December 27, 2015

Getting Ready to Go!

It is a good Sunday here in sunny and very cool Phoenix. I woke up stiff, beyond stiff, so I am sitting here today and working at the computer rather than in church. I know, I know...slacker! I made the decision this morning to stay at home one more day so that I could be ready for my afternoon call with my colleague (to begin going over our notes).

Next Sunday, however, starts the new year, and I plan to attend church every Sunday, Lord willing. I am at the point where I can have a normal life again, Praise God! No more Sunday's spent writing papers or grading papers. My schedule is low-key going into January, and with the exception of my study time, I should be able to handle everything without giving up my Sunday worship and praise time. I am blessed, so blessed!

Making Plans and Getting Ready to "Go!"

I am starting to think about the week ahead, and the fact that I am counting down to my start date: my study date of January 1, 2016. I have planned out my exam preparation to be six-week's exactly from January 1st to February 10th. I started my prepping about 16 week's out, and though I didn't get as much done as I had hoped, I did make good progress throughout the busy months of November and December. I worked in "fits and starts" mostly, but I did get a game plan created, collected most of my materials, and started to prepare my study guides/notes, which will be required for January's intensive study sessions. So in short, I am almost ready. I have one more week, and I should be good to "go" by my target date. Praise God! He is good, so very good to me.

Today is a good day for making plans. Yes, I have a to-do list that seems like it is a mile long, but I am going to be steady and disciplined so that I can focus on what matters most to me. I need to finish my study notes for my exams (due by 1/1/16). I also need to prepare for my new semester courses (1/3/16). Other than these two major items, I have some smaller tasks that will need some of my time. Mostly, I have to un-decorate the house (inside and out) as well as update my professor on my dissertation research (a leftover from December). He is kind to me, so I know that he will not have an issue that I am so far behind on that task. In truth, I made a change to my proposal, and well, that sort of caused a minor setback. I am back on task, on target, so I really just need to update him and let him know to disregard what I was saying and that I am content to remain fixed on this path. He will be pleased, I am sure of it.

It is such a weird feeling today, I mean, to be sitting here thinking that Christmas is over and that the new year is just around the corner. I was so pathetic this past week -- whining in my soup, so to speak -- feeling all depressed and unsettled when in truth, I am in a very good place, a very good place. The Lord is gracious to me, and while I whine, He is rock-steady. He is so good, so very good. I am glad that the Lord is not moved by out actions. I am so glad that He is my rock and my redeemer (Selah!)

This morning, I am thinking about the Lord as my rock, my steadfast partner who is making this process, this program, and this plan come to pass. I can do nothing in my own strength, yet, He is able, no more than able, to do everything He purposes and plans to do. Selah!

Psalm 144, verses 2-3 say remind us of this fact,

Blessed be the LORD, my rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle; My lovingkindness and my fortress, My stronghold and my deliverer, My shield and He in whom I take refuge, Who subdues my people under me. LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You think of him?

I cannot help by respond as David does in verse 9,

I will sing a new song to You, O God; Upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You!

As I consider the plans the Lord has for my life, I know this for sure: I can do nothing toward making His plan come to pass. I am absolutely unable to tackle this next phase in my own strength, through my own efforts, or even with my own mind (thinking processes). I can do nothing at all toward this end because it is His work, His product, and it will be for His Name and His Praise, and ultimately, for His Glory. Selah (pause and calmly think about it!)

This past week has been rough on me, really rough. I cannot really explain it any other way than to say that I was hard pressed and with that pressure, came a downward spiral into dissatisfaction and depression. I think it all started two weeks ago, well before Christmas, when I started to consider taking a different way through my study and exams and even my dissertation. The Lord has been steady with me, as in keen to keep my ship afloat and moving in the same direction. I took a tack that I thought was of the Lord when in reality it wasn't. I knew it, I felt it, and rather than immediately recalculating to get me back on point, I let this ship float perilously close to rough waters. I knew better, of course I did, but with the pressure, the exhaustion, and all the fuss around the house, well, I just let the current take me where it wanted. In the end, I felt miserable, depressed, and really downcast. I believed that what was happening, while it was the Lord's will, wasn't as rosy or cheery as I had once hoped. I began to think in darker terms, more difficult lines, and through that process of dark thinking, my mind became very foggy, very unclear. 

As a result, I lost steam, momentum, and I started to feel my feet slipping and sliding off the solid rock. I knew I had to do something, and do something quick, but instead of standing firm against the enemy, I let myself sink back, to slide down from where I was to this place where I am now. I lost my forward progression, and in a moment's time, I felt as though everything I had worked for, everything I was working for, was slowly idling and dying like a flame being extinguished. In short, I was miserable. 

I tried to blog my way out of the funk. I tried to pray my way through it. I even tried to argue, to be defensive, but nothing was working. Nothing was making a difference, and I kept feeling so awful, so awful. Finally, I started to wake up, to rouse myself from the bitter thoughts, and yesterday, praise be to God, I found some clarity, some hope. I prayed over my situation, and I asked the Lord for His help (again). This time, I confessed my error, my fault, and my wayward thinking, and with His grace and mercy, the fog lifted, and the clarity returned. I realize now what I did, the mistake I made, and how one small diversion gave the enemy a stronghold, a foothold. As my enemy gained strength in his attack against me, I felt myself being sucked under, pulled out and away from my destined path, from God's plan for my life. I felt myself being dragged away, farther and farther from where I knew I was to remain, where I was to stay, to stand, to be steady. I could see it happening right before my eyes, but the enemy has subtle tactics and his ways are crafty and cunning. And, yes, just like Eve in the garden, I was tempted with clever lies that caused me to think, to think if the Lord's word to me was true, if the testimony I received from the Lord was accurate. In one small moment, I went from the heights of expectancy and anticipation down to the depths of despair. In a tiny instant, I found myself lost, confused, and questioning what I had only believed as truth the day before. How could this be? How did I allow this to happen?

Turning Around and Heading Back Home

As I found myself so lost, so confused, and so feeling as if I was unable to do anything of good value, I made the turn around. I turned my proverbial ship around, and I started back to the place of safe water where I had once sailed so easily by. I remembered the word of the Lord, I heard His call to come back, to return, and so I did. I turned my ship around, and I sailed back to where I once was, to that place where I was safe, comfortable, and cared for so keenly. Yes, the Lord graciously waited for my return, and once I was safely back in the harbor of His will, I began to see the clear blue sky again. It took some time to sail back because I had allowed the current to pull me quite far away. In the end, however, the journey back took far less time than it did when I sailed out. I am thankful that the Lord chose for me to explore this territory because it showed me so very clearly the difference between the calm waters of His blessed will, and the raging sea that lays beyond it. He is good, so very good to me!

The truth be told, and all metaphors aside, I found that I had made a decision to pursue a course of study that while under the Lord's overarching will for my life, wasn't the choice He had made for me. I chose, instead, to consider doing something different, something that was aligned, but not exactly His will for me. Furthermore, as I considered this path, I started to think about ways that it could produce results that seemed like better choices than what I thought previously had been the Lord's determination for me. I started to think about His will for my life, and about my current situation (what with my parents, my son, etc.) and I started to make plans that I thought would solve all these current issues. I felt that these plans were good, made good sense, and that in thinking about them, well, they just seemed like a natural conclusion, a natural way out of my troubles. In hindsight, I realize that what I was doing was trying to create solutions that were "good in my own eyes," but not the solutions that the Lord intended to provide to me. I was using my own mind, my own strength, my own logic, so to speak, to make changes to my life in order to bring to pass what I believed was the Lord's will. I guess you could say that I was trying to make a "silk purse out of a sow's ear" (as the axiom says). I was trying to create my own way, just like Cain did with his sacrifice to God. Instead of obeying the Lord, and offering what was approved by Him, I tried to get Him to accept my less than perfect gift. 

I thought to myself, "It makes such good human sense, and well, it seems so practical, so available, so ready and at hand. Why wouldn't it be acceptable to you, Lord?"


Thus, after a time in the wilderness of rough waters, I realized my error, and I returned. I offered to Him the sacrifice He desires:

Hosea 6:6 NLT - I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.

Psalm 51:17 NLT - The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

And finally, 

Romans 12:1 NASB - Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

I made the sacrifice many years ago when I laid my life down and said that I was willing to follow after Him, to obey, to honor, and to adore Him. I chose then to willingly become a wholly devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have made attestation to that fact time and time again, and yet, with such ease, I was pulled away to attempt to create something that was made with human hands, rather than the living sacrifice the Lord desires. Yes, I attempted to offer to Him something of my own hand rather than my very life, which was bought with a price that can never be repaid (Selah!)

Therefore, today, I sit here humbly in this position as I try, no I attempt to do this work, this amazing, this wonderful, and this impossible work that He has called me to do. I sit here amazed at His power, His presence, and His provision. I am awe-struck and I am undone at the thought that the Lord desires to use me in this way, to see me through this journey, and to provide, no to give to me such honor, such praise, and yes, even such glory. I deserve it not, and while I am thankful that He has chosen this ministry, this program for me to be involved in, I stand in such awe of His grace. He is everything, and I am nothing. He is amazing, and I am flawed and failed human flesh. God is good, so very good. I am in awe of Him this good, good day. Praise be to God, He is good, so very good! Selah!

Dear Lord,

I confess to you today that I have strayed from your perfect course for my life. I don't understand fully what I did or how I did it, but I know today that I walked after temptation and in doing so, I found myself utterly alone and defenseless in a place where I clearly did not belong. I ask now, Lord, that you will reveal this to me so that I will understand how this happened and why, and then I will know how not to allow it to happen again (should my enemy attempt the same or a similar maneuver in the future). I ask today, Lord, that you would bless my efforts, however futile they are, and that your word and your will be made evident in my life. I ask for your mercy and your goodness to prevail, for my thoughts to be kept pure, and my heart and my mind to be fixed, no transformed by your glorious praise so that I desire nothing but the work you have set before me. May I no longer look to the left or the right, but may I only look toward you, Lord Jesus, and toward your perfect path, your plan and your provision for every need, every wish, and every desire in my life. I pray this now in your matchless, merciful and majestic Name, Amen. Selah!

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