July 31, 2015

Learning to Abide

I am learning to be still. I am learning to rest. I am learning to abide in the Lord. Yes, I am a servant in training, a disciple in the making, and I am learning how to live my life according to the Master's way. It is not difficult, really, it just takes practice, a lot of practice. It is like learning to roller skate when you are young. You don't get up that first time and soar through the roller rink without any faults, hiccups, or face plants (at the least, I didn't learn that way!) No, normally, you make a lot of mistakes, missteps, and you find often that you miss the turn (at least once, maybe twice -- okay, three times!) In time, however, you get the hang of how to glide, how to move, how to stop (without falling over). If you are lucky, you may even manage a spin or figure out how to balance yourself as you skate backwards. Few will grasp the steps involved in a twist or a jump, but with practice, some can actually become quite skilled at skating. I know that I did -- believe it or not -- and I came to find roller skating to be a passion of mine. Yes, for a good 6-7 years, I roller skated daily (except in winter), and I enjoyed the blessing of learning how to be proficient at something. I came to feel "experienced," and I often helped little children learn how to skate. In many ways, the disciple (of skating) became the teacher, and in that, I shared my experiences and helped others follow after me.

Thus, learning any new skill takes time and it takes practice.

Learning Through Experience

Over the past 10 or 15 years, I have learned a number of skills. In 1997, I taught myself how to design websites, and that skill developed over time to become a full-fledged business. I taught myself how to manage a Unix server, how to host websites, how to administrate email accounts. I actually performed service and maintenance, and for a time, I was a real-life server administrator. I learned how to use graphic image software (Adobe Photoshop), and how to design customized graphics for clients. I became quite adept at designing websites, and for several years, found that I was prolific at it. In time, however, I lost interest with the process of design, and I began to long for something new to challenge my brain, to invigorate my interests.

In 2004, I fell into home education, and I began the process of learning how to teach my child at home. I spent 6 glorious years as a home educator, and I learned so much about the process, about curriculum, and about how to "teach" (theory and pedagogy) children. I found a new passion for education, a reinvigorating desire to become a teacher, and I longed for the opportunity to take my newly found skill and bridge over to teaching children or young adults in a professional capacity.

In 2013, I learned how to teach college students. That first semester was a bear for me -- I felt like that little girl on her first pair of roller skates. It seemed I was wobbly all the time, missing the marking, falling down, and generally finding myself on my backside more times that standing right up. Yet, I persevered, and in the end, I learned how to create lessons, teach college writing, and eventually, relax enough to enjoy the whole experience.

Now, I am a college teacher, a professor, and I am feeling more seasoned about my approach, my style, my way in the classroom. I guess you could say that I have practiced enough to move from skating well to attempting some "moves." I am not to the point where I can jump, twirl or skate backwards, but I am certainly feeling more confident in being in control. I fall less often, and generally, I am able to catch myself before I make any face plants!

Life Application

If you think about it, there are any number of skills we learn each day. Some serve us in the short term, and some will take us very far in life, perhaps into a new career or further into an existing career. How we approach learning is key in my view. Some people want to be shown how to do something, but they rarely practice. They simply want to go from "zero to ten" without any real effort. Other people are serious about learning something new, and they apply themselves to the task to become an expert at it. They seek mastery or subject-matter mastery rather than a simple immersion experience.

In home education, curriculum is classified by its approach and design. So for example, in a math curriculum, the approach may be mastery versus spiral. Mastery suggests that the student study one particular concept until they have it down, they know it by heart, and it comes "naturally" to them. Spiral or immersion suggests that the student be immersed in a concept for a short period of time only. In this approach, the student is introduced to multiple concepts at the same time, and rather than spend time mastering any one thing, they are moved through the curriculum in a spiral fashion. Concepts are repeated yearly, so in theory, by the time the student has passed through a concept 3-4 times, mastery has developed. There is some controversy over this approach, and scholars and educationalists debate whether students really learn a subject well if they do not practice mastery. Proponents believe that students are more engaged when they are offered a spiral approach because they spend less time on any one thing, and they are always moving, changing things up, and learning "new things." Mastery proponents believe that learning a concept from start to finish has great rewards in that the student learns a subject deeply, really understands it, and processes the learning in such a way that it "sticks" with them.

I used to favor spiral approaches because I thought it served my son well -- he was highly gifted after all -- and the light touch and quick movement kept him engaged. In hindsight, I realize that while this approach did favor his gifted nature, it also prevented him from learning some important concepts well. Thus, as I approach education as a professional, I realize that subject-level mastery is the best approach overall. Students fare better in the long run when they master a subject.

Consequently, as I reflect on my life, one thing comes to mind, and that is that the Lord seems to favor the subject-level mastery approach. Rarely does the Lord allow us to learn through a light touch and quick movement through a particular lesson. Instead, He tends to immerse us deeply so that we learn the concept well. Think about Joseph, Moses, or David as examples. None of these men learned how to become the great rulers they were without spending years learning how to rule. The life lessons they experienced prepared them for their roles in the God's kingdom. They spent time learning at the feet of others, studying, and finally practicing leadership through daily application. They didn't just show up and say "here I am, I am ready to be your leader!" No, rather, they "earned" the right to rule. They did things the old-fashioned way, as we like to say, and they learned through the school of hard knocks. They learned how to be good rulers, good leaders, and good Kings by applying the principles of the job through daily application and life experience.

In the same way, God allows us to learn how to become the person of His choosing through life lessons. We may start out with easy tasks, but progressively, we are challenged, stretched, and developed so that we can take on more substantive roles and responsibilities. We want so much to be able to strap on roller skates and glide out to the middle of the rink so we can "show off" our twists, twirls, and fancy moves. In truth, if we were to do that without significant practice we would fall flat on our faces. Instead, the Lord provides us with plenty of time to learn how to perfect our skill. We learn how to behave in ways that please Him, to be Godly, to be the kind of person who knows their Master well. Our lives are shaped, molded, and prepared for His work -- all through life application and experience. There is no short cut, no easy way, no fast track. Everything the Lord does in us and through us is for His glory, His Name, and His praise.

Learning to Abide

John 15:7 NKJV says, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." I love this verse from John. Verse 7 continues Jesus' instruction to His disciples in how to "abide" in him (to rest, to be still, and to let Him be in their life). This whole first section of chapter 15 tells the story of the Vinedresser (the Father), the True Vine (Jesus) and the branches (you and me). In this short little parable, we learn the truth that to abide in the Vine means that we accept His instruction, His provision, and His life. It is the totality of the saying "Let God and Let it be" meaning that as believers in Jesus Christ our role is to be attached to Him, to let Him live His life through us. So often we get this point wrong, we assume that we are to live our lives for Christ. The issue is not so much that we shouldn't live in response to His gift of eternal life because we should, but rather it is that for many of us, well I would say all of us, we interpret this idea to mean that we must "show" or "perform" for Him. Let me explain...

It is like in my roller skating scenario above -- we see ourselves as performing for the Great Judge at some roller skating contest. We've made it into the game through our hard work, our diligence, and our perfection so now we must put on our best show and WOW the Judge. We want to earn that prize, that promised reward of eternal life and of blessing that is to come in the afterlife. The problem with this view is that it is predicated on works and not on faith. We know and understand that we are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, and by Christ alone. There is no work involved except for His work on the cross at Calvary. Still, we have this "works mentality" that tells us that while we are saved by grace through our faith in Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, we still believe that we must "do something" to prove our worthiness, our faithfulness, and our value to God.

When we grasp the significance of these verses in John, we realize what Jesus is saying to us. We learn that to abide in Him means that we first understand His role in our life. We learn our position. Just like in the example of Moses, Joseph or David, we may be destined as a leader or King, but for right now, we are in training. In Star Wars lingo, we are a padiwan-learner (a Jedi in training). We are not a Jedi master yet, but we are learning at the feet of a master. We are learning the skills, the philosophy, and the way of the master. 

In John 15, Jesus is telling His disciples that their position is as a learner, a disciple in training, and that they must learn from the Master (Jesus). He describes the relationship between disciple and Master as that of a Vine with branches. This word picture demonstrates the nature of the relationship. The branch has no life of its own, it is wholly dependent on the Vine for its nutrients and its support. The branch can do nothing on its own. The Vine supports, nourishes and grows the branch. The Vinedresser (God) carefully prunes the branch so that it will produce good quality fruit. As the branch is pruned, clipped, and cared for, the branch buds and then produces fruit. The goal is to produce a volume of good fruit. In our minds, we assume that we have an important role to play in this whole process. As branches we want to push fruit out, to cause ourselves to bloom so that we can be producers of good fruit (good works). 

Bloom Where You Are Planted

There is a saying that was quite popular a number of years ago, and I think it caused a great deal of confusion for many believers. In fact, a quick Google reveals that this saying has no real origin. Some sources say it is an old French proverb, while others suggest it has its roots in Paul's letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 7, verses 20-24). Surely, a number of Christian writers, speakers, and teachers have used this saying to suggest that we are to be content where God has us (or where we are today).

I can remember Mary Emmerling creating a graphic with this saying on it. In fact, I believe I have a little metal water can that has her imprint on it. I also remember taking a class at my church, Scottsdale Bible Church, where we were encouraged to remember this saying as part of the process of getting rooted into a faith community (see Susan Miller's "Just Moved" ministries based on her book, "After the Boxes are Unpacked").

This saying, then, has context for me. I understand what the saying means -- be content where you are, set down roots, and relax -- I just think sometimes that we miss the deeper point of the matter. The word, bloom, is both a noun and a verb. As a verb, it can have a direct object or no object, but the stated meaning is to cause something to bud, to grow, to flower. Merriam-Webster defines the word, bloom, as "to produce or yield blossoms" (no object) or as "to make bloom or cause to flourish" (with object). When we say "bloom where you are planted" the implied subject is "you" as in "you bloom where you are planted." This suggests that you, as subject, have some measure of control over the blooming process. 

I know you are thinking that I am parsing words. Well, in some ways, I am doing just that. I think it is important to understand why it is not possible to bloom (in and of yourself), and when we accept this as an imperative command as in "Just do it" we run the risk of taking responsibility for something which does not belong to us. I know there are folks who will agree with me and some who will disagree. I am okay with that because I think one of the biggest lies we face as Christian's is the heretical teaching that has crept into the church since the earliest church age. I don't mean to point the finger at my Catholic brothers and sisters, but in truth, much of the doctrine of Catholicism has remained in some shape and form within our protestant denominational teachings. While we may differ on key theological elements such as transubstantiation (which even some Lutherans accept), we mix and mingle on the issue of baptism (infant versus immersion as adult). The problem as I see it isn't so much with all these fractional debates, but rather it is with the BIG issue of works (as in before or after salvation).

Faith or Works

For many believers in Jesus Christ, the issue of salvation by faith versus works is central to whether you are Catholic or Protestant. More so, in some other religions, works is a key criteria to whether or not a person will receive entrance into the afterlife. In traditional protestantism, the main tenet is that salvation by is by grace through faith. Ephesians 2:8 states, "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God." Therefore, this idea that to be saved one must believe rather than do is central to Christianity. Works will not justify you before God, and no matter the good work you do (in any capacity), it is not enough to warrant God's approval and justification. Thus, it is faith (believing and trusting) that is the key to salvation. The sticky wicket in all of this has to do with works, good profitable work, whereby the Christian demonstrates the faith he or she has in Jesus Christ. According to Paul, in his letter to the Romans, this good work is a byproduct of the faith that is working in the believer. Good works are the transforming output that signals a changed inner heart. 

James, likewise, discusses this same issue in chapter 2 of his letter. James seems to be saying that faith and works must go together, and in order to be saved (as some people read it), you must have both elements. However, on closer scrutiny, we see that James is merely agreeing with Paul on this matter. He is in essence saying that you cannot be a true believer in Jesus Christ if there is no outward proof of the inward change. Thus, like John (1 John 2:4), James and Paul, are saying that the proof of a person's faith will show itself through actions and deeds.

As I consider John 15, and Jesus' words to His disciples, I begin to wonder how a believer goes about producing fruit. I mean, do I push that fruit out (through my efforts, my good works) or do I allow the Vine, which contains all the power, to do it through me? If I stay with the plant metaphor that Jesus' is using, and I consider the fact that plants in and of themselves do not really do anything to produce blooms and fruit, I must wonder if this is what we are to take away, in context, from this verse. Are we active participants with the Vine or are we passive, allowing the Vine to do all the work?

For many years, I believed that my role as a believer was to produce good works. I worked very hard to produce these works. I served in a number of roles in my church, attended retreats, and ministered to people whenever I could do it. Somewhere in my heart there was a desire to please God, to do works that were good for the body of Christ. I also know that somewhere I believed that it was my job, now that I was saved, to do these works. My head understood that I was saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, but to demonstrate my faith, I had to be about my Father's business, I had to be actively showing the world my good works!

What Good Works Look Like

Over the past few years, I have come to change my mind on this matter. I have come to think that perhaps the good works that are produced in me happen naturally as a result of my relationship and dependency upon the Vine (Jesus). I first started to notice a change in works when I stopped all ministry efforts due to my return to college for a Masters degree. I simply couldn't continue to do ministry and school and work and take care of my family. Something had to give, and ministry was what got put on the chopping block. I knew in my heart that some day I would return to ministry, but I also knew that for me to remain mentally intact, I had to limit my outside activities while I was pursuing an advanced degree.

During the first two and a half years of graduate school, I struggled with not doing any ministry-related work. I prayed, of course, and I did remain active on Facebook and other social media channels where I could stay informed, listen to issues/concerns, and respond with encouragement (my gift). I felt empty for a long while, really as though I was not 'good enough' for God. It wasn't until I started my doctoral program that I came to the conclusion that the work I am doing at school (teaching and studying) was my ministry. God had given me a task to complete higher education, and I knew that the outcome of that study was not just a PhD. I knew that God intended me to use what I was learning for His glory, and that some day, He would require me to put to good use that training for His kingdom work. I also knew that in the present, I really couldn't "do" anything with that learning because I didn't have time to do it. I had to study it, learn it, appropriate it, process it, and store it away for a later day. The curious thing, and I do mean curious, is that over time, I came to see good fruit being produced in my life. Granted it wasn't the ministry leadership type fruit I had before (roles and responsibilities), but rather it was simple fruit of a changed heart, a gentle correction received graciously by a student, or a prayer request answered and the reward seen on the face of a grateful believer and sister-in-Christ. I began to see my good work in a different way. It wasn't the "in your face" kind of fruit I thought it had to be to show my relationship with Christ -- no -- it was the small, good, and high quality fruit that seemed to effortlessly, naturally, develop on my branch (in my life).

As I pondered this result, I began to think that perhaps this is what it means to produce fruit. I started to see that my obedience to God and His word was transforming my mind, renewing my thoughts, and changing my desires so that I was shapeable, moldable, and adaptable to His needs. In truth, I noticed that my fruit, my good fruit, was being produced without much effort from me. I was more passive than active, though I was active in obedience, and through my submission to His lead, I was experiencing growth, blossoms, and blessed fruit.

Now, I think this is what John 15:1-5 really means. Jesus lives His life through ours, and we ABIDE -- submit and yield -- to Him so that He can produce good works, good fruit through us. We are the branch while He is the Vine. We allow Him to lead us as the Master, and we learn from Him as His disciple. The fruit we produce happens as a result of that relationship. It is not about doing anything for Christ, rather it is about letting Christ do everything He desires in us and through us for His name, His praise, and His glory. Selah!

July 30, 2015

Dressing THE Truth

It is a great day here in sunny and very hot, Phoenix, AZ! My day has been good so far, though I haven't gotten as far in my to-do list as I had hoped, but all things considered, I feel pretty good about what I have accomplished thus far. This morning I woke up feeling rather "yucky" again. I didn't have a good night (another in a series of unrestful nights), and I woke up feeling a bit cranky. I have decided that my lack of sleep and my issues with sleep in general are related to menopause. Yep, I think I may be finally getting closer to the big "M" now as I am experiencing the normal symptoms most women do right before the end of their menses. I am having hot flashes (mild), night sweats (mild), unpleasant/weird dreams, fuzzy memory, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, fitful sleep, and fatigue. Some of these symptoms have been around for a while, but the hot flashes have recently started to become regular (before it was just occasional). Yep, I must have woken up 4-5 times last night as I felt my entire body catch on fire. I pushed the covers off, cooled down, and then pulled them back on. It seemed like the entire night was one session of on again/off again behavior. Thus, to say I am tired today, well that seems to be an understatement. Sigh!

After I got myself up and moving, I spent some time fixing my email problem (again!) I have had issues with my email program for about 6-7 months. My ISP has been popping my password (asking for it over and over again), and then not connecting to the server. Sometimes I am lucky and I do get email. Other times, I wait, wait, and wait. I thought the problem was with Thunderbird on the Mac so I switched to Outlook on the PC. Same problem. Then I decided it was just Cox, but miraculously my mail started to come through again without any issues. My son suggested that I use Mac Mail instead, but my mail program was corrupted some years ago and I didn't have a way (well, I didn't want to follow the recommended way) to reinstall it. Plus, I didn't want to lose all my old email from Thunderbird. Mozilla (parent of T-Bird) has made it rather difficult to export messages. You can do it, but you need to know Linux, and some system architecture to do it. It is not for the novice. I am pretty techy-saavy, but it has been years since I ran my own server, and frankly, my brain is not 100% in the best shape right now (see issue above). I finally gave up yesterday, and did the "deed." I found two add-ons for Thunderbird that 1) showed me my profile, and 2) allowed me to export my messages as mbox (versus eml). It took me a while to get everything exported, but good news, I did it. I was able to export all my email and folders and bring them into Mac Mail. I was pleased as punch, to say the least, and I felt so very confident as if I had just scaled Mount Everest. Ta-Dum! On top of that feat, I also fixed my version of Safari, and I cleaned my hard drive -- like deep cleaned it -- in order to improve efficiency and productivity. My day, yesterday, was marvelous.

So this morning, I thought it would be "business as usual" for me. I woke up early, checked my iPhone for messages, and wham! I found it was downloading 2600 emails from the server (thank you, IMAP!) I stopped that from happening, hooray, but was stuck with the realization that unless I could get Mac Mail to check my Cox account as POP rather than IMAP, the problem would persist. Finally, I cheated the system in Mac Mail, and I got a second account setup as POP (not easily done because of the new software and ease of mail account setup). I made Mac Mail force me to setup my account manually. It worked, and then while I checked my server account online, I was able to see that all my mail was downloaded. Once this happened, I removed all the mail from online, set my settings to remove mail after it is downloaded, and checked to make sure that only my devices (iPad and iPhone are set to IMAP). All in all, I think I have my Mac back to running smoothly. The password problem seems to be fixed, my mail is saved offline, and my server account is cleaned. Second Ta-Dum for the week! Hoorah!!

A Review of Dressing Your Truth

So after my tech repair, I settled into my normal routine of reading Facebook. This was probably not the best choice as I did have other things to do. Instead, I read a couple posts before I clicked on an advert for Carol Tuttle's Beauty Profiling system called "Dressing Your Truth." I had heard about this system before from some of my fellow home school friends, so naturally I was curious to learn more about it. I had first heard about it last spring, but as I was in the midst of teaching and my spring courses, I didn't have the time, the energy, or the interest to look much further. I put it aside, but as I am always looking for ways to dress according to my style, and as I am in the midst of a career change and in need of some fashion advice, I thought it might be worth investing a bit of time to check it out today.

I clicked on the link, and I was taken to a very nicely designed website (I notice those things since I am a former website designer). I browsed the site briefly before I clicked on the video course (advertised as free). The author of the website and program is Carol Tuttle, a self-proclaimed Beauty expert (and if you dig deeper, a purveyor of Chakra healing). Ms. Tuttle has created this Beauty Profiling system that she sells online through her website, Facebook, You Tube, and blog. In this life, nothing is free, so I knew that at the end of the "free" serious there would be a fee for the "real package." My home school friends told me to check out the You Tube videos because you can learn most everything about her system from them -- and all for free.

I watched the entire series from her website (like an hour or so), and like the good little scholar that I am, I took copious notes as Ms.Tuttle explained her system based on truth, energy, and expression (as she calls it). It didn't take me long to realize that her system was based on Hindu/Buddhism teaching (she has a video on You Tube where she references the need for your Chakras to be aligned for truth/understanding - hint - Christian's do not follow this teaching). I had already spotted a number of issues with her teaching right from the first video. I guessed right off that she teaches New Age mysticism as a way to "discover your true self." Her message is that in order to live your "true expression" you must understand your type. Your type is numbered 1-4 and factors in more than just fashion. It includes facial, body language, physical movement, thoughts/feelings, and personality. Through out her introductory series, Ms. Tuttle explains how all of these expressions of your natural energy work together to present the "true you" to the world. In short, by understanding your body type (your number), you can embrace the natural you and express your energy in positive ways. In essence, you can free your personality and emotions from the cultural influences of background, environment, expectations, and role playing that we all engage in from childhood.

As I listened to her system, I couldn't help but think how much of what she was sharing sounded like the Four Temperaments and Four Color Seasons I learned back in the 1980s when I took a Personal Fashion class at my local community college. Her videos were slicked up, of course, and they presented a lot of other information in addition to the basic air, water, fire, and earth approach. I remembered how back then I was told that I was an "Autumn" (earthy colors). I embraced my colors back then -- loved the fact that I could dress in certain colors and make the most of my appearance. It was fun, you know, a good thing. I never took it any further than what it was meant to be -- a way for men and women to dress in colors that matched their skin, hair, and eye color.

When I finished the series of videos, I clicked on the Beauty Transformation link and of course (as expected) I was presented with their 3-step system offered between now and August 1st for only $147. Hey, save $100 by ordering now. I left the website and headed over to You Tube to catch the free videos that Tuttle and her daughter/in-law have posted. Most of these are "sample transformations" or are about mistakes people make in finding their type. Throughout all of these videos comments such as "people often mistype themselves" or "not everyone is 100% of a type, most people are a combination of all four types" and there are "dominate and secondary types." What is more, the longer I watched the videos the more confused I became regarding the mistype problem. Apparently, you can be a 1/4 OR a 4/1 and then believe you are really a 3. Ms. Tuttle says that in her years of experience, she has helped thousands of people discover the truth about their inner beauty. I am guessing that if you are confused about how to figure out your type, you need to purchase her books, videos, and the online system. (The funny thing is that in a lot of these videos -- the free ones -- clearly Tuttle and her daughters seem to not be very sure of themselves nor do they appear to really know what they are talking about. I digress…).

After I watched her videos, several things became clear to me.

  • First, Carol Tuttle practices New Age mysticism and occultism. 
  • Second, she has no real training in psychology, medicine, or beauty (like aestheticism) or anything she peddles except for alternative therapies she classifies as "healing" therapy. 
  • Third, what she offers to women under her "Dressing Your Truth" program is nothing more than repackaged teaching on color coordination and body style suggestions mixed in with East-Indian practices. 
  • Fourth, her supposed "experts" who do the makeovers are not experts at all. They are her daughter and daughter-in-law who really are nothing more than young women who can put an outfit together. Nothing they do or share has anything special. In fact, if you watch the makeovers, most of them are awful. The women in the video are actually nice looking to begin with and are dressed fashionably. They are all give new hair, boring makeup, and lots of jewelry. 
  • Fifth, if you visit her "Dressing for Truth" online store and browse the clothing, you will find that the selections are horrific. Does anyone really buy these clothes from them? They are the ugliest clothing I have ever seen. I can find cuter items at Walmart or Target. 
  • Sixth, and finally, for those of us who are reflective Type 4's (according to her system), know that her approached is flawed from the get go. There is no scientific or empirical evidence to anything she says, and while I have no doubt that she is a savvy business woman who has sold millions of copies of her books, and who has appeared on TV and in magazines, she is a charlatan selling mystic wares to an unsuspecting public.

Know The Truth

After I finished watching these videos, I realized what a sham this whole system is and that many, many women are being taken in by her supposed expert advice. Furthermore, I googled, and I found that many women shell out $150 or more to have personalized Skype consultations or worse will pay $1500 to visit her store and center in Southern Utah. I read with sadness how many of these women were taken in by her people, how they were demoralized, and even victimized on the phone, over the Internet, and in person. Of course, it would be easy to say that these women were emotionally wounded, but apparently the methods used to help with their emotional healing were not compassionately cared for, but rather brutally treated. I wasn't shocked necessarily by this news, but I was distressed over it. You see, my heart aches for men and women who are wounded emotionally, specifically those that carry those burdens of shame regarding their appearance into their adult years. I know the pain and suffering of what it feels like to be made to feel like a freak, to be unwelcome at the lunch table or to be called names as you walked home from school. I remember those insults, and how that criticism has stuck with me. However, I also know that there is no other healing system available on the market today that can truly liberate a man or woman from those feelings, those negative thoughts, and the destructive habits and patterns we use to self-medicate. No, I know the truth, and that truth has set me free -- completely free -- and I am no longer seeking affirmation, confirmation, and validation through my physical appearance. The truth that I speak of is the revelation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The great mystery is how Christ can transform us from the inside out, give us a new identity, and a new perspective on every area of our life. Yes, we can see ourselves rightly because we are given a new lens from which to look. That lens is the beauty of Scripture whereby we can come to appreciate our great value and worth. We are daughters and sons of the King, and that means that in His eyes, we are beautiful, good, and worthy.

2 Corinthians 6:18 says, "And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty."

I know the truth because I have read the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit guides me into all truth (John 16:13-14). I also recognized the truth because I have studied many of these beliefs over the years, and I have met people who practice them. Furthermore, anything that causes such confusion, that requires a so-called "expert" to guide you, is a red flag warning to me. This system is not just about taking people's money, it is about trying to make people feel better about themselves through the use of occultic practices. In this day and age, we no longer talk about New Age mysticism. We live in a society that is bent on relativism -- a worldview that says "your truth is your truth, and my truth is my truth." The problem is that there is no absolute truth so anything goes. The Bible clearly advocates that there is Truth, and it is God's Truth. Do not be taken in by anyone's so-called truth. Go to the Word, study it, and know the truth.

John 8:31-32

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

July 29, 2015

Feeling a Little Off

I am feeling a little off today. I cannot explain it really but I have felt "unwell" the past three-four weeks. Yep, I cannot put my finger on the cause of why I feel "off," but I know that something is not right with me, not well with me. I love the old hymn that says,

"It is well with my soul, It is well, it is well with my soul."

I am thinking today that whatever is bothering me must be spiritual in nature. I do not feel "unwell" physically. Rather, I have this sinking feeling in my heart that seems to be constant, it is like a drip of a faucet that cannot be turned all the way off. It is just a slow drip, but an annoyance nonetheless. I feel this deepening sadness, and it seems to be pervading my thoughts throughout the day. At night, I am finding that I cannot sleep well. It is not that I cannot fall asleep, it is just that my sleep is disturbed by dreams that are difficult, unpleasant, and generally scary. Yes, I feel like my mind is racing all the time, and that I cannot sit still or find the peace I so desperately need.

I read a great blog post this morning that gave some background on Spafford's hymn, "It is Well With my Soul" (Horatio G. Spafford, 1873). The blog writer shared a sad story, the passing of a dear friend, and related that news to the details surrounding Spafford's penning of this famous hymn. In both cases, the writers (Spafford and Mr. Lung) described the sadness that accompanies the loss of a loved one. In Spafford's case, he had just lost his four remaining children in shipwreck while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. His wife was saved, but for the Spafford's, the heart wrenching fact remained that God had saved them, but chosen to take all the children home to be with Him. How can anyone process the loss of a child, let alone the death of all their children. Yet, Spafford wrote this beautiful hymn as a way to deal with his grief and his loss.

It is Well With my Soul (1873)

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Psalm 46: 1-3

Today, as I blog, I am reminded of this hymn and the verses that suggested it. Psalm 46 is one of my favorite psalms. I often quote verse 10,

"Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!" How I need to hear this verse today! 

Yes, I need to "let be and be still!"

I am trying to understand why I feel the way I do. A good friend reminded me that it is important not to place too much emphasis on your feelings. My friend said that we must be careful not to make decisions based solely on feelings, and while I agree with my friend in part, I also know that often our feelings are good indicators of our "wellness." There is a reason why the Lord has given us emotions. We are not created as 100% rational beings, but rather we are given equal responses -- heart AND head -- so that we can base our decisions, our choices, and our responses on a combination of these two things: emotion and reason.

If we do not trust our feelings, and I am not saying that we should always trust our feelings, we may miss important clues that could help us choose actions that are fueled by compassion and empathy. If we only make rational decisions, where logic predominates our thinking, then we may overlook the feelings and emotional wellness of others. We could be cold, unresponsive, and certainly less Christ-like in our human relationships.

I understand that we can go too far either way. We can become emotional to the point where we no longer think rationally or live in the "here and now," in real-time (as they say). If we rely on our rational, logical head, we may respond in a callous, insensitive way or we may disregard the prompting of the Holy Spirit (which often comes as a "feeling" rather than a "thought") and follow our own line of thinking (Prov. 3:5-6).

It is vital, therefore, to remember that we are to use our God-given gifts, our talents, and our whole being whenever we consider options for our life. Yes, we must go to the Lord first and foremost. Then through prayer and supplication, we are to make our requests known to God (Phil. 4:6). In doing so, we will be putting God first, His will, His way, and His Word before any human logic or emotion. However, I do believe that the Holy Spirit often touches our emotions to get our attention. He is deftly capable of moving us (a sense and a feeling) toward His way. If we are responsive, sensitive to His leading, then we will come to rely on our feelings because we will know the difference between human emotional response and God-prodded response.

I have always been very sensitive to the movement of the Holy Spirit. I have said this before, blogged about my spiritual experiences many times, but the fact remains that since I was a child, I have always felt the presence of the Lord very closely. I have always felt Him near to me. Once I confessed my need for a Savior, I entered into a communion with Him that brought out a whole host of emotional response from my heart. I learned that I react very strongly whenever I am presented with anything spiritual in its comportment. For example, if a man or woman shares their testimony with me, I am able to discern many things about their spiritual state. I can tell if they are strongly, ardently following the Lord or if they are struggling, trying to figure out their relationship with Him. I can tell where they are spiritually, where their mind is and whether they have a biblical worldview or not. It is not like I have an oracle, some magic instrument to measure a person's faith walk, it is just that I can tell the difference between a sincere conversion and one that may just be partial, a "head only" experience versus a true heart change.

I know that may seem arrogant to say that, and I don't mean that I am better able to judge this person or that person in their faith walk, it is just that I feel something inside me that says "he is in good shape" or "he needs some help." I think it goes hand in hand with my gifting, with my desire to see believers grow in their relationship with the Lord. I am an exhorter, thus it is my gift to encourage the brethren. I am able to encourage and it is just a natural part of my personality. I exhort men and women in Christ Jesus to seek the Lord more completely, more fully, and to place their trust in His Name for every need in their life. I exhort them to find their purpose, to figure out their calling, and to seek clarification on their giftings so that they can be used by the Lord to fulfill the great commission. I exhort believers to learn to lean on and abide in Him so that they will find emotional wellness, wholeness and healing in their lives. Most of all, I exhort them to know and to recognize that God is good, and that everything in their life is good (even when it may not seem like it, feel like it, or look like it). Yes, God is good. All the time, He is good.

Today, I sit here and I struggle with doubts, with feelings of insecurity, and with this dread in my heart that says "something is not quite right." I don't know where this feeling comes from, and the quick response would be to simply say that it is the enemy, testing me, trying me. This may very well be true, but it could also be the result of many other things, most namely a sin issue in my life, forgetting to do something the Lord has asked me to do, or an unwillingness to go where He is sending me (telling me where He intends for me to go). It could be a combination as well, but it is up to me to discern the truth, to get to the root cause, and to act appropriately on the matter. In my case, I must determine the following:
  • If Satan is tempting me, trying me - then I must stand in faith and wield the mighty Word of God (Eph. 6:10-18)
  • If there is sin in my life - then I must confess and repent of it (1 John 1:9)
  • If I have forgotten to do something the Lord asked me to do - then I must make amends and immediately do that very thing (Deut. 23:21)
  • If I am unwilling to follow the Lord, then I must confess this act and agree to His will for my life (Deut. 13:4)
Thus, today, as I think about why I am feeling this way, I have two choices really. One is to stay just as I am and continue to feel "off;" or two, is to get down to business and ask the Lord to help me know what to do, and then as soon as He tells me, I must act and obey (do it). I must not tarry in this or else I will continue to suffer, and I will not come to terms with the "thing" that is causing me to feel this way. I know this is the case, I know it because this is not the first time this has happened to me. No, over the course of my life, there have been many instances when I failed to act on my feelings, failed to take them into account, and in doing so, I missed the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I missed His cue, and as a result, I ended up missing an open door or making a decision that could have changed my life for the better.

Consequently, this is routine for me. I know what I must do, and I know that the sooner I get to it, the better off I will be. I will feel better, and I will have clarification on some point in my life. Yes, I know that I must spend some time before the Lord, seeking His face, and asking Him for guidance and clarification in this matter.

I know what I must do. I know what needs to be done. And, today, I make haste to do it. God is good, so very good to me. Selah!

I pray it is well with your soul this good day.

July 28, 2015

Obedience Matters

Today as I read this verse, I couldn't help but think about all that is left for me to do this summer. I imagined that by this point in the month of July, I would have all my assignments for my classes completed. I would have had most of my fall planning prepared, and I would be starting to read some of my books for my theology and philosophy classes. Instead, I am sitting here thinking about everything that is left undone. Yes, my to-do list is long, quite long, and it seems that as soon as I check off one item, another gets placed on it. Sigh!

More so, as I think about my to-do list and all that is still hanging over me, I cannot help but be thankful for the work I do -- teaching and school. In truth, I am thankful that I have good purposeful work to do every day, and that I have a career that fulfills me, provides for me, and gives me the opportunity to invest in the lives of others (namely, in young students). The Lord is good to me, and He has provided a way for me to spend the rest of my work life doing something practical, yet highly valuable. I am in a wonderful position, in such a good place, whereby I can see that my efforts, while not productive in the sense that I "produce" volumes of work, does indeed have merit. Yes, my work, the work I do each day as I teach students how to write essays, is good. It is good, practical work that enables me to live a comfortable life, with comfortable results, and a very comfortable outcome. I am blessed. I am so very blessed. Selah!

The Counsel of the Lord Remains

This is the word of the Lord to me today:

The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of His heart through all generations.

Psalm 33:11 reminds me that the Lord knows what He is doing -- not just in my life -- but in all generations throughout the ages. Yes, the plans the Lord has, those that are in His heart, come to pass -- they will not be thwarted -- and therefore, His counsel stands (it will be proven true.)

I think about the Lord, His sovereignty today because in this world right now, everything seems so very tenuous, so very uncertain. Between the nuclear plan with Iran to the threat of ISIS and the variability of the stock market, the world trade centers, and the ups and downs in the economy, life in its outcome is vastly uncertain, vastly unknown, and vastly unforseen.

How can we know for certain that we are doing the THING the Lord has asked us to do for His Name and His Kingdom?

I am convinced that the Lord has an individual plan for each of His children. This plan is unique to their design, their calling, and their willingness to obey the Lord as He calls to them. Yes, obedience is always a large factor for it begs the question of how one can follow if they are not willing to obey the voice of the Lord?

"Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. "If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; "But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword." Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken (Isaiah 1:18-20).

It is a strange thing today to consider, but obedience is something the Lord has required of His children from the time of Israel right up through to those of us who live and call upon His Name today. We don't really like to think about obedience very much anymore, mostly because it smacks of legalism, and to the church, well, that is anathema. We are children of Grace (and rightly so), thus there is no need to discuss obedience anymore, right? Obedience went out the window with the Old Testament, therefore, we can simply live under grace, and not worry about obeying God.

I know that for most believers, reading that sentence would cause them to go into shock. In truth, we know we are to obey the Lord, to be obedient to His word, but we think that it is not up to us to obey, but rather that the Holy Spirit obeys for us. And while this is true in many aspects, the fact still remains that as God's sons and daughters we are called to a life of obedience. The Word, His Word, promises us great reward if we obey. We must remember that like any good parent, God gives rewards to His children based upon their behavior (words and deeds). Yes, God gives liberally in His blessings and in His rewards. Thus, it behooves us, those that call on His Name, to be obedient, to listen and to obey His commands. Yet, for many believers in Christ Jesus, this idea of obedience, well it just doesn't suit well. They like the idea that their Father is tolerant, is easy going, is forgiving because that gives them flex room to do their own thing without His condemnation. It is like this -- we want our Heavenly Father to be a cool Dad -- rather than the RIGHTEOUS, HOLY, AND SOVEREIGN KING that He is. Yes, we want a cool daddy to hang with when in reality we belong to an AWESOME (as in awe, reverent, and fearful) GOD.

What is it about obedience that causes most Christians to recoil?

Obedience means "compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another's authority" (Merriam-Webster). When we obey, we are willingly complying (acting, serving, following, respecting) to a particular command or law. We are choosing to respond in accordance with someone else's wish. We obey the laws of the road, the laws of the court, the laws of nature out of fear of penalty or punishment; yet, when it comes to the Laws of the Lord (God's Word), we hope that the JUDGE will gives us a pat on the back, a pass, a warning only for our habitual failure to comply.

I think that most Christians choose to disobey the Lord because it is in their nature to do so. I always struggle with these verses that say we are new creatures in Christ Jesus. You know, there is this idea that we are made new, born again, and that with it, all the old stuff, the old ways, have passed. Yet, we know that Paul struggled with the old way, old habits, and old thinking even after he was converted (Rom. 7). Thus, this idea that somehow we choose to obey naturally suggests that the Christian life is made perfect at the cross. And while this is true in part, we know that until we receive our new, resurrected bodies and no longer live in the presence of sin, we will continue to struggle with sin issues. We know that the power of sin has been broken in our life (Rom. 8:2). Yet, we still must deal with the presence of sin (in our world) until the day we are taken up to be with the Lord or we die and go home to be with Him forever.

In discussing the four-fold nature of salvation, Pink (1929) wrote, "Sin is yet to be completely eradicated from the believer’s being, so that he shall appear before God without any spot or blemish. True, this is his legal status even now, yet it has not become so in his state or experience." I love this explanation as I think it clearly addresses the point where most Christians seem confused. Christ's death on the cross provided salvation from sin in four distinct ways:
  1. Salvation from the pleasure and love of sin.
  2. Salvation from the penalty of sin.
  3. Salvation from the power of sin.
  4. Salvation from the presence of sin.
It is point four that trips most Christian's up. While we are saved from the pleasure, penalty and power of sin through Christ's sacrificial death, we must wait until a future time to experience salvation from the presence of sin.

Thus, while we recognize that once we become a Christian, the old ways pass away as we are conformed through His death, burial, and resurrection, we simply want to believe that we are also free from sin's effect now in this life. Therefore, we grasp the fact that with all true conversion experiences there is a change of heart, a new attitude, and a new way of thinking (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 2:29). And, we know and recognize that through the Grace of God, we are able to see the truth of our sin and its consequences in our life. We turn from the old habits, and we begin to walk in a new way. Furthermore, we know that to experience ongoing freedom from the pleasure and love of sin, we must abide in Christ as He abides with us (John 15:1-11; Gal. 2:20).  Likewise, we know and we understand that Christ took the penalty for our sins when He bore them on the cross (Gal. 3:14; Acts 17:11). As a result, the power of sin (Rom. 6; 8:2) is broken for the life of the believer, and thanks to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, our Helper, we are able to remain free from it's dominion (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; Rev. 3:1). All that is left is to wait for the removal of sin's presence, which will not come until the Lord returns (Heb. 9:28; Rom. 13:11; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2).

So then, where does obedience come into play?

I think that obedience becomes possible through two outflows of the process of salvation. First, when we abide in Christ as He abides in us, we learn obedience through His modeling, through His relationship with the Father (John 15:10). Then through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we learn to obey the Gospel of Christ (1 Peter 1:1-2). The problem, then, is that Christians who do not abide in the Lord, who are not actively being guided by the Holy Spirit, struggle the most with the pleasure and power of sin in their lives. The key, therefore, is to abide in Him, to remain connected to the True Vine (Jesus), and to live in obedience through the power of the Holy Spirit in order to overcome the temptations and the trials associated with sin in our life as well as in the world.

As I ponder this today, I am reminded that this obedience to the Lord is habitual. It is a daily sacrifice, a laying down of one's own life, their control, their wishes, their desires, in order to receive the power of grace to overcome any and all temptations.

How then must we live?

I believe we must live and walk in faithful obedience to the commands of the Lord, to the Word of God. John 15:1-11 NIV states,
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full."
In closing, my prayer today is to consider my faith walk from the standpoint of obedience to God's Word. I must ask myself if I am being faithful in my study of the Word, in my daily prayer life, and in seeking the Lord for all direction and spiritual understanding. If I say yes, then I should be filled with the joy of the Lord. If I say no, then I should know and recognize that the lack of peace I feel, the lack of joy, is a direct result of my relationship status.

Joy in the Lord only comes through the daily communion and faithful relationship between believer and the Lord Jesus Christ. May it be so in my life and in yours this good day. Selah!


Pink, A. W. (1929). A Fourfold Salvation. Retrieved from http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Four_Fold_Salvation/ffsalvation_preface.htm

July 27, 2015

Seeing Clearly

It is Sunday afternoon, and I have to admit that I am a bit worn out (or perhaps worn in). It was a good weekend for me, not that I accomplished everything that I needed to accomplish, but generally it ended well (or it has ended well). I am finally getting round to writing on my blog, and frankly, I am finding the whole process to be a struggle. It is odd, really, because for the past couple weeks, I simply have struggled to blog about anything, in general. I start a post each day, but often, but the time I am close to finishing it, I set it aside. Later, I delete it -- I just don't want to post it. It is a weird feeling for me because I use my blog for many things, of which, reflection is most important. I need to reflect about events, circumstances, experiences through writing, and this blog (my journal) serves that purpose. I typically can sit down and write a blog post in about 45 minutes. Lately, I am finding that it is taking me 1-2 hours, sometimes even 3, before I get anything suitable to post. This seems odd, really odd, and I am not sure why this is happening. I guess it could be "overload" or "stress" or both. I am not sure, I am not sure at all.

This weekend, my middle brother came for a visit. He came to see our Mom and Dad, mostly our Mom, because she is having surgery tomorrow to remove a lump from her breast. I know he wanted to see for himself, to check her condition, and find out on his own whether or not what we were saying was really true (about her condition). The visit was nice, a bit different, but overall nice. It was good to talk with him, and it was so nice that he came to visit (from NV).

The funny thing, in reflection, is how his visit influenced my parents. You know, how they reacted to his presence, his conversation, and his overview of their status (health for example). It was just so interesting to see his impact, short as it was, on our whole life. I guess from a social scientist standpoint, I found the whole weekend fascinating to study. In truth, I was influenced by his visit too, so I would have to cite my own personal agenda in my limitations (LOL!) Still, the weekend, for what it was worth, seemed odd, uncharacteristically out of place, and generally, a befuddlement. Definitely worth some study, for sure, for certain.

I am trying to reflect right now on all the things that are zooming through my head. I am being bombarded by all these feelings, some of them are good, some not so good, and I am trying to piece together the fragments that are true, accurate, and good indicators of the reality of my life. I wish I could say that I have it all together today, but I don't. I am trying to be "in the moment," but there is a part of me that feels like I am just not sure what to expect next. It is like I am living in this whirlwind of great UNKNOWN, and while I am not afraid or anything, I just feel sort of out of balance, off-kilter, and a bit like Alice peering through the looking glass, know what I mean? Do I follow the white rabbit down the hole?

An Interesting Turn of Events

I started this blog post yesterday morning, shortly after I arrived home from church. My day had been knocked off it's "ordinary" schedule, so I wasn't feeling particularly good or in my usual writing mood. I wrote about half the post before I saved it and closed blogger. It happens, you know, writer's block. I have been really fortunate to not have had it happen too often in my writer's life, but I know for a fact that it can be incredibly challenging for many writers who struggle to break free.

Yesterday evening, I spent about four hours working on my poster presentation (due tonight), and frankly, I felt that everything I did was either subpar or didn't make a whole lot of sense. I was frustrated for certain, but now I am thinking it had more to do with being preoccupied with my Mom's pending surgery (today). Now, that I am home, surgery completed and prognosis good, I sat down to finish that project, and thankfully, I did it in about an hour or so. It is done, hooray, praise the Lord, and it has been posted to my assignment forum for grading. I am down to the last assignment now, and then this class (COM 730) will be put to bed. Selah!

In all, today has been a really blessed day. Not only did my Mom come through her cancer surgery well (she just buzzed past me on the walker -- heading to the bathroom), but she is in little to no pain right now. Of course, the Vicodin is helping (she only took half a tablet about 2 hours ago), and for that we are all grateful. Truthfully, the worst thing ever is to see a loved one in pain. It is just horrible when you cannot do anything to help them or make them feel better.

During my wait at the hospital Surgery Center, I had a really nice chat with my Dad. I am glad we had this time together, even if we were both a bit stressed. It was good to hear him say some things about my son, me, my brothers, etc. that confirmed to me that he does understand our struggles and our efforts to overcome them. It is good to be validated, to be confirmed, and to be supported in this way. Even if he doesn't agree with our choices, he seemed supportive of them, and that means so much to me (and to my other family members, I am sure).

This turn of events, sort of a turning of the tide, signaled to me something important. I believe my Dad has come to see the tenuousness of life, what with my Mom's cancer and all. I think he sees that life is perilous, and there is nothing he can do to make things better. He cannot cure my Mom's cancer. He cannot solve my brother's marriage problems. He cannot help my son to not make mistakes. He can be supportive, though, and he can offer wise advice, gentle counsel, and a guiding hand -- all of which he does do regularly. Usually, though, we get the bite that goes along with the advice, and that makes the whole matter more like a "bitter pill to swallow." Today, however, it seemed he was resigned, and not in the defeated way, but rather in a submitted and yielded way. He seemed at peace with what was going on, and generally agreeable to the way things were coming to pass. No one wants a diagnosis of cancer, for sure, but when it does come, how you take it, really accept it can determine your course of action. In my case, I know that my Mom is in God's hands. I still worry, of course, but I believe that He has her well-covered. I don't want to lose my Mom, but I also don't want to see her suffer needlessly. God knows her time, her coming and going, and while I may want to control these events, I simply cannot do it. I am not God, and thankfully, because He is, I can rest, I can relinquish control, and I can relax and deal with life as it comes toward me.

God is good in that way, so very good. He meets us right where we are at, and He remains with us. He sticks to us, and He never lets us go. I may not like what I see, but I know that He is my friend. He is my King, my Lord, and my Savior. He is good, so very good to me.

July 24, 2015

Next Up

WOW! I cannot believe that it is July 24th already! This summer has just flown by. It seems like it was just yesterday when I was getting on an airplane to head for VA Beach and my summer residency course. Now, I am planning out my syllabi and course assignments for fall -- anticipating school starting in just under 5 weeks. I am so not ready for school to start yet. I still have oodles to finish for my own schooling (by 8/7), and I have some preparation work to complete for my exams next Spring. This summer is almost over! Sigh!

I guess the blessing or the good news is that I do have contracts set for fall teaching. I am set as far as my schedule goes (GCU - MWF and ACU - TR). God is good to have provided these classes for me to teach. I am blessed, so very blessed. What's more -- I am seeing the very real light at the end of the tunnel now. I see the finish line for my courses at Regent, and that means, ta dum! I will be an official PhD candidate in March 2016. Woohoo!

My fall is lining up quite nicely. My classes at Regent consist of Theology, Philosophy, and teaching/assisting History of Communication. I will be very busy with coursework, but I am pumped to finish my last semester of classes with grace and strength! The Lord has brought me through to this point, and He will certainly see me through to the end! PTL! God is good, so very good to me!!

Plans for Fall

I have no real plans set for travel as of yet, but I am praying in earnest for a way to fly to AL to visit my love. It would be so nice to spend time with him in person, and I am afraid that if I don't take advantage of my time off this fall, I will be forced to wait until next spring break or worse, summer (I just don't think I can wait that long!!) Right now, my fall schedule is such that I could potentially take time in mid-October, the week of Thanksgiving or right after school ends in December. I have a good three weeks off between semesters, and last year, was able to take some of that time to fly to FL to spend with my Aunt and Uncle. It is a good time for me simply because I don't have anything to do or worry about (except some paper grading) so I am free, free, free! However, what may end up happening is for me to fly there for a long weekend (a Fri-Mon) as that might be all the time he can spare. Sigh! It is a challenge to wait for the Lord's timing. I know the Lord plans for us to spend some time together, physically I mean, but the key is knowing when that will be. My prayer is that it will be soon, but I know that this is not something as easy as pie, know what I mean? My schedule is very tight and a bit inflexible as is his -- so we are both at the mercy of the Lord's will -- and we are trusting for the Lord to make things happen in His time, always in His time.

So for now, I can only think about visiting and spending time with him. I can only imagine what it will be like, and how much I will enjoy my visit. Until the Lord provides, I will patiently wait. I know the plans the Lord has for me are good, so very good, and therefore, I will wait for His perfect plan to come to pass. I want His best for my life, for every area of my life, and that means I must allow everything He has in mind to take place, every opportunity, every challenge, every step. There is no reason to rush, to panic, or to feel pressure because the Lord knows what He is doing in my life, in his life, and in the life we will share together. Yes, of this I am certain...the Lord does intend for us to be together. It is difficult to not want to share that news with friends and family, but the longer I spend time with my love, the more convinced I am that he is a gift sent from Heaven above. Yes, I believe that the Lord has sent to me my perfect fit, the best companion, and the most amazing man -- really the man of my dreams. God has provided to me the most wonderful, most blessed, and most satisfying relationship of my life...thus...I don't mind waiting for His will to come to pass. I cannot imagine anything more perfect from the Lord...yet each day...I feel more and more blessed, more and more confident, and more and more secure in these next steps.

Until then...I rest completely in the Lord's care, in His provision, and in His protection. He has me well covered, so well covered.

Today is a good day, a very good day. I am thanking the Lord for His manifold blessings, and for the security and the love He has provided to me. I cannot think of anything I want or need for today, His manna has been sufficient, it has been enough, and I am well cared for, so well covered. God is good, so very good to me! Selah!

July 22, 2015

Preparing for Fall

What an amazing day it has been! And, it is only 1:30 p.m. here in sunny, hot and humid AZ. Yes, the Lord is good to me, so very good to me. First off, the Lord has once again pressed upon me to get myself prepared, to make myself ready, for the plans He has for my life. Proverbs 19:21 says, "You can make many plans, but the LORD's purpose will prevail." The writer of Proverbs is stressing the idea that the plans we make, while good and fine, will not take the place of the Lord's purpose for our life. Of course, this presumes that the man or woman of God is diligently seeking the Lord, and is willingly obeying Him as He leads and directs their steps. In my case, this is exactly true. I am seeking the Lord in every area of my life, and while I may not always know exactly what He is doing (behind the scenes), I do believe that His purpose is always first and foremost in His mind. Thus, the plans I make, and I make many of them, are all focused on this one thing -- on seeing the Lord's will, His expressed and precise will for my life -- coming to fruition, coming to pass.

It excites me to no end when the Lord moves in my life. For a long while, I used to panic whenever He moved. I sensed change, great upheaval, and in His movement, I always felt as if I was being jerked forward, clearly out of my comfort zone, and into some great big UNKNOWN. It hasn't been until recently that I began to realize that His movement, no matter how small, always was for my good. There is nothing the Lord does or allows in my life that doesn't further His plans and purpose for me. Consequently, He may cause some circumstance to come to pass or He may permit some hardship for a time -- all in order to prepare me, grow me, equip me -- for His work, His service, His name and honor. I have come to rest, to recognize His movement, and while I still hunker down a bit, making myself "ready" for the jolt, I know that it is all for my good, for my best, and for His will.

Today is a good example of such a move. I have felt the Lord moving in my life the past couple of days. I think it started this past weekend, and it culminated with my blog post on moving on (letting go) from my past. Yes, I think the Lord placed on my heart the importance of letting my past go, and while I had done that before, many times before, I hadn't gotten to the place where I could "walk away" from it, no longer discuss it, or allow it to remind me of past hurt. The last few days, however, have been freeing for me. I have found such peace, such comfort, and such amazing grace as I walked away from everything that was before, and I embraced everything that lays ahead. I picked up my cross, so to speak, and I started walking on. Yes, I know that I have done this before, like I said many times before, but this time somehow it was different. I was intentional about it, I guess, and in being intentional, I realized that I had made a choice, finally a choice, of where I was willing to go. Let me explain...

I have blogged about my situation recently, well for eons, really, and in doing so, I have spent an inordinate amount of time reflecting on the past, looking backward for hints and clues to behavioral patterns and interactions that caused me to make certain choices. I thoroughly analyzed my childhood experiences, my teenage romances, and my marriage -- studying it through a microscope at times -- so that I could really grasp the significance of the decisions I made, and I could understand the motivation for them. It was a good thing, really, it was a very good thing. I learned a lot about myself, mostly what not to do in the future, but in total I came to respect myself and to accept the person I am (warts and all). Yes, I was able to say "I accept you, Carol," and that is a big deal, a very big deal. As God has helped me deal with past hurt, He has also enabled me to see my part in how everything came about, the good and the bad. It has helped me maintain a realistic perspective on my past, and as such, I feel that I have a better handle on my future. As Martha Stewart says, "it's a good thing!" Yes, indeed, it is a good thing!

Turning a Corner

So today has been interesting, with a lot of potential change on the horizon, and some very positive opportunities potentially opening up for me. I am excited to say the least, and I feel that perhaps this is the Lord's movement in my life.

1. Just yesterday, my son and I had a good chat about his upcoming school plans. He has changed colleges, thanks in part to a major scholarship from the school, and some prodding and encouragement from some of the pastors at our church. He is enrolled in a BS in Music program, and should now graduate in 2017. In the end, he will be in school for a lot longer than most kids his age, but he is on track to graduate and praise be to God, his degree is something that I believe aligns with the Lord's will for his life. My son got a full scholarship to study music, and on top of all that, just was offered a position at our church to work part-time starting in August. This is such a praise because he has been applying for a while without any interest. This position pays well, and it should provide for him. I am so blessed, so very blessed.

2. This morning I received an email from GCU asking if I was interested in applying for a contract position as a facilitator for CIRT. This is a short-term opportunity, as needed really, but the pay is excellent. It would be such a blessing should they choose me to facilitate this summer. I really could use the extra income between now and when school begins. Furthermore, this might be something I could do throughout the year as needs arise. What a blessing for me!

3. As I was praying today, the Lord placed the idea of applying for some extra work on my mind. The Lord directed me to GCU (praise be to God), and I noticed that they were hiring for adjunct Online instructors to teach several communication courses. This is a rarity for GCU, so I applied just to see if they would consider me. I always have trouble making it past their HR screener so we will see what happens. I would be blessed for this opportunity, though. I believe this would be for 8-week classes, and that should make it possible for me to do a couple of these classes, and still keep my fall on campus class schedule. I would welcome the online classes -- just to build my resume in that way -- but it will be up to the Lord to convince the HR person to interview me.

Now, I am not saying that I have everything figured out yet, but it does seem that things are happening again, and for that, I am so grateful. God is good, so very, very good.

Preparing for Fall

So what does this mean for me? Well, right now, not very much, other than the fact that my son is set for fall, and with a job, that means I will have to pay for less and less of his keep. I love my son, don't get me wrong, but it has been a challenge and a strain for me to pay for his schooling this past year since he lost his job. He has been very thoughtful and careful, but in truth, I simply cannot afford to pay for his upkeep and my own.

Furthermore, as I begin to prepare for fall, one thing is for sure. I realize that I cannot bear the responsibility for caring for my parents anymore. I love them, surely I do, but their care has taken a big toll on my finances, and while the Lord has not placed me in this position directly, I have felt responsible for their care. Mostly, it is my Mom, as she wants things (like Starbucks or Chinese) and I have been seeing that she has what she wants. My Dad started this off when Mom was diagnosed with dementia in January. He was very tight with the money at first, but since June, he has simply given in to her wishes. Now, I understand this thinking, but I am not in a position to do that and it sort of just happened to me. I made the decision yesterday to let this go as part of my closing the chapter on the past move. I love my parents, and I want the best for them -- but -- I am not their primary caregiver nor am I in the position to pay for their needs. My father, Lord willing, is the one calling the shots for Mom's care, and he is managing their remaining years. I support them, certainly, and I do care for them physically, but I can no longer purchase items or pick up the tab for them. I have tried to exit out quietly, to turn down dinner offers and such, just because I don't have the money to splurge. It is difficult for me, but I also realize that this is part of life, and that I have to be responsible for my own care first, and my son's care second.

Thus, as I turn toward fall, I am confident in this one thing -- God has a great plan for my life, and He is working out all the details to prepare me for my final year at Regent, and for relocating me closer to my love. I believe this is the Lord's will for my life, but I cannot up and move until the Lord opens that door. I am patiently waiting for His grand move, and until then, I am focused on the work I must do now. I have courses to teach, classes to prep for, exams to study, and of course, a dissertation to write. There is a lot on my plate, but praise be to God, it will all be done in His time, and with His overall blessing. I am sure of it.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

July 21, 2015

Getting Down to Business

It is a very good Tuesday here in sunny, hot and humid Arizona. I am sitting at my desk, blogging, and it is almost 1:30 p.m. My routine has been upset today, thanks in part, to my email not working properly. I have had issues with my email for the past couple months, but it was very sporadic, so I didn't make a big deal about it. The past couple days, however, have been trying. I have felt like I wasn't getting my emails at all, and that was really bugging me to no end. I spent the better part of the morning trying to fix whatever was wrong with my inbox. I have thought for a long time that the problem was with my service provider, Cox, but now I am thinking that it is Thunderbird (a Mozilla product) that is causing the problem. I read online that there was a known bug in the program. The main issue I have is that all my emails are stored in Thunderbird, and I cannot import them into another reader so that they will be accessible to me. It frustrates me, but I know that in time, it will be okay. This too shall pass...so the saying goes. I guess the blessing of having email problems is that the work I did, trying to get everything fixed, spurred me to get organized, and that as Martha Stewart says, is a "very good thing."

Organizing My Life

There are many systems or ways to organize one's life. I think most people like to be organized, but for many, the process of organization seems to be what causes them the most problems. I happen to be an organizer by nature. I find organization fun to do, and I like to get my things in order. I guess I am like this because of the way my brain works. I tend to find clutter distressing, and I worry about missing important dates or assignments simply because I might misfile them or misplace them on my desk or in one of my many organizers (file folders). I tend to stick to an old fashioned system of organization, and as such, my process is all about sorting and collecting like items. I don't really maintain file cabinets anymore, simply due to a lack of space, but also I found that I tended to stuff things away (never to be seen again), and that really didn't benefit me in the end. I have since taken to purging, and I love the feeling of getting rid of things. In fact, I am thinking of picking up on the latest fad in organization called "Kondoizing," which is based on the book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing," by Marie Kondo. I am not sure if I can go all the way with Kondoizing or not, but I do think there is value in purging, and creating a streamlined and slimmed down, minimalist approach to life.

The Minimalistic Approach

As I plan for fall 2015, I am already thinking of ways to stay organized. You see, I haven't found the perfect solution to keeping tabs on all my students yet. I checked today, and I think I have about 130 students at GCU, and more than likely, I will have about 25 at ACU. This means I need to track assignments and grades for close to 150 students. On top of this, I also have my studies at Regent, and I need to start planning for my Qualification exams in the fall. In all, I need a good system of organization to help me stay focused and on track -- right on through to December -- Praise the Lord! So for right now, I am contemplating several ideas that will help me be more organized come August. I need a system for school (teaching), exam prep (Regent), and home keeping (my current house and my future home). In the past, I have tried several systems. They each had pros/cons. I am seeking a new way, a better way than these tried-and-true approaches. I am thinking of going minimalist, but not 100% minimalist as I stated. I am looking for something in between, something that suits my style, my needs, and the way my brain works. Hmmm....

1. The Box System

One of the many systems I have tried to use in the past is a box system. In a box system, everything that belongs together is placed in one box. I like this idea, and it seems simple enough. The negative to it is that it makes it difficult to find that "one item" you may need because it is sitting at the bottom of a box. I tend to go to the box system first because it fits my mind well. I typically categorize my tasks so that I can know what I need to tackle next. So for example, I label my tasks according to their group -- classes at Regent -- for example. This enables me to work on a task, but it back into its box, and then forget about it while I move on to another box. I compartmentalize well. I am just not sure if this is the best way to organize my life, know what I mean?

2. The File Drawer/Cabinet System

For many years, I lived by file drawers and cabinets. I think it was a left-over from my days working in offices where everything was filed in folders and hanging folders. In those days, we had walls of cabinets, offices filled with cabinets, and everything had its place in its own folder. Folders were grouped into categories based on their function, and then placed in cabinets stored for convenient retrieval. For years, my home office also had file cabinets in them. My ex-husband was a good one for liking the file cabinet system so we had dozens of file cabinets. I found them to be dust-catchers and after a while, they seemed to be "dead zones" where you put stuff you didn't want to keep out on the desk. It seemed like to me they were simply good for hiding the clutter, the mess of materials an office collects over time. I came to hate them in the end, and now I do not have a file cabinet to speak of in my house.

3. The Less is More Approach

After the divorce, I had to give away much of my old life because I didn't have enough storage space for it. I kept the most important "things" attached to my memories, but generally, I purged like crazy. It felt so good to let things go, especially those old dusty things that didn't really matter to me, but were stored on a shelf or in a drawer for "emergency use." Yes, I was happy to finally get rid of all the "just in case" stuff that cluttered up my life. Now, I am thinking of using this system again, the paring it down to the bare minimum, just so that I can learn to live with less. I really like the idea of form and function, having one thing to meet a need rather than 3 or 4 similar items that get used rarely. I have started to think about this in terms of clothing because I tend to hoard shoes, purses, and t-shirts. I love shopping, even though I don't buy expensive clothes, I do have a thing for t-shirts.

My first move after the divorce was to a rented town home. I had about 1200 SQFT and plenty of room for storage. I purged initially, and then a bit more after I was settled for a bit. When I moved from this home to my present home, I had to purge even further. Mostly, I gave up "things," household things, because I was merging my house with my parents. I packed some keepsakes away, but again, I purged and tossed anything that was not functional or that I thought wouldn't be used over the next couple years.

Since that time, I have purged again, and now I am ready to really get organized, to make use of the remaining items, and to put together a system that will work going into the future. One thing is for sure, I am never going to live in a cluttered and dirty (grimy and dusty) home again. I lived that way for 30 years, and while I made the best of it, the truth was that I never could get used to the fact that my ex was a hoarder. He would try, but in truth, he never could toss anything away. He would complain at me all the time, telling me that I need to clean and clear away the clutter. The problem was that there was no place for me to store things because he had items that were 20 and 30 years old (in boxes, never touched, never used). When you live like this for a long time, you get used to it. I mean, you finally give in to the overload, and you realize that there is no way to tackle the mess, so you just ignore it. I know for a fact that part of the reason why I was so unhappy back then was because of the mess. I cannot live in mess, I just cannot. I am not a perfectionist, a Mary Poppins, so to speak, where everything must be "spit spot." No, I do have some clutter around, but for the most part, it is minimal mess.

In clearing away the clutter, I have always used the following system for sorting/prioritizing my tasks and my things:
  1. Most important, first
  2. Most valuable, second
  3. Most tedious, third
  4. The rest...
It seems weird, but I tend to accomplish tasks based on a values system. I do sort by time/date, but then I decide based on value -- what has the most value or bang for the buck. In organizing my home, it is which task will reap the biggest reward. This way, you can accomplish one task and see the results right away. Sometimes people focus on all the little tasks, and while they are good to get out of the way, the big picture is still a bit of a mish-mash (a pistache!) I have also followed this approach with good success, especially at work.
  • Make a list of everything that must be done today. Mark them as urgent and non-urgent.
  • Assess the value of each item. Prioritize based on value -- is a school assignment more important than replying to emails? Do what is most important first. Save the busy work for later.
  • Set realistic goals for what can be done each day. Don't try to do too many things, instead focus on what is "do able" for that day only.
  • Budget some "flex time" so that you can handle emergencies. Sometimes life happens so make sure your 'to do' list is not so packed that you cannot be flexible to handle other immediate needs.
  • Say NO to the time wasters - social media, telephone, TV, Netflix, etc. These things can zap your time and shorten your attention span so that it is impossible to accomplish anything.
When it comes to clearing up around the house, well, then a better system is to decide schemes based on room use. For example, in the living areas of the home, I cannot stand clutter. I need to have everything put away, and I like to have a purely functional space to do things in. So for example, in my kitchen, I rarely have things on the counters. I keep only those items that are necessary on the counter, and everything else gets put underneath or in the pantry closet. In the family room, I have space cleared for sitting, reading, and TV watching. I don't like to see newspapers, mail, magazines, or even books littered about. I like to know that should someone pop in for a visit, my main areas are clean and presentable.

In the back of the house, I try to keep the bedrooms ordered. I always make the bed, every day, and I always put my clothes away. I don't stack laundry in piles or baskets, but I put them where they belong. I also make use of closet space and cupboards so that seasonal items are put away. I use the under the bed space too, and I try to minimize the number of "things" that catch dust. I hate to dust, it is right up there next to vacuuming so I have learned that the best way to keep from having to do it, is to reduce the clutter and items that collect dust.

Around the House

Everyone has a different idea about what they want to see in a home. For me, the most important part of home keeping is "keeping a home" so that it is functional and useable. My home is very important to me. It is a place of solace and a place where I can decompress from the stress of my work. Therefore, I need a home that is ordered and clean. The very thought of coming home to a mess is what drives me crazy. The first thing I would do is want to clean -- and after a long day teaching -- it is the last thing I should be doing every day. Thus, my home is my castle, and as such, I am particular as to how I keep it in check.

Home keeping has been defined many different ways over the course of the past hundred years. Check any of the free online dictionaries and you will find two definitions: 1) staying at home; and 2) not gadding about. According to Merriam-Webster, the term, home keeping has been around since 1616. Generally, it was used to denote the roles and responsibilities of those who "keep a home." This would include the cleaning and caring of a home as well as storing items used for or in the home.

Home keeping to me means all the things a person must do to keep their home functioning well. This includes repairs, inside and out, as well as practical solutions that serve to prevent problems from arising in the future. Good home keeping then is essential to maintaining a well-ordered, well-run, and well-maintained home.

Getting Started with Minimalist Thinking

As I mentioned in the opening for this post, I have seriously considered going the "Kondo" way when it comes to "less is more" thinking. I don't think I could go 100% minimalist, but I certainly can adopt some of this thinking to shape the way I choose to think about items. For example, some organizer/bloggers suggest rethinking the idea of "space as a cost" measure. The idea is that often we grant something a place in our home simply because we have "room for it." So for example, in that spare room you might be storing things that have never been used or not used in years simply because you have room to keep them. Secondly, some bloggers suggest that it is important to consider the cost of keeping items -- not just from a space/value perspective -- but from a mental clutter perspective. This is my big issue -- clutter isn't just about space, but it is about the energy generated or drained from items that are nonfunctional and useless. In my view, holding on to boxes and boxes of pictures, for example, is a waste of space and energy. It is better in my view to take out the precious photos, scan them to CD, and save them electronically. This frees up floor storage space, while also making them available for use online. Furthermore, saving some of these photos and arranging them in frames would make them easily accessible for viewing. I know I rarely dig through those old photos anymore, and over time, they are fading and becoming quite brittle. If I don't preserve them soon, they will be unrecognizable.

Purge, Purge, Purge

I am at the point now where I feel like there are several areas I can still purge to reduce the clutter. The first is with my closet. I have a lot of clothes, and as I am intent on losing this last 20 pounds, more than likely many of these items will be tossed to the Goodwill. A natural purge is on the horizon for sure. Still, I must resist the temptation of buying the same amount of things, just in a smaller size. I am thinking of creating a wardrobe that is pared down, minimalist, and functional. Steve Job was known for his minimalist approach to dressing. He favored jeans and a black turtleneck shirt (or tee shirt). He wore the same thing every day, and no one every looked at him and said "Oh poor, Steve Jobs! He doesn't have any clothes to wear!" In truth, Jobs certainly could afford a luxurious wardrobe, but instead, he chose a simple style that fit his personality well.

I read a review for a book I am thinking about purchasing on Amazon. I like the premise, and the reviews are fairly positive. It is called, "Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing, and Saving" by Lorilee Craker. In the book, the author interviews Amish people to find out how they are thriving during a down-turned economy. The book jacket states, "When writer Lorilee Craker learned that the Amish are not just surviving but thriving in the economic downturn, she decided to find out why. What she found was about a dozen tried and true financial habits the Amish have employed for generations that will make your cash last longer and help you build wealth."  So I am not planning on converting to Amish Mennonite any time soon, but I do value the hardwork and the diligence these people seem to characterize most. Craker mentions four specific principles that seem to predominate Amish thinking towards sufficiency and contentment.

I find that I can identify with these tenets as well.

Use It Up!
  1. Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without
  2. Rethink your gift giving
  3. Repurpose, recycle, and reuse
  4. Eat like royalty for a peasant's pittance
According to Jeff McMahon, "Money Secrets of the Amish isn’t so much about making money; it’s about family, discipline, and redefining what wealthy means. This is a great read that helps us all to see more clearly what’s really valuable in our lives." I think this is important to remember -- what we strive for in life must always be of the most value to us. The Bible says it this way in Matt. 6:19-24 AMP,
Do not gather and heap up and store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust and worm consume and destroy, and where thieves break through and steal. But gather and heap up and store for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust nor worm consume and destroy, and where thieves do not break through and steal; For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light. But if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the very light in you [your conscience] is darkened, how dense is that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in).
The idea is that what we attend to or give preference to is a right indicator of where our heart is focused. Thus, if we focus on things, accumulation of things, and we do not keep them in check, we run the risk of placing undo attention on them. I believe that living in a messy or cluttered home, a place where there is an accumulation of "stuff" is indicative of a mind/heart issue. I am speaking of myself here, so as not to point the finger at anyone else, but it is something to pause and carefully consider. You see, in the Word, we know that the Lord told His disciples not to accumulate "things" because they would not need to worry about their daily requirements. Jesus said that the Father would provide for them, so they didn't need to amass a large wardrobe or even carry much with them when they traveled about doing the Father's business. I see a parallel with how most Christian's live their lives today. Should the Lord say "Arise, take your stick and walk" would we be able to do so without it taking months to purge, to clear away the dross, and to make ourselves ready to do His work?

In this day and age, living simply can have many benefits. First, it can help us to stay focused on the Lord's work in our lives, and on ministry opportunities where we can be used to help others. Second, it is a way to clearly define our lifestyle from that of the world. The Amish have done this for centuries, and yes, while they refrain from using "worldly things" such as electricity, they have made a mark as "plain people," people who have learned the value of living simply. Three, when we live without by choice, we say to ourselves that we are choosing to live freely and without incumbrance. We can move about, go where we need to go, all because we have little to hold us to one particular place. Last, minimalism is also frugal, and it make use of every item, in every way, and it enables a greater respect of the item's function and form simply because it is useful (utilitarian).

I started thinking today that perhaps I would keep a second blog titled, "My Simple Life." I don't know...it is not like I have a lot of time to blog about living simply, minimally, these days. If the Lord chooses for me to do one, then I will do one. Until then, I am thinking about ways to downsize, to minimize, and to live more simply. I think there is value in the purge, the pursuit, and in the end, the process. I am thinking perhaps the Lord is preparing me to live this way. I am okay with this direction, and the Lord knows that I am content to live in whatever condition He chooses for me. Perhaps this whole process of purging, of letting go, has been to get me ready for the next step, the way He has in mind for me. I am ready, Lord. I am ready.