April 16, 2015

Finding Clarity amidst Confusion

Lucidity is defined as "clearness of thought or style; a presumed capacity to perceive the truth directly and instantaneously" (Merriam-Webster). I am lucid today or at the least, I feel lucid. I experienced a breakthrough of sorts the other day (as the Pentacostals like to say) and that led to this moment of clear capacity to perceive (understand) the truth in my life. It is always curious how I can be in the midst of confusion and then BAM a light bulb flashes and in an instant, I am clearheaded, understanding, and in full possession of all my mental faculties -- I am in control and I KNOW what I need to do. I love it when that happens because it reminds me that there is always a light at the end of every dark tunnel. The tunnel may be long, but there will be light, there will be an end, and in that moment, that glorious moment, there is peace, rest, and comfort in knowing "it is over, it is done." Let me explain...

The last six or seven months have been a roller coaster ride of knowing and not knowing. I have tried my best to figure out my next steps, but it seemed like the more I tried to figure it all out, the more confused I would become. In the end, I melted down into a puddle of mush, confused and confounded mush. Now the Word tells us "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace" (1 Cor. 14:33a). Therefore, the confusion I felt was not from God, but from the other guy, my enemy the devil. The Word tells us that the enemy prowls around like a lion waiting to devour any and all in his path (1 Peter 5:8). My confusion, my feelings of being confused, stemmed from the enemy seeking to knock me off balance, to push me out of sorts, and to keep me from knowing the truth about my next steps. Why? Well, why not?

In truth, the enemy seeks to divert our attention away from all things "God-centered." He doesn't want us to pursue any path that leads us closer to God. Nope, not at all. He would rather keep us confused, confounded, and generally miserable, while we "attempt" to seek God or follow after Him because he knows that in doing so we will be ineffectual in whatever we end up doing. In short, if he cannot keep us from our appointed task, he will simply cause us to be less effective in the doing of it. Ta-dum!

Ineffectual means "not producing the desired effect" or when speaking of a person, it refers to someone who is "lacking the ability or qualities to cope with a role or situation" (Merriam-Webster). WOW! So this is the plan of the enemy -- to cause us to become ineffectual for the Kingdom of God through means of trickery (confusion and doubt). 2 Peter 1:5-8 says this,

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice the last sentence. If we fail to produce these characteristics (fruit of the Holy Spirit), then we will become ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, what might be the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, simply put in our knowledge of His deity, His sacrifice, and His future glory. In essence, the more we strive to become like Him, the more we will understand His will for our lives, and His kingdom plan (His imminent return). Peter also reminds us that if we do not have these characteristics of a Godly life, then we need to confirm our calling and election (i.e., check our salvation). The key point is that the Christian life is a life predicated on an ever increasing knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. This deepening knowledge produces Godly behavior (inward), and enables us to produce good work (outward - fruit).

As I consider my former state of utter confusion, I am reminded of the fact that since God is not the One ordering the confusion, it is therefore a ploy of the enemy. When we think of the word confound, the first thing that comes to mind is strategy. The Lord does confound His enemies, make no mistake. If you read in the Old Testament, this word is used many times when describing the works of God in order to defeat the enemy. In fact, to confound means "to rout or defeat" as in an enemy. It also means to mix up or thwart as in the plans one might have about a particular thing. Therefore, you can see that the enemy (the devil) desires to thwart the plans of God by confounding the saints. He is using strategy to rout us, to defeat us. The Word says it this way in Ephesians 6:12, "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." Make no mistake, we are fighting against a real enemy, one that is deceitful, dishonest, and dangerous. We are foolish to think that we are immune to the plots of the enemy, when his only desire is to keep us from achieving the specific plans and purposes of God. We are called to be on guard, to take heed, and to be aware of the tactics the devil uses to cause us to be ineffective and unproductive workers for the cause of Christ.

So what does this mean for me?

Well, at the basic level, it simply means that I know what I need to do now. I figured it out, and it makes sense to me. I am no longer confused about what the Lord intends for me to do. It is a relief, of course, and it is not to say that I am not without any little moments of doubt (can you ever be without any doubt?), because I am. However, the doubts are fleeting. They are just momentary flecks of thought where I hear myself say "are you sure?" But then, I am reminded that often the enemy worms his way into our thoughts through these tiny glimmers of doubt. He puts tiny seeds into our minds that are filled with the kernel of doubt. If we water these seeds, if we give them a place to root, then we find that we are watering an entire patch of doubt. Rather, it is to our advantage to not give any time or attention to the seeds of doubt, and in doing so, they will slowly die out having never taken hold in the fertile soil of our minds. I know it seems rather "new ageist" to say it this way, but it is a good word picture. Our minds are fertile ground where we either plant the Word of God or we allow the weeds of Satan to take root. It is our choice, and thanks be to God who through the power of the Holy Spirit, cultivates our minds to bear good fruit, we have the power to choose which type of seed to plant. Plant good seeds that will bear Godly fruit OR plant worldly seed that will produce weeds only.

It is funny really how things can become so clear. I happened to be on a blog today, not a Christian blog, but a secular one where the writer posted a good article about confusion. The woman was speaking about how sometimes she over analyzes things, decisions really, and how that process of constant jockeying back and forth doesn't produce clarity for her. Instead, it just causes her to be confused and to doubt all the more. I read with interest because she was speaking directly of a decision she had to make, a good decision really (not life or death), and how even after she had made her pro/con list, she simply couldn't come to a decision on which way to go. She kept saying how confused she was when in reality, she knew exactly what she needed to do. The truth, the answer, was right in front of her face, but she was unwilling to accept it. She had worked herself into such a frame, a state of mind, that she became immobile -- unable to move, to choose, to take any action at all.

I have been there, so there, more than once in my life. In fact, I was there last week or this past week (it is Thursday after all), and I know that feeling. I know what it feels like to be twisted up inside, unable to move, all because of the decision that needed to be made, and the confusion surrounding it. I cried, I blogged, and I sought advice from family and friends. I prayed, prayed, and prayed over my situation. I sought the Lord, studied the Word, and trusted in my own judgement about whether I should go here or there. In the end, I found that I had spent months, literally months, worrying about something that I couldn't control, fearing something that may or may not come to pass, and eventually succumbing to the feelings of defeat and depression that are synonymous with the works of the devil. Yep, I was routed good.

The blessed news is that our earthly defeat is temporary only. He has overcome this world, and holds the power of life and death in His hand. Therefore, while we may be defeated in this world, our victory is secured through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Thus, although we will fail, fall, and lose the fight at various times in our life, we will not be defeated permanently. No, we will win, we will overcome, and we will be victorious because of our relationship with Christ Jesus (Selah!).

Now, that I am in full control of my faculties again, I see the plan the Lord has for me, and I realize that I am OK. I am in a good place, with a good future, and with a good hope. I am steadily inching my way on this path, and Lord willing, I will achieve the desire result He has purposed for me. I have made some errors along the way, but I am not lost. I am OK, and that is such a Godly blessing. God is good, all the time, He is so very good to me! Praise be to God for His Mercy endures forever!!

Calm and Peace Reign

As I sit here today, I reflect on all that has happened to me over the past year or so. So much change has taken place in my life. I am in a different place on this path, and the landscape is fresh and new with each passing day. I am not at my destination yet, but I am steadily moving on, moving forward, and I know that soon I will be at the next big change in my life. Until then, I hear the word of my Commander call out to me "steady on!" I am to keep on keeping on -- moving straight on -- until He tells me to rest, to stop, to cease my striving. Granted, He tells me to rest all the time, but this is temporary rest only, short rests where I can recharge my batteries, so to speak. No, the rest I speak of, the rest He has for me is future rest, the future rest that is eternal. I am to keep on moving toward my final destination, and until that time, I am to not stop, to not lose heart, to not grow faint. He keeps me moving forward, and He reminds me of what lays ahead -- future glory, future reward, and future rest. I keep on this path until such a time that He returns for me or I arrive at my earthly passing. Until then...I keep on moving forward.

Some minor decisions made...

So in keeping with the tenor of this post, I have made some minor decisions. These are all "issues" that affect my timeline for the next 6-9-12 months of life. I would say they are short-term goals or tasks and now they are set down and fixed. I am relieved, really, because some of these things also caused me great frustration, and that in turn, led to more stress.

Regent University - I made my trip arrangements the other day, and after a small goof (one that cost me an extra $150), my plans are set. I am flying in like normal (June 6) and staying until the following Saturday (June 13). I had hoped to make a side trip to Jacksonville and to see my friend in AL, but after crunching the numbers, I realized that there was no way logistically I could afford to do that right now. It is not just the money, but the actual logistics of the flights and availability. So while I am sad that I will not be able to visit my friend (especially), I don't see it as a "forever never," but rather a temporary "not possible." It is not about the timing, but rather the destination (VA Beach). It just doesn't work out logistically speaking. I have another opportunity for a visit this summer (in July), and now I am wondering if this is what the Lord has in mind for me. It seems like a better fit, and it is an easier route to plan from Phoenix. I will continue to pray for the Lord's guidance and timing (and provision, of course) to see if I can swing a second trip to the eastern half of the US this summer!

Teaching - I am still open to moving for a teaching position, and I have a couple applications in play. None of the big ones have come to pass yet, so this leads me to believe that the timing is not right on them (or perhaps the position is not best). I took my friends advice last night and considered that perhaps the application process was the goal rather than securing the job. It is possible that the process of applying was God's plan and not so much providing a new position just yet. I have set contracts for fall that are here in AZ. In all practicality, I am set for 2015-16. I will remain as adjunct for another year, and in doing so, I am letting go of the idea of moving this year. This is a decision that has been difficult for me to make, but when I remove myself from the equation and simply look at the choice on face-value, it becomes a no-brainer. It is not about lack of faith or not believing the Lord can do this (you know, faith of a mustard seed and all), but rather it is whether or not, the timing is best for Him to do it. When I consider the needs of my family, I see that next year is a better year (for many reasons). By the end of 2015-2016, 
  1. I will have three years of teaching experience.
  2. I will be considered ABD (all but dissertation) which is the minimum status required for most full-time teaching positions (as Assistant Professor)
  3. I will have time to get my finances in order so I can be ready to move 
  4. I will have more time to plan to move, to scope out where to go, and to get a feel for what will be needed (planning is always a good thing)
  5. I will be ready in all aspects to move
  6. My son will be graduated or either close to graduating (hopefully the former)
  7. My parents needs will be cared for and hopefully a plan for their next steps will be developed 
  8. I will have passed my exams (yea!) and I will no longer be in class, but just working on my dissertation (so I will have more time to relax and enjoy moving!)
These are all the reasons I can think of off the top of my head, but generally, there are probably a dozen more that I am not thinking about right now. 

I have other things to consider as well, most namely, my relationship with my friend. It is hard to think about making plans to move closer to be with him when his life is in flux. I wonder if this is the Lord will and if His timing is to give us both time to get settled or at the least to complete some specific plans that the Lord has for our individual lives. When I think about it this way, it makes so much sense. I mean, I know the Lord is directing my steps, ordering my tasks, and providing for me. He is doing the same thing for my friend, and if it is the Lord's desire for us to eventually be together, well then those plans have to be coordinated and aligned. One cannot go here, and another there -- but rather -- the two have to be brought together and set on the same timeline so that both individuals start working and walking together. Yes, this sounds like a God plan to me. The enemy's idea was to create total havoc for me and for him, and I can see that now. God's way seems smooth. The plans are always good, and are always set up for our best. The Lord does know what is best for us, always best, and it is in our best interest to heed His will, His way, and especially His timing on everything. I am in 100% full agreement and accord right now. He way ALWAYS!

I believe that this is the Lord's will, and in fact, I am convinced of it. There is no rush, no reason ever to do anything in haste. I felt as though I was rushing, as though I was panicked into making a decision that was not in my best interest. I felt that I was doing the right thing, and in truth, I think I am doing the right thing. I am supposed to go to AL, and I believe that in time, the Lord will move me there. I believe that my feelings (and I know we are not to put great trust in our feelings) toward my friend are growing, and not diminishing or dissipating. No, I feel confident that I am meant to be there, it is just a matter of when I am meant to go.

My friend said something to me the other night, and it has stuck with me. He said that we are not young adults, just starting out, but rather we are mature in our faith and secure in our future. God has a plan for each of us. I started to think about that and I realized that he is correct (he is so wise). I mean, God has a definite plan for my life, and I know God has a definite plan for his too. It is up to God to coordinate and align those plans. Anything we attempt to do could thwart God's best for us. It is best for us to be patient and wait for the Lord to move us together, for the Lord to continue to grow our hearts together and to prepare us for marriage and ministry (if that is the Lord's will).

There is no rush because it needs to be done with the best of care, and only through the power of the Holy Spirit. Until that time, each of us needs to attend to the business at hand, our own lives (complicated as they are), and we must remain faithful and committed to seeing the Lord's plan come to pass. We must trust that the Lord knows what He is doing, and that He is working behind the scenes to bring all this to fruition. God is able to do it, of this I am sure, and I don't think it is a matter of whether He will or not. I really believe that it is His will, but that there are factors and issues that must be resolved before it can be done.

These are complicated matters, and when you consider them this way, it makes perfect sense for the Lord to take His time to carefully handle each need. I wouldn't want it any other way. I wouldn't want anyone, my family or his, to be hurt. I wouldn't want there to be any question about "less than best" in moving. I want the best situation, the best scenario, the best job for me and for him, and the best plan to be made. I want only the best for my friend's life, for my parent's lives, and for my son's life. I want the best that God has to offer, and thus, waiting for His best means being patient and letting Him do what He does best.

Dear Lord,

I will wait patiently for you to fulfill your will. I will wait for your way to be fulfilled in my life, and I will choose to be patient while you continue to prepare me for these next steps, the next BIG CHANGE in my life. You are good, and nothing you do is less than your perfect best. I want your best in everything, so I let go of my need now, and I rest in your process and in your provision. You are God, and you will do what needs to be done in my life today. Amen, so be it, thy will be done! Selah!!

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