September 18, 2016

Sunday Revision

It is a blessed day here in sunny and cool Phoenix! Yes, it is lovely outside! The temperature is right about 72 — near perfect — for our normal hot and dry climate. The skies are clear and blue, and frankly, it is absolutely delightful right now.

My family has all headed over to church, and I am sitting here alone in the quiet — pondering the solitude. Well, it is just me and the cats, but even with these fur balls, the house is still and silent. I am home from church today while I complete my chapter three revisions for my dissertation. I was telling my Dad this morning how most PhD candidates take a year or more off from work to complete their final writing and research project. I am working full-time, and while I have some time during the week to do my research and revisions, I am having to use my full weekend to write. I simply cannot work round the clock, late in the evening, and expect to function well.

In addition, I have finally let go the guilt and shame over missing church, and I have decided to use my time for worship in this way. I know that sounds weird, but a friend of mine who happens to be an advisor at Regent University prayed this way for me. She said that my study and work time on my project is my “act of worship.” In truth, she said that my study and preparation for qualifications was my worship, but the point is the same. It is all a matter of perspective, really. In her view, if God has called you to study at this level (she means the PhD) then, He has a purpose in mind for it. The work you do, all of it — class work, papers, and yes, theses — are part of the work you do for His name (Col. 3:17). Therefore, when you do your work, you work unto the Lord, and in this way, your work is service. I didn’t quite see it that way initially, but since I have made this turn into the final stretch for my degree, I get her point. My PhD is all about His name and it is designed and purposed for His glory. Therefore, it is my act of worship whenever I devote time to it, whenever I consider it, and whenever I depend on Him for His help and His guidance while writing, researching or even revising. Thus, today, I have decided to spend my worship time engaged in this scholarly process in order to bring His name praise. This project is all about Him anyway, and my topic — the American megachurch — is His choice. So I am letting it be, I am resting in the fact that this is what the Lord needs me to do today, and that in time and when I am finished, I will have weeks, months and years to fellowship in church with the Body of Christ.

Progress So Far

Yesterday was a really good day for me. In fact, I would say that this week, overall, has been really good. I accomplished a lot, and yes, that feeling of accomplishment just “sat well” with me. On Tuesday, I spent most of my day off in order to get organized. I tackled a number of small things, and started the week off on a good footing. On Thursday, I was sidelined some, but I still graded most of my student essays from my online class. So yesterday, my plan was to spend the majority of the day writing my revisions for chapter two of my dissertation.

My morning ended up focused on finishing grading for my online class. I completed the rest of the essays, assigned grades, and then started into my dissertation around 1 p.m. I worked steadily, only taking a break at 6 p.m. to go grab a bite to eat. I fed my Mom (Dad wanted a milkshake only), and then retreated back to my room for more work. I completed my revision around 11 p.m. In all, I spent about 10 hours writing, adding some extra research, and generally, editing my long (30 page) literature review section. It was a bug to complete, but I did it. I have to admit that it reads much better. In fact, I would say that it reads really well. I am so relieved, so very relieved.

This means that I am on track to finish my chapter three revisions today. This is the method section of my research proposal and frankly it is the most awkward part to write. I am using a mixed methods approach, and I simply do not have a handle on what I will do or how I will do it. My plan today is to read some dissertations that are similar and then pattern my section after them. I think this will help me reduce the clutter and focus more so I can clearly articulate my plan of action. Lord willing, that is, Lord willing.

My goal this weekend was to complete both chapters so I could send these to my professor for review. I am hoping to get back on track for my actual proposal defense by the end of this month. This is my plan, of course. If I can propose by the end of the month, then I will be able to begin my data collection as planned — in October. I will then write chapters 4-5 over the course of November and December. My projected time to completion is the end of the year. I would then have January and February to consider revisions before my final defense in the spring of 2017. Again, this is all pending my work this weekend. I need to complete this revision today so that I am on track for the next series of steps in the process.

I am pleased, however, with what I have done. I spent some time yesterday printing out revision two and putting it into a binder. I thought it would be good to have it documented this way. I need to create my index today and put my reference list together. I am thinking that the TOC and the references list will come in handy as I review my work. I can double-check references to make sure I have my quotes cited properly, my page numbers and such, all in order. If I can do this now, it will save me a lot of work later on. Organization is my friend. I keep reminding me of that fact. It will help, it will help, so take the time, Carol, and get yourself organized. Yes, Lord, I will.

In Closing

As I lift my prayer to the Lord this morning, I am remembering how much I have to be thankful for this good day. My life, as it is, is good. The Lord has provided a way for me that is good, it is secure, it is sweet, and it is producing fruit (praise God!) I seek Him now, I rest in His abilities and His sufficiency, and I trust that He will cover me well this good, good day.

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