July 20, 2016

Winning Wednesday

Happy Wednesday! It is such a good day here in sunny and very humid, Phoenix! Yes, the monsoon has finally arrived, and the past couple days have seen an increase in the chance of rain showers. Still not much happening in our neck of the woods, but in the southern portions of the county, strong thunderstorms have been popping up each afternoon. Hopefully, our turn will come very soon. Until then, the skies are muggy gray (yay!) and that is such a sweet change from our "oh so" normal blue.

I am feeling well today. I slept peacefully, and while I still had some dreams, they seemed less intense then the past couple nights. I woke up early to the sound of Ike pounding on the bedroom door. I usually can ignore him for a good hour, but this morning he was especially active. I got up and fed him before returning to bed to read the news on my phone. Oh my! The news is so depressing these days. I am so not political, and everything you read has a right or left slant. It seems good old-fashioned common sense has gone out the window. Lord, help us now!

Right now, I am sitting at my desk with a cat on my lap. Ike has "assumed the position," which just means he has taken a kitten approach (he is 6 years old) to napping. He has his head tucked into my arm and is kneading my armpit at the moment. I don't mind except that he uses his claws -- and -- OUCH! do they need trimmed! My bad, really. I have put it off, and now I am suffering the consequences! LOL!

Update - Job and Weight Loss

I found out that I am scheduled for the background check at Regent University. I hadn't heard anything since last week, so I sent an email off last evening to ask about it. Good news -- I am on the list. I guess they are a bit swamped with new hires. I know they just finished a big recruitment fair so I am sure they have many new candidates to vet. I will be patient, I will be patient.

I also started my first day of teaching at OCU yesterday. So far so good. I've got 20 students registered, and a fair portion have already participated in class. It looks like this 5-week class will be very easy to facilitate. A number of the students have turned in their first week's work already. I love those go-getters. This means I can probably grade assignments as they come in, though I think I will just wait for them all to be due. I am playing around right now, getting a feel for how the week goes. My hope is that this class format is low-key. I had the impression early on that it was going to be intensive, but now I am thinking it might be that way for certain classes (like Psychology or Math). In a writing class, the students pretty much submit their work as they complete it. I grade it. It should be easy for me to keep up with the workload. God is good, so very good to me. I am thanking Him for this provision today. This means that I can easily handle these types of classes as fillers to my normally heavy schedule. Depending on need, I could pick up 1-2 classes and earn an extra $1000 to $1500 per class. Sweet!

I was a little bummed at my weight-check in on Sunday. I had lost 1.8 pounds in my first week. Then on Sunday, my weight jumped back up .8 pounds. How disappointing! Yesterday, however, my weight was down .4, so today's weigh-in will hopefully continue the downward pattern. I have been good with my points, sticking to my 22 target. I did go over a little on Sunday, and I gave myself a treat that cost me 6 points (a Klondike Bar). With the Weight Watchers Points system, you can take an extra 35 points in the week for a special outing. I kept my points range between 18-24 all week long, so the treat was a nice reward for being so careful. Now, I need to get back on track, especially with my water consumption. I want to keep the 1-2 pound loss going. I've got a long way to make my goal, and consistency will be important in the long haul.

Making A Move Today

It has been a long, long dry spell, and today, I finally feel like I am ready to make a big move. I am finally ready, and I mean, ready to tackle my project, to make headway, and to get myself moving forward again. Perhaps it is because I now know what to expect with my new class, and I am feeling a bit more at ease. I don't know, I just don't know. All I can say is that today, I feel energized and ready to start planning, purposing, and walking in His promises. Yes, today I feel ready to begin the next phase of my development, of the plan the Lord has for my life. It is like up until yesterday, I felt stuck, really stuck. I was in this place of transition, like I was perpetually waiting for permission to move. I was sitting there, stewing, and not really feeling like anything I did would make a difference. After a while, I just gave up. I mean, why try, right? Well, I did accomplish some this summer, but not like what I had intended to accomplish. No, I just did the minimum, and I rested a lot. I guess the Lord knew that I needed to rest. I guess He knew that resting was just what the Great Physician ordered for my welfare and my recuperation. Now that I am well-rested, and I feel well-rested, I am ready to begin again. I am ready to take off, and that means, to really get myself up and out so I can fly away!

In some ways, I feel like the baby bird that has finally fluffed out her wings and is ready to take that first big leap off the branch and away from Mom and Dad's care. I should have done this a long, long time ago, but I didn't do it. I didn't fly free. Instead, I stayed very close to home, afraid to step out on my own and trust the plans the Lord had for me. Now, though I am ready. I am grown up, and I am ready to do this special and qualified work. I have what I need to do it, too. I have my PhD (almost), and I have a good job now. I am set. I am settled. I am ready to be established as a career professor, and to move to that farm where I can begin my life as a farm girl.

I can't believe I am saying this but this is what I intend to do. I have thought long and hard about it, and I have vacillated between living in a modern home and in a modern city with that of living in an old farm house in a rural area. I have gone over the pros and cons, and though I had made up my mind many times (new is better than old), my heart finally won out. I realized that what I wanted most was the lifestyle that accompanies farm living. In all my dreams, and buried deep in my desires is this one: to live on a small farm in rural America. It is the thing I want most, yet it is the thing I never thought would ever be realized in my life (my ex-husband had no interest in living a rural life).

As I confess it today, I realize that my Aunt Arlene is my inspiration for this dream. I never realized just how much of an inspiration she is to me until recently. I have blogged about her a number of times, and always with the utmost respect. She is charming, quirky and very self-sufficient. At 87 years of age, she still lives on her farm in Indiana. Although she has some challenges now, her attitude is still the best I have seen lived out. She still drives to see her sister who is living in assisted living (some 20 miles away) each week. She still is active in church and in the farm bureau, and yes, she still farms her land (though others do the work). She is my Dad's oldest sister, and her life has not been easy all these years. She was widowed in her early 40s, and left to raise four children on her own. She never remarried. She worked hard, lived hard, and didn't have a lucrative or financially secure life. Yet, she never complained. She never once complained about how hard her life was after my Uncle passed away. Now, all these years later, she is the same happy person. Always cheerful, always laughing. She is sharp as a tack, as my Dad says, and for the most part, lives very happily on her farm in Indiana.

I read this quote once, and at the time, I thought it was a nice saying. Now, I understand it better. The saying goes, "It's so easy to make up your mind but the hardest thing is convincing your heart." I believe this is true, that often we make up our mind about this thing or that thing, but we cannot convince our heart that what we have decided upon is the right or the "heart thing." How often do we side with our rational mind? How often do we make decisions that are logical, analytical, and yes, rational when all a long our heart (our deepest part of our emotional well-being) is screaming at us to stop, to wait, or to hold on for a time. I know this has been my experience, and while I pride myself on making good decisions, there have been some decisions that were life-changing for me, and frankly, they were not the best choices I could make. They were rational, logical, head choices, and after a time, once the logic wore off, I realized I had lost a chunk of my heart by following after my head.

Counselors and others will say to you, "be careful when you follow your heart" knowing that often the heart can lead us in the same direction as our head. Sometimes we can foolishly follow a heart decision only to find out that it wasn't in our best interest either. Yet, at least with heart decisions, the satisfaction comes from knowing that the heart is settled and content. In my case, I can say that following the path to become a teacher was purely a heart decision. I have wrestled with my career choice for close to four years, and finally this summer, came to terms with my decision. I realized that after all the analysis, my heart decision to become a teacher was in my best interest. Sure, I chose the path that produces the least income. I chose the path that isn't going to be as steady, say as a path in business. But I followed my heart, and my heart has been content in the matter. It was getting my head to agree, and that took a long, long time for me.

The same is true with my marriage. I followed my head into that marriage. I chose a mate based on logical terms, rather than for love. I made a decision that solved my problem, that promised me a good future, a hopeful outcome, but in the end, there wasn't love -- not the kind of love -- that stands the test of time. I didn't love my ex-husband the way I should have loved him. He didn't deserve my lack of love as much as I didn't deserve his. In the end, we parted as friends, and we still are friends. We just didn't love one another the way we should have because had we loved deeply, passionately, then we would still be together today. Our love, based on God's will and word, would have seen us through the difficulties we encountered. Instead, our love was based not on agape love, but on phileo love. In the end, our love didn't sustain us because it wasn't the right kind of love, it wasn't heart love.

Making a Decision

I have spent the better part of 50 years trying to figure out what I wanted from life. I went from childhood to teenage to young adult, all without ever figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I simply let life pass me by, and I sat on the sidelines for far too long. I let others choose for me, and then I tried to rationalize their choices, to make them "fit" my heart. Overtime, I came to resent the people who made choices for me. I came to resent the choices, and I resorted to behaviors that didn't serve me well. Instead of standing my ground, standing up for what I wanted or believed in, I simply kept silent. I didn't open my mouth because I was afraid to make waves, to encounter criticism or to endure hardship. In the end, I suffered regardless. I was still criticized. I was still forced into hardship. The worst part of it was that I suffered needlessly. I suffered as a result of other people's choices for me, when had I just said, "No thank you," I could have staved off most of that sorrow. Sure, I would have suffered other hardships, but they would have been the result of my own choices. I would have had to rationalize and make my heart happy, but, at the least, I would have been the author of my own destiny, so to speak. I would have made choices, lived with those choices, and learned how to make choices through life-learning and life lessons.

Today, I am ready to make a bold decision. Today, I am ready to take that next step, to begin the process of choosing to make heart decisions that are based on the desires the Lord has placed within me. I am choosing to go His way -- ALL THE WAY -- and that means to go and do whatever He wants from me. I am choosing to trust Him for the provision, the resources, and yes, the way (as in the path to follow). I am ready to begin to live the "second half" of my life, and that idea, that thought, excites me. I am so ready to begin again, to start over, to walk out that door and into the bright sunshine that will be MY LIFE! God has given me great desires. He has placed His heart within me, and I feel so strongly that I am ready to begin the life God has set aside, ordained, prepared, and planned for me. I am ready, Lord. I am so ready.

Heart Desire is Good

It feels so good to finally be decided, to finally make up my mind, and to know that what is in my head matches what is in my heart. I opened this blog post today with this quote from Psalm 20:4. In the Amplified, it says, "May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans." There are two places in the Psalms where this idea about God granting you your "heart's desire" is clearly spoken. One is in Psalm 20 (above), and the other is in Psalm 37:4-5.

I first became aware of this promise from Scripture when I was studying the Psalms back in 2006. I had made it my goal to read through the Psalms every day for a year. I ended up reading through the Psalms every day for three years. In all, I studied them closely, reading, meditating on them, and by using a concordance, Bible dictionary, and other sources, I really came to love the power and reflective presence of the Lord through this beautiful verses. More so, my relationship with the Lord deepened as I studied the Psalms, and as I came to rely on Him, seek Him, and yes, praise Him through daily recitation of the Psalms, my life changed. It absolutely changed.

It was during this time that I took Psalm 37:4-5 as my life verse. I made the decision to choose these verses because of the powerful way in which the psalmist places his trust in God for His provision, but even more so, for the deep petitions inside his heart. I asked the Lord about the words, asking if it was true or not. I mean, if I delighted myself in the Lord, would He really give me the desires and secret (my version of the AMP said "secret") petitions of my heart? His reply to me was "YES!" Since that day, I have endeavored to make Him my delight, and as a result, He has given to me many of the desires I held deep within the recesses of my heart.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
And He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
Trust in Him also and He will do it.

The sad part about this verse in particular is that many well-intentioned people misinterpret its meaning and sometimes say that so long as you are "saved," the Lord will give you the desires of your heart (the good and the bad). This is not how I read and studied this verse, and while I am not a Bible scholar, I believe good common sense and general biblical knowledge would suggest otherwise. You see, the Lord will never give you evil desires, sinful or lustful desires. He cannot. These are desires that go against His nature, and thus, as a Holy God, He could not give you desires that would 1) cause you to sin; 2) lead you away from Him; or 3) place you at odds with others in the family of God. No, desires that do these three things are of the flesh, and the only one who places such desires into your heart and your mind is your enemy, Satan. The Lord who is righteous, holy, and good, only gives His children righteous, holy, and good desires. Furthermore, any desires within your heart that are good will be predicated on the Father's will for your life.

1. Testing Our Desires

I have explained this idea to others before, and sometimes I will be asked how to know the difference between human desires and Godly desires. I typically quote Phil. 4:8 as a good rule of thumb:

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].

Any desire we have that resides in our flesh must be checked to see if it aligns with the will of God. This means that the desire should not go against the Lord's word (the Bible). It must not serve to hurt others, distance your relationship from others, or in any way, cause you to stumble in your walk with the Lord. It must not be born of fleshly pride, which simply is any desire that would cause you to be prideful rather than humble. Micah 6:8 is a good reminder of what God desires in us:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?

Humility or humbleness is a state of being. It means that a person who is humble or who chooses a humble lifestyle has done so in order to not elevate themselves above others. God loves a humble and contrite spirit (Psalm 51:17), thus any desire that would seek to elevate one to a "god-like" status would be of the flesh. Remember God's ordering in His kingdom: "So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last" (Matt. 20:16). Likewise, Paul said in Galatians 5:13, "But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love." Godly desires would reinforce humility, a love for God and for others, and would serve humbly rather than with prideful arrogance or exuberance.

2. Redirecting Our Focus

Therefore, once all desires have been tested against Scripture, and we have determined that the desire we have is not in conflict with the Holy Word nor are they desires that would seek to place us in a master/servant position, then we need to make sure we have our God-centered focus turned on. In truth, we should always be focused on God and not on ourselves. I know that it is difficult to always be God-centered, but as Christ followers, this should be our "normal" state of being. For some, following Christ is only convenient when it is convenient to do so. But, for others, following Christ is a way of life, as it should be. Thus, while it is hard to always be 100% outward focused on the Lord, it should be possible to be 100% focused inwardly, within the heart, considering the fact that the Holy Spirit of God is at home and lives within us.

In my case, there are so many times during the day when I lose my God-centered focus, especially when I tend to place the emphasis on me, my wants, my needs, etc. This is normal, it happens, and when family commitments come into play, I know how difficult it can be to spend time with the Lord. However, and this is key, if you want the Lord to grant the desires of your heart, you must place Him first, you must make Him the delight of your life. These two verses go hand-in-hand. You cannot have one without the other. Consequently, the Lord must have first place in your heart -- not now and again -- but ALWAYS. Your attitude, your mindset, and yes, your behavior should already be reflecting of this position (remember Phil. 4:8, 1 Cor. 10:31, and Col. 3:10-11). The LORD should be sitting on the throne room of your heart if you are truly born again. If you have any other thing (person, place, or thing, I mean), then you need to right your positioning first and foremost. Get yourself to your knees, lay before Him, and worship the Lord in His rightful place as LORD over all creation. Only then can you even hope to experience any "desires" that are of His heart.

If this is difficult to grasp, read it this way: if you want His desires to form the foundation of your life, then you must place Him as the locus of your worship and adoration. This means, in short, a life fully and wholly devoted to God will generate God-honoring, God-blessed, and yes, God-given desires that will fulfill and satisfy your heart. I believe this is true, and I bear witness to the fact that God has done this within my heart time and time again.

3. Accepting His Desires

The interesting thing is that many of the desires I have had placed in my heart are desires that have been with me for years and years. These are desires that seemed selfish, very self-motivated or oriented, and for a long time, I believed they were my own interests, wishes, etc. Later, as I matured as a Christian, I came to realize that often the desires that exist in our heart, the ones that last, that linger on for years, are really God's desires for us. Sometimes we miss the cue or sometimes we choose things that are not in His best for us. We walk the wrong way, for example, and we miss the alignment of a desire He has for us. I know this is the case in my life, and for many years, I felt the sorrow of missing out on His desire for me.

The good news is that it is never too late to experience these desires -- if you are willing to accept them -- and to trust God to bring them to pass. This was my situation completely. One of the desires in my heart from the time I was a child was to be a teacher. I had several opportunities to teach in college, to follow that educational path, but I listened to others, and in the end, walked a different way. I never lost my desire to teach. I never lost my intense desire to be a teacher. I suffered. I languished, and yes, I had great regret and sorrow for not following the Lord's desire when it was most convenient to do so (as a young single college student). My life would have been so different had I just listened and obeyed the voice, the call of the Lord.

Now, however, it is 30 years later, and it has been much more difficult to see this desire come to pass. I had to go back to school (at 47 and 50 years of age), and I had to incur some debt to do so. I had to give up a lot of "perks" and choose to work part-time while I pursued a PhD. I had to work hard at my studies, get really good grades, and give up friendship and family time just to do it. But here I am, working now as a teacher and doing the thing I love most.

There have been other desires that are also part of His will for me. Ever since I came to know the Lord as a teenager, I have been convinced that I was to live a singly, wholly devoted life. In this way, I was to live a life that was predicated on the Lord, and in some ways, a life that was to be lived in singleness. Of course, I didn't follow that path because whenever I said something to my family or friends, I was chastised for even "thinking such a crazy thing." I was not raised Catholic, but if I had been, I would have said that God called me to be a nun (as a good example). I was so devoted to the Lord as a young person, following after Him, growing in Him, etc., but because of peer pressure and family pressure, I gave up that path to follow the "traditional route" through marriage. I am not sorry, per se, that I took that route because the Lord gave me a beautiful child as a result. But I do bear great regret for not following what was clearly the Holy Spirit's calling on my life. Had I listened, followed the Lord completely, my life would have been different, so very different.

Of course, I didn't do that, I didn't listen. Instead, I married (30 years,) had a child, and lived an ordinary life. Yet, I was never happy in that life. I was never really happy, content, or pleased to be in that life. I loved parts of it, for certain. I loved being a Mom, and I loved being a stay-at-home wife, but there was this part of me, this strong part of my heart that desired God more than any man, even my husband. Yes, I desired God more than being married, and even now I am smitten with my Lord, and I desire to love Him, serve Him, and follow after Him, no matter the cost, or what that may mean to me as I move forward in this life.

I have accepted the desires of my heart, completely, fully, and now I am ready to move forward and take hold of the next desire that I believe the Lord has placed within me. I am ready to be bold, to have courage, and to step out in faith and go where He is sending me. I am ready, Lord. I am so ready to follow after you. Selah!

In Closing

Today is such a good day. I am blessed. I am so blessed. I am enjoying my everyday life, especially now that I have embraced the life I believe the Lord is giving to me. I have asked for my desires to be His desires, and I have embraced the desires I believe He has placed in my heart. Thus, I am receiving His desires daily, and as such, I am receiving blessing after blessing, time and time again, as He leads, guides, and provides for me. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

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