September 6, 2016
Oh, It's Tuesday!
It is lovely outside right now. The skies are clear and the air is warm, yet not too hot. If you know Phoenix, then you know what I am saying right now. It is mild out, even if mild means 87 degrees at 9:00 in the morning. Oh yes, this is MILD for early September. Our high today is expected to hit 100, but that is a welcome change. It just means that we can expect no more 105+ days between now and next April.
Woohoo! We've made it, yes, we have made it through the beastly summer and on into the blessed fall!!
Peace and Joy
I woke up this morning thinking how wonderful it is to be alive. I am not sure why this particular thought popped into my head, but it did. I thought to myself, "God has given me a great life, and I am the recipient of His manifold blessing and grace." Yes, I am giving Him all the praise, the honor, and the glory this good, good day. He is good to me, so very good to me.
This weekend was the Labor Day holiday, and while I didn't get everything done that I had planned to accomplish, I did have a restful weekend. I spent some time visiting with family, I worked on my big paper, and I took care of my online students. In all, the weekend was successful. I rested. I rested well.
It is Tuesday, my last day off before I head back to campus tomorrow. I am feeling so thankful for these days off. The Lord has provided a good routine for me, and I like my weekly schedule. It is crazy to think that we are in the first part of the school year, and soon we will be at our fall break (in November). Yes, I know. There are two months left before Thanksgiving, but I am just saying that the time will pass by so quickly, and before I realize it, I will be at the end of the year. In just four more months, 2016 will draw to a close, and then I will be faced with my dissertation defense and my graduation from Regent University. I will be a fully-fledged, newly minted, "PhD," and that thought scares me and excites me to no end. How has this come to pass? The time has slipped by and soon I will be finished. It is surreal in many ways. I cannot believe that I will have accomplished my heart's desire, my dream, and soon I will be able to say that "yet again," I am a graduate. Oh my goodness! I do not deserve His goodness and His blessing. I simply do not deserve to achieve this high of a rank, this great of an honor, this amazing of a feat. He is good to me, so very good to me.
So what will I do with this degree? How will I use it for God's glory?
Excellent questions. As of now, I plan to continue to teach college-level English classes, primarily Composition, but occasionally (as the Lord wills), Literature courses too. I may get to teach a Communications course every now and then, but for the most part, I am settled on being an English instructor. I hope to be able to spend the rest of my work life in this career, this profession. I enjoy teaching, really I do, and now that I have come to terms with the fact that this career suits me well, I am content to remain in it. It was difficult coming to that place of agreement. I knew this was His will for me, but it was so hard letting go the idea, the notion really, that I could make more "money" doing other kinds of work. Yes, the money was the rub in all of this, and even today, there are times when I think how little I am paid for the hard work I attend to each day. Yet, this is what the Lord has provided, and I will not look down upon His hand of blessing. I will accept His gift to me, cherish it, enjoy it, and take comfort in it. He is a good Father, and He knows my needs well. He knows what type of work suits my personality, my skills and my abilities; but more so, He knows that I need a kind of work that doesn't overly tax me, wear me down, or cause me too much physical stress and strain. I will say that teaching on campus has its drawbacks, but praise be to God, there are many wonderful positives that simply cannot be ignored. My prayer is for the Lord to open a door for me to teach full-time -- be it on campus or online -- as He determines best. Right now, I am content to remain where I am, to rest in His provision, and to wait upon Him for His timing. He has my future planned, and He knows the steps I am to take. I must wait for His guidance, and then I must submit to His leading, and follow after Him. He will make a way for me, of this I am certain.
Second, while I am content to work as a professor of English, I realize that the place of the Lord's choosing, as in school, has to like me, want me, and consider me valuable enough to hire me full-time. Right now, I am at peace to remain part-time through the end of this year. I am overwhelmed with my responsibilities, and I clearly see how difficult it is to teach at multiple schools. Yes, I need one school that will hire me to teach 3-4 classes per semester, and then pay me a living wage to do it. This is what I am asking of the Lord today, that He will provide one school only, a single job so that I can focus, learn how to do the work the school expects, and then settle in and do it with all my might, my effort, and my focused attention. I am finding it difficult to manage multiple schools, multiple classes and curriculum, so I believe it is His will to take me to a place where I can teach one set of classes, where I can grow comfortable in the curriculum, and were I can set down roots and bloom! Yes, I am asking Him to plant me in the garden of His choosing, and to let me bloom right where He has planted me. For His praise, of course! For His honor, always; and yes, for His eventual glory. He is good, so very good to me.
Third, I've been praying over my desire to move into my own place, and I believe that the Lord does intend to move me soon. I have considered a far number of options, locations really, and I am convinced that the place of His choosing will not only accommodate my needs for work (teaching), but will also provide a place where I can fully engage in Media or Communications ministry. My degree in Communications was not for unknown reasons, rather it was specific and particular to His calling. You see, I studied this field, this area of interest, not because I desired it but because He asked me, no -- called -- me to study it. This means that communication, the study, the theory, and the practical application of it, are central to His call upon my life. I am to do something with my PhD, and it is not to teach college classes. Yes, I know my PhD will facilitate that full-time job for sure, but keep in mind that I teach English and not Communication. Thus, had the Lord desired for me to study English, I would be graduating with my PhD in Rhetoric or Medieval Literature right about now. Instead, He asked me to consider studying at Regent, to pursue Social Science (eek!), and to think about learning communication for ministry. I agreed, and well, here I am. I am about to embark on the final months leading up to graduation, and the Lord intends for me to do something special with my degree.
I believe that I am called to help the church, the CHURCH, learn how to communicate faith more effectively. This means that I am to take all that I have learned and help those in the church (workers, leaders, ministers, pastors and teachers) communicate their faith more effectively to this postmodern world. I am to teach the CHURCH how to share their faith, to communicate it, using mediated tools and digital technology so that THEY can be more effective in reaching the "nones" out there. I am to help individuals, families, and para-ministry workers lead others to Christ. This means that my role is as a teacher, a preacher, someone who is able to creatively and with passion, teach others how to do this very thing. Yes, this is the Holy Spirit's domain in that it is His work that causes us to be able to lead others to Christ Jesus. But, I am to use my skill, my ability, and my training to help those in the CHURCH do a better job than they have lately. I am not sure of my target audience right now, but I am thinking it is to reach people who have either walked away from faith or who have been fed a watered-down version of faith. Yes, I believe God is sending me to a place where there are many "nones," people who say they have no faith or who do not practice their faith. It is important to note that I don't believe God is calling me specifically to reach atheists, per se, but rather I am called to reach people who have some knowledge of God, but who simply do not see Him as real, relevant, or responsive in their day in and day out existence. Yes, these are my people. These are the people God has called me to minister to, and where He sends me, I will find these particular people in droves.
Furthermore, I know that God has called me specifically to reach people who live in middle-class suburbia rather than in the inner city. I have known for some time that my "market niche," would not be the poor or the disenfranchised, the lowest of low in our society. There are many people who are called by God to minister to individuals who are living on the fringe, who need compassion and care because of poverty, sickness, or mental illness. My ministry is to the middle-class and upper middle-class, though I am asked to minister to anyone who has need, so in this way, yes I will be ministering to a wide demographic.
Consequently, I do believe that my ministry is specific in that I am reaching an educated class, and my PhD was crucial for me simply because of the weight, the authority, and the presence that is attached to it. The people God is asking me to minister to generally respect those with advanced degrees, thus I have been given this blessing in order to appear educated to these people. Mind you, I am thrilled to have this degree, but I have never lorded it over others because it is a gift from His precious and good hand. Still, there are people who respect the achievement, and hopefully, they will allow me the opportunity to teach and reach them because of it (so be it, Lord, so be it).
As I think about all of this, I am reminded of testimony the Lord had imparted to me many years ago, how I would work with people who were exactly like this, and who would respect the degree and as a result, they would listen to me. I didn't think much of it then because I was just starting graduate school, and my focus was solely on learning a new career. It was all too overwhelming to me back then, and I could barely consider anything beyond putting food on the table. Now, though, I am in this different place. I am about to complete my degree, and I am ready to do this work. I can see it now with such clarity. I can imagine the view, consider how it could work out, and yes, I am anxious (eager and excited) to think that the Lord intends to move me to a place where I will finally be able to do this special and significant work. I will be able to use my training, my skills and abilities, to effect change in the church.
I am so overwhelmed, so blessed, and so amazed that He has chosen me -- ME -- of all people. I have nothing, no credits, no experience, no reason to think that I could do anything of this magnitude. Yet, He has said I am to go and do this work. How can this be, Lord? Why me? I am the lowest of low, and I am so poorly skilled, and so unprofessional (as in technical abilities). I will do this work, Lord, of course. I will do this work to bring you praise and honor. I do ask that you do this through me, Lord! Please do this through me because I cannot even imagine doing it on my own.
My heart races, my mind conjures up a thousand different outcomes, and yet, I sit here filled with His peace. I realize that in this very thing, He will share His glory with no one -- not even me. He will be praised. He will be lifted high. He will receive all the honor. Yes, He alone is worthy to be praised. He alone is worthy to be praised. God is good, so very good to me.
Timing and Plans
As of today, September 6, I am certain that the Lord intends to move me physically to the place of His choosing sometime before next May, 2017. In that time frame, there is much work to do. I must be prepared. In this I simply mean, prepared to move. I must wrap my head around the idea that He is planning to move me, physically relocate me, and that I must be willing to submit and yield to His call. I struggle some with the logistics, and I believe this is what He is asking me to do today -- let this go -- so that I can allow Him, permit Him to schedule my move. This means that He has to provide two jobs to me: one is a full-time teaching position and the other is a part-time ministry position. Why two jobs? I believe that the place the Lord intends for me to go will require that I make more money than I could on one salary alone. This fact has been coming to me for a while now, so while I haven't blogged about it, the truth is that I have considered this as the eventual outcome for many months now.
At first, I assumed that the Lord would provide a full-time job and a volunteer job for me. Later, when the full-time work didn't seem to come to pass, I considered how I would live, earn enough, to live. This placed my focus on rural areas, places where I would need to teach online just so I could live very meagerly on limited salary. I couldn't imagine paying my student loans or even retiring in these places, but I considered them nonetheless. Lately, though, the Lord has shown me that it is very possible for me to work two jobs, one as a career and one as ministry, and earn enough to live comfortably anywhere in the USA. The problem, of course, is that if the Lord intends to settle me in a suburban area, middle to upper middle class, this means that I will need to earn more money just to live on, let alone retire. I don't mean to fixate on the money issue, but suffice it to say, I believe the Lord is providing multiple streams of income in order to facilitate His will and to provide a comfortable measure of living for me. Selah!
More so, as I think about relocation, I realize that I have to move to place where I can purchase a home for a modest investment. I have always had a number in my mind, a number that seemed reasonable for a home purchase. This number has been settled for now on 10 years, so while I have considered living in rural areas, and yes that is my heart's desire, I have also been torn with the idea that a city with major necessities would be more beneficial to me. In fact, since I am moving with my college-aged (soon to be graduated son), I realize now that we both need certain things that rural areas will not provide. I have had to let this desire go, forfeit so to speak, in order to realize that what the Lord is offering to me is better, more significant, and more aligned with His will for my life and for my son's life as well.
Now I am settled. I am content. I have peace and I have joy in this thought. I have let go of my desire for that white farmhouse with the picket fence, and I have accepted the option of a modern home, mid-century to newer that will simply "fit the bill." I think my mind shift happened recently as I was considering how I would use the home the Lord will provide to me. The more I considered the home and its purpose, the more I became convinced that certain necessities were essential for ministry. Then yesterday when I was blogging about hospitality, this whole issue came into focus for me. The home the Lord provides will surely meet my needs, but its design and its purpose are for one thing only and that is MINISTRY. My home is to be used for His work, and while I will be living there, enjoying the blessing of it, the goal of the home is to be used to meet the needs of others within the church. Enough said. I must accept whatever home (the style, the age, and the condition) He provides to me, end of story.
The idea of moving to a place where I know no one in particular scares me. I am not afraid of going, of course, because I know the Lord will be with me. But, I am hesitant to leave behind all that I know in order to relocate to a place that is foreign to me. The Lord knows how I worry over the smallest detail, and He knows how I focus on little things -- the house, the car, the neighborhood. He knows that my heart is to serve -- to serve Him and to serve others -- but that sometimes I get so bogged down in details that I cannot even see the blessing buried beneath the dirt. Yes, I cannot see the forest because of the trees! He knows this about me, which is why I think He is asking me to trust Him for the outcome. He is asking me to let this go, as in control, and to let Him lead, guide and provide for me according to His expressed will and purpose. I am willing, nay -- I am yielded -- and as of today, I am able to say, "Not my will, Lord, but your will alone." I am ready to go, ready to receive His blessed provision, and ready to begin this marvelous and wonderful work. He has me well-covered, this I know. He knows my needs, and He knows His timing. His plans are perfect, and I rest completely in them. Whatever He intends to do; know this, I will not stand in His way. I will forsake family and friends in order to follow after Him. I will trust my loved ones to His merciful care, and I will walk on after Him. Even if it means leaving everything I know, I love, and I desire behind me. His plans are all that matter, and His will is perfect and good. He will care for all these things, and in doing so, all things will be subjected to His authority and His good, good will. I believe He is a Good Father. He is a Good Savior. He has redeemed by life from the pit, and I stand here today only because of His marvelous and merciful grace. He is good to me, so very good to me! Selah!
As I close this blog post today, I am giving Him praise, honor, and glory. He has made a way for me. He has taken the shattered pieces of my life, and He has made something wonderful -- beautiful -- from them. Now I am ready to trust Him -- completely, fully, and with whole heart -- because I have seen His goodness. I have seen the Lord's goodness, and I know Him well. He is good. He is favorable. He is merciful. He has good in mind for me, and I can lay down all my desires, my burdens, and my struggles in order to follow after Him. In truth, I ask for His will to be done in every area of my life, and I rest easy in the knowledge that His will WILL BE DONE. Selah! He is good. He is so very good to me.