June 28, 2016

Peace Today

Happy Tuesday! It is a good day here in sunny and humid, Phoenix! Yes, we had some monsoon action last night that brought in the moisture, but didn't really produce anything other than dry lightening storms. Today is sunny and hot, with higher than normal humidity levels. The good news is that our dew point is up in the low 60's and with our forecast high near 110, I think we could expect some good rain showers later this afternoon or evening. I am ready for some relief, and rain is the just the ticket to get this summer rolling. Yay!

My happy attitude isn't just on account of the potential rain, but rather it is also because I slept well. I mean, I really slept well. I went to bed around 11:30 last night after I watched several episodes of "Stargate Atlantis." I am up to episode 18 out of 20, and then my summer binge-watching will come to an end. In all, I have watched "The Minions" movie and most of "Midsomer Murders" (Seasons 15-17), "Happy Valley" (Season 2), "The Brokenwood Mysteries" (Seasons 1 and 2), "Kingdom" (Series 1-3), George Gently" (Season 7), Hinterland (Seasons 1-2), and "Broadchurch" (Season 2).

I binge-watch Netflix and Amazon Instant Video every summer since I rarely get the chance to watch TV or movies during the school year. My summer vacation is all about relaxing, and even though I am still a bit stressed (over the unknown in my future), I find watching my favorite series a good way to get away from reality for a while. Of course, after a couple months of binge-watching, I typically get tired of the activity and then move on to more practical and productive things. But, still, I always enjoy watching new series or movies when I know I don't have anything better to do with my time (LOL!)

So all of this is to say I am relaxed, and I think this is why I slept so well last night. I am a little groggy this morning, but overall, I do feel rested. The other reason, though I am not sure about it, is my realization that through-and-through I am a professor. I know, rocket science! I came to terms with this fact this weekend while I was considering the opportunity I have to work for UHC as a Business Analyst. Right now, I am a little confused as to what my next steps should be. I mean, the likely scenario is for me to take this job, if offered, because the pay is significantly more than what I will earn as an adjunct. However, I cannot help but think that if the Lord wanted me to receive this offer, then things would have played out differently for me last week. I don't mean to say that my interview was not a good one, it just wasn't an interview at all. It was more like an info-session, and that leaves me thinking that I was asked to come in for a "chat" without any hope of securing the position. I don't know that for sure, but it feels that way. What is more is the fact that I am starting to think that perhaps it is the Lord's will for me to tarry in this role (as adjunct) for another one or two semesters while I finish my PhD completely. Moreover, because it is now at the end of June, if I don't hear something soon, I will have to stay with my contracts for fall. I am struggling with that thought right now because I cannot leave these schools in the lurch. I have an issue with honor and integrity, and that means that I cannot walk away and leave them without faculty at the last minute. I have to make a decision this week to either stay put or to go. It cannot go on any longer, and right now, I am feeling as if the Lord wants me to stay for a time. I don't know. I just don't know.

I am patiently waiting, and perhaps the way I feel is simply nervous tension, I am not sure. What I can say is that I have a sense of peace about my thinking-change. This peace is not about the new job, but more so about staying where I am, even if the path seems so futile and hopeless. You see, I have prayed for the Lord to open and close doors. I have prayed for Him to make my way clear, to show me with no uncertainty where to go. And, yet, I feel tension (slight) when I move in one way, and rest when I move the other.

My Thoughts Today

It has been a good day thus far, even though I haven't gotten much work done on my dissertation revisions for the week. My friend from Regent texted me this morning to ask if she could call me to discuss her method for studying for exams. I spent the better part of three hours with her on the phone today. I am glad I was able to encourage her. She is such a dear sweet lady, and I am blessed to know her. My prayer is that my words served as comfort to her and that she feels more confident going forward. May God be praised always. His word is truth, and He alone is worthy of all praise and honor.

So here I sit. I chugged down some left-over lasagna and salad for lunch, and now I am back to my computer. I thought I should finish out this blog post, but I am afraid that I don't have much to say anymore. My mind has been transformed, thanks to my conversation with my colleague, and in an instant, I seem to be feeling as if everything is "right with the world." Oh well...

It is funny how that seems to happen. It is funny how a seemingly simple conversation can turn your entire day around. It wasn't as if I was depressed or anything this morning, more so it was like I was at peace, feeling at rest, and then was party to a intervention by the Holy Spirit of God. Part of me was like, "Hey, this is neat," and the other part was just clueless regarding the whole matter. I mean, how is it that the Lord works this way. I mean, yesterday I felt so ready to chuck in my desire for a bigger income, and my desire to leave teaching (the path I am on), and today I feel like I am ready to let go of every need, wish or desire except for His will for my life. I cannot explain it other than to say I have this sense of "rightness," that I am right where I belong, and that despite the lack of income and such, I am where He wants me to be -- 100% dependent on Him alone.

I cannot believe that I am saying this but I think I am supposed to remain in teaching -- despite -- no hope for income, no future prospects or no sure way around this BIG ROCK in my way. I am feeling like David as he stood before Goliath, overwhelmed and undervalued, yet with great faith that rested in God's abilities and not his own. I am standing here with these five small rocks and I am aiming to hit a giant (debt, loan, lack of income, etc.) with them. In whom do I trust? Where does my faith rest?

I stand here today and say with utter abandonment that I cannot imagine doing any other work than the work I currently do. Yes, I need money (who doesn't?) Yes, I need some more work. Yes, I need a plan, a path to follow, and some way out of my circumstance. But, the path I have chosen to follow, while good and practical, is not the path the Lord desires for me to follow. Not now, that is. Not again. I thought that perhaps I could go back to the place where I diverted, back to the place where I stopped following this way (into teaching) and where I pursued corporate business. I thought if I just turned around and found my way back there, everything would be good. All that seemed wrong would be righted, and in one fell swoop, I would have my provision, my promised provision. I was wrong. I was so very wrong.

I guess my realization that I am where I am for a reason began this weekend. I started to think more about how I will take care of my ailing Mom and how I will finish my dissertation this fall AND tackle a new job. I started to think about my professor's words to me from last week. He said, "Don't give up on teaching just yet, Carol." I always believe my professor's words to me. He says things to me that seem so wise, and I trust his advice. Then there was my good friend from Texas who texted me yesterday and said to me the same thing. She said, "Keep on looking for full-time teaching work, Carol. Don't give up yet." And, if that wasn't enough, my good friend today (another from TX) kept saying to me, "You and I are so alike, Carol. We are both English teachers. This is why we think the way we do." I couldn't help but think, "You are right. I am an English teacher. I cannot get away from it. This is what I do so well."

Now, I am not saying that I am thinking that all of these people were speaking God's word to me. Rather, it was more like God used them to send me confirmation. I had asked Him to confirm my way, to show me that without a doubt I was to head into business and leave teaching behind. Now, granted, I started to have some doubts over the weekend, so by yesterday, I was already thinking that the Lord was saying for me to remain, to stay put. Yet, I didn't relent right away. I didn't agree to stay put until last night. I remember saying to Him, "Lord, I am content to be a teacher for the rest of my life, if that is your will. I am content to live as you have me for as long as you provide a way for me to do so." Then this morning, I prayed for doors to close, to shut, and for me to know that I am to remain where I am. As I was getting dressed, I prayed in my spirit, and I heard myself say, "Lord, even if I have to give up a salary and benefits, I will choose to this work so that I will be 100% dependent on you." Now, that didn't come from me because I wouldn't say I was willing to live in poverty to do this work -- that would be impractical and unrealistic -- yet that is pretty much what I agreed to say to Him. I am willing, Lord, to live as I am. I am willing to forgo efforts to build a life through my own efforts just so I can be dependent upon you. I asked Him to take away all desires for wealth, security, provision -- everything -- that could be generated by my own hand so that I would have to rely on Him alone. Why would I say this? Why would I agree to living this way?

All I can think of is this -- if the Lord desires to receive all the glory -- and that is what I have said I wanted, then I cannot share in any achievement that is not His alone. This means that for me to be elevated in a position that is not directly of His doing, I would be "potentially" receiving praise that is due His name. I cannot do that so I must choose to humble myself, and take on a servant's role so I can be lifted up in His time, for His work, and in His way. I cannot seek any praise outside of Him.

Turning Around

I turned myself around and I walked back to where the Lord had me stationed. I took up my shield of faith, my sword of the Spirit, and with the full armor of God on, I stood my ground against the enemy as he taunted and tempted me. I know my weaknesses, and frankly, while I felt I had them under "lock and key," I didn't realize just how vulnerable I really was until this past weekend. I mean, the three greatest sins are lust of the eyes (greed), lust of the flesh (immorality), and pride of life (not needing God). 1 John 2:15-17 NIV says it this way:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not from the Father but from the world. The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God remains forever.
Likewise, Solomon said, "Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, Nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied" (Proverbs 27:20), and he was correct. Inside man are hidden desires, lusts as John calls them, that drive humans to want to possess things, to act in certain ways, and to think that they do not need God. Now, I wouldn't say that my desire for more income was a lustful thing, per se, but I cannot help but think of Jesus' words of caution regarding temptation and sin. In Matthew 18:8-9 NIV, we read,

If your hand or your foot causes you to fall into sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than to have two hands and two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to fall into sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

I thought I could handle lusting after things. I thought I could handle the thought of having more money. I thought I could handle the idea of being promoted, praised, and lifted up in a leadership position. But this wasn't true at all because shortly after I found out the salary being offered for this position, I immediately took issue. I said to the Lord, "I don't think it is enough or will be enough to take care of all  my needs." In truth, this may be the case, but clearly my thoughts were running to the fact that the increase in salary would indeed solve my immediate problem (debts). Again, I am not saying there is anything wrong with wanting to earn more income or to possess a modest lifestyle, but when wanting something entices you to sin, then that THING becomes sin to you. 

Paul writes about the law of love in Romans 14:22-23 BSB when he says,

Keep your belief about such matters between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the one who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that is not from faith is sin. 

In this same way, my desire for more income, a better quality of life, etc. has become a sin to me. I think about it, dwell on it, and run after it, so much so that it loses its practical properties and becomes a temptation to me. Thus, it is better to enter the Kingdom of Heaven with less than with more -- even if it means to cut off a part of your body to do so. In my case, I believe that my desire for a job far exceeds my reliance upon the Lord for His provision for my life. I have known this for a long time, and I have understood that teaching places me in a position of surrender to the Lord. In this way, I must continue to choose a way that keeps me 100% dependent upon Him for my provision and my security. 

I know what you are thinking. Couldn't you do that and still possess a better paying job? I am sure many people could do that, but for me, it is impossible. I know my weakness. I know my frailty. I know where my armor exposes my skin and my enemy is smart enough to exploit that flaw. I surrender to the Lord, and I place upon me the armor of God to protect me and keep me free from sin. It is my job to make sure I do not put myself into positions whereby I will be tempted. Therefore, if I remain in teaching, choosing the hard way, the difficult way, then I know I will be safe from the lust of the eyes (greed).
In Closing

I am still not sure what the Lord wants me to do, but I have a strong feeling that I am to remain where I am for a time. If I am wrong, then I will hear back positively on the job interview from last week. If I am right, then I will receive an email thanking me for applying but stating that I am not being considered for the job. I hope the latter is true, as weird as it seems. I just want this test, this trial, to come to an end. I need to patiently wait for the Lord to end it, but for now, I will rest in Him, and let Him sort out the details. He has a way for me to go, and there is no other way now. I feel confident that this is true, but I have asked for formal confirmation so I can know for certain. Until I receive word, I will just wait as I have and focus on the needs at hand. I will continue to trust the Lord, and I will continue to wait and to look up.

Psalm 46:10 NLT - "Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world."

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