April 30, 2015

Resting and Waiting

Happy Thursday! Yes, it is April 30, and it is the end of the month, and almost the end of the week! It is a good day, warm and sunny here in Phoenix, but nonetheless, a good day. I am not quite as far along my schedule as I had hoped to be by today, but I am close. I got a bit off track with my grading, and I haven't even looked at my research paper since I got my grade back on Sunday (rewrites are due tomorrow at 11:59 p.m.). Still, all is not lost. I need to get the majority of my grading done today so that I can spend today and tomorrow fixing the issues with my paper. I am confident that I can do it all before the final due date. My hope is that I can resubmit my paper for a new grade (higher of course), and post final grades for GCU tomorrow. This would close out my semester by Saturday, and well, then I would have one week off without any school work, and I could rest, really rest, until school begins again on May 11th. It is not impossible, it just means I need to focus today and tomorrow in order to get everything done. I can do it, I know I can.

Resting in the Lord

I am resting in the Lord, for certain, and I am waiting for His provision of manna, daily manna. I know I have been whining a bit these past few months, but suffice it to say, it happens. It is funny because I can remember when I said I wasn't going to whine anymore about my school or my work. I think that was last summer (LOL!) Yet, here I am still thinking about the "haves and the have nots" and feeling somehow that my life is lacking "something." This whole week has been about the "have nots" trying to make a point in regard to the "haves," and in doing so, a portion of Baltimore (my birth city and early childhood hometown) was burned. I don't have any political views on the matter other than I believe that a person shouldn't die in police custody (for certain), and that there has been excessive abuses by the police in many cities in our nation. We tend to cut our officers slack because they place their lives on the line, and while I support our police force nationally, I do believe that there are many cities where corruption and police brutality has gone unchecked. Our police are a symbol of authority, and the truth remains that if you want to be respected, you must act respectful. I think cities need to take this fact head on and do some housekeeping. They need to retrain officers and the higher ups to change the way they do things. If the problem is not the police and is the people, then the system needs to be changed to adapt. Personally, I think the problem is complex and includes city governments and the laws they make along with the judicial system (far to liberal) that allows criminals free reign, shorten sentences or probation, when justice needs to be done.

Haves and Have Nots

In thinking these thoughts, one cannot help but look at their own life to see a similar pattern. We have become a society of "wants and desires." We are like spoiled children who want something, and when they don't get it, they throw temper tantrums until they get their way. It seems this is exactly what has happened in our country. The "have nots" demand and throw tantrums, and the "haves" give in to them. It has set up a whole mentality of "on demand" attitude and privilege. The "have nots" demand and the "haves" give in so as to avoid controversy or the label of "racist or bigot." We are moving closer and closer to socialism, and this means that there must be an equal distribution of wealth -- everyone gets the same treatment. The idea is a good one, equitable disbursement, but it also reduces the level of what one may have to a minimal existence. It will not eliminate corruption, just look at Russia as an example. The "have nots" believe that they will rise up to the level of the "haves," but this is faulty thinking. The "have nots" will rise up for sure, but the "haves" will come down. The result will be less than satisfactory for everyone because the standard of living will be minimally better.

In a free market system where capitalism reigns, true equitability exists because the process for achievement is the same for everyone. The problem is that the "have nots" do not want to work to achieve, they want a handout. Working is the key component in a free economy. One must work to achieve. The socialists and communists will point out that many people cannot work or that the work that is available is not "good enough" so that they system is broken. This is not the case. The system is not broken -- it is the laws that have been placed to keep businesses from growing so that they can raise wages and hire more employees. Why is this? This is because the government is leaning toward socialism and therefore believes that stricter regulation will force businesses to comply. It is a vicious cycle that never will improve the lives of anyone, anywhere. There is only one way to have an improved life and that is to refocus your time, talents, and energy toward the greater good, toward making a better life for yourself, your family, and your community. How is that done, you ask? Simple. Get your life right with the Lord (1), stop looking at what you don't have (2), start looking at what you do have (3), cherish the blessings of today (4), and look for ways to help other people (5). By taking the focus off your life, you immediately begin to right your perspective so that you can see the reality of the world around you. Yes, your situation may not improve, but your attitude will. An attitude adjustment will help you see the truth in your life, address issues that could be responsible for the problems you face, and offer you some positive steps that could eventually change your path, your future, and your life. Let me explain...

In All Things Give Thanks

I know this is a long-winded post, and I said I wouldn't get political. For the record, I am a conservative politically speaking, but only because I support the US Constitution and I think it is one of the finest examples of governmental legislation. However, I don't identify myself as Republican, per se, simply because I don't like a lot of the people who wear that label. I also don't like a lot of the people who wear the Democrat label either. My views on most things are conservative. I am a born-again Christian, pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-Judeo Christian law, etc. I believe in less federal governmental control, a fixed tax system (better than what we have now), and local/state government involvement. Yes, I am conservative and my views are clearly Christian. As such, I tend to see personal responsibility and work ethic as important to a well-run society. People who work, people who take responsibility for their lives and their family generally are the ones who do not cause trouble, do not burn down cities, commit crimes, and cause pain and suffering for the multitudes. The people who do not work, most often, are the ones committing the crimes. I am not excluding white collar crimes because the individuals who commit those crimes often do work, but they work to steal and defraud, and not to be responsible for their families lives. Working, therefore, in my view, is key. Many people do work, but many people feel that their work is not good enough. I know many day laborers, people who work and earn a living cleaning houses or doing yard work. These people, typically immigrants, work very hard to the money they earn. They take care of their families, and they save their money in order to build a better life for their families. They do not take handouts. They are not on the "dole." They work multiple jobs in order to provide for their children. Many people choose not to work because working at McDonalds or Burger King is beneath them. They do not want to get paid $8.10 an hour. They feel their time is worth more than this amount. They want to earn $10 or $15 an hour, so instead of working at a minimum wage position, they choose not to work at all. Some turn to crime. Some live on government support.

The majority of homeless people in America are temporarily homeless due to loss of a job. The majority of poverty in America is also due to low-wages or loss of a job. The problem is significant in parts of the country where there are poor, typically minority groups, living. Why is this the case? Why is this so? I have looked at housing prices in many of these places. The housing costs are not the issue. The quality of housing may be, but when compared to living in a tent or a box, a house with four walls and a roof, is a good thing. As I think about my life, in particular, I realize that I often equate quality with quantity. I look at my home, for instance, and while I am thankful to have it, I find things wrong with it. Just a moment ago, a very large truck rumbled by outside, and because our house backs to a busy street, that rumble causes the entire house to shake. I do not like the noise or the shaking from the cars that drive by every day, all day and all night. I live in a lovely home, but it is not perfect, and at times, I can focus on the part that is not so great, and I can start to think that I deserve better, that I should have more of this or that or less of this or that. Yes, I can begin to lose my perspective on things, and then my attitude starts to take a downward shift to where I become fixated on what I don't have rather than on what I do have.

I am blessed, abundantly blessed. Yet, it is very easy for me to become so overwhelmed by what I lack that I simply stop acknowledging the blessing in my life. I have many things to be thankful for, and the Word tells us that we should always give thanks.

1 Thess. 5:18 - Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 5:20 - And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we have so much for which to be thankful to God. We can focus on what we are missing out on in life or we can be content for that which the Lord has already provided to us. I am guilty of this response, of allowing myself to be consumed by worry over what I don't have instead of praising God for what I do have, for all that He has graciously provided to me. Today is a good day to give thanks, to thank the Lord for the blessings He has poured out on our lives. While my life may not be perfect, and I may have some challenges and struggles, my portion and my cup are suited well to my needs. The Lord has allowed certain things into my life for a reason, and while I may not like what these things are or the problems they cause, they are here and a part of my life because the Lord deemed it necessary to be so. I must stop looking at the pain and problems as though they are all my fault. Some of what I am experiencing is directly from the Lord. He has allowed certain trials to test my faith, and I must not resist this testing. I must allow it to be so in order to grow in my faith so that I can take the next step as the Lord leads me. I have surrendered my will to the Lord on several key issues, and as a result, I know that I am not forcing my hand, so to speak, or making my own way. I was resisting the truth, for sure, and I was not happy with the outcome, but I realize now that where I am, right now, is where the Lord desires me to be. I have stressed over it for a while now, and I lost my contentment and my peace. Once I let go, I realized that God's timing is perfect, and I am right where He wants me for this season in my life (selah!)

Today, I give thanks to the Lord for His Goodness toward me, His grace and His mercy overflow, and His care for me is sufficient. I am well provided for today, and my future is secure in His hand. I may not know what my days will bring, but I do know that the Lord has a good plan for my life, and that He is working out the details to bring His will to pass in my life. If I rest, this process proceeds smoothly. If I worry and stress, then the process seems to hit potholes and other obstacles that cause me to "stop and start." The goal, therefore, is to rest, to rest in His blessed security and provision, and to stop looking for more than what He has portioned to me this good day. Yes, I am content and I am at peace with my life as it is. I am good, so very good.

Just a little humor

I read this article today, posted by my friend and colleague, Jay Mim's, on Facebook. It appeared in The Onion two summers ago, but I just saw it this morning, and it made me smile. If you are not familiar with the articles published in The Onion, then know that everything is "tongue and cheek" but written in such a way as to make the posts sound true and plausible (like good journalistic writing).

Unambitious Loser With Happy, Fulfilling Life Still Lives In Hometown

The story linked above is about a man who is considered a loser because he has remained in his hometown since returning from college. He is married, has two kids, and sells insurance for a living. His life is dull, boring, and unambitious, but the man is very content and happy. He has a very happy marriage, a fulfilling life, and great family relationships and friendships. In all, the writer states, "Michael Husmer, [is] an unambitious 29-year-old loser who leads an enjoyable and fulfilling life, still lives in his hometown and has no desire to leave" (para. 1).

As I read this article, I thought about my own life and how often I feel the pressure to succeed, to achieve, and to desire more than what I have now. I look toward the future, and I feel that I need to do more, be more, live differently, all to keep up with some force that tells me that what I have is simply not "good enough." Yes, there is that phrase again -- good enough. It is a phrase that has been echoing in my head since childhood. I live and I die by those words -- you are not good enough, this is not good enough, your effort is not good enough. The funny thing is that those words, words of condemnation, are often hurled at us by the enemy, the devil. He wants us to see all that we lack, blame God for it, and then turn away from God, by viewing Him as a liar and less than omnipotent. We never stop to question "who says it is not good enough?"

I can remember when I was homeschooling, and I would often be asked to give advice to Mom's with little children. I had a teen then, and these Mom's were panicked over home schooling their children. They were filled with fear that they would not do a good job, that their children would not succeed and go to college, etc. I can remember hearing them say, "What if they get behind or if they are not good enough...". I always replied with the question,

"behind whom?"
"good enough for what?"

The issue was that these Mom's had some mental standard, an artificial measuring bar that they believed they had to live up to in order to succeed in home schooling their children. Perhaps it was the state they lived in or the tests they were required to take. Perhaps it was to stave off criticism from family members or church friends. Perhaps it was a husband who didn't approve of home schooling or who didn't like the method being used (happened more times than not). Regardless, these Mom's were living up to an unrealistic bar they set for themselves believing that unless they jumped over it, they would be failures as Mom's, teacher/ Mom's, and women (wives, daughters, DIL, etc.).

Making the Bar

I remember giving this advice to Mom's because it hurt my heart that they believed they were not good enough to home school their children. I tried to get them to see that the only person they ever have to please is the Lord. The Word says it this way,

Eph. 5:8-10 - ...for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

Col. 1:10 - ...so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Our ambition, as the Word says in 2 Cor. 5:9, is to be pleasing to the Lord. This means that the only bar we must "make" is the one set for us by God. And, praise be to God, there is no way we can ever meet that bar, that standard, on our own merit. Therefore, we attempt the bar in grace, knowing that our effort will always be less than perfect. Yet, through the blood of our Savior, we are able to make it over, to achieve what is right and pleasing to the Lord. It is all of grace, always, all of grace.

In closing, as I remember my own words of advice, I am humbled to think that I have fallen prey to this very same lie of Satan, that I am not good enough, not doing enough, and not succeeding enough, and as a result, I am failing myself, my son, and my family. This is not of God. It is a lie of the devil, and whenever I listen to this lie, I place myself on the mouse wheel, chasing my tail so to speak, trying to live up to someone else's standard for my life. The Lord has a good plan for me, and there is no other bar for me to jump over. I do as He commands, I go where He leads, and I follow after Him. In this way, I am always "good enough" for Him because I come to Him not on my own effort or merit, but through the grace found only in our Lord Jesus Christ. I am stamped "approved." My account is accorded with His righteousness. Therefore, I am good enough in Christ alone. I am good, so very good.

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