June 27, 2016

Getting Ready to Go

It’s cloudy outside! I think we may get some rain today, praise God! The weather forecast said there was a chance of rain this week, but I didn’t think it would be so soon. Still, clouds and the “chance” of rain is so much nicer than our usual “sunny and warm” scenario. A nice rain shower would be so welcomed right now! Sigh!

It is a good Monday, at the least, I think it is. I am home, of course, but feeling the pinch of unmet expectations. My future is unknown right now, and while I am not frightened by the outcome, I would much prefer to know what to expect so I can relax and let all this stress go. My plans for today include revising my chapter one proposal and then studying some SQL to brush up on my knowledge of querying databases. It has been a long time since I worked with SQL directly, and my new job may require it. I have the time, and a refresher course would do me no harm.

My hope is that I hear back on my status as a candidate soon. The hiring manager said he would let me know by Friday, and I am sure he will. Still, I have a weird feeling. I mean, I never spoke with the recruiter, and I went directly to the hiring manager for a chat. What does this mean? My Dad thinks it bodes well for me. My friend is concerned that the screening interview was not as significant as it should have been. This leaves me wondering if I am being considered at all. I mean, what if they interviewed me as a courtesy, but they already had someone else in mind (like an internal person). Was this just to satisfy human resources requirements since I met all the required qualifications for the position? I don’t know, I just don’t know. Hopefully, the word will come soon, but until then, I need to focus on my research proposal, and leave the outcome to the Lord. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Making Decisions Today

I titled this post, “Getting Ready to Go,” because I feel the Lord is pressing on me the need to make provision so I can be “ready” to go at a moment’s notice. You know how it is, like when you are getting ready to go on vacation and you start planning out your needs before the big day arrives. You make your plan, make arrangements for your stay, and then create a schedule of the things that must be accomplished prior to your leaving. If you are wise and a good time manager, you schedule everything so that when the day comes to load up the car, everyone and everything is in order. You have it all under control, and you are able to pile into the car and head off for your week or two week’s planned vacation.

I can remember my parents getting us kids ready for summer vacation. Often, we just stayed at home and didn’t travel anywhere far from our town. But, one summer when I was 12, my family took an extended vacation and travelled to South Carolina to spend two weeks at the beach with my cousins. Of all the trips we took as a family, this one was most memorable. My parents and my Aunt and Uncle rented a beach house, and we all stayed right at Litchfield Beach. We were a short walk to the beach every day. It was two weeks of playing in the surf and sand. Two weeks of spending time with my Grandmother and my cousins from Ohio. The trip to and from IL to SC included stops at famous places, so the entire vacation was one big experience for me.

I loved it, and I fondly recall my time spent there. But, I also remember the lead-up to that trip. My Mom planned our trip carefully. Dad handled the map and car needs, but Mom planned everything else. She made sure we had packed the “right” clothes, and she made sure that we had enough supplies to get us there and back. Plus, we took our little dog, Taffy, with us so she had his needs covered as well. My cat, Snowball, stayed home. My two best friends, Karen and Nancy, fed her daily and she was in fine shape when we returned home. The planning of a vacation with four kids and a dog wasn’t easy. Then, considering that my Aunt and Uncle had their three kids and my Grandmother to plan for, well, that just meant that we had 12 people who needed food and shelter for the two week period. Like I said, it was one of the best vacations I took as a child.

Planning a major event such as a big vacation or a wedding takes time. There are so many details to discuss, so many decisions to make. In all, the big day arrives and either you did your “due diligence” or you didn’t. Any oversight or failure will come out in the wash, as they say — meaning — you will see your mistakes clearly once the big day arrives. In my case, I am not really sure what the Lord has in mind for me. I mean, I know the plans He has for my life up to my graduation from Regent University. I know that He has me well-covered through my dissertation phase and into my final defense. I know what I need to do as far as my research is concerned, and I know my deadline and the timing of the big tasks associated with it. Still, before and after the event, everything is a bit fuzzy.

For example, should I plan to be hired at this company in late July or early August? If so, then I have to manage my teaching contracts (exit out of them gracefully). If not, then I have to buckle down and know that money will be tight for one or two more semesters until I graduate. Then there is the business of whether or not the Lord intends to move me physically. I mean, if I stay here, I have to have a full-time job. I cannot pay my way, pay my bills, etc., without full-time work. This work can be as faculty or as a business professional, but I have to have a salary and not just a jumble of part-time work to cover my expenses and my needs. If the Lord plans to move me, and I think He does, then I have to have enough income to prepare for that move. I have to get my financial life in order, pay my debt down, make preparations like finding a place to live, etc. Of course, I need to know where I will go, what city He wants me to live in, and so forth. I cannot make any moves forward unless I know where I am going, and how I am going to get there. These details, these variables are unknown today. So until He reveals them to me, I have to wait on Him, trust Him, and rely on Him to lead, guide and provide for me. I cannot move forward without His input, His provision, and His permission.

In short, I am stuck in this “status quo” for some time still. I would like for everything to fall into place, but I cannot see how things “fit” just yet. I don’t have a full-time position as of today; I only have part-time work and at best, a minimum amount of income set for the fall. I don’t see other teaching opportunities on the horizon, but of course, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there —just that I don’t see them on the jobs boards I visit daily. I don’t have other offers hanging in the balance. I don’t have other jobs where I am being considered for work. What do I do? How do I make plans when I don’t have all the variables needed to plan properly?

The Lord Leads and Guides

Today, I woke up after having a rather interesting dream. I don’t remember much of it, other than I was staying at someone house. I don’t remember the person who owned the house, just that I felt like I was a visitor, and not in my own home. I saw myself in this home that I didn’t recognize, and I was discussing things with people I didn’t know. They were strangers to me, yet I did feel like I knew them in some way or another. I remember that at one point I made the decision to go home. My Mom was in this dream and my brother, and I said to them that I was going to go home for a while. I saw myself tying my shoes and making myself ready to go home. I remember thinking that I would pick up my laptop, which was at home, and bring it back with me. Apparently, the place where we were staying had Internet, but I didn’t have access. I got dressed, and then I started to leave when I woke up. The funny thing, as dreams go I mean, was that in my dream I was talking with my cat, Ike. Then I woke up to Ike crying at me. I know…weird.

In this dream, I remember thinking to myself that I didn’t belong where I was, that the house I was staying at wasn’t my own, and that I was there not by choice or will. I could freely leave, but for some reason I chose to stay. I wanted to go home, but up to that point, I hadn’t gone anywhere. Then, I made up my mind to go home and that was it. It was like, “I’m ready to go now,” and I put my shoes on and started to leave.

In some ways, this is the story of my life. I have always stayed too long in places where I have lived. I have tarried much longer, not recognizing the signs, and then when things turn sour, I find I must leave in a hurry. It is like being rushed out the door or told that you have to leave right NOW. Often, when you go in a flash, you forget important things, necessary items, etc. I don’t want to do that again; I don’t want to move in haste. I would like to move on as soon as the Lord makes plans for me to go. I would like to trust His timing on the matter so that I have plenty of time to pack up and prepare my way. This is important to me because it would give me the least stressful approach and provide a gentle way to leave one place and head to another. My goal, then is to be ready, to have all my “ducks in a row” so I can leave in peace.

His Peace is Everything

I read a quote by C.S. Lewis today, and it reminded me of how important it is to remember that when we abide in the True Vine, we have our peace. Apart from the Vine, we can find no solace, no hope, no joy, and no peace. In Mere Christianity, chapter 5, Lewis writes, "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

This is truth, plain and clear. Whenever we seek satisfaction, joy or happiness in anything outside of God, we will come up empty handed. Sure we can satisfy our hunger and our emotional needs temporarily, but nothing save the Lord Himself will ever meet our deepest need for security and for provision. Today, I am realizing this truth. I am coming to terms with the fact that the Lord is my everything; He is my all in all.

I will often say that the Lord is my everything, but then in times of trouble, I find myself running to the THING that will most readily solve my problem. In my case, this is to some solution that will provide for me extra income — a job, a handout, a loan, etc. My Lord is my everything, and if I really do believe this is true (and I do), then I need nothing save Him alone to satisfy my deepest emotional, spiritual, mental, and yes, physical need. He is enough. He is SUFFICIENT.

David wrote in Psalm 61:1-3 NIV,

Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy…

Why do I not run to the ROCK when I fear for my safety, when I lack provision? Why do I always try to make ends meet using my own resources, my own understanding?

Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV says,

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

I cannot work my way out of any circumstance or scenario. Why is this so?

I believe the reason is simply this: the Lord is the One who orders my days and make the plans for my life. Finite. 

Proverbs 19:21 NLT says, “You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.” Likewise, we read in Proverbs 16:19 NLT, “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” Psalm 121:8 NASB reminds us that it is the Lord who watches over us, who guards our ways. The Psalmist said it this way, “The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.” Thus, we see that no matter how much we try to control our day, our way, and our time — the truth is that the Lord is the One who plans, who guards, and who oversees our future. That is to say, for those who have made the Lord’s will their ultimate goal in life.

Choosing His Way

It is funny really, but after my interview on Friday, I had this feeling that the whole process was simply a test for me. I know that sounds fantastic, but what I mean is that the interview itself was not really an interview at all. It was a conversation between two people. The hiring manager didn't interview me at all, instead he simply spent the better part of an hour talking about how great the company was and how it had such great benefits. I thought it was strange from the get go, but I didn't feel pressed to say anything at all. I just listened to him. I would say it was more like an informational session than an interview for a job.

At first, I thought, "Okay, that is a blessing for certain." But, after time passed by, I started to wonder why this person would take time from his busy schedule to meet with me and tell me that the company is great without really asking me anything about my experience or my abilities. In fact, as the interview ended, and I walked away, I thought to myself, "I don't think anything really happened here." It was weird. Not unfriendly weird or strange weird, just plain weird.

Saturday, I started to feel doubts about whether I should leave the path I am on for this new avenue. The path appears to have all the hallmarks of a good road to follow. It seems smooth, it seems easy, and it certainly appears to be solid as far opportunity. Yet, there was something not right about it, and I couldn't figure it out until today.

Yesterday, I felt completely off. So much so that I stayed home from church and vegged out the entire day. I rested well last night, but this morning, I woke up with this feeling like "something is not right." Of course, I am over-reacting. I always do that. I worry about nothing, and then something good comes from it. Perhaps I am just feeling a twinge of regret, you know, leaving my path of teaching for this new venture. In all ways, this new way seems exciting, good, prosperous. The old way is hard. It is difficult for me. I am in pain constantly, and there is little income opportunity. But, I do have freedom and I am home to help care for my Mom. Still, how long can I play school? You know, how long can I put off the inevitable?

So this morning, after I finished this post, I was praying to the Lord. I was asking Him to help me understand why I feel the way I do about this interview. I realize that nothing could be wrong at all. I could be just over-thinking the situation, placing too much emphasis on my feelings and the like. But, then there is this sense that where I am at (as a teacher) is a good thing. One thing is for sure, my PhD is welcomed at my schools. It is expected, in fact. In business, I just look over-qualified or like someone who is not going to hang around for long. I get it, I really do. The problem is that as an over-educated individual, I can do nothing to change my situation other than to lie about it. No, I have to be who I am, and frankly, that means being the professor God has allowed me to be.

In my prayer today, I said to the Lord, "Lord, do you want me to leave teaching for this position in business? Do you want me to stop being a professor and take on this business role?" I knew what His answer would be, but it was comforting when it finally came to me. I realized that no matter how I try to leave teaching behind, teaching has become part of me. I am a professor, through and through. I may not be a ranked, tenure-track professor, but I am a professor none the less.

I guess what I am saying is that at this point in time, I may find it difficult to transition into business. It is not to say it is impossible or anything because nothing is impossible for God. I am just saying that the road through business might not be as smooth as it appears initially. Will a company hire me with a PhD? Maybe. Perhaps. If it is the Lord's provision and His will. Will a school hire me without a PhD? Yes. Will they hire me with one? Yes. It is about 50/50. Which, I guess is to say that at this point in time, I am 100% dependent on the Lord for making a way out of my situation, my circumstance and for providing a future that accomplishes His will for my life.

My Life is Not My Own

In Acts 20:24 NLT, Paul said, “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” In this way, he was affirming his role and his position in God’s providential plan for His kingdom. You see, when you come to faith in Jesus Christ, and especially when you receive a calling from Him, you willingly lay down the right to your own life. It is part of the covenant made between you and the Lord. He promises to give you eternal life, and you promise to follow His commands. It is an exchange that requires faith and obedience. It is not one or the other, but rather it is a combination of both. You receive eternal life through faith alone, but you live out that faith through obedience to God’s Word. You are to live a certain way, do certain things, and go certain places. Your life is no longer about your choices, your decisions or even your desires. No, it is all about His will, His way, and the wishes He has for your life — to better you, to bring you to maturity, and to eventually lead you to the “promised rest.” You cannot go where He doesn’t lead. You cannot find hope, peace or rest where He is not present.

I realize this today as I have struggled some to come to terms with the recent changes in my life. I mean, I was so set, so established as a teacher. I was enjoying my everyday life (to quote Joyce Meyer), and I was at rest. I had peace. I was comfortable in this way. Then I panicked, I started to think that the only “right way” out of my situation was to turn toward business, to take a position as an analyst and find a solid path, a good means of provision. After all, my greatest need today is financial. I need to make more money, thus the solution is to find a job that will do that easily. And, I did. I applied for a position that I was well-qualified to be considered. I applied where my education was overwhelming more than needed. Yet, I had no luck previously when I applied for roles that required more education, more skill or more experience. I applied, and guess what? I was asked to interview — finally — after 17 attempts, I was asked to interview. But, what then? What happened next?

I am sitting here waiting to hear back on whether or not this job, a good job, a good paying job will be offered to me. I have no other recourse than to stay put, to remain where I am for a time. In short, if this job doesn’t come to pass, then I will have to wait another year for an infusion of income. I will have to wait to look for work after the fall semester is over. I will have to patiently endure hardship and the unknown until the Lord opens the next door.

My life is not my own. I cannot go where He doesn’t lead me. I cannot hope for provision that is not of His hand. I must remember that I abide in the True Vine, and apart from Him, there is no other provision, no other way. I must relent. I must relinquish everything, every desire, every want, and yes, every need so that He alone is my SOURCE and my SATISFACTION.

Today, I look to His hand of blessing. I look to His favor, and I trust that He will provide for me. I can do nothing apart from Him, but it is in His strength that every thing becomes possible. Yes, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13). 

In Closing

In closing today, I remember that I am not my own person anymore. I am a bondslave of the Lord Jesus Christ, and as such, I am His to do with as He desires. Like Mary, I am the Lord’s handmaiden. Luke says in chapter 1, verse 38, “And Mary said, ‘behold the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her.” In a similar way, Paul said in Galatians 2:20 KJV,  “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

What does this mean? Can a Christian maintain ownership of his or her life or does this run counter to the Word of God? Oswald Chamber’s gives an eloquent answer when he says, “The passion of Christianity is that I deliberately sign away my own rights and become a bond-slave of Jesus Christ. Until I do that, I do not begin to be a saint.” Echoing Paul’s testimony in Galatians, Chambers says, “These words mean the breaking of my independence with my own hand and surrendering to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus.” Yes, one cannot be had without the other. In order to be a bondservant, a bondslave of the Lord Jesus Christ, one cannot continue to make decisions, make provisions, or even make preparation outside of the will of God.

It means breaking the husk of my individual independence of God, and the emancipation of my personality into oneness with Himself, not for my own ideas, but for absolute loyalty to Jesus.

As I think about my life today, I am humbled as I am reminded of this truth. To whom am I bonded? To whom do I belong? I am no longer my own, and I cannot make decisions about where I will go, how long I will tarry, or whether I will do this thing or that thing. No, I relinquished my independence at the foot of the cross. I was “emancipated into oneness” and I am loyal to Jesus. It is all or nothing. Nothing but Christ crucified, as Paul so beautifully wrote. I am crucified with Him, and as such, all worldly desires, hopes, dreams, and aspirations are crucified as well.

Dear Lord,

I humbly confess to you today that my life has become all about things, about wants, and about desires. Yes, I have tried to consider your desires only. I have tried to place your views, your opinions, and your counsel above my own. Yet, time and time again, I have failed to do what you ask. I have fallen into the trap of my enemy who seeks to dazzle me with my own abilities. He says to me “Look what you could have if only you leave the path you are on.” I have been enticed to walk in a way that solves my need without you. I have listened as my enemy as said to me, “Does the Lord want you to suffer in this way?” When I think about my “lack” or my growing “debt,” I immediately begin to fear, to worry, and to doubt. Today, I recall the words of my Lord who said to Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:19 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Oh, Lord, how I have succumbed to the temptations of this world. I regret my lack of faith, my weakness, and my willingness to be easily pulled away by  the enticing riches of this world. You alone are my sufficiency, and in my weakness, you are made strong. I relent today, and I choose to follow you. Yes, I relent today, and I accept the burden I must bear as I follow you. I will wait until you provide. I will wait until you lead me. I will allow you to be my entire life, and by that I mean, I will remain in utter dependency upon you and you alone. 

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. 
Romans 11:36 ESV

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