January 31, 2014

Feeling Good

It's Friday! I am just amazed at how quickly the days are flying by now. I know that there is no difference in the actual time, and how quickly each 24 hour period comes and goes -- but for some reason -- it does feel like my days are whirlwinds since I started a career as a teacher.

I am only on campus MWF of each week. My TTR are reserved for school (Regent) studies and prep work (lesson planning for GCU). My weekends are reserved for grading (GCU) and major assignments (Regent).

This combination is nice. I like the fact that I can rest on alternate days, and that I can have so much downtime each week. I am well-rested, just I still feel tired most days. I am not sure why this is, but I know that without these days off in between the work days, I would be living in chronic exhaustion again.

I have lived with Chronic Fatigue for so many years now. It has been better over the last five or six, however. I have had a couple nasty flare-ups (one at the UOPX), but nothing like the earlier years where I could not get out of bed for days on end. I have worked hard to stave off the fatigue by making sure I don't overdo nor do I let myself become so stressed over the details of my life. It is about balance -- healthwise and stresswise. God is good. He knows what I can and cannot take. I love the fact that my life, all of my life, is under His watchful care. He is the Great Physician, and I love the fact that I can trust His diagnosis and His prescription of rest for my life. Amen, so be it, thy will be done!

Today marks the end of four weeks of teaching at GCU. I have 11 weeks left in this semester. So far, I think I am doing well. Last night, I took some time to Google for teaching strategies to engage students in discussion and to encourage motivation in class. I was surprised to find that most of what is recommended, I am already doing each week. I have felt pretty overwhelmed at times, and I have thought I was not doing a good enough job for my students. Yet, when it comes to assessment technique, adding in technology, using creative classroom technique, I have been quite good at incorporating all these things -- naturally -- without even thinking about them.

I came away from my research last night feeling buoyed by the thought that I have done a good job thus far without really knowing what I needed to do. I have made some errors, some mistakes, but according to Cornell University, the mistakes I have made are simply out-workings of classroom dynamics (ex. trusting your students - they have done the work, they may just be having an off-day). I have been very hard on myself and I have been critical of my style, my tone, and my preparation. In truth, I have applied myself and I have devoted a lot of time to this class. The overall effect of the class, I feel, is good. I will find out what my students think when I conduct a survey next week (my idea to test how well they understood and liked the first two modules).

I came up with a good format for the rest of our class time last night as well as reaffirming that I am doing what I need to be doing each day. I know that I have been lecturing too long. The maximum attention span of an adult is now 15-20 minutes. I need to keep my lecture short. I probably do this, but I weave it in and out of the presentation, so it feels like it is longer than 20 minutes. I am changing my program due to the fact that we will have 2-3 short stories to review each lesson period. This precludes long lectures.

I also want to make sure that I am assessing my students every day. I have been assessing them in a low-key way, but now I want to assess them in a more strategic manner. This is my layout, which I think will work well for our textual-laden course content the next 11 weeks.

Classroom Strategy

Prewriting exercise (5-10 minutes; students turn in)
  • Reader response to the assignment (before discussion)
 Lecture (15-20 minutes)
  • New topic - KWL Assessment; find out what they know and what they need to learn; wrap will be to find out what they actually did learn
  • Content - each day (1-6) focus on one: foundations, history, social, political, cultural, criticism
  • Biography - short bio on each author
Group Discussion (20-30 minutes)
  • Close reading - assigning a section of the text to each group for close reading
  • Discussion questions - assigning one DQ to each group
Wrap-up (5 minutes)
  • Exit writing - describe one thing you learned today; identify two elements of (X) from the reading; write one question you would like answered (turn in for credit)
  • Homework (5 minutes)
  • Close of unit (every two weeks) - what idea or concept was most important to your understanding of the topic (X) (ex. realism, naturalism, feminism, etc.)
In addition to this format, I will be assessing my students learning in the following ways:
  • Pre and post writing exercises
  • Class and group discussion
  • Survey (every four weeks) assessment
  • Quizzes and essays
I know it seems like I am assessing my students often, but I am actually doing it with a purpose. The survey is something I read about at Cornell and I thought it was a great idea. I already use Qualtrics for survey matrix/data collection so I thought I could collect data for classroom interest and motivation and then use this research as mini-exercises for my doctoral work. The data will be biased because of the sample population, but I am only planning on using it for my use. I want to get comfortable creating surveys, and then I want to learn how to analyze and interpret the data for formal research. I like the idea, and I think it will be a good way to cover a couple bases: student assessment for learning; teacher preparedness; student motivation; student outcomes.

I am so jazzed today because I can finally see how the class format, my teaching style, and the outcomes merge together. I will admit that these first couple weeks, I felt like I was flying blind. I didn't know what would work, what wouldn't work, how much was too much, etc. I feel far more confident now and I believe that I can teach just about any topic in Literature with this approach (whoohoo!)

Dear Lord,

Thank you for your provision of Grace today. You have provided everything I needed to learn how to teach, and you have helped me gain confidence and experience in the classroom. I am blessed, so blessed by your mercy and your understanding of my frailty. You know how I stress, and how I struggle to be approved (2 Tim 2:15), yet you calmly cover me, and hold me as I work through each and every experience, learning that it is OK to rest, to trust you, and to let go of my need for approval. I am approved because you approve of me (PTL!) I don't need student approval, teaching approval, mentor approval. I only need your approval. I thank you today for your guidance and I ask you to continue to bless me as I develop my skill as a presenter/facilitator. You are good, all the time. I love you, Lord, and I thank you now. I ask this in Jesus' Name, AMEN!

January 28, 2014

Moving Ahead with Plans

It is Tuesday, and I am so excited. I woke up early today, but not of my own accord. The gardener was blowing leaves next to my bedroom window at 7:30. I was fortunate to be able to fall back to sleep again, and as such, I spent in until 10:30 (whoohoo!) Since getting up, I have lazed about, had my cup of coffee, some toast, and I am now thinking about a shower (LOL!) It is 11:45 and I am just thinking about getting dressed. I love the fact that I have two days off each week. I love having T-TR off. I get to rest, sleep in, catch up on school work, and generally just relax. God is so good to me, so very good to me.

Today is a good day, a very good day. I am working at home, planning on getting my school work caught up, and taking my time to enjoy these good days. The weather outside is lovely, typical January in Phoenix weather. It is in the low to mid 70s and the sun is shining. Phoenix is lovely in the springtime.

I am thinking about where I might eventually move to when I graduate from Regent University. I have a lot of options out there, Lord willing (meaning depending on where He opens up the door). I have been thinking about Virginia recently (well, since I visited there last summer). I have to admit it is a lovely place to visit. The weather has been stormy, cold and snowy, which is not their normal. I think they do get snow, depending on where you live (mountains versus ocean), but the weather is variable. This year they have had a lot of snow. Still, I think it is a beautiful place, and the people I have met who live there are so genuine and nice. Just nice.

God may choose to move me to another state and that is OK. Right now, I am content to be where I am. I have a nice place to live, a good teaching job, and the freedom to complete my education in peace (less stress). I need more work, of course, and I need to make more money. I am OK for now, but I need to get a full-time teaching job soon. GCU wants me to be evaluated before they will assign me fall classes, and depending on when that happens, it could lessen my teaching load next fall. I am trusting the Lord for His provision and I believe He will provide a job for me soon.

I like teaching. I stress over it a bit, but generally, I do like it. I am hopeful that God will continue to allow me to teach because of all the jobs I have had, it is the least stressful for me. It takes a lot of time to prep for classes, and I get nervous in the classroom, but generally the work is easy once I get in there. There is no policy issues, no drama queens, and no backbiting. I go to school, teach my class, and I go home. I love it. I love it.

I realize that a full-time position might be different. I get that, and I am OK with it. For now, God has provided this good part time job and I am thankful.

I applied for several jobs yesterday. Most were adjunct. I applied for one full-time job here in Phoenix. It is through Anthem College. They are looking for general education teachers at their Phoenix campuses. I am not sure whether I want to go that route. I would rather stay in a university or community college setting, but I am willing to teach where ever I can get a job doing it. God knows what is best, so I cast my net out there, and I believe He will pull in the fish of His choosing.

Thinking Forward and Moving Ahead

As I sit here typing, I am reminded of God's will for my life, and the plans He has laid out for me to follow. I know that many Christians go through life never knowing what God wants them to do, or if they do know, they don't always know the plan He has in mind for them. I am fortunate because I feel compelled to walk in a certain way, to go a certain way, and for me, I believe that I know these plans. I am experiencing positive results from my actions, and I am blessed beyond measure. I believe I am reaping the blessing of sowing obedience (if that makes sense?)

As I move forward toward the calling I have been giving, I am encountering struggle and some obstacles. God has provided a clear way for me, but I am running into hurdles that cause me to stop and question the path I am on. I know that these hurdles are tests of faith -- will I continue one, will I follow? I am keeping my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, and I am trusting Him to lead me straight on through to the finish line. I know He is my Guide, and that as long as I remain fixed upon Him, I will not get lost, get on the wrong path, or head the wrong way. He is good like that. He is good all the time.

Where do I go from here, then? Well, for now I am fixed on this path:

This is my path. I am teaching part-time now, but with experience and my PhD, I hope to be teaching full-time as a Professor (2016 or thereafter). I am working as a Media and Technology consultant (on my own), but hope to start providing this service to churches in the area soon. With my PhD emphasis in Digital Technology, I will be ready to be a full-time consultant in ministry by the time I retire (after age 62). This is the plan I believe God has in mind for me. I have been on this path since He called to me again in 2009. I started this path back then when my world was turned upside down. He gave me Mercy College (English) to help me get a teaching job (I am teaching Literature now). He also gave me that experience to encourage me to keep moving on in my education. I wouldn't be where I am today without having gone through Mercy. Rigorous and challenging, it prepared me for scholarship and the kind of study I am engaged in at Regent. God is so very good, so very good all the time.

I am excited today because I can see my life in clear focus and I can rest in the knowledge that God is moving on my behalf. He is opening doors, and making a way for me to go. I must trust Him now and rest in His provision. He will do it. He has promised. He will deliver. I believe Him. I believe His word to me is true.

January 27, 2014

Making Mistakes

It is week 4 of my 15-week class on the American Short Story at GCU. I am starting the second-half of the module on Romanticism today. I am hopeful that this week will prove better than the last. I don't think I have been a super teacher, thus far. In fact, I would say that I have been average, at the least, that is what my students tell me about their experiences. I am interested in student motivation, and what they think, for certain. I am feeling convicted and as though I have been run through the vine press. I think it is normal for new teachers. I think it is what every teacher experiences -- that first moment when the bloom has fallen from the bush. You know -- the moment when your students see you as human, flawed, failed.

This happened to me last week. I walked into class ill-prepared for the lesson (well, not really). I had spent quite a bit of time preparing, but I changed my mind an hour before class, and re-made my presentation. I felt it was better to do it differently, and in the end, I make an error in judgment, which proved to be my undoing. Oh well -- live and learn. Note to self - don't remake your PPTs the day of class.

I think week 3 ended with a crash simply because I could no longer hold onto my expectations. I had such high hopes and visions for teaching success. I wanted to be the best teacher I could be, better than some of the teachers I student-taught with the previous semester. Yes, I knew that I had little experience (they all had 10 plus years) in the classroom, but some how I thought I could do a better job than they had done. In hindsight, I realized that I am not in competition with these other educators because we are all uniquely gifted teachers -- gifted in special ways. I am not good at certain things, and they are not good at certain things. Yet, we can both function in this one area, one discipline and make an impact on our student's success.

I suffered the entire weekend with feelings of guilt. Oh my, talk about the feelings of guilt. Why? Because I mispronounced one of the stories we are going to read this week. I wrote it out wrong on the homework list (really mangled it), and I said it wrong in class. Double-strike! Yes, I blew it big time and now my students no longer see me as perfect. I toppled off my pedestal by my own hand. I knocked myself off and fell to the ground. Ouch!

I guess if you are going to be toppled, it is a far better thing to do it to yourself than to wait and have someone else do it. Is that called personal humiliation? Self-humilation? Yes, this is what happened to me. I was humiliated by my own hand.

Get over it, already!

Yes, I woke up at 4:45 this morning. I just woke up. It was weird, really. I had been sleeping soundly, very soundly, and then I rolled over and woke up. I thought, "Oh, this is not good." I mean, I can sleep in, but today for some reason, I just woke up.

So here I sit at the computer, drinking my coffee, thinking about the day, and why I became a teacher. In fact, I googled teacher websites to see if I could get a better idea of my purpose, why I am teaching, and what I hope to accomplish as a teacher. It was a good exercise because I think the grist of all this mess has been a misplaced identity, and a mismatched purpose statement.

Misplaced Identity

Identity is defined as the distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity; individuality.

I consider identity to be who I am, the real me, the person who exists on the inside of the shell of humanity. It is the miraculous goo that is encased in the outward appearance of the self. It is me, my soul, my unique personality. It is who God created me to be, and it is the one with whom I identify as me.

Identification means the acceptance as one's own of the values and interests of a social group.

I identify with certain values and interests in the shared-ness of collective humanity. I am human. I am a created "thing" and as such, I find value in shared items and interests that other "created things" share. In short, I identify myself as being wholly individual and wholly collective.

I am both an individual and a part of the human collective. I am identified as such at the very base level of understanding. Personally, I am known to my family as Carol (a sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, mom, etc.). Collectively, I am known as a part of the human race (female, white, anglo-saxon, American, etc.)

However, as basic as these definitions are, there are other identifications that mark me as unique. One of these identifications is my job preference. In this day and age, we are known by our profession or our title. For some this is a professional title such as Dr. For some this is a more personal title such as Mr. or Mrs. 

Our careers identify us and tell others important details about our personality and/or qualifications. As a teacher, I am expected to be qualified to teach (to hold a valid teacher's license or to possess advanced education, e.g. degrees). I happen to have an advanced degree, a Masters degree, and therefore, this qualifies me to teach college students. Yet, just because I have an advanced degree, I still may not know anything about my subject area. I am expected therefore to also be a subject matter expert in the area of teaching speciality. This is considered important criteria when hiring instructors for teaching positions. In my view, being a teacher has certain connotations and being certified has other. Moreover, being a SME also has certain expectations associated with it.

I think my issue this past week (week's) has been my perception of my abilities and my feelings of inadequacy in teaching this subject area. I have felt out of place, not qualified, and unprepared to teach students literature. Why? Because I believed that I wasn't good enough, didn't know enough, and wasn't ready to teach this level of study.

Yet, according to my understanding I possess the required skill to teach college literature classes:

  1. I hold an advanced degree in the subject area
  2. I have some experience (limited) in the classroom
So if I do have the requisite qualifications, then why have I struggled with identification and purpose?

I think it is because of a misplaced understanding of who I am and what I am called to do.

Mismatched Purpose Statement

I googled for purpose statements in regard to teaching this morning. I already had a teaching philosophy in mind, and I had thought about that statement off and on since I started at Regent. One of the things every Regent professor does is write a philosophy statement for their syllabus. It is really nice, and it tells the student a little bit about the motivation and purpose of their instructor. One of my professors always includes this as his scripture of reference:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,3 a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Tim. 2:15

I like this idea because I think it helps to remind the student and the teacher of two key points: their identity (in Christ), and their purpose (according to their calling).

I made this mistake, and it is the reason why I have suffered so much these past three weeks. I got my identity and my purpose confused and as a result I floundered in the classroom. Let me explain...

I know myself well. I know my capabilities and my skills. I am on point, zeroed in, and I know what I can and cannot do well. I tend to stick with what I do well because I like to succeed and I don't like to fail (whenever possible). My identity is firmly rooted in my experience, and in my abilities. I am good at certain things, and I know how to do a lot of things with precision and technical proficiency.

However, my identity is no longer grounded in human secularism. Meaning that I am no longer working to prove myself to this world nor am I defined by any characteristic of it. I am a new creature in Christ Jesus. I have been born again, and my life was purchased by His blood. Therefore, I am no longer working to serve man, but rather, I am working to serve God (PTL).

My profession has changed as well. I am not identified by my occupation, my profession. In fact, my profession is not even a factor in my day-to-day living. I am a child of God, a disciple of Jesus Christ, and a servant of the Lord. This is my role, this is who I am and what I do every single day of my life.

I do work professionally. I am a teacher now. I was an analyst. Before that I was a website designer. I was also a Mom, a wife, an AWANA teacher, and a home educator. I have worn many hats, many hats. Today, I am a teacher, a college instructor. Tomorrow, I hope to be a Professor.

My work and my identity are two very different things. While I work at teaching, I live to serve God. Therefore my purpose is wrapped up in my service to God, and not in what I do each day to bring home a paycheck. I teach because I can and because God has opened a door of opportunity for me to do so. But, I live to serve Him, to worship Him, and to adore Him. He is my center, He is my focus, and He is everything to me.

I lost that purpose in all the hub-bub of becoming an instructor at GCU. I lost my focus and I became obsessed with being a good teacher, being approved as a good teacher. It took a tumble off that self-made pedestal to get me to understand what I had done to myself, and to accept the fate of humiliation. I don't like to be humiliated, and I know that others don't like it either. It is uncomfortable for me, and I avoid it like the plague. Yet, there is value in learning humility. It helps us to remember why we are doing certain things, and it can keep us focused on the right goal, the end goal, the purpose-driven life.

Today was a wake-up call for me. It was a reminder that I am not called to teach. I am teaching because God gave me an opportunity to do so. I am called to build up the church, to train ministry leaders in how to use communication to help the church understand the emergent 21st century culture. I am called to ministry to be an effective worker and it use my gifts and talents for His kingdom, and not my own. This is my purpose, this is why I am doing what I am doing, and this is where I am going.

My Teaching Statement then has to reflect my call by God and my professional approach -- but it doesn't define me, per se. It is more a reflection of my style when it comes to teaching, how I do it, why I do it, and how I think I can contribute to a spirit of learning in the classroom. This is my attempt at a teaching statement:

My goal in teaching is to help students understand that their opinions matter and that they have a voice. They can use their voice to argue, to persuade, and to create conversation. I don't want them to think I know everything or that I have all the answers, because I don't. I consider myself an advanced learner, someone who is still learning, still processing, still coming to terms with new information. I am more skilled than they are, I have more years of experience, and I know where to find things -- in short -- I am better equipped to facilitate learning, to engage them in dialogue, and to help them figure things out. In short, I can teach them through my life experience, my knowledge-base, and my desire to learn. I cannot make them learn. I cannot motivate them to learn. I can hope that they will choose to learn, but I cannot do anything in the class or outside of the class to make them actually learn. Learning is their responsibility, it is their role. My role is to guide and mentor them, to teach them ways to engage the material, to think and dig deeper. Ultimately, they will learn what they choose to learn. My success or failure in the classroom has nothing to do with my abilities to distill information, but rather it has everything to do with their willingness to engage in conversation about the subject we are studying.

As I consider my role as mentor and guide, I am reminded that we are called in scripture to make disciples of all nations. We are to mentor/disciple each other, to build each other up. As such, I am doing this through teaching literature. Yes, I am teaching short story and analysis and criticism. But I am also mentoring and discipling young students, potential new teachers, and those who don't know what God has called them to do. I am the master and they are the student -- but not of literature -- no, of life, of learning, and of listening to the still small voice that resides within them.

I guide them, I teach them, I train them, I help them. I make mistakes. I goof up, and I stumble over my words. Yes, I do all of the above -- in season and out of season. I do my best, and I trust God for the rest. He is the approver of all that I do and while I may feel ashamed at times when I stumble, God is there to pick me up and help me learn from my mistakes. I am to do the same thing for my students. I am to help them learn from their mistakes, and improve, and grow, and develop into mature Godly men and women.

January 21, 2014

Learning how to trust again

I am back to square one, again. Yes, this trust business is going to be the end of me. I make such great strides forward, trusting the Lord, waiting on Him for His provision, and then wham! I am knocked off my feet (by my own doing) to the point where I find myself sitting in the dirt, wondering how I got to be in such a dirty place (LOL!) Praise be to God, for He is good all the time -- He never leaves us, He never forgets us.

I am so frustrated today, and I have been feeling this way the past few days. What a shame considering the long MLK Jr. holiday weekend!

How much time will I waste sitting in the dirt because I refuse to believe the Word of the Lord?

Ok, so this time is different (well yes and no). I am thankful for my teaching position at GCU. I am thankful that I have this position and that God opened the door for me to teach this spring. I am thankful for the opportunity to teach -- to teach at all -- considering that I believed I would never ever become a teacher because of my age, my recent degree, and my lack of experience in the field. God moved, and He made a way. I am where I am today because He made it happen.

Why is it then so difficult to believe that He will do that again, when I need a full-time teaching position?

I am sitting here today thinking about my financial situation. I am panicked over the lack of money coming in to me. This is exactly what happened to me last semester, when after a month at GCU, I up and packed it in so that I could take a full-time position. I was miserable, completely miserable at this new job, and I longed for the release and freedom of working at GCU. So here I am -- third week in the semester, panicking over the same issue -- not making enough money to cover my bills, fearful of the unknowns, and thinking how will I ever make it as a teacher. The even weirder thing is that last November when I walked away from the good paying job I took in place of GCU, I walked away feeling the freedom of the decision (realizing my mistake and returning to GCU for spring 2014). As a result, I spent the entire month of December not working, and loving every single minute of it. I cherished my four weeks off, and I looked forward to my class this spring.

What has changed for me? Why so down?

I should state that I passed my first Quantitative Research methods lab with full points (whoohoo!) I also should state that I am finding the course difficult, but not anymore difficult than any of my other doctoral classes. In short, the class is the same level as all my other courses. I believed or led myself to believe that it was going to be so hard that I would barely pass or worse yet, fail it completely. Yet here I sit and I am able to say that I am on top of the course work, having completed all my DQs for last week, and now resting today (no school). God is so Good to me. He has provided four wonderful days off so that I could rest and be caught up on Regent as well as design my next module of teaching material for GCU.

Truthfully, what is wrong with me?

God has moved, I know it, I feel it. Whenever He moves, things change in my life. I get off-balanced for a while, and I panic. I know this, He knows this, and I suffer through the changes until I can get myself squared away and back to feeling well (settled). I hate this feeling, and while I have come to learn to appreciate these movements in my life (for they signal change that brings hope, options for new paths, and a refined sense of direction and purpose), I do not like the way the change makes me feel.

I need to be in control. The short of it. The point, the sharp-end of the stick. I need control, and when I am not in control, I panic. It is my INTJ personality (yes, so true), and my need to be perfect in everything I do (yes, so true).

How in the world is the Lord able to deal with me? 

I am such a bother to Him, and I frustrate Him (I am certain of it) on a daily, even a minute-by-minute basis. Yes, I know it is so. The good news of course is the GOOD NEWS! I am loved despite my personality and my panic attacks. He knows me. He loves me. And, He understands me. Praise be to God, He understands me. I am thankful that my God understands all the weird quirks and difficulties that are part-and-parcel with being Me. He is good, so very good. All the time, He is Good to me!

Looking forward is better than looking backward.

I think I read that somewhere online. It is always better to keep your eyes open and your face pointed toward your future, than to constantly revisit the past (which as we all know, cannot be changed). The future, however, is bright with promise, and filled with hopeful optimism. It is not written yet, it is open, and it can be changed. Our attitude and our willingness to experience opportunity will enable us to explore new avenues and welcome change. Our hesitancy and our unwillingness to let go of what is behind us, will keep us stuck, unable to move forward, and unable to take advantage of open doors.

I find that my issue is less with hesitancy, and more with letting go. I want to experience the blessings of God. I want to go where He is sending me. And, most importantly, I believe He has plans that are excellent, wonderful, and well-suited to me. In essence, He has designed a future that fits me well. For me to experience that future, I have to let go. I have to, like Peter, step outside the boat, and walk on the water toward Jesus (Matt. 14:22-33).

I trust the Lord so long as I am safely inside the boat. For me, that boat represents all the material security I have and will need. It is a life constructed of material possessions, and supported by a career and bi-monthly income. And, while I believe, and I do believe, that God provides the material support to me (the Word says that all good gifts come from the Father), when the material support falls short or runs low, I panic. Now granted, my material support has not run low in over four years. Hard as that may sound, but it is true. The Lord provided financial support to me from the moment I found myself single, and He has provided for me for every instant since that time. He has provided for my education. He has provided multiple jobs. He has provided love-gifts from friends and family to help support me in transition. He provided housing, a car, musical instruments, clothing, savings, etc. My life is full to overflowing because He has provided for me.

Why then am I so afraid to let go of the boat and walk on the water toward my Savior?

Is it because I don't believe He can provide (He has shown me consistently that He can and does provide for me)? Is it because I believe that He provided in the past, but He will change His mind, and not provide in the future (so far this line of thinking has not been borne out)? Is it based on works then, my works (obedience, faithfulness, etc.)? Or is it simply because I am listening to a lie of the enemy and I am not believing the Word of the Lord?

Yes, it is the latter. I have not seen the Lord fail me yet. He has provided for every need up to this point, and there have been many needs thus far. He has been faithful to me, always with me, and always showing me which way to go. He has never let go of my hand, He has never left me to sort things out on my own. He has told me what to do, where to go, and how to do whatever needs doing. I have found favor, success, goodwill, and blessing -- I have experienced a rich life filled with wonderful blessings. Will He stop now? And if He does, will it be because I have disappointed Him?

If He chooses to stop blessing me now it will be because He has chosen to do so (though nothing I have seen says this is the way He treats His Children) and not because I have disappointed Him. Frankly, I already did that, and there is nothing I could ever do to change His feelings on that matter. In fact, I couldn't make it up to Him, so He did the unthinkable and sent His Only Son to pay the price for my disobedience and disappointing attitude, behavior, and nature. Yes, He already took care of that part, for the Word tells us that there is nothing I can do to save myself (now or ever) because the Gift of Grace is FREE, always FREE!

Therefore, logically thinking this all through, if God is faithful and He Word tells us so, then He is faithful completely through and through His very being. His Nature is to be Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11). The enemy wants me to suffer, and he knows that if he can get me to start thinking that the blessing I have received is because of my own works, then I will surely begin to doubt my abilities and panic over my lack of resources. However, if I remember that it is not I who do this work, but the Lord Jesus Christ, and then I remember that all the blessing I have experienced is because of His Work, then the only character to be called into question would be that of God's character and nature. I think that battle of the mind has already been won.

The logical conclusion is that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the same, and according to His Nature, He is Good. He is Faithful and He is True. His promises are sure. I can rest in the knowledge that He is who He is, and that His outward characteristics (goodness, mercy, compassion, love, etc.) are directly flowing from His inner Nature. God is Good through and through. There is no shadow, no turning. He is who He is, and I can rest in that assurance. He will never leave me, nor will he forsake me. I am safe in the boat, and I am safe in the water. God is with me. He has me covered, and I am good.

January 20, 2014

It's Monday!

It is a good day to Praise the Lord! His Name is worthy, so worthy to be praised. I lift up my voice, and I raise my hands to give Him praise today. He is good, so very good. All the time, He is GOOD!

Yesterday was a good day over all. It started off with a bit of sadness, a bit of a wake-up call at church. I have known the truth for a long while, but I had hoped that things would turn around at some point.  Our church is suffering greatly, and while the music and the message were enjoyable, the church is having severe financial issues, which overshadowed the entire worship service. It is unfortunate to think that a church might close its doors because of low-attendance and low-giving, but our church is in a crisis, and it is very possible that this will happen at some point in 2014.

I cannot help but think that this has been the result of all the changes made over the past couple of years. I don't want to be the "Debbie Downer" who points the finger and says "Look, I told you this would happen if you continued to follow the culture instead of Christ," but this appears to be the case. My heart has ached for a long while as I watched my church turn into a place I didn't know or recognize. Most of the people I saw regularly have left and have moved to other more traditional churches (Methodist, Lutheran, etc.). The reason they have left our church in particular is because they felt they were not wanted, not needed, not appreciated. Their view, their desire for mentor-ship, discipleship, spiritual growth was not being met, and they got fed up with the pablum of "feel good" and "we love you" messages being preached each Sunday morning.

Our church has been in transition for so long that I believe the character make up is no longer balanced between mature believers and those who are still coming to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. The mixture on Sunday mornings seems to be heavily leaning toward new believers. While this is a good thing, always a good thing, the problem rests with the ideology of the new believer. New believers, especially those that have no familiarity with the Church as a whole often do not give money to support the ministry and programs. The old members, the Old Guard, so to speak, were the ones who understood the Biblical mandate of giving, and who took their role seriously, and gave self-sacrificially to ensure the lights remained on, and the Pastor was paid each week. New believers are not schooled, not trained to the point where they see the connection between their support, their role, and the life of the Church. They are new, they are babes, and they are not spiritually mature to understand what the responsibility of church membership entails. And, in truth, why should they understand this role? I mean, so many churches no longer preach the roles and responsibilities of membership. In short, they no longer see value in membership because membership means nothing to them. Yet, when the chips are down, and giving is off -- then membership comes into focus. Ah yes, it is the members who pay the bills. It is the members who support the initiatives. It is the members who are called on once again to answer the call to serve, to minister, to support, and to build up the church.

Oh, wait a minute. What happens when members leave the church and take their support and their resources elsewhere? Who ya gonna call?

Why have so many members left our church over the past year? The reasons given vary:
  • they didn't feel needed/necessary
  • they didn't like the music (traditional service was changed, no choir, no organ)
  • they didn't like the way communion was handled (self-serve, no emphasis on the meaning of communion)
  • they didn't like the worship experience (the lighting, the mood, the attitude)
  • they didn't like the message (feel good with emphasis on culture and not on the Bible)
  • they didn't like the lack of biblical teaching (teaching from the Word)
  • they didn't like the way the leadership spent money (on people, programs and resources)
  • they didn't like the focus on youth culture
  • and so on. 
The bottom line - they didn't like the cultural shift taking place that put "the world" ahead of "the Lord." 

I believe that the reason our church is at the point of dying is because of the focus on youth culture and attracting "God seekers." Our church has always maintained that their focus was on making the church (our community) a safe-place where those who were seeking God could find support and encouragement. The idea was very warm and fuzzy, it sounded so good -- make the place welcoming, warm and friendly. Open the doors to the lost, the poor, the disenfranchised, and spread the Love of Christ to all who are seeking Him.

Unfortunately, while this focus seems Biblical, it is antithetical -- it is the exact opposite of what Scripture tells us is true about the world. You see, the Bible clearly tells us that people do not seek God. No one seeks Him. The only people who seek God are those who have been called, and who have received that call and are responding to it. God seeks the lost. God calls to them. God opens His arms to let them in.

People go their own way. People are not interested in the things of God. For them to be interested, they must be changed. They must be saved. It is pretty easy to see the contrast, to see that all efforts to be attractive to the lost simply portray the church as being not what God called it to be.

Yes, we are to seek the lost (we seek them, not the other way around). Yes, we are to be culturally sensitive, but not in the way that many of the seeker-sensitive churches do it. We are to be different, separated, called out of the world. We are in the world, but not a part of it. We cannot paint the church as being culturally-relevant and still maintain our Biblical standard of being separated. It is not possible to serve both "God and Mammon."

The sad part in all of this is the damage that our church has done to people who invested in the ministry and programs only to be cast aside when they were told that their views didn't matter, that the church was changing, and that they had better get on board. Of course, they were encouraged to get on board. The were also encouraged to go elsewhere if they were unhappy. And, so they did.

What is left now? How do we move forward? The numbers bear it out -- there is not enough income to support the staff -- so staff will have to be let go. My prayer is that some of the staff will leave of their own accord. My hope is that those that do leave will find new positions in other churches and that they will learn from this experience -- do not bite the hand that feeds you. I know, it sounds so crass. Jesus followers should not bite anyone's hand, they should love everyone and freely give to all who ask of them, right? No, not really. Again, it is a Scriptural error. Those who love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ need to be wise stewards of the money God has given to them. They need to consider carefully that the programs they support, even the ministry and Pastor of the Church, are aligned with the Bible, the Word, and are holding fast to the integrity of the Mission of the Church. They need to make sure they are not seeking the world, not seeking to enfold the culture, and not willing to compromise the promises of God for the potential of new members. The church is not a social club. It is not hip. It is not cutting-edge as some think it should be. The church is about Jesus Christ, and it is about growing disciples of Jesus, not just filling stadiums full of people who like to hear a good message.

Ok, so off my rant now. I am praying that God will use the leadership team in place at my church to carefully consider what needs to be done next. I pray that God will move the hearts and minds of the men and women who do serve to consider whether they need to voluntarily leave ministry and move on. I pray that those that remain are redirected and are willing to recognize the errors of the past, and that they need to revisit the call of Scripture -- placing the Word of God above all else.

So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. (Rom. 10:17 NLT)

January 18, 2014

Lab 1 is in the Bag!

As usual, I waited to the very last moment to complete my statistics lab exercises for the week. I am not a math-y person, and the last math course I took was back in 1993. I passed with an A+ thanks to a very innovative and interesting Chinese professor from Stanford. I say that last part because I still wonder if his teaching style was representative of how Chinese students learn math. This young man was interesting to listen to and explained concepts so easily. I have never had a math class like his before and I did really well in it. Sometimes I think that I might have chosen a computer science field if I would have had teachers who made the content so exciting and used real-world application. This professor did that and I sailed through his course with ease (yes, I did a lot of home work and it wasn't a gimme -- it took a lot of study and memorization -- but it was worth it). Long digression from my point about statistics, but there you go! It is Saturday after all and I am glad for the day and for the fact that I have four days off (no school on Monday). God is good, so very good!

Back to my statistics course (ugh!). The class I am taking is called COM 702 Communication Research: Quantitative Methodologies. The course description states, "The course is designed to provide knowledge of social science research methods and statistical analysis." I don't know why I panicked when I first heard that I was required to take this class. Perhaps it was because the students who came into my doctoral program last summer made it seem like it was the most difficult class they had ever taken. My mind was incited to believe that it would be like sophomore Algebra II where I sat with absolutely no clue as to what I was doing, sweating bullets that I would be called to the blackboard/whiteboard to demonstrate some problem set. So far, I have been pleasantly surprised by the content of the course. In fact, I think I might enjoy this class (gulp!). I am thinking that I might actually like collecting data and then analyzing it for research (second big gulp!) Oh my, can I really say that this is so...?

A second digression...

The lab exercise last night was not difficult. It was a little frustrating because the instructions didn't match to the new version of IBM® SPSS® Statistics 22. Once I got the software up and running, and then imported the data file, I was stumped as to what to do with it all. The lab instructions assumed I knew what to do, but clearly had some steps missing. Thanks to one of my colleagues,  I was able to finally get to the meat of the exercise, and then answer the lab questions.

I am blessed to have some wonderful colleagues who have a statistical mindset and with whom I can run to with questions. They are great at responding and are so willing to help out. I am blessed, so very blessed to be in this doctoral program at Regent. God impressed on my heart that Regent was where he wanted me to attend. I waffled for so long, but am I glad I listened to His Holy Spirit in the end. I could imagine myself right now in another program, a program where everyone was out for their own well-being. If I needed help, I would be on my own. Instead, I am surrounded by people who love God, and who love research. We share, we help, we pray...we are open to others and as such we are journeying together. It is good, so amazingly good.

Plans for the Day

I don't really have any plans other than to complete my second DQ for my COM 785 Seminar - Family Communication in the Digital Age. Once that is done, then I am set for the entire weekend. I will need to design my next two weeks of lessons for my Short Story class at GCU. Other than that, and some cello practice, I have the weekend (long) to relax and to enjoy with my family. God is so very good, so very good all the time!

January 16, 2014

Fixing My Mind On Jesus

And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God
and are partners with those called to heaven,
think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God's
messenger and High Priest.
~Heb. 3:1

The Book of Hebrews is one of my most favorite books in Scripture. I have always been challenged by the content, and I feel that it is one of the least understood books to date. Some of it is fairly easy to grasp, but there are deep spiritual truths nestled within the pages of this book that cause even strident believers to think, to question, and to wonder about this Jesus we worship and adore. As I consider my life this day, I am brought low to my knees whenever I think about the Lord and all that He has done for me. He has saved me for eternity -- I am saved. He has washed my sins clean -- I am forgiven. He has adopted me into His family -- I am His child. He has given me a new purpose, a new plan -- I have value and worth. He has shown me how to live my life according to the Scriptures -- I can live a life that is pleasing to Him. In all, He has redeemed me, reclaimed me, restored me, and refocused me. I am not the same person I once was, formerly walking in darkness, and estranged from God and living according to my desires and intentions. No, I am now redirected and following a new path, a new road -- a road which leads to ETERNITY.

It is written this way in Hebrews 6:1-2:

Therefore let us go on and get past the elementary stage in the teachings and doctrine of Christ (the Messiah), advancing steadily toward the completeness and perfection that belong to spiritual maturity. Let us not again be laying the foundation of repentance and abandonment of dead works (dead formalism) and of the faith [by which you turned] to God, with teachings about purifying, the laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment and punishment. [These are all matters of which you should have been fully aware long, long ago.]

Speaking of the former and the new, the writer of Hebrews clearly instructs us to understand what maturity looks like, and calls us to know that as believers in Christ Jesus, we must move behind the basic tenets of the faith, and seek to accept fully the gospel of Grace, which brings the complete forgiveness of our sins. In doing so, we are encouraged to grasp the significance of the finished work of Jesus Christ, and to accept fully the gift He has given to us.

I consider these words, and I take them to heart because part of my Christian upbringing rests upon foundations laid by men, Godly men, but mere mortal men who taught that the only way to remain in relationship with Christ was to live in perpetual repentance. I was raised to believe that I was a sinner, always a sinner, and that I maintained my "grace state" through constant remembrance of my sin-state. In doing so, I lived a condemned life, a life whereby I remembered my sins and the guilt of my sins, confessing repeatedly and asking God for His forgiveness. I was taught that this was how to remain humble and to stay in a grace-fellowship with the Lord.

As I have matured in my walk with Christ, I have come to understand the completeness of His Mercy, and I have realized that I am free from the penalty of my sin. My sins have been washed away, I have been made clean, and I am brand new. God does not remember my sins, and I am forgiven -- yesterday, today, and forever.

It has taken a long time for me to accept this truth, and to understand what it means for me to walk in Grace. I also have come to understand the centrality of the Gospel, and that the ministry of Christ, is far more greater than anything I could/can possibly comprehend. In short, Jesus is GREATER THAN all my fears, my doubts, my hesitations, my failings, my frailty, and so on. He is EVERYTHING, so when the writer of Scripture says that Jesus is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end -- it is meant to suggest a circle without an end. Jesus is the SUM TOTAL of all things, beginning with Him and ending with Him. He covers everything in between, and there is no breakage, no point in time when He is not in control or in charge. 

I look to Him with this in mind, and I immediately see that my life exists as part of His circle (His being). I am part of Him, and through Grace, He has become part of me. It is a miracle and the outworking means that I am no longer functioning outside the circle, for I am now contained within it. The good news then becomes the fact that as part of His circle, my life flows with Him. His will, His desire, His plans...I am part of what He chooses to do, His work, His ministry. My life is no longer my own, but I exist as part of Him. Exciting to conceptualize, yet even more exciting to experience. I am processing this revelation, and I don't have it completely clear in my mind, other than to say that because of this idea, I can see how my life works into His plans. I can say with the Apostle Paul in Gal. 2:19-21 AMP: 

For I through the Law [under the operation of the curse of the Law] have [in Christ’s death for me] myself died to the Law and all the Law’s demands upon me, so that I may [henceforth] live to and for God. I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me. [Therefore, I do not treat God’s gracious gift as something of minor importance and defeat its very purpose]; I do not set aside and invalidate and frustrate and nullify the grace (unmerited favor) of God. For if justification (righteousness, acquittal from guilt) comes through [observing the ritual of] the Law, then Christ (the Messiah) died groundlessly and to no purpose and in vain. [His death was then wholly superfluous.]

Today as I think on these scripture verses, I am reminded of the fullness of the Gospel of Grace. I am thankful that God has provided a way for me to be redeemed (completely), to be saved and sanctified (completely), and to be re-purposed according to His plans (completely). I am thinking how this changes my view of life, and how my response to God is different. I lift my hands in prayer, and I shout with joy to Him for He has done marvelous things for me (and for you). Today is a new day, a brand new day, and I look to this day for the pleasure He brings to me, and the wonderful works He has planned for me. May God be praised today and forever more. Amen (so be it), thy will be done. Selah (pause and calmly think about that)!

January 15, 2014

Choose to Praise God

It is another beautiful day here in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. The weather report says it is supposed to be 75 today with lots of sunshine. It has been nice all week, really warmer than normal for this time of year. Our usual high temperatures are in the 60's, and often we get a lot of rain in the wintertime. The warmer than usual temperatures and the full sun are enjoyable. Part of me, however, cannot help but think that we need to get some rain now, just to ensure our summer scorchers are not fueled by drought. Oh well...

Today is a good day, as I said above. I am thinking about all that God has done in my life, and I cannot help but Choose to Praise Him today. I am thinking how He has orchestrated my days, opened up new doors, and given me the opportunity to try out new things. I am in a new place, a brand new place, and I am learning new skills, and experiencing new things each day. God has moved miraculously in my life, and He has made this way possible. I can only lift my hands in praise to Him, and shout for joy, for He has done great things for me (Ps. 126:3):

Yes, the LORD has done amazing things for us! What joy!

God is amazingly good, all the time, He is wonderfully and fearfully Good! I give Him praise today for I know that He is doing good in my life, working out all the details for my good (Rom. 8:28):

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Yes, God is working in and through my life to bring about good things. He is making all things new again (Rev. 21:5):

And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making everything new!" And then he said to me, "Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true."

I believe that God has restored my life, given back to me the years that were destroyed by the locusts (symbolically speaking). In Joel 2:25 it says,

The LORD says, "I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. It was I who sent this great destroying army against you.

I take this verse to heart because in my life, it is true. I spent so many years suffering at the hands of another. Yes, I am guilty as well, for I walked away from the Lord many times, and I sought to medicate the pain in my life through other avenues. I returned to the Lord time and time again, but it was for short periods only. It took a major upheaval of my life before I turned to Him, and committed my way to follow Him.

As I consider all that the Lord has done for me, I am reminded of His care for me, and that He loves me unconditionally. He has shown His favor toward me, and He has given me His grace. He has made it possible for me to restart my life, to return to a former way, and to experience the plans and purposes He had in mind for me as though nothing previously transpired. In short, He made all things new again, and He gave me the opportunity to return to the way He chose, the path He created, and in doing so, I am experiencing His great blessing upon my life. I am doing what He wanted me to do in the first place -- albeit after a very long delay -- and I am experiencing everyday joy (to quote Joyce Meyer). Yes, I am filled with joy and I am feeling blessed and contented in what He is doing in my life today.

Looking forward I see great things on the horizon. I can envision my days, and I see the blessing of fellowship with the Lord and with others. I know His plans are good, and that He has made a way for me to go. I am following hard after Him -- not looking left or right -- but staying fixed upon His way. His way is good, it is sure, it is safe, and it leads to life. I know this, I see this, I believe this is true. God is faithful, He is true, and His love and mercy never end. Praise Him today. Give Him His due glory. Show Him your love. Commit your way to Him. Seek Him with all diligence. You will find Him for He is not hidden from you. He is waiting for you patiently to return to Him. Do it now and experience the great blessing of restoration, healing, and joy. I pray this in the Magnificent Name of Jesus -- my RISEN AND EXALTED LORD -- Amen (so be it). Thy will be done. Selah (pause, and calmly think about that!!)

January 13, 2014

It is a Good Monday

Happy Monday! It is a good day to be alive and to be praising God. He is Good, and the day He has made is Good as well. God be praised for He is good all the time!

Planning and Preparing

It is week two of my Short Story class, and I have to get my Prezi's created for this week. I am excited to be wrapping up this first module. We have an essay due this week as well as a quiz on the module. It will be good to evaluate the students in their understanding of the topic, and to glean how well they are able to analyze our text. God is good, so very good. I thank Him for this opportunity to teach classes at GCU this Spring. I am learning every day, and I am figuring out what I like and do not like to do when it comes to presenting material. I would prefer to be more low-key, but I think I do need to grind through more content just to satisfy the students who need content to process analytical thinking. It is a give-and-take situation, and I am learning what works and what doesn't work well.

Plans for Next Week

As I look forward, I have so much to complete, and so many to-do items on my to-do list. Yet, God is faithful to provide me with enough time so that I can stay on top of my studies and handle my teaching load. I feel confident that what I am doing is what He wants me to be doing. I am rested, and I am feeling good (praise God!) It is a wonderful feeling to finally be where you are supposed to be. I have worked at so many jobs that were "practical" in nature. In fact, yesterday I prayed about a job opportunity and I remember saying to the Lord, "Oh Lord, thank you for practical work." As soon as I uttered those words, I realized that what I wanted to say was really "Lord, thank you for providing non-practical work." Let me explain...

I have worked at practical jobs all my life. These were jobs where I worked 20-40 hours a week just to get a pay check. I liked the work in most of the cases, but the jobs weren't career building nor were they the kind of job that made me want to get out of bed and rush to the office. No, these were good jobs, practical jobs, but they weren't jobs that I was passionately interested in doing. For many years, I wrote off the idea of a "passionate" job because I believed that people who looked for those kinds of jobs were deluding themselves or they were being irresponsible and looking down their noses at jobs that provided for their family, but didn't satisfy their inner self. I thought, "C'mon - it is a good job. Isn't that a good thing?" I didn't realize that it was possible to find a job where you could have both -- a good paycheck and also a job that fits your personality, your creativity, and your interest. No, I thought it was one or the other -- you either had a good job that you tolerated or you were the lucky one who found that one "passionate" job out there.

As I was praying, I realized that all the jobs I have worked recently were good jobs. The Lord provided what I needed at the time I needed it. He fulfilled my desire for income, benefits, and a steady paycheck, which was of importance back then. I needed to be established, to create credit, and to secure a stable lifestyle. To accomplish these goals, I needed good practical work that provided a steady paycheck.

It is not that I don't need a steady paycheck now, because I do. It is more that I am now working for a different reason, and that reason is to prepare myself for the Lord's work. In short, the work I do now (teaching) is part of His plan for my life, and as such, the work experience is what matters -- not the paycheck. In fact, if you think you can get rich teaching, you are mistaken. Teachers are paid a pittance, and although I am not complaining about my income right now, it is not lucrative nor is it going to provide a good retirement (later on, perhaps; but certainly not now).

The work is what matters. It is the work that matters because the process of learning how to teach is what the Lord wants me to experience. It is the prepping, the preparing, and the presenting that matters to Him, and I need to be comfortable doing this kind of "work." I know that God has called me to a specific ministry work, and that at this point in my life (age 51), I am to be about preparing for it. This is a work that I will not do for another 15 years, and I need to have certain key elements to do it. I am getting my PhD and I am working as a teacher -- both are important to His work. I don't know exactly why, but the Lord has impressed this upon me, and so I am walking in obedience to Him, and pursuing what I believe He has called me to do.

For now then, the work I do is preparatory rather than practical. It is necessary for me to learn how to do this, and the Lord is blessing me as I pursue it. Interestingly enough, He is blessing my way, providing a way for me to go, and giving me His grace so that I can experience this work. I am excited to be the recipient of His work. I am excited to think that I am benefiting from His mercy and grace, and that I am able to do this work in His Name.

What's Up Next?

I prayed yesterday, after a prompting by the Holy Spirit, to ask the Lord for a full-time teaching position. I don't know I did this because He has told me that His plans for me were to provide part-time adjunct teaching at GCU while I completed my education at Regent. Yet, the words just came out of my mouth, and I asked Him to provide a full-time opportunity for me to teach online. Most online teaching is adjunct, and it seemed odd to ask for such a job. The Lord however seemed to desire that I ask for this position, so I did. I don't know of any position that is available right now. I looked online at GCU and didn't see anything. I haven't checked the higher education jobs boards yet, but the last time I did look, I didn't see anything. Additionally, you normally need your PhD to teach full-time, so I thought it was odd that I would begin asking for a job without the proper qualifications. Yet, I did it, and I am trusting the Lord to provide for what He seemed intent on me asking.

It would be awesome to have a full-time teaching position -- again for pay and benefits -- even though I am happy to work part-time right now. I love the freedom I have to work three days a week. I love that I can spend the extra time on my studies or to prep for classes. Teaching full-time is a lot more work, and it would mean less time for those other things. However, it also would be a wonderful way to get the experience I need, and for that I am open and willing to doing whatever the Lord desires of me.

I have prayed for a job opportunity that doesn't exist (that I know of), but the Lord seemed determined to have me do it. Therefore, it is up to Him to provide it to me. I will patiently wait upon Him, and I will trust Him to provide for my needs. How He does it, is up to Him. I will wait, yes Lord, I will wait upon you for the fulfillment of your promise to me.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for your grace today. Thank you for your love and your provision of my every need. Thank you for leading me by the hand and for showing me which way to go. I trust you to provide clear direction to me. If there is a job I need to apply for, so be it. If I need to wait for this opportunity to open up, so be it. I will go where you send me, and I will do the work you have prepared for me to do. God is always to be praised, and in every thing I do, I lift your Name and I give you the praise, the honor, and ultimately the glory. God is good, always good, all the time. Thank you, Jesus for your gracious gift to me, and for showing me how to live this life. May you be pleased by my words, my actions, and everything I do. In your Name I pray now, Selah! Amen - so be it.

January 12, 2014

Sunday with Carol

Psalm 82
A psalm of Asaph.

1 God presides over heaven’s court;
    he pronounces judgment on the heavenly beings:
2 “How long will you hand down unjust decisions
    by favoring the wicked? Interlude

3 “Give justice to the poor and the orphan;
    uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.
4 Rescue the poor and helpless;
    deliver them from the grasp of evil people.
5 But these oppressors know nothing;
    they are so ignorant!
They wander about in darkness,
    while the whole world is shaken to the core.
6 I say, ‘You are gods;
    you are all children of the Most High.
7 But you will die like mere mortals
    and fall like every other ruler.’”

8 Rise up, O God, and judge the earth,
    for all the nations belong to you.

I am thankful this day. God has provided a way for me to earn a living doing something I never thought I would EVER get to do. Yes, God has opened a door, and He has enabled me to earn a living as a college instructor. I am blessed beyond believing and I know that my God loves me and cares for me. In fact, I am so assured of His Goodness toward me that today I am able to cry out to Him with thanks and praise KNOWING that His love and mercy will never end (Lamentations 3:22-23). As I consider His Goodness this morning, I stand in AWE of Him because of His faithfulness and His Love. He is Good all the time, and all the time, He is so very Good.

The Lord has promised good to me, and He has delivered on His promise. 

I am sitting here today thinking about my life and remembering how far I have come over the past 8-10 years. My life has taken a completely new trajectory, and I am on a path that was as far away from my imagination as could be. Let me explain...

I always wanted to be a teacher. I believed that I was suited to teaching, but I never really thought about becoming a teacher until recently. Well, this is not really true. I wanted to be a Kindergarten teacher when I was in the 6th grade. I was a teacher aide in my elementary school (Highlands Elementary in Hazel Crest, IL), and I fell in love with the idea of working with little children. When I graduated and moved over to the middle school (we called it Junior High), I worked with the students in the PreK-3rd grade that was housed next door to our school. I helped with reading, and I worked with the teacher to learn how to be a teacher's assistant. Moreover, I was in a program where I was able to study experimental learning strategies at the same time that I was working in the elementary school. I credit much of my ability to recall facts and figures, and my understanding of chunking data to this program. 

When I graduated from middle school, I moved to the high school. It was at this point that I lost my way for a time. I didn't like the high school environment, and I felt very out of touch with the way the classes were taught. My middle school teachers were generally helpful, and were nice (for the most part). The high school teachers were task masters and they either were out to see you fail or they simply didn't care enough to help you when you struggled. My experience in high school was disappointing, and I suffered greatly -- to such an extent -- that I felt I was not smart enough to become a teacher.

I moved schools during high school, and my second school in San Jose was no better than the first. I felt unprepared for the task of studying, and I didn't like the subjects I was required to take. I did enjoy Art, and I liked working in the Library a lot. However, the other subjects were difficult for me, and I spent most of my time daydreaming and thinking about what my life might be like outside of class.

With all this in mind, it is no wonder that I lost my love of teaching somewhere between middle school and high school graduation. When I went off to college, I was bound and determined to study Art, the only subject in which I found success. I took art classes and I told myself that I would "perhaps" become an Art teacher some day. It didn't take long to realize that I enjoyed the interpretive and impressionistic side of art, but that I didn't like the avant-garde or the postmodern influences. As a Christian, I was appalled by the overt sensuality and nudity I saw in the Art community. I was sheltered and I was struggling to find my home within Christ at that time. Art and I didn't mix well.

Once I had made up my mind that I couldn't pursue Art for religious reasons, I floundered and dropped out of school. I lost all interest in studying, and I pursued relationships instead. I met and married my husband, and I went into the working world feeling dissatisfied and ashamed that I had failed out of school. I struggled to fit in to the corporate environment, and I couldn't shake the thought that I was in the wrong place, and I was doing the wrong kind of work.

Six years after dropping out of school, I went back to college to pursue my bachelors degree. It took six years and the feeling of being pushed to return before I actually acted on it. My friend and I studied together, and we graduated with a BA in Humanities in 1993. The thought of teaching college took over my mind during those years, and I pursued education with that goal in mind. However, in September of 1993, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, and my ideas about teaching were put on the back burner.

I devoted most of the next 9-10 years to being a SAHM. I helped in my son's preschool and grade school classroom, and of course, I taught Sunday School, Awana, and VBS. I worked with children off and on for 30 some years, always in a voluntary capacity. I love working with children, and I enjoyed the opportunity to teach them Bible, especially. I still felt ashamed that I never got my teaching credential and that I didn't become a teacher. I pushed aside those thoughts and concentrated on what I was doing, which was raising a Godly young man, and teaching him Biblical truth.

God provided an opportunity for me to teach at home in 2004. My son was having issues in the public school, and my then-husband and I made the decision to home school. I was blessed to home school my son for the remainder of his education. I had a blast, probably more fun than he did, and I learned so much about curriculum, instructional methods, and how not to teach (formally) at home.

In 2010, God provided another opportunity that would change my life completely. I started a Masters program in English Literature with the expressed intention of becoming a college English instructor. My life had suffered quite a reversal, and I was facing single-hood after almost 25 years of marriage. I took the program to heart, and I applied myself believing that this would be the "way out" for me. I would graduate and start teaching college. I could envision a life of teaching, a good pension, and a way for me to have time off each year (more than 2 weeks but a whole summer).

Unfortunately, after graduation in 2012, I struggled to find a teaching job. I took a position at UOPX thinking that becoming an academic advisor would satisfy my need to teach and mentor students. I also was single for the first time since college and I needed full-time work to help rebuild my life, establish myself, and begin to provide a new way for me to live. 

After UOPX, I tried to teach again, but found the way blocked. I couldn't get hired because I didn't have any teaching experience. I applied numerous places, asking for the opportunity to teach, but received no responses back. I took the job at CVS Caremark because it seemed a good fit for my analytical and logical skill. However, the grind of working long hours and overtime took its toll. I was physically worn out, and stressed over the way that my colleagues treated other colleagues.

In late 2013, I had the opportunity to work at Northcentral University, again as an advisor. I didn't want to take this route, but I have convinced myself that there was no hope for me to teach -- no experience, therefore, no teaching contract. I took a chance and applied at GCU, and I was surprised when I received a call to interview there. I went and while I wasn't hired to teach in the fall, I was given the opportunity to work as an IA for a semester to gain some classroom experience.

All of this background history is simply to document my progress from child to adult, from student teacher to college instructor. God has faithfully provided a way for me to accomplish the desire of my childhood heart and become a teacher. It has taken me nearly 40 years to do so, but here I am teaching college English Literature courses. In God's economy there is never any cause to think it is "too late" to accomplish His will. Praise His Name for He is Good and He is Faithful!

I am a college teacher. I can hardly begin to express my gratitude to God for providing me with this position. While I am only teaching one class this semester, I am excited to consider that I will have the opportunity to teach more classes come Summer and Fall. I am also excited to think that once I complete my PhD program, I will be able to apply for full-time faculty positions whereby I can once again have benefits and build a pension (retirement of some sorts). God knows my worries over my finances, and He knows that I am wholly dependent upon Him for His provision of all my needs. I need money. I need benefits. I need stability and I need a solid future whereby I can rest and not worry about tomorrow (all my tomorrows). I am trusting Him, and I believe He is providing everything I need. I know He has my tomorrows covered. I want to work full-time, and I want to be settled, set in place, so I can feel that I am part of a community of educators. I am longing for the day when I can write my name with that Dr. in front of it or that PhD at the end of it. I want to be a Professor, and I look forward to writing scholarly papers and teaching higher level classes (masters and perhaps doctoral). Until that time, I have a lot of work to do. I have to finish my PhD and I have to continue to teach classes, as many as possible so I can build up my resume (a CV in academic circles). God knows this, and I believe He has a plan worked out for me.

One of the things I love about Him most is the way He coordinates every aspect of our lives. He never considers something as "past" as a "forgone conclusion." No, God is a God of second chances, and with God, truly all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). I am happy today because God has reminded me that while I wanted to be a teacher when I was a child, and while I had opportunity to become a teacher in college -- even though I chose a different path -- He never forgot His promise to me. I made the decision to get married instead of returning to school to study elementary education. I made the decision to study art, and I made the decision to drop out of school. I made all the choices back then that took me in a different direction. Even despite my poor decisions and my willfulness to disobey His Word to me -- even despite all of that -- God proved Himself faithful. He remembered His promise to me, and He kept His Word.

I am living His testimony to me now. I am living out His promised fulfillment, and I am the recipient of His Grace. God be praised for He is so Good.

I have achieved the goal of becoming a teacher. I believe that I have been returned to the former path, the path God had in mind for me so many years ago, and I am now experiencing His restoration. He restored to me the desires He had for my future. He made a way where there seemed to be no way. He gave me a career when I thought I would never have one, and He opened doors that I believed were blocked and locked. God is good, so very good to me.

Now I am on this path, and I am moving forward in His will for my life. I am becoming the person He desires me to be. I am thinking like He wants me to think, and the decisions I make now are aligned with His will for me. I am good, so very good, and He is pleased with me. I can feel it. I can feel His good pleasure when I do this thing - when I teach. I stress, yes I do. I want to be perfect, and I hate failing at anything. However, when I start teaching students, I can feel Him move within me. I can feel myself relax and let go, and God moves, He really moves within me. I am in love with Him, and with what He is doing in my life. I can feel His goodness toward me, and I can see the fundamental outpouring of His grace in my life. I have everything I need. I am well-covered, and I am so loved and cared for now. He is good, He is so very good.

Dear Lord,

I give you praise today for you have changed my life and given me a new direction, a new focus, and a new plan. I thank you for your grace, and your mercy, which is ever new. I thank you that I am able to do this work in your Name, and that through the power of your Name, I can overcome all the obstacles I see before me (namely work experience, education, long term financial planning, and benefits). I know you have everything under control and that you have already created a way for me to re-mediate these concerns. I am working at GCU at present to gain experience. I am completing my education at Regent. I will obtain a full-time professorship at some point, and through that employment, I will have salary and benefits again. You have this taken care of and the timing is within your hand. You are so very good, so very good indeed. I ask now that you reveal your will to me, and that you lead me to where you want me to go. I am open and ready to tackle any and all opportunities, and I trust you implicitly as you move in and through my life. Have your way today, Lord, and lead me to the place of your choosing. Thank you, Lord! I ask this now in the precious and most majestic Name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah! (Pause and calmly think about it).

January 9, 2014

Random Thoughts about God

It's Thursday, the day after "hump day," and I am feeling a bit under the weather. I am not sick, per se, just feeling that "I don't feel well" kind of feeling. I woke up with it, and while I have prayed to have it go away, I still feel not quite right on. I am not sure why I get this way, but I think it is probably due to the fact that I am prone to depression, and that I often get attacked by the enemy right when I encounter some doubt and difficulty. Yes, unfortunately the enemy knows my weaknesses well. Thank God that the enemy also knows my strengths, and that my STRENGTH is not my own, but that if the Lord Jesus Christ, RISEN AND EXALTED, and against whom no weapon can be formed (Is. 54:17 NKJV).

No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord.

As I sit here today, I am reminded that I am mere flesh and bone. I am fallible, and my life's work is for naught. There is nothing I bring to God's Holy table that is of any value to Him. My life belongs to Him already, and therefore, no human work is pleasing and acceptable for any merit-based reward. No, the only work that will elicit the praise of God is the work He performs in me and through me. It must be His work, His way, and for His honor to receive a "well-done!" So long as I continue to struggle through the human frailty and think that my actual to-do lists will honor Him, I will live a life that is open to the enemies attack. If I choose, instead, to let Him do His work in me, then the enemy has to confront the Lord, and well, we already know that ending to the story. Therefore, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Paul were right - the more we try to do, the less we will overcome (John 3:31, Gal 2:20). The more we let Christ do, the less we will incur the enemies wrath. Of course, the enemy will seek to destroy that which is human-made, but he cannot destroy that which is God made. 

It is difficult to understand what is meant by these verses. How can I decrease so that Christ can increase? Do I physically submit to the Lord, through my will, to demonstrate that I am letting go of my own well-being and welfare? In a way, yes, and in a way, no. I believe that what is being said here is in part a willful submission and act of obedience. It is also a supernatural infilling of the Holy Spirit that enables the child of Christ to allow the RISEN AND EXALTED Lord to reign supreme over every area and every need. It is progressive -- at first a laying down of one's life, and then a laying down of one's will. The act of obedience is to the WORD of God, and then to the daily application of this principle. The act must be performed over and over again, a choice that says, "I will obey you, Lord." This act of obedience is repeated throughout the believer's life, as many times as needed, to keep the body (the flesh) in check. However, without the second part, the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, what remains is mere works of the flesh (legalism).
I struggle with legalism, and with "doing" things for God. I know that I cannot do anything good, anything that pleases Him, but I still try it. I still think that somehow I will be worthy on my own merit, my own hands, and my own mind. God has reminded me that He is I AM and as such there is no other work or thing or being sufficient to stand next to Him. You cannot stand in your flesh in the presence of I AM --> see Moses who learned first hand that He couldn't see the face of God, but only His passing by (a shadow of the former, still leaving a changed appearance and a radiation-effect). No, I worship I AM and because I have pledged my life to Him, I must relinquish the works of the flesh (the good works, not the sinful works that we laid at His feet), the works that I do now as a believer in Christ. These are the works that appear to be "good" and appear to be "worthy." By human standards these works are good, they can be worthwhile, and they can bring good to others. Yet, infused by filling of the Holy Spirit, these humble works can achieve God's purposes, but only if He has a say in them, and is able to work through them.
I sit here today, and I think about the works I do each day. I think about how I struggle with doubt as to whether I have done a good job, been approved, given credit. I am saddened when I stop and I realize how much time I spend in negative feelings, self-doubt, and critical awareness. God has given me His Spirit, and I am not stuck with the works of the flesh. I have the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit working on the inside of me, and His approval is based solely upon the finished work of Christ Jesus. There is nothing I need do to be approved. He is the one who gets all the credit, and as such, is the one who is EXALTED!

Dear Lord,

As I spend this day today, may I remember that you have accomplished your work, and that you have sat down on your throne. You are not waiting to complete the work for it is finished. Therefore, let me remember that your finished work applies to my life as well. I do not need to struggle to be approved by you or by anyone. I am approved. I am already made whole, made complete, and made ready to do your work. I am set free, and I am no longer in bondage to the negative self-talk and doubt. I am redeemed, I am able to do everything you have planned for me, and all will be accomplished in your Name, and through your Strength, and for your Praise and Honor. I let go now, and I rest in your freedom. Your Name is Great, and I give you all Praise today. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!