September 8, 2015

Post Labor Day

Happy Tuesday! Yes, it is a good day to be alive, to be well, and to be living in the place the Lord has chosen for me. I am good today, feeling well, and generally, have an upbeat attitude. My feet are still sore (and only after 1 hour standing), so tomorrow, I will definitely get to test out my new shoes (Dr. Schols) to see if they will help prevent this foot, shin and leg pain. Overall, I would say that I feel good, and I feel content to be where I am, doing the thing I am doing, and living in the way the Lord has called me to live.

It is a good feeling to know that life is working toward my good, for my good, and ultimately, to bring God glory and honor and praise. I know my life is blessed, and that while I may have struggles and challenges (like the next person), I am living a rather calm, ordered, and restful life. There are many people who do not have this measure of comfort. They are struggling to make ends meet, and to figure out a way to put food on their table tonight. Moreover, they are dealing with significant health issues, family challenges, and other concerns that cause them to feel depressed and anxious about the purpose of their life and even, if their life matters. I am in a place of relative ease, so while I may not have everything I want or think I need, I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and good practical work to do each day that pays me a living wage. I live comfortably, and I am thankful for everything I have (my manna from heaven) and need.

Peace and Sleep

Psalm 4:8 states, "In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety." These words of comfort remind us that it is the Lord who is responsible for our safe-keeping. Often, I struggle with feeling safe. This is, in part, due to my childhood experiences where I was bullied and assaulted by other children and teens. I grew up learning to fear unknown situations, unfamiliar places, and generally, people I didn't know. Over time, I have learned to deal with my fear, and through counseling and Bible study, I have come to learn that my Lord is my refuge and my strength. He is my strong tower, and when I am afraid, I can run to Him and He will keep me safe.

The key words in this short passage, the ones that mean the most to me are, peace and sleep. Peace is defined as "freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility" ( Sleep is "a naturally recurring state of mind characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced interactions with surroundings" (Wikipedia). We all know and understand what it means to sleep, so it seems silly to define it. But if you think about it, when we sleep, we are most vulnerable because our senses are limited and we have very little muscle control. In short, if our sleep is disturbed by loud noises (say the crash of something inside or right outside our window), we react abruptly. For those of us who suffered sleep disturbances (like sleep apnea or deprivation), our lack of sleep has caused significant physical problems. Therefore, being able to sleep in the peace (the quiet and tranquility) of the night is critical to maintaining a proper mind, a healthy body, and a long life. Thus, knowing that the Lord provides both peace and sleep to us (figuratively and literally) can be good news. The Lord makes me to dwell in safety, and He gives me peace at night so I can sleep soundly. He is good to provide sleep and a peaceful surrounding so that I can rest well.

Resting, therefore, is central to the Lord's will for each of His children's lives. We must learn to rest (to cease striving) in order to experience this greater sense of peace and to enjoy sound sleep. Resting from our work (the Sabbath) or resting from our worries will enable us to appreciate all that the Lord is doing in our lives each day. We will be able to know and to recognize His hand of blessing upon us simply because we are awake, alert, and ready to "see" the goodness of the Lord as He walks among us.

For some Christians, though, they never experience true peace because they never stop trying to be in control of everything. They strive to excel and to make a name for themselves in this world. They try to accumulate material possessions instead of focusing on eternal rewards of a life lived sacrificially for the Lord. They are always busy (sometimes for the Lord, sometimes for their own benefit), and rarely, do they stop to rest, to reflect, and to renew their strength. They simply go, go, go, and with all that "going," they forfeit the peace the Lord offers to them. In order to experience true peace, the believer in Christ must stop what they are doing (going), and they must turn around and patiently wait for the Lord the lead them. Leading and guiding are the opposite of being in control and "going." The more a Christian refuses to let the Lord lead, the more they will find their peace lacking, their sleep disturbed, and ultimately, their relationship with the Lord and with others impacted. In essence, because they cannot trust Him enough -- to stop, to let go, and to let Him be their refuge and their safe zone -- they miss out on the blessed peace that comes through dependency upon God.

I learned this lesson of trust, of rest, and of peace the hard way. I learned to let go by having the Lord take away from me the things that I thought were most important to me. As these "things" in my life slipped away from me, I had to focus on what was left, what remained, and that was my relationship with God. The more I focused on Him, the more I was able to accept that these "things," while not necessary bad or evil, were not always good for me (or in my best interest). As I learned how to live without these things, I came to realize that the Lord had other ideas about what He wanted for my life, ideas that were different from my own. Little by little, I learned that His way is good, that His thoughts are higher than mine, and that the plans He has for me, are always better than the plans I create or dream. In short, I learned that through this process of letting go, I gained a new perspective on life, a fresh appreciation of what was really "good," and what my purpose or calling is in order for me to fulfill the Lord's expressed will. Yes, I learned that to trust Him was a good thing, a very good thing. To rest in His sufficiency and provision brought peace, and to abide (or walk with Him) ensured my safety and my well-being. In all, I came into a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Lord, and as a result, I am now seeking, walking, and living in a brand new (very good) way.

As I consider my day, I realize that I am where I am because I learned (yes, the hard way) to let go of the details of my life. I learned that in order for me to walk in peace, to live in peace, and to work in peace, I had to stop trying to control the outcome of everything I did, I thought, or I considered. I had to let God be in control, and in doing so, I had to take my hand off, to surrender my desires, my wants, and my dreams, trusting Him enough so that He could begin to unravel all that was not "good" in my life and replace it with all that is "good."

Today, I reflect on all that is good in my life. When I made a list of what is good, what is blessed, and what is meaningful to me, this is what I come up with:
  1. My purpose - I know my purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. To that end, my life is predicated on living in such a way as to bring God glory.
  2. My work - I am actively engaged in good productive work. I teach students English and Communication, and each day, I am able to say "I do good work." I feel satisfied in my efforts, my outcomes, and my ability to produce good daily work.
  3. My ministry - I am called to encourage others to seek the Lord, to turn from the error of their ways, to reject false doctrine, and to embrace a life devoted to loving and serving God and others. I do this ministry through my everyday interactions and my teaching, but I also do this work through scholarship and writing curriculum. I am active in ministry every day simply because I am aware of my spiritual gifts and how God intends for me to use them to bring Him glory and praise.
  4. My life - I am comfortable in my life. I am not wealthy, and I don't anticipate being wealthy. However, I am able to provide for myself, my son, and my parents, so in truth, I am a very wealthy person. I have good relationships with my family, good friendships, and good interests (things that challenge me, sustain me, and provide "food for thought"). My life is good, and I am well-provided for with my needs being met with His sufficiency.
  5. My future - I am secure in my future hopes, dreams and aspirations. The goals I have are His goals, and the tasks I do are all geared toward fulfilling each goal He has set for me. I am enjoying the process of learning new things, adopting new skills, and being made better (as a teacher, a Mom, a friend, etc.) through the daily interaction I have with my students, my colleagues, and my studies. 
I sit here, and I know -- no, I am confirmed -- that my life is good. There is nothing out of sorts, out of frame, or out of control. I am in a very good place today, and even with the challenges I face, I am strong in the Lord. I am secure in His plans for my future, and I am ready and responsible to take this next BIG BOLD step of faith. He is good, so very good, and I know I can trust, I can rely, and I can rest in Him. Always, in HIM.

To God be the praise, the honor, and the glory forever and ever, Amen.

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