September 5, 2015

Happy Saturday!

It is Saturday, and it is Labor Day weekend. I am blessed to have a three-day weekend, and to have Monday off (hooray!) My first three weeks at ACU have passed without incident, and my first two weeks at GCU went well, no hitches or hiccups. I am pleased, overall pleased, at my progress and my productivity.

I am also doing OK, holding my own in my two doctoral courses, and I am starting to find the rhythm needed to get into the groove, so to speak. Yes, it has been a challenge to figure out when to tackle school work (mine), grade papers, and read study books (mine). Plus, I am having to pick up the slack at home, and that means, that my off days and hours are pinched on time. Still, I am figuring out how it all fits together this semester, and I am finding that it is getting easier and easier to sync with the 'groove' as the days fly by.

Flash back moment --  The Young Rascal's 1967 hit, "Groovin' On a Sunday Afternoon" just popped into my head. One of my all time favorite songs, for sure, and it brings back such happy and sweet memories from my childhood. In 1967, I was living in Bakersfield, CA. I remember listening to this song at home with my Mom and brothers. I was 5 at the time, just a little gherkin, but I still remember singing and dancing in our living room. Happy days, such happy days!

Listen and join me for a trip back in time…

So today is a good day, yes a good and blessed day. Every day that we are alive is a good day, in my humble opinion. I find that the more I focus on the goodness of God, the more I am able to see the goodness of our days. Yes, the world may be going to "hell in a hand basket," but God's goodness never changes, and it never diminishes. He is always good, and the days he created are good. His plans and purposes are good, and as a result, for those of us who are living within His expressed will, our days, our lives, and our purpose is all good.

Romans 8:28 NASB - And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

The Goodness of God

This past week, I had to re-read the "Confessions" of Augustine. I had read this work some 20 years ago, and then I re-read bits of it a few years back. I spent most of the week wading through the heaviness of the text, but in the end, I discovered that the real thesis of the work (besides Augustine's confessions and his conversion to Christianity) was his obvious focus on the goodness of God. Yes, Augustine, that 4th century philosopher and theologian, recognized God goodness as he pondered the magnitude of the heavens, the origins of creation, and the mysteries of time and space. The book is a great read, and in translation, it is accessible to most good readers. It does have some heavy topics, but everything is framed biblically, and draws significantly on the Psalms as well as other passages of Scripture. The emphasis is encouragement, and the edification of the soul, in order to draw the believer into closer fellowship and relationship with God. The work is excellent, and if you can sustain your interest, will prove to be thought-provoking. I enjoyed reading it again, and I too became convinced (yet again) that God's goodness stems from before time and that there is no end to that which He is or creates -- it is all good. Of course, I understand that sin has marred that perfection, and that as a result, we are desperately in need of a Savior. Still, I cannot help but reflect on the wonders of His goodness, on the completeness of His plan of redemption, and His future restoration of His people and His kingdom (selah!)

Today, as  think about all of this in relation to my life -- to where I am and where I am going -- I see the goodness of God all around me. He is there, always near me, and always leading me toward my next destination, my next stop. I wonder if the stop will be in a big city, at a big city terminal or whether it will be at a small country town or rural stop like the one to the left. There is part of me that longs for the solitude of a country road, a place where I can sit and rest a spell without all the hustle and bustle of the big city. Yes, I am so ready to settle down and start living my life. I am tired of always passing through, waiting for tomorrow, and looking forward to the conductor's call "next stop…" and knowing that it is not mine, not yet, anyway. I want to be ready to get off the train as soon as He calls "this is it, this is your stop, Carol." I will jump off that train, and I will rush to find my little place, my spot where I can set down roots, and begin the business of living. No more school, no more transitional work, no more waiting…no more waiting. I am ready, Lord, ready for you to call me to stop and rest (permanently). Until then, of course, I stay on the train He has me on, and I look at the window as I see the world pass by. I wonder about what I am seeing, the faces of the people on the platforms as I zoom pass them. I wonder about their lives, about where they are on their faith journey. Are they just beginning their walk or are they a seasoned traveler like I am? I just don't know, I just don't know.

It is an interesting paradigm when you consider that we are living in a temporary place but longing and yearning for an eternal home. Our time is in His hands, and we wait so patiently as He moves in and through us, shaping, changing us, and reforming us so that we reflect His character more perfectly. I know that I have such a long way to go. I am not where I should be or need to be. I still have issues, concerns, worries, fears and doubts, but PTL, I am making good progress. I am finding the way easier, even when the path becomes more difficult. I guess you could say that in some ways I have found my 'groove' with the Lord. I am walking step in step with Him. In this way, we are moving through this life, tackling every challenge, and overcoming all obstacles together -- in unison, in harmony, and as one "unit." It is the parable of the oxen and the yoke. I have come to learn how to walk beside the Lord, and in doing so, we are making even strides and very good time. You see, when I was younger and less experienced in the Lord, my stride often didn't match His. I was either too fast or too slow. Our gait was halted, and we didn't make good time because our movements were not synced together. But once I realized that He would not speed up or slow down on my accord, but rather He would continue to walk steady on until I learned to keep His stride. This learning how to walk with the Lord has taken a long time for me to understand, but now that I get it, I find that the Word in Matthew 11:29 NKJV is true -- when I take His yoke upon me, and pick up His burden, my way is easy and light. But, but…I must walk in stride with Him. I must pattern my steps to match His, and not the other way around.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Learning Yet Again How to Rest

Will I ever learn the secret to "resting in the Lord?" I am sure I will, at some point in time, but until I do, I will continue to apply my learning (as Augustine said "learned ignorance" because everything we know comes from God) to each and every situation. I will try to put into practice Scripture, and to live out the truth so that others will see it. I will try to do my best, knowing that I will fail, and that my sin nature will always get in the way of everything. Yet, I will surrender and submit, and I will yield to Him so that my work is His work, and in that way, He will receive all honor, praise and glory. To God be the Glory forever, and ever, Amen.

Walking with the Lord is just as important as walking in the Lord. I think often we misread Scripture and our understanding of our faith walk becomes more about the mystical experience rather than the practical fact that we must WALK along side of Him. We focus at times on the experiences we are having, the power emotions we feel, and we forget that we must 'get up and walk.' Jesus told the paralytic to take up his mat and walk (for purpose, for effect, of course), but we too must remember that like that lame man, we were once dead in our trespasses, lost to God, and through the great mercy of His forgiveness and the free gift of salvation, we have been healed, redeemed, and restored to a right relationship with Him. We must take up our pallet and walk. We must be active and walk. Not sit around idly waiting for experiences or always pondering the mysteries -- no -- we must be active in the Lord's work, day in and day out, until He turns to rapture us and bring us home.

I have learned that walking takes practice. Just like an infant who starts out crawling to get from point A to B, walking takes time to learn. Infants do not learn to walk on their own. No, they usually get help from their parents, and then with some coaching, they learn how to stand up and then take one, two, or three steps. In time, they go from toddling to walking to running. Likewise, in faith, we start out following the Lord like an infant. We pass through stages, from crawling to toddling to walking. Eventually, we run the race of faith -- never giving in and never giving up. We run the race -- looking forward to the prize that waits for us at the finish line. All along, we see the Lord as our parent, our coach, and our companion. In this way, we come into deeper fellowship with Him, we come to trust Him, to rely on Him, to listen and abide in Him. Finally, we rest along with Him, and then we experience His goodness in ways unknown previously. This progressive relationship takes time and it takes commitment. You cannot be "best friends" with someone on the first meeting or after one or two casual meetings. No, it takes time, and a concerted effort to develop a friendship like this and once it has been created, nurtured, and developed, it will bear fruit, and it will become strong, stable, and long-lasting.

Today, I remember my faith walk, how I went from infant to child to teen to adult to mature adult. The Lord has been with me, steadily helping me, coaching me, and now walking with me. I am blessed, so very blessed, and I love the Lord more today than ever before. He is my friend, my companion, and the One with whom I am wholly devoted to and following after all the days of my life. Yes, He is good, so very good, and His goodness is everywhere, all around me. I bear witness and testimony to His goodness. He is good, so very good to me!

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