April 29, 2016

Blues and Pinks

It is Friday, the end of the week, and I am feeling well today. Well, not “well,” as in great, super, or wonderful, but “well” in the general sense of the word. I woke up this morning feeling more refreshed than I have been lately, so THAT is a very good thing. I slept soundly, at the least, I think I did, and I woke up without the horrible backache like most mornings. I am feeling sound, I guess you could say, and I have a sense of peace, of rightness, and of goodness today, and for that, I am thankful, so very thankful. The Lord has been good to me this past week. I have come through some strange trials, odd circumstances, and unusual experiences, and through it all, He has been my ROCK and my REFUGE. I am in a place that feels “comfortable” right now, and I am sensing that my life is back on track, back to where it should be, and that I am back in the middle of the blessed river of His mighty will. It is good, all good. I am grateful, thankful, and at peace. He is good, so good, so very good to me. Selah!

Preparing for Fall

So spring 2016 is in the bag. Yes, I posted my final grades today (by the deadline, no less), and I am relieved to have this burden off my back. In truth, this past semester has not been a good one for me. Not only was I super stressed about my qualification exams, but I struggled with my performance at my school and with the feeling like I was being watched (critically examined or probed). I understand that our performance must always be evaluated, and in truth, I don't think anyone really likes the process of being reviewed. But, I felt that I was unfairly observed (without warning), and that I was not given any consideration to explain or defend myself. I felt like my department wanted me out, wanted me to shape up or ship out. I don't know if this was true or not, but the way my review was conducted sure felt like it. The worst part is that I received no follow up, no communication afterwards, which only left me hanging on wondering why I was treated the way I was treated. Now, I don't know if I have contracts in place for fall or not. I have accepted three teaching contracts, but I have not received any information to confirm that I am to be back there in the fall.

I guess what bothers me most is the fact that I was assessed on performance without the opportunity to show my best, to do my best. It was like my whole career was approved or rejected in one 15-minute conversation. Sigh!

I know that the Lord has protected me, and that He has given me favor wherever I have worked. I have experienced His favor time and time again. I mean, I have been able to work under the radar, been kept out of the fray, and generally, been allowed to come and go as I please without any real scrutiny. Now, I feel like the harsh light of reality has come down on me, and I am being picked apart like some dead animal at the hands of foraging prey.

In truth, I love what I do. I love the work I get to do every single day. I love working with students, helping them, and being their "go to person" in order to help them succeed. Yet, I feel so harassed and unwanted and that really hurts. I would like to think that the work I do is valuable, considered, and appreciated, and for the most part, I do think it is. Yet, there are times when a kind word, a comforting compliment, would go a long way to soothing those feelings of inadequacy. This is why I believe it is vitally important to always be encouraging to other people -- even people you don't always get along with well. We all need words of affirmation, comfort, and consolation in order to survive what can be a difficult, and at times, very trying process of life. Thus, being an encouraging person, especially as a Christian, can bring hope and light into very dark and difficult places. I am blessed to be gifted with the spiritual gift of encouragement, and as such, I go out of my way to encourage others as I see their need. I keep my eyes open, share readily with them a word or two, and in that way, I spread the joy of the Lord wherever I go. I just wish that other people, other Christians, would do the same to me. I would so love to hear a word of acknowledgement, encouragement, and affirmation right now. It would do this weary body good.

As I prepare for fall, I have several things on my mind. First, I do intend to teach as the Lord's leads and provides. This means that I will be at both campus schools for another semester of classes. However, since I have several applications in process for online teaching jobs, I am available to teach extra classes as those doors open for me.

Furthermore, I also have that application in play at United Healthcare, and for now, I am leaving it be. Should the Lord choose to provide for me through business, I will not look down upon this gift. I will do whatever work He provides for me because I now realize that when I am operating in my gifts, my areas of spiritual blessing, then I am able to do great things in His Name and in His power. I don't have to be teaching to do these things. I don't have to be working in my field to be a blessing to others. I can be a blessing wherever I go so long as I am serving Him first and foremost, and I am seeking to bring honor and praise to His name. I will go and I will do whatever work He provides for me. I am no longer going to see myself as this or that thing, but rather, I am choosing to see myself as a servant, as someone who serves whatever population the Lord needs me to serve.

In this way, I will be about His business today and tomorrow -- regardless -- of what tasks I am asked to do. I think this attitude will allow me to remain in the middle of His grace, right where He can use me most, without placing barriers or boundaries on what I am willing to do for His work and His kingdom. I mean, I must remember that in all things, the work we do is KINGDOM focused, and that means that my work ultimately is about sharing the love of Christ with as many others as possible. There are lost people in my classes just as their are lost people in offices all across this nation. If the Lord chooses to send me to work in a building with business people, then He has need for me to go and minister there. If He chooses to keep me in the classroom, then He wants me to minister to the students He brings to me.

One thing I have learned through this entire process is this -- when God calls you -- He equips you to do the work He needs you to do. He doesn't expect you to figure out how to do the work. He shows you what to do, then if you need help, training or education, He provides it to you. He never leaves you to do the work on your own. This is especially true in ministry. God desires to receive the glory and the praise so He doesn't set you up so that you receive that praise, but rather that He receives the praise through your efforts and achievements. If you desire to see Him praised, then you must remember that all praise given to you must be reflected back to Him. You cannot receive the praise of men without acknowledging His presence in your life or without honoring His work and His power as He has enabled you to succeed.

I am an achievement oriented person, which just means, that I desire achievement. I like to win awards, receive prizes, get special recognition. I enjoy being promoted when I have done a good job. I enjoy receiving praise for my hard work and effort. I have always been this way, even as a child, and as such, I am motivated by earning rewards. So when I don't earn an award or receive acknowledgement of a job well done, I immediately think that I have failed, that I have performed badly or that somehow I am unfit to serve (to work or to do what is asked of me). This need for achievement is why I struggled so when I had my evaluation this past semester. I felt that I was called out, out of the blue, and made to feel unfit for the work I was doing. Had this happened during my first couple semesters, I would have understood it, but since it happened after my sixth semester, it just seemed odd especially since I had received only glowing remarks and compliments previously.

I desire recognition, yet I don't seek it directly as some people do. I am not a "limelight" kind of person. No, I work very hard behind the scenes, doing my own thing, achieving and making my own mark, without all the fanfare associated with rising to the top. I like to receive recognition, but I don't like to be in the spot light all the time. It is a give-and-take with me. I will give my all, and all I ask in return is a compliment, a "job well done." I don't need the fancy applause and such. No, just a kind word of thanks is good enough for me.

Now that I have arrived at the summer break, I am starting to see how my need to achieve and my desire for recognition have been thwarted these past three years. I realize now that when I moved into higher education, I stepped off the speedy track of performance reviews and evaluations that would lead to promotion. Instead, I entered into the "dog fight," the arena where to be recognized for your achievement meant publishing, presenting, and publicly participating in your field. I can do all of these things for certain, but the process by which you begin to do that is time-consuming, difficult, and at times, fraught with obstacles that seem insurmountable. I looked at the mountain of higher education, those steps that part-time faculty are expected to climb in order to be considered for full-time positions. The more I came to see the plausibility for me to climb them, the more I found it difficult to do. I found the whole process to be inconsistent with my need to achieve and with my ability to do so. You see, I am all for being recognized for my excellent, my hard work and my diligence to my job well. But, I am not willing to jump through hoops, climb walls, or scale mountains JUST for the remote possibility of receiving an offer for full-time work. No, I don't play games, I don't do party politics, and I don't schmooze and behave as a bee to honey for any person, any job, or any opportunity. What's more important is that I won't pray to an idol, whether it is a good job or a better paycheck. I won't bow down to any god, king or employer, even if I need the work, the pay, or the position.

Considering the Odds of Employment

So at this point in time, I see several avenues for employment. Yet, none of them appear to be right (as in perfect). Instead, I see options for practical work, good work, and a modicum of income for said work. I would like very much to be employed full-time. Yes, I would like to finally have one job where I can live comfortably and no longer stress or fret over my income and career path. I am content to remain faculty. I am content to work in business. I am content -- pretty much -- to do just about anything the Lord asks me to do. Yes, I am content to DO WHAT HE ASKS even if it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me right now. I do trust Him. I rely on Him for His provision and His security. I would like to know that tomorrow I have work. I would like to know that in the next six months I will have a job that pays me fairly well. I would like to know that I am moving forward in a career position that will enable me to enjoy success again, achievement as He enables, and opportunities for advancement or growth. I am not content to remain a saddlebag, to sit by the wayside and let the light of each good day pass me by. No, I want to move. I want to achieve, and I want to be recognized for my good efforts, my hard work, and my diligence to focus and to succeed.

As I consider the odds of employment in higher education, I realize that whatever job I finally land, I will not land it as a result of my own efforts. The only job I will receive is the job the Lord has provided to me. The process of finding and securing work as a faculty member is beyond challenging. It is not an easy process nor is it straightforward. In fact, I would say that to be employed in higher education as faculty, the process itself is time-consuming and made to be as difficult as possible. Moreover, it is highly competitive so the field of candidates is vast. The likelihood of receiving a job offer is slim, so to go into the work field with thoughts of accomplishing that feat is as easy as eating cake, well, is naive and ill-considered. I realize that the Lord opens the door for me, and that He prepares the way, and provides favor to me. Thus, in all the jobs I have had over the past 10 years, the Lord has moved the mountain, so to speak, and He has made my way possible. Therefore, as I look for work, I must acknowledge that the door to the job of His choosing only opens when He says it should open. No matter how qualified, how ready, or how good I look on paper, that door will not open until He turns the handle. I have to wait for His leading, His guidance, and then I have to trust that He will turn the handle and open the door. Until that time, the door will remain shut, closed, and there is nothing I can do to alter the outcome.

Over the past year or so, I have considered returning to business, to corporate work simply to facilitate my need for steady income. I have applied to a number of jobs, but like with higher education, those doors have stayed shut. I have vacillated between options -- teaching or business -- and in the end, I stayed put in higher education because it worked well for my time, my studies at Regent. Now, though, I am ready to move on, and ready to start making income again. I would like to have a permanent job, not temporary work, part-time work, etc. I would like to be back on that fast-track to success and achievement. Yet, I wonder if this is the Lord's will for me. I know my passion. I know my love, my heart's desire, and I know what He has provided for me to do. But, there is a part of me that is driven toward excellence, toward achievement, and earning recognition, accolades and promotions, well, that suits the bill as well. I want to do His work, regardless of the forum. I want to be successful in LIFE not just in ministry. I want to get my ducks in a row, to be about His business, and to know that I am doing a good job no matter where He places me. Thus, today, I think to myself -- so what? Let's just do the thing, the job the Lord provides, and trust Him to do His work in and through my efforts. Let's just let Him lead.

Leading and Following

I am a leader. By nature, the Lord has called me to lead. I don't like leading normally, but I can do it well. In fact, I would say that if I had to choose between leading and following, I would choose leading 9 out of 10 times. I like to work behind the scenes, for sure, but I also like to be in control, to be the one calling the shots, and to be the one to take charge. Yes, if I could charge up that hill to take it, I would do it. Why am I not in leadership now? I think the answer to that is simple. Because I have refused to lead when asked by others, and I have refused to take a roll that would put me in contention for leadership. Yes, I have failed to lead when asked, and I have refused to wear the mantle of leadership when it was handed to me.

Now that I am in this weird place, halfway between this and that direction, I see that many times I have chosen to take the easier road simply to avoid being placed in positions of authority or leadership. I don't like to fail. I don't like to be criticized and called out for poor performance, and when you are in leadership roles, you often are the target for open criticism and unwarranted scrutiny. I think my experience this past semester is a good example of what I mean. I was called out, unfairly, and I was placed in the limelight. I didn't like the heat, and the treatment, yet I learned a valuable lesson. I learned that when the Lord places you in positions of leadership, the likelihood of criticism, fall out, and unfair treatment is high, and the probability of it happening regularly, well, is significant (statistically, speaking).

What does this mean?

I think it means that my experience this past semester was fortuitous in the sense that it showed me what was to come. I just now realized that God permitted me to be placed under the heat lamp in order to show me what to expect down the road. It wasn't to humble me, though that did happen, but rather, it was to show me that leadership requires a "thick skin," a tough outer shell that enables you to survive when the going gets really tough. I was pricked lightly, and I took the feedback personally. I am still feeling this way, even after a month has passed. How I handle scrutiny, whether anticipated or not, will determine the type of leader I will become. I know that I must accept this path. I must learn to be a leader even when the leading process is difficult, challenging, and at times, very unpleasant.

My mind is blown. Yes, right now, I am thinking to myself, "Oh, Lord, I did say I would accept a leadership position if you provided one to me." Now, I am thinking that everything that has happened to me was planned and prepared to show me what I must endure. I must be willing to be openly probed, to be looked at cross-wise, and to, at times, linger in the crosshairs of my enemy's weapon. UGH!

Yet, I am not afraid. I may not like the idea of being placed on point, but I know my Lord is there with me. And, what is more, I know that He is well-acquainted with being in the crosshairs of the firing squad. If there is anyone who can train me, equip me, and prepare me for leadership, it is my Lord. He knows what I need most, and He knows exactly how to keep me safe. I trust Him. I believe in Him, and I rely on Him. He alone is good. He is so very good to me.

I feel like this twisted being, almost two-faced in some ways. One face is that of the follower, the person who likes to be hidden, and the other face is that of the bold, dynamic, and authoritative leader, the person who is all "take charge and gung ho!" How can two different types of people exist in one body? I just don't know, but I can say that I have been this way since I was a child. Perhaps the Lord has allowed me to experience both sides of my personality so that I will always keep from being prideful, arrogant and foolish. Yes, my hidden side fears rejection and public failure (humility). My limelight side brushes those fears away and takes the "whatever" position, the so be it and let's "git er done" attitude. What's more interesting is that the leader side of me is the optimistic side, the side that sees the glass half-full. The hidden side only sees the negatives of the situation, the glass is almost empty so conserve, conserve, conserve. The leaders says "step out in faith, be bold, trust the Lord," while the hidden side says "I have enough. I am good. I am comfortable right where I am now."

Which side will win out? Which side will take the bull by the horns and be triumphant?

Personally, I think, no I feel, it will be the leader in me. I am tired of taking a backseat to opportunity. I am tired of being behind the camera. It is not that I want to be in control or to take control, but rather it is that I would like to see what is out there -- you know -- on the other side of the lens. I would like to be bold and go see for myself. What is over there? Where will this path lead? What treasures exist on the other side of that hill? I guess I am starting to see opportunities for exploration, new avenues to follow, new ways to go. This adventure-seeker me is starting to desire adventure, change, new horizons, new challenges and new opportunities to explore. I want to go and see -- to do -- and to experience life fully. I don't want to live in the shadows anymore. I don't want to be bound to my fears and imprisoned to my doubts. I want to be bold, to be courageous, and to trust my Lord to lead me onward as He desires, as He has planned, and as He has prepared the way.

I am ready, Lord. I am willing to lead others. I am willing to lead as you lead, to be a servant-leader, as you demonstrated to us. Now, I ask that you open a door so I can lead -- in ministry, in teaching, in business -- in whatever capacity you desire for me. I ask that you provide a place for me to serve as a leader. May it be done according to your will this good, good day. Amen, so be it. Thy will be done. Selah!

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