March 31, 2014

The Next Steps

I am ready to take the next step in my journey toward a Christ-centered life. I have been steadily following after Him for many years, but the last few have been marked with an increased thirst for Him personally, to know Him, and to know the plans He has for my life. As I move forward on this path, I am amazed at the work He has done in my life. I see transformation daily, and I able to reflect on the way He moves in me and through me. I am made new each day, almost as if, this day is the first day of the rest of my life (every day is this way). I love this fact. I love the fact that my life begins anew each morning, and that each moment holds some new truth, some new understanding. I am in awe of His work, and in how He chooses to reveal Himself to me.

The Lord is Good to those whom He loves. He is good, and His goodness precedes Him. In this place, there is goodness all the time. I feel it, I see it, I experience it. It makes me feel safe and secure. It gives me hope for a successful future, and I enjoy the blessing of knowing that my steps are ordered, set in place, and that I am going where I am meant to go.

It wasn't always this way, of course. For many years, my life was of my own making. Even though I was a Christian, and I believed in the Lord and read His Word, I didn't always make good choices. In fact, I made some pretty horrible choices, choices that would not better my life, but make it worse. I moved of my own accord, based on my own judgment. Sometimes I was motivated by fear, sometimes I was motivated by compassion, and sometimes I was motivated by self-interest. I never was motivated by His Love nor by His will for my life. I made a decision because it seemed good to me to do so. It was logical (sometimes) or it was the only option (as it appeared then). I made these decisions for good or ill, and for the most part, I lived with them, consequences and all.

After so many years of guiding my own ship, making my own plans or accepting the plans of others, I became weary with the outcome. It seemed that my life never went anywhere at all. It was one step after another leading into more mundane and muddied waters. I was never at peace. I didn't have hope, and I didn't believe my life could be any different. It seemed like my life was going to follow an endless journey that would lead me to nothingness. I wasn't going to be successful, I wasn't going to have a career I loved. I wasn't going to live life to the fullest or experience great moments. No, I was destined to toil, to suffer hardship, and to grieve (deeply) for the things I had lost.

Then a bright light came into my life and I was moved by it. I didn't think it was possible to have an epiphany at so late a stage. I was in my mid-40s and I thought, for all intents and purposes, that my life was what it was, and that there would be no major CHANGE to it. But the Lord had other plans for me. He changed the course of my life in an instant, and I started on this wonderful new path. Was it easy for me? No, it wasn't. I fact I suffered what the Lord said would be for those that truly follow Him. I lost everything. I lost everyone I knew and loved. I was destroyed personally, physically, emotionally, and mentally. I lost my identity, and I was emptied out of everything that smacked of ME. He never let me go, through it all, He held to me and He helped me through the darkest and roughest times. In the process, He helped me learn the truth of who He is, and who I am, and in the midst of it all, He gave me a new identity and a new purpose in life. I became purpose-driven, and I learned that my life had value, had merit, and was worth something to Him. He gave me hope again, and He gave me a future. He promised me good, and He delivered on those promises. He gave to me, and I received His gifts of blessing and abundant life. In return, I gave myself to Him, wholly to Him. I made the commitment of my life -- to live my life devoted to Him and His work.

Now, I am on that new path, that path that leads to His Glory, and I am loving the experience. I treasure each day, and I long for HOME. I see it in my mind, I experience what it will be like, and I remember that He is with me until the end. I move forward, I walk on, I press through the muck and the mire, and I keep on moving toward HOME.

Today is a bright and beautiful day, a new day filled with possibility. As I look out my window and consider my life, where I have been, where I am going, and the way He is moving through me, I am filled with excitement and anticipation. God has done a marvelous work in me. I give Him praise, and honor, and glory! All to His NAME, to His MIGHTY NAME be praised now and forevermore.

March 29, 2014

Oh Happy Day!


It is a good day today. It is a good day to be alive and living in the will of the Lord. I am blessed, and I am content with my life. I look up, and I wait upon the Lord, for He is faithful. He keeps His promises, and He never turns His back toward me. He is good. He is good. He is good.

Today as I consider my life, I cannot help but think about my past. I cannot help but look at the changes in my life, where I have come from, and where I believe the Lord is leading me toward. I trust Him. I rest in Him. I believe His word. I believe His promise to me.

The Lord is Good. His word is Good. His will is Good.

There is nothing I see that overwhelms me today. I look forward, I look to the left and to the right. There is nothing ahead that appears insurmountable to me. Thus, I can rest knowing that the Lord has me covered, so very well covered.

New day dawns and I look forward to it. Yesterday passes and I thank the Lord for that day. I live in a state of constant motion, moving forward through the days, learning to lean on and to trust the Lord. He leads me steadily, helping me to focus, to remain calm, and to be disciplined and determined. I feel faint at times, but I never grow weary. I have felt weariness before, and in those times, I remember thinking my life has ended, my life is so difficult that I cannot go on. The Lord gives me rest, time to think and to recover my senses. Most of the time when I feel worn it is because I refuse to rest (to let go and give control to God). It is like always holding on because you are afraid of falling. Your muscles grow tired and will finally give out. We do this with God. He has such a firm hold on us, on our lives, yet we feel we must grab and hold on to things instead of letting them go. Once we let go of them, we experience relief, and we can rest.

It has taken a very long time for me to understand the nature of His rest. I have struggled to rest for so many years. I think I am trusting Him, resting in Him, only to find that I am grabbing on and holding so tightly to things in my life that I become weary and worn out. Then I let go and immediately I feel relief. I sense that I can relax and know that He is God. He has me covered. The longer I live in this place, this peaceful place, the more I come to realize that He is God, and that as God, there is nothing outside of His grip. There is nothing that is too hard, too high, too difficult for Him.

It is all about His will. It is all about living in His will.

I made the decision a long time ago to seek His will. I made the decision to settle myself in the middle of His will. It wasn't easy, and it required a lot of work on my part. I had to accept His will. I had to acknowledge it, and then I had to be agreeable to it. Three "A" words that MATTER when it comes to His will.

Accept:  The Lord asks us to accept the fact that He has a specific will in mind for us. We must come to the point where we understand that there are two types of will, general and specific. The Lord's general will covers His creation. It is that all men (women) should come to faith in Jesus Christ, to experience reconciliation, restoration, and renewal through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. This is His general will that all men should be saved. Then there is His specific will. His specific will is for you and me. It is the plans that He has for our lives. Some people think we have control over our lives, that we make the decisions and the Lord agrees (yea or nay) based on our obedience to His word. This is legalism whereby we believe we must live in a perfected state to receive the Lord's blessing on our lives. This is not the case at all. We never can live perfected lives on our own. We couldn't do it before the CROSS and we cannot do it after the CROSS. We must live fully immersed in GRACE and allow the Holy Spirit to live and work through us. Once we understand that He wants to live in us, not just clean us up, but live in us (active and at work), we surrender to Him and we come to learn how to fellowship with Him. With this experience, we then become aware of the fact that the Holy Spirit is active. He has plans, and He wants to accomplish certain things. He moves and He makes changes and He makes decisions based on the Father's will for creation. He knows the Father's heart, and He knows us well. He moves in us and makes changes in us that not only improve us (better us), but also accomplish what He wants and needs to be accomplished (whether in work, in ministry, in evangelism, etc.) Therefore, we must accept the fact that the Holy Spirit has a job to do, and He needs willing members of Christ's Body to use for His service. He is ready to give gifts to help us do that work, and He will train us in how to do the work, but we must be ready to let Him do that work.

Acknowledge: This is when the rubber meets the road, so to speak. It is the point when you realize that the Lord has a calling on your life. He wants to use you for a specific task, and you have to be ready to let Him do that work. I think this is the point where many Christian's stop short. They may accept the idea that the Lord has specific plans, but they are not willing to let Him accomplish those plans through them. They often are afraid of what this means, and of how the Holy Spirit will do His work. They imagine the terror of having to evangelize or of having to go on the mission field. They think the Lord will place them in danger, make them a martyr or cause them to do something that will embarrass them in front of others (family and friends). They don't want to let go, so they miss out on the best part of the Lord's will. They miss what great things the Lord wants to do through them, and they instead remain stuck in this quasi-fellowship that is predicated on part GRACE and part Legalism. They think that they can be pleasing to the Lord through their obedience. They keep a moral code, the LAW, and they judge others who do not. They do everything they "think" is right, and they pray for the Lord to bless their efforts. Now I am not saying that you shouldn't be obedient, but what is obedience after all but a submission to something (to the law, to the Lord, to authority?) What is the difference then? One is submitting through your own efforts and the other is letting God submit to Himself through you. One says "I am good enough because I keep X, Y, and Z" while the other says "I will never be good enough so I will let God keep X, Y, and Z for me." Acknowledging that the Lord has a specific will for your life moves you from acceptance into the "I am ready state." You must acknowledge that you have received a call from the Lord for a specific work. He will not hide this from you once you are fully accepting of His will for your life. He will reveal it to you and help you understand what is involved in doing it. He will train you, build you up, establish you, all to prepare you for His work. He is good like that, and He never will put someone who is unprepared and untrained into any of His work (we do that, we do that when we think we can use our natural gifts and abilities to do a ministry work -- this is working without the Holy Spirit's leading and empowering).

Agreement: This is the last step of the process. This happens after you have agreed with the Lord, and you have acknowledged His specific calling on your life. You know the plans He has for you, and you are ready to do them. Now you must agree with Him, and that comes down to being willing to do the work He wants to do through you. You agree and you relinquish control. God steps in and takes over and whoosh! You are off and running. Your life begins to change, and everything aligns with His will. You begin to let go of more and more things so that He can move you today or tomorrow. He can take you here or there. You no longer fear when He might ask you to go because you trust Him. You know Him, and you rely on Him. He has shown Himself to you. He has proven His worth, His faithfulness, His trustworthiness. In this way, you are now able to be a vessel, a jar that is emptied out of all humanness (a shell) and filled to the brim and overflowing with God's Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has the reigns and He moves here or there, and you agree with Him. He will tell you why, and He will always ask you if it is OK. At some point, you will come to remain in agreement and then He moves without stopping because He knows you are in full agreement with Him. He knows you are on board with His plans and that you will answer "Yes, Lord. So be it." This is a wonderful place to be in because it means that you are fully at the mercy and will of the Lord. He works in you and through you for His Name and to bring honor to Himself. You are there, but you are not the cause of the work. You are participating in that work, knowing that whatever it is, there is no way you could have done it to begin with and that there is no way you could sustain yourself throughout the time of the work. It is a blessed place, and blessing precedes and follows you. You have His favor, and whatever your hand touches there is favor. You begin to understand how His way works. You begin to see that it is all about Him, and not about you. You matter, don't get me wrong. He died for you. He saved you. He loves you. But this is about God and God's Glory. This is all about His Name. You begin to express this in words, in prayers, and in actions. You think about His Name and what it means, the power that is within, and you wonder about His Majesty. You look to Him and you stand in awe, not just because He saved you, but because He is AWESOME, and MIGHTY and filled with TERRIFYING but GLORIOUS POWER. Then you get it. You understand who He is, and what He has done, and what He wants to do, and you surrender to Him. You give in, you give up, and you find that sweet REST.

I am at this place in my life. It was not an easy journey for me. It was not something that went "poof" one day and I was changed to be able to accept, to acknowledge and to agree. Nope, not at all. There is intense struggle, and there were wrestling matches. I lost. I always lost, but in my vanity and in my bravado, I thought I could retain some of my way while being willing to accept His way. I was wrong. There is only one way, and it is His way. I am fully convinced that the majority of Christian's do not experience His way. They experience bits and pieces of His way. They retain far more of themselves in the process, and because of that fact, they suffer needlessly through decisions and choices that were of their own making. They buy the lie that says "If I am good enough, then the Lord will bless me." They even go as far as to say "I know I am not good enough, and I know that I am under GRACE," but they still try to do it in their own way, praying their efforts will be blessed." What I am saying is that you cannot do it any other way. You cannot have you and Him, it doesn't work. It has to be HIM with the least amount of you in the mix. And, hear me, you don't lose you in the bargain. You never lose YOU. You are there, God doesn't want to eliminate you. He loves you. He loves your quirky personality. He loves your passion, your strength, your desire. He wants to take all that you are and conform it to His image, to His way, and in doing so, He will reshape your passion, your strength and your desire so that they are in accordance with His passion, His strength and His desire. It is a very GOOD thing to be used by the Lord in this way. It brings the sweetest experiences, and the greatest challenges, and the deepest connection to Him. It is a GOOD THING.

As I consider my path, my place on this road, I know that God is working through me in a great way. He has plans, and they are coming to pass. I can see them unfold, and I can watch as each item it ticked off His GRAND CHECKLIST. I am doing what He asks of me, and He is having His way in me. It is a beautiful thing, and I love the way I get to partner with Him. My little contribution, my hands, my feet, my brain, my body -- all for His Name and His Glory. It is amazing to see Him do what He does in me and through me. God is good, so very good. I love the Lord, and I think this is what it means to love Him with all your heart, your mind, your soul and your strength. There is nothing in reserve, there is nothing set aside. It is a state of "All in" and I am blessed, so very blessed.

March 28, 2014

Waiting Patiently on the Lord

I will wait on the Lord. I will wait patiently for the Lord to move me. I will wait for His timing, and for His provision. I will rest in His security. He is my shield, my protector. I will wait upon the Lord for He is my ONLY hope.

God is so very good, so very good. I am praising Him today for His goodness toward me. He is my strong tower, my buckler, and my shield. I rest in Him this day for He is good, so very good.

As I give praise to the Lord, my heart cries out with rejoicing for the Lord has done marvelous things in my life. He has opened doors for me, given me favor, loved me unconditionally, and provided for my every need. He is my King, and I bow before Him today to sing His praises!!

Yesterday, I went to my second interview at Arizona Christian University. It went well, at the least, I think so, and now I wait to hear back if I will be hired as adjunct to teach Communication and English courses in the fall. This is a big open door for me, and it would mean that I would be teaching at two Christian universities (both part-time). This will bring me in more income. It will also help me establish myself as a teacher in both fields (hooray!) I am excited to think that I could be teaching more courses in the fall (I am a little worried about more classes and keeping my grades up in my program, but PTL, I will rest in His ability to manage my time and my course load).

God has been so amazingly wonderful to open the doors to me. He knows me well, and He knows what I can and cannot do. I am excited to think about this new opportunity, and what it might do for me long-term. If anything, it will give me the experience I need to teach Communication, and it will help prepare the way for me to teach in the Communication field (Praise God!) I am so jazzed to think that this is happening in my life, and that I have these "possibilities" to consider. God is so good. He is so very good!
I just prayed, "Lord, you have to provide me with something to do this summer! I won't have any income for summer!" Of course, the Lord knows that school ends for me on 4/27. I will be officially done teaching for the summer. My hope is to have three to four classes scheduled for fall (2 literature courses at GCU and 1 composition class and 1 comm theory class at ACU). This would provide enough income for me to get by (about what I was making at UOPX). I need about $2k per month to cover my current expenses. Teaching four classes will meet that need. I will still need some extra financial aid to cover expenses, but generally speaking, I could live meagerly on this amount of income.

I have asked for a full scholarship to Regent University. I am not sure if I will be considered for it, but it would be a blessing to me, should I be considered for any amount that reduces my financial aid burden. Right now, I am approved for student loans again. I can take this money and live off it, like I did when I was working part-time through my masters program. I don't want to do that. In fact, I really don't want to take any financial aid money at all. I am OK with taking a bit to cover my summer travel to Regent, hotels, cars, and food, etc. I would rather not have to take any more loans for the year, if possible.

I have had to let this go, and let the Lord provide for me. I cannot worry about it or think about it because then I get stressed and I start to fixate on the money and not the grace the Lord has provided for me to get through the course work. He knows my needs. He will provide.

So back to summer needs. Right now, I will finish at GCU the end of April. This leaves me with May-mid August with no income or work. I am OK with the latter, in fact, I would love to have 3.5 months off! WHOOHOO! However, I cannot help but think how I will pay my bills (my car payment especially). I need an influx of cash to keep me steady over the summer. I am asking the Lord to provide for summer, in whatever way He sees fit. I am open to working part-time, even doing sales work, if need be, just to help pay the bills. The Lord knows me and He knows what I am able to do. He also knows that a long rest would do me good. He knows that I really want to stay home, rest, and spend the summer off.

As I consider the Lord and the way He works (miracles of miracles), I know that He has me covered. He tells me as much, and He provides for me. I have never been without money. I have never been behind on my bills. He knows how hard I have worked to recover my credit, and to establish myself as credit-worthy. I believe He will provide, and I rest in the knowledge that He is God, and He is able to provide for each and every single need. God is good. So very, very good.
Lord, you know my needs. You know how very much I would like to teach at ACU, but I am afraid to do so. You know that this is a unique opportunity for me, and that I can grow here. You know that Dr. Creasman would be a great boss, and that He would encourage me in my dissertation and with my studies. I believe Lord that you opened this door for me, and that you will give me favor and blessing with the staff and the decision making process. You are able to convince them that they need to hire me. You are able to tell them just how much you want this job for me. I ask that you go before me, and that you make this way smooth.

Secondly, Lord, I ask that you provide something for me to do this summer. Whether I am to work part-time teaching online or whether I am to rest, I ask that you determine what is best for me. I want to lose the weight, to get in shape, and to recover from the years of stress. Resting physically is a blessing, and I long for it. I also like to work, and I enjoy working and earning money. I ask that you open a door for me to do both, to rest and to work, so that I can be refreshed when my schooling at Regent and my teaching positions begin in August. I am trusting you to manage the details, to provide what is needed, and to take me to the place (physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally) so I can do your work, for your Name, and to bring you Glory.

I ask all of this in your mighty and merciful NAME. Your Name is great, and you are GREATLY to be praised. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!

March 22, 2014

Making Amends and Heading Back Down the Road


I found this picture online today and I thought it was the perfect fit for my emotional and mental status. I feel like this picture symbolizes my life right now. I am walking down a road, walking toward the SON, and I am trying to stay focused and not lose sight of my final destination. As I walk on, I see the center dividing line and it reminds me that it is there to guide me and keep me centered, in the middle of the road. I stop frequently, just to rest, but then I pick myself back up and I walk on. The road is my journey, it is the path that leads me toward heaven and my eternal Home.

Today, I am back on that road, walking on toward my destination, and I am encouraged by the fact that I am moving again, moving forward. These past couple weeks I have felt like I was sidelined, sitting on the side of the road, waiting for something or someone. Today, I am moving, and it feels good. I am glad I am moving on, walking on, and I am heading in the right direction.

A good friend of mine said something to me yesterday, and her words impressed the truth on my heart. I love it when a good friend says the right thing at the right moment. It can mean so much to you, to encourage you, to build you up, and to give you hope. I was feeling down. I was depressed over my situation, and I was thinking that perhaps I was doing the wrong thing, that I was off the mark. I was overwhelmed by my circumstances, and I felt almost like I was lost, just for a time, just for a moment.

Then her words came, and as I sat and thought about them, I realized that they were the very thing I was waiting to hear, the words that I needed to get myself up and moving again. I was encouraged, and I was ready to start walking. God is good that way. He is so very good to us. He knows that we need friends who will love us and lift us up when we cannot lift ourselves up. Sometimes we are in out of reach places, sometimes we are in places of our own making, and sometimes we are alone and need someone to stay with us, sit with us, in the place until we are ready, until we are rested, and until we are restored.

This was the way it was with me. I was sitting in a place of my own choosing, and I was not very happy about that fact. I felt that I was stuck, and I was all alone. Then my friend came and sat beside me for a short while. She reminded me of what God is doing in me and through me and in a moment, I realized that she was right. Her words soothed my troubled soul, and I picked myself up, and I started walking again!

God has given me favor, there is no getting around that fact. Some Christians might not think that way. They might feel that God gives His general favor as part of His Grace. They might not think that His favor rests specifically on individuals, unless you count the folks in the old and new Testaments. Yet, I believe that God does give us favor, the all-around Grace type, and He gives us individual favor to help us do His will. I am speaking of the latter, the kind of favor that is linked to His will for us.

I pray for His favor every day. I want to have His blessing on my life, and to know that whatever my hand touches will be blessed with that favor. Oh yes, may it be so! Always be so!

My friend just said something to me that struck me as interesting (sort of one of those funny, but not ha ha moments). She said that she was impressed with the way that doors seemed to open for me. That was it, not more than that little statement, but it was enough to get me thinking about her words. Yes, I thought, "you are right, God has given me favor with opportunities." Then as I sat and thought more deeply about it, I began to see the truth in her words. I have been the recipient of great favor, especially during the past couple months. If I think back on it, I can say that His favor has rested upon me for a number of years now. I can see the details, the days, and the dates when I have received some blessing, some news, or some opportunity out of the blue. I have experienced times when I have thought "Oh, I have blown this so badly" only to find that the person or persons didn't see it that way at all. I have gone to interviews where I had a conversation that didn't seem very good at all. Yet, I have been called back to later find out that the conversation was powerful, influential, and impressive. Not on my account I say, not through my efforts. This is true, so very true. God has done this through me and because He is with me, and working in me, He does these things, these amazing things through me. I am blessed. I am favored. I am in awe of Him. He is good. He is so very good to me.

I stand in awe of Him today and I lift my hands to praise Him because He has given His goodness to me. He has favored me, and I am blessed. My hand is blessed, and I can bless others because of His goodness toward me. I thank Him now, and I praise Him, and I rest in His Name and in His Sufficiency. He is God, and I am not. He is Good, and everything He does is Good. I am blessed. I am so very blessed this day.

March 21, 2014

Letting Everything Go and Letting Everything BE!

It's another challenge day. This is a day when I feel that I am being challenged to let go of all that I so dearly want to control. I am being wooed and called forth with the command, "Let it go. Let it go!"

Let go and let God. Yes, may it be so, Lord. May it be so.

I have struggled recently with trying to control my future. I know better than to do this, yet there is part of me that thinks I need to grab the wheel and take over the driving, take over the course. Whenever I do that, I end up falling flat on my face.

I am reminded of the Carrie Underwood song, "Jesus Take the Wheel":

Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I'm on
Jesus take the wheel


I believe that God is the driving force in my life. I believe that He is at the wheel and is leading me where He wants me to go. Yet, I still think at times that I should be in the driver's seat, that I should be the one who is at the wheel, charting the course, making directional changes. HA!

I should know better. I should know better than to think that I could be that good, that smart, that proficient, that omniscient to know where to go, and how to get there.

Still, there are times, quiet times, difficult times, overwhelming times, when I think that I would be better suited to driving this car, driving this bus, driving the course of my life.

Today, I woke up and I felt horrible, just horrible. I am struggling with peri-menopause, and the months when I actually do get a period, I suffer miserably through the weeks (yes, weeks) of bloating, irritability, and blood loss. It is not fun, and I wish (oh, how I wish) this would end. I will be 52 this year, and it is time for me to stop getting my period. UGH!

So today, I woke up suffering with menstrual issues. I felt miserable. I felt like I couldn't leave the house. I was supposed to go to a friend's for lunch, but I don't want to be far from a restroom. I didn't want to go anywhere, so I begged off the invite, and decided to stay at home. I hate this time. I am so ready for it to be over. It lingers on still, and I am getting weary of it. I know that it will come to an end soon. I am normal, I was a late starter as a young girl, and this is very normal. Still, I have had months without a period, and oh, it was so nice. So nice to be able to wear white and to go without any worry! Someday soon, some day very soon I will be free of this curse.

This entire week, well the past couple weeks has been stressful on me. I am doing well in my classes at Regent, but I am struggling with knowing my place, doing the A-level work needed, and with understanding the context of the courses. I am tired, so very tired, and I want a break from the study. But I need to press on, and I need to stay focused.

God provided for me, and I am thankful that I was able to do my research paper and get it turned in on time. I wasn't pleased with the grade, but I am thankful that I did it. I have been stressed over my lab work, and my research survey project (due 4/22). I feel as though I don't know what I am doing, and all of that has congealed to make me suffer all the more.

I know that God has me well-covered, yet I still struggle to believe His word to me. I am I really covered. Will I really get As this semester?

So here I sit thinking how I have tried to take the wheel and tried to make my own way. I wanted things to be smoothed out, to go easier on me, to be "better" then they already are. I wanted things to be different. I wanted a different path, a new road, a new way.

Why?

Because I am dissatisfied with what I currently have and where the future seems to be leading me. The short of it, I don't like what I see, and I want to try a different way.

In life there are two ways: God's way and man's way. I was saying to the Lord that I didn't particularly care for His way of doing things. It didn't seem like things were working out in my favor, that I was getting all that I deserved, and that I was "happy" and content about the status quo. Truthfully, the nuts and bolts of it was that I was tired of the status quo. Yeah, I was tired of the fact that I am teaching at GCU, have no future set there, and I am making $11 an hour. I was tired that I didn't have enough money to give my parents what is due them (rent/utilities). I was tired that my classes at Regent were getting to be impossible, and that I was struggling just to keep up. I was tired of the way I feel each day (constipated, menopausal, overweight, and yucky!) I was tired of my life, of everything up to this point, of where I was at, and where I was going. I see no change on the horizon, and I see no improvement.

Of course, none of this is accurate or true. It is my view, and my view is always skewed. From God's perspective (as if I can really see from His vantage point), my life looked well in hand. Nothing was outside the reference of "normal."  Let me explain:
  • I am a 52 year old woman. At this age, many women experience menopause. It is a part of the transition through life, and there is nothing that can be done to stop it. You can alleviate the symptoms by taking good care of yourself, watching your diet, taking herbal supplements, etc. The change process occurs whether you like it or not. It is a fact of life.
  • I am a doctoral student studying social science. As such, the courses required for the degree are challenging and require significant study and original research. The program is one of the top in the nation, and it is challenging. Anyone who has completed a PhD will tell you that the level of work, the amount of work, etc. are killers. That is why only certain people get these advanced degrees. This is normal, it is to be expected, and it is a fact of life.
  • I am teaching adjunct at GCU. I teach one class. I get paid $325 every two weeks. It is good pay for 3 hours a week. The teacher prep time takes another 3 hours, and then I have papers to grade, etc. I spend about 15 hours per week on this one class. It is a lot of work for the pay. I don't have benefits and there are no guarantees that I will get hired next semester. I am doing this work because I need experience, and GCU offered me a chance to teach. I am blessed, so very blessed. I know that the more experience I get, the better chance I will have to be hired as a full-time teacher. Perhaps not here, but perhaps at another school. God is good. He knows I had to start over, and that is what I am doing.
  • Teaching part-time has worked well with my studies at Regent. I don't think I could have taught more courses this semester, so in many ways I am happy to have a low-key and very easy schedule this semester. I panic over "no summer work" but then I think that this is good. It will be good to rest.
When I step back and I look at each item on its own, I see that everything I am experiencing is normal. It falls within the parameters of normalcy. Do I really want to work full-time right now? NO! Do I want to be done with menopause? YES and NO. Do I want to run the risk of getting a bad grade at Regent? NO, absolutely NOT! Do I want to make more money? YES. Do I need benefits? YES. Will I get benefits soon or in the near term? YES, I believe so. Will I work full-time at some point? YES, of course. Will I graduate from Regent? YES, as the Lord wills, so be it.

The long and short of it is then that I am being impatient at the status quo. I am tired of the way things are, and I want things to change. Yet, I see that sometimes cannot change right now. Sometimes are the way they are for a reason, and I have to patiently wait for other things to move or change or end. For example, I have a number of research classes that need to be completed before I can sit my qualification exams. Each of these courses will be just as hard as the ones I am taking now. Do I want to work full-time and do these classes? Or is it better to work part to 3/4 time? The latter, most certainly is better. Will full-time work wait? Yes, it will. How will I make it financially until that time? I believe God will provide. So why am I striving for things to change when He is able and is in control?

Sigh. I am impatient, impertinent, and  impossible at times. He knows me. He understands me, and best of all, He loves me. I can rest in Him, in all of Him, and I can know that He has me well covered.

Today, I let go and I let God be in me, through me, and for me. He will do it. He will have His way, and I will see that He way is Good. He is Good. All the time He is so very GOOD to me.

March 19, 2014

SHALOM ALEICHEM (Peace be unto you)

Peace be with you/upon you this good day! I wish you "Shalom Aleichem!"

Peace - sweet words that bring us such comfort and hope. We seek peace, we pray for peace, and we long for peace. Yet, often we spend our days without peace. We struggle with our selves and with others. We read about lack of peace in the news, we see pictures of unrest (no peace) on the TV. We watch movies that feature unrest in families, in communities, and in the world. We live in a world without peace, and a world that cultivates tension and creates unrest.

Our spirits were not designed to be without peace. In fact, God created us to be at peace. Our beginning in the Garden was to be filled with peace -- peace between man and God, peace between man and woman, and peace between man and the creation. Peace was to rule everything, to be everything, to keep everything.

We know the story (Gen 3) whereby sin entered in and shattered that peaceful reality. We now live out our days in the world that became of that sin act. We live without peace, and we feel the effects and ramifications of that missing peace.

The WORD of God tells us that Jesus Christ came to bring peace. He is our mediator, our broker, who brings us back into fellowship with God, and restores to us that blessed peace. He is our PEACE. He has given us PEACE. Through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we now have access to His Perfect Peace.  Paul writes about this Peace in Philippians 4:

"Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:5-7 NIV)



The past couple weeks have been so frustrating for me. I have been struggling with school (Regent) and with my classes at GCU. I have been feeling overwhelmed by the lack of resources I have, and the fact that I am facing such great uncertainty when it comes to summer and fall teaching opportunities. I am stressed over my responsibilities here at home, and then coupled with my own fear of failure, I am struggling to hang on, to hold on to the promises of God.

God has promised such Good to me. I know the promises from His Word, but I believe that I have been given promises based upon my faith as well. These are prayers I have asked according to His will, and in doing so, I must be faithful to God to receive them. I know that some people might not believe this is the case, that God gives us conditional promises, but I believe that He does. I believe that there are times when we pray for things, within His will, that are given to us through our faith. We must believe that He is able to provide for us, and that He will do what He says.

I have struggled with this idea because growing up, I never was taught to ask God for things, and then believe that they could be provided. I was taught that God gave what He wanted, and if it was "His will" then so be it. I used to think that bad things happened because it was God's will. I believed that good things happened also because of His will. I took the idea of praying for what you needed (Matt. 7:11) based on the idea that God will only grant your request if He decides to do so.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened" (Matt. 7:11)

And, if He says no, then so be it. My Pastor recently talked about this, how sometimes God says "yes, no or not now." I believed this was the case, but recently, I have come to think otherwise. I have come to believe that the WORD encourages us to ask in faith, and to believe that our requests are not being pigeon holed into three buckets. God is a God of YES, and not NO! The key criteria is living within His will and asking for things that exist within that will.

I want to believe that what I have asked for will come to pass. It is not a matter of spinning the God-wheel and seeing where my request will land, but rather it is a matter of my faith, my belief, my resting in the One who is able to do more abundantly than anything I could ever ask for or want.

As I sit here today, I am humbled over this fact. I have been striving to perform, to be accepted, to overcome, to be good "enough" in so many areas. God has already approved my work. He has already said "it is good enough" yet I don't believe Him. I think it is not good enough. I think it is not the best it could be. I want to prove to God, to my friends, to my family, to my peers, to my students, to my professors, et al. that I am good enough to (fill in the blank):
  • provide
  • teach
  • study
  • research
  • graduate
  • parent
  • minister
  • write
  • and the list goes on...
Yes, I want to be approved. I want to be approved by man and not God. God has said "it is good enough." He has already told me that I have done well, that He is well-pleased, yet for some reason His Word to me is not good enough, it is NOT what I want to hear. I want the approval of men more than the approval of God. Shame on me for being that way. Shame on me for even desiring it.

In my heart of hearts, I know better. This semester has taught me that there is a root within me that seeks this approval more than anything else. This is my deepest need, my dearest desire. This is the one desire that I place at the altar of my heart above all else. This is the desire that must be rooted out and it must go now. I have lived with this need my entire life. I am going to be 52 this year, and this is still the primary motivation that drives me to perform. I need to hear the words that I am approved. If not, I spend all my time thinking about how I have failed, that I am a failure, that I am worthless and that I am an imposter (a sham!)

God has revealed this weakness to me. This has been long in coming, and it has been brought to light this week, specifically. I realize now how I have allowed this need to drive me, to control me. God is saying for me to stop striving, to rest. I hear Him, and I listen, but I don't obey. I push on, working even harder, doubting myself and His abilities in my life. It is all about me doing the work, me overcoming, me being all that I can be. Yet, He patiently waits for me, calling me to rest in Him, to let things go. I say "yes, Lord, I let this go." It doesn't last. I strive again, I move on, I press on. I am constantly trying to do everything I can to make things better, to be approved, to be OK. God says "I have already done that for you. There is nothing more for you to do. You must rest now."




I have come to the end, once again, of all things. I feel that I have come full-circle and I am now back where I started. I am released to live my life fully within His boundaries and control. I can do nothing. He can do everything. I am emptied of myself, my pride, my ambition, and my desire to be in control. He has regained the authority in my life, and I am once again following, humbly this time, after Him. He knows me. He knows what I can and cannot do. He understands my needs, and He knows my heart. He is good to me. He knows me well.

I rest now in the knowledge that I have made this mess unto myself because I chose not to believe the promises of God. I chose to doubt His authority and His ability, and as a result, I was left to handle things on my own, within my own strength. I do not want to handle things this way, I do not want to be on my own. I know that I cannot do everything He is asking of me. I know now that to accomplish His will, there can be none of me in it. I must be emptied out completely, and He must fill me to the full. It is all of Him, and none of me. It is all about His Glory, and about Him receiving Glory. I let this go now, and I rest. I give up, I give in, and I accept the peace that comes from knowing He will have His way in me and through me. He will do it. He will overcome. He will succeed. He will champion, and He will be the victor.

God be praised this day, and forever more. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!


March 17, 2014

Overcoming Temptation

Over the next couple weeks, our church is studying through the first chapter of James, and the focus is on Stepping Up to the Challenge to live a righteous and faithful life. This past Sunday, the message was on temptation and how to overcome it (so timely, so necessary).

Most Christians understand temptation. We understand sin, and we have all experienced times in our lives when we are tempted to sin. How we deal with it, how we overcome, however, is discussed less often in Church simply because of the very nature of temptation and the variances experienced by individual members of the Body of Christ.

Our pastor gave a great message yesterday on the text of James 1: 12-18 (NLT).

12 God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, no one who wants to do wrong should ever say, "God is tempting me." God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else either. 14 Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. 15 These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death. 16 So don't be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven's lights. Unlike them, he never changes or casts shifting shadows. 18 In his goodness he chose to make us his own children by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his choice possession. 

Several important points stood out for me during this message. I was familiar with the text, but for some reason (praise God), this portion of Scripture clicked with me yesterday.

  1. God gives us desires that are for our good. These desires are normal, healthy, and when used properly, can lead to the formation of appropriate relationships.
  2. Temptation comes from the heart. When the heart is not seeking the good, healthy and appropriate relationship, but instead is seeking the bad, unhealthy and inappropriate relationship, temptation can lead us into sinful actions and behaviors.
  3. We give in to temptation when we choose our own response rather than allow God to lead us into the right response
In short, we are tempted by something good, but the desire is being misappropriated toward harmful, unhealthy and destructive behavior.

A good example is sexual sin. Everyone deals with it, so it is universal and it is easy to illustrate this point.

God has given men and women the desire to have sexual intimacy. We each have a desire to bond with another living being in close relationship and intimacy. This is God's normal for us. He created Eve to be a companion for Adam. He creates males and females of all kinds of animals for the continuation of the species. He creates men for women and women for men.

The desires therefore are normal and natural, and if used properly, will lead to the formation of a bond between two people. This bond will be established and maintained over the course of their natural lives. It is God's ideal unit for the family.

When men or women have desires, natural and so on, there are right and proper ways to satisfy those desires. In married unions, the couple share intimately with one another. For men and women who are single, the Bible is very clear that God needs to be the one in control of those desires until such a time that He is able to bring a suitable companion to them. In some cases, the Bible tells us that God does call men and women to live single lives. However, most often, God's desire is for men and women to be married.

In the case of temptation, lust for another woman or man, can form and if not checked, can lead to sin. The man and the woman should seek each other, and not another outside the union. The same is said for the single person who is not willing to wait for God to bring them a partner. They are not to seek intimacy outside the bond of marriage.

In considering the text in James, and in our pastor's message yesterday, I started to think about the times when I feel most tempted. Our pastor shared the acronym, HALT, which is used by the Celebrate Recovery ministry.

HALT stands for:
  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired
These four emotional states serve up potential moments when temptation can be strongest. When we are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, we are most open to hearing temptation's voice. How we respond to that voice will determine whether we give in or whether we overcome.

I liked this acronym because it really speaks to my heart. I suffer from the latter most often. I live in a perpetual state of tiredness. I am weary and I am worn out. Partly this is due to a life of stress, which wears down on your endocrine system, and can lead to illness whereby your adrenal glands are constantly overworked. In addition, I am currently pursuing my doctorate and while I knew it would be challenging, the truth is that I had no idea just how challenging it really would be for me. I spend an incredible amount of time studying, reading, and thinking about very complex issues. This is draining to me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Coupled with my physical state, I run the risk of being overwhelmed on a daily basis.

When I get to "that point" (which is a point we all have -- we know our breaking point), I then have to be careful not to give into temptation. I am lonely, I will admit it. I miss the companionship of being married. I miss the intimacy that comes with marriage. I miss having my own life, shared with a husband, working and moving toward a united goal. I miss the entire family aspect of marriage.

Additionally, while I try very hard to let go of bitterness and resentment, I cannot say that I am truly free from the anger I feel being abandoned and let go of by my husband. As much as I see the release as God's gift, and I most certainly do see it that way, I cannot help but still feel the prick of resentment when I see my husband moving on with other women. It hurts me deeply, and I can give into those feelings or I can let them go. When I am tired, I am more prone to think about them, to cuddle them, and to give them life.


It is difficult at times to overcome temptation. Yet, the Word encourages us, calls us blessed, when we do overcome. James 1:12 says "Blessed is the one who preserves under trial" and while we all have trials that we must endure, learning how to say no to the temptation can empower us to hang in there, to overcome on a daily basis.

How do we overcome then?

Well, really it comes down to a couple practical things:
  1. Know the root of your temptation and where it resides
  2. Know your limits and take heed to keep from reaching them
  3. Surrender your abilities to God and let His Holy Spirit empower you to overcome
In my case, I know where I am tempted (in what type of sin), and I understand now the root of that temptation (I am lonely and I am tired). Second, I know my breaking point, that point when I lose my ability to say no or to walk away. Third, because I live in a state of depletion, I need to rely on God to help me to overcome my temptation. I need His help because I cannot do it on my own.

Dear Lord,

I understand my temptation points and why I always fall into the same trap. I ask you to help me today to overcome this temptation, and to give me your Grace so that I can find healthy and appropriate solutions to resolve the conflict I feel inside. I ask you to guide me into your perfect wisdom and to show me a way for me to live a full and wonderfully satisfying life within the boundaries of my current singleness. I ask you to teach me how to rest, to not allow myself to become so overwhelmed by life, so that I can be strong. In all, Lord, I ask you to guide me into your perfect will, and to keep me safe and free from the temptation that I feel so strongly at times. I ask all this in Jesus' Name. Amen! So be it. Thy will be done. Selah!


March 14, 2014

Triumph! Succeeding when you must...

Today is such a good day! I am alive and well. I am good. God is in His heaven, and all is right with the world (He has made). Yes, there is evil out there, and the news is filled with stories of great sadness, bitterness, and distress. Yet, God is there, He rules and He reigns, and He is in control.

I lift up my voice today, and I give Him praise. He is good, so very good.

I am at a turning point in my life. I am ready to embark on the journey He has in mind for me. I see the road ahead, and I see the direction I am to go. I look forward, and I take a step. I remember what Psalm 91:2 says -- "He is my refuge and my fortress. My God in whom I trust." Yes, I trust the Lord, and I place my hope in His great Name.

As I walk on this day, I remember where I have come from, and I look forward with eager anticipation to where I am going. I am excited and I am filled with anticipation. His plans for my life are good, and He knows where He wants me to go. I rest in His plans, and in His provision. He is good, so very good to me.

March 11, 2014

Resting in the Lord

Yeah, I so need this reminder. I need to remember that the Lord has hold of my hand, and that He is the One who will help me. I don't have to be afraid regardless of what may come because the Lord is the One who is in control.

I struggle with this so much. He knows me well. He knows that I am difficult, a controller, and someone who struggles to trust and to let go. He knows that I desire for Him to guide me, to shepherd me, and to be my leader. I want Him to do this, yet I strain against the bit, trying ever so hard to pull us toward the direction that I think we need to go in. It frustrates me more than I think it frustrates Him. He is able to take it all in stride because He knows that He is in control, ultimately, and that my life will go His way. We may sit a while so as to allow me the time to come around to his point of view. We may tarry due to my stubbornness, but eventually we will move again, and we will head His way.

Oh Lord, why am I so obstinate? Why do I contend with you, struggle against your will and your way? I say that I want to follow you, to seek your will, to obey your Word, and yet I still attempt to get my own way. I know that it is my flesh that desires my own way. It is my flesh that seeks its own good, its own comfort, its own supremacy.

I know you well. I know you love me. I know you care for me. I know you provide for me. You sustain me, keep me, and you make me to be at peace. You do everything for me, and I still look at you with disrespect and I dishonor you.  I confess this to you now because in grace I must understand that there is nothing knew under the sun, nothing that I can experience that someone else has not experienced before me. I am not the first to be rejected, to be disrespected, to be dishonored, and I will not be the last either. I have committed sin against my parents, my husband, my child, my friends, my church, my peers and my colleagues. I have committed sin against you, Oh Lord! I am not perfect, I am not without sin, and I am not stained from sin and its darkness.

However, I am free. I am set free because of your grace, and I am forgiven. Therefore, I must forgive others who have sinned against me. I must remember to act always from a point of grace, from the standpoint that I am not a solitary white tower. I am just one of many who have been tarnished by sin and who live to tell the story of how I overcome each day.

Dear Lord,

I ask for grace today as I deal with a difficult conversation. I understand who I am and what I have been through and I know that I must be gracious when communicating my feelings. I need to recognize my emotions and understand that I can form opinions on the basis of those emotions. These opinions might not be accurate so I need to be in control and speak from a position of authority and grace. I ask now that you speak through me, that you help me to convey what matters most, and then speak only to the issue at hand. I understand that I need to be focused and direct, not covert or unwilling to broach a difficult subject. I ask for your help, and I ask this now in Jesus' Name. Amen.

March 10, 2014

When Disappointment Strikes

 
 Disappointing - failing to meet expectations

Disappointed - feeling sad, unhappy, or displeased because something
was not as good as expected or because something you hoped for or expected did not happen

Yes, disappointment has reared its ugly head today. I am filled with a mixture of emotions, many of which, I dislike intensely. Normally, I handle disappointments well. I have had many over the course of my life, and for the most part, I learned early on not to expect happy outcomes. If you don't expect to be pleased about something or someone or some outcome, then you won't find yourself facing disappointment.

It is a rather fatalistic way to view life, and certainly, it is not how God wants us to live our life at all. The Word in Philippians 4 says that we are to:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
 
God expects us to look forward, to rest in His provision and sufficiency, and to wait with anticipation, expectancy for His Goodness.

Yet, rarely do we do that kind of waiting (looking up). Most of the time, we look at our circumstances and we think "Yeah, this is where I am today, and tomorrow doesn't look much better." It can be frustrating at times, and often we feel as though we have been kicked in the shin, punched in the stomach, and led to believe that things were going to be far more rosier than they are.

This graphic speaks volumes to me.

 

I believe that disappointment comes when your expectations do not equal reality. In purely mathematical terms, for these two to equal each other, the equation has to have equal proportions. For example, (D)=1 so (E) and (R) can equal 1 as well. In short, the equation would read as

1=1/1 or 1=1

Philosophically, this works out to the fact that your reality and expectation must be the same. If your reality is more or less than your expectation or vice versa, the result will not be a whole number but a fraction.

1=1/2 which really is 1>1/2 (more disappointment to expectation/reality)

Ok, so you get the point. The idea is that disappointment comes when our reality and expectations are out of alignment or out of balance (unequal). The key is to make sure our expectations equal our reality. Therefore, if our reality is that we make $10 per hour, our expectation that we can live at $15 per our is out of whack. If, however, we make $10 per hour, and we live at $10 per hour, then we have balance. This will not avoid disappointment, but it will temper it. The reason is that we understand disappointments in life come, circumstances change, and at times, we find ourselves facing uncertainty. The uncertainty stems from a myriad of factors, and most of them our beyond our control. It is much easier to diffuse the emotional roller coaster ride when we understand that these changes are out of our control. We can simply acknowledge them, and then we move on.

However, if we have high expectations that do not match our reality, than we suffer the consequences of emotional disappointment. We have an out of balance mind set that tells us we expected something that didn't happen and the cause was our reality didn't live up to the expectant standard.

It is really a matter of mind. How we look at things, and how we accept truth as it is in our reality.

Encouragement from the Word

Romans 5:3-5

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

 James 1:2-5 NIV

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 

Overcoming Disappointment

  1. Adjusting expectations is important. I don't want to set mine too high (unrealistic), but I also don't want to negate the power of God in my life (too low). With God all things are possible, so don't give up on God. Just cut yourself a little slack and realize that while God will never let you down, people will. People will sin, and people will hurt you. God will always stand by you no matter what and He understands the pain and the sorrow of disappointment.
  2. Learn from your defeats. Don't give up, but don't give in either. Understand that defeat is normal, and that everyone suffers from defeat at times in their life. Learn from your mistakes or miscalculations, and grow through the experience so that next time you can avoid the error or at the least minimize its impact.
  3. Build friendships. God gives us friends to help us through the difficult moments in life. Reach out to friends who will comfort you and rally round you. Know that they too experience disappointments so be there for them just as often as they are there for you. Share each others burdens, love each other, pray for each other, and when all else fails, hold each other. It really does work wonders to help bring an end to the emotional side of disappointment.
  4. Dive into your relationship with God. Take this time to reach deeper in your walk with the Lord. Lean upon Him and realize that He will not leave you nor will He abandon you. You matter to Him, and He does know what it feels like to be disappointed. Turn toward Him and not away from Him. Let Him heal your hurts, and let Him show you the way through the trial.
  5. Lastly, remember the ultimate goal. Life is transient. It is fleeting. Our path leads to one place (for the believer in Jesus Christ) and that is homeward to Heaven. Keep your mind firmly fixed on the prize, and run your race with endurance to the end. Don't give up, and when life seems to be crashing all around you, remember to look up. Wait on the Lord, stay faithful, and keep on keeping on. Jesus is the reason we endure. He is our Victor and our Champion, and He is waiting for us at the finish line. Finish strong, dear brothers and sisters, finish strong.
 Source: https://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/biblestudyandtheology/discipleship/wright_disappointment.aspx

Lord,

There are times when I feel so disappointed, and there are times when I feel so overwhelmed. I know that life is hard, and that circumnavigating it can be difficult. I get frustrated when things don't go my way or when I feel that people (important people) don't live up to my expectations. I struggle with letting others lead their own lives, with letting them go so that they can make their own mistakes. 

This is especially true of my son, whom I love dearly, but who is at that point in his life where he is responsible for his own actions. I want to help him, mentor him, protect him. Yet, he makes decisions that affect his life, and I see the outcome of those decision and I know they are not wise. I want to shake him, to make him listen like he used to when he was a child. I cannot do this, he is a young man, and he must learn on his own. He must learn to trust you, to seek you, and to follow after you. I can no longer chart his course, I can no longer plan his day. I have to let him go. I pray he follows you. I pray he seeks your wisdom. I pray he makes good choices. I let him go today, Lord. I let him go. 

Thank you, Lord, for your wisdom and perfect peace. Thank you for your hand upon my life. Thank you for what you are doing in me and through me. Thank you for this day, and thank you for being there for me, always there for me. I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you and to praise you this day. Selah! Pause and calmly think about it.

March 8, 2014

Rethinking My Purpose


Yesterday was a good day at school. I had two groups of students give oral presentations. Both did fine. It was enjoyable to have them teach the class rather than me, and I was glad they did such a thorough job on the assignment. The rest of my time was OK. I cannot help but think that I am not good at teaching. I am filled with doubt about my abilities, and I constantly stick my foot in my mouth. I feel like I don't know my subject well, and my students seem to be disconnected from my interaction. Perhaps it is just the way these students are, or their age, or the culture. I don't know, but I am seriously considering my purpose as a teacher.

I started to think about this yesterday on the drive home from GCU. I questioned the Lord about it, asking Him why I feel this way. It is a weird thing because I feel like a failure every class, and yet, when I think about doing something else, nothing comes to mind. I feel like I have done it all, I have tried different types of work, and I don't like any of them. Then there is this sense that I am at peace. I cannot really explain it, it is just this abiding peace about everything right now. I don't have enough money, but I have peace. I don't have satisfaction in my job, but I have peace. I don't have confirmation on a full-time job, but I have peace.

Peace is a good thing, right? Peace tells you that you are where you belong, and that you are well-covered. So why am I struggling against the Lord's peace? I mean, after all, shouldn't you be happy and content when you have peace? Most people would agree that peace is a good thing, and most people would say that they seek for peace all the time. So I have it, but I am unhappy about my life, my circumstances, my situation. What is wrong with this picture, eh?

So what is Peace? According to the world, there are many different definitions of this word from cessation of war to general harmony between people groups. I chose this as the definition that I think fits the worldly sense of what it means to be at peace, to have peace as your state of being:

a state of harmony between people or groups; freedom from strife 

Biblical peace is quite different, though it does encapsulate the worldly definition to some extent. Bakers Biblical Dictionary says this:

The Meaning of Peace. In English, the word "peace" conjures up a passive picture, one showing an absence of civil disturbance or hostilities, or a personality free from internal and external strife. The biblical concept of peace is larger than that and rests heavily on the Hebrew root sim, which means "to be complete" or "to be sound." The verb conveys both a dynamic and a static meaning"to be complete or whole" or "to live well." The noun had many nuances, but can be grouped into four categories: 

(1) salom as wholeness of life or body (i.e., health); 
(2) salom as right relationship or harmony between two parties or people, often established by a covenant (see "covenant of peace" in Num 25:12-13 ; Isa 54:10 ; Ezek 34:25-26 ) and, when related to Yahweh, the covenant was renewed or maintained with a "peace offering"; 
(3) salom as prosperity, success, or fulfillment (see Lev 26:3-9 ); and 
(4) salom as victory over one's enemies or absence of war. Salom was used in both greetings and farewells. It was meant to act as a blessing on the one to whom it was spoken: "May your life be filled with health, prosperity, and victory." As an adjective, it expressed completeness and safety. 

In the New Testament, the Greek word eirene [eijrhvnh] is the word most often translated by the word "peace." Although there is some overlap in their meanings, the Hebrew word salom is broader in its usage, and, in fact, has greatly influenced the New Testament's use of eirene.

Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/peace.html 

In context we see that Biblical peace is encompassing a state of being far deeper than a cessation of hostilities or harmony between people. It is a measure of soundness, of wellness, and of whole body/mind/soul well-being. Additionally, it is an assurance of the covenant between God and man, and it is a promise of prosperity, success and fulfillment. In this manner, Peace covers you in more than just inward/outward ways. It serves to provide a wholeness that centers your person, informs your views, and regulates your days. It gives you comfort to know that you are well with God, well with man (as far as it concerns you), and well with the plans God has for your life.

Within this definition there are two ideas that need further clarification. One is success and the other is prosperity. Merriam-Webster defines success as:
  1. the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame
  2. the correct or desired result of an attempt
  3. someone or something that is successful : a person or thing that succeeds
Popular culture gives opinions on what success and prosperity measure to by modern standards, and I think most would agree that the World encourages success through the acquisition of things (money, power or position). 

Baker identifies "success" under the banner of Blessing:

God's intention and desire to bless humanity is a central focus of his covenant relationships. For this reason, the concept of blessing pervades the biblical record. Two distinct ideas are present. First, a blessing was a public declaration of a favored status with God. Second, the blessing endowed power for prosperity and success. In all cases, the blessing served as a guide and motivation to pursue a course of life within the blessing.

To consider this idea further, it is important to understand what prosperity means from a Biblical viewpoint. There is a group within the Church that preaches financial success and prosperity almost from the standpoint that God desires His people to be wealthy. There are other groups that preach against that citing that it is not the norm for God's people to be wealthy and that Jesus' teachings in the NT are more valid than the Covenantal teachings found in the OT.

I have struggled with the "wealth and prosperity" teaching for a long time. Perhaps it was because I lived as a poor person, by choice and by sin, and I believed that wealth was for some, but not for all believers.

In reading Bakers on the subject of prosperity, it is clear that God used wealth as a sign of blessing to the people of the OT. Moreover, God's design for wealth was tied to the land and to the Temple. God designed wealth as a means for sharing His Goodness with others. In the NT, we see the early church pick up this same idea when they sell their possessions and distribute the money to those that have need. The idea here is that God blesses us financially for one purpose: to see to the needs of His people. We are blessed with wealth to not only take care of our own families, but to care for the family of God. In this way, we serve to share the blessing of God with others.

Bakers says this about prosperity:

The Old Testament recognizes wealth as often a blessing from God. But frequently that wealth is tied up with the land or the temple in ways that do not carry over into a New Testament age that knows no one sacred piece of geography or architecture ( John 4:24 ). Even in the Old Testament, the Israelites' wealth was meant to be shared, with the poor in the land and with Gentiles outside, so as to bring people to a knowledge of the Lord. Increased privilege carries increased responsibility. Governments and economic institutions today are not theocracies, but they may still be judged on how they meet the needs of the powerless and dispossessed.

What I have learned from this quick word study is that God blesses us with peace, and He gives us course of life within His blessing. This means that God does have a specific plan for each of our lives and that we come to know that plan once we are in covenant with Him. It is part of His promise to us. We agree with Him, we covenant with Him, and in return there is blessing. This blessing includes: peace, success and prosperity.

Therefore, to have His peace we must accept His covenant. Covenant refers to:

The term "covenant" is of Latin origin (con venire), meaning a coming together. It presupposes two or more parties who come together to make a contract, agreeing on promises, stipulations, privileges, and responsibilities. In religious and theological circles there has not been agreement on precisely what is to be understood by the biblical term. It is used variously in biblical contexts. In political situations, it can be translated treaty; in a social setting, it means a lifelong friendship agreement; or it can refer to a marriage.

Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/covenant.html

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are keepers of the Covenant of Grace. We are no longer under the obligation of the law, but live in freedom under Grace. However, the covenant of God does have stipulations that are required for use to partake of God's promise.

Parties: The parties to this covenant of grace are God and the people whom he will redeem. But in this case Christ fulfills a special role as “mediator” (Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24) in which he fulfills the conditions of the covenant for us and thereby reconciles us to God. (There was no mediator between God and man in the covenant of works.)

Conditions: The condition (or requirement) of participation in the covenant is faith in the work of Christ the redeemer (Rom. 1:17; 5:1; et al.). This requirement of faith in the redemptive work of the Messiah was also the condition of obtaining the blessings of the covenant in the Old Testament, as Paul clearly demonstrates through the examples of Abraham and David (Rom. 4:1–15). They, like other Old Testament believers, were saved by looking forward to the work of the Messiah who was to come and putting faith in him.4

But while the condition of beginning the covenant of grace is always faith in Christ’s work alone, the condition of continuing in that covenant is said to be obedience to God’s commands. Though this obedience did not in the Old Testament and does not in the New Testament earn us any merit with God, nonetheless, if our faith in Christ is genuine, it will produce obedience (see James 2:17), and obedience to Christ is in the New Testament seen as necessary evidence that we are truly believers and members of the new covenant (see 1 John 2:4–6).

Promises: The promise of blessings in the covenant was a promise of eternal life with God. This promise was repeated frequently throughout the Old and the New Testaments. God promised that he would be their God and that they would be his people. “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you” (Gen. 17:7). “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33). “And they shall be my people, and I will be their God...I will make with them an everlasting covenant” (Jer. 32:38–40; cf. Ezek. 34:30–31; 36:28; 37:26–27). That theme is picked up in the New Testament as well: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor. 6:16; cf. a similar theme in vv. 17–18; also 1 Peter 2:9–10). In speaking of the new covenant, the author of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Heb. 8:10). This blessing finds fulfillment in the church, which is the people of God, but it finds its greatest fulfillment in the new heaven and new earth, as John sees in his vision of the age to come: “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them” (Rev. 21:3).

Sign: The sign of this covenant (the outward, physical symbol of inclusion in the covenant) varies between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament the outward sign of beginning the covenant relationship was circumcision. The sign of continuing the covenant relationship was continuing to observe all the festivals and ceremonial laws that God gave the people at various times. In the new covenant, the sign of beginning a covenant relationship is baptism, while the sign of continuing in that relationship is participation in the Lord’s Supper.

The reason this covenant is called a “covenant of grace” is that it is entirely based on God’s “grace” or unmerited favor toward those whom he redeems.

Source: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/covenants.html

Does God make covenants with individuals like He did with Adam, Noah, Abraham, David and the prophets?

If God is a Covenant making and keeping God, and if He has demonstrated His relationship through Covenant agreements in the past, than I believe that He still does make covenants with individuals now. I believe that God does enter into covenants with individuals based on the individuals obedience to God's call on their life. I believe these sub-covenants are part of the overarching Covenant of works, redemption, and grace. These covenants are agreements between God and man and are specific to the work that God is asking the individual to do on His behalf. In a way, they are promises to individuals that encourage obedience, faith and trust in God for the provision and ability to accomplish the work God has in mind for them to do. They do not replace any of the established Biblical covenants, they simply operate under the blessing that comes from the covenant of Grace.

As I consider my life and my purpose, I am now faced with a decision. Do I believe what God is saying to me, about my purpose, about His plans for my life, and about His determination on where I will go, and what I will do? If so, then my end of the covenantal relationship is upheld. God never changes His mind, and He never abandons His promises. This means that it is up to me to choose to obey, to believe, and to trust that what He has promised, He will surely fulfill.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for taking the time to help me understand that the promises you have made to me are assured. They are part of your covenantal agreement predicated upon my agreement to obey you and follow after you. I understand now that you have given me special blessing and favor and as such I am under no obligation to keep my end of the agreement. However, if I do, then I will receive the promised blessing. If I do not, then I will receive nothing. I am under your covenant of Grace, and I am set free. However, you have promised many things to me, to help me accomplish your will, your purpose, and the plans you have laid out for me to fulfill. I must remain in faith, in belief, and in trust. I must choose to be faithful to you, to obey your Word, and to follow after you. It is difficult to explain, and for some, it may seem ludicrous to think this way. But I know what I know, and I have seen your blessing poured out on my life. I am experiencing something vital, new, and exciting. Yes, I doubt. Yes, I fear. Yes, I want to run away and hide at times. Yet, you remain faithful to me. You are stalwart. You never move. I am blessed to be in relationship with you, and to know that all my struggles are human. They are not representative of your greatness or your goodness. They are my futile attempts to understand something that is beyond understanding. Therefore, Lord, I recommit my way to you this day. I let go of these feelings, which are nothing, and I choose to be faithful to you, to believe your Word, to trust in your Character and Nature, and to accept the blessings and favor you have given to me. I humbly confess that I have sought my own way, desired my own understanding, and as a result, I have become focused on the dirt and the ground, and not on who you are and what you are doing in me and through me for your Name, your Honor, and your Praise. Thank you, Lord, for your grace and compassion. Thank you for helping me to understand your way. In Jesus' Name I pray this now, Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

March 6, 2014

Blessings


Happy Thursday! It is a cloudy day in Phoenix. Usually our March weather is sunny and warm (low 80s) with very little chance of clouds or rain. Today is atypical of March, but it is sure a nice change. I like the overcast sky, and I like to see a bit of gray every now and then. I know that friends and family in the Midwest and back East would say the exact opposite. This winter has been brutal on them, and they are tired of the clouds, gray sky, and snow!

Still, I am pensive today, and gray skies suit me. I think about what I need to accomplish today, the tasks at hand, and how I am going to partition my day. It is 10:30, and I have managed to crawl out of bed, get a cup of coffee, read the news, fix breakfast, and update my Facebook status. Good day so far? I think so.

I was able to finish my Family Communication seminar paper -- squeaking in under the wire -- last night. I poured everything I had into that paper, which was a whole lot of the Lord, and a not a whole lot of me! I wrote what I felt He wanted me to write. I pray it is received in that same spirit, and that the Lord will give me favor with my Professor and classmates. I am stressed a bit still, worried that I didn't do the assignment correctly. I know He has me covered today, and I know that I can rest. I am choosing to rest today. Choosing to be blessed. Choosing to let go, and let Him be.



I've got a lot of my plate, but this paper is no longer hanging over me (PTL!) I am able to focus now on my research project, my research survey, and my statistical analysis. I am good. God is Good. I know He has all this well in hand (His hand!)

Today looks like a good day to rest. I do need to complete the following items:
  • Finish up the HTML email for church (uploading content so they can email it out to members)
  • Upload and install the new template I created for church (probably not until next week)
  • Create my online survey so that I can start to hand out that URL
  • Submit my IRB with survey for approval
  • Complete my Family COM DQ for last week (due by 3/12)
  • Respond to my colleagues papers (due by 3/16)
I am not sure how much of that I will accomplish today. At the minimum, I need to do the survey and submit it for approval. The rest can wait until another day.



As I consider this day and I think about all that the Lord has done for me -- carrying me through this major paper, providing enough time to complete it, managing my stress over teaching, etc. -- I cannot help but lift up all the praise to Him. I give Him all the praise this day. He has done this for me. He has seen me through it, and I am blessed. I am so very blessed.