August 31, 2014

The Glory of the Lord


The glory of the Lord fills the tabernacle.

The cloud covered the tabernacle even in the clearest day; it was not a cloud which the sun scatters. This cloud was a token of God's presence to be seen day and night, by all Israel, that they might never again question, Is the Lord among us, or is he not? It guided the camp of Israel through the wilderness. While the cloud rested on the tabernacle, they rested; when it removed, they followed it. The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. In light and fire the Shechinah made itself visible: God is Light; our God is a consuming Fire. Yet so dazzling was the light, and so dreadful the fire, that Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, till the splendour was abated. But what Moses could not do, our Lord Jesus has done, whom God caused to draw near; and who has invited us to come boldly, even to the mercy-seat. Being taught by the Holy Spirit to follow the example of Christ, as well as to depend upon him, to attend his ordinances, and obey his precepts, we shall be kept from losing our way, and be led in the midst of the paths of judgment, till we come to heaven, the habitation of his holiness.

BLESSED BE GOD FOR JESUS CHRIST!

~ Matthew Henry

August 30, 2014

Leaning Upon the Lord

The Lord is so good to me, so very good to me. I am giving Him praise today for He has done marvelous things for me (Psalm 126:3). I stand amazed and in awe of His magnificent Name, and I rest in His sufficiency and provision for my life. The Lord is my rock and my fortress. He is my assurance, my sweet assurance  -- He guides me in safety, and He keeps me in complete comfort and care.

As I rest in Him today, I thank Him for His grace this past week. He made a way for me to experience His mercy, and through that experience, I was able to "see" the truth of my circumstance, my situation, and I was given great hope and encouragement to keep on "keeping on."

To say I was not discouraged last week would be such an understatement. I was so very low, so very discouraged, and so very ill-equipped for the tasks that I had to complete. Furthermore, I was struggling to keep my focus, to remain calm, and to push through the mental fog blocking my way through the assignments, the homework, the lesson plans, etc. that are now such a routine part of my life.

Just when I thought I couldn't take another sling and arrow, the Lord moved in a mighty way, and my strength was renewed. Isaiah 40:31 says,

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Yes, this is exactly how I felt on Friday. I was beat down, burdened, and feeling the brunt of the crushing weight of my long "to-do" list. I felt dejected as if everything I did, everything I tried, simply failed. No matter how I worked to overcome, I felt my feet slipping. It was like I was walking in sand. Every step forward came with two steps sliding backwards. I was frustrated and overwhelmed.

The Lord rescued me. He lifted me from the pit of my own depression and set my feet on the clear and solid path. Why was I so downcast last week? There were multiple reasons, but mostly, I was overwhelmed by the amount of work required to teach full-time, and I felt increasing pressure to preform well. These two things coupled with my anxiety over my courses at Regent formed an oppressive veil that kept me shrouded in darkness, in feelings of low self-worth. Truthfully, the Lord had me so well covered, and while I believed He was there to see me through, I still struggled to control all the details, to complete all the tasks, and to show up and be "on" for my students. I was doing it, of course, in my own strength. My strength failed me, and still I tried to hustle up a little bit more, just a bit more, to see me through to the end of the week. On Thursday, I crashed and burned. I hit the wall. When Friday came around, I knew that I couldn't go on. I was at the end of my ability, and my resources were not going to make "ends meet."

God moves when we are at the end of ourselves. This is the time when the Lord steps in and does the very thing we cannot do. It is His preferred way of doing things -- to do what we cannot -- so that He receives all the glory and praise. I, of course, was already wanting Him to have that praise, to have that glory -- I just wasn't ready to let go, to lift my hand off, and to quote Carrie Underwood, "let Jesus take the wheel!"

I did, however, let go. I released my grasp on my life, my plans, and my desires -- and something marvelous and wonderful happened. The Lord took over, took control, and in an instant, everything that needed to be done was done. My tasks were completed. I was refreshed, I was renewed, and I was reinvigorated (encouraged and filled with hope). Yes, the Mighty God of Israel, showed up BIG time in my life, and as a result, I experienced His Majesty. I saw Him as I AM, and I realized that all my attempts at control, all my desires to go my way, all of it -- my effort -- resulted in no gain, but plenty of pain. I let go, and in a moment, I rested. I experienced that "being" in His presence.

Today, I reflect on that experience and I know that what the Lord calls me to do is impossible for me to do. Even with all my skill and ability, with my experience, with my faithfulness and obedience -- I fall short. I cannot do what He wants me to do. I am not able to be the person He is calling me to be.  I am not giving up, per se, but rather I am giving in, giving in to a power and presence that far exceeds anything humanly possible or plausible. Yes, I am giving over control to the One who is able to do for me far more exceedingly abundantly that anything I could ask or want (Eph. 3:20). I am resting in Him, letting Him "be" in my life. I look forward to the plans He has for me. I know they are good, so very good. They are so good, in fact, that only He can accomplish them, only He is able to bring them to pass in my life.

May the Lord be praised this day. He is good. His mercy endures forever.

August 28, 2014

Strategy

It's Thursday, and I am reeling from my week. Yes, it has been a good week. I have accomplished a lot, and I am confident that I will finish out the remaining two days with strength. Yet, there is a part of me that feels overwhelmed at the lack of a good plan, at the feeling that I am walking into the unknown without a good plan of attack. Let me explain...

I am a strategist by nature. By this I mean that in everything I do, I plan, I prepare, and I purpose my way so that I will accomplish the goal or task set before me. I scope out the best way to go, and for me, planning/purposing, the action of planning or designing that way, is what brings me the "sense" of control I need to be confident in the outcome (the possibility of good success). It is not that I have to be in control, per se, it is more that I need to believe that in every situation I am moving forward, I am moving toward the goal. If I sense that I am spinning my wheels, running in circles, or standing still, then I will feel as though the effort expended is not worth my time. In short, I will stop what I am doing, turn around if necessary, or head in a new direction. Therefore, to feel successful, to feel as though I am directed, I have to believe that the steps I am taking every single day are purposed, are planned, and are leading me toward the final accomplished goal.

From Wikipedia:
Strategy (from Greek στρατηγία stratēgia, "art of troop leader; office of general, command, generalship") is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty.

Strategic planning is an organization's process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy. It may also extend to control mechanisms for guiding the implementation of the strategy.

Strategy has many definitions, but generally involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions. A strategy describes how the ends (goals) will be achieved by the means (resources). 

Strategy includes processes of formulation and implementation; strategic planning helps coordinate both. However, strategic planning is analytical in nature (i.e., it involves "finding the dots"); strategy formation itself involves synthesis (i.e., "connecting the dots") via strategic thinking. As such, strategic planning occurs around the strategy formation activity.
I am most comfortable when I am planning or designing processes that support outcomes. As an analyst, I enjoyed studying problems and synthesizing the details. The mental energy expended in these activities challenged me greatly, and as a result, I was able to focus and strive for clarity (clear direction) in the task or assignment.

I was happy as an analyst. I enjoyed the work of analysis. I felt good when I figured out how to get from point A to point Z. I believed I was using all my God-given gifts and talents when I was set to the task of figuring out how to solve some problem.

Since I transitioned into teaching a year ago, I have struggled with figuring out how to plan curriculum, plan lessons, and deliver content. You would think that the process would be simple, straightforward, and clear -- but it is not. In fact, I would say that the process in teaching is very difficult because it is not theoretical in nature -- it is practical. While living within my strategic planning brain, I can envision multiple scenarios, test out routes for efficacy, and make decisions in moments -- all with the assurance that no harm will be done. In a classroom, however, the same is not true. I cannot make changes without impacting my students, without causing issues for administration, and without feeling like I am a ship without a rudder (clueless, rudderless). No, I prefer theoretical to practical -- despite the fact that I am a pragmatic person who seeks ultimate fulfillment in life application.

The Nuts and Bolts of It

I am a planner. I love to plan. I love to think about improvement in planning. Yet, I am also practical in that the plans I create, I want to make sure that they prove practical, beneficial, and that they produce good results. I am all about the results!

In teaching college, most of the planning for semester courses is done during the summer months. I had decided early on that I would use my summer to plan out my courses. Unfortunately, I didn't receive curriculum instruction, syllabi, etc. until late August. I was left with very little time to put together a good solid plan. Thus, I have been planning on the go, which to any good Analyst and Strategic Thinker is the absolute worst kind of planning you can do. Momentary planning is something that should happen occasionally, not regularly.  In fact, with a good plan of attack, a good design, instances where momentary planning changes are needed can be incorporated with less disruption, with more ease. It is far easier to adjust a good plan, than to constantly attempt to reinvent a bad one.

As a planner, therefore, I feel the need to know where I am going, to know how I am going to get there, and to know that each day I am checking off the steps, and moving forward to the final conclusion.

Why Teaching is so Difficult For Me

I have thought about this for a while now, and I have come to this conclusion: I am not a natural born teacher. Even though I have desired to be a teacher my entire life (from my earliest memories, I "played" teacher), I do not feel equipped to be a teacher. I know that sounds crazy. I have been told nearly as long as I have been alive that I am a good teacher. I get compliments all the time -- "Carol, you are such a good teacher!" It is true, I do enjoy teaching others. I like seeing student's grow and learn. I enjoy helping them improve. With that said, if I face the truth, though, I do not see teaching as a natural ability for me -- it is difficult for me to do. I am a good teacher because I care about my students. I am a good teacher because I plan well, execute well, and succeed well. Yes, I can teach because I am a strategic planner at heart.

As I consider the plans the Lord has for my life, as I see His plan unfold for me, I cannot help but wonder if I belong somewhere else, doing something else. I do love teaching, I enjoy it. I just feel that because I struggle so much in teaching, that I struggle so much with the uncertainty of the outcome, that there may be something out there that is a "better fit" for me.

Perhaps the issue is that the part of teaching I enjoy most is the research, the academics of it, the scholarly activity of being a professor. Perhaps it is the freedom of the schedule (summers off?) Perhaps what I really want to do is stay in the comfortable zone of research analysis rather than live in the present moment, the practical moment of the classroom. I don't know...

The Lord knows me well. He knows how hard I am working toward my PhD. He knows that I am using this education for two purposes: the first is to lead me to a full-time position as a professor; and the second is to prepare me for His work, for ministry. I am thinking now that perhaps the experience I am getting in the classroom is to provide credentials so that I can find "that job" in research or in administration. Perhaps the Lord is telling me to bide my time, use this time to learn about teaching, about the classroom dynamics, about student-centered instruction, so that I can focus on practical work that involves strategy and planning. I don't know...

It is not that I want to give up teaching. It is more that I feel so constrained by the whole "teaching" process, that I do not understand how to do it, that I struggle against the grain of it. If I could work in a role where I was planning and researching, I would be happy, I would be relaxed. It is a strange feeling right now, a feeling as though I am where I belong, but I am not where I am supposed to be long-term. UGH!

Today, I read Psalm 143:8:

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.

I thought about this Psalm, and I began to meditate on what it might mean for me. I am trusting the Lord for every provision, every need. I want so desperately for Him to show me where to walk, I want to follow Him, and to go where He leads me. I have given myself wholly to Him, I have laid my life at His feet, and I have committed to living a life of devotion to His Holy Name. Yet, despite all of this, I feel today as if my feet are slipping, as if I am struggling to walk in a way that is slightly off-kilter. Is it me? It is my faulty sense of rightness (not righteousness, but of uprightness, being straight)?

The Lord knows my needs. He knows what I can and cannot do. He has provided for my every need. He knows my school schedule at Regent, and He knows how much I need to focus on my studies. He also knows that teaching is difficult for me (it is draining for me), and that while I love mentoring students, and I love seeing them come to new understanding, there is part of me that struggles with the whole process of teaching. I don't know how to reconcile these two things -- I don't know how to figure this problem out. 

A HA! 

I figured it out! The reason I am struggling so much is that I am faced with a problem that has no solution. There is no solution, and for those of us who are driven toward results, a problem without a solution is a conundrum, and in mathematics, an unsolvable equation is called inconsistent equation. Oh yes! I am faced with a conundrum and an inconsistent equation.

In Googling for inspiration, I ran across this quote:

If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact - not to be solved, but to be coped with over time. ~Shimon Peres, Israeli Prime Minister


Yes, I believe this is true. I believe that this is exactly why I am where I am for this season of my life. I have always said that I didn't view teaching as my "ministry." A lot of people tell me otherwise, and I do understand (and even agree with them). It is just that I know my "ministry" specifically, and teaching is not it. I do minister to students, therefore I am using teaching as a ministry. However, my ministry, my true calling is not as a teacher or as an educator. No, the Lord has called me to study Communication for a reason, and my "ministry" is all about communicating to the church. Of this, I am 100% certain.

So why then am I teaching? I think the reason I am teaching is just as Shimon Peres suggests. I am learning how to be a teacher, not to BECOME ONE, but to take the skills and abilities involved in teaching, and use them for this other thing the Lord has in mind for me to do. Teaching is then a learning ground for me, a place where I go to practice the skills I am learning about in other studies.

So what does that mean for me?

I think the solution to my problem of teaching is this: I need to rest in the fact that I am teaching for this season of my life because the Lord has provided the opportunity for me to do it, and He has a plan to use what I learn for His work. Therefore, while I stress over the practical application of teaching, while I struggle with planning and implementing lessons, the truth is that I am learning valuable knowledge that will be used by Him in some other capacity down the road. I am a teacher-in-training, and I am learning new skills, refining old skills, and coming to terms with the strategy of coping with difficult trials. Yes, I am learning how to cope with the unsolvable equation, the unanswerable question, the conundrum of teaching.

August 27, 2014

Struggling to Rest

Yes, it has been exactly one day, perhaps two since I made the grand pronouncement that I was choosing to REST in the Lord. After my struggles last week, I had made the decision that the stress I was feeling, the overwhelming panic inside, was due to my refusal to allow the Lord to control my circumstances (namely my studies at Regent and my teaching at ACU/GCU). I was fed up, or so I wrote on this blog, with feeling awful, with the nagging doubts and insecurities, with the sense of failure that seemed to cover me in a cloud of despair. I wanted out of that vicious cycle, and I made a commitment to the Lord to trust Him for each and every outcome this semester.

So here I am floundering -- AGAIN! I am awash in a sea of doubts, in the murkiness of feeling raw and vulnerable amidst all the tasks that are piling up on my massive and un-scalable TO-DO list!

I woke up this morning feeling dread, that sensation that what was to come (later this morning/afternoon) was going to prove to be a miserable experience for me. I didn't sleep well last night, which only compounded the matter. I had dreams all night long, and I tossed and turned as I moved through the various sleep cycles. I never felt rested or relaxed. When morning finally arrived, I rolled out of bed, and immediately felt that the day was going to be "one of those days."

I did my best to counteract those thoughts -- stopping them at the door (as Kay Arthur likes to say) -- so as not to give in to them, to allow them to take root. While I battled these thoughts, I reminded myself of the truth of the WORD, that the Lord is my strong tower, that He is at-the-ready to defend me, and that no mountain is too high for Him to push aside (yes, I am hearing Diana Ross and The Supreme's sing -- "Ain't No Mountain High Enough").

Once again my enemy has hit me hard, right where I am weakest -- in my pride. My pride, my sense of self-value and self-worth, is a weak spot for me. I do not consider myself haughty (arrogantly superior and disdainful) nor would I say that I suffer from over-weening pride (an excessive feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements).  In truth, I know where my success comes from, and I can state emphatically that it is all of the Lord. Yet, if that is true (and I believe it is), then why do I feel so rotten, so down regarding my performance as a teacher?

It is because there is slippery sliding scale when it comes to pride. It is possible to slide quickly from humility into pride. So while I can say with assurance that I have a healthy dose of pride (a right sense of what I can and cannot do), if not kept in check, then my intent to assume full responsibility for my work, for my achievements, will push me into the prideful category.  In my view, there is nothing wrong with feeling satisfied by one's own abilities or performance. It feels good to be successful, to achieve a goal, to do a job well. However, when we begin to take credit for something that does not rightly belong to us, well, then we run into the issue with being prideful.

In looking up the definition of pride, different resources will state different things. Some consider haughtiness to be synonymous with pride, while others do not.

Dictionary.com says pride is defined as the "pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself" whereas Merriam-Webster says pride is "a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people." Both include conceit as part-and-parcel with pride. Conceit is too much pride in your own worth or goodness.

So where does this leave me today...

I think of Micah 6:8:

No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Yes, the command given by the prophet Micah is a good reminder to each one of us. God asks us to walk humbly with Him. Humility is a modest or low view of one's own importance, so to walk humbly simply means to recognize that in our relationship with the Lord there can be ONE GOD only. In all our work, in all our efforts, in everything we do -- we are to remember that the Lord God is the ONE who empowers, who creates, who sustains, who educates, etc. He is the ONE who deserves all the credit, who we should reflect all success toward. The Lord is the One who works through us, and whenever we begin to take credit where credit is due His Holy Name, then we have crossed the line from walking humbly with the Lord to where we are walking in pride-fulness or conceit.

Today, I remember the words of Micah, and I think carefully upon my role as teacher/scholar. I reflect the credit back to the Lord, and I rest in His ability to do this work. I lay down my hat, my teacher robe, and I say to the Lord: I am weak, but you are strong. In my weakness Lord, complete your work, your good work today.

August 26, 2014

Thankfulness

Today is a good day, such a very good day. I am thanking the Lord for His marvelous provision!

I woke up feeling refreshed, which completely surprised me given the fact that I went to bed last night completely exhausted. Yesterday was my first full day of teaching. I had a good day, my classes went well, and my students seemed to like my content and style. However, teaching for five hours took its toll on me. My personality is introverted, but after many years of professional work, I have learned how to "turn on" the extroverted part of me (to get through meetings, presentations, group events, etc.) Small bursts of extroverted feeling do not bother me much, but long sustained periods drain me, literally drain me.

Last night, after I ate some dinner and sat down to check email, my eyes started to lose focus, and my head began to swim around. Just as I was ready to hit the sack, my son came home from school, eager to tell me all about his classes. He is a Junior at ASU West, and yesterday was his first full day of classes. He was all excited about his professors, his coursework, and the opportunities he will have this semester. So -- an hour later -- I was finally able to close my eyes and rest. I don't think I moved the entire night.

As I woke up this morning, the first words out of my mouth were "Thank you, Lord, for giving me T-TH's off this semester!" I remember back to when I was looking over the teaching schedule last Spring, and I was considering teaching five days a week (two classes on M-W-F and two on T-TH). The Lord kept pressing me to find classes on M-W-F. I was able to finally work out a schedule whereby all my teaching ended up on three days. At the time, I was thinking that this was to facilitate my Regent coursework (giving me teaching days and study days). Now, I see that it was to give me "down days" -- days when I could rest and relax, recoup, from all that extroverted expenditure. Yes, I will use these days for my Regent studies too, but I think in the grand scheme of things, I will use them more to recover from all that extra energy I expend on my days in class.

God is good, so very good to me. He knows me well, and He knows what I can and cannot do. I hear Him say this to me: "Carol, I have you so well covered. I know what you can and cannot do. Trust me and rest." Yes, Lord, help me to trust you and to rest in you.

After I spent some time relaxing this morning (aka -- drinking my coffee and watching the news on TV), I came in to my office and sat down to check my email. My pay email arrived from GCU along with some other junk messages. I didn't bother to open it up, knowing that it was just a breakdown of how I will be paid this semester (in 8-9 periods, usually every two weeks). I read some other mails before clicking on the pay period ones. I needed to add the pay days to my calendar and align them with ACU's pay periods (1st and 15th). As I was checking the pay breakdown, I noticed that my contracted amount was adjusted upward for my ENG 105 class. I knew that GCU did this for courses over 50 students (that class had 53 students enrolled as of last week), I just didn't think that they would adjust my contract (Why? I don't know. I guess I just didn't put two-and-two together). WOW! I was so blessed!! Once I calculated my GCU pay along with that of ACU's contracted pay, my bi-weekly payout is almost exactly the amount I was making when I worked at CVS Caremark last year. Grant it, this is only for four months, but still it is four months of solid salary, and it is about $600 more per month then what I was expecting.

To say that I was relieved would be a huge understatement -- I was RELIEVED!! I have struggled with adjunct contract work for a year now. The whole idea of working on contract scared me -- so much so -- that I quit GCU at the end of the fall semester 2013 to take a horrible full-time salaried position working for a company I had no interest in (content-wise, nursing services), just to have regular pay and benefits. I hated that job, I hated the commute, and I hated the feeling that I had run away from a God-given, God-ordained, and God-provided opportunity SIMPLY because of the nature of the work, the nature of contract work. It only took three weeks of being miserable before I turned around, before I made up my mind to go back to where the Lord placed me (yes, I did a Jonah for three weeks). Once I returned to the job of His choosing, everything fell back into place, and I had peace, such great peace.

Sure, the idea of not having money in between contracts bothered me. I still panicked over going an entire summer without any pay. In fact, I have had to trust the Lord this entire summer, resting in His provision each time I looked at my dwindling bank account. I would see the money going out, and my heart would race. Oh, Lord, when will this feeling of insecurity end? Then today I opened up an email and bang! -- the Lord showed me His provision. The Lord showed me that all along He had me so well covered. Oh, Lord, when will I rest and trust you completely?

I think about the Psalms, about all the times when David praised God for His provision and His goodness.

Psalm 84:11 - For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.

Psalm 34:8 - Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!


Psalm 100:5 -
For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.


Psalm 118:1 -
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.


Yes, the Lord is good to us. The Lord watches over us, and He is faithful to provide for our needs, abundantly and sufficiently.

Philippians 4:19 - And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

As I was praying this morning, I heard the word of the Lord: "Carol, rest in me. Trust me to provide for you." I responded with "Yes, Lord! May it please the Lord to do so!"

My prayer today is to rest. I ask the Lord to let me rest in Him, to completely rest in Him. I am at the end of my strength -- the thought of teaching this semester, completing my doctoral courses, ministering at Church, supporting my family -- is too much for me to bear. I am physically worn down, weary from the weight and the burden of it all. Yet, I am compelled, as if a force outside of me is pulling me forward, moving me toward some distant goal, some distant place. I feel myself moving through these "things," these tasks, often without any real doing on my part. I move through the days, I submit the assignments, I create the lessons, I show up, and I teach. I do all that is asked of me, yet I don't know how I do it. I just do it. I cry out to the Lord: "Lord, I am so tired. I am so very tired. I cannot do this anymore." The Lord replies to me, "I have you covered. I have you so well covered." 

The Lord is my Shield. He is my Buckler. He is my Strong Tower. I run to Him, and He saves me. He captures me and says to me with great joy: "I have you. I will not let go of you." I rest in Him because He is able to do all things through me, ALL THINGS, regardless of my skill, my ability, my talent. I am nothing; He is everything. I rest in Him, I look to Him, I trust in Him, and I rely upon Him. He supplies all my needs, and He covers me with His grace so that I can do whatever He asks of me. 

I rest in Him. I rest in Him. I rest in Him.

August 24, 2014

Praising God for His Goodness Today

Today I am praising God for His marvelous good works, for His amazing love, and for His gracious attention. I am lifting my voice in praise, bringing all that I am into His presence. In return, I am receiving blessing upon blessing as I reflect on all that the Lord has done for me, and as I think about all that the Lord is planning on doing for me in the future. I cry out and I shout out His NAME: God is good, God is good. God is good, and all the time, God is good.

My morning started off great. I had a good night's rest, and I woke up refreshed (Hallelujah!) I enjoyed a quiet morning at home alone. My parents were at early church, and my son was performing as part of the worship team at our old church, Scottsdale Bible. The house was quiet, and I was able to enjoy the solitude before getting ready to head over to our 10:00 service.

Second service at Paradise Church was awesome. Our worship team was back in full swing (after some members returned from vacation). The message today was shared by Pastor Sharon Sherbondy, our Children's Ministry Director. Sharon is an amazing woman of God. She has been at our church for about a year, and during that time, she has made a huge impression not only in our Children's department but throughout every area she has ministered. Today was special because Pastor Sharon is leaving us at the end of the month. She is our last remaining full-time ministry leader, and she is leaving to go to Nashville to be closer to her children and grandchildren. She believes that the Lord is calling her forward to serve in an unknown capacity at this time. Her message today was a mingling of her testimony along with a heavy dose of her faith in God as He leads her forth in uncertain times. I was blessed, so very blessed by what she shared. In fact, I came home thinking that her testimony so closely aligned with my experience that I took this morning's message as direct confirmation for me to continue doing what I am doing -- following hard after the Lord. Let me explain...

I have known Pastor Sharon for a short while only. Since I don't have young children anymore, I do not hang out with the families who make up Children's Ministry. Therefore, unless our paths cross, I generally do not mingle with the leadership from other ministry areas. It is not that I don't want to mingle, it is just that our circles do not intersect that often, not to where we would form deep friendships. However, over the last month or so, I have come to know Pastor Sharon more closely as she has stepped in to help fill the communications leadership role at the church. As I am the webmaster and social media guru for the church, I take my direction from Sharon and our Office Manager and our Chairman of the Board. During these informal meetings, I have witnessed God's blessing and movement in Sharon's life, and I have been blessed to experience her joy and her love for the Lord.

Today's message was special for me. Not only was it spiritually moving, but it was also confirmatory in that my experience over the past 8-9 years closely aligned with the events shared by Sharon. In fact, I would say that her experience -- finding her self suddenly single after 25 years of marriage, being a SAHM/Homeschooling Mom, learning how to live on her own (from paying bills, to buying a home, to raising her children), to receiving God's call, to realizing finally that she was utterly and hopelessly dependent upon God for His provision -- was a duplication of my own. While the events that led up to her deepening relationship with the Lord were different from mine, the outcome, the expression, and the complete revelation of God's centrality were the same. Yes, Sharon represents yet another changed-life that confirms my own experience, my own journey, my own deepening relationship with the Lord. I have been blessed to have met several individuals whose life stories were so similar, so completely akin to mine that I found myself crying out, "Thank you, Lord! Thank you!"

You see -- while I am convinced of the nature of God, of His willingness to break through the fourth wall (to interrupt time and space to reach us), of His grace and His mercy to touch us and change us -- there are times when life bears down so heavily that I forget what He has done for me, through me, and in me. It is in these times when I need to hear witness from others, when I need to listen to faith stories that call to my remembrance the goodness, the completeness, the greatness and faithfulness of our GREAT God.

The Intentionality of our God

As I sat and listened to Pastor Sharon talk about her experience, her transformation, one thing became clear to me -- the events of my life, specifically the recent changes that have taken place -- are not unplanned, not happenstance. In no uncertain terms have the recent events "just happened" to me. I am exactly where I belong. I am doing the work He has called me to do. I am meeting with the people, I am in relationship with the people, and I am living in fellowship with the people of His choosing. God has orchestrated the details of my life, and He has brought certain individuals to me for a purpose. I count my students to be among those that the Lord has brought to me for mentoring, for teaching, and for building up. I also count my friends at church as well as my friends from Regent and the Internet as people specifically assigned to me for blessing and encouragement (mutual).

In fact, the Lord has recently brought certain people into my life in such a way that I am experiencing great joy in friendship, in companionship, and in solidarity (the spiritual union and harmony that the Lord desires). Yes, my life is richly blessed by people, lots of people, who not only need me to love and to encourage them, but in whom I depend on for their love and their encouragement. I am being blessed in ways beyond measure and beyond count. My life is rich and it is full to the brim and overflowing. I am good, so very good.

As I reflect on all of these things, I confess that Pastor Sharon's message shook me to the core and made me think about my life. I began to think about how much I have doubted the Lord this past week, how much I have complained to Him about the workload, the teaching assignments, the doctoral coursework. I have also struggled with relationship building, with understanding how to be a friend, how to share myself openly with another person. I have also had to process the end of my marriage, the finality of the divorce decree arriving, and what that means for me as a single woman. I have questioned the Lord on His plans for my life, where I am to go to teach, to live, to do His work. Am I to remain single or am I to marry?

In the past, I answered this question with such ease -- if the Lord brought someone to me with whom He wanted me to marry, then yes, I would marry. If not, I boastfully said, then I would remain single. It is not that I have changed my mind, but the reality of being single has caused me to think more deeply about that statement. I am single now, officially and legally, single. I have spent the past four years rebuilding my life, learning how to be whole, and leaning 100% on the Lord for His provision and His security. There is something about being dependent on the Lord that makes you realize just how well-covered you are, and the thought of giving that up or letting another human take that role, well, it just causes you to wonder whether you are willing to do it. It is not that I believe a human man can take on any role that belongs to the Lord -- no, may it never be. It is more that I am considering if I want to share my life that closely, that intimately, with another person. I just came out of that life -- be it I have been living singly for four years -- so the idea of jumping back into closeness, proximity, well, it scares me. Of course, there is part of me that greatly desires that kind of relationship. I do desire to be married again. I do desire to spend my life with a person and to be able to be in that kind of love relationship. I guess it is panic on my part to think that now that I am single, I may very well have that option again, someday.

So all of this change, all this heaviness and burden, wears down on me and I feel overwhelmed and unprepared. Yet, Pastor Sharon's message was so hopeful, so uplifting, and so encouraging, that I found myself confessing my doubts and my fears to the Lord. I know my Lord well. I believe in Him, and I rest in His great NAME. He has given me His NAME and there is great power in that NAME. I am like Moses who asked God for His Name:

Exodus 3:13-14 - But Moses protested, "If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' they will ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what should I tell them?" God replied to Moses, "I Am Who I Am. Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you."

God has revealed Himself to me in a similar way. I am not sure why the Lord has chosen for me to know Him as I AM (self-existent, without beginning, without end) or why He has chosen to remind me daily that it is He who sends me, who works in me, through me, and for me -- to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). Yet, the Lord does this for me. I hear Him speak His Name to me, to tell me that it is I AM (the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last) who is asking me to go forward, to trust Him, to rest in His work (Rev. 22:13). Still, I falter, I fall down, and I forget. I do not rest, I do not trust, and I do not do the things He asks of me. I struggle so with understanding, with comprehending, with trusting Him and with believing that what He is telling me is true. Why? Why do I do this?

The short of it is that I am flawed human flesh, and that no matter how many times the Lord reveals Himself to me, I will doubt the authenticity of the encounter. I will not believe until I see the burning bush, the water separated and the dry land appear. The Lord is gracious to me, and He loves me so completely that He brings people to me, people experiencing similar transformation so that I can draw inference, parallels to their testimony and experience. In doing so, I am able to step back and reflect. I can say "A HA!" I see it, I get it, I am not alone in this work. You are working in them exactly as you are working in me. God is great, God is good. All the time, He is so very good.

The Lord Makes Himself Known to Us

Sharon mentioned that in her experience, the Lord gave her a word to describe His work in her life. This word summed up the way He interacted with her over the course of her broken experience. For her, the word she heard the Lord say was "attentive." The Lord was attentive to her needs (watching over her carefully, paying close attention to her needs). The Lord did the same thing for me -- He provided abundantly for my financial needs, for my security, for my goals, my dreams, and my aspirations. He has been very attentive to me.

As I thought about my experience with the Lord, about my transformation journey with Him, the word that has always come to me has been "good or goodness." According to A. W. Pink, "The original Saxon meaning of our English word "God" is "The Good." God is not only the Greatest of all beings, but the Best" (para. 3). Moreover, Pink writes, The goodness of God is the life of the believer’s trust. It is this excellency in God which most appeals to our hearts. Because His goodness endureth forever, we ought never to be discouraged: "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knoweth them that trust in Him" (Nahum 1:7).

Reference: http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Attributes/attrib_11.htm

My number one issue has been trusting God. I can recall way back when I began this life-altering journey a conversation I had with the Lord regarding my ability to trust Him for my everything, my welfare, my life. While I believed I trusted the Lord (and I did), I didn't understand that the level of trust I had as a child, a young person, a middle-aged woman -- would not suffice -- given the parameters of the work He had in mind for me. Neither did I grasp that when my life took its most devastating turn and I found myself single, that the trust relationship I had with the Lord would not last, would not support me, would not be strong enough to see me through to the end. No, the Lord knew that the only way I would be able to fulfill His plans for my life was for me to come to more than a saving trust, a saving knowledge of His love for me. He knew I needed the saving kind of trust that gets you out of the boat (thinking about Peter) and the kind of saving trust that brings you to the cross of your own crucifixion. My level of trust was going to be increased -- it needed to be enlarged -- if I was going to do the work the Lord was calling me to do.

So today, I am a recipient of that growth, that transformation, that deepening of trust that has moved me from where I was over there to where I am today. The Lord is not finished with me yet, and the direction I am moving in will require ever greater amounts of trust. I give praise and testimony to His Goodness. In doing so, I am replacing discouragement with faith and with the knowledge that the Lord, the One who is I AM, is the ONE who calls me forth and who leads me on.

God is good, so very good.


August 23, 2014

It is Saturday and I am Feeling Good!

I love this graphic! Okay, so it is not biblical -- I still love the sentiment, and I love the fact that one of my favorite (all-time) actresses said it! Go, girl!

Since my divorce is now final, I have been asked numerous times if I would take (or had taken) back my maiden name (Buel). I chose to keep my Hepburn surname, mostly for convenience sake because even when the Judge signs the decree to give you your maiden name back, you still have to go through the process of changing every single legal document, credit card, permanent record, etc. To me, it was more a hassle than a benefit.

Plus, if I went back to Buel, then I would miss all those great introductory remarks whenever anyone meets me. Are you related to Katharine or Audrey? Have you ever met Katharine Hepburn? Yep, I get asked these questions almost every single time I mention my name. It is an easy ice-breaker, for sure. So until such a time as someone offers me a new last name, I will remain a Hepburn.


I woke up today feeling GREAT! I had such a good night's rest last night, and I feel very refreshed and ready to tackle the day. Of course, it is almost noon, but I do feel ready to tackle what is left of the day (LOL!)

I have some homework to do for my Regent Studies, and I have to get a game plan in order for GCU. I will have four classes to teach next week, so I have four sets of PPTs to create for Monday. I feel good about the process though and I am confident that next week will be super, just all-around excellent (positive thinking -- I'm Possible!!)

On tap for this weekend:

  • Some reading and reflection (for Regent)
  • A website analysis (for Regent)
  • Class power points (ACU, week 2)
  • Class power points (GCU, week 1)
  • Class policies and procedures (GCU)
Other than this, I am resting today and tomorrow. I have plenty of time to do my work (this work), and I still can relax and enjoy my day. I feel very rested, relaxed and ready to move forward in my teaching career. God is good, so very good to me.


Just on another divorce line of thinking...

I have been asked by a couple people if I will tell my in-laws that their son and I are officially divorced. It is a difficult question for me because I certainly do not want to be the one to break that news to them. My ex, more than likely, will not tell them unless he absolutely has to do it. They know that we are separated (have been for four years now), but they do not know that we started the divorce process this year. Both of his parents are in their 80's and they are unwell physically. I am of the view that they probably do not need to know this information. In truth, it would hurt them more than help them. Still, it is an interesting question to ponder.

August 22, 2014

Progress feels good!

I finished my first week of teaching at ACU with strength and perseverance. It was a good week, and I feel confident going into next week. I have faith that I can handle teaching my full load of courses (at two schools), and I can keep up with my own school work at Regent. God is good. God is so very good to me.

Today was extra special for me. I was so very tired when I got up this morning, my head-ached, and I felt that my teaching materials (power points) weren't long enough to fill the required class time. It is so hard to know how much material and time to prepare for each day. Sometimes I think I have plenty, and then other times, I worry about being too short (not enough). On top of those feelings, I was weary from spending too much time online the night before. I didn't get to bed before 1:30 am (working on these PPTs and my Regent school work). Needless to say, my brain was fried, even after sleeping a good 8 hours during the night.

As I was driving over to ACU this morning, I laid my teaching frailities at the Lord's feet. Honestly, I am so tired of stressing over my abilities, worrying about if my students like me (respect me), or if I am doing a good enough job. Teaching is difficult for me. I cannot control the outcome, and as an INTJ personality, controlling outcomes is one of my key abilities. I strive to always control the outcome. Results, performance, analysis, etc. -- these are things that come very easy for me. I am able to focus, to drive my time and my attention toward producing good results. In teaching, however, while I can control my part of the equation, I cannot control the student, their behavior, their learning, OR their outcome (achievement). What bothers me the most is not being able to control all the parts of the equation. I want to be in charge from start to finish, to oversee every single part of the performance. I don't want to fail, I don't want to perform badly, and since I cannot control my students and their learning experience, I stress extra hard over my part. It is vicious, and it wears me down.

This behavior, I do not believe, pleases the Lord. I don't think He wants me to be so stressed over my performance all the time. I think He does want me to give my time and my attention to my work, but not in an excessive or abnormal way. We should be careful in our approach to our work, and yes, I believe that doing our "best," flawed as that may be, is honorable.  I believe, though, when we let the focus shift from the Lord to ourselves, it is then that we find ourselves in trouble.

Anything that takes primacy over our focus on the Lord is idolatry. Merriam-Webster defines an idol/idolatry as this:

the worship of a physical object as a god
immoderate attachment or devotion to something

I think we would all agree that many of the things we focus on are not worshiped as a god. It is the second definition, the "immoderate attachment or devotion to something," where we can see the overlapping issue. Is the person or thing we are attached to, devoted to, causing us to shift our focus intently from the Lord to ourselves or this one thing? If the answer to that question is yes, then I think we may be struggling with an idol/idolatry situation.

The WORD says this about work-related idols:

Psalm 115:4 - "Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands."

Work in any form can become an idol if we allow it to do so. Even psychological work -- thinking about work, fixating on performance, driving goals, unceasing attention or worry over achievement, etc. These are all part of the worldly culture of man that elevates performance and achievement and success above that of a humbled, God-focused life -- intent on the love, the devotion, the worship, and the service to the Lord.

I thought about the nature of idolatry, of idols, and I knew right away that my fixation on my work/performance was crossing the line from being conscientious to abnormally focused. I did the right thing, right there in the parking lot of the campus -- I confessed to the Lord that I have made my work (teaching) an idol. I have fixated over the process, the performance, and the praise of teaching when I should have let it all go, laid it down, and let the Lord lead me through each class session. I made the commitment to Him saying that I would do this from now on.

After making that commitment, I experienced such relief, such peace, and I had two really great class sessions. Did my students miraculously get involved in class? No, not really (well, my freshmen did -- my Jr's and Sr's -- not so much!) The big discovery was that I was relaxed, and relaxing makes all the difference in a class. It helps you be more in tune with your students, more animated, more lively. The students do respond to your face and your actions more so than your words. My personality type is not expressive (overly) and I am not a hyped-up teacher. I am very sober and intentional. I am trying to be more responsive to my students, to send the message that "I care about you and your thoughts." When I relax in the classroom, then I am able to relate to them, focus on them, and be "in the moment." It is such a good thing, such a God-thing.

Today was good, and I am hoping that next week will also be good. I see no reason for it not to be good every day -- so long as I remember to allow the Lord to lead me in my teaching. I don't want to stay bound up, pressured, and feeling like I am failing all the time (lies of the enemy). I know the Lord has me well covered, well covered, and I am endeavoring to rest in His work, His way, and His will. May the Lord be praised today and forever more! Amen.

August 21, 2014

Personal Reflection

Today is a good day, a very good day.

First, I am thankful that it is a Thursday. Thursdays are one of my days off during the semester. I purposely looked for courses to teach that fell on MWF just so that I would have two days off each week. I knew that I would need those days to recuperate from teaching (as an INTJ -- I need downtime to reflect and feel refreshed) and to complete my doctoral schoolwork.

Second, I am thankful that I can spend these days unwinding, decompressing, and relaxing. I can also use the time, the quiet time, to reflect on changes in my life, on events and circumstances that I am facing as well as to consider the options or next steps the Lord reveals to me.

Taking time to reflect is important. Reflection allows us to process events and to consider how those events influenced or are influencing our attitudes, our behaviors, and our choices.

This week has been stressful for me.  Not only did I begin teaching at a new school, but my own doctoral courses began with a big bang. I quickly felt the pressure mounting, and I began to feel the sag of the weight bearing down on me. I struggled to doubt, and I felt inadequate and not up to the challenge of teaching four college courses. Yet, the Lord sustained me. He provided everything I needed, and I endured. I patiently endured the uncomfortable feeling of pressure, and I am now experiencing the joy of relief.

Yes, the Lord is good to those He loves. The Lord provides exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.

Eccl. 3:11 - Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.

This is one of my favorite verses. I love the way the writer says that even though we cannot see the plans the Lord has for us (the whole scope of His work), it doesn't mean that what God has done and accomplished is not good, not beautiful. 

We are a work in progress, just as God's plans for eternity are also in process. Often we rush to judge the work the Lord is doing in our life. We want to see the end result NOW. We do not want to endure trials or suffering, we do not want to wait for Him to move, to create or to change our situation or our circumstances. We believe erroneously that when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, and He begins to do His work in us, our lives will mysteriously change, will improve, will become better right away. However, this is not always the case. 

Our lives are messy, often filled with damaged relationships, brokenness, and sin issues that need to be addressed. The whole process of salvation takes time (from saving grace to sanctification to eternal life) and depending on our previous (BC LIFE) there is much work required to help us move from the old life into the new life (daily yielding, submission, etc.) Moreover, as we come into a deeper relationship with the Lord, as we learn to trust Him more completely, our lives will change and we will begin to move in-sync with the Lord's will for our life. We will come to know our purpose, to see His plan, to understand what He wants to do in us and through us. This is an exciting time, to comprehend the Lord's choice for our life (be it a life partner, a new career, continuing education, more developed ministry role, a possible relocation, etc.) When the Lord begins to direct our steps (Prov. 16:9), and we begin to follow Him in obedience -- wonderful things happen. We see CHANGE IN ACTION. We see our movement as we pass through phases or stages, as we traverse the Lord's chosen path.

I can give testimony to this because it is exactly what has happened in my life. More so, I can witness this same experience as I watch my friends move through the changes in their lives. I see the same patterns, the same behaviors, the same outcomes. Yes, my friends are on vastly different life plans -- some are in full-time ministry, some are living modest lives, some are contemplating major moves -- but they all are being changed internally in the exact same way.

I was blessed to have interviewed 10 people for my ethnography project this summer. These were people in my church who consented to share with me their life experiences as our church travailed in crisis. I spent anywhere from one hour to four hours with each person, discussing change, discussing God's plan for them and our church. In the end, I came away filled with excitement -- not for the church and the struggles it is having -- but for the individuals who are being changed by the mighty hand of the Lord. This change, this movement encouraged me and reminded me that what I am seeing in my own life is not special to me -- no -- it is consistently apparent in the life of believers who have yielded and surrendered their will to the Lord.

As I reflect on my life, where I have been and where I am going, one thing is for certain: God has created something beautiful out of something really, really messy. The Lord took the disparate strands of brokenness in my life and created something lovely, something useful, something good. I am the recipient of that process. My life is beautiful. It is good. It is filled with blessing, and my life is active and alive -- and now I am capable of bringing encouragment and influence into the lives of the people I meet. God has done this through me, He has changed me for His will and His glory. I am blessed, so very blessed.



Today I look back over the closed chapter of my married life. My divorce was finalized last week, and my decree arrived in the mail yesterday. The life I chose for myself back in 1982 has now ended.  I am single again after 30 years of a very difficult and trying marriage. I am at a point where I can look backward, reflecting on my choices and seeing the resultant actions, and I can learn from my mistakes. I can also use my experience to help others, to encourage others, and to influence others to make better life choices.

God has created something beautiful from the mess of my life. He has made me new. He has given me a renewed sense of self, a renewed purpose, and a renewed perspective. I am walking in a new way, going in a new direction, and moving forward into a very bright and shiny new future.

The Lord has done a mighty work in my life. He has great plans in store for me, and though I struggle at times, and I feel burdened beyond belief, I rest securely in His grace and in the knowledge that He loves me and He cares for me. God is good, so very good. All the time, He is good.

August 20, 2014

Finality and Closure

My divorce decree came in the mail today. The Judge signed the decree in open court on August 14, 2014 -- approximately 93 days (3.1 months) -- after I started the divorce process here in AZ.

I has been an almost surreal experience for me.

The entire process from start to finish, from discovery to dissolution, took five years (August 2009 to August 2014). In that time, my life has been transformed. I am a different person. Every part of my life has been reshaped, turned upside-down, and flipped inside-out.

The life I have today is blessed, so blessed, and it is so good. I cannot even begin to describe just how good my life is, how content I am to be living it, and how much I look forward to every new day, every new opportunity, every new possibility. Yes, God is good. He is so very good. He covered me, He carried me, and He gave me confidence to become the woman of His own choosing. I am good. I am so very good.

Romans 16: 25, 27 - Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.

August 19, 2014

Reflections on My First Day at ACU

Mother Nature decided to do HER thing this morning. The rain started to come down hard about 5:30-6:00 this morning and it didn't let up until close to 9:00 a.m. Thankfully, all we got was a hard rain with some thunder and lightning. However, to the north of us, there was major flooding. The creeks and washes, which are normally dry, swelled and overran the streets and the freeway. The photo was taken near Black Canyon City (40 miles north of where I live). My son was just stuck there on Saturday (his car broke down on the side of the road). I am thanking the Lord that the rains didn't come on the weekend when he was stuck and trying to get his car repaired.

Hard rain, flash flooding, damaging winds -- this is what life is like in the desert during the monsoon season. Both lanes of our I-17 are shutdown in multiple places due to flooding. It is a good thing that I don't have to travel up toward Prescott or Flagstaff today. I am thinking about my friend's, the Collins', who need to drive up north to take their middle daughter to NAU on Thursday. I am praying that the rain subsides and the freeway opens up again today or tomorrow.


Praising God for the rain (we so need it), and for His protection of life this good day. While the rain and the flooding overwhelm us at times, most Arizonans know enough to be safe when the monsoon comes each summer. Yes, we do have stupid motorists who insist on crossing flooded roads. And, yes, we do have times when people get stuck by accident and need to be rescued (this happened a couple days ago when 20 vehicles got stuck in the roadway as a flash flood was occurring). Generally, we don't see loss of life during the monsoon storms -- not like during the summer with toddler pool drownings -- when will people learn to watch their kids around water?

Today, I am at home resting. I don't teach again until tomorrow, and I am struggling with major doubts about my performance from yesterday. I know that it is just the enemy trying to steal my joy (have I allowed him to do that? yes and no!) I am very hard on myself, and I criticize my performance. I wish that I would relax in the classroom and just be in the moment. I have tried to do that so many times, but I still get myself wrapped up in "presenting" material. I worry about the time, the amount of time I have to teach, and about keeping my students on track. Yet, I love being there, and if I would just relax, I know I would do such a better job. Sigh!

Why can I not rest? Jesus tells us in Matthew 11 that we are to come to Him to find our rest. He specifically calls to those who are laboring, who are weighed down with heavy burdens. He beckons us to come and rest. He says in verses 28-30 NLT,

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

Sometimes I think that I purposely choose to bear the heavy burden. In my heart, I long so to give up my burden, to take His yoke, and to rest in Him completely. Yet, in my mind, I want so much to be in control, to do things my way, to make sure that everything I do is "just so!" Why do I do this? Why do I make things so difficult for myself?

I believe it is because I have some performance anxiety and performance issues. I know this about myself. I recognize that as a child I suffered with a fear of failure. In fact, I probably still do to some extent. I certainly have failed in my life, and I certainly have made mistakes -- oodles of them. However, I have also learned from many of those mistakes, and I have also come to accept the fact that while I am not perfect, and I don't have to be perfect, there is part of me that desires it nonetheless. Why do I want to be perfect? 

Today has been one of those super crazy days -- where everything seems to go weird, off-kilter, out of balance. I started this blog post in the morning, and I am just now finishing it at 3:45. In between, something happened to me, and I realized the answer to that question of why I seek perfection. Funny, how sometimes the Lord does that to us (or for us), how He gives us time to process events, and in reflection we come to see the very answer we are seeking from Him.

So why do I want to be perfect? 

BC - before Christ, I would say that the main reason I wanted to be perfect was to prove to myself and others that I was worthy of their love, their respect, their time, etc. Yes, I had great needs as a child. I needed to be affirmed. I needed to feel wanted, necessary, important. As a Christian and as an adult, I may still have some inklings of these needs, but most, if not all of these needs were met with total sufficiency at the CROSS. 

AC - after Christ, I believe the main reason I strive for perfection is because the Word of God demands it or so we allow ourselves to be led to believe. Let me explain...

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Paul tells us that whatever we do, the dailies, the normals, the basics of our life -- we are to do everything for God's glory. Some may say that to do "it all" means that we must apply every Scriptural principal to our lives, we must live by a long list of DO's and reprimand ourselves when we succumb to the opposing DON'TS. In short, we must abide by the very ink of the law, and we must live our lives against an impossible standard. We must be PERFECT, never failing, never falling, never messing up because we have the Glory of God to uphold.

Yet, in reading Scripture and taking this verse into context, we see that this view of human perfection is the antithesis of what the WORD tells us. Can we really be perfect? Can we really live by every tenant of the law? Absolutely not.

Instead, what this verse is really saying to us, in a nutshell is this:

We must surrender everything we do to God. We must allow HIM and HIS GLORY (His GOODNESS) to permeate our day, our week, our month, our very lives. In doing so, everything we do, must be yielded to Him and the work that is performed or results is His Work. In this way and I believe in the ONLY way, will God be Glorified in and through us.

My desire for perfection, to be perfect, to perform perfectly is a corrupted view of God's presence in my life. In my weakness, He is made strong (2 Cor. 12:19). Therefore, no matter what I do in this life, I will do it imperfectly. I will make mistakes. I will make little mistakes and big mistakes. Sometimes I will make granddaddy-sized mistakes -- life altering, life changing, humiliating mistakes. Yet despite my failings, the Lord's rest for me is always sure. I can rest. I can know that He is responsible for bringing His own glory to pass. It is not up to me to do anything good because I am not good. All that is good within me is there because of the very presence of God in my life.

As I wrestled with this truth today, I realized that I have been set free from the burden of trying to be perfect. Yes, that heavy burden and unbearable yoke was cast off me at Calvary's cross. I am free, and the yoke I wear now is easy. The burden I carry is light. He does the heavy work in me and through me. I rest. I trust. I let go, and I let Him have all the glory for only He is worthy, only He is worthy of that glory.

Thank you, Lord, for helping me learn this lesson today. Thank you for reminding me that this work I do (teaching for example) is not about my success, but about your glory. I let go now. I let go of that yoke and burden (the need to be perfect), and I rest in your sufficiency. I trust you to do your work in me today and tomorrow and every day hereafter. You alone are worthy to receive my praise. You alone are worthy and good.

August 17, 2014

To God be the Glory

What a glorious morning to be in the house of the Lord (Ps. 122:1)! I cry out with the psalmist today "Yes, the LORD has done amazing things for us! What joy!" (Ps. 126:3)

We worship an AMAZING GOD! Our God is Sovereign, He is Good, and He Reigns Triumphantly over all that we see around us. God is Good, so very Good.

Today is a beautiful Sunday morning. God has provided abundantly for my welfare. He has seen to my every need, and He has graciously made it possible for me to do the thing I love (teach). I never thought I would love teaching, and there are days when I still question whether I am doing the best thing, the right thing. I have longed to be a teacher, I have dreamed of being a teacher, and I thought the idea of being a teacher was never going to happen. But then God worked a miracle in my life, and took what appeared to be a tragedy, and turned it around to make it something good, something very good.

I remember the day, almost exactly the day, when I decided consciously to stop designing websites for a living. It was in December of 2009. I had wanted to stop designing sites for four years, but I knew that we (my husband and I) relied on the money, and that I was *tied* to the business (client relationships and such). The work itself was grueling. I was a prolific designer -- having designed upwards of 250 websites over a 10-12 year period. I was a good manager of my time, and I was very good at maintaining relationships (most of my clients remained with me for 5-10 years). Still, the process of designing was difficult. It was tiring for me to sit at the computer all day long. My back ached, my shoulders were always tense, and my head throbbed from headaches (combination of eye strain and neck strain). On top of the physical aches, I struggled to keep up with the changes in the industry. I was a small fish in a big Internet pond, and while I had a nice little business, I was encouraged to move from designer to business owner by some powerful clients who saw me as an entrepreneur. I didn't want to manage people. I didn't want to go into sales, and have to sell my self, my business. 

I felt like I was wasting my time most days. I saw the business as an extension of my husband's business. In truth, he used it as such. He sold the accounts for me. He sold as many sites as possible to bring in as much income as possible. Sometimes this meant that I would have 5-6 websites in process at one time. Each site required 4-8 weeks to complete so that meant that I was working 15 hour days just to stay on top of the workload. 

I had no one to help me, and the nature of the business didn't provide enough consistent cash to pay for additional help. I worked sometimes round the clock, from sunrise to sunset (and long after). It was not uncommon for me to work until 2-3 in the morning just to make deadlines. The joke often told is that working from home is never what you think it will be once you do it. Yes, I could sleep in, but only after having worked 18-24 hours straight through without a break.

When things began to get difficult in my life, when my marriage began to struggle (as early as 2007), the pressure for me to work more intensified. My husband wasn't able to work full-time for a long while, so I had to pick up the slack. This meant more hours, more jobs, taking jobs I wouldn't normally take just to help pay the bills. I was already overburdened, and now with mounting healthcare costs (by 2009 we owed close to $160K) I didn't know what I would do or if I could continue to do this work.

To say I was burnt out was an understatement -- I was dead tired all the time.

So after much careful consideration and prayer (lots of prayer), I decided to quit the business. Things had already become so rocky at this point, that I felt I could no longer continue to work in the business with my husband being the one in charge of the money. My decision didn't go over well, in fact, it became a turning point, so to speak. We hadn't decided to split at this time, but things were not going well for us in counseling. I felt the Lord pushing me to say "no more" so I did. I said that as of December 31, 2009, I would no longer work as a website designer.

I never thought that it would take me a good 18-months to find full-time work but it did. I worked at Macy's for a year and I submitted over 150 resumes -- all to jobs I was well qualified to do. The economy had tanked at this point, and truthfully, I was up against a lot of good candidates. I had several good opportunities where I was called back for 2-3rd interviews. These jobs all went to another person. I was depressed, dejected, and feeling as though I would never find a job. Plus I had the need to move -- my marriage was over, our house was going into foreclosure, and I had to provide for myself and my son.

The Lord began to work a miracle in my life sometime back in 2005. He didn't bring it to fruition until 2011 -- almost 6 years I struggled with increasing financial debt, concern over finances, and the need for steady employment. The Lord sustained me, He provided everything I needed, and in the end, He had used this time, this very difficult time to help me grow in my relationship with Him. I learned to trust Him for His provision. I learned to lean on Him, to abide in Him, and to patiently wait for Him to move.

I am where I am today because of what the Lord did for me way back there <--- --="" .="" all="" am="" here="" i="" now="" over="" the="" way=""> and I am not done moving yet. My future holds great promise, and I see so many opportunities on the horizon. I am moving, one step at a time, closer and closer to the destination the Lord has in mind for me. All the steps I have taken thus far has built me up, equipped me, and enabled me to do the work I am doing this day -- to teach, to be a scholar, to be a graduate student. Everything has worked together for my good (Rom. 8:28). That GOOD is still being worked out in my life, and at some point, that GOOD will come to its intended state of completion. Until then, I walk on, I walk on toward the plans the Lord has for me. I give Him praise, I give Him all the honor, and I give Him all the glory for the GREAT things He has done in my life, through my life, and for my life.

I praise Him this day and forevermore! Amen, selah!

August 16, 2014

One Step at a Time

Today is an awesome day! I woke up feeling well (hooray!) and with a strong sense of peace covering me (inside and out). I had a good night's rest too -- which is a blessing -- so I woke up rested.

My day started off slow and easy, just the way I like a Saturday to be. I was able to sleep in, laze about, drink my coffee and enjoy the lovely summer weather (not too hot, too early in the day). At noon, I headed over to get my hair trimmed at the salon. Note the word "trimmed" as underlined. My desire was to get my hair trimmed (aka, lop off about 3 inches from the length), and add in some layers and bangs. I didn't expect to come out short 6-7 inches, but there you go!

The gal who cut my hair did a really nice job, but she kept saying she had to "texturize" my hair because of all the curl that is underneath. My hair is very fine, but thick. I have A LOT of hair. I always hear the same comment whenever I go to get it cut -- "WOW! You have so much hair!" Yes, I do.

I have wanted to get my hair styled for a while now. In fact, I had planned on doing this prior to going to VA this summer. The Spring semester crashed down on me, and before I knew it May was gone, and I was on my way to Regent without any trim. Summer blasted past me, and I found myself staring into the fall start of the school year with a lot more hair than I wanted. Thankfully, I was able to get in today, and while my hair is shorter than what I wanted, it actually looks really nice.

So in addition to the hair cut and lunch (with Mom), I had to do some shopping at Target, and complete my Power Point presentation for Monday. As I was created my PPTs for this week, I decided that I would choose a verse to signify my teaching this fall. I chose this verse for Arizona Christian University:

1 Corinthians 10:31 - So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything to the glory of God.

The great thing about Arizona Christian is that I get to teach what is called "covenantal communication" or a type of communication that integrates faith into all contexts of communicative practices. ACU expects faculty to pray before each class, to pray with students, and to use Scripture as part of the weekly class room and lesson plans. I love this requirement, and as such, I decided that framing my teaching through one particular lens will add consistency not only to what I am teaching, but also to how I teach my students.

Therefore, as I approach the fall teaching schedule, I am considering everything I do as a reflection of my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. I will teach, I will mentor, I will guide -- all in an effort to bring Glory to God through my actions, my attitude, and my attention. May the Lord always be first in everything I do, and may I strive to be a faithful and obedient representative of His Grace to my little corner of the world.

Amen, amen. Selah!

August 14, 2014

Standing in Awe

I am humbled today. I am humbled, and I stand in awe of my God. He has promised good to me. He has promised such good to me, and He has delivered on His Word.

Doubt flooded my soul this week. I was filled with dread. My knees trembled, and my heart was enfeebled. I was overwhelmed, I was confused, and I was afraid of all that the Lord was doing in me and through me. I had faith, but it was shaken. I tried to arm myself with the weapons of warfare, but I failed to stand up, to take a stance, to not give way. I thought I was so lost, so utterly and hopelessly lost.

Then when I thought I couldn't take any more, as I slumped down beneath the weight of doubt, of burden, of fear -- I felt His strong hands reach down and lift me up. I heard His soft and soothing voice remind me of His presence. I remember feeling His comfort as He cared for me. I thought "My God, you are too GOOD for me. I do not deserve this measure of care because I have not been strong for you. I have been weak, and I have allowed the enemy to assault me." I heard His voice say to me, "Yes, this is true. You have done all these things, but my LOVE for you is stronger. I have never left your side. I am here. I am always here for you."

As I listened to His voice, I began to recover, I began to feel better. I remember thinking that I was so alone, crippled by the fear, and believing that what I needed to do was too much for me, just too much. Then as I cried out to Him, as I begged Him for mercy, I felt this empowerment come over me. I began to remember His WORD, to think about His PROMISES, and I felt my strength return. Slowly, I stood up. Slowly I picked up my shield and my sword, and I stood against my enemy. I recited Scripture, and I positioned myself to take the enemies next blow. It never came. I stood there for a time thinking "it will surely come," but nothing happened. I stood and I waited. I stood there and I looked out and I saw no one coming toward me. My enemy was gone, and I stood there alone. At this point, I remembered His voice telling me that "greater was He who was in me, than he who is in the world," and I thought "Yes, this is it!" It was not by my power or my might, but by the POWER OF GOD, the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today, I woke up feeling better, feeling stronger. As I started my day, doubts began to creep into my thoughts again. This time, I didn't allow them to take any foothold. I rebuked the doubts, and I confessed my utter dependency upon the Lord. I spoke His Word out loud, and I positioned myself once again to face the enemy. The doubts faded away and my faith returned.  I felt this sense of PEACE, His Peace, flood my soul, soothe my mind, and comfort my body.

The ugly truth of my experience is that this battle will rage on.  Perhaps I have a short reprieve. Perhaps I am free today. The battle might cease for a time, but it will rage on. That is, until I pass into glory, this battle between me and the enemy, between the powers of darkness and light, and between good and evil, will rage on. My choice is stand up, to take my place along side all my warrior brothers and sisters. We stand together on the side of the RIGHTEOUS ONE. We stand on God's side, and we look to Him as our VICTOR and our CHAMPION.

He has overcome, and the victory is His today, tomorrow and forevermore.

Thank you, Lord for your amazing GRACE. Thank you for your provision of every single need. Thank you for the work you have provided to me. Thank you for the challenges I face this semester in teaching and in scholarly activity. Thank you for standing with me, holding me, and at times, carrying me. To your Name I give all PRAISE, all HONOR, and all GLORY. To you alone do I give my worship. To you alone do I bring my praise. I confess your Name, and I rest in your Presence this good day, this very good day. Selah!

August 13, 2014

Challenges and Overcoming Them

It is fair to say that yesterday morning I felt like I was crumbling beneath the weight of insurmountable challenges. I was overwhelmed to the point of breaking. I believed (in error) that the responsibilities I was carrying around were too much for me, too heavy for me to hold, and too great for me to drop (that they would break should I let them go).

In my heart I cried out to the Lord. I begged Him for mercy, for relief, for the ability to withstand the pressure. I was sick to my stomach. I was reeling from the expectations of what I was asked to do. I thought, "Lord, I cannot do this. I cannot handle what is on my plate."

I was facing a giant of enormous proportions. I was like David, a little person with great faith, who was armed only with five smooth stones. And like David, in my momentary fear, I saw myself as overwhelmed, under prepared, and lacking the proper provision to head into battle. I was facing a giant that seemed impossible to defeat, impossible to stand against.

Then the Lord reminded me of this verse from Zechariah 4:6:
So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.
Yes! Oh, Lord, YES! The battle I face cannot be fought by might or power (human), but only can be won by the power of the Holy Spirit. The challenges on my plate (my schedule) are not insurmountable so long as I trust in the Lord to handle them for me. I must lay them at His feet again and again and rest in His security and provision. It is not as if I don't do this, as if I choose to hold onto this To-Do list -- it is more that this battle, this particular battle, cannot be won at the first skirmish. Let me explain...

In the past, over the course of my life, I have had to face many giants in my life. Some of them were nastier and meaner looking than they really were -- they were big and scary -- but just a poof of the imagination. Once I saw them for what they were, not real but imaginary, they vanished. Other times, I faced more persistent giants, the kind that didn't go away at the first clash of weapons. Often these challenges, these mountains involved people -- people I worked with, lived with or come into contact with during the course of my day. I couldn't always wish them away, recite Scripture and pray they would leave me alone. Sometimes I had to let them go, literally let them leave my life. Sometimes I had to be the one to change, to forgive, to let go (as in attitude or mindset). Sometimes I had to submit, to surrender to another person's will in order to survive. Yes, I have faced all types of giants, all shapes and all sizes. Most of the time, though, the battles were short lived. 

Yesterday's battle though was different. It didn't just go away when I confronted it. It didn't vanish as soon as I lifted my shield of faith and the precious and powerful sword of the Spirit. No, this time, the battle was raging on around me and no matter what I did, I didn't feel better. I didn't feel empowered. I didn't sense freedom. In fact, I still do not feel better today. I still do not feel free from my opponents glancing blows.

What do you do when the challenge you face doesn't back down, go away, or relent?

I think the first thing you have to do is recognize your enemy. Sometimes we see our enemy as flesh and blood, bone and bone, human. The WORD tells us this is not the case. Our enemy is not human. The WORD says this in Ephesians 6:10-18:
A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
 
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
Yes, the battle and the enemy we face is not human, but it is spirit.

Secondly, we must fight using the weapons that work against a spiritual enemy. How often do we use human weapons to fight against the spirit of this world? Human weapons will work against a human enemy, but we can only use spiritual weapons against a spiritual enemy. It makes sense to us, when we stop and think about it. Human to human; spirit to spirit. The passage in Ephesians clearly tells us what we need to defeat a spiritual enemy attack:

The whole armor of God is required, not pieces, but all of it. We have to be fully clothed for battle.
  1. The Truth About God (the belt of truth)
  2. The Righteousness of Christ (the breastplate of righteousness)
  3. The Peace of Christ (the sandals of peace)
  4. Living by Faith (the shield of faith)
  5. Salvation of Jesus Christ (the helmet of salvation)
  6. God's WORD to counter doubt and deception (the sword of the Spirit)
When we put on the full armor of God we begin to see ourselves differently. We first identify who we are in Christ Jesus. We are saved, and therefore, we are no longer enemies of God. We have right standing before God. The peace of Christ guards us, our minds, and helps us to understand the truth of God in Christ Jesus. Our faith in God is what sustains us, and the Word of God, which is active and alive, is what counteracts the lies of the devil.

Often I will take up my shield and the sword, but I forget the other parts of the armor. I forget to put everything on, and then I go out into battle unprepared for the enemies attack against me.

Today, I decided to stand up and to defend myself against this latest attack. I know that this time, I will need to stand defensively for a while. This will not be an easy battle. This is not a quick little skirmish. No, this is going to be a prolonged battle, the daily in and out, of a long campaign being waged against me.

Why is this so?

I think it is because I have made the Lord my sole focus, my whole life. As such, as I move closer to the fulfillment of His will for my life, I am being put into more situations where I have the ability to influence directly other people's lives. In short, as I am called deeper into ministry, I will face more attack. The enemy doesn't want me to win. He doesn't want me to encourage others, to build up the church, to preach the GOOD NEWS to those who need to hear it. No, he would much prefer to see me cower in a corner, to be ineffectual for Jesus Christ, to shrink back in fear, to give up, and to run home (even if I am running home to God). He doesn't want me to be the warrior princess I am called to be -- in my life, in my home, in my ministry, in my classroom. No, he wants me to feel overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, and unprepared.

I refuse to believe his lies. I refuse to listen to his accusations. I stand up, fully clothed in the armor of God today, and I face my enemy with the power of the Holy Spirit, with the tools and weapons that have been given to me to fight spiritual warfare.

So I confess along with the prophet today: Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit!

Yes, Lord, yes! I pray today to be equipped with everything I need to stand and to fight against the enemy. I trust you Lord, I look up to you, and I rest in your provision. This battle belongs to the Lord, and I will not use human might or power, but I will let your Holy Spirit have His way in me. Yes, Lord, Yes! Have your way in me this day. I ask this now in Jesus' Name, Amen.