May 19, 2017

Friday Musings

It is Friday, May 19, 2017. Today is my Mom’s 84th birthday. It is a good day to celebrate her special day. The sun is out and the skies are clear. The air temperature is supposed to be in the mid-90s. The weather is really lovely. The next ten days, however, will see a return to our usual, 100 plus early summer days, but for today, the blessing is that it is warm without being hot. In Phoenix, warm is always a blessing.

Today is a busy day for me. My English 101 class started at ASU so I have minimum work to do today (more coming next week). My brother is driving over from San Diego to spend the weekend and to celebrate Mom's day. I have some house cleaning to do in order to get ready for his visit. I will probably go out to the store as well, but for all intents and purposes, my day is pretty low key.
Learning to Abide

I slept well, praise God, so that is a good thing. I actually woke up this morning feeling very, very refreshed. God is so good to me, really good to me. I am feeling better every single day, and with each new morning, I am coming to realize just how "good" my life really is. I mean, I am in this wonderful place whereby all my needs are met. I have good practical work, and I am earning a decent income (praise God) after my long, long, long dry season. Yes, my dry season was for a reason, as they say. I was in graduate school twice, once for my Masters and then later for my PhD. I worked full-time through part of my Masters degree, but I was only able to work part-time through my PhD. In all, though, the Lord provided enough to cover me. I was able to do well in school (3.9 and 4.0 GPA) and eventually graduate with my dream degree (this past May 6).

During my dry season, however, I struggled often with fear and with doubt about how I was going to make ends meet. I struggled when my accounts dipped below a certain point, and twice, I needed some grace to make it through my summer (with travel arrangements and such). Nonetheless, I made it through, and even in my last year, when my workload in school along with my workload teaching English seemed to collide at times, the Lord provided enough grace and favor to cover me. I was so well covered. He provided enough work for me so that I would not be in want. He provided enough rest for me so that I could focus on finishing my dissertation.

In all, He made my life pleasant, sweet and wonderful. And what is more, He made the way easy. I say this only to suggest that the Lord made my way easy for me rather than the work was easy. Please know that the work to earn a PhD is not easy; rather, it is difficult, unending, and at times, overwhelming. Read some of my blog posts over the past three years and you will see my tears, anguish, and trials as I endured hardship, struggled to finish well, and sunk under the weight and pressure of performance. Yet, through it all, the way was easy. He carried me through, and because of His effort, I was able to achieve something I never thought possible. I was able to earn this degree, and praise to God, I was able to do it well.

I said early on that this degree was all about Him and His work, and I meant it. I still do. I take no credit in what I have achieved. I am the blessed recipient of His hard work, His favor, and His sweet grace -- that is all. He is worthy. He is to be praised, and as such, He receives the credit and the glory!

I am the vine, you are the branches; 

he who abides in Me and I in him, 

he bears much fruit, 

for apart from Me you can do nothing.

John 15:5 (NASB)

I look back on the past four years, and I see triumph. I see that I scaled Mount Everest, and that I did it with great skill while overcoming adversity. I climbed the highest mountain I could imagine, and the Lord enabled me to be physically fit enough to do it. I achieved my dream, and thanks be to God, I did it in record time. While I didn't do as quickly as one of my peers (3 years), I did do it in a shorter than normal time (4 years) since most of my colleagues took between 5-8 years. I worked my tail off, and in the end, I accomplished more than a degree; I learned a new way of life. I learned how to depend on God for everything. I learned that with God all things are possible. I learned that trust, faith, and rest are the keywords to success in every endeavor. I learned that attitude is putting that trust -- that faith -- into action so that rest is possible. I learned that to lean on and abide in Christ simply is a way of life -- not during the hard times -- but at every checkpoint along the way. It is the WAY of Christ, and in doing so, it is living connected to the True Vine. I learned how to be a branch, thus putting the metaphor of John 15 into real practice. I learned how to be a branch, and I learned how to let the Holy Spirit produce fruit. In this way, I learned the secret to contentment in life. I learned that through all hardships, obstacles, and hindrances, there is a way to walk that guarantees success. This success is not always tangible -- so don't read this wrong -- I am not talking about always seeing things turn out right or as expected. What I am saying is that success is measured differently in God's economy. It is not about money, power, or things. Instead, it is about successfully learning how to abide in Christ, how to live in Christ, and how to let Christ do all things through you. In this way, success follows because it is Christ who is the measure of all success. Yes, in Christ anything is possible because there is no limit to His abilities or His power or His authority. In Christ, I can do all things because it is with His strength and power that I do them.
Preparing for His Next Achievement

There is a part of me that wonders what the Lord has in mind for me next. I mean, I have finished this grand program, achieved my dream, and now I am living out that dream life. Yes, I am living out my desire -- my heart's desire -- to be a professor of English. This was the dream that I had some 25 years ago when I was still an undergraduate student at San Jose State University. I made up my mind that if I was to do work in this life, it would be the work of a professor. I had worked in a variety of jobs -- from retail sales to office assistant -- and some computer work in between. I had had good practical jobs but they were taxing to me. They were difficult, and I really didn't enjoy the work. I struggled in them, felt overwhelmed by the work load, but mostly suffered from inadequacy and criticism from my peers and supervisors. In short, they were nasty and difficult and not something I wanted to pursue. My education was my way out or so I believed. I thought with a BA degree, I could finally get a decent job, a good job, a job I liked. Never did I think it would be as a teacher, a professor. Yet, my little dream, my little vision of becoming a professor, stuck with me. It didn't happen overnight, and it didn't happen in one fell swoop. No, not at all. Instead, it took years -- years of hardship, suffering, and waiting -- before the dream was brought to the forefront and my life situation change in such a way that the dream became a reality. He did this for me. He gave me the desires of my heart just as Psalm 37:4-5 (NASB) says:

Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

I thought the dream was dead. I believed it was "too late," and that I was "too old" to change careers, go back to school, earn an advanced degree. Yet, the Lord didn't think that way, and He opened doors for me to enable me to do this very work. I am a professor today because it was the Lord's desire that I do so. I know it. I feel it. I believe it. It is truth! Selah!

With this in mind, I have to ask the Lord, "What is next for me?" I mean, am I to simply settle down and teach for the next 15 years before retiring to a senior way of life? I don't think so. I simply do not think so. I believe that the Lord has a great plan for my life, and that this mountain was just one of many in my future. I believe He intends for me to scale other mountains, just as significant and as high, over the course of the next 20-30-40 years of my life. Selah!

I am ready to go, of course. I am ready to move, to find the next adventure, but something is keeping me from moving on -- just yet. I feel as if I must remain where I am for a short time. I must remain here, in Phoenix, in this transitional place for a short time. Perhaps it is because of my parents and their needs. Perhaps it is because my son has one more year of school before he graduates and is able to move on. I am not sure, but what I do know is that where I am today, the Lord has asked me to remain -- for a time. I am to stay put. I am to stand still.

I know that when He has asked me to go before, I couldn't go. I wasn't able to go. I wanted to go. I desired to go. I dreamed of going -- but -- I was stuck in this place. I blamed my parents for their unwillingness to go. I blamed myself for my lack of will, gumption, trust -- you name it -- for not obeying the Lord. I wanted to go, but I felt so stuck, so fixed that I was unable to let this place go, to really let it go, and to let the Lord lead me to a new place, a better and more exciting place. I was afraid to leave what I knew as "home" and to abide in Him, to make Him my "home."

I have had a complex that has prevented me from separating from my parents. I know it -- I have known it -- and even now I see how this complex has kept me from achieving things in my life. I have compromised, given up, and even set aside dreams that the Lord desired in me simply because I was afraid of going on alone. I was afraid of being alone. Yet, throughout the past four, nay -- 10 years -- I have been alone. I have done amazing things on my own, and I have been successful at them. I have been successful in everything I have done, especially when I have let the Lord lead, guide, and provide for me.

Now, I sit here and I wait. I wait for the promised provision of a full-time job. I wait for His deliverance from this situation whereby I am "stuck" in Phoenix, stuck living with my parents, and stuck in a transitional role. I don't mean to say that I don't want to live here or with my parents; no, not at all. Rather, it is simply a way of saying that at my age (soon to be 55), I need to be on my own. I need to be making my own way, living freely as a single adult, and with that freedom, I need to be able to go wherever the Lord leads me. I cannot be tied down because then if He asked me to go, I would not be able to go (as it is now). Thus, I must relent. I must let go. I must let my parents be cared for by other means, let my son to develop into a fine young and capable man, and let the Lord develop me into person of His choosing. I must let go of everything I hold onto so dearly so that the Lord can produce good fruit in me. I must continue to bloom as I abide in the True Vine.

Thus, with this in mind, I let go my desire to remain in Phoenix. I made the decision to remain here because it made such good sense to me. I made good sense since my parents are settled here, and my son is enrolled in school. Yet, I have felt the Lord say to me that while Phoenix is a good place to be settled, it might not be the place He intends for me to live. Not now, I mean. I have vacillated, gone back and forth about moving to another place. I made up my mind that the best place was here -- right here -- but that was when I needed to focus on my dissertation and graduation. Now, I have walked past that point in time, and as such, I am in a new place. I am free from school. I am free to move. I am ready, trained, and equipped, but I cannot go -- just yet. I must wait a bit longer. I must rest a while before I am asked to walk on. I get it, I really do. I have just come down from a mighty mountain, and I need to spend some time resting, relaxing, and recuperating from that difficult journey. I must rest now.

In time, though, I will be ready to move on, and when I am me, the Lord will open a new door, and He will ask me to walk on through it. I will go -- Lord, I promise -- I will go! I have asked Him to send me. I have said, "Lord, send me!" But, since I haven't wanted to go -- to let go of this life, these things, these people -- I have not been able to go. Now, though, I see that I must. I cannot move to the next mountain because the next mountain is for me only. It is not a family journey. It is too difficult for my parents, and my son is ready to tackle his own mountains. No, this next adventure has my name on it -- just my name. It is for me alone, and I must embrace the fact that the Lord intends to send me alone. I must go by myself, and I must trust Him enough to let Him lead, guide, and provide for me along the way. Do I trust Him enough to leave what I know behind? Yes! I do! I trust Him. I want to exercise my faith, and to rest in His sufficiency so I can experience all the adventures He has in mind, in store, and in place for me. He alone is my sufficiency. I abide in, lean on, and rest upon Him alone. To God be the Glory for the GREAT things He has done!
In Closing

As I close this blog post, I realize that I am right where the Lord desires for me to be. I am right where He wants me -- dependent upon Him. Yet, in that dependent state, He desires that I be action-oriented. I am to be ready to go. I am to be ready to take my tunic, my satchel, and to go where He sends me. I am to travel light, to leave quickly, and to not worry about the details (oh, those pesky details). I am to go where He sends me. I am to go.

My life is now His. He paid for it with His life, and He has graciously, mercifully, and faithfully delivered me from the snare, the net, and the pit that was my old life. He has given me a blessed future filled with hope. I walk on, I walk on, and I walk after Him. He is my King. He is my Shepherd, and He is the One who guides me in this journey toward my destination, my future home.

To God Be the Glory
(Fanny Crosby, 1875)

To God be the glory, great things he has done;
so loved he the world that he gave us his Son,
who yielded his life an atonement for sin,
and opened the lifegate that all may go in.

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
to every believer the promise of God;
the vilest offender who truly believes,
that moment from Jesus a pardon receives. 

Great things he has taught us, great things he has done,
and great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
but purer and higher and greater will be
our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see. 

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord; let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord; let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son,
and give him the glory; great things he has done.

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