September 15, 2016

Thinking Thursday

Happy Thursday everyone! It is a good day today. I am home, and I am giving praise to God for another fine week. Yes, today is a good day, and I am blessed to be able to do the work that I love, to live where I live, and to be following the plan that I believe God has for my life. In all, I am feeling well, settled really, and at peace today. I cannot really explain it other than to say that today, in particular, I feel well. I feel like everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is coming up roses.

I slept well last night. I crashed around 8 p.m., and before I knew it, it was near on 1 a.m. I got up, got myself ready for bed and crawled under the covers. For the next two hours, I dreamed I had a conversation with the Lord. I do that sometimes. As I am drifting off to sleep, the Lord speaks with me, comforts me, and helps me to understand some things -- usually things that have happened in my life during the day or previous couple of days.

Last night was not unusual in that regard. I had a difficult conversation with my Mom earlier in the evening, and I was feeling convicted over it. I love my Mom, don't get me wrong, but lately I have found that I have grown "short" with her regarding her memory lapses. If you happen to live with a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimers, you understand how their constant repetition can get to you. But, even when my patience fails, I normally just respond with the same answer I have given before. However, it is the wavering, the indecision, that seems to really cause me to lose my countenance, and for that, I am deeply grieved. Like I said, my Mom is so important to me, and I love her dearly, but lately I am finding my patience stretched thin. I am sure it is because of my work schedule and the pressure I feel for my dissertation, but also it is simply the fact that her memory seems to be failing more and more, and well, dealing with it is becoming a constant struggle.

I won't go into details about it, but suffice it to say, I reacted as a parent to my Mom. I shouldn't have done this, but I did. I felt bad about it, and I really stewed over it. I mean, she is my PARENT, thus I should be reacting to her differently. There is something about this disease that really messes with your head, and I don't mean the loved one who is afflicted. It is the child, the son or the daughter, who struggles most. It is difficult to wear these different hats. Your parents will always be your parents, and as such, you (if you are a believer) seek to honor and respect them always (as commanded by Scripture). Yet, there are times when pushed that we don't always do that, and it is in those times that we need GRACE -- His grace to cover our sin and His grace to give to our loved one so they know compassion, mercy, and care. Oh, how I need a fresh in-filling of His grace today!

In short, last night as I was drifting back to sleep, I felt the Lord comfort me regarding this particular situation. I felt His presence as He soothed me, helped me see that my desire to care for my Mother was at the root of the conversation. While I did act more the parent with her than I should have, I was seeking to protect her from harm, and in that way, what I did was honorable in His sight. Yes, I could have been more gracious with my words, more gentle, but in truth, I was honest and for that there is no sin or fault.

As I considered my actions, my words and such, the Lord reminded me of the difficult place I am in right now. I mean, I am stretched hard -- pulled -- in multiple ways. I feel as if I am going to break, yet for some reason, I have this peace about me. I am OK; I am not broken into bits. I am stretch, pulled, twisted, and at times run ragged, but I am not broken. Praise to God! I am not broken! He is good to me, so very good to me!

His voice was soothing to me. His touch was comforting. In the end, I drifted back to sleep, and I slept soundly until right about 8:30 this morning. I am up now, working on the computer already, enjoying my cup of coffee, and I am thinking about my Savior, my God, who loves me so much that He speaks to me when I need to hear His voice the most. He comforts me in the way I need to be comforted, and in the end, He gives me rest -- blessed rest. He is good to me, always and always, He is so very good to me! Selah!


Coming to Terms with Some Things

I am sitting here today thinking about my life, where I am right now, and where I believe the Lord is leading me to go next. I have written extensively about the plans the Lord has for me, and most recently, about what I believe He is asking me to do regarding ministry. For the most part, I am content, settled, and at peace about the ministry focus. Some people struggle to know what the Lord desires them to do, e.g., in ministry. Some desire to serve full-time, but are unsure as to where and when and how they are to do that. Other people are happy to serve part-time in any capacity, and mostly because they do not feel a particular call toward one way or another, they are just good servants who are willing to chip in and lend a hand wherever a hand is needed. Then some, like me, feel as though the Lord has communicated explicitly what we are to do, where we are to go, and how we are to do it. I am this latter case. I believe so strongly, and I am so convinced of His will for my life, that at this point in time, I will follow wherever He leads me -- even if the place isn't of my choosing or the way doesn't seem to make sense to me. I trust Him, fully, completely, 100%, and in that way, I am willing to leave behind every comfort I know to simply follow Him.

I guess I am blessed in that regard, but in truth, that rest, that peace, came at a great price. I didn't just wake up one day and say "Okay, Lord, let's go wherever you want!" Oh, how I wish that was so! Instead, I was much like the prophet Jonah who really didn't want to go at all, who would have rather just stayed put, and who when told to go to a certain place, well -- vacillated for a time -- and then disobeyed the command of the Lord. Yes, I have come to this place of surrender through disobedience, then through humility, and now through obedience to His authority and rule in my life.

In truth, I have had to be humbled, humbled to the point of serious bruising. I have been put down, held down, so to speak, in order for me to see that God was asking me to make a choice -- to listen and obey or to ignore and not obey. I learned that I can either obey His calling or disobey His calling. And, that choice, the choice I have to make, comes with certain outcomes -- reward and blessing or conviction and suffering. Sadly, I have experienced both sides of this coin enough times to know that it is better to choose the reward and blessing than to choose the hard TUTOR of the Holy Spirit. I learned my lesson well, praise be to God, and today, I am surrendered to His will. I have learned the hard rub of this mighty lesson. I know now that there is no point in continuing to behave contrary to His desire for my life. It simply is not worth the effort, and in truth, it hurts terribly to go against His mighty and blessed hand. Selah!

As far as His will goes for my life, for the ministry and the focus, I am completely at ease and at peace. I know what He wants me to do, and I know how I am to do it. The timing is in His hand, so for now, I take comfort in simply knowing what He wants me to do with my life. I am good, I am happy, and I am content in that fact. But, there is this other part of my life, the daily part of my life that for me causes me great confusion and struggle. You see, I am blessed with one calling -- but with two very specific pursuits. Let me explain...

Knowing Your Calling

The Holy Spirit picks and chooses gifts based on His determination and assessment of needs (1 Cor. 12:4-11). The Word says that the Holy Spirit chooses whom to bless with these ministry gifts (Eph. 4:11), and that He gives or calls some people to a specific ministry calling. Thus, the Holy Spirit chooses which spiritual gifts to give, and as a result, some people find vocational and professional ways in which to use these gifts.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

With this passage of scripture in mind, I believe that God gives gifts for a reason, and those gifts are part of being born again, part of being adopted into the family of God. By this I mean to say that every single believer in Christ has been given at least one spiritual gift and that it is God's intention and purpose for that individual to learn what that gift is and then to learn how to use it effectively to minister to others.

Many believers struggle with identifying their specific gift. Others struggle with learning how to use the gift.  There are spiritual gifts assessments on the Internet that can guide believers in helping them figure out what gifts the Holy Spirit has imparted to them. These tests are often a good starting point, but for many, they simply come to learn what their specific gift is simply through 'trial and error' or more readily, through exposure to opportunities for ministry and service.

Often we learn that ministry professionals "grew up in the church," and that they have always been a part of the service team at church. These are people who simply found joy early on in working in the church. My son is a good example of this type of person. He grew up in the church, and his entire life has been about working in the church, either as a volunteer or as a paid staff person. He serves in worship and technical ministry on Sunday's, but he works in a service capacity during the week. In all, his professional life to this point has been all about the church.

Other people seem to find ways to do ministry along side their chosen profession. For example, teacher might work during the week at the local school, and then on Sunday's might teach a Sunday school class. Likewise, a doctor might give of his time to help the poor by volunteering at an inner city clinic. A surgeon might use his skill to help people with needs outside of his practice by volunteering to travel to foreign countries and perform critical or life saving surgeries on people who wouldn't have access to such care. A lawyer might advocate for the poor or the widow by giving free advice or even legal counsel as a pro bono ministry effort. In this way, many professional people use their primary skill during the week and then follow up with that skill as a special gift in ministry.

Then there are other people who have special skills that are only used for ministry such as worship. For example, a friend of mine works as a waitress 9-5 during the week, but on Sundays, she serves as part of the praise team where she is able to use her gift of music, song, and performance to bless and encourage us in worship. She doesn't or isn't able to work as a musician full-time, so instead, she does other work that helps pay the bills, so to speak, and then gives of her free time to share her love of worship in the church.

Pastors, missionaries, evangelists, apologists, and some teachers of the Word are generally called directly for full-time service. These people receive a calling that takes over their life, changes their course and trajectory, and eventually leads them to full-time ministry work.

My Turn

I've blogged about this for a while now, but I do believe that I have been called to teach. I have desired to be a teacher since I was a little girl, yet for many years, I didn't follow this path to become a full-time teacher. I have always seemed to teach though, and the Lord has always brought me opportunities to teach. It is funny how that works out, but in truth, my heart's desire has been to teach, to instruct, and to inform, and only now at age 53, am I gainfully employed as a full-time teacher.

Just yesterday, I prayed about this fact. I gave the Lord praise because He opened this door for me, and He provided this way for me. Yes, I am coming to this "game" very late, but still, He has given me blessing and riches and opportunity to use this specific gift for professional purposes. Now, He is asking me to use this same skill for ministry. In many ways, I am to be like that doctor or lawyer who uses the gift they have been given in ways that extend that gift, in ways that minister to the church as well as to those outside the church.

I am fortunate to teach at Christian universities. Some day, I hope to teach full-time (as in tenure), but for now, I teach at several schools, local and online. The Lord provides for me, and in this way, I am able to develop and hone my skill. My prayer is that soon He will open the door that will lead to that true "full-time" position so I can focus more carefully on how to develop my ministry calling. For now, though, I am content to do what He has asked, to work in the jobs He has provided for me, and to live as He enables. He is good to me, so very good to me. I give Him all the praise, the honor, and the glory for He alone is so very good to me!

The funny thing in all of this discussion is that yesterday, I asked the Lord if I could start to teach communication classes more regularly (more than English). My PhD is going to be in Communication, and I asked if I could begin to teach these courses since this is my focus in education. What prompted my request was the spring class assignment list at GCU. The English department is sending out this list earlier and earlier each year. Most of the time, I receive it around October-November, but this year, it came in my email right at the start of the fall semester. As I looked over the list, my heart fainted a bit. It seemed like the only classes left for me to teach were the 105/106 combination I have been teaching for now on four years. Frankly, I am getting tired of teaching these courses. I really wanted to "spice" things up a bit, teach something more interesting for spring.

I asked the Lord, and I even sought permission to send an email to the COM department to see if they had need of me as adjunct. I sent to emails to the head of the department, but I received no reply back. Then, yesterday, as I left my classes on campus, I was praying about the opportunity to teach at GCU, and I was giving the Lord praise for providing good work to me. As I drove home, I continued to press Him about switching from English to Communications. I had this feeling that I was to stay put in English, and despite my desire to teach more interesting classes, I simply felt like I He wanted me to not switch my focus, to not consider teaching any other classes than what was being offered to me.

So, last night, I sent an email off to the department and said I would teach three English classes again next spring. I picked two 106 classes and one American literature course. I got a response back immediately saying my classes were reserved for me, so I am good to go for spring. In some ways, I felt relieved. Good news! Classes are reserved. In other ways, I thought, "Ugh! More of the same." Then, as I drifted off to sleep, in my conversation with the Lord, I realized something wonderful. I was praying in my mind (can you do this? I don't know, but that is what I think was happening) as I started to fall to sleep. I asked the Lord about the desires of my heart, how I have always had this desire to teach English, to be an "English professor." I asked Him if this was His desire too. I mean, Psalm 37:4-5 says that God will give us the desires of our heart if we delight in Him. I wondered if my desires, the desires in my heart were the same as His desires. Then, with that still silence that comes from Him, I felt this quiet "yes," come back to me. It was as if the Lord was saying to me that the desire I have had to teach English has always been His desire for me. I knew, I guess, in that moment, that while I am studying communication for ministry, the desire the Lord has for me professionally, for my practical daily work, is simply to teach English. Every now and again, He provides a communication course to me, but frankly, the work I have, the steady work is in English language and literature courses.

I woke up this morning with this sense of peace about all of this. I woke up thinking that "Yes, this is what I am supposed to do." Despite the fact that I struggle to find work (as in full-time), I believe that He desires me to pursue this line of work. I am to consider this as my profession -- college professor. My subject area, my specialization, is Language and Literature. My degree is a combination of English and Communication. Thus, I am able to teach in two disciplines -- yet -- the Lord prefers I remain where I am now.


In Closing

I was thinking about this today, and I began to wonder more about this whole "desires" bit. I mean, does the Lord place His desires within us for His will and His work? I think He does. In fact, I believe He does. In my case, my desire to teach has come full-circle and I am now a full-time teacher. My desire to study communication, well that was all His interest. I had no thought of it, no desire for it, now interest in it. Yet, He pursued this, and in the end, I have been amazingly blessed. He has made this possible -- all of it -- and I believe it is all for His work. Yes, He has made a way for me, and while I wait and patiently endure my time here as adjunct teacher, in Phoenix no less, I know that the Lord is preparing me for the next assignment. Wherever it may be, the Lord is working now to prepare that place for me. He is faithful and the good work He has started in me -- will in time -- be brought to completion. I believe this is true. I believe it is so. He is good to me, so very, very good to me! Selah!

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