May 10, 2012

Next Step of Faith

Well, I am still not feeling 100% today. My stomach seems to have settled, but I still have a slight headache. Now I feel a sore throat coming on, and generally feel sort of worn down. Not surprisingly for me -- with so much going on right now -- it is a miracle that I haven't been ill sooner.

I did eventually drag myself out of the house for about an half-hour, just so I could get some needed supplies today.  I am now back home, resting, and considering getting to some home work. I have been thinking more about my situation and the steps that need to be taken to get me to where I believe the Lord is leading me. I have never had to do this before -- walk on in faith. In the past, the Lord has led me, and I have just followed Him. I liked it, I crumbled a bit, but generally it was easy for me to do. I am a good follower (well, sometimes).

This time, though, the Lord has told me to "go" do certain things. I didn't go in the past, when I heard His voice telling me to get up and go. I regret not going back then because I know that things would have been much better for me. However, as things are, the Lord has graciously brought me to this place, and He has provided for me. Now, He is telling me to go -- to go and take possession of some things. This is new for me, and I am scared to do it. I don't want to fail. I don't want to mess things up like I did before when I didn't go.

As I spend more time with the Lord, I have come to understand how He works in our lives (well, in mind, anyway). The Lord didn't send His disciples out on their own for a long while. He first had them follow Him around the region. He taught them while they followed, and He gave them instruction on what to do and how to do things His way. Eventually, He sent them out on a short trip, on assignment, so to speak. They went out and came back with their report of all the blessing and power they experienced during that short trip. Later on, He sent them out again, but this time they were on their own. They were to rely on one another because He was leaving them to go up to Heaven. He would be with them in Spirit, but they were in essence to do what they had done before -- trust Him, and go where His Spirit was leading them to go.

I think my life has followed a similar plan. When I dedicated my life to the Lord a couple years ago, there was much work to be done in my heart. I was broken, and I was wounded so deeply, that the Lord had to spend a great deal of time healing my mind and my heart so that I could be useful again. During that time, I came to know Him better, to lean on Him, and eventually to trust Him as Lord over my life.

Once I was healed, and fully functioning as a mended person, His Word came to me and I was called to a specific ministry. I was called to "go" where the Lord was directing me to go -- into International Ministry. The Lord helped me understand that to do this work, I would need to study and be prepared for it. It meant going back to school, getting an advanced degree, and studying multiple languages. It also meant living in a foreign country, and learning how to live outside the USA.

I understood that the physical going was far off, down the road, but because there was much preparation work to be done, I needed to get started accomplishing certain tasks.  I enrolled in a Masters program. I learned to play the cello. I started my foreign language studies. I developed a new attitude towards learning, and I understood that all of this learning was for one purpose -- to do His work (not build a career, get fame or find fortune).

Also, while preparing for ministry, I spent a great deal of time learning how to be a disciple. I learned to look outside myself and to think about His plans, His way. I stopped focusing so much on me, and my needs, and began to see the world out there -->. As with before, the Lord sustained me, trained me, and prepared me to "go" where He was leading me. However, I didn't physically go at all. I had opportunity to physically go, to relocate, but I was afraid of leaving my life, so I stayed put.  Had I actually gone, who knows what might have been, what my life might have come to in another city or town. I regretted not going, and while the Lord graciously forgave my stubborn heart, I also came to learn that my heart was not 100% set on following Him. I clung to many things, to my way of life, to my relationship with my parents, to my son, etc. I had more work to do, more trusting to do, so I continued on in Phoenix, remaining and completing the tasks I started.

I am now at the turn of the phase, leaving step 1 and moving to step 2. I have all but graduated with my Masters degree. I am ready to apply for my PhD, but there are some issues to be resolved. I was ready to study at Regent University, all set, application in, etc. Yet, Regent wasn't a perfect fit for me. The program was interesting, and it was online. The commitment was less than some of the other programs I looked at, but there were other factors. Starting Regent was a challenge with my existing financial aid. It also required a residency each summer, typically in May-June. This would be difficult with working full-time. I wanted to do Regent, to go to a Christian University to study God's Word and to be prepared for ministry -- but I had second thoughts. I didn't want to give up getting my PhD in English -- even though I was tired of Literature, and didn't want to study more classical periods.

Then the Lord showed me ASU's Rhetoric program. He had me contact the program advisor who kindly replied with encouraging news. However, the program required full-time enrollment as classes were not offered online nor always in the evenings. They did have financial assistance -- fellowships and teaching positions, but the path seemed confusing to me. How could I give up full-time work to do this program? How would I live?

Then came the call to "go" and once again I faltered. I said "yes," but I didn't go. Nope, I stood still and I scratched my head, and I refused to consider that the Lord would provide a way for me to go do His work.

In the interim, I looked back at the University of Phoenix, my place of employment, and I tried to see if I could go there to school. It had been an option once, a good choice. That was before SSP, and all the pressure to perform. In the past couple months, the door seemed to close on me. First came all the difficulty with the job, then the career progression challenge, and finally the requirement that PhD students work two years in higher education in a management position. The door slammed shut on me, and I knew that this way was not to be.

I turned back to Regent, committed my way to go there --> but it didn't bring peace to me. I cried to the Lord, what is wrong, what is happening to me? The Word came back --> "You said you would go, but you didn't go. You didn't do what you promised me." Yes, Lord, it is truth. I said I would do this program at ASU, but I got scared at the thought of having to work and go to school full-time. I worried about money, about losing my home, etc. I worried, and I gave in. I gave up.

The past couple weeks have been difficult -- I have blogged as much. I couldn't put my finger on what was the issue, and I blamed my work for everything. In truth, the problem was me not doing what I promised the Lord. I made a covenant with Him -- yes, I used those exact words -- and He asked me to keep my end of the deal. You know, God takes covenants very seriously. He always tells me to be certain whenever I say "I promise you this..." He knows I cannot keep my promise, and yet, I promise Him all the same. The difference is that the Lord doesn't just laugh it off. Nope. He forgives you, then He expects you to do what you said you would do.

In my case, I said I would go to ASU and study Rhetoric. I said I would do whatever teaching job the Lord brought to me, and I said I would trust Him to provide. I said I would do this, and I said I "meant it." I gave my word to the Lord, and then I shirked back and changed my mind.

Well, here I am today having to take back my words. I am having to reconsider what I said I would do. I realized that with the Lord, His Word is everything -- it is His very Nature and Character. Therefore, we are to be like Him, and our word needs to be kept.

Dear Lord,

I understand that I promised you that I would go to ASU to study this program. I said I would do this, and then I got scared when I saw the lack of courses, and heard back that it was difficult to do this program unless you were full-time. I know now that your plan was to provide a way for me to do this program. I understand that when you told me to go, you meant for me to literally go there, to study there, to do this program. I also understand that all of this has been dependent on my finishing Mercy College. Two years ago, you told me that I would have to wait for a good job, that once I had my Masters finished, I would find a good job. I thought UOPX was the right job. It sure seemed like it, but as you told me in January -- it was not "the job" you had in mind. It was a temporary solution to help me be established. Now, I see it all. I see what you are doing, and how you are going about it. I understand that I have to keep my promises to you. I have to do what I say I am going to do. Forgive me, Lord, and give me the Grace so that I can finish Mercy well, graduate and find work as an English Teacher. I ask this now in Jesus Name, Amen.

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