March 31, 2016

UN Thinking the Past

It is a good day today. I am home (PTL!) and at rest. I slept well for most of the night, but woke to my boys playing in my room around 5 am. I struggled to keep them quiet, so rather than getting up and staying up, I played "shush the cat" until about 6:30. Finally, they found something else to interest them, and I fell back asleep until almost 9:30. Needless to say, I have that "I'm hungover" feeling right now. Sigh!

After I got up (finally), and made my way to the kitchen for coffee, I realized that during the many attack sessions last night, the boys had knocked over my coffee cup on my desk. It was my fault for leaving my thermos mug with some coffee still in it. My mousepad took the majority of the liquid (thank you, Lord), and the floor the rest. It was a sticky mess, but at the least, nothing valuable was lost. Perhaps this was why Winston was trying to get me up. Perhaps he was trying to tell me, "Hey Mom! Look what Ike did!" Yeah, they play rough, and typically it is Ike who is the lesser of the two when it comes to graceful moves. At 17 pounds it is no wonder he doesn't move as quickly as his brother does! LOL!

It is 9:45 and my mouse pad has been freshly scrubbed, the floor mopped, and generally, my desk cleaned. I guess you could say I am ready to start my day. Let this be a good day, Lord, a really good day!

Thanking the Lord for His Goodness

It is March 31st, the last day of the month, and I am home enjoying the blessed warm spring weather. Our forecast today is for cooler temps, and for that, I am thankful. It is normal for us to start seeing 90 degree days at the turn of the month, and yet, we have had mostly 70s-80s all month long. I am loving this weather pattern, but I know that come summer, the cool spring could send us very hot and dry summers. Let us pray for a wet monsoon this year!

Yesterday was a really good day for me. I wasn't so tired (as I was on Monday), and my classes went really, really well. I felt energized and ready to tackle the day, and for the most part, my classes seemed to enjoy the content. I felt so good leaving the school yesterday, and I thought, "Yes, this is why I teach." Furthermore, I ran into several students who stopped to say hello (from former semesters), and even spent time meeting with three who needed help with assignments. I love it when I can help students personally. Unfortunately, very few came to see me this semester, and their grades have reflected that fact. Still, it is always good when I can help, and I love to help them see what they are doing wrong. I love to sit with them to go over their papers whenever I can do it.

As I left campus, I was praying to the Lord. I simply thanked Him for His provision of good practical work. I thanked Him for the jobs I have, for my contracts for fall, and for the opportunities for applying to new schools that are either in process or yet to take place. In all, I rested in my work. I simply gave Him thanks for where I am at, and I placed my faith and my trust for my future in His hands. I gave Him the praise for all His good works, and then I let go. I just let it go. I said, "Lord, you have this planned, and you know what is to be. I thank you for what has come to pass, but now I let all that go, and I trust you for all my tomorrows." Yes, in many ways, I prayed through Matthew 6:34, where we read Jesus' words to His disciples, "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

In all my worry, my fear, and my doubt, I realized that too often I focus on what either has been or what has yet to become -- all without really focusing on the power and authority (Jesus) -- who is able to change my tomorrows in an instant. Yes, when we focus on the One who is in control of our days, we can easily let go of what we have experienced or are experiencing, and rest in the unknown future.

This morning, as I was coming out of sleep, I heard the Lord speak into my spirit. I often have these dreams (sort of dreamlike) where I hear the Lord speaking to me. I am not sure if this is what is really happening to me or not, but I hear His voice, and I hear myself responding -- yet I am still asleep. Sometimes, I will wake up and write down what I have heard. Other times, I am just left with an impression, like a fleeting memory of having a conversation without really remembering all the details or content. This is how I felt today.  I mean, I was poked and prodded by my cats for nearly an hour and half, and in between, I did try to fall back to sleep. Still, I recall having a conversation about my future with the Lord.

Whenever I experience this type of conversation, I rarely get details like "this will happen" or "do this." No, rather it is mostly reminders to heed His word, to obey His teaching, to stay focused on the Lord, etc. I will be asleep and I will hear Him call to me. He normally will say something like "Listen!" When I do, the advice I receive always directs me to the word, to something in the word, and serves as a reminder that in the coming days I need to remember to do something -- like stay fast, do not move, keep faithful, etc.

This morning the reminder was simply this: I am to obey His word. I am to follow all that He has commanded me to do. I am to remain steadfast. He will take care of the rest, but it is imperative for me to stay focused on His word.

Yes, not earth shattering news by any stretch of the imagination, but still vitally important advice that the word addresses to all believers in Jesus Christ. Give heed -- pay attention -- stay alert. I am not sure what is going to happen over the next few weeks, but whatever is to come, the Lord apparently wants me to be ready for it. His word, thus, is critical to help me see my way through whatever is next up on the agenda.

It is funny, really, how this happens. I mean, I just get these messages, and then usually I forget them as soon as they come to me. Sometimes I have lingering memories of the conversation, but mostly, I simply remember the "heeding" part -- the pay attention part. I remember that the Lord wants me to pay attention to Him, to His word, and to what He is doing in my life. I am to "look up" to Him, to stay focused on Him. In doing so, whatever comes my way is sure to pass without a hitch -- so long as I remember to do my part. Stay in the game, Carol. Keep your head in control, and remain calm, steadfast, and ready to jump into action.

Okay, Lord. I got it. I will do as you ask me to do. I will remember to be faithful, obedient, and trusting as you lead and guide me over the next couple weeks. Selah!

Unthinking the Past

What does it mean to unthink? It is a curious term, but one that is defined in many dictionaries. Collins says that unthinking means "not thinking" or not "able to think". The Free Dictionary defines unthinking as "Not taking due thought" or acting "thoughtless or heedless." The idea being that the unthinking person acts in such as way as to not give careful consideration to their actions. The person who unthinks rarely gives themselves time to reflect, to think deeply about a decision (for example). Often the unthinking person engages in careless thought or careless behavior. Thus to unthink really means that time spent in reflection is reduced to such an extent that decisions or actions are made in the moment, instantaneously, and often without consideration for outcomes or effects.

Therefore, to unthink the past, one must look at their past with careless abandon, and they must fail to recognize that choices, decisions, and actions precipitated one another. In short, when we treat the past carelessly, we do not take careful consideration of how the past leads us to the present. We jump to conclusions about how one event triggered another or even we reject ideas that suggest a particular choice served as a primary cause or motivating agent that in turn led us to the path we are on today.

It is a curious turn of phrase, one that is found mostly in physics (Quantum Physics), mathematics, and cultural studies. The idea behind the concept is simply this -- how we see the past will determine our future vision. In Quantum Physics Theory there is the suggestion that all of existence is predicated on various dimensions of reality. In this way, individuals exist within multiple frames of time, with each time containing the past, present, and the future. The individual in dimension 1 is observed by themselves in dimension 2, which in turn is observed by a next level dimension. The mind-picture is one of ever expanding dimensions (almost like boxes) that exist inside of one another. This suggests that time is relative to the dimension containing it. I am not a physicist, and I don't necessarily buy this theory, but I do think of time as expanding, and I do think of the universe as multidimensional space. Moreover, I do believe God exists outside the dimension in which we inhabit. Subsequently, my life, while not being observed by another version of "me" simply functions within the time-space dimension where I exist. God is outside this time-space, but He breaks through the time-space to interact and to intervene as He determines best. He is ever present because He is able to see into time-space from His perspective outside of it.

When I say that it is time to unthink the past, I am simply suggesting that once you have spent considerable time reflecting on the past, considering it carefully, and drawing inference from it, then a time comes to let it go. I mean, once you have drawn all the necessary information from analysis of the past, a decision must be made as to what to do with all that data. Does it get stored somewhere for future use or do you discard it as not worthy of wasting memory space? In my case, I have spent the past 12 years rethinking the past, reflecting on it, analyzing it, and determining how the past helped to shape my future (or my present state). I am now ready to discharge it all, to unthink, so to speak. My memories have been recorded on my blog, and they will remain here for as long as the Lord desires them to be here. But, going forward, my emphasis will not be on the past, but rather on the present. On events that are happening today, and on forward thinking, thinking that looks to the future instead of the past. 

Linguistics, Semiotics and Pragmatics

The Lord placed this idea of future thinking on my heart a couple weeks ago. He had directed me to look into Semiotics, which is the study of signs and symbols and how signs, symbols and systems of symbols function to communication ideas. In semiotics, there are a number of schools of thought, mostly focusing on language structure and use. But there is also emphasis on pragmatics, which seeks to understand how signs and symbols are used in context to convey meaning. Pragmatics studies the relationship between words, ideas, symbols, etc. as they relate to making meaning. It is a sub-discipline of linguistics and semiotics, and ever since I studied English for my Masters program, I have been keenly interested in this discipline. The problem, however, is that no one teaches pragmatics in the US anymore. Most of the work is being taught in the UK and in Europe. So short of me picking up stakes and moving to the UK, the likelihood that I could study it seems difficult or impossible. Yet, I desire to study it, at the least, to understand it more, and for whatever reason the Lord has graciously suggested it to me. 

I looked at one program here in the US, but it is on Future Studies only. This is a branch of theology that studies the second return of our Lord. This interests me as well, but the program is only open to students with Mdiv degrees, and frankly, I don't see myself taking a longer degree than my PhD at this point in time. Thus, I am not sure how I can study semiotics, linguistics or pragmatics unless there are online programs that do not require substantial residency requirements.

Why Pragmatics?

I am interested in relationships, and I think this is why I enjoy teaching causal analysis to my students. I really enjoy understanding relationships between events, to see how events trigger other events, and how these events determine specific outcomes. In language use, I am interested in how words, really ideas (the thoughts behind the words) function to convey meaning (personally or interpersonally). With communication as my focus rather than language study, I am keening interested in how we use words to communicate ideas about God, His word, and His desire for mankind redemption. Thus, I would like to study pragmatics in order to be better equipped to minister to the Church, and to help individuals (pastors, teachers, and others in leadership) learn how to use language more effectively. I feel the Lord calling me to study this branch of language use so that the Church can develop better systems of thought, predicated on His word, but systems of thought that will break through the clutter, the confusion, that is the result of postmodern/enlightenment thinking. I see this as vitally necessary as we move forward in time, and as we draw near to the Lord's future return.

Language is vitally important for communication. I love rhetoric, which is the study of how we use language to persuade or convince others, but linguistics and the various disciplines associated with it give me the greatest interest because these areas of study allow me to look at how thoughts, ideas, and words are used relationally and within context to convey a message. Communication requires both a sender and a receiver along with a message, and since the goal of any communication effort is to convey meaning, understanding how to create messages that will be received is paramount for success. In Christian context, this simply means that as our culture's language systems change due to postmodern thought, we must adapt how we speak in order to communicate successfully with our friends, family, and others who need to hear the message we speak. In communication study, Kierkegaard believed that the best way to communicate the message of Christ was through indirect means, suggesting that the best way to communication was not with direct words, but with stories that conveyed meaning but that required the listener to interpret for themselves the meaning of the story. I love indirect communication, but I see this approach as a method that no longer has the power to persuade, to change minds, simply because with postmodern thought predicated on relativism, we see that the interpretation by the many can easily be distorted. Thus, in my view, we need a new system, a new way of communicating whereby we can shift the message, transform it to such an extent, so that the listener receives it directly.

Why is the current way (historical way) not good enough?

This really is the $64M question. Hasn't the Word gone forth successfully for thousands of years? Yes, this is true. The Holy Spirit is able to transform the hearts and minds of the listener to receive the word of God as it is spoken by preachers, teachers, pastors, and others. However, the postmodern mind has changed to such an extent that certain "universals" are no longer accepted. One of the biggest universals is the belief that God exists. It is difficult to preach the gospel to a world that no longer believes that God exists (thank you, Nietzsche).  Furthermore, since relativism reared its ugly head and became the predominate thought system in the world, we have seen a decline in the rational belief in God. Yes, I say rational because whether you want to believe it or not, for the majority of the modern era, rational man believed that God existed in nature or in person or in combination. The majority of ancient minds accepted the reality of a God at work or present within the dimension of universal understanding. It has only been since the Enlightenment that thinking on this matter shifted to a belief that man was and is the center of all knowledge. God was moved to the periphery and in time, has been replaced by thought that suggests He is either dead or no longer necessary to the survival of humanity. Relativism, thus is a moral philosophy that states, "that all points of view are equally valid" ( According to Slick (2016), relativism asserts "that all moral positions, all religious systems, all art forms, all political movements, etc., are truths that are relative to the individual" (para. 1). Relativism is one of the strongest systems of thought in the world today, and coupled with atheism, which is defined as "anything from a lack of belief in God to a total denial of His existence" (Slick, 2016, para. 1), the average person's frame of reference is in complete dissonance (or disharmony) with Christian teaching and philosophy. In short, with the rise in these postmodern lines of thought, the work of the evangelist, apologist, and preacher has become difficult, if not, impossible to carry out. Therefore, I believe that the Lord is calling me, in particular, to study ways in which we can use language (words, ideas, etc.) more effectively to break through these strongholds. Yes, this effort will be only partially effective because we no that no one is converted without the active agency of the Holy Spirit. However, learning how to teach, preach, and reach this postmodern generation could have valuable and necessary consequences on the success of ministering to a lost and dying world. It is my hope that as the Lord leads and guides me, He will help me to do this work without failing to consider the efficacy of His spirit in and through it. 

Future Thinking Requires Letting Go of the Past

Yes, as I consider my future, I realize that to accept what God is calling me to do, I must let go of my past, my reliance upon past thinking. I must accept it as finished, and I must move on to what He has in mind for me next. I must take up this mantle of service, of ministry, and I must look to the future, realizing that everything that has happened to me in the past served in part to create the desires and the interests I have today. Everything that has happened to me, happened for a reason, and that reason is to prepare me to do this particular, this very specific, and this very difficult work. Selah! 

Some Thoughts for Now

For the near term, the foreseeable future, my focus is on finishing my dissertation and graduating from Regent University. I am also dependent upon the Lord for His placement in a full-time position. I know that the time will pass, and He will provide so I am letting this go for now. He knows my needs, and He knows where He wants me to work. I let this be so He can move as He needs to move. I also need to take care of my parents and my son, so my life is very structured around home right now. In time, the Lord will open the door for me to go, and I believe He will remove all barriers and obstacles so that I can go easily or with ease. I don't need to fixate on the how or when, I just need to be ready to do as He asks me. I am ready, Lord. I am ready.

Several options do come to mind, so I am prayerfully considering them now. The first is to move closer to my good friend, with whom I believe the Lord has knitted our hearts together. If this is the Lord's will, then so be it. The second, of course, is to go to the place the Lord has in mind for ministry or where He intends for me to begin this ministry effort. The two may be intwined (as I hope they are), but until I know for certain, I am to wait and to watch as the Lord leads. He will make a way, and the I will go the way of His direction.

Lastly, as I think about all of this today, I marvel at His goodness. I marvel at the way He opens doors, and also the way He closes them. I marvel at His provision, His timing, and most of all, His protection. I marvel at what He does in my life, and how He leads me onward. I marvel most of all at His love, His mercy, and His grace because without these I would be lost forever. He has made all this possible, from start to finish. He has made my life turn into something beautiful, and for that, I am eternally thankful and grateful. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

March 30, 2016

Moving On with GUSTO!

It is a good Wednesday, and as I sit here at my home computer, I marvel at the fact that there are only four more weeks of school left. I am ready for summer break, so ready, but part of me feels the crunch of the time, the sadness at seeing this semester end. I have enjoyed teaching at GCU, and I feel that my last semester here has been kind of a let down for me. I am hopeful that I will receive a full-time offer soon, so for all intents and purposes, this could be my "last" semester teaching locally. Of course, only the Lord knows what will be, so there is always the chance that I will be back at GCU and at ACU for one more go-round come fall. My prayer, my hope, and my desire is to move on. I am ready to move on. I am ready to start living my life as a full-time faculty member and not as an adjunct/graduate student any more. I need the security of full-time, but also, I simply want to start living "de facto" as a teacher. Let me explain...

I think most graduate students understand my feelings on the matter. I mean, for many of us, we are in school to earn a degree that will provide a career path to follow. Take my nursing students, for example. They are in school to become RN's. Somewhere in between their sophomore and junior year in college, they will sit the NCLEX-RN exam, and if they pass, they will be awarded that coveted status of being a credentialed and licensed nurse. At this point, they could start working if they want to do so, but for those students in the BSN program, they will wait until they graduate after four years to enter the workforce. So for these students, moving on means not only passing their state exam, but also completing all the coursework required for a Bachelors of Science degree in Nursing. Once they pass, they graduate, they will seek full-time employment as a nurse. The long hard path and wait will be over, and they will begin their career. No more part-time jobs. No more work as NA's or other health care assistants. They will be licensed and ready to take on their career choice.

In my case, it is very similar. I have been working as an adjunct instructor for three years. I am thankful for the opportunity to teach part-time in this way. It has made it possible for me to graduate at Regent with a 4.0 grade point average. Plus, I have had the time needed to complete all my papers, and even (hopeful) get one published or presented at a conference. Yes, the part-time status has served me well, but now that I am ready to graduate, I am ready to leave part-time work behind. Furthermore, part-time work is not sufficient for me to live on, so while it has been temporarily acceptable, it is not something I can do long-term. No, I need to move on into my career, and the sooner I can do that, the better it will be for me and for my family.

I have been looking for full-time work now for two years. I have applied for numerous positions, all of which would have been good starter places for me. Nothing has materialized, which simply says to me that 1) the job wasn't right or 2) the timing wasn't right. In some cases, it was both issues. The Lord has this worked out, so when He is ready to open that door, the door will open. Until then, I have had to learn patience. I have had to accept the limitations of my skill and ability and rest. I have had to wait for His leading, His guidance, and His provision. It has been hard at times, so very hard, but over the past couple years, I have learned to live within these boundaries. I have learned to accept the size of this box (as my son likes to say). Now, though, I am ready to expand my box, to add on to it, to grow and to change as the Lord leads me. I am ready to go, yet I must wait for His provision, His timing, His perfect solution to my needs.

When will the door open for me? As of right now, I would like to receive a job offer in April or May. This would be perfect timing and it would allow me to graciously exit out of my contracts for fall. However, should the job delay, then I would be hard pressed because I don't want to let these two schools down at the last minute. I know they would understand, but still, they have been gracious to me, so I want to be gracious to them. I want to give proper notice so they can find replacement faculty in time for the new school year.

The Lord knows me well, and He knows my heart. He knows that while I am still stinging from what happened a couple weeks ago when I was criticized regarding my grading, I am still thankful and grateful for the place I have at my schools. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn, to grow, and to develop my skill as a teacher. I am thankful to be where I am, so I want to finish strong. I want to leave on a high note. I want to pursue what the Lord has for me with a clear head, an open mind, and a willingness to go forth with GUSTO! I don't want to slink away or walk away with my head held down in shame. No, I want to go out with a bang! I want to leave feeling that these past three years were the best years of my life!! May it be so, may it be so!!

As I look forward to today, my classes and such, I am reminded that I need to finish strong in my teaching as well as with my own preparation and school work. I need to complete a chapter 1 rewrite this week/weekend, and I need to plan out my next steps for my dissertation. I need to get my focus together so I can move on. I can accomplish this last and final hurdle in this long-road through academia. I know His plans are good, so I look forward, not with intimidation or trepidation, but with faith, with hope, and with optimism. I look up, I look away, and I remember that He is always looking out for me! He is good, so very good to me!

Choosing to Listen and to Obey

The Lord commands and we are called to give Him heed, to listen and then to obey. If we do not, we miss out on hearing His voice, understanding His directions, and even receiving blessing from His hand. So often we become mired down in the details of our day that we forget to listen to His voice, we forget that He is ready to help us, to direct us, and to guide us through difficult passages along the way. I do this often. I forget to listen. Mostly, though I listen, but I choose not to obey.

Obedience is spoken about through the Word of God. We are called to obey His commands. Our Lord Jesus Christ told the disciples (and us by extension) that it is a good thing to obey the commands of the Lord. It is a good thing to listen and to heed His wisdom and His advice for our lives. Yet, obedience is such an old fashioned thing. It seems out of vogue these days. In truth, we see people walk in disobedience every day. Just this weekend, I read on the news how an Easter event was cancelled prematurely because parents didn't follow the rules, and instead, they cheated. The event promoters cancelled the event rather than allow these parents to win illicitly. We see people steal, disobey traffic laws, and even cheat on their employers as well as the government. We see lawlessness all around us, so for people of God, it is vitally important that we uphold the very words of God, and listen to them and obey them. It is for our own good, but it also creates a clear line of demarcation between those that love God and those that do not. Let us be people who obey the word of the Lord always! Selah!

I want to obey the Lord this good day. I want to take heed of His wisdom, His counsel, and His advice so I can enjoy the fruit and the blessing of living in communion with Him. I want to experience His goodness in every area of my life, and to do that, I must be 100% in faithful obedience to His commands and to His word in my life. I am ready, Lord. I want this, so let's do this thing...

Some Things to Consider Today

So here I sit, and I am thinking about this good, good day. It is Wednesday after all, mid week, hump day, and I have the sneaking impression that something wonderful is about to happen to me. Yes, I have this sense that everything is going to come up roses for me this good, good day. I am not sure why, but all of a sudden, I feel GREAT! I feel as though I am about to receive some precious honor, some good thing, some bit of news that will change my life in innumerable ways.

Perhaps it will be a request to interview. Perhaps it will be confirmation on my paper submission (to a national conference). Or perhaps it will be some tangible response to my recent and bold step of faith. I just don't know, but I feel as though the Lord has said to me, "Here you go, my girl! Enjoy this blessing and this favor! You have done well!" I pray that it is so, I do pray that it is so!

There are many things I am contemplating right now, but mostly, I am enjoying the blessing of my life. My days are routine and somewhat boring, but that is okay. I love my life. I love my schedule -- Tuesdays and Thursdays off -- with teaching days in between. I love being a teacher, I love going to campus, and I love the whole "teaching business." I cannot think of anything I want to do more than to do this job. I cannot imagine doing anything different for the rest of my days. I do want a good fit for my next position. I want to work on a campus that is just as lovely, just as nice, and just as accommodating as the ones I am on now. I would like to have an office on campus, for certain, just to have a place to meet with students. I would like to also have a solid schedule where I can be off my feet part of the day. Perhaps something where I teach a class, rest for a period, teach and then rest again. Or some combination, thereof, would work. I just need some downtime each day to offset the strain of standing on my feet.

Thankfully, with teaching, I have options. I have so many options. I can teach online (PTL!) or I can teach on campus. Or I can teach both. I am open to any combination that works for me. I am open to teaching at multiple schools -- teaching online at some, on campus at others. Whatever the Lord decides is good enough for me. He knows what is best, what He wants for my life, and what opportunities He has in mind for me. I am open to go and to do whatever He asks of me. He is good, and I trust Him. I trust His goodness this good, good day!

Lastly, as I think about my tomorrows, I realize that where I am today is the compilation of years of previous tomorrows. Yes, I am here today because of choices I made in the past, decisions I made, and steps I took that have all worked together to bring about this very good day. Thankfully, over the past six-nine years, the choices I have made have been washed through the Word of God and have been placed at His feet. I have not made any decisions that were simply my own. I prayed over every decision, contemplated the outcomes, but in the end, I trusted the Lord to show me the way to go. I followed what I believed were His directions, and the result has been a life that is blessed, so very blessed. It hasn't been perfect, per se, by the world's standard I mean, but it has been perfectly blessed by the very hand of God. I am not rich in material wealth. I am not favored with a powerful position in business. I am not a landowner of property. I am not privileged in any way. Yet, I am rich in spiritual blessing, favored by His grace and mercy, provided with abundant life, and privileged as a daughter of the King. I have all things today because of His grace and His mercy. I am good because He is good. I am saved because He saved me. I have a future filled with hope because He is my hope. I have plans for prosperity and abundance, but only because He is my provision and my abundance. I have everything I need today because I have Him -- I have the Lord -- and I need nothing else. He is my all in all, my sufficiency, my portion and my cup! Selah!

Dear Lord,

Thank you for this good day today. Thank you for your provision, your goodness, and your grace to see just how blessed and favored I am. I trust you, I rest in your sufficiency, and I look to your hand this good day for all that is to come. I know that I am right where you want me to be, and praise to God, it is such a good place. Thank you for covering me with your blessed wings, and for providing a good home, a good job, and a good life to me. May my day be blessed, but only as I obey your commands, your voice, and your word to me. May my life be a reflection of your character, your ministry in and through me. May my words be honoring to you, may my heart be one with yours, and may I go and do your work as you lead and guide me this good, good day. I ask this now in the blessed name of Jesus, my Lord and my Savior, Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

March 29, 2016

Trials of Various Kinds

I am not sure what happened to our normally sunny and warm weather, but I woke up today, and it is chilly outside. And, cloudy and gray! What a lovely change of scene! I am not sure if this weather will stay around long, but I am sure enjoying it this morning. At the least, I am enjoying it from my "perch" (my desk near the window) here in my home office. All is well with the world, so to speak, even if I don't necessarily feel that it is "well." Let me explain...

I didn't sleep well last night. This has been an ongoing struggle for the past three weeks now. I cannot put my finger on the trouble or the underlying issue, but I am not a happy camper. No, I am stressed, really stressed, and nothing I seem to do is helping me to feel rested or relaxed. I started to think about it last night, around 3 a.m. I woke up after a start, and I couldn't get myself back to sleep. I reached for my phone, googled bible verses on anxiety, and spent about five minutes reading them. It did the trick because I was able to fall right back to sleep and rest fairly well for the remaining hours of the night. Clearly, I am undergoing some trial (hence the reference to James 1:2-4 above). I wish I could consider it as "joy," but instead, I am thinking that it is a "bum rap" (really, not very fun at all!)

I cannot grasp what is causing this difficulty. I mean, I am standing my ground, wearing the full armor of God, and proclaiming victory in Jesus. I am reading and reciting Scripture, and I am in prayer continuously asking the Father for clarification, for wisdom (as James 1:5 recommends). Still, nothing seems to be abating. Nothing seems to be working. Why, Lord? What have I done? What must I do to see an end to this torment?

Trials of Various Kinds

There are any number of reasons why I am being tested right now. Some of those reasons are due to my own error or pride. Some, of course, are due to forces outside my control. I cannot determine which is which so I must simply endure the test until the Lord determines it is "enough." Until then, I remain firm, I keep the faith, and I rest in the knowledge that I do have -- that God is in control, that He is on His throne, and that I can do nothing in and of myself or my own strength. No, I come before Him in humility and with yielded heart and hands, and I claim Jesus as my source, my only source, in order to stand the test, to endure the trial, and to eventually find the way out (that blessed open door).

The Word is clear. As believers, we will encounter trials, tests of all sorts, that serve to develop our faith. We are to become mature, to grow up to that full stature of a Godly person, and to do that, we must be tempered by the fire. Trials -- whether we like it or not -- do produce results. Often, we are burnt or singed, but we endure them, we overcome, and we find some meaning at the end of the process. We may not like the process, but we do see results in one way, shape or form.

I am struggling with prolonged testing of my faith, and I do not like it one bit. I mean, this has been a long, long process for me. For weeks now, it seems, I have experienced life filled with strife, trial, and with suffering. I recall the words of Peter who said, "And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you" (1 Peter 5:10 NIV). As I think about his words, I take hope in the thought that in time, God will lift me up and restore me. He will strengthen and establish me -- make me ready and fit -- for whatever He has in store for me next. I need to be patient, that is all, and I need to endure. It is only with patience that we can experience the fruit of the Holy Spirit -- true joy -- as James says. If we patiently endure, the Holy Spirit will help us to bear joy (gladness) despite the trials we are undergoing. I long for joy right now, for happiness, contentment and peace in my life. I want this burden lifted. I want to experience rest, restoration, and relief.

Three Types of Trials

There are three types of trials that seem to afflict me most often. The first type is trial by fire or what I call the trial of experience. It is simply the "going through" process that typically results in a life lesson. I experience life by trying it out, as in "testing" different options to see which one fits me best. I do this with just about every decision I make -- test to see if what I think will work. I guess you could call it "trial by invention" as well because this is usually my approach to life. I come up with some way to resolve a problem or to achieve a goal, and then once I have analyzed the ins and outs of it, I try my best "invention" on. I may succeed or I may fail, but either way, I learn something of value through the experience. I learn what to do or not to do, and I then move to the next step in the plan.

The second type of trial that seems to trip me up is trial that occurs as the result of a lack of trust or faith in God. This is what I call my "doubting trial." Whenever I doubt God, doubt His provision or protection, I tend to endure some trial that proves me wrong. I will often incur some little test that shows me, proves to me that 1) God is faithful, and 2) God is ever-present and that His word is true (He will never leave me nor forsake me).

The third type of trial is the nasty kind, the kind I like least. It is the trial that is purposed for His Name and His praise. This is the type of trial that James is speaking of in chapter 1. This type of trial is purposed for one outcome -- to create perseverance  -- and to build Godly character and discipline. Yes, this is the type of trial that comes through no fault of my own. I didn't ask for it, didn't seek it, and didn't want it, but it comes just the same. Normally, this type of trial blindsides you, hits you when you least expect it, and the duration of it runs anywhere from "quickly over" to "prolonged agony" (think of Job).

As I think about the past three weeks, I am fairly confident that this trial is the latter type. I haven't experienced anything "invented" recently, and I am not in a place of doubting God's provision or His protection. No, I am squarely being tested in order to produce fruit in my life. I am being tested in preparation for ministry, and to show me weakness, my weakness and my inability to stand under the glaring heat of scrutiny. It makes sense to me now, now that I have thought about it more today. I mean, if the Lord desires me to work in ministry, I am going to have to be able to withstand scrutiny and criticism of my work, my ethic, and my abilities. I may not like it, I may not think it is fair, but the truth is that I must be able to withstand it and remain calm. My faith must rest in God alone, and I must not rely on my own feelings. I must resist the temptation to run, to jump ship, and to find the nearest exit door. I must be steady, stable, and strong so that I can do the work the Lord is calling me to do.

I get it. I really do. I just don't like it very much. Sigh!
Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing.
I must be able to do as James instructs us to do. I must look at the trial I face as a joyous experience, as something good and valuable. God has determined that I must go through this trial for a reason, therefore, I must submit to it, and allow its perfect work to be produced. Selah!

 Thus, today as I consider adversity and this prolonged trial, I realize that God is allowing this suffering for a reason, and that reason is to make me ready for ministry. I may not like it. I may not want it to last, but until He removes it from me, is satisfied by the result, etc., I must let this be. I must let Him have His way in me. I must allow Him to make me ready. He is the Potter, and I am the clay. I may not like the shape I am in right now, but I can take great faith in knowing that He will turn this lump of my life into something beautiful. It is just time -- you know -- it just takes time. I would like for everything to be "peachy keen" right now. I would like my life to be "picture perfect," but this is not the case, will not be the case for some time now. I am where I am because He has determined it is best for me to be here. I must rest, I must relent, and I must allow this refining process to take place. I cannot control this outcome, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. No, I must let Him have His way in me, and in this manner, He will see to it that I am matured, brought to maturity so I can serve Him and others in the way He desires most. I trust Him to handle the details, to make the changes, and to produce the results. I trust Him to be a Father to me, to guide and to direct my steps, and to provide opportunities to me in order for me to move into the position of His choosing. God is gracious and He is good. He has everything in control, and I have to let this go. I must rest. I must let this go.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for this trial, this present discomfort. Thank you for showing me that I need to submit to this refining process in order to produce the results you desire in my life. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience this trial, so that I can see where I am most weak. I ask now that you would help me to withstand, to endure, and to persevere so that I learn from this experience, and so that I can develop the Godly characteristics that you desire I develop. I ask now for your peace, your blessed peace to reign in my life, and I ask that you bring to me, allow me to experience true joy even through these difficult days. I know you have me well-covered, and I know you have provided abundantly for my life so I let this be. I choose rest today. I let you guide me, direct me, and lead me to the place of your choosing, in your blessed time, and with your blessed provision. I ask all this now in Jesus' Name, Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah! (Pause and calmly think about it!)

March 28, 2016

The Day After

It is a good Monday morning. The day looks to be turning out well for me. So far, I have been made my cup of coffee, fetched the morning news paper, cleaned the kitchen up a bit, and even started the laundry -- all -- before 8 a.m. WHEW! It is a good morning, for certain, with clear skies and a cool breeze, signaling a cooler day for today. I am excited to be heading back to campus after a week off. I don't know what to expect, but I feel confident that today will be a good day. Well, I am thinking positively about it, and that counts for something for sure!

God is good, so very good, and while my past couple weeks have been a bit hit or miss, I have to remember that I am not the one to blame for what has happened. No. Regardless of my past performance or my inability to do this or to do that -- my students success or failure is solely dependent on their performance in class. I may feel responsible, and at times, I do. But, really, whether a student learns, shows up, applies themselves, studies and then performs is 100% in their control. I can lead, mentor, and instruct, but my students must do the work. If they fail to do the work, then they fail. It is simple. I don't want them to fail. I see no reason to fail, yet for many students, they feel they are entitled to receive a passing grade, a good grade, without even paying attention to the work.

My heart wants to see each of my students succeed, yet this semester has been such a challenge for me. I have taught the same material as in previous semesters, and this time around, I have students who do not care, do not give any time or thought to the material, and who would rather barely pass than attempt the work I ask of them. It is their choice, their choice, always. I wish it weren't so, but I cannot help it. I know the difference between students who can write and who cannot. I know the difference between students who struggle with language, and students who have no issue other than laziness.

This past week, I rested. I took the week off to rest, and while I didn't rest as much as I should have -- like as in -- really resting, I did recover from my previous weeks of high stress. I had hoped to make great progress on my dissertation. I had hoped to be further along in the process, but instead, I am right where I am or I should say, right where I left off before the break. I was feeling down about my lack of progress, but today, I thought, "Why?" I mean, why should I feel so down. I am the one who determines when I will graduate. I am the one who is in the driver's seat on this last project. If I want to take a week off, so be it. If I want to rest, I can do so. No one pushes me without my consent. No one tells me what to do, save the Lord Himself.

Really, I think I have lost my nerve of late. I mean, I let someone in my department push me around, and I didn't like it. I allowed their comments to change my game plan. I took their words to heart, and I listened to them -- but in the end -- I struggled to make sense of them because they didn't make sense. I mean, not really. Instead, I took them as criticism against me personally, and against my teaching style. I took them as words mean to hurt and not heal. Words that didn't serve any purpose but to cause me to stumble.

Today, I regain my composure. I regain my strength, and I march forward. I know what I can and cannot do. I know where I lack, and in truth, I don't need anyone to tell me what they think I should or shouldn't do. I welcome feedback, of course, and I am not saying I am perfect or without any failing. No, not at all. But what I am saying is that people in your life will, at times, call you out, criticize you, and make you feel small for many reasons. However, just because they say things to you or about you doesn't make them true. Furthermore, just because someone is saying something about you, doesn't mean you have to listen to it, especially if what they are saying is not true. I made this mistake two weeks ago. I let someone make statements about me that weren't true, and as a result, I listened to them and gave them ear. I should have rejected them outright, took control and made my stand, but I didn't. I allowed the enemy to take ground from me simply because I didn't stand up and say "Go away! I reject your condemnation in the Name of Jesus!" Yes, I should have shouted the words of Paul found in Romans 8:1 NIV:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
I am not condemned by God. I am condemned by my enemy who seeks only to hurt, to wound, and to destroy my confidence and my faith in the Lord. Whenever I give way, he takes ground. Whenever I do not stand against his accusations, he takes more and more advantage of me. This is why it is vital for Christians to know the truth, and to understand that the truth has set them free. Jesus came that we may have life, and that the life He gives to us is abundant and full (John 10:10). Jesus came to set the captives free, to release the chains of death that bound us to hell (Isa. 61:1). We are free, we are free, indeed (John 8:36).

Truth Seeking

I realized this morning that much of what I struggle to comprehend is the truth, the truth about my life and the truth about the plans the Lord has for my life. I blog almost every single day, and as such, I write a lot of posts in a year. Since 2004, when my blog first began, I have written over 1600 posts, mostly about my life, my reflection of my life, and my feelings and interpretations regarding the events in my life. My blog truly is a spiritual journal whereby I explore my life within the context of Scripture in order to understand how and when and why things happen to me. I guess you could say that I seek the truth, always, and even when the truth is painful, I still want to know and to understand it.

The past couple weeks, I have experienced a new level of truth. I have come to terms with some things in my life that have helped me to understand more about my desires, my wants, and my needs. I have come to see my life in its full spectrum of colors, and frankly, not all of those colors are "pretty." No, some of the colors that make up the tapestry of my life are dark, are brownish-black, and not so colorful. Yet, these colors when set side-by-side with other colors work together to create a beautiful picture of a life redeemed, a life born of grief and circumstances. God has created something beautiful from the ashes of my life, and for that, I am thankful. I am grateful, and I am in awe of His marvelous and majestic ability to create life from the dust, the dirt, the refuse that is around Him. He is good, always so very good. He gives life, and He gives it abundantly. Praise God for His goodness, His mercy, and His grace!

Gleanings of Truth

As I marvel at His goodness, I recognize that there are some issues in my life that need clarification. I have learned some truth this past week, and as a result, I am thinking more clearly about what I am to do and where I am to do it.

  1. I realize that as much as I enjoy teaching college, there are aspects to this profession that I don't like (namely, the politics and the pressures to perform that come from management)
  2. I understand that while I may be in control of much of my life, the choices I make often are insignificant to the overall plan the Lord has for me
  3. I accept the fact that even when I try my best, I will fail still to do what is right or best.
  4. Lastly, I grasp that my desires and wants do align with His most of the time, but there are some desires that are clearly mine, and some desires that are clearly His. I need to learn which is which and choose His over mine each and every time.
Furthermore, as I pause and consider my life, I realize that I am where I am today because of choices I have made in the past. Some of these choices were good ones, in my best interest, and others were desires that I wanted to come to pass. For example, I believe that the desire to teach English was my desire. I have had this desire for years, literally years, and while I do believe the Lord allowed me to experience teaching English, I now understand that the desire in my heart was my own, and not His. This doesn't mean that I am pursuing my own way, just that the desire to teach English was of my creation. The Lord allowed me to pursue this desire, and I am here today as a result. My path to teaching has been blessed, but it has not been easy. I have struggled. I have given up so much to learn how to teach, and frankly, the cost-benefit has been very low. The return on investment has been very, very low. But, I have learned this valuable skill. I have learned how to teach students, how to engage them, and I have learned what it is like to teach college-level English classes. This path has been filled with trial, with challenge, and with a never-ending stream of experiences (both positive and negative). In all, I feel as though I have overcome, but not without a hard fight. I have had to fight against myself, my own doubts, and my own frailty to achieve a modicum of success. It has been a hard path to follow, but I have learned many good things. I just wonder if this had been His desire, had the outcome been different?

Similarly, the desire to study communication at Regent, well, that was His desire. I had no interest in studying communication at all, yet there was this spark in my heart that seemed to be saying to me "consider this, think about this course of study." I considered it, and in time, I came to see that the Lord wanted me to study communication. I followed this desire, and here I am today, about ready to graduate with a PhD. Clearly, my path through Regent has been blessed. My study has been phenomenal, life-changing, and wonderful. It also has been easy -- not as in "no effort" -- but rather as in stress-free, boundless, and filled with achievement after achievement. Yes, this path, this choice has been productive, blessed, and filled with advancement all because it was His choice, His desire.

Thus, there are two paths always set before us: His way and our way. I choose His way, always, yet it has been difficult to distinguish between my wants and His wants, His desires and my desires. I have come to see that sometimes the two are intwined, and that He gives grace to enable us to pursue both. Sometimes He wants us to see the outcome of our choice so that we can understand how much better His way, His desires, and His wants are for us.

Today, I have come to see that there are different outcomes based on the opportunities He places before us. We choose the way to go, and while He blesses our way, we don't always experience the best outcome unless we choose the best way to go (His way). As I think about this now, I realize that my life has many options to it. I can choose A, B, or C and they all will produce results. Some will produce higher quality results, and some will produce mediocre results. I will be offered options like these throughout my days, and to make the best decisions I must always consider His wants first and foremost. If I follow after what He wants, I can be assured of a positive and high yield result. If I follow after what I want, then I will receive less than desired or expected. The choice is up to me, but the smart approach is always to choose the path that God wants for me rather than the path that I want for me.

The good news is that it is never too late to switch tracks, to let go of my wants in favor of His wants. I am ready today to switch tracks, to choose His way, His desires, and His wants over my own interests. I want His best for my life -- in every area -- and I know in choosing what He wants, my life will indeed be blessed. It will be blessed. Selah (pause, and calmly think about it)!

March 27, 2016

He is Risen!

It is a blessed Resurrection Sunday here in beautiful and warm, Phoenix! I am back from worshiping the Lord at my former church, Paradise Church. My parents still attend this church, as do many of their friends (and mine). It is always good to visit and to enjoy spending time with this special family of believers. Paradise Community Church, as it is now called (was Paradise Valley Community Church, then Paradise Church), has changed over the past four to five years. It is not the same community of believers it once was, and while it still is home to many whom I know, many families have long since moved eslewhere. Paradise currently has an interim pastor, a man who is doing great work stabilizing the congregation and helping the board and members to search for a permanent replacement pastor. They have numerous challenges, mostly with staffing and membership decline, but in all, they are soldiering on with the hope that God will intervene and help restore the community by bringing new life along with many new families to the church. 

As I think about this good, good day, I am thankful for the good gifts that the Lord has provided to me. He has blessed me with abundant goodness. He has provided a good, good life to me. He has restored to me the joy of my salvation, and He has given me a future filled with hope. I am blessed, and I am thankful for His mercy and His grace. He is good to me, so very good to me! Selah!

March 26, 2016

Saturday, O' Saturday!

It is Saturday here in sunny and breezy Phoenix. The sun is shining and the temperatures are mild (around 70), but the breeze is blowing steady (at 7 mph), and well, my allergies are doing their "allergy thing" this morning. I woke up with a pounding sinus/tension migraine headache. The pain and pressure started around 4 a.m. I should have gotten up to take something for the pain then, but instead, I went back to sleep. I hate it when I do that because I know better. I know that I will wake up with a major headache in the morning! Sigh! I am currently at mid-pain level, and I have gotten enough relief so far from a combination of Sudafed, Advil, and Salonpas patches to be able to sit and look into the computer this morning.

Hopefully, the pain will continue to subside so I can tackle my to-do list today.   I don't have a lot on my list, just some things to deal with before the new week arrives. It is hard to believe my spring break is over, and that there are only five more weeks of school left. I love my teaching schedule! I love my life, and I love what the Lord is doing in me and through me. He is good, so very good to me!!

School and Thoughts About It

It is really hard for me to not want to be in school right now. Many of my colleagues are still in school, finishing up their last couple semesters at Regent. I miss being in class with them, and I miss the discussion board assignments, papers, etc. I miss the routine of school. I miss knowing that each semester I will be reading new books, engaging in scholarly discussion about them, and learning new things. I really do miss school! I am happy for the break, no doubt about it. I mean, I am really happy to have had these past weeks to decompress from all the stress associated with my comprehensive exams. I am thankful that the Lord has provided plenty of down-time for me to rest, to relax, and to enjoy my life. He is good that way, always providing just what I need, in the moment when I need it most.

Still, there is part of me that wishes I could continue to study, continue to read and to learn new things. Of course, no one is stopping me from studying. I have plenty of books on my shelves, and frankly, I can engage in scholarly study all on my own. But, there is something about studying collaboratively, about working toward a goal like a degree. I guess I need that carrot and stick to keep me motivated. I want what is hanging at the end of the stick, and usually, it is measure of some level of achievement (a job, a degree, a prized object).

The Lord knows that I am an achievement oriented person, and that as such, I need to have an end-game in mind. I need to work toward something, always something, and without a goal -- a post to mark the end of the journey -- I tend to lose my focus and my way. I think this is why He has helped me stay on track with calendars and to-do lists. I need to see progress every day or else I will laze the time by and not get anything finished. And, it is not just a to-do list per se, but rather it is some final mark that lays down the line and says to me "this must be done by X."

A case in point is my paper this week. I was supposed to work on my dissertation so that I would have something to send to my professor next week. I didn't do anything. I rested. I really, really rested, and for that I am thankful to God. He knew that I needed to rest more than I needed to work on my paper. I am good, solid, when it comes to my paper, and I know He will write it for me. But, I needed to rest, physically rest, and this was the week He has set aside for me to do it. 

I do feel better somewhat, though I think I need the entire summer to rest. I am burnt out. I have spent the past three years in intensive study, and I need the summer to rest, to be refreshed, and to recharge my batteries so I can take "what's next!" The Lord was gracious to me in 2012 in this same way. I was set to graduate in May 2012, and I could have started at Regent that same month. I didn't think it was possible, but Regent often allows students to enter the program while their Masters degree is being conferred. My actual graduation date was postponed until August, so I made the decision to wait until the next summer to begin my program. The Lord knew what was best, so He gave me about 8 months of no school before starting a new program. The blessing was that He put me in the best cohort around, and for that, I am truly thankful. I have made some of the best friends possible. I had heard that the 2012 cohort wasn't quite as cohesive, so well-meshed. I was blessed to be part of the 2013 cohort. God knew that I needed to be in with this group, and He postponed my entry by a year to ensure I was settled in the best group possible. He has blessed me with all measure of blessing, and I am thankful for His mercy -- it is NEW -- every morning it is new!

Getting Ready to Move On

So, here I am, almost ready to graduate, and frankly, I am wondering "what's next, Lord?" I mean, what plans do you have for me to tackle next? My to-do list is rather long already, but I am slowly making progress, checking off major items one at a time. My big item now is to finish my dissertation by this fall. This is my prayer, and I believe it is the Lord's will for me as well. Right now, my focus is on finishing my teaching contracts and then preparing my proposal defense for early June. I also am planning a vacation to Alabama in July to visit my sweet friend. The Lord will provide for this trip, and I believe He has given me permission to go and visit. I am excited about it, and I am looking forward to finally spending some quality time with my special friend and love.

I am still praying about jobs and such. Right now, I am resting on that front. I am waiting for the Lord to do what He does best, and that is to show me the way to go. Until, He shows me, I will sit here and do the work appointed for me to do. He knows what is best, and I am in agreement with His counsel. I don't want to make a mistake, so I will wait for His hand to point the way to go, and then I will go (with His approval, of course).

I think I am settled on going wherever the Lord leads now. I was hesitant for a time, not really sure what was the Lord's will or not. I have vacillated between finding a good teaching job and returning to industry to take whatever work I can find. I have thought about taking the quick and easy route -- finding some job that would pay me well -- and walking away from this avenue forever. But, then I remember that I will have my PhD in less than 9 months, and to not remain in teaching, well heaven forbid! I cannot get away from the fact that I have wanted to be a teacher going on forty years now. I have wanted this path, desired it, and dreamed about it so much so that at times it brought me to tears when I thought the path was forever closed to me. The Lord provided a time for me to learn how to teach, and while I still struggle with the nuts and bolts of it, I have come to find that I love it. I absolutely love it. I want to do this work, but I don't see a way to do it full-time. Not yet, I mean. I see opportunities, but they appear closed to me.

I am reminded that Genesis is a book of opportunities. Joyce Meyer says of Genesis that "from start to finish, we read stories about people who were presented with opportunities" (The Every Day Life Bible). She reminds readers that it is only when we watch for and then take advantage of opportunities, will we be able to move forward with the plans that God has for our lives. I look back and I see opportunities that led me to teaching. I see how the Lord opened doors, closed others, and generally blessed my efforts as I took advantage of the opportunities He offered to me. I must keep my eyes open, I must be watchful for the opportunities the Lord provides to me. I know the Lord does know what is best, and He does have a plan charted for me to follow. I know He has many good opportunities waiting for me to take by the hand. May I follow your plan, Lord. May I do what you are asking me to do, and may you receive all praise, all honor, and all glory through it.

Taking Advantage of Opportunities

Merriam-Webster defines the word "opportunity" as "an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done." I think this definition is interesting because it connotes two different things -- time and a particular situation. Often, we think of opportunities as things, such as a job offer, a special deal on a new car, for example. But, if you think about opportunities as time-based, then the whole concept takes on new life. In my case, God may be presenting me with an opportunity for a job, and that job (regardless of the type) may only be available for a certain time. Thus, the opportunity is both time-based and situational. I love this thought because I think it represents most accurately how God operates. Sometimes we need remember that opportunities are time-sensitive. Doors open and close, like those at the stores (whoosh!), and we must step through them in time before they close permanently. Some doors remain open. Some are permanently closed. The key is taking advantage, as Joyce Meyer says, so that we demonstrate our faith and our trust in God as the keeper of His promises. He is faithful, always faithful to keep His word to us.

I see my life full of opportunities, full of possibilities. God is the God of all possibilities, so the very fact that He has taken me by the hand and is leading me on through the various paths open to me, leaves me feeling so blessed, so very blessed. God has a great plan for my life, and I am so blessed to be able to walk with Him as He leads and guides me through the challenges, obstacles, and yes, opportunities He has waiting for me.

Today, I think to myself, "Lord, I do not deserve the blessings you have poured out in my life. I have done nothing to warrant your blessing in this way!" I am thankful, of course, and I marvel at His hand of blessing, His goodness, and the fact that He has chosen me, ME of all people, to bless. He is good, He is so very good to me. 

March 25, 2016

Good Friday

It is Good Friday. It is my last official day of spring break, and I am feeling well. Today is the day when we commemorate, we celebrate the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. We remember his burial this evening, and then Sunday, we give Him all for His resurrection from the dead!

Easter is here! The Lord has risen -- He is not dead! I am thankful today that as a believer I, too, have been risen to walk in newness of life. My debt has been paid on the cross of Calvary, and I have been conformed to His death, His burial, and His resurrection. Praise be to God, I am saved, I am saved!

Some Random Thoughts

My back is stiff and sore, but I think it is from laying in the same position all night. I think I need a new mattress! I bought my current mattress when I moved out of my home back in 2011. It is a decent Sealy, pillow top with memory foam, so truthfully, it should have many years left in it. But, for some reason, the past year or so, it has been very uncomfortable for me to sleep on it. I am thinking it is the memory foam in the topper that is causing the problem. If the memory foam gets squished down, it doesn't seem to want to "bounce" back. I've thought about getting a topper of sorts, you know, to put ON TOP of the topper. I don't know if this is the best plan or if it is better just to purchase a better quality mattress (one without memory foam) down the road. Sigh!

Last night, I had a good conversation with my friend who lives in the South. I always enjoy our time together, even if it is by phone. We are so similar in many ways, yet we have very different tastes (especially in food). Our upbringing is to blame for that difference -- cultural tastes and such -- are formed in childhood. I was raised in the Northeast, Midwest, and West -- and he was raised in the South. We tend to like the same kinds of other food, though, but local favorites such as fish, shrimp, and grits, etc., well, just turn my stomach off. He thinks it is so odd that I don't like fish. I know, most people think it is odd. I just don't. I never have liked seafood of any kind. LOL!

Our conversation about food was only part of our discussion last night. We also talked about work, school, and life, in general. It was good to have a night of friendly conversation -- you know -- just life stuff. Sometimes our conversations are theological or biblical in nature. Sometimes we discuss our school assignments. Most of the time, we are focused on issues within the church or within Christianity as a whole. Our callings are similarly focused, so our conversation generally surfaces on topics of interest to each of us and to what we believe the Lord is asking us to do (ministry-wise).

As I thought about life, my life, I realized last night how often I focus on the future, future plans and such. I guess you could say that I tend to look forward more than remain in the present. I know my blog is mostly about my past life, my reflections of my past, but it is also a journal that seeks to clarify my future hopes, dreams and desires. I long to know what tomorrow will bring, but I am afraid at times that what will come will not be as good as I had hoped. You know, I wonder if my future will be as I have thought it would be or if my future will be better or worse?

No one knows the future, save the Lord. Still, I like to think about it, to hope for it. I have seen how the past six years turned out different than what I had hoped. I mean, when I found myself single, I didn't imagine living in a home shared with my parents. It was an option back then, but my parents lived in a different home, and they didn't have room for us. Instead, we moved to a town home and the Lord provided a lovely place where we could rest. We lived there for 18 months, enjoying the freedom, the peace, and the perfect location (close to my son's school and about 15 minutes from my place of work). It was the perfect place for us. We moved because our owner wanted to sell the place, and I knew that I would be heading to doctoral studies. I didn't think I could afford to live on my own and do my program. In hindsight, the Lord would have provided for me. I know He would have provided, had remaining in the town home been His will for us. He did provide an alternative, and that was to move here to be with my parents. It has been both a negative and positive for us -- with times of frustration and stress -- mixed into more happy times. Still, I miss the quiet solitude of my own place.

My future back then was all about the job. In truth, all I prayed about, sought, and desired was a full-time job. I wanted to move out of my home, to get away from my husband, in order to move on with my life. He was not going anywhere, as he told me, so he said I had to move out. It took 18 months for me to find a job where I could afford to move out, and then I did. I moved, along with my son and our two cats. The Lord provided the job and the home. He provided everything we needed to be able to move. In the end, my ex-husband remained in our home for two more months before it was sold at auction. He moved into an apartment on the other side of town, and the rest as they say, is history.

Now, I am thinking again about a job and a permanent home. How weird is that? I mean, it has been longer than 18 months between moves. My son and I moved in with my parents in June of 2013. So in June of 2016, we will have shared this home for three years. If you think about it mathematically, the time between leaving my home to moving here was exactly three years. Now, I am ready to move on, and it has been three years. Perhaps this is why I feel so strongly that I am to go. Perhaps it is because I am ready to go, and the Lord's timing is ready for me to go.

The problem is of course that I don't know where to go yet. I have several possibilities, several locations that I feel the Lord has sanctioned, but I don't have a for-sure-for-positive yet. I feel strongly toward a certain place, but I want to go where He wants me to be -- planted -- that is. Until I am sure, I will have to wait. But then, as I remember the issue with finding my town home, I don't want to wait too long and almost miss the "open door." God showed me the town home three weeks before I trusted Him to go and check it out. Once I did, I found out that five other people had placed applications on it. I was told it was no longer available, but the owner relented and allowed me to apply. He then checked my references and gave me the keys. It was a God-thing. He provided the exact place He had showed to me. He moved all the other applicants out of the way, and He gave me favor with the owner.

I think about this experience today because I have been wishing, hoping, and waiting for Him to provide for me again. I think to myself -- "Have I done the same thing as last time?" I wonder if the Lord has shown me the place of His provision, but for some reason, I have turned aside from it. I wonder if the Lord has told me, "This is where you are to go," but I have not listened to Him. Oh Lord, if this is so, I repent! I turn around, and I will listen AND obey!

It is funny when I think about it, really. The Lord has provided so abundantly for me. He has provided jobs and cars and homes and miscellaneous items -- everything I have needed -- to be settled. I have insurance now, medical and dental, and I have savings again. Yes, I don't have summer income, which makes my year fall short of needed income, but He always provides some way for me to make it through to the start of the fall semester. I think about it, and I marvel at His provision. He has said there will be abundant life, for this is why He came to save us. He redeemed us, and He gave us life. John 10:10 AMP says it this way,
The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].
My life is abundantly full. I have life that brings me great joy. I know my life is not perfect, there are still unresolved tensions, difficulties, and trials that I must endure, but for the most part, my life is very, very good. He has given me abundant life, a life that I can enjoy.

When I consider my life, and how I rarely enjoyed it before my divorce, I give thanks and praise to God. I know that may seem weird to say it that way, but it is true. My life was not enjoyable (as in peaceful, calm, and filled with joy). It was filled with stress, contention, and a lot of strife (anxiety). It was not honoring to the Lord, and I struggled to find a way through it. The Lord sustained me, for sure, and He gave me His peace. I just didn't see a way out. I didn't see any way to hang on, to endure, even though I was trying my best to rest and to let Him lead and guide me.

Then one day, my ex-husband told me he wanted out of our marriage. He wasn't happy, never had been. He wanted a different life. He wanted a different wife. He walked away from 26 years of hard-fought and difficult married life in order to embrace what he thought would be the way for him to experience peace, joy and contentment. I was left holding onto my vow, my ring, and my shattered life. I was left with nothing, but the Lord. The Lord sustained me. He gave me grace to endure. In the end, He gave me the strength to walk away, to stand my ground and to demand that my ex-husband choose to honor his vow and commitment to the Lord. He said no, and the door to my life closed shut. I knew then that I had no other choice but to start over, to start a new.

Grace broke through the torn remnants of my life. God provided a way out for me. He lifted me from the darkness, and set my feet right in the middle of the bright sunshine. In doing so, He healed my heart, bound up my wounds, and gave me rest. I rested a long while, nearly 18 months before He moved me. Truthfully, I didn't think I could move any sooner than I did. I was tied to my home, even after all that had happened in it. It was my home, the place I had chosen when we were looking to buy our first home. I had made it into the best possible home, and so much of my life was bound in it. For twelve years, we lived in that home, and while it was not a happy twelve years, it was my life.

The Lord was not content to let me remain in that home. Instead of providing a way to refinance it, to stem the foreclosure, the Lord let the lien holder take it back. I escaped without any penalties. The house reverted to the previous owners, and I walked away without spending another dime on the property.  I drive past the old house every now and then. There is a new family who lives there, and the facade looks different from when we lived there. The yard is different too -- no flowers or shrubs. It looks like a white cracker box rather than the cute cottage I tried to create it to be.

The Lord provided a spic-and-span home for me to move into. It was almost new inside. It was clean. It was perfect for us. It was a two-story home where there was plenty of space for me, my son and our two cats. The stairs took a toll on me after a bit, but truthfully, I loved that home. It was quiet, so peaceful, and so beautifully landscaped. It was like living in a dream, a dream come true. For a while, I struggled to sleep alone. I struggled to sleep with the noise of neighbors. After a while, though, I got used to the closet doors closing in the neighboring homes. I got used to the cars pulling in and out of the parking lot.

I was content to remain in that home. In fact, I thought about purchasing it, even before the owner offered to sell it to me (in 2013). I loved that place, and it fit me well. My son and I were happy there, really happy. But, it wasn't perfect. In reality, the stairs were difficult and steep. The walls thin, which didn't help my drummer/pianist son. The place didn't offer enough space for us to live comfortably. It was a good transitional place. It served it's intended purpose.

It seemed like just as I was getting comfortable in the town home, the Lord up and moved me here to this house. It came about, the opportunity to move here, just like the previous opportunity. It seemed like it was on a whim. The Lord opened the door, and we moved.

Now, I am here and ready to move on. I would like to go someplace else. I would like to find my "forever home," though I know that the only forever home I have is with Him in heaven. I would like a temporary "forever" home, though. A place where I could put down roots and enjoy life. I am not too picky about the home itself, but I am particular about the location. I need to feel safe. I need to feel as though I fit in. I worry about moving to certain parts of the country where the culture is so different from what I know now. I am pretty flexible, but I am not like people who live in the South or Northeast. You know, I am not from any one place. I have lived in the Northeast, Midwest and West. This makes me rather cosmopolitan in a lot of ways. I won't fit in well where culture is entrenched. Though, I am willing to try, but I know myself well. I am open to go where the Lord leads, to where He intends to settle me. I am willing, Lord. I am willing to go wherever you need me to go.

Thinking About Next Steps

Yes, I am still thinking about those pesky next steps. At this point in time, I am befuddled, confused, and unsure of what I am to do. I mean, where can I go? Perhaps I should just stay put and remain here for the next year. I do have contracts in place for fall, and unless something changes, I am sure I can survive through another school year on adjunct pay.

I just got a rejection email from Northwestern University. I never had the chance to interview, so they rejected me based on my qualifications. I realized it was a long shot since I wasn't credentialed (K-12), but the job said "preferred" only, so I gave it a go. I am not totally disappointed. I thought it would be fun to teach 6-12 graders writing. You know, different, I mean. I guess I am stuck where I am for now. I have to let this go, and simply wait on the Lord to provide for me.

I took some time out of my day to run over to Target. I stopped into Half Price Books to see if they had any special deals, and I found two books on sale. I bought Joyce Meyer's Every Day Living Amplified Bible (yes, I do need ANOTHER BIBLE), and Hornsby's Introduction to Linguistics handbook. I also bought some bible tabs. I was hoping to find a hardcover of the bible, but they only had the softcover version on the shelf. It was a good deal -- about half price (LOL!) and brand new. I have an older hardcover Amplified that has been so highlighted and underlined, that now it is difficult to read. I've been wanting to get a new copy (as if I need another bible!) for a long time. This one was there for the taking -- so I took it! PTL!!

As I walked through Target, I prayed over my life, over my situation, and I realized that I am where I am because the Lord has not chosen to move me. I can press against me, command and demand, but He is not going to move me until He is ready for me to move. I have been saying all along that it is because I don't have a job. The truth is I am not moving simply because He hasn't permitted it yet. I will go where the Lord leads. I will work where He says. I remember how stressed I was for all those 18 months of unemployment where I applied, applied, and applied for jobs -- only to be rejected every single time. Sure, I did get a couple interviews, but in the end, nothing came to pass. Until. Until, I let go and stopped looking. Then, I agreed to do the job of His choosing. He showed me the job, I applied, and I was hired. It was like as long as I was trying to make the job come to pass, nothing was moving my way. But, as soon as I relented, let go, and let Him lead me -- then BANG! -- the door swung open and I moved forward.

Hmmm. I am thinking of possible answers to what is going on right now. As I put the Bible tabs on my new bible, I couldn't help but ask the Lord, "Why? Why am I where I am, and why do I feel so trapped, so stuck?" In Lord-like fashion, He patiently explained to me that I am where I am because of many reasons. First off, I am where I am because of my educational pursuit. I am about to finish my PhD, and to accomplish this level of work, I needed to have time to do it and do it well. Second, I needed to learn how to be a teacher, and teaching takes time and commitment. You must spend the time to learn how to teach, and along the way, you make errors, mistakes, and goofs. You learn the ropes, so to speak. I will start my fourth year teaching at GCU in the fall, and well, that is four years of teaching experience to my credit. I would like to be full-time, but for now, the Lord has me teaching part-time at multiple schools. It is His way of letting me get trained and prepared for the time when I will teach full-time. Until then, I have to accept what has been offered to me. Last, I am where I am so I can help care for my parents. I may not like it, and at times, I would prefer to be elsewhere, but this is where I am. For now, I am here and I am doing what He has asked me to do. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

Wait patiently for the LORD.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.
Psalm 27:14 NIV

March 24, 2016

Making the Most of the Day

It is Maundy-Thursday, the day when our Lord celebrated the last supper with His disciples. This day is marked as a holy day in Catholic and orthodox traditions, and is considered in evangelical churches as part of the passion week that leads up to Easter. Thus for Christians of all denominations, this day serves as a reminder of what our Lord did in order to save mankind, to redeem them from the penalty of sin and death. Yes, this is a good day to stop and to think about the Lord's sacrifice, and then to give praise and adoration for His gracious give of eternal life. As I think about this day, I am reminded of all the Lord has done for me since I became a Christian. I am reminded of His faithfulness to me, how He has graciously cared for me all these years, and how well He has provided for me, meeting and sustaining each and every need. He has been so good to me, so very good to me! Praise be to God! He is good, always so very good!

Therefore, this good day belongs to Him, and to Him alone. I have many to-do items, things that I should have attended to earlier in the week, but for lack of a better word (LAZY), I let slide. Now it is Thursday, and my break is coming to an end. Soon the weekend will be here, and then Monday, and well, it will be business as usual for the remaining weeks of the semester (5-count em!)

The Lord knows what I need to accomplish this week, and while I have taken several days to decompress from the stress of the events from last week, I am confident that He will see me through today, and He will help me to complete all the tasks He desires for me to complete. He is good that way, in the way He helps me manage my schedule. I don't know what I would do without His help. Truthfully, everything I have today, all the achievement and accomplish is from His hand of blessing. I am nothing without Him. I can do nothing of value or greatness without His inspiration, His grace, and His blessing. He is good, so very good to me!

Getting Back into the Game

I have blogged about my struggles this week, how I was sidelined by some criticism that seemed to come out of left field to knock me down. I spent most of last week and part of this week reflecting on that criticism in order to understand if it was warranted in any way. In the end, what I realized was that the criticism was for a specific purpose -- that was -- to attempt to confuse and derail me from my path, the path that I believe leads to my calling. I realized yesterday that the criticism and its intended consequences achieved their result in that I was kept from focusing on my dissertation. This week had been set aside for this work, and my dissertation, which fulfills the requirement of my degree, is part and parcel to the Lord's will for my life. Thus, anything that would keep me from working on it, well, would enable the enemy to claim victory in this area of my life. I gave in to the pain, the sorrow, and the feelings of hurt that were generated as a result of the comments I received last week. In all, the more I stewed, reflected, and attempted to understand the rationale behind them -- the more I didn't do the work I needed to do. Yes, the enemy won that skirmish by simply keeping me focused on my pain rather than on the Lord's work and will in my life.

Now that I am on the backside of that event, I am reassessing the plan, and I am recommitting myself to the work that must be done today. I know He has me well-covered, and the lost ground will be made up today, tomorrow and Saturday. He will see me through this turn of events, and He will triumph in the end. I know He will. He is able to do everything that I am not. I can only hope to accomplish this task through His grace and His ability. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! Selah!

His Way to Rest

I was reading some today, just browsing the Internet, when the Lord pressed on my heart to consider something, to think about my life and my need for rest in a different way. I've been trying to rest, really rest for a long time now. Today, though, I started to think about God's rest, and what that means for the believer. I also started to think about what it means to rest, and how so often, we don't rest because the worries of life consume us. As I pondered rest, and thought about the plans He has for me, I realized that I have allowed the struggles of life to fill my mind, to preoccupy my thoughts -- so much so -- that I lost my sense of order, peace, and calmness. I have been so stressed this past week. So much that my life has been reordered around the stress. Rather than speaking words of faith over the stress -- commanding the stress to abate -- I simply let the stress have its way.

After spending time in prayer, I came to the conclusion that the way to rest is simply to agree with God. He has a good plan for my (I agree). He has me well-covered (I agree). He knows my needs (I agree). He knows the best career path and job for me (I agree). He knows what my parents need for their long-term care (I agree). He has a good life plan for my son (I agree). In truth, all my needs are met with Him. Jesus is my sufficiency. He is everything I need to survive and to succeed in this life. All my worry,  doubt and fear, serves no purpose. I simply give in to it, and in doing so, I begin to doubt His abilities to cover me. But, this is just a lie of the enemy. The Lord is ALL SUFFICIENT, and as Lord of Lords and King of Kings, He has sat down (rested) next to the Father. Thus, His work is finished. He is Lord over our life too -- so this means -- we can rest in Him and His finished work.

I am still marveling at this truth, but one thing is for sure: He is good, and I know the plans He has for me and my life are good too.