October 30, 2016
I am giving God all the glory, the praise, and the honor this good, good day. I couldn't have completed everything on my plate this week without His help. His grace and His mercy cover me from head to toe, and in this way, I am able to complete everything assigned to me and do these tasks well. He is good to me, so very good to me! Selah!
My heart swells with praise today, and I agree with the Psalmist who said, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord" (Psalm 150:6).
Sabbath and Sunday
Today is Sunday, and for many people, today is the first day of the week, the Lord's day. It is interesting to think about how often Christians confuse the Sabbath with the Lord's day. I was doing my bible reading today, and I asked the Lord why is this so -- I mean -- why is there such division regarding the purpose of the 7th day and the 1st day of the week. Interestingly enough, if you google "Sabbath" you will find all sorts of articles written by many knowledgeable individuals who will walk you through Scripture and show you the various proof-texts that establish Saturday as the Sabbath and Sunday as the Lord's day (or 1st day of the week).
Sometimes I think about why the Lord asked us to take one day out of seven for a day of rest. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was part of the ritual observances for the Israelite's. The Sabbath was a holy day, a day of no work. In the New Testament, we see Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath, as the fulfillment of the Sabbath requirement. Jesus produces miracles on the Sabbath, does "work" on the Sabbath, and even says that He has come to fulfill the requirements of the Law and the Prophets. Most people agree that in Jewish custom, the Sabbath was Saturday and Sunday was a normal work day. It was the first day of the week, and it was not considered to be a special day.
In Christian tradition, however, Sunday is observed as a day when the Lord's people gather together to celebrate His Resurrection life. We worship the Lord corporately on Sunday's and often we set it aside as a day of remembrance. Much like the Sabbath day for the Jews, Christian's often performed no work on Sunday. They attended church and then spent the day resting with family (or friends). It was a day of rest for the people of God. Monday became the first "work day," despite historic tradition that said it was not.
In our modern era, we see Christians choosing to forgo Sunday gathering to stay at home to watch Football or some other major event. We see families choosing to go shopping, to the movies, or even vacation all on a Sunday. Different families have different traditions, and despite these traditions, the family of Christ is often confused over what they are expected to do on each "Lord's day." For example, is attending an online church the same thing as attending a physical church building/service? Is watching a streaming sermon of some famous preacher the same as listening to a local pastor preach each week?
I struggle with the rules and regulations aspect of keeping religious traditions because they remind me of the Jewish laws that mandated how the people worshiped God as well as how they interacted with each other and with their local communities. It is not that I am "anti-law" or ordinance in any way, shape or form, it is just that sometimes I think about Paul who said in Romans 7:6-7 KJV,
"But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet."
In this passage in specific, Paul was addressing the nature of the two laws, the old law (or the Mosaic law that included all the rules and regulations covering sacrifices, behaviors, etc.) and the new law (or the spiritual law that is written on the hearts of men under the New Covenant). As Christians, the old law or the Ten Commandments is still active in our world, but with the coming of Jesus, the Christ, the spirit of the law, the knowledge of right and wrong has been placed within our hearts and minds. In this way, the believer in Christ now has a way to "keep" the old law, to not sin against God, because of the indwelling power and presence of the Holy Spirit who helps us to do so. We no longer need rules and regulations to force us to keep the law because we do it supernaturally through the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit of God.
Thus, when I think about the division within the church over things such as baptism, church attendance, and even what is "okay or not okay" to do on the Lord's day, I am reminded that we keep the Sabbath as a holy day because God ordained it to be so. We celebrate the Lord's day because it is good to remember Christ's death, burial and Resurrection. Sunday, however, is not a holy day according to the Bible. It is a day of work, a normal day, but it is a day set aside by Christians to spend time together, worshiping the Lord in corporate fellowship, and to remember Christ's sacrificial gift of life. In many ways, we choose to worship the Lord this way -- not because we are mandated in scripture to do so -- but because it is a good thing to do. It is good, it is useful, and it is beneficial to the brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
As I process this line of thinking, I cannot help but meditate on the passages of scripture that remind us that it is important to meet together, to fellowship, and to encourage and build up the church regularly. The writer of Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) said, "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near" in order to remind the brothers and sisters to keep on doing good works. He said that the day of Christ's return is near, thus it is a good practice to spend time together, helping one another, while we eagerly wait for His return.
What is interesting to note is that fact that the writer of Hebrews was addressing a particular audience, one that was made up of recent Jewish converts. More so, these converts were considering leaving the true church to pursue an ascetic way or monastic way of life. This meant that they were being told that the best way to please God and to obey His commands was to withdraw from life, and to live in isolation and in celibacy. The writer of Hebrews clearly addresses this practice and reminds the believers to not follow this heretical teaching, and instead, to remember to assemble together regularly.
I was raised in a tradition that made it very difficult to "forsake the assembly." Any person who missed church more than occasionally, and then only if ill or out of town, was considered to be practicing "heathen" ways. Moreover, when traveling out of town, it was expected that you would attend church in a local congregation. Again, there was no rationale or justification from missing church. Even when ill, there was speculation on the part of the member. Questions were asked as to the nature of the illness, the seriousness of the illness, the length and time of the illness. These questions were not always asked in genuine seriousness either, rather they were asked in order to ascertain whether or not the person really was ill or whether they were simply avoiding the fellowship for the purpose of their own interests or gain (as in working or entertainment).
It is funny to think about how this type of legalism grew into the church, and how even today, we see legalism in and through many churches in America. In many ways, our churches have become similar to the religious synagogues of Jesus' time whereby the scribes and pharisees were quick to judge other people (picking the speck out of their brother's eye so to speak). In many ways, this happens in our Christian churches today. We are so quick to judge another brother or sister before we even really know their story, their circumstance, or their status. We seem bent on exposing the sinner, chastising the believer, and generally, pointing out the flaws, the deficiencies, and the errors of their ways.
Today is the Lord's day, and for all intents and purposes, it is a special day that should be set aside to remember the grace and goodness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Should we keep to the practices, the traditions, the rules and regulations that have become so established within our modern churches or should we live by the spirit of the law instead of the letter?
I am partial to traditions, but only in the ways they benefit our lives. For example, my students have been reading a lovely little essay by early 20th century English essayist, Hilaire Belloc, entitled, "A Remaining Christmas." In this lovely essay, Belloc writes about the traditions of Christmas in his small parish in rural England. In many ways, Belloc writes lovingly about these traditions, about the community celebrations, and how they can serve as a framework to steady us when the harshness of the times come upon us. In his day (1928), his country had just come through the Great War and tensions were escalating in Germany, leading to what would become the Second World War. Furthermore, there were hostilities between the church, between the Catholic and Protestant sects in the church. In all this divisiveness we are presented with the wonder and magic of Christmas, and in this way, we are able to see how our traditions, our rituals and our responses can serve as comforts to us when the world around us seems to be rushing headlong into destruction.
I think this is one of the blessings of traditions and ritual responses. I think there is a right place for traditions within the church as well as within our local communities. The key is to remember the place of tradition on our life. Is it a rule book, a harsh taskmaster, a system of impossible edicts and regulations? If so, then it is legalism and it smacks of the law. If it is a joyous response, a grateful praise to honor and to adore our Lord and Savior, then it is a true spiritual practice that is generated and gifted to us by the prompting of the Holy Spirit of God.
As I think about this good Lord's day, I am reminded of my Savior and His great love for us. I am reminded that my life is good today because He is good. I am reminded that while I may not fellowship with my brothers and sisters as frequently as I should (and I admit it), I do so with a full heart, a sincere desire, and an understanding of the blessing and the benefit to myself as well as to others. It is a good thing, a good practice, a good tradition to keep.
October 29, 2016
Despite the hot weather, I am bound and determined to enjoy fall. It is October 29, which means that Halloween is on Monday. Yeah, school days and Halloween were always so much fun. Not so much at the college level, but still fun when you think about it. Once Halloween is over, it is one quick ride to the Christmas holidays. I cannot believe that the year is almost over! Wow! This means that there are 63 days left in 2016. Yes, 63 more days until the new year arrives. That thought just amazes me because 2017 is my BIG YEAR. It is the year I graduate from Regent University, the year when my life should come into clear focus, and the year when I will start “living” out my dream. Yes, 2017 is the “piece de resistance” so to speak. It is the year I have been waiting to come to pass, dreaming about what might be, and patiently hoping it would arrive. Selah!
More Thoughts on Going
This past week has been trying for me. When I say trying, I mean difficult, jam-packed, and so full that I literally thought I would fall over from the weight I was carrying around with me. Praise be to God, I survived it. I did survive it. I am so grateful that the Lord pressed on me to have student conferences week instead of a normal teaching week. In truth, I am rather hit or miss about holding them, but a couple week’s ago, I decided that it would be good to meet with a handful of students each day, just so I can spend some quality one-on-one time with them. Praise God, I am so glad that I decided to follow my heart and hold conferences this past week. Not only was I able to meet with the students directly, but I was able to sit with them, discuss their paper, and generally get a feel for where they are at in the writing process. It was low-key for me, and with my new courses beginning at Regent, well, it was nice to have less work to do in each of my on campus classes. Everything worked out perfectly, and since the beginning of the week was stressful due to my proposal defense, having such a low-key week was really a special blessing to me. In all, even though the week was stressful, with my student conferences and my “share days” (where my students share their reviews), the week turned out to be very nice and very easy. Selah!
As I sit here today, I thank the Lord because I am feeling better today. Yes, my tummy troubles of the past week finally seem to be subsiding, and I am feeling that sense of wellness again. Over all, I feel good, and even though the next two months will be hectic for me — what with my research beginning — I am confident that the Lord has me so well covered. Yes, I am stressed over my research project, but I know that God is good, and that this project is fully surrendered to Him. I have given the outcome over to Him, and in this way, I am letting Him lead, guide, and provide for me. He will cover me, I believe it, as I begin my research and continue to work on my dissertation. God be praised, I will do it! I will finish this research, and I will graduate in 2017!
So with this in mind, I give praise to God today as I remember my blessings, as I give thanks to Him for His mercy and His goodness, and as I praise His Holy name for His faithfulness. He has blessed me beyond blessing, and He has covered me in such a way that I am safe, secure, and completely settled. I am good, so very good today. Praise God, I am good!
This morning, as I was praying to the Lord, I heard Him say to me that it was time to “get going.” Of course, I have said repeatedly that I am ready to go, that I believe the Lord has told me that I am ready to go; but that for some reason, He has me stationed here in Phoenix for a time, and that I am prevented from going “just yet.” Last week, I wrote on my blog that I had come to terms with my “lot in life,” that I felt that for the time being, I was to stay put and not think about my future or the plans the Lord has for my life. I felt unsure about staying here in Phoenix, but for all practical intents and purposes, staying “put” made good sense to me. I mean, my son needed another year at school (or so he said), my parents need caring (and I am the slotted caregiver), and I already have two good jobs at local schools. In so many ways, staying put in Phoenix simply seemed like the “right thing to do.”
The problem was that all week long, I was unsure about staying put. I mean, yes, the logic followed, it tracked, and frankly, I could accept the rationale that it was in my best interest to just stay here from this point on. I had doubts, of course, mostly in my ability to purchase a home, and in whether or not I could maintain my lifestyle in our current rented house. I believed the Lord would provide, and I still do believe this is the case, but the more I looked at staying, the more downcast I felt inside. I didn’t want to disappoint the Lord, and I didn’t want to go against His calling or His mandate for my life. But something wasn’t right, something didn’t seem right, and the more I meditated on it, considered it, and tried it out, the more I felt that regardless of what seemed to make sense to me, the truth was that the Lord was asking me to go, telling me to go, calling me out to go.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).I tried so hard to not think about going, about moving this entire week. I pushed it out of my head, prayed about my willingness to let go, to leave things be, and to accept the Lord’s will to remain in Phoenix. I tossed and turned at night, and I had massive dreams — every single night — where I was trapped, being followed, or hounded by some person, someone wanting me or trying to capture me. I escaped in all my dreams, thwarted his advances, but in the end, I still dreamed I was being chased. I should mention that I haven’t dreamed like this in months, literally months, so the past five-six nights of constant dreaming has really taken a toll on me physically. I simply haven’t slept well. I haven’t rested well. And, coupled with my hard week at work, teaching so many classes, prepping for my defense, and so forth, well, I was beat. I was worn out, worn in, and worn over. Yes, I was overdone!
This morning, I had another epiphany moment. A couple days ago, I wrote about my epiphany moment whereby I came to accept my role and responsibility. I came to accept that I am where I am for a reason. In this way, I came to terms with this season in my life. I am where I am because God has said it is good for me to be here. In truth, I accepted a lot about my life last week. I let many things go, I relented of my stubborn willfulness, and I accepted the truth that God has a plan for me, and that His plan will not be thwarted by my lack of understanding or my unwillingness to follow His leading.
I slept well last night, and I had probably the best nights sleep in a couple weeks. I woke up near on 9 a.m., and for the most part, I felt very refreshed, very rested. The first thing I did when I got up was to ask the Lord about all this “stuff.” I mean, I was tired of the way I was feeling, and even yesterday, I looked in the mirror, and I felt so drawn, so drained, so draggled. I walked around campus like a sloth, slowly moving, climbing the stairs, and generally, feeling sluggish. I was miserable all day, and when I fell into bed last night, I absolutely crashed. Like I said, I slept pretty soundly, and I woke up feeling far more refreshed then I had been in days.
So, this morning as I was thinking about “going” or getting myself “going,” I couldn’t help but wonder how I could “go” if I was being told to stay put, know what I mean? It seemed to make no sense to me to hear the Lord whisper “go,” but to believe that I was meant to stay right where I was and not physically “go” anywhere.
I’ve blogged about going, physically moving for years now, but the last year or so, I have been intensely focused on the physical move itself. I have prayed over it, meditated on it, and generally accepted that I would be “going” some time in 2017. Then last week, I blogged that it seemed like the Lord put the brakes on for me, and I was placed in a holding patterned for at least another year. I struggled to accept this barrier, and I prayed over it to make sure it was from the Lord. I know that my ministry is flexible, and by that I mean that I have known for years that I can do my ministry anywhere the Lord desires. I can stay here in Phoenix or move to NYC, for example, and my ministry will be the same. My ministry is not tied to a particular place. More so, it was my job, teaching, that seemed tied to a place. I need a full-time job, and for now, while adjunct works for me (while I finish my school), I need that tenure-track position to be settled permanently. This means that I will be settled some place based solely on the availability of good work.
Right now, I teach adjunct at multiple campus, but one of those schools is online through Regent University. I have believed for the past year that an online teaching position would be best for me. First of all, it would allow me to stay at home and rest (physically rest). Second, it would facilitate caring for my parents as they age and need more day-to-day care. Third, it would offer maximum flexibility so that I could travel as the Lord leads me. Last, it would make it possible for me to live anywhere in the USA without worry about having a full-time job. I pretty much convinced myself that teaching online was the Lord’s will for me, and that He would provide a full-time teaching position very soon.
In my planning for my future, I also came to see that for me to have the best retirement, I would need to teach full-time (salary and benefits) and part-time (adjunct) so that I could earn extra money to be set aside for a “rainy day.” I teach at two online schools now, so the idea that I could just stay on as adjunct and teach a couple classes each semester to earn extra cash seemed doable. Then, I started to think that if I taught online as my primary source of income, I could teach on campus like I do now and earn a nice “chunk of change.” In truth, if I were able to remain at GCU and teach these very large seminar classes, I could make excellent secondary income. However, I would need that full-time teaching position for salary, benefits, and 401k to make this whole plan workable.
Getting IT Straight
This morning, I spent some time in Bible study, and I read through Genesis 12, and the calling of Abraham. Then I read some sermon/devotions on the calling of Abraham as well as Watchman Nee’s short excerpt on this same passage. In all the various versions and devotions on this particular story, one thing is for sure: Abraham was called to venture out in faith. He was not given the details of his journey, but was simply told to trust God and to follow after His leading. In a similar way, I feel like my faith journey is moving along like Abraham’s. I have received a call to go and to teach and preach communication or to help the church learn how to communicate more effectively in this postmodern age. I have been trained to do this, and I have the knowledge and the skills to do it. The hard part has been to know “how” to do it as well as “where to do it.” I realize that I can do this work right where I am, but in tracking with Abraham’s story from Genesis, it seems that God decided to call Abraham out from his own people and send him to a new place, to a new land whereby God’s power and authority would be demonstrated. In a like vein, I feel that God is calling me out as well, to leave my home and my family, and to travel to some new place to do this work. It is not that God cannot do this work right here and now, but it is more so that He desires me to go, to be separated from my home, and to follow after Him, to depend on Him, to trust Him, to lead me, to guide me, and to provide for me.
I think this is why I have had such a strong desire to “go” over the past 10 years. I have felt it so strongly, but due to my circumstances and my situation, I was not able to go. Now, though, I am ready. I have all my responsibilities in order, so I am ready to go. I just need His provision, which will come when I step out in faith. I believe it. I feel it is so. I cannot have His provision unless I go where He is sending me. I must step out, I must go, and then He will provide for me.
As I ponder this today, I cannot help but think that this is what God does, I mean. This is how God leads His children on, how He causes them to develop strong roots, deep faith. I am called to go, and I have agreed to go. I have been set on a timeline, and that timeline is drawing to a close. Despite what seems reasonable and right in my own mind, I have to remember that God’s ways are not always clear to us, and as such, I may think I have it right when in fact, I am clearly off the mark.
I close out this post today with this thought in mind. I am to go regardless of how I am to get there. I am to follow the Lord, trust Him to provide, and be willing to let Him lead me and guide me — even when it doesn’t make a “whole lick of sense.” I am to follow. He is my Master, my Savior, my King — and I am His servant. I am to serve Him and serve others. I am to go. I am to leave what is comfortable, good, and known for that which is uncomfortable, possibly difficult and challenging, and unknown. I am to place my faith in my God, and I am to step out in that faith, as He leads, guides, and provides for me. Selah!
October 28, 2016
My night was filled with dreams. Actually, the past couple nights I have had vivid dreams. Not scary dreams or anything of that sort, just dreams where I was being chased by some man (weird, I know). In last night's dream, I was trying to escape again, but wasn't having much luck. My Dad was in this dream, so that was really weird. Escape dreams often are brought on by stress. I sure am stressed right now, so it would follow that my brain would conjure up dreams for me to experience when I was supposed to be sleeping. Sigh!
My workload is intense. I started two new classes on Monday, and while they are going well, the workload to keep up with the student posts is starting to get to me. And, it is only FRIDAY! ACK! My prayer is that I can figured out a schedule so I can manage my on-campus duties with my online duties and still have time for research. Forget about a life, at the least for the next four-five months! I mean, I've got to graduate and that is my number one focus right now. God be praised, I know He will provide a way for me. I simply need to rest, like let go and rest, and let Him take care of this -- all of this -- in His way and His timing.
Today, I am at GCU, but thank goodness I am not teaching. I am still having student conferences and listening to student reviews. In all, it is a very light and low-key day. God is good, so very good to me. Selah!
Moving On Despite Uncertainty
So I have blogged about how I have made the conscious decision to stay put — at least — for the time being. I am so uncertain right now, other than to say that I am confident that the Lord has a plan for my life and that I believe in my heart, that that plan is a good one. It has been difficult for me these past couple days, simply because I am struggling to maintain my life right now. I mean, my life is in overdrive, and I am so afraid that I will crash and burn come the end of the semester. I have too much on my plate, and I am trying so hard not to explode. In time, I know the Lord will provide a way out. Right now, He has not provided this to me so I have to believe that I am supposed to endure, to stay the course, and to stick this out. He is good, and He does know what is best for me.
Just yesterday I was thinking about how I will manage my life come spring. I will be teaching two very large classes at GCU (80-90 students each) along with an American Literature class (25 students). I just received two pending contracts at Regent, but my chair said there “could be more” once he reviews everything. I am desperate for the income, for certain; but, how many classes can I teach and still maintain the quality of instruction? I just don’t know; I honestly don’t know.
For now, I am content to do what God has provided. I figure that if He didn’t want me to teach so many classes, He would: A) bring me a full-time job where I would teach 3 classes only OR B) provide some other way for me to make the monthly income I need to pay my bills. He has done neither, which says to me that this is “His provision.” Selah!
It is crazy when you think about how I have cried over the lack of work, and then I am crying over the abundance of work. I mean, really? I should be overjoyed and thankful. In truth, I am very thankful. I am so very thankful. In fact, I am jumping up and down with excitement over the fact that the Lord has opened this door for me at Regent University. I love my school so much, and I really hope that some day I can teach there full-time. My good friend said he thinks this is the Lord’s provision for me, and at first, I balked at the idea. Now, though, I am not so sure. I am coming round to the idea of teaching full-time, online, for my school. God be praised, I am thinking it would be such a good thing for me.
Until then, however, I have to hunker down and do what I must, and that means to focus on the work at hand. Today is a good day. I give the Lord praise for His mercy, His goodness, and yes, His abundance of blessing. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!
October 27, 2016
I know that there have been times when I wasn't thankful, or at the least, I didn't feel very thankful. Yet, in my heart, I knew that my life in its bleakest moments was still given as a gift to me. God has graciously provided for me, covered me with His blessing, and enabled me to carry on, to continue to walk on in faith. Today, I am thankful for His merciful kindness, His goodness, and His grace. All of which is to say that I am thankful that He has spared my life, saved me from my sins, and set me apart to become a joint heir with Christ Jesus. I have good in my life because of His nature and His mercy. I am safe today because He is always with me. And I am secure in my future because He has established me and ensured a way for me to go that will lead me to my final destination. I can take confidence in knowing my God is with me, and as such, I can rest in His assurance that He has me so well-cared for and well-covered this good, good day. Selah!
I wish I could say that today "I feel great" but that would be an understatement. I really feel rather "crappy" today. I did sleep well, but I woke up feeling uncomfortable, sort of ill as if I had eaten something bad. I am still feeling a bit off-kilter, but the good news is that is seems to be subsiding. I am glad for that news because I have some shopping to do later on, and I need to work here at home (online teaching and such). I am trying my best to manage my overwhelming to-do lists. I feel pretty confident that I can stay on top of all my teaching responsibilities and that I can manage this semester. My research project is on hold until November 1 (next Tuesday). I decided to give myself a week and a weekend to rest up before I start my research. I need to make a schedule to follow, but overall, I am letting the demands of my project go. I trust the Lord, I believe He will guide me and provide for me, and I am letting this go, really letting it go. He has me covered. Selah!
Yesterday, I blogged about how I have come to terms with the fact that more than likely the Lord is going to keep me in Phoenix for a while yet. I struggled to accept this fact, even though the "reality of it" was staring me in the face. I have tried to figure out how to follow my heart, how to get from point A (Phoenix) to point B (over there) for months now. So far, nothing has materialized, and as the weeks and months have rolled on by, it has become more evident to me that for now, at the least, I am where I am for a reason. I cannot wish my situation away. I cannot short-change my family or my responsibilities just because I wish it were another way. No, I have to be reasonable, and that means that I have to accept the fact that for whatever reason, the Lord has determined that it is a good thing for me to remain where I am. I may not like it, love it, or be thrilled with it -- but if the Lord says so -- then He says so. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!
It's been a really weird ride the past few weeks, especially as I prepped for my defense, and planned for a very full end of the year as I work toward graduation. I am in this place now, a happy place, where I can see the finish line. I can see what needs to be completed, and I can see how to tackle the project. I can see what "must needs" be done, and in that way, I can envision finishing my degree, graduating and moving on. I just had hoped that "moving on" meant moving from Phoenix. Now, though, it looks like it might mean "staying on" and remaining still for a time.
All of this "truth" came to the forefront when my son casually mentioned to me that he didn't think he was going to be able to finish his degree program in one more semester. He said he felt like he needed two semesters (or fall), but because of his scholarship and the requirements, that really meant another whole year of school. I knew this was a possibility, and frankly, what can I do about it? I mean, really? Am I going to say "No, figure out how to graduate in May?" Hardly. I am not in control of those details so no matter what I want, his timeline to graduation is between him and the Lord. So be it, thy will be done.
With that said, there was a part of me that simply felt like, "Okay, that doesn't mean I CAN'T GO, right?" Well, not so fast. I mean, I surely can go, but staying put satisfies the needs of my son (as in having a home) and my parents (as in having a home and extra care). Yes, I cannot forget about my parents. I am in the place of caregiver whether or not I like it. I can do little about it, unless I want to be heartless and walk away. My parents have been really good to me over the years. They need help and my brothers are not going to give them what they need. They care about them too, don't get me wrong, but they are not going to up and move or give up their lives to support my parents. Arguments aside as to whether that is right or wrong are pointless. I mean, it is like with my son, I cannot control that outcome. It is between my brothers and the Lord. I can only do what I can do, and for now, the Lord has me living with my parents. It seems pretty clear that He intends for me to care for them through the end of their lives.
When my brother was visiting a couple weeks ago, this point came home to me. He mentioned that he had no intention of taking my parents to live with him. This was a change for him because he has always said he would do it. Now, he has a new girlfriend and he is pretty clear that he will help support them financially, but he is not going to move or live near them to help them out. So the plans I had hoped for, dreamed about, desired, etc., all came to a screeching halt. I knew then that this was my lot, this was what the Lord wanted from me, and while I have other desires, for now, this is the plan He has for me.
Like I said, I could argue about it. I could demand my way. I could act up or out. But in truth, the writing is on the wall, so to speak. For now on, and until otherwise noted, I am to remain in Phoenix to support my son and to care for my parents. End of story.
What That Means for Me
As weird as it may seem, I am actually okay with this fact. I am not happy about it, mind you, but I am surrendered to it. I mean, my heart desires something else all together, but in my desire to please my Father and to do His will, I have to surrender my wants, needs, wishes and dreams, to the practicality of my life. This means that I have to trust Him and His timing to work things out. I can not manipulate or control the outcome. I have to let it go, and I have to believe that if it is the Lord's will, then He will make a way for me. I have to believe He knows what is best, and in that way, I can take comfort that for now, THIS IS BEST. Selah!
I started to think more about my life, about where the Lord has me, and about the dreams and desires He has given to me. I realized that He has given me all the desires of my heart, and for all intents and purposes, I have everything I need. I may not have everything I want, but I do have everything I need right now. God be praised, I can give Him thanks for providing good things to me. I have a good life. I have a good home. I have a good job. I have a good future. He is good, and He has given very good things to me. Selah!
Now, I am bound and determined to make the most out of what I have in my hand. These things the Lord has trusted to me need to be cared for in the best possible way. I need to attend to my son, my parents, my job, my students, etc. I have plenty on my plate, and that means that I need to focus on what is right in front of me rather than always being so starry-eyed and distanced. I need to be in the here and now and less in the future.
In all, my prayer today is to attend to what the Lord has laid upon my table. I need to focus on the details of my life, on working toward His best in every area, and on letting everything else stay within His careful and considered grasp. I need to be about His business, and that means that I also need to let Him be about His business.
I am ready to let this all go, to stick with what I know today, and to let all the future desires, dreams, wants, and hopes simply remain with the Lord of Hosts. He is the Lord of the Saboath, and in that way, I am resting in His REST. I am resting in Him, completely, securely, and forever. Always. Amen.
October 26, 2016
Casting Out Stones
On my way home from ACU, I had another one of those epiphany moments. I felt rather crabby as I left campus, and yes, I was whining a bit in the car on my way to DD for my sugar/caffeine pick me up. As I exited DD, I decided that I had enough of the crabby-baby and decided to "suck it up, buttercup," and accept the fact that I am where I am for a reason. I decided to take the proverbial "bull by the horns," and simply accept my lot and move on.
In some ways, I guess you could say that I pulled all the stones out of my pocket and tossed them into the pond, so to speak. By this I mean that I took the stones I have been holding onto, all of them, and simply chose to cast them out, to let go of them, and in this way, I embraced what the Lord has in store for me. I emptied my pockets so that I could be open and available to accept the good things that the Lord has prepared for me. These are good things that are waiting for me on the horizon, but that I couldn't fully embrace because my hands were already full. I needed to let some things go, and in doing so, I am able now to open up my hands and my heart to the new things the Lord brings my way. Let me explain...
Letting Go / Communications
My morning at ACU went well, I mean, no real problems there other than the fact that I find that week by week, it is more of a struggle to teach this class (COM 203). I appreciate the class, and I appreciate my students, but the more I teach this class, the more I come to the realization that "communication" is not my thing! LOL! I should say that "teaching communication" is not my thing because here I am about to conduct communication research, finish a PhD in Communication, and well, become a full-fledge Communication scholar. I love my field, I really do. I love researching in my field, but for practical and applied reasons, I simply enjoy, I mean "passionately" enjoy, teaching English. It is my love, my love, my love. And, what is more, it is the thing that I am really, really good at doing. You know how they say that often your passion is the THING you do best? Well, in my case, teaching students writing, engaging them in cultural and critical thinking through literature or analysis IS MY THING. It is the thing I love to do, enjoy doing most, and really find the most pleasure in -- day in and day out. Communication classes -- eh -- not so much. In fact, I would say that now that I have taught this class at ACU three times, well, the saying "the third time is the charm" simply isn't cutting it for me. In truth, I really cannot stand this class (the content) and I really struggle to teach it every fall. I realized today, on my way home that while I can teach COM, I am better suited to teaching English. Yes, God be praised, as I was exiting DD, I made the connection -- finally -- to the THING the Lord has been saying to me all along, and that is that I would be a teacher of English and not a teacher of Communication.
You see, I have always wondered why the Lord put me in English rather than communication courses. I have taught COM at two schools, and while I made the most of the opportunity, the place where I find my "bliss" or "zen" is in the English classroom. I balked for a long time about teaching English, but now that I have been teaching it for almost five years, I can say that I am so comfortable with the discipline that I don't really want to do anything else. Shazam! It is truth. I am right where I belong, but more so, I am right where I want to be. God is good, so very good to me!
In a rather funny moment, I said to the Lord (as I was leaving ACU) that I really needed some confirmation today, as in some positive feedback from my students regarding my class. Today was a tough day, and I was tired, and I felt my presentation was lacking in zest. The class went well, overall, but I really wanted a bit of praise, you know, just a wee bit of "well done." Instead of getting any praise from my students, I left the school and DD with the biggest praise of all -- I came to accept my lot -- my place in higher education. I am an English teacher for good. I am set. I am established. I am good.
Moving On / Casting Stones
So I titled this blog post, "Moving On / Casting Stones," as a commemoration of sort for my epiphany. You see, I have struggled with the whole idea of moving, of being settled and being established. It has taken a while for me to come to terms with the reason why I am where I am, know what I mean? I doubt anyone thinks about life this way, but for me, I am consumed by the desire to know and to understand why I am where I am and the reason or purpose for it. I want to know the underlying meaning of my current situation, and in this way, I want to grasp the significance of what that meaning is and why it is important to my future. Perhaps I am just weird? I don't know, but I struggle so with this one thing, with accepting where I am, being content in it, and then seeing how all of this -- everything leading up to this moment in time -- will play out down the road. I guess you could say that my "future oriented" thinking sometimes makes it very difficult for me to relax and enjoy the present dailiness of life.
Today, I stopped thinking about tomorrow and focused for a short amount of time on the "here and now." I decided for a short while to simply devote time to the present, and to set aside all thoughts of the future. What happened as a result was this -- I realized that I am where I am because of the actions and attitudes of my past. I am here today because of decisions I made that placed me on this particular path. What is more, I am here today because I believe it was ordained by God for me to be here. I really believe it. I do not see coincidence or happenstance playing any factor at all. I believe I am a communications scholar, almost PhD, teacher of English, single Mom and woman, living in a multigenerational home for one reason only -- God decided it was best for me -- and as such, I am the recipient of His goodness and His favor. #IAmBlessed.
The Lord has planned my steps (Prov. 16:9), and He has ordered my days (Psalm 37:23). In this way, my life, while still under my control and authority, has been divinely directed, planned and purposed according to His desires, His delights. This means that in the moments when I obeyed, and I mean in key critical moments, my life was diverted toward this end, and the result has been to bring me to this point in time. I am where I am for a reason, and that thought comforts me. I haven't gone off willy-nilly and I am not shooting from the hip, so to speak. I am following a clearly defined plan of action, and the results I am experiencing are justified as a response to my obedience. Thus, I can take heart to know that as long as I continue with this attitude and mindset, the outcomes should be similar in fashion. In short, I obey the Lord's directives, and I receive blessing and reward for my attitude and my action.
Today, I made the decision to stop thinking about moving away from Phoenix. Yes, it was a difficult thing to accept, but I decided to stop thinking about my life as being someplace else. I decided instead to focus on what I have today, what is here now, and on how the Lord is blessing me right where I am. In this way, my focus has clarified, and my intention sharpened. Does this mean that I believe the Lord is not going to move me someplace else? For now, yes. Why is this so? Why is this happening now? I really have been so bent on moving away, almost 10 years now, that it is hard to accept changing my mind about the fact without some hurt, some hardship, and yes, some heavy sadness. In truth, though, I have realized that all my wanting to go simply served to intensify my longing, my desire. It was like the more I wanted to go, the more I WANTED to go. However, once I let my desire, and I mean my desire go, I realized that God has me here for a reason, and in His providence, that reason is really a good one.
Sure, I don't believe I will find full-time work in Phoenix. And, yes, the housing market it skyrocketing, and more than likely, I will be out priced for buying a home. More so, I really do not like the heat or the constant sunshine. I loathe 96 degree days at the end of October. All of this is true, but then I think about what good God has provided to me, and I have to say that despite all of these "facts," the truth remains that He has blessed me here. I have my family here. I have a good home. I have a good job (several) that I love. I have comfort, peace, joy, and even quiet. I may not have trees and green or rain and snow, but I do have important things, things that matter right here and now. My heart has wanted to relocate for many reasons, but my head has always felt that this was home, my temporal home. My permanent home, the home I long for is not of this world. It is heavenly, and I want so much to go home -- to His home. Until that day, I am content to live where He calls me to live, and for now that is here in Phoenix.
Blooming Where He Plants Me
What does this mean for me now?
Well, I think the truth is that it means that I am content to remain here in Phoenix for the rest of my life, if the Lord wills it to be so. I am content to go where He sends me as well, but for now, He has me here, so I am going to stop thinking about tomorrow and start enjoying today. I am going to be glad that He has me here, and I am going to start taking pleasure in the good gifts He has provided to me right here in Phoenix. This means in my church, in my school, in my work. I am going to thank the Lord for His blessing, His pleasure, and His mercy and not worry so much about tomorrow. After all, the Word says in Matthew 6:34 NLT, "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today."
Yes, today has enough troubles. I am choosing to think about the positives here and now. I am choosing to engage in life today, and to let tomorrow remain in the Lord's care and with His provision. He is good to me, so very good to me. Selah!
October 25, 2016
I am awake, finally, and my headache seems to be abating now. It would figure that I would wake up with a sinus pressure headache -- today -- of all days. I was prepped and ready to defend yesterday, but one of my professors had a conflict, so my appointment was moved back to today (our original date). I am ready, just nervous like I said. My prayer is that the call goes well, takes off quickly, and really lets me sit in the backseat while my committee discusses what they like/don't like about my proposal (yeah, all 88 pages of it!) LOL!
I am not really a sales person, per se, though I do know how to sell something. I wish I felt more in charge, but that would only happen had this call be scheduled later in the day. Ha ha ha! You know that "mornings" and "Carol" just don't go well together. Praise be to God, I am letting this go, letting this be. I am trusting the Lord for the outcome, so today is more a matter of showing up, than showing off. At the least, that is how I see it.
Woohoo! I passed my proposal defense this morning. I had a great conversation with my professors, and in the end, they voted to pass me on to my research phase. I am relieved, excited, and so overjoyed with the whole event. I mean, I am finally moving on. Now, I need to hunker down, start my project, and work steadily through to the end of the year, and then presto, I will be finished and graduated. I am ready to finish, for sure. But there is this part of me that sees this whole process as significant to my development as a scholar. I am so ready to take this next step, and Lord willing, it will end well. I believe it will, I am confident it will, and I know it will. He who is faithful will finish this work. I place my utter devotion and confidence in the Lord God Almighty! He is good, so very good to me! Selah!
I think I need to rest now...
Then perhaps I will go to lunch.
A celebration is in order, for sure!
October 24, 2016
I am feeling some pain today, but it is unexplained pain. It really started yesterday. I put on a pair of jeans, and throughout the day, I felt this rubbing sensation on my inner thigh. Granted, my jeans do rub against my thighs, but this is normal for me, and my pants have some lycra in them so they are pretty stretchy. Typically, there is no irritation from this rubbing of the fabric. But, by late afternoon, the pain had grown intense so I changed from my jeans to my sweat pants. I had no relief. Later in the evening, I switched to my PJs and again, no relief. All night long the pain was present, especially when I rolled over. Even my sheets hurt, which is really not normal at all. This morning, I am feeling a tingling sensation in both legs, and the pain, while not super uncomfortable, is still uncomfortable. I honestly do not know what might be going on.
I guess I should mention that I also have noticed that my wrists and ankles ached more today. I have arthritis in both sets of joints, but mostly it is my wrists that tend to ache periodically. I really noticed it last night. I was washing dishes and I almost dropped a glass when my wrist bumped the counter the wrong way. I hadn't noticed how stiff they had become until I whacked my left wrist hard on the counter. Oh my goodness! I almost passed out.
So, is this my fate? Is this what I must contend with from now on? I sure hope not. I mean, arthritis is one thing, but I am praying it is not something more serious like RA or Lupus. I don't have the other symptoms of these disorders, but I do have some similarities. I am praying that it is just Fibromyalgia flaring up. Not that I need a flare up at this time and in this place, mind you, but at the least, I could deal with it since I know what to expect. I am really beat, fatigued, which is part-and-parcel with finishing a PhD. My prayer today is for some rest, some really long needed rest so that I can recover and begin to feel better. Lord willing, I pray I will feel better soon.
Last week, I blogged about how lately I have heard the Lord speak these words to me as I pray or I drift off to sleep. I have considered them, meditated on them, and prayed over them. I have asked the Lord what I must do to be prepared, and what exactly I need to be prepared to do. In all, I have simply been guided to remain steadfast, to keep on doing what I am doing, and to be faithful to my calling and my mandate. I have thought a lot about the whole preparation mantra, and even yesterday, wondered if I was doing the right thing, focusing on the most important task, etc. It is funny how one thing can consume your time and your attention like this, but here I am today, sitting at my desk when I would normally be driving over to school, and I am thinking about being prepared, about being ready to do whatever it is that the Lord calls me or asks me to do.
I spent a rather restless night last night. Mostly, I was worried about getting a call at 8:00 had my professor not gotten the email asking to switch days for my defense. And, then I was worried about my day, my morning here at home, and the logistics of getting my son to school and me to GCU -- all with our one lone car. Sheesh! I worry sometimes to the point of exhaustion! In addition, I had the pain thing, and well, you get the picture. I didn't sleep well.
Mostly, though I worried about the plans the Lord has for my life, and whether or not, I was hearing (attuned) to His voice correctly. I simply mean whether I was listening for His guiding voice as I submitted my needs, my requests and petitions to Him. I normally seek peace or rather, I seek the peaceful response that helps me to know I am where the Lord wants me to be in regard to the thing in question. Peace is my answer, 9 times out of 10, and peace helps me know that I am in the Father's will for my life. I would say that I am at peace almost continually. Sure, I have some upsets, and there are times when my spirit is disturbed by what I read online or see in the news. Other times, I am deeply grieved when I hear news from a student with struggles or I see my parents or my son suffer. But, I mean, that generally speaking, I am always at peace. I have this sense of contentment, serenity, and feeling of generally spiritual wellness in my life. I simply feel as if I am right where God wants me to be, and the thing I am doing -- pursuing -- is His expressed will for my life. In short, I know that getting my PhD, teaching at the various schools where I teach, and living with my parents and my son (now) are all part of His provision for my life. I am at peace. I am resting in His provision, selah!
So yesterday, peace notwithstanding, I started to think about the plans the Lord has for my future, and I started to wonder about them. I have blogged incessantly about feeling the need to move elsewhere, out of Phoenix, and out of Arizona. This has been my constant claim -- that the Lord was going to move me -- and that I was willing and agreeable to it. Then about two-three weeks ago, I had this moment where I felt like perhaps He was telling me to stay put, to stay here in Phoenix, and to let this whole idea of moving slide by me. I was distressed about it, over it, and I have prayed non-stop about it. I mean, how could I be so focused on moving, feel so compelled to move, and then bam! be told to sit tight, hang in there, and hold still? Honestly, I just didn't understand it.
The truth of the matter is that yesterday as I was blogging, I asked the Lord about the desires of my heart and whether or not all the desires had been fulfilled. You know, had the Lord given me ALL the desires in my heart or should I expect more desires to be created and fulfilled? I know, wishful thinking on my part, but the point was this: the Lord had clearly given me several desires, long-held and deeply rooted desires, so it would follow that if there were more desires in my heart, He would certainly give them to me. Selah! Of course, I mean desires that were honoring to Him and were within His will for my life. Still, I wondered about it, and I blogged about my experience. In the end, I came to the conclusion that the only thing I desired, the only thing left unfulfilled for me was my deep desire to spend eternity with my Lord. Yes, this is my one unfulfilled desire.
I guess I had some sadness that the desire I have, the desire I have blogged most about (moving) was not a desire left unfulfilled. You see, I wondered (have wondered) whether the desire to move was my desire or His desire. I have always believed it was a combination of both of our desires -- His and mine -- and that my surrender to His will would eventually lead me some place else, some place other than Phoenix, Arizona. But, now, I am not so sure. Let me explain...
Taking Care of Business
It is no secret that I need a job, a full-time job. I have blogged about for several years now, and while I am content to teach adjunct, the truth be told, I will need a full-time job soon. I need the stability of a full-time position along with health benefits. I have believed, and I still do believe, that once I am graduated, I will be offered a full-time position. My prayer has been to find a job online, for maximum flexibility and to help care for my parents, but I am open to relocating and working on campus, if that is the Lord's will. My desire has been to move elsewhere, and I have always believed that the jobs here in Phoenix were limited, specifically in higher education. Furthermore, the economy, while doing well here, has caused a housing shortage. Right now, housing prices and rents are skyrocketing. I am quickly being priced out of the market, and without a change on the horizon, I am concerned about being able to live here, make it here, and retire here.
In all sense of the word, I have believed that 2017 was going to be my "move" date. I have planned for it, thought about it, and even envisioned it. Yet, here I am, in October 2016, and the Lord has not even pushed on me the idea of finding any new work. I thought perhaps the reason why I have not been permitted to apply to jobs or even look for them was simply because of my need to focus on my PhD. I have put all my apples into one cart just to remain focused, so it would make sense that I needed to not be distracted by work or looking for work right now. But, more so, I feel that the Lord also hasn't pushed on me the idea of looking for work simply because it wasn't necessary or needed a this time. In fact, if I had to say it, I would say that I feel as if the jobs I have RIGHT NOW are the jobs I will have in the future, if you know what I mean. I feel like there will be no other jobs for me on the horizon, and as weird as that may seem, and as unsettling as it is to me in many ways -- I simply feel that the Lord has provided what He wills, wishes, and desires to provide to me. Selah!
So with this in mind, I have been thinking about my next steps. I mean, what will I do come next year -- if -- no full-time position materializes for me? I've thought about this a lot, you know, a contingency plan and such. In truth, I will do just what I am doing now. I will wait on and rely on the Lord. I will remain where I am and trust Him to provide for me. I cannot say it enough -- I do believe He is my Jehovah-Jireh -- and as such, it is up to Him to provide for me.
All of this thinking comes back around to something my son said to me yesterday evening. We were at dinner, and we were discussing school, plans, and the like. He mentioned that he was thinking of staying on another year at his school. I wasn't absolutely shocked by that news because we had discussed what he would need to do to graduate by next May. He has something like 22 credits to complete, and there is no way logistically he can finish by May. Still, I had hoped he would be done so if the Lord chose to move us, well, we would be "free" to move. This has been my thinking process all along. Now, though, he explained to me the reasons why it would be better for him to take an extra semester or even two to finish properly. He is happy at his school, and that pleases me to no end. I worry about his school loan debt, but I realize that he will graduate like most of his peers with some loan debt. Still, he really enjoys school now, and praise be to God, that is such a good thing. It is a really good thing.
This means that if he has to spend another year on campus, more than likely, I would need to remain here for another year as well. Of course, that is not absolutely necessary. I mean, I could move and he could live on campus for a year. I've thought about this option before, but I have never really had a sense that the Lord desired it. Perhaps it will be so. Perhaps, though, the Lord intends for me to remain here another year. What is that cost to me?
I have been hesitant to agree to remain here, and I have pushed a bit against the Lord's seemingly change of plans for my life. I mean, why now, Lord? Why can't I go?
I understand the reasons for staying put, and they do make sense to me. My son needs to graduate; my parents need my care and support. I have practical work, good work, and I am living in a very nice place (for now). In truth, I have everything I need sans a full-time job and benefits (my Obamacare benefits are going the way of the Dodo at the end of the year, but hey, I am covered now). If the Lord chooses to keep me here in Phoenix, who am I to say "no" to Him? I mean, would I say no to the Lord? I sure hope not.
As I process this all, think about it, I realize that the Lord has graciously provided for me. He has made a way for me to live, and He has covered me and never allowed my bank account to run dry. I may not have a home to live in at this time (one I own), and I may not have a full-time job. But, I do have a good life. I am warm and safe and sound. I have my family around me. I have work I enjoy doing, and I have enough money in my account to satisfy my needs. I still have some extra needs such as a good healthcare plan and a retirement program. My son needs his own car -- soon. Overall, we have everything we need, and we are good. We are settled, secure, and safe. The Lord has met my needs with sufficiency, and in this way, we are really, really well off. Compared to some in this world, we are rich. Compared to some we are secure. And, yes, compared to many, we are very, very safe. God is good to us. He is so very good to us! Selah!
As I close out this blog post today, I give Him thanks and praise. I sing with the Psalmist these words:
I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.
Yes, my God is good. His name is worthy of all praise, and even though I don't really understand what He is doing or how my life will turn out, I have faith and confidence in Him to know that He has me so well covered. I am covered, well covered this good, good day!
October 23, 2016
THIS is my favorite time of the year. I love everything “fall” but I especially love harvest, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I find this time of year soothing for some reason. I am not sure why, but I just love the crisp cool days, the change of colors, and the coming approach of winter.
I have blogged before about how I really love the gray days of winter, and how I have an aversion to the sunshine. Well, I do love the sun, don’t get me wrong — it is just that I cannot take bold, strong sunlight — without some end in sight. This is why I love four season climates. The average number of cloudy days is somewhere around 50%. This means that on every 1 of 2 days, the skies will be filled with clouds. These clouds could be big fluffy white cotton clouds or they could be high thin straight clouds. Or they could be storm clouds. Clouds, clouds, clouds — I love them — no matter what shape, size or color.
In fall, though, the chance of storm clouds that bring rain or sleet or snow is common. I miss that sensation of impending snow. I can feel it, I can sense it, even now after all these years away from the Midwest. I miss the feeling that it might snow.
Delight Yourself in the Lord
I guess what I miss the most about my childhood days in the Midwest was simply my childhood days. Yes, it is true. I really just miss the ease of my childhood. I miss the steadiness of my life, the solid boundary lines of expectation. I didn’t worry much about my life back then because I LIVED it. I mean, I woke up every day and I did the same thing — got dressed, ate breakfast, headed off to school. On the reverse end, I came home from school, did my homework, went outside to play until it was dark. Then dinner, wrapping up the evening, bedtime. Start all over again. It was a very simplified life.
In many ways, my life is just as simple really. I was thinking about this today, how my life has turned out to be pretty much what I expected it would be. Granted, it took me a long while to get to where I am today, and now that I am finally teaching (part-time, but almost full-time), I am living my dream or my desired dream life. Sure, there are still some things I miss or want to accomplish, but for the most part, I have accomplished my dream of becoming a college professor. I have achieved my highest goal (almost my PhD), and I am doing the thing I always wanted, hoped, and dreamed of doing.
This morning as I laid in bed, I was thinking and praying over my life. I was feeling a little down, as I always do on Sundays, and I heard myself say, “Lord, I need a new life!” Lately, this is the phrase that pops out of my mouth frequently. Often, it is because I am frustrated over some aspect of my life or I feel a little bewildered about something, some part. I think it is because I am overwhelmed right now and I have too much to do, too many little balls to keep in the air. So there I was, in bed, thinking about my life, and exclaiming to the Lord that I needed or wanted a “different life.” I stopped myself as soon as the words came out of my mouth because in truth, I do love my life. I mean, I really do have everything I have desired and my life is very good. So why am I asking the Lord to provide a different — aka — a better life for me? Good question…
I think the main reason is that I am not quite settled in this life. I have some, well, almost all of my little ducks in a row, but not everything is really set for me. I feel like I am still in transition, still in this half-way place between here and now — and over-there — over in my future life. As I was praying about this very thing today, I asked the Lord to forgive me for my unhappy sentiment, for my thoughts which seemed to suggest that I was dissatisfied with what the Lord has provided to me. Yet, in my heart, I know I am content. I know I am satisfied, happy, and very much at peace. So what exactly is missing or what am I missing, what thing is missing, that would settle my heart, my mind, and yes, my soul, on this matter?
Psalm 37:3-6a says,
Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
This Psalm in particular is special to me. I have committed this portion of David’s psalm to my heart. I have meditated on it, considered it, and even trusted in it (in the sense of believing the words are true). I took David’s words as truth, and as such, much of my life since that time has been predicated on the belief that if I do what this Psalm says in these verses, the outcome as promised in them will be delivered to me. In short, I believed (and still do) that if I:
Trust in the Lord and do good
—>I will live safely in the land and I will prosper
Delight in the Lord
—>He will give me the desires of my heart
Commit everything I do to the Lord and trust Him
—>He will help me
In this way, I have come to believe that the promises of the Lord as spoken through King David were not just for his life, but rather the promises were for everyone reading, singing, memorizing, and adhering to this particular psalm throughout the ages. I believe this is so; no, I know it is so. Let me explain…
David wrote this psalm as a Maschil or a teaching psalm (Matthew Henry). In this way, it was created to be a sermon to help build up and edify the people. Curiously, BibleGateway.org states that this psalm is a Hebrew acrostic poem, which simply means that each stanza begins with a different letter in the Hebrew alphabet. That fact just blows my mind because when you read Psalm 37 in its totality, you see how difficult it would be to write a coherent song of praise to God while using every single letter of the alphabet. I digress. What I find interesting about these particular verses is the way in which David clearly delineates between the prosperity of the wicked and the blessedness of the righteous. In this way, David is encouraging the Jews to remain faithful to Yahweh despite the fact that the wicked seem to prosper (be successful) all around them. The promises of God are worth waiting for, and David, was reminding the people that while they were patiently waiting for God to fulfill His word to them, they had to turn from anger and wrath (against what was happening around them), and commit their way fully and completely to God.
When I remember this psalm like this, I can see why it became such a blessing to me. At the time I first deeply read it, I was going through a number of difficult life-situations that for all intents and purposes be called “wicked.” I was in a difficult place in my marriage, and as it was crumbling around me, I was watching wickedness prosper. Furthermore, I was an outcast, lost and alone, and for a long time, my life seemed meaningless and hopeless. I read this psalm on a particularly difficult day, a day when I felt that my life had no purpose, no hope, and no future. I remember reading it and praying afterward. I asked the Lord point-blank if this psalm were true, if the words spoken by David were true. I heard the Lord say, “yes,” and then I asked if they were true universally (then and now), and I heard His voice say, “yes.” I don’t remember exactly what I did next, but I believe I said something like, “If this is true, Lord, then I am willing to do what this psalm says.” I went on to promise the Lord that I would trust in Him and do good. I would delight in Him and I would commit everything (my life) to Him. I would expect in return that He would keep His promises to allow me to live safely and securely and to prosper me (financially, physically, spiritually, etc.). More so, I believed that He would give me the desires of my heart as a reward for my willingness to commit my way to Him, to follow Him, and to surrender fully to Him. In short, I would do my part and He would do His part, and together we would have an accord (agreement).
I recall this moment now even though it was nearly 10 years ago. In that time, the Lord has kept His word to me (or I should say He has been faithful to David’s words). I believe that He has done exactly what this psalm promised:
He has provided a way for me to live safely and securely. He has provided prosperity in the form of financial resources, physical wellness, spiritual growth, and emotional stability. He has given me the desires of my heart and He has helped me day in and day out to move on, to be established, to be settled.
So this morning as I laid in bed, recounting my desire for a “new life,” I couldn’t help but think about this psalm and how the Lord has already provided everything I have desired, wanted, hoped, and dreamed. Thus, I was faced with one last question, which I asked with a sincere and contrite heart:
What then, Lord, do I still desire?
I mean, there must be something missing that is keeping me from being settled, from feeling as though I am finally satisfied. I wondered if it was material as in a home or more money (less debt)? I wondered if it was personal as in a relationship renewed, restored, or rekindled? I wondered if it was some new thing, a way of life, or a different path to follow? I wondered if it was an ending to my current status of “overwhelm” or if it was simply more rest (real rest)?
In the end, I believe my answer was simply this: the Lord has given to me my desire for a new life, a life that is predicated on serving Him fully and completely. More so, the Lord has given to me the desire to have purposeful work, practical good work that is satisfying to me. Lastly, the Lord has given me safety and security, a place to live where I can feel safe (finally). In all His promised reward, the Lord has helped me over and over again to feel good about myself. He has reshaped and reaffirmed my identity. He has reestablished my self-esteem and He has helped me achieve some things that have brought me praise and honor. In all of these ways, I have come to experience His goodness as it flows from His hand, and I have come to recognize that my life does have value, worth, and purpose. I still struggle at times to figure out the way to go, and I worry some over my debt, but I believe strongly, convincingly that the Lord does keep His word. He is faithful. He is righteous, and He is good. Selah!
Understanding The Missing Piece
So this morning as I laid in bed praying, I couldn’t help but think that the one thing that is missing from my life is the Lord, Himself. And by that I simply mean His presence. I have the Holy Spirit of God living within me, and I am walking through this life waiting for the day when I will be in His presence forever. Yes, this is the desire that has yet to be fulfilled in me. I long to be home with the Lord. I long to be there now, to have all this passed away, and to spend my eternity worshiping Him. Until that day, however, I am where I am, and I have work to do. I know this, and I accept my purpose, my mission, and my calling. Yet, my heart longs for something I cannot have, and I think that is why I feel dissatisfied at times. I really would like to be with the Lord, but I know that He has asked me to do somethings in this life and those things must be done according to His word, His will, and through His way. I cannot shirk my responsibility at this point in time. I have to trust Him to provide for me. I have to be patient and wait for His leading and guidance. He will fulfill His word — He is faithful — and He is trustworthy. I know it; I believe it; I wait for it.
In this way, I realize that the Lord has met my needs with sufficiency. He has provided everything I needed to have a good, stable, and healthy life. I may not have every material thing I see and like; but I do have most of every good thing I need. I realize that in the work He has provided to me, He has given me a good profession whereby I can feel confident that I am doing quality work, good work, and in that way, I can feel satisfied. Moreover, as I think about my needs, which are minimal, I realize that He has provided for my security by giving to me a good job, a nice house, and safe area to live in. I work for a good school (multiple), and I drive a safe car. In all these things, He has provided well for me. I lack nothing. He has made all this possible. He is good to me, so very good to me.
Now, I accept that my life has been redeemed. Not only have I been saved from the slave pit, but I have also been given a new way to go, a new lease on life, and I have been set free to walk on in the security and hope of the Lord. I may not have everything I want, and this is key, but I do have most everything I desired.
The Lord has been good to me. He has made my life wonderfully brand new. I give Him praise today. I honor Him, and I worship Him on this good, good Sunday. May the Lord be praised this good, good day. He alone is worthy to be praised. He alone is worthy to receive our praise!
October 22, 2016
Today should be a good day by all accounts. The weather is lovely, and despite the high of 96 (yes, that is our forecast for the day), I think it will turn out quite nicely. I plan to be indoors most of the day, but even still, just knowing that it is lovely outside makes up for that fact.
On top of the weather (news), I am feeling pretty well today. I had a really good night, and I slept soundly. I didn’t even wake up until close on 6 a.m., and then it was only because I needed to use the bathroom (I know — old lady ills). I slept right on through the night, and after I got up at 6, I crawled back into bed and slept until right about 8:30. My boys both came and snuggled with me, and since neither of my parents were up yet, the house was so quiet and still. I really do love to wake up to a quiet house.
Today’s plan include my study prep for my defense/conference call on Monday morning. I am not nervous at all — as weird as that may seem. I mean, I really am pretty calm about the whole thing. I guess I feel like the Lord has prepared me well, brought me safely to this place, and given me the green light to proceed, so really now all I have to do is walk on — walk on through the defense — and into the research phase of my study. I do need to be ready, and I plan on spending today and tomorrow re-reading my study plans, covering all my bases, and putting together a short handout for my professors to use as a review guide. Other than that, I am going to head into this next phase with my “guns blaring” as they say. I am going in “full bore” — ready to take on the task of finishing my PhD! Praise be to God, I will do it. He is good to me, and He will see me through it. I am confident of it. I boast only in His abilities, in His way, and in the fact that He is sovereign over this area of my life. If this is His will, He will be faithful to see me through it. I believe it. I rest in it, and I trust Him completely for my final outcome. Selah!
Thoughts on Fall and Moving
Lately, my thoughts have been focused on moving out of the Phoenix area to another place, a more mild and cool place. Perhaps it is just my wunderlust or my strong desire to fall (it is my favorite season by far). I am not sure, but it seems like my mind has been preoccupied with thoughts of moving. A lot. I mean, lately, my thoughts have been centered on moving to another place, setting up shop, and well putting down roots. Sigh!
Just today, my distant cousin posted this picture to Facebook, and I have to tell you, I had this sharp feeling, a sense that I was being pulled to take a visit up north (in this case to the northeast). This picture is of the Pack Saddle Bridge in Somerset County, PA. My Mom hails from this part of PA, and my cousin, John, always posts pictures of the covered bridges in the fall. This one is a “beaut” as they say up north.
Then, later this morning, another friend posted a picture from Arizona Snowbowl. Apparently, the post said that you can still ride the ski lift up to the top of the mountain to see the fall foliage, but that soon, the line will be closed down to all but skiers. Sigh! I’ve been to Snowbowl, but not during the fall season. I was thinking today how I would love to make the drive up north, just to drive in and around Flagstaff and enjoy the very cool fall temperatures and the beautiful change of seasons right about now. The Aspen trees are stunning in this photo (courtesy of AZ Snowbowl). I can feel the crisp air by just looking at this picture.
I marvel at the magnificence of God’s creation on days like today. I think about how the climate varies depending on where you live, and how October is typically gorgeous in most northern places. But, in the deep south, and I mean “south,” it is going to be summer soon. Yes, my friends in New Zealand and Australia are getting ready to have Christmas in the middle of the summer! I don’t know if I could handle that much of a change. I really do look forward to winter and to the snow falling right around Christmas time. I don’t know…maybe I am just feeling wistful or I am longing for a change of pace.
I honestly don’t know, but lately, I have been consumed with the idea of moving away from Phoenix. I have blogged about moving for the past 10 or so years, but it seems like the Lord is “ramping” up that desire. It seems like He is getting me prepared and ready to go. That thought excites me to no end, but it also makes me wonder about the details, the logistics, and the wherefores of actually picking up stakes and moving on. Let me explain…
God’s Will and My Move
Last night, my good friend and I had one of our long conversations. It was a refreshing change considering we have not been able to spend as much time together recently because of my crazy schedule — with work and school and research — and with his overtime. Last night, though, the Lord provided a short window of opportunity for us to chat on the phone, and it was such a blessing to be able to laugh with each other, to listen to each other, and to share with each other the deep and wonderful love that we have that is always centered on Jesus Christ and kingdom matters. One of the reasons why I enjoy my friend so much is because of our connection to God’s call and the work He intends to do through each of us. Although our calling is different, so unique, we share one thing in common and that is a deep and sincere desire to do God’s work. We simply feel compelled to pursue His calling, and we are willing to sacrifice our comforts and our joys in order to abide in and obey His voice. Thus, last night, we discussed all matter of things from politics and the church to evangelism and apologetics. Our conversation was rich, rewarding, and refreshing. I sure have missed our good, good, good discussions! Selah!
I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, mostly about moving and about being settled and what not, and last night, my friend and I talked briefly about my job prospects and the opportunities for me to find full-time teaching work. I try really hard not to focus on my need for a job, and I made the conscious decision a couple months back to not whine or complain about my lack of steady work. In truth, the Lord has provided amply for me this semester, and while I am thankful for the abundance of teaching contracts, I am stressed and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the work. In many ways, I long for one job versus four jobs (like I have now). I really need to simplify my life, but until the Lord provides that steady position, I am content with the work I have to do. So be it, thy will be done! Selah!
I was telling my friend how I feel that the Lord is preparing me to move, and how I am ready to move, but that I feel stuck where I am right now simply because I don’t have all my little duckies in a row. I mean by this — without a permanent job — I am stuck where I am. If you have read my blog for any length of time then you know that it is pretty much full of my reflections and my restlessness when it comes to what I feel the Lord is doing in my life. Mostly, I write about my work life, home life, and school life, and I pour out my feelings about my calling, my desires and my reliance upon the Lord’s overarching will for my life. Yes, I often will say that I feel so strongly that He is preparing me, getting me ready, for a big change — and that I believe that change is coming very, very soon. In all honestly, I believe that something is afoot! Of course, I can’t put my finger on it — nor do I know what the Lord intends to do with me. It is more that I think in a short amount of time (by May 2017), the Lord will ask me to move. I believe that by next year, Lord willing, I will leave Phoenix and settle some place where the Lord plans for me to pursue His work.
It seems like almost every night, I find myself drifting off to sleep with the words, “Be prepared,” pinging in my head. I know it sounds crazy, but I believe the Lord is giving me a “heads up,” so to speak. He is letting me know that in order for me to move or to take those next anticipated steps, I need to be prepared for them. I was praying about this last night, how I feel ready and how I believe the Lord sees me as such. I feel like He has said to me, “Carol, you are ready to go.” So the idea that I am ready, but not prepared, well it just throws me for a little bit of a loop.
As I was drifting off to sleep last night, I yet again heard the words, “be prepared” echo in my head. This time, I asked the Lord, “Lord, what do you mean? What must I do to be prepared?” Unfortunately, after my question, I nodded off, and well, I never did get the answer I sought (LOL!) The funny thing is that today, I’ve been thinking more about being prepared, and I also have been thinking more about moving (physically relocating). So this morning, I asked the Lord again: “Lord, how am I to be prepared?” His response to me has been interesting, and so this is what I believe I am to do in “preparation” for my next big MOVE.
Ready vs. Prepared
First off, it is important to understand the difference between being ready and being prepared. I think of it this way, like when you may have a big trip planned. You make the plans, buy the tickets, mark the date off on your calendar, and make arrangements for your time away (from work or home). Then you wait. You wait until you get within striking distance (one-two or three weeks) from your anticipated holiday or business trip. You are ready for the trip. You have made the plans, you understand the need or desire, and you are waiting for the actual departure time. However, you can’t just show up at the airport and get on a plane without some preparation ahead of time. Well, you could of course, but most of us wouldn’t do that or couldn’t do that very well. No, for most of us, we pack our things, we make extra arrangements for the kids or the pets or the house, and we arrange for our departure (do we take our car and park it at the airport or do we get a friend to drop us off?) We are ready for our trip, for sure, but we need to prepare to go, and that often takes time, some planning, and even some purchases (new clothes, a new suitcase, for example). Sometimes we have to plan and prepare for a trip long in advance of the departure date. Other times, we can toss a jacket and backpack in the car and just go. With this in mind, in order for me to move, to relocate, I need to plan, prepare, and then go (in that order). I need to have a plan in mind, approved by the Lord, and then I need to prepare my way so that I am “ready” for my “pack and go” date.
Right now, I feel ready to move. I think I am mentally ready, spiritually accepting of the mandate, and my heart and mind are both willing to entertain physically leaving my home and moving across the country. Yet, I cannot go just yet. I cannot toss my things in the car and up and move “just like that!” I have a friend here in Phoenix who recently relocated to Colorado. She made the decision to move and within 3-4 weeks, she was gone. Just like that! I have thought about her move, and how she was able to pack her things and relocate with such ease. I would love to be able to do that, but then she had no real encumbrances, no job, no home, etc. It was easier for her to pack her belongings in her car and simply move someplace else. Not so for me. I have quite a lot of things that tie me to Phoenix, and until I am prepared to let these things go (as in close them out, cancel the lease, etc.), I am where I am for a reason. Yes, I am stuck where I am for a time until the Lord provides me with the resources I need to close out my life here.
This is the spot I am in now. I feel ready to go, but I am not prepared to go as such. I have ideas in my head, thoughts and dreams about going, but I have no real plan in place. I have what I think is His plan, the idea of it, but I don’t really have anything set in stone, so to speak. I simply have the desire, the will, and the pull toward moving, but I don’t have anything concrete as of yet.
This brings me back around to the conversation I had with my good friend last night. He mentioned to me that he felt the Lord might be opening a door for me to teach full-time at Regent University. I am adjunct faculty right now, and I would love, love, love to teach for Regent on a permanent basis. Yet, I know that this is not a reality, per se. I mean, unless the Lord intends to move me to VA Beach, I really don’t see this happening anytime soon. But the thought was a nice one, and I loved that he felt he could share it with me.
I’ve been praying for a full-time position for several years now, and frankly, I made the decision a few months back to let it be, let it rest, and to accept that for now I am set as an adjunct instructor. I am okay with adjunct, and I like the variety, the change each semester, and the fact that I am pretty much come and go as I please. Yet, I know that for longterm security, I need a full-time faculty position — somewhere — and I need to have that position in place before I can “up and go.”
Just the other day, I was over on Twitter and I read a “tweet” that said something to the fact that sometimes you have to step out in faith — go before — the Lord has everything laid out for you. Actually, it was Richard Blackaby who tweeted this comment:
Don't wait to advance until all of God's instructions make perfect sense to you. You might never leave the starting block! Get moving!
At first, I thought, “No, that is foolishness.” I mean, I don’t want to run out ahead of God and take a chance that I could be mistaken in my feelings or my thoughts. But today, I am thinking differently. I thought about the Old Testament patriarchs and how often God told them to go, but that He didn’t always give them clear instructions on what to do, where to go, or even how to get there. He simply said they were to go and they were to have faith that He would provide for them along the way.
I have heard the Lord tell me to go several times now, but I have not actually “gone” anywhere. I have waited for His provision, and in waiting for His provision, I have tarried in this place. I have not found the provision I needed, and in this way, I simply convinced myself that His timing wasn’t perfect or that I misread His intentions or His plans. Now, I am thinking that perhaps God doesn’t provide the resources until we take the step in faith that says, “I will trust you for these resources.” In this way, God didn’t give me what I didn’t need or use. You see, had I stepped out in faith, I have full confidence that He would have provided what I needed — when I needed it. But, since I didn’t go, I didn’t have need for the provision. Thus, I have remained in this place, sitting here waiting for the resource to come to me.
I am not about to go running out willy-nilly without a plan, that is for sure. However, the Lord has told me to go, and I have not gone. I wonder whether this is why I am still here, still waiting, and still struggling to make ends meet. Perhaps my promised provision is not here in Phoenix, but rather it waits for me at the other end of the stick?
Hmmm. I need to think more about this idea and to decide if this could be true or not. Right now, I have heard the Lord say to me — be prepared — and that tells me that I am to start making plans, start the ball rolling, and start lining all my ducks in a row. I am to wait for His leading, His guiding, and His providing — of course — but I am also to be prepared, to be ready, and to be at the waiting line for His command to go. Until that time, I have work to do. I have so much work to do.
As I wait for the Lord, I also realize that I must be ready, be prepared to go. I must look for His provision where He will provide it, and if that means I have to go without provision in order to demonstrate my faith, so be it. Thy will be done. However, until I am confident I am to physically move, I will continue to wait for His blessing, His deliverance. I will look up, and I will wait. He is good to me, He will show me the way. I am confident of it. Selah!