do before His Mighty Throne. The Good News is though that if you do seek His Justice, you will find GRACE and COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS. You will find the FAIRNESS you so desperately seek because of all the things He is, He is always RIGHTEOUS.

The Righteous One takes note of the house of the wicked and brings the wicked to ruin. ~Prov. 21:12

We hear songs of praise from the ends of the earth,songs that give glory to the Righteous One! But my heart is heavy with grief.Weep for me, for I wither away.Deceit still prevails,and treachery is everywhere. ~Isaiah 24:16

“Then he told me, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and hear him speak." ~Acts 22:14

"My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous." ~1 John 2:1