July 31, 2016

Turning Toward Home

It is Sunday, July 31st, and I am turning toward the home stretch. Yes, summer is about over, and that means school will be starting very, very soon. I am feeling a bit anxious about my next steps. I am set to teach at GCU and Regent University, so if nothing comes of my interview on Tuesday, so be it. But, if that interview goes well, and I am hired, then it is SCRAMBLE time. I mean, I have no idea what I would be teaching, what the curriculum would be, or even when these classes will start. I checked the online calendar, and the first session at ASU begins on 8/18. Yeah, interview on 8/2 and get hired to teach within 16 days?

Seems crazy, but if the Lord delights in it, and it is His will, then I am okay with it. He will have to provide a way out of my contracts at GCU. My class at ACU is still sitting open with five students enrolled. I haven't received confirmation on it being dropped, but I am sure it will be. Hopefully, I will have confirmation this week on my fall plans. I really thought I was settled, ready to go, and happily contented about this path. Then the email came from ASU, and well, that just opened doors for me, got me thinking about other avenues to get from A to B, so to speak.

Now, I am not really sure what the Lord intends for me long-term. If I were to be hired, and it would have to be really, really fast, I would have a full-time teaching job plus one part-time (Regent - no, I am not giving up Regent) for at least the next couple years. I am not sure if I can relocate with ASU, but if not, then at the least, I would have one year of full-time post-doctoral teaching on my resume. It would be a good thing, regardless of the outcome and length of work. But, I just don't know. I honestly do not know what my next week will hold.

I've been praying over my situation, of course, but the Lord has not really given me any clear direction. I feel He is saying to me to "trust" Him, and as always, that is my go-to approach. More so, I feel so very strongly that teaching online is the path He intends for me to follow. I am okay with this, now more than ever. I am tired of teaching in person, to be honest -- AND while I do enjoy the face-to-face contact -- I am ready to work from home. I've considered this a lot recently, what with my Mom's needs and such. Although my Mom's condition is not my primary rationale for teaching at home, it is a factor. I do think I need to be at home to help care for my parents needs. I also need to be at home to finish my dissertation. Yes, I am thinking more on this point, and in all fairness, I think I need to be at home to complete this work, and to do this work well (no other way). God knows how I am stressed over the quality of my dissertation, and how pressured I feel right now to be finished. Yet, I feel that I can do a good job IF I can work from a home office. I need to be able to work here at home.

I am trusting Him, of course, for the outcome, and He does know exactly what I can and cannot do. This means that while I may THINK I need this opportunity, perhaps He has something better in mind for me. Yes, He could very well say "No" to working at ASU and then provide something even better for me. Or, He could say, "This is my will," and then use this job to meet my financial needs and to prepare me for the next phase or season of my life (post-doctoral). I just don't know. What I do know is that either way, regardless of what I think, feel, or want, He has this all worked out. As I read Psalm 138 (AMP) this morning for my devotional time, I was reminded of His lovingkindness and comfort when I came to verse 8. The psalmist writes, "The Lord will accomplish that which concerns me;Your [unwavering] lovingkindness, O Lord, endures forever." What a blessed reminder, and so very timely. Oh, how I needed to read those words this morning! Indeed, the Lord knows my needs. He has me well-covered, and that means that every need I have has already been appointed and cared for by His loving hands. I can rest in His abilities to see me through, to guide me through these last couple weeks before I start work again, and to complete my research project so that I can graduate on time. I don't have to be afraid. I don't have to stress, worry or fear. He has me covered, so very well-covered. He is good to me, so very, very good to me. Selah!

Dear Lord,

As I prepare for my day today, I ask that you would cover me with your goodness, your kindness, and your favor. I am not sure what to think of this interview on Tuesday, but I feel confident that it is your will for me to meet with the search committee and discuss this opportunity. I am trusting you to provide the exact amount of income I need to cover my expenses this fall. You know exactly how much money I need to make each month to pay my bills, but also how much I need to build my savings back up. You know that for me to move, I have to have income (steady), savings (ready), and my credit in line (as high as possible) so that I can relocate with ease. You also know my parents needs, their concerns and care as well as the needs of my son as he finishes his last two semesters of college. More so, you know where you want me to go, and you know the plans you have for me in this new place. Thus, there is nothing I can do to effect any change toward that direction, save relent and surrender. Yes, I surrender to your mighty will, and I obey and follow as you lead, guide, and provide for me. Selah! Last, you know what needs to be completed for me to graduate from Regent. Throughout the past couple years, you have been consistent with me and have said to me that nothing was to come before my studies at Regent. Now I am ready to begin this research, and my time and my attention is fractured. I need to finish, but I cannot do it and work all these jobs. I am asking in Jesus' Holy and Matchless Name for the grace to be hired at this job for one-year. If you desire it to be longer than one year, so be it. I ask, however, that for now, you provide a way for me to teach full-time online, to earn a decent and steady income, and to recover my financial standing all the while I am able to focus 100% on my dissertation. I want to do well. I want to please you. I want to honor your holy and good Name. I ask this now, knowing that I cannot bring any of this to pass. I ask that you go before me to prepare a place for me, to give me favor, to make my enemies lay down in peace, and to give me comfort in knowing that I am indeed well covered. I ask this all now in your son's Name, Amen. So be it. Thy will be done, selah!


July 30, 2016

Stormy Night, But No Rain

Monsoon 2016 raged into Phoenix last night, but it didn't do anything but bring cloudy skies to our neck of the woods. Reports came in to our local news of downed trees, power lines, and power outages beginning around 8 p.m. last night. We had some wind and dust, but nothing else. The radar was bright green with large spots of reds and oranges, but the storms seemed to go right around our little corner of North Phoenix. The good news is that the temperature is cooler today, somewhere in the low 80s. Our highs this entire week are well under 100 for a change. In all, even though we didn't get any rain here at my house, the change in scenery has been a blessing, a real blessing.

Despite the storms last night, I slept well. I am tired today, but only because Winston decided to wake me up at 4 a.m. with his insistent and persistent cries of "Mom!" Yes, I swear he was meowing, "Mom!" for about a half-hour! I got up after I couldn't take it anymore and fed him and Ike. I guess that did the trick because I slept in until 8 a.m. without stirring once. I am a bit sleepy still, and even though it is 9:00 a.m., I am slowing waking up. My first cup of coffee has hit the spot, so hopefully once the caffeine kicks in, I will be wide awake and ready to tackle my day.


Atkins and Low-Carb Update

Well, yesterday was a good day for me, weight wise. I weighed in and the scale showed a nice 1.2 pound drop. That means that since July 11, I have lost a total of 4 pounds. Of course, I blew my carb control plan for yesterday, but only because I was celebrating my love's success on his math test (yes, he passed!). God is good, so very good. And, with that joy recorded, I was ready for something other than eggs and salad. My parents and I went to lunch at our local diner and I shared a sandwich with my Dad. Bad idea, really. I had a BLT on white toast (my dad's favorite), and I was sick the entire day with nausea, cramps, and bloating. I was miserable. I am not sure it was the bacon, rather I think it was the white bread. Sigh! I didn't have dinner, other than some broth, which helped. Later, I indulged in an Atkins bar for dessert. Overall, my carbs were well over the 20g that is stated on induction. I gave into the guilt feelings for a while, then I decided to up my carb intake and follow the Atkins 40 plan rather than stick to Atkins 20, which is a strict induction plan. I must be in ketosis as I can feel it still (I am feeling better, clear headed, but I can tell I am peeing ketones). I mean, my body feels different to me. I digress. I decided to switch to Atkins 40, where you can eat up to 40g of carbs per day. I think this plan is more doable, and I will have less chance of falling off the wagon, so to speak. I want to make this program work, and I want to continue to lose weight. I want to feel better, etc., etc., etc. Yes, I need to figure out how to do a low-carb lifestyle.

So before I switched plans yesterday afternoon, I did a little research on the Internet to see if there is such a thing as carbohydrate resistance or intolerance. And, lo, and behold, there is. I've always thought I was lactose intolerant, but now I think I simply struggle to process carbs efficiently. The number one symptom of carb intolerance is gas and bloating. I have had symptoms of IBS for years, and I was told that this is what I suffered from as a result of my PTSD. But, I never really had those same symptoms, and I didn't have them all the time. Instead, I had lots of gas, bloating, and spasms mostly as a direct result of my food choices. I also would suffer from diarrhea and constipation, alternating bouts with periods of normal elimination in between (I know, gross! Sorry for the TMI!) Now, though, what I notice or have noticed the past couple years is that when I follow a low-carb diet, all those icky symptoms (except for the constipation) seem to disappear. They simply go away. I mean like AWAY. After two or three days on Atkins, I have no bloat. I have no gas. I have this calm feeling in my gut. I feel so much better. But, as soon as I eat carbs again, the gas, the grumbling comes back. Right now, I have just had coffee and guess what is rumbling? My tummy. I have this bloated feeling, and I simply feel icky. It seems that when I eat low-carb, and stay away from high carbs, I feel so much better, leaner, cleaner. I know, again, gross. It is just something I have noticed as a pattern, and whenever I see a pattern, I typically pay heed. It is the way my brain is wired, I guess.

Alright, this doctor thinks carb intolerance is the likely culprit of my woes. This means that for all these years I have craved the very thing that made me ill. Not shocking really. When my niece was a baby she had these terrible food allergies. She would cry and scream while she was eating bananas. My SIL put her on a rotation diet to find the cause of her food allergies, and bam! All that bloat (it was awful), dark eyes, and crying over cravings just disappeared. It took time, of course, but eventually she recovered by being on a very strict diet.

Now, I am wondering if this is a family thing, you know, like something inherited. My Mom suffers from horrible gas too, as did my grandmother. We joke with her because she rumbles throughout the house. My grandmother used to say "Those darn squeaky floors," whenever she would pass gas. My Mom just lets it fly and then she says there is nothing she can do about it. She blames her gallbladder surgery. I think it is her diet. She eats lots of carbs, and mostly foods that are rich and creamy. We've said it must be lactose, but now I am thinking she is carb intolerant too. Moreover, this pattern suggests to me that the carb intolerance runs in my side of the family.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I craved the foods that bothered my stomach. I would then eat them and suffer the consequences. Now that I am more aware, and after using Atkins twice with good success, I understand that a low-carb lifestyle is the one that will make me feel my best. I don't think I need to be super strict, but I need to identify which carbs trigger my symptoms. To do this, I am going to start monitoring my food intake to see what foods cause no issues for me. Then as I introduce carbs into my system again, I will note how I feel after eating them.

More so, there are a number of low-carb diets that moderate your intake long-term. My goal is to remain on induction for the next week or so. This means consuming less than 25g (up from the recommended 20g) per day. After that time, I will stay to a diet that consumes less than 50g (net carbs) per day. This will allow me to eat some fruit, some whole grains (in moderation), but keep me mostly dependent on lean meat and lots of leafy vegetables. There are a number of vegetables, like potatoes, carrots, and corn, that produce high volumes of gas. Yesterday, I had home made french fries with my 1/2 sandwich. I think the potatoes did me in along with the white bread. Sigh!

It will be hard for me to give up bread. But, I think I can substitute breads that are dense grain for what I normally consume. Furthermore, I am looking to use nut flours to make grain alternative treats. I think I can give myself enough "treat" in pastas (like those made with spinach) and whole wheat alternatives so that I don't feel deprived. I really think it is just a matter of substituting ingredients so that I can still have tasty and satisfying foods without causing my digestive system to go haywire all the time.

I was reading an article on carb intolerance and the doctors suggested a two-week test to determine if carbs are to blame. Basically, you go no carb for two weeks. Your body needs carbs, so really they are saying no carbs from obvious foods, and low carb from natural foods like vegetables, etc. I am not sure I can do that, but I am willing to try it. The plan says that you must eliminate all carbs for two weeks, then you introduce them back and see if your symptoms return. Supposedly by dumping carbs out, your gut will heal, your system will reset, and then you should be able to eat them without problems. I am not sure if this is the case or not, but I do know that when I go off them, I feel better. I am thinking the best approach is moderation. I can never do anything full-bore and stick to it. But, a moderate plan seems doable to me. I've been thinking about this for a long time, how I would like to switch my diet to all natural, like all-natural. I would like to make my own breads, pastas, cereals, etc. I would like to eat whole grains, and simply consume no processed foods for a while. I think I could do it, but it would require a complete life style shift for me. I would have to put my energies into baking and cooking because introducing quick foods, items from the store or take-out, would sabotage my efforts. Yes, I would need a controlled environment whereby I could be in charge of everything consumed. It is hard for me to do that now since I live with my parents, but in time, I could do it. So for now, I need to moderate what I can, and hopefully by taking control of my diet, my body will recover and I will feel better. Selah!


More Thoughts on Work and Life

Yesterday, was a surprise to me. I mean, never did I think I would be asked to interview for our local state university. ASU is a major research university with a student population upwards of 70K. The school has multiple campuses now, and the one where this job is offered is located in central Phoenix. It is the Polytechnic campus, and the degrees offered there are science, math, and technology. They do have general liberal studies programs too, so the need for English teachers is high. The job I applied for is online, praise be to God. I am hoping that I read the job description correctly, but at this time, I would be willing to teach on campus, if I had to do so for a year. The pay, salary and benefits, would help me be settled and would prepare me for the move I believe the Lord has in mind for me next year. Between then and now, I feel strongly that the Lord intends to provide resources to me that will put me in the shape I need so that I can relocate. I've been praying about His provision, and I have blogged about how difficult it will be to move to another state with debt and little to no resources. I think the Lord is helping me get on my feet financially, helping me to come out of the "doctoral student" mode and back into the "professional mode" way of life. I am ready, mind you. I am so ready to have flexible income again. I am ready to get out of credit card debt, and to be free from all those chains that bind.

My goal is to own my own place soon, to have a place to call my own that can be paid for over time, but that is not going to cost me an arm or a leg (LOL!) I also want to be self-sufficient, and that means to have a way to earn income, to live off the land, yet be able to live in rural place where I can have a good quality of life. The more I think about this way of life, the more I desire it. At first, the thought of having a mini-farm scared me. I thought, "I cannot do this on my own." I cannot live in the middle of nowhere and take care of animals and land without help. My son will be off on his own, and except for a place to lay his head, he pretty much is not interested in farming along side his Mom. This means that I will have to bear the lion share of the work. I can do it, of course. I just worry about my back, my weak areas, and whether I can tolerate the changing climate. But, like I said, the more I think about it, the more I want it. Perhaps this is the Lord's will for my life. I don't know, I just don't know.

I've blogged a lot about what I like and don't like when it comes to houses, homes, and lifestyles. The problem has been that for so many years, I gave up my own likes for those of others. I was a people-pleaser so that meant if my husband didn't like something, I gave way. I let him have his way all the time. After awhile, I would come to resent him for always wanting and getting his way. He never bent back toward me, never gave into my way. Thus, I felt abused and cheated because I was the one who was always compromising. I realize now that I could have stood my ground early on and said "no." Oh, the magic and power of that word. I mean, NO, can be liberating. It can bring freedom. It can be such a good, good thing. Yet, I was afraid of saying no to the man I loved, and I thought if I did, he would stop loving me. Yes, it was true. I was afraid to tell him no -- ever.

Now that I am single, however, I am still giving way to other people. I am afraid of having things my way for fear that I will upset my family. Why is this so? I think it is conditioning, and I think it is the way I was raised. I am 53, almost 54, and I am still not living my life as I want to live it. Oh, the truth hurts. It burns, and frankly, it is seriously complicated. In fact, I am living my life as He desires it, and for the most part, my life has become so much better, so much more pleasant than it was before. But, I still struggle with knowing whether what I want is my desire or His desire. I want His desire always, but there is this little part of me that wants it to be my way too.

I surrender my will to His daily. I give in to Him because He is God, and as God, well, He is responsible for my life and the outcomes of my life. Yet, I want to be sure that what I want is His will. I want to know that everything I am doing, the way in which I am living, walking, seeking, ministering, etc., is all bound up in His will. I think it is, but I still have some doubts about it. I still wonder about it.

One thing I know is that the choice of life for me is rural and not urban. I've thought a lot about this and I have come to terms with the fact that I do not want to live in city. I have lived in the city my entire life, and I am ready to live in the country. I know that means wet, mud, and snow -- but I want to give it a good try. I want to live some place where I can walk out my door and not see my neighbors. I want to be free to walk my property without fear of being attacked. I want to have animals, ducks, geese, etc., and generally be able to walk, to sit, to dig, to live unencumbered from the hustle of daily life.

I also know that I want to work from home. This has been a hard thing for me to accept, and for a time, I refused the idea. I mean, I had worked in a home-based business for 15 years, but under my ex-husband's headship, I felt more like a slave than a co-owner. I wanted to work for someone else, but live and be at home. Now, I can do that with teaching, and that excites me. I don't have to sell anything. I don't have to keep appointments. I can come and go as I please, and I can still earn a decent income. One of my good friends was telling me how she plans to move to LA soon. She needs the LA lifestyle, and this is what she wants to do once she finishes her PhD. We were chatting about it, and she was all into making money so she could live out there. I commended her ideas and efforts, and of course, I support her in what she wants. However, I thought to myself, I don't want any of that sort of life. I want peace, quiet, and freedom. I want to live simply, honestly, and without stress or pressure. I just want to live under the radar, not really being in the limelight, and generally, living a quiet existence whereby I can do the Lord's work without any fanfare. Yes, I want a modest life.

What is Modest?

I think about this often because modest is a subjective word. We use it today to mean simple or uncluttered, but really I mean not flashy or not pretentious. For me, modest is living simply off the land. It means living with what you need to get by, without living in poverty. It means having a comfortable home, good running transportation, and a viable living -- but -- not having all the bells and whistles that most people need to feel good about themselves. No, I don't need stainless steel in my kitchen or granite countertops. I don't need fancy TVs or other furniture. I don't need a big house with oodles of unused space. I just need a quiet contemplative space where I can do my work (teach), and live my life as I see fit, as I abide in life in Jesus. Yes, this is all I want. I don't need to travel, to sight see or to live "large." I just need to be able to sleep in, get up, do good practical work, and eat well (homemade, natural foods). I want to go to bed each night with complete freedom to rest. I don't want to be afraid, to live afraid, or to live unfilled. I want to be free. That is all, just free.

I know that may sound weird, but I think it is part and parcel to my personality. When I say "free," I mean without restriction or independent. As an INTJ personality type, I am fiercely independent. I tend to prefer to do things on my own, in my own way. I am not stubborn about it, hence the problem with people pleasing, but I am very capable of being self-motivated, self-directed, and for the most part, self-sufficient. I really prefer to be left alone.

This doesn't mean I want to live a solitary life, by no means, it just means that my freedom to choose, to decide, to say this or that, well, it matters to me. I spent the vast majority of my life compromising to other people who had authority or some means of control over me. I gave in because it was easier than fighting. I hated the way I felt, and I hated my life because it wasn't my life at all, it was someone else's idea of what my life should be like. Over the past years, the past 10 or so years, I have come back round to learning who I am, what I want, and how I want to live. I still have a tendency to defer to others, mostly in matters that are not super important to me. But, when it comes to quality of life, the way of life, etc., well I am not willing to compromise any more. I am a grown-up now, and that means that under the Lord's will and with His provision, I should be able to live in a way that pleases Him. My goal, my heart, and my mind is set on pleasing no man save my Lord. This is truth!

I know that God doesn't intend for His children to be alone (thus saith the Lord in Genesis), but I do long for alone time, for being alone, for living alone. I love my family, my son, my life -- but there are times when I just want to be alone, all alone. I want to experience true freedom, true freedom, at the least for a time.

My plan as of now is to wait upon the Lord as He prepares a way of life for me. I need work, either double-part time or full-time in order to live comfortably. I need to move to a place where I can be comfortable, and where I can live modestly. I need to have some measure of security, as in land or home, so I feel safe. I need to have a viable means of living (teaching online), and some other secondary source of income so I can build savings for my later years. In all, I think with a modest mindset, I can live very comfortably, very securely throughout my long life (as the Lord leads, guides and provides for me). Selah!

Today, I am where I am for a reason. I accept this fact. I am here in Phoenix, living with my parents because it was the Lord's provision for me. Next year, I will be free to go, free to move, free to relocate. He will provide for me then, and I will go where He leads me to go. I trust Him for His provision today and tomorrow, and I believe that the plans He has for me, well, they are really good. He is good to me, always so very good to me. Selah!

In Closing

As I close this blog post, I am back on track with Atkins. I had my eggs, cheese, and bacon fry up in butter (yum!). I am drinking my second cup of Donut Shop coffee, and I am starting to relax now. I am awake, and I am feeling better about my day. I trust the Lord today to provide good to me. Whatever comes my way, it will be good because His hand has provided it to me. I will rest in His sufficiency, and in His goodness. He is good, so very good, and I am in such a good, a happy, and a very secure place right now. Amen, so be it, thy will be done.
______________________

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

July 29, 2016

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday! It is July 29th, and officially, it is the last Friday of the month. Yes, in just one month, school will begin again at GCU. I am starting to get that "I am not ready" feeling. Sigh! It seems like I get this way every summer. I loathe my summers, simply because they are long, hot, and dry (literally and metaphorically). But, when the summer begins to turn toward fall, all of a sudden, I will panic. Yep, I panic. I sweat. I think, "I've wasted my entire summer," simply because I didn't do much of anything other than rest, relax, and pretty much "veg" out. It is true, absolutely true. I have binged-watched Netflix and Amazon to my heart's content, and now I am feeling the "burn" because I wasn't as productive as I should have been. Really? Oh well...

I guess you could say I have a case of the "normals" then. I mean, this is the pattern of my life. I am set on "repeat," for goodness sake. It is no one's fault but my own, and even in that confession, I don't feel overly convicted (ha!) I mean, I am where I am for a reason. My life is set on "routine," and there is not much I can do to change things up. I do have plans, and those plans are coming to pass quickly. In all, I am right where God wants me for this season of my life. I may not like all the prickles around me (ouch!) or the stress and strain of the trials and hardships I am asked to endure, but I know that crying only lasts for a short time (Psalm 30:5b). Yes, "Weeping may endure for a night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning."


Practice, Repeat, Practice

I remember when I was studying cello, and my teacher would tell me that the key to learning any instrument was to practice, repeat, and practice some more. I was diligent back then, really studious, and in three short years, I had learned enough of the cello to be able to play fairly complex pieces. I loved playing the cello (I still do), and the process of learning this instrument, learning to read music, learning how to perform, well it was challenging to me. It tasked my brain in ways that simply hadn't been tasked before. Now, all these years later, I realize that I am still in "learning mode." Just yesterday, I sat down to work on my proposal, to really work on my proposal, and well, I fell flat. I really did. I started to add in the references, clarify some unclear passages, etc., and all of a sudden I felt like a student who hasn't picked up their instrument in far too long. The whole process seemed foreign to me. I realized yesterday that I cannot stop learning, I cannot stop practicing, and that I must put the "time in" in order to see the results I hope to see.

A good friend of mine is into fitness. She lifts weights, does body building, etc., and she posts these motivational pictures (memes) to Facebook almost daily. In a couple of them, the meme said "You can't see results that you haven't worked for daily." The photo was of a very shapely woman, and she was lifting some big free weight (like the size that would double me over). The point, of course, was to say that if you want to look like this woman, you've got to devote the time and the attention to the pursuit of those results (big guns, so to speak).

I was thinking about this idea of putting in what you hope to gain from your effort yesterday. My love is about to take a dreaded math test. Yes, he is about to sit a test today that will determine whether he graduates from college. It is a test used to replace a math class, and since he wasn't able to take the class online as part of his studies (for many reasons), he has been studying during his free time (and not so free time) to prepare for it. He has put in so much effort, and the reward, should he pass (and he will pass) is going to satisfy the remaining requirements of his college degree. The nervous tension, his and mine, is up to here (imagine a line at chin-level). This is a big deal, a really big deal for him. I am simply suffering psychosomatic pains with him (LOL!)

Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes. I tell my first-year writing students that they will improve their writing and grammar ability if they practice at it -- daily. The more you write, the better a writer you will become. The same goes for other pursuits. Practice does improve the memory of muscles, tissues, and brain cells.

What about faith? Does practicing faithfulness increase one's ability to be faithful? Well, the answer to that question is a resounding yes! The Bible has a lot to say about faithfulness, and mostly it is about the faithfulness of God toward His children. In 2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NIV) we read, "But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one." And, again, in 1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NIV), Paul says, "Faithful is he that calls you, who also will do it." God is always faithful, and even when we are not, His faithfulness never ends. In 2 Timothy 2:13 (NLT), Paul writes, "If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is." The Lord is faithful, He keeps His promises (His Word), and His precepts and statutes are true (always true).

Today, I am thanking the Lord for His faithfulness to me. I don't deserve His faithfulness. I don't deserve His goodness or His mercy. Yet, He has been faithful to me. He has given to me everything that is necessary to keep faith, to be strong and stalwart, and to remain firm even against the evil one. Yes, He is faithful to provide everything necessary so that I can keep faith with Him. For this, I am thankful. His faithfulness toward me is beyond measure, beyond scope, and beyond my comprehension. Selah!

God is Faithful

So while I was writing this blog post and praying for my good friend as he prepares to sit his exam, I received an email from Arizona State University asking if I wanted to interview for a full-time faculty position. Okay, back the bus up a bit...and explain. Yes, I know. This has come straight out of the blue, and frankly, I was befuddled by the email I received today. I applied for this open position earlier in the year (in May, I think). I never heard word regarding it so I reapplied in July, thinking that perhaps my paperwork didn't make it through their online system. I actually applied for several positions with this school, but two were of interest to me. Both were teaching online classes, and well, that is the "ticket" for me. The first position closed without hire, and really, I just forgot about the other two that I had applied for, thinking they were "no go's." This position, I think, is to teach online first-year composition courses. My prayer is that it is so. I am also praying that it is a work from home position and not a "go sit in an office on campus" position. It is at the Polytechnic campus, which is in downtown Phoenix. Not my preference, but better than working at the main campus in Tempe. Sigh! Suffice it to say, I appreciate the offer to interview, and I am hoping it is both: online and work from home. Selah!

The funny thing is that just this morning, I said to the Lord, "Lord, if it is your desire for me to teach full-time, so be it. If it is your desire for me to teach at multiple schools, well so be it as well." I have been seeking full-time employment over part-time for the past couple years, but it seems that the Lord has chosen to provide adjunct positions only. Now, here I am interviewing (on Tuesday) for my first full-time position as an Instructor. It would be a sweet deal should it come to pass. If not, I understand, and I will accept the Lord's provision of part-time work to me. Thank you, Jesus, it is enough. It is enough for me this good, good day.

I marvel at His faithfulness today. I marvel at the fact that He keeps His word to me. He said that I would receive notice on a second job in the near term. I assumed it would be notification from Colorado Christian University since that is the only other position I had in play at this time (well, besides these local ones). I never assumed, thought, dreamed that He might choose to place me in an online teaching position at a major public university, but there you have it. I mean, who knows the mind of our God (Romans 11:34)?

I am not sure what this means, but my hope and my prayer is that I would get to work from home AND get paid a salary to do it. God be praised, may this be, may this be! First off, the regular income, no matter how small would be a blessing to me. Second, my son could use my car to get to school, thus saving us $$$ on buying another car right now. Third, well, it would relieve my burden a bit, and give me some breathing space. Fourth, it would allow me to do my research for my dissertation and get it DONE so I can graduate in January (Praise be to God, make it so, make it so!) Last, it would boost my profile, my resume, etc., and it would help me make the transition from part-time adjunct to full-time faculty. Yes, it would be a very good thing.

I won't know for certain, and I am a bit stressed at the lateness of the call. I need to let GCU know I won't be back, and that leaves them in the lurch this late in the game. Yet, I cannot turn down full-time work, no matter how inconvenient it is. I have to move on, to go where the Lord is calling me to go, and that means even to teach at a public university. I shout aloud with Paul and say, "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:24 ESV)! Amen, amen, amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!


In Closing

As I head into the weekend, I am in awe of the goodness of our God. I mean, who would think that the Lord would do this for me, now, of all times. Surely, He would have provided sooner for me. But, nay, this is His timing, and while I may not like it, if this is His will, then it will come to pass. He has begun this work, thus it is up to Him to complete it. I may be a partner with Him, but I am not God. I cannot do what He can do, and I cannot make something appear out of nothing. No, I am unable to effectually change my life, my situation, my circumstances right now. I am stuck as I say, like a duck out of water, and the only way to change my life is to let the Lord's will come to pass. Selah! It is done. He makes the rules. He provides the provision. He leads, guides, and provides for me, and His provision is good, always so very good. Today, I rest in His will, knowing that it is perfect, complete, and good. If this is what He has chosen to provide for me, then it will be good. It will work out as He needs it to work out, and I can be settled, contented, and happy to do this work. I ask the Lord to provide, and He does. I ask Him to give me His peace, and He does. I ask Him to cover me, to keep me safe, and He does. He is faithful to me, so very faithful to me.
“We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 4:8b-9 NLT)

July 28, 2016

Slow, but Steady Progress

I cannot believe it is Thursday already! I mean, this week has just zoomed by, and here we are, almost to the weekend. July is almost over, August is around the corner, and I have less than a month to get ready to teach my fall classes. I think I woke up this morning thinking to myself, "Okay, Carol, you had better get yourself in gear...this is the countdown starting today!" Yes, I am feeling the nudge to get myself in gear, to start working on finalizing my plans, making progress, and generally, move toward finishing my proposal. Sigh! It is the "10 minus" countdown for me, and I had better get moving!

My prayer today is to get all my work done, everything, so that I can head into August with my proposal finished. My plans, at the least, are to make the final edits to my chapter 1, and then to be prepared to change my chapter 2 and 3 as soon as those revisions arrive via email. Until that time, I am stuck. I am a duck out of water, so to speak. I know my professor is busy, but I do need to plan my future. I need to get this done or as Larry the Cable Guy says, "Git R Done!" I need to have this monster off my back so I can focus on my life again. I am so ready to graduate, so ready to finish this schooling, and so ready to REST from all my work! Lord willing, of course!


Taking Control of my Health

I think I am in ketosis, well, at the least, I was up until yesterday. I had more carbs than allowed on Atkins Induction Phase 1, but my urine had that awful smell that tells me that I am passing ketones. I am also feeling the hard hit of ketosis today. This whole week, I have had headaches, and then yesterday, I started to feel really wiped out. Last night, I crashed early, around 7 p.m., and then I slept until 9 a.m. this morning. I felt "flu-ish" in the night, and right now, I feel water logged, just slogged. I am struggling to even sit up straight. I just feel worn out.

I've read numerous articles about what the symptoms are for "Keto Flu," and basically I have some of them:
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • upset stomach
  • Lack of mental clarity (brain fog)
  • sleepiness
  • fatigue
The so-called "flu" is experienced by many people when they first start a low-carb diet. This is because the body is switching its fuel type by burning ketones instead of glucose. It is normal for the first few days of any low-carb eating plan. According to Lilja (2011), blogger at Low Carb Food List, the way to combat the "keto flu" is to "Drink water, replenish electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, potassium) with food and supplements, drink broth, eat fat and not too much protein" (para. 11).

If you read through the comments on Lilja's blog, you will see that many people report feeling sick for several days to two weeks. The symptoms can be mild or severe, and most people report that the first time they are in ketosis, the symptoms are much worse. I don't recall feeling this way the first time around. I would describe my symptoms as mild, annoyingly so. I am glad I am not suffering with intense symptoms. Though I think the reason is that I am not doing strict carb reduction (under 20g). I have been in the 18g-30g range. I plan to drop my carbs back down to 20g today since my parents are eating out with their bible study group (so dinner will be easier to manage). The key for me is to find my "sweet spot" where I can be full and still be in ketosis so the fat stores are getting used for fuel. 

So far for progress, I have lost 3.2 pounds in about 14 days. This is a modest amount of weight to lose, but just since Monday when I reduced my carbs, I have lost 2.2 pounds. I will check today when I weigh-in again, but my hope is that I continue to lose the weight at a steady clip this week and then into next (my two week induction). After that time, I want to lose 1-2 pounds a week so that I can reach my target weight (20 pounds down) by the first of September. Lord, willing, I should say.

Understanding Nutrition

Lately, I have been thinking that I need to become an expert on nutrition, at the least, my own nutrition. It is funny, but whenever I read the blog post comments, and I hear how sick people are, I realize how our diet has poisoned us over the years. The bloggers are not just eating a typical American diet because many are from the UK and other countries in Europe or from Australia. This says to me that the 20th century diet, which is heavily processed has had serious repercussions on general health, vitality, and well-being. I never thought I would become a health-nut, but I am seriously considering it.  The foods we eat have a direct impact on our health. If we put garbage into our bodies basically we are sabotaging our God-given, God-created health. Think back to Genesis when the Lord gave food to Adam and Eve. The Lord provided the natural foods He knew Adam and Eve needed to survive. In Genesis 9:3 (ESV) we read, "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything." God did prohibit the consumption of meat, however. In verse 4 (ESV), we read: "But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood." There were many reasons for this (see GotQuestions.org for a great explanation of the physical and spiritual reasons). At the time of the flood, God removed this restriction and permitted Noah to eat meat. However, it is important to note that originally God intended for mankind to eat vegetables and not kill animals. As Christians, we are not under the dietary restrictions and laws of the Old Testament, and we have freedom in Christ to choose the foods we eat. Still, in some ways it is best to consider God's original design, to remember the sacredness of "lifeblood." If we consider that God gave us everything we needed for vitality and longevity, and that the food He provided was in the form of vegetables, we can easily see why so many people are choosing to live a natural, albeit vegan lifestyle. 

I think it is interesting when we consider that for centuries, people survived on limited amounts of meat. My ancestors from 100-200 years ago didn't always eat meat. In fact, rarely did they have meat as a meal. My Dad will tell me that growing up on a farm in Indiana didn't mean they had meat all the time either. Mostly, they ate foods that were grown on the farm, eggs, cheese, milk, and garden vegetables. Meat was a luxury for most people up until the 20th century. Prior to that time, most people ate a lot of organically grown vegetables. Fats, when they were consumed were naturally occurring. Yes, as gross as it seems today, most people ate lard (or the fat that comes from animals). 

Chemicals to combat insects were non-existent, and grains when eaten as breads, were all natural, unbleached, and unprocessed. Corn, wheat, rice, etc. were eaten after minimal processing. These foods were from God's earth, and they were considered "clean" according to the Bible. Nowadays, there is this push to eat all natural, all organic. Organic foods are more expensive than the commercially processed varieties, and for many families, eating organic is not possible. Yet, it is what is best for our bodies, and it is what can help us live naturally long, and more healthy and beneficial lives.

But, in order to live healthy lives, we have to understand how our bodies work, and how our bodies process the foods we eat. Thus, we need to understand how to eat properly, what types of foods to eat and what types to avoid. In doing so, we can take back control of our health, and for some of us, even recover from annoying to life-altering symptoms that are the result of our body waging war against itself (autoimmune disorders occur when our immune system begins to attack the body). 

I suffer from a whole host of issues that I believe are directly related to what I eat. I know changing my diet will improve my overall health, not just help me shed excess weight. In order to take control of my health, I have to change my diet. I've known this for years, but I am so addicted to carbs, that I cannot live without them. Truly, I am a carb-addict. I cannot imagine giving up cakes, cookies, pastas and breads. These things are my go-to foods whenever I am sad or when I feel depressed. Yet, I know that when I limit my carbs, I feel so much better. I mean like "really better." I just feel less bloat, less stomach problems like gas and constipation. I feel healthier, like I have more energy, and like I am better (more fit). 

Choosing An Approach

I've thought about several approaches to eating healthy, natural or organic foods. These are popular methods today, ones that you read about all over the Internet:
  • "Clean Eating" or Organic, Non-processed
  • Vegan or vegetarian
  • Paleo or Primal (aka, Cavaman)
  • The Daniel Diet or Daneil Plan (Dr. Amen's diet)
  • The Ketogenic Diet (Low-Carb)
Of all these approaches (and note that they are all very similar), I think the one that will work best for me is a combination of organic, non-processed, and whole foods. 

Right now, I am following Atkins low-carb with the hope of losing 20 pounds quickly. Then, I plan to switch my diet to low-carb for life (the ketogenic diet). The Ketogenic Diet keeps the body in a state of ketosis whereby the body burns fat rather than glucose for energy. Typically, this diet recommends a 65/30/5 approach (65% fat, 30% protein, and 5% carbs). According to Lilja, ketosis is the fat-burning process that helps you lose excess weight. She writes, "When the muscle tissue has depleted all the glycogen stored (when you stop eating carbs), the human body releases ketones. This state is referred to as ketosis" (para. 2). 

The Ketogenic diet calls for less than 30g of carbohydrates per day. This is key to successful induction to ketosis. The plan, though, relies on a heavy intake of fat, and for many, that idea goes against everything they have heard (medically, scientifically) growing up. Fat is bad, fat will clog your arteries, etc. The problem is that fat comes in varieties, and the bad fat, the kind we consume readily, is the kind that does cause all sorts of health issues from obesity to heart disease. The good fat, though, is the stuff that our body loves and needs. Good fats are found in olive oil, butter, cheese, cream and mayonnaise, but also nuts, avocados, etc. 

Lilja gives an example of a typical low-carb day on her blog. She has recipes as well as menu plans and other products you can purchase from her online store. Here is a snippet of a daily meal:
  • Breakfast: omelette (eggs, cheese, heavy whipping cream and spices for flavor) Avocado on the side.
  • Lunch: cheeseburger without the bun, prepared from ground beef, bacon, cheddar cheese, an egg and mozzarella cheese. Wrap it in lettuce to replace the bun.
  • Dinner: Steak, broccoli, salad and a cream sauce.
  • Snacks: peanut butter, pork rinds, deli meat, cheese, boiled eggs etc.
Interestingly, this is really close to what I am eating now, though I usually have a salad for lunch.

I am considering vegan, simply because I really do not like meat. I mean, I eat it occasionally, but I don't care for it. I don't crave meat. I do love carbs, and well, that is what has gotten me into problems before. I need to restrict my carb intake, and switch to vegetables for my main source of nutrition. I am struggling to do this, but I think it is because I am not thinking clearly or cleanly. I need to think about what foods will give me the most boost each day and what foods will fill me up. I need to satisfy my hunger, and I know consuming more fat will do it.

I think I need to do some more research on this topic. Once I have a better handle on what I need to do, I will post here. Until then, I will stick with Atkins and then slowly switch over to a low-carb approach that is organic, natural, and based on whole food choices. I think I can do this, I really do. Selah!


In Closing

As I close out this blog post, I realize that the changes I am making in my life will have significant impact on my future well-being. If I want to live a healthy lifestyle, I have to start now. I have to switch what I eat daily, change my attitude toward fitness, and generally adapt to a way of life that promotes vitality and longevity. I cannot continue to consume heavily processed foods and expect to feel well. I cannot choose foods that sabotage my internal systems and believe that I will not suffer consequences. No, I have to choose to eat the foods God created, in the way He created them, and that means to choose foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. My hope and my prayer is to find the "right" balance so that I can live a happy, healthier, and whole life well into my 80s-90s. May the Lord be pleased, and may I eat the foods He provides to me this good, good day. He is good to me, all the time. All the time, He is so very good! Selah!

___________________

References

Low Carb Food List. (2011). The keto flu: symptoms and relief. Retrieved from elowcarbfoodlist.org/the-keto-flu-symptoms-and-relief/

July 27, 2016

Managing Stress

Happy Hump Day! Yes, it is Wednesday (another Wednesday), and I am feeling a bit sour today. I am not sure why because I did sleep well. At the least, I think I did. I had dreams (again), but for the most part, I slept soundly between 10:00 p.m. and when I awoke at 7:00 a.m. this morning. I am feeling a bit winded, sort of out of breath, but I think that can be attributed to our higher ozone level for today.

Furthermore, I am suffering with some sinus pain and pressure, and I am not sure whether it is seasonal allergies or still part of the ketone-funk I am in. Speaking of ketones, I blew my Atkins diet yesterday. It is really difficult for me to stick to strict induction with my Mom in the house. Mom loves carbs so she will say "Let's have [...]" and will suggest something really heavy like pizza or pasta. I try to suggest protein/veggie combos, but nope, she wants high carbs. I had one slice of pizza last night for dinner, and while it knocked my carb count out of line, we will see today if I am out of ketosis or not. I am thinking of purchasing Ketostiks just so I can test to see if I am in ketosis. I think I am, but it would be nice to know for certain. I am feeling very metabolic resistant now, and testing my urine for ketones could give me that little boost of confidence to know that I am indeed burning fat stores rather than glucose. Oh well...

One thing is for sure, my stress level is relatively low right now, but I am feeling the "burn" of my bank account dropping way below minimal function. There is nothing I can do about it as I am waiting to be "paid" for my time at OCU. I really wish I would have kept that 8 week summer class at GCU, but with only two students enrolled, there was no way the school was going to pay me to teach. Still, the extra money would have been a blessing right about now. Yes, it would have been so nice to see a chunk of change drop into my accounts during the hot and weary summer months. But, as I said, I am in this position because I teach school, and without a year-round job, this is my life, so to speak. I am praying that the next year (next summer) will be better, though I am not sure how that will be unless I move to some rural area where I can live really, really cheaply OR I win the Powerball Lottery (LOL!) Perhaps both will come to pass, ha! That would be so sweet, for sure!



Reeling From The Sting

I am not very political. In fact, I would say that I am apolitical for the most part. I am conservative in my views, but not necessarily a Republican. I am more independent and libertarian in some regards, yet I tend to vote conservative simply because conservatives hold views that align with my religious and moral belief systems. But, at times, I simply cannot tolerate the political rhetoric from my side of the political system. I find the whole candidate bashing -- swinging and hitting -- simply annoying and even, disturbing. More so, I cannot stand the fact that people I know, family members, are so enamored with their choice for president. I mean whether they are a Sanders or Clinton or Trump supporter really is neither here nor there. But, it is the way they speak, the way they post to social media, the way they criticize and castigate the other side, other views, other family members -- well -- that just cuts me to the core. I barely can stand social media at all. I am finding that I have to stay off Facebook (especially) and Twitter simply to avoid the pandimonium of our current political races. Last night was especially difficult. I am not even watching the DNC on television. I didn't watch the RNC either, just to be fair, but the reports to social media scandalizing every single word spoken is taking its toll on me. And this is from someone who loves the study of rhetoric. I just cannot take it anymore. I want to run away, hide, and go live someplace where this type of over-the-top performance is non-existent. Even though I know that no such place exists in the USA in 2016, I am finding it more and more difficult to tolerate the heated debates, the name calling, and the general nastiness that I see coming from the left, center, and right political views that many of my friends and family maintain. It isn't right. It just isn't right.

All of this is to say that I believe Paul's prophecy as written to Timothy is coming to pass. In 2 Timothy 3:1-9 (NIV), we read:
But understand this: In the last days terrible times will come.  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good, traitorous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Turn away from such as these! They are the kind who worm their way into households and captivate vulnerable women who are weighed down with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. They are depraved in mind and disqualified from the faith. But they will not advance much further.  
Paul gives strong warning to Timothy, even saying "turn away from such as these," in order to help him understand what is to come (and by extension, so that we could recognize what is to come). Yes, Paul recommends that we walk away from anyone who displays these characteristics. Yet, is this what we do? No, we succumb, we settle, and yes, we sit with people who are "weighed down with sins" and who are "led away by various passions." Although Paul is speaking of weak-minded women, in particular, I think the warning is well-heeded by all who are behaving like this, behaving as if they have a depraved of mind.

The dictionary defines "depraved" as being "morally corrupt [or] wicked" (Dictionary.com). Merriam-Webster clarifies by saying that depraved means "very evil" or "having or showing an evil and immoral character." It is interesting to note that in modern times, in 2016, we don't like to use the words "evil," "immoral," or even "depraved," yet the Bible uses these terms all the time. In fact, the KJV of the Bible uses the word, "evil," 613 times. The word, "wicked," is mentioned 344 times, so clearly these two concepts are central to biblical teaching. Therefore, how is it that since the Bible was written we have come to the point where we dare speak these words in respect to the character, the tenor, and the actions of the world we see around us?

Political Correctness and Its Effect

Well, I think political correctness has a lot to do with it. Yes, "PC" has taken such a strong root in our society that as a people, we are in fear of saying anything that could be taken as an offense. Dictionary.com says that political correctness begins when we avoid certain words that "taken to extremes...are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against." These expressions or phrases are part of a socially unwritten code that prevents individuals from saying anything that could be construed as an insult toward another person or people group. In theory, political correctness is a social overreach designed to prevent libel and slander in the public forum. Yet, we see slander and libel all the time, and no one seems to call the people who are at fault to account. And, why is this? Here in the USA, most speech is protected under the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Freedom of speech simply is the "right to communicate one's opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship" (Wikipedia). Of course, the whole concept of freedom of speech, which was one of the singularly important aspects of our constitution, has been taken out of context in modern times, and now is used to bully people who do not agree with the political majority. Yes, if you speak your mind freely, but say something others disagree with, you open yourself to public condemnation and ridicule. Thus, political correctness has made the entire point of free speech mute. So much so that rather than being free to express your opinions and ideas; these days, it seems that speech that runs contrary to current liberal idealism or nay, socialism, is considered hate speech. In such matters, the person of good conscience is silenced in fear, while the immoral, unethical, and yes, even the depraved are given free reign to speak and act as they please. And, all under the protective watch of the first amendment. Sigh!

PC is rampant, and we find that our speech is being censored daily. Entertain religious speak, and watch your step carefully because you will be quickly labeled an instigator or at worst, a hateful person. Yet, is this true? When we speak the truth in love, are we speaking hate toward the very people God's desires to save? I think not. Yet, many false teachers and prophets run viral, using multimedia, social media, and other media platforms to create legions of followers. These false preachers and teachers prick the ears of the weak-minded, the depraved, and lead many people astray.

False Teaching

Just last night, I was having a discussion with my good friend. He mentioned a certain person who is well-known among Christian women. This person has been associated with a pastor who clearly is preaching false doctrine. Thus, our conversation turned toward this subject, and posited the question of how the church needs to respond to preachers, teachers, and religious writers/bloggers who preach and teach error.

The subject of false teachers is not new to the Bible. Jesus spoke on this matter as did Paul and Peter. The Word is clear -- as Christ followers -- we must be aware of false teachers, and we must know how to recognize their words and their actions. The Apostle Peter writes about false teachers and says this in 2 Peter 2:2 (NIV): "Many will follow in their depravity, and because of them the way of the truth will be defamed." While he is writing about people who follow false prophets, clearly there is a parallel with our current political and social climate that demonstrates the validity of this point. Many people are being led astray due to the nature of our social commentary, to the ease with with individuals have access to a public forum so as to speak whatever they believe freely. Whether religious teaching or social or ethical teaching -- with social platforms that give every person the freedom to express one's opinion -- the variety of "teaching" that exists online is staggering. It is critical, nay, implicit that Christians, in particular, be educated; they must be informed and they must be wary of what they read or listen to online. Yes, Christ-followers must be aware of the dynamic speaking platforms, the persuasive and charismatic leaders, who champion everything besides Christ Jesus. Christians, thus, must know the TRUTH, and they must be able to discern the difference between truth and error.

Who is a false teacher or false prophet? In a strict Biblical context, "A false teacher can be anyone in a position of spiritual authority or claiming to be" (Idleman, 2015, para. 1). According to Idelman, writing in a blog post entitled, "Seven Traits of False Prophets" (Charisma News), false prophets are individuals who "bring destructive teachings and lies into the church, often, by telling people what they want to hear (cf. Jer. 23)" (para. 1). False prophets or false teachers are known by the fact that instead of teaching the truth from God's Word, instead they teach what the people want to hear. He asserts, "They provide layers of truth mixed with error" (para. 1).

Jesus, Himself, warned against false prophets. He said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits" (Matt. 7:15-16b). Their fruits or deeds would be evident, said the Lord. Thus, it should be easy to spot a false teacher or prophet at the "get go" or as soon as they open their mouths to speak. Often, however, they are blinded by the doctrinal spin, the subtle way they spin error into the truth. More so, because of the wickedness of many people's hearts, what they want the preacher or teacher to say to them is a watered down, "feel good" version of God's Word. Yes, what most people want to hear is that they are "good just as they are," and that a loving God would never expect them to be "holy" as He is holy. They want to believe in a human Jesus, a Jesus who was just as flawed and sinful as they are. In this way, they can make their own way to heaven based on their "good works," and not on righteousness or God's standard of justice. In short, most people want to be told that they are "good" and that God accepts them without any need for repentance, contrition or dependency upon Him. The problem with this view is that it presumes man is inherently good, and as such, doesn't need a savior.

If Christians are going to spot the error mixed in with the truth, they are going to have to depend -- to know, to understand, and to comprehend -- the Bible, in it's entirety. They need to place a higher emphasis on Bible reading and study in order to know what is true and what is false. The Bible, therefore, should play a pivotal role in the LIFE of the Christ follower. The Bible should form the foundation for all knowledge and behavior. Without God's plumb-line, without His authoritative position, it is impossible to know what is really true at all. This is why GotQuestions.org says the best way to avoid false teaching is "know the truth" of God's word. The way to spot error or falsehood, according to these writers, is to go to the source of all TRUTH in order to study and to learn directly what God says. They write, "To spot a counterfeit, study the real thing. Any believer who 'correctly handles the word of truth' (2 Timothy 2:15) and who makes a careful study of the Bible can identify false doctrine."

So why then are so many good people, Christian people, deceived by false doctrine? I think it is simply that they do not know God's word. They do not understand doctrine and theology. You may be thinking that most Christians read God's word, so of course, they know it well. Well, not according to the American Bible Society and one of their newer surveys. Caleb Bell (2013), writing for Religion News Service, reports that "More than half of Americans think the Bible has too little influence on a culture they see in moral decline" (para. 1), and that "only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis" (para. 1). This suggests that daily Bible reading and Bible study has fallen by the wayside for most Americans. In fact, most Americans and most Christians suffer from what Al Mohler says is "biblical illiteracy," specifically within the church today. Mohler, writing for Christianity.com, says "While America's evangelical Christians are rightly concerned about the secular worldview's rejection of biblical Christianity, we ought to give some urgent attention to a problem much closer to home--biblical illiteracy in the church" (para. 1). Furthermore, Mohler, citing researchers Gallop and Castelli, says "Americans revere the Bible--but, by and large, they don't read it. And because they don't read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates" (para. 2). The problem, thus, rests with a church that is filled with biblically illiterate people. In sum, with the proliferation of false teachers and prophets and the inability of most Christians to recognize them, the problem rests with turning God's people back to His holy WORD. In many ways, America in 2016 is eerily similar to Israel during the age of the prophets. God sent His messengers into the midst of His people to urge them to return to His precepts, His commands, and to repent and turn their lives away from sinfulness and back to God's righteousness. 

Now, more than ever, we need men and women of God to preach the truth of God's word. We need to be teaching truth in our churches, and we need to be people of faith, people who believe in the inerrancy of scripture. We need to read and study God's word more than we realize it. We need to stop and consider our attitude toward reading the word. We need to ask ourselves why we are spending so much time on other pursuits and forsaking time in the word? What is our purpose in reading scripture? Do we read for ministry or for personal edification? Do we read for knowledge or simply to check it off our "to do" list each day? Do we read to develop our relationship with God, to deepen our devotion to Him and to His will and purpose? Do we read the word to nurture, to develop, and to champion our own faith in Jesus Christ, AND to build our defenses against the enemy at large (spiritual)? My hope is that the answer to all of these questions would be a resounding "yes!" 

There is power in studying the scriptures, and in making daily Bible reading a priority. What is more is the fact that by today's standard we have access to more versions of the Bible than ever before. We have access to study tools, devotional materials, and helps that are offered freely to anyone and everyone over the Internet. There is no reason why the Christ follower today shouldn't be reading their Bible every single day. In fact, there is no reason why the Christian shouldn't be reading their Bible throughout the day.


In Closing

As I write this blog post, I am convicted in my own heart and mind today. I have been a diligent Bible reader for the past ten years. In fact, I probably have spent more time reading the Bible on a daily basis than most people I know. But, lately, especially with graduate school and doctoral study, I have been hit or miss when it comes to a deep and thorough explication of the Bible. Yes, I am guilty of placing emphasis on other things rather than on spending time in God's word. More so, I have been convicted of sensing the presence of false doctrine and teaching as I read through articles on the Internet, browse blog posts, and follow people on social media. My mind has become dull, and my sense of "error and truth," less sharp then it has been in the past. Thus, I feel the need, no the prod, by the precious Holy Spirit to do something about it, about my dulling senses. I am feeling the push to return to an intensive study of God's word -- simply to prepare me -- for the ministry work He has in store for me.

Yes, it is back to the basics for this girl. I am ready to obey, and I am ready to begin a systematic study of God's word in order to prepare, to train, and to equip me for the next phase of my life. May God be praised, and may He receive all praise, all honor, and all glory. To His holy Name, and with a cheerful and grateful heart, I lift my voice today. May He be worshiped and praised this good, good day. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!




References

Bell, C. (2013, April 3). Poll: Americans love the Bible but don’t read it much | Religion News Service. Retrieved from http://religionnews.com/2013/04/04/poll-americans-love-the-bible-but-dont-read-it-much/

How can I recognize a false teacher / false prophet? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.gotquestions.org/false-teachers.html

Idelman, S. (2015, May 14). 7 Traits of False Prophets in Sheep's Clothing — Charisma News. Retrieved from http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/49627-7-traits-of-false-prophets-in-sheep-s-clothing

Mohler, A. (2016). Christianity - Faith in God, Jesus Christ - Christian Living, Trivia. Retrieved from http://www.christianity.com/1270946/

July 25, 2016

Fear or Faith?

It is a good Monday. Yes, it is July 25, 2016, and that means that there are five more weeks until school begins for me at GCU. I am starting to panic a bit, given the fact that I am not ready to begin school AND the fact that I have so much work left to do on my proposal. Still, it is a good start to the new week, and I am thankful that I am home and able to do whatever I desire to do. Plus, the Lord has me well covered, I mean well covered. I may not feel 100% well covered today, but I know it is true. Yes, I know it is true. My faith doesn't rest on what I think or feel, but rather my faith rests IN whom I believe, and in the trust that comes from knowing and believing the truth about God, His Son, and the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Yes, my faith is in Jesus, even if I struggle today with not feeling 100% faithful. Let me explain...

Is it Fear or is it Faith?

It is one of those days where my life and circumstances seem to hit hard up against reality. I woke up this morning after passing a relatively peaceful night. However, I did have one very strange dream. I dreamed I bought two cars, both white. One was a Ford Mustang and the other a Toyota Corolla. Both cars were used, but they looked pristine, brand new. The Mustang was an older model. Not vintage, but a model from the 1990s. The Corolla was likewise, older, but still very sharp looking. I had purchased them from a used car lot, not sure where, but on a whim. I was driving by the lot with my Dad, and I saw them sitting by the front of the road. I stopped, and next thing I know is that I had bought them. I had taken them home, well, to where I thought was "home." At first it was a big lot, like a gravel parking lot, but later it appeared to be a rural place with a big garage or shop. I remember driving and parking on the gravel lot, and then next, I was inside the "shop" or garage, and I was going through the car, listening to the radio, checking all the buttons on the dash board. When I was sitting inside the Mustang, I started to notice things under the seat, behind car mats, etc. I quickly realized that what had been pristine on the outside (as in the car itself), was turning out to be filled with junk, weeds, clutter, old pieces of garbage on the inside. It was like someone had been living in the car, and the person who sold it to me had just cleaned it up on the outside so it looked like 'new.' As I cleaned the car out, I remember someone coming up to ask me how much I had paid for it. I said I had paid "$3500," which seemed like a reasonable amount for a car like this. Later, as I was moving the car, I heard a gasping sound from the engine. I thought,"Oh, no! This car is junk!" Then, I woke up. What in the world could this dream possibly mean?

This morning, I am still scratching my head, wondering what the dream meant. Was it random images, a series of disconnected events tied together in my head like a movie or comic strip? Or did the dream have meaning? Could it be the result of my inner turmoil, my financial struggles, or my worries over my financial situation? I don't know, I just don't know. The weird part was that I didn't have any panicked feelings while I was dreaming. I also didn't wake up panicked. It was like I accepted the fact that the car wasn't what it seemed, that the outside and inside mismatch was to be expected. Furthermore, I was proud of the fact that I had bought two cars for the price of one, and that my son, "now had his own car." It seemed like the entire ordeal was a good thing, but once I started to dig below the surface, I realized that perhaps I had been "taken" by the seller. Even though I figured as much, that I had fallen for the outside appeal, I still felt good that I had found a "diamond in the rough," so to speak. I mean, I always wanted a Mustang. I always hoped some day to have one. I really was excited about having this car, just for show, just to enjoy, just to use on occasion. The other car was practical. I remember thinking that the reason I bought the Corolla was because it was a good practical car. It would get really good gas mileage, and it would be dependable. I always wanted a Corolla too. My friend in high school had one, and I loved her little car. It was white, and a 4-speed. She bought an entry level car and had fat tires with mag wheels on it. It really was super cool. Of course, I never got either car in high school or college. I did get my baby blue Spitfire, and no other car could surpass that one, for sure. It was another "looks good on the outside, but tastes rotten on the inside" deal. Still, I treasured that car, enjoyed it, and was sad when it finally was sold for the cost of the new tires on it.

So what do I make of this dream? What is the story it hopes to tell to me (the real story, I mean?)


Things Aren't Always as They Seem

Yes, I think the moral of my dream is simply that things are not always as they seem. You know, metaphorically speaking. My life can be summarized in the same way today. What seems good on the outside, isn't always accurate of what is going on inside my life. I have hidden fears, deep secrets, and yes, even things I am not being honest about (truthful) with myself and others. My life looks pretty scrubbed out, clean and fresh, when in reality, there is a lot of dirt hiding in the crevices and cracks that make up the truth of my life.

The writer of Hebrews 4:13 says, "And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." This reminds us that while we may try to hide the truth of our life from others, the Lord God sees everything. He knows the heart of man, and He knows our innermost secrets. We can try to hide from the world, but we cannot hide from the Lord. As such, when we do try to hide from God that which is already known, we lie to ourselves. Or a better way to say that is that we fabricate a story to tell us what we want to hear. We want to justify and rationalize our thoughts, our feelings, our inner emotions so that our world, as we picture it, makes sense to us. This presumes that our worldview is correct, when the Bible tells us that the only worldview that is accurate is the one that begins and ends with God. Thus, as we try to tell ourselves what we want to hear, we often find that we must create new stories to replace the older, more faulty ones. In this way, we choose to create an opaque screen through which we can hide our vices and our sins from God and from others. Instead, the Word calls us to live transparent lives, to come clean, confess our sins and seek forgiveness from God through Jesus Christ.  Paul writes in Romans, 8:1-8 (AMP):
Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For what the Law could not do [that is, overcome sin and remove its penalty, its power] being weakened by the flesh [man’s nature without the Holy Spirit], God did: He sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful man as an offering for sin. And He condemned sin in the flesh [subdued it and overcame it in the person of His own Son],  so that the [righteous and just] requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not live our lives in the ways of the flesh [guided by worldliness and our sinful nature], but [live our lives] in the ways of the Spirit [guided by His power].  For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose].  Now the mind of the flesh is death [both now and forever—because it pursues sin]; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace [the spiritual well-being that comes from walking with God—both now and forever];  the mind of the flesh [with its sinful pursuits] is actively hostile to God. It does not submit itself to God’s law, since it cannot,  and those who are in the flesh [living a life that caters to sinful appetites and impulses] cannot please God.
In order to live a life that is pleasing to God, Christians must live according to the Spirit of Truth. In this way, believers in Christ are now living in a way that is no longer guided by the fleshly desires, but rather they are living in a way that is guided by the power of the Holy Spirit. They are able to live in peace, to "set their minds on the...will and purpose" of God.

This morning as I think about my dream, I realize that for the most part, the story itself is pure fabrication. It made very little sense when taken in context or as a whole. But, when looked through the microscope, the lens of clarity, I realize that the real story was about not judging God things with frail human eyes. This means that I am not to think that God's way, His purpose and His plan will look good on the outside, yet be rotten on the inside. No, that is what comes with the world's way, the fleshly way. In God's provision, He only provides good gifts, good fruit to His children. Thus, it is imperative to not think of our life or our circumstances as being inherently bad, even when they appear to be "good on the outside." I guess what I am trying to say is that we tend to view the gifts of God the way we view human gifts. We take everything with a grain of salt. It might look tasty, but it could really be bitter on the inside. This is not faith, but fear at work in us. Instead, if God has given us something good, we must believe in faith that it is good through-and-through. He will not lead us and guide us in His purpose and His will and then leave us with rotten, dirty, or broken resources whereby we cannot expect to do what He asks us to do. No, this is not our heavenly Father's nature at all. Jesus said something similar when He said, "You fathers--if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead?" (Luke 11:11 NLT). In context, this passage (verses 9-13) is worth reading again,
“So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!”
Note that it is Jesus who says that the Father will give His children the BEST gift, the Holy Spirit, when we persistently ask for Him. Thus, it reminds us that God knows what we need most, and it isn't always tangible, material, or other types of resources. Most often, we need a fresh in-filling of the Holy Spirit in order to withstand the temptations with which our enemy seeks to ensnare us.

Today, as I reflect on these passages, I remember that when I am frail, weak, and unable to produce one ounce of faith, my inner Helper and Companion, the Holy Spirit is with me, and He is able to produce the faith I need to remain strong. He is able to keep me steady, to not let me sink deep into fear, but rather, He keeps my eyes firmly fixed on the Lord, on my Savior, Jesus the Christ. I may struggle with doubts, with fear, and yes, with worry, but my best FRIEND is the Holy Spirit, the One who knows exactly what I need this moment, and the One whom has been given to me as a guide, a mentor, a counselor, and a friend. Yes, I need the Spirit of Truth, to comfort me and to remind me that God is in control of the events in my life, and that not everything I see is true. Not every rotten thing is good, and not every good thing is rotten. May I remember this story today, O Lord, so that I can remain faithful, trusting, and relying upon you for your good, good work in and through my life today. Selah!
Remembering Whom We Serve

As I close out this blog today, I remember that I serve a mighty God. Just as David remembered the strength of the Lord, His God, when he faced the giant, Goliath, so too must we remember that our God is more powerful and more able to accomplish His will than any other worldly or spiritual being. Yes, there is no one more mighty than our God. Thus, when I feel low, dejected, or overwhelmed by the nature of the events in my life, I must run to the ROCK that is more powerful, more steadfast, and more immovable than any other person or thing. In Psalm 61:1-4 (AMP) we read,

Hear my cry, O God;
Listen to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to You, when my heart is overwhelmed andweak;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I [a rock that is too high to reach without Your help].
For You have been a shelter and a refuge for me,
A strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in Your tent forever;
Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.

We must remember that it is our God, the Lord Jehovah, who is the ROCK, our shelter and our refuge. Today, Lord, may I run to my ROCK, to my shelter and my strong tower so that I can feel safe and no longer afraid of the enemy as he tempts me and taunts me. Give me this day your strength, O Lord, so that I can be strong, so I can be faithful, so I can remain resilient and do the work, the important and good work you ask me to do this good day. Selah!

July 24, 2016

Sunday Musings

It is a good day here in sunny, and yes, very hot Phoenix. I think we hit close to 114 yesterday, and I believe the high for today is going to be close to this mark. I am praying for rain! Please Lord, let the rains come! Today, though, I am home and resting. My stomach is a bit off this morning, but my head is clear (PTL!), and generally, I feel good. I didn't sleep well last night. I had a bad dream about midway through the night, and I awoke with my hands tightly closed (as in a fist). My arms are even sore this morning. I know that whenever I am stressed, really stressed, I will often clench my fists or my jaws as a way to control my emotions. This stress motion is something I have done since I was a child, and it was a reaction to my life back then, when I was deeply troubled or afraid. It has been a long time since I found myself doing this stress-reactive practice. I have worked very hard to train myself to stop doing it. In fact, I can almost always sleep at night with my body completely relaxed. I am not sure what prompted the reaction, but I am sure my dream (somewhat scary) had something to do with it. Needless to say, I am a bit worn out this morning. My mind is rested, but my body feels weary. O, Lord, please help me recover your blessed peace this good, good day!

It is Sunday, BTW, and I am praising the Lord this morning for He is good, so very good to me. I read Psalm 35 today as part of my morning study, and I was taken a back by David's prayer for the Lord's help. I cannot imagine what it was like for him when he had enemies who were trying to kill him. His prayer is a good reminder of the nature of the wicked, and the contrast between the wicked and the righteous. In this Psalm, David says that he was persecuted unfairly. He was a good man, a righteous man. He even prayed for people who were his enemy, and he treated them as if they were like a family member. Then, these same people, took joy in his calamity and in his downfall. I couldn't help but reflect how this seems to be similar to our current socially mediated environment. I mean, I see Christians lash out at other Christians, call them names, treat them rudely, and then turn and fain righteousness. It is serious business, and the Lord is not pleased when we eat and devour one another like this. We must stop doing this, stop treating everyone with such disdain. I digress.

Nonetheless, today, I am feeling sort of "off" and my heart is saddened somewhat. Again, I woke up this way, so I am not really sure what has prompted this oppression. I simply feel as if I was attacked last night, and now I am suffering the repercussions of that event. How I pray today for the Lord's goodness, His grace, and His favor. May I be protected, O Lord, from my enemy who encamps about me, and who seeks to steal my joy and my well-being, this good, good day! Selah!


He is Coming Quickly

In the latter days, the Word tells us that we are to be on the ready, to be alert, and to remain faithful because the Lord will come again quickly. In 1 Thessalonians 5:2 (NLT), Paul writes, "For you know quite well that the day of the Lord's return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night." He goes on to say, "While people are saying, 'Peace and security,' destruction will come upon them suddenly, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape" (verse 3). Many people will not be ready, many will not be prepared, simply because they will see what they want to see, and they will believe the day is far off in the distance. Yet, Paul tells us that His return will come quickly. Thus, he says, "But you, brothers, are not in the darkness so that this day should overtake you like a thief" (verse 4). And more so in verses 5-6, he stresses, "For you are all sons of the light and sons of the day; we do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not sleep as the others do, but let us remain awake and sober." Yes, Paul reminds us to behave, to live as children of light (sons of light), so that we are ready, alert, and watchful. He says in verse 7, "But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of our hope of salvation."

This word sober means "having or showing a very serious attitude or quality" (Merriam-Webster), and as such, Christians are called to be sober minded, to be serious in both mind and body. We are not to act or behave like those in the night. Paul uses an illustration of drunkenness saying that when people get drunk, they do so at night. He is suggesting that people do dark deeds under the cover of night, where their deeds are hidden. Yet, because we are of the light, children of God who walk in the light of truth, our deeds cannot be hidden. Therefore, we must walk in soberness, in seriousness, especially in regard to our Lord's return. Paul reminds us in verses 9-10, that the reason we are to do this, to remain sober minded and watchful is because of what is to come -- the promised reward -- salvation. He writes, "For God has not appointed us to suffer wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him." O, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not forget what we long for, what we are waiting for, and let us not lose our focus on what is to come -- the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ!

This morning, in particular, I am struck by these verses. They serve to remind me that we, as Christians, can get so caught up in world events that we forget our purpose, we forget our mission in this life. We are not here to simply "eat, drink and be merry," but rather we are Christ's ambassadors, chosen for specific work, in order to spread the good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How quickly do we become like the world, acting like the world, turning on every page in the world's handbook. Instead of standing on the Word of God, we become like those around us. We seek the joy, the satisfaction, and the scintillation of materialism and pursuits of godlessness. Yes, we become no different than the lost who live around us. We are called to be salt and light, yet our life doesn't reflect that fact. We are no different than the world if we seek after the things of the world, we pursue the these things, with ardent fervor and with passionate desire.

My heart thinks on these things today because I am often swept along with the current. I am often taken down a path where I do not wish to go, simply by the force of the stream. I want to stand firm, I want to remain alert, I want to be watchful, yet often when I am not steady and standing my ground, the enemy, my enemy comes and woos me to follow after him. I will not go, I say. I will not give ground, but I find that time and time again, I am easily moved, easily shaken. O, Lord, please help me to stand my ground, to not give way, to be as your word instructs -- alert, steady, on the ready! Selah!


Planning for the Day

Sunday is reserved by God as a day of rest. I know some Christians believe that the sabbath day of rest is Saturday and not Sunday, but I believe that God intends us to rest one day out of seven, and Sunday is historically (outside of Judaism) the day given to the people of God. Thus, today is a day of rest for most people in the world. I will not argue with those who prefer to rest on Saturday or who choose to worship the Lord on this day. What matters is that they rest, that they remember the goodness of God, and they take time to reflect on His goodness in and through their lives. This is what matters more than the day chosen to rest (in my view).

My plans include resting, of course, but they also include some work since I am now an online instructor. My students will be submitting assignments, so I need to be ready to return them with feedback. My plans today include some grading of assignments, some follow up with students who have not posted or attended this week, and some other small things here around the house. The Lord knows I need to rest, but today's rest is more mental than physical. I need to rest from my endeavors, from my work (as in striving), and that means that I need to consider everything I am doing now that runs counter to His will for my life. I am in assessment-mode, so to speak, and I need to assess my current workload, and determine a way for me to proceed this fall. You see, I am going to be really busy. I have five classes right now, though I think I will only teach four once my class at ACU is dropped next week. Still, with my classes and my dissertation, I have a lot on my plate. God be praised, I know that I can do whatever needs doing, and I am trusting Him to keep me on track, to hit my goals, and to complete all the work He has assign to me. He is good to me, so very good to me. God be praised, He is so very good to me.

I am thinking more and more about my timeline for graduation and for keeping my plan for finishing my dissertation. Right now, I am stuck. I am waiting on my professor to send me back revisions for chapters 2-3. I need his feedback before I can move to the next step: presenting my proposal. Until I hear back, I am on hold. This bums me, of course, but there is nothing I can do about it. I am praying the Lord covers me, the timing and all, and I know that He does know what is best. He will see me through this last push toward graduation, I know He will! He is good, so very good to me.

Thus, my plans for today are pretty simple: do whatever needs doing this good, good day. Selah!