May 20, 2017

Moving in the Right Direction

It is May 20, 2017, and I am sitting here at my home computer, drinking my coffee, and thinking about my future life. Yes, I am thinking about my tomorrows -- all of them -- and what I may be doing, experiencing, and realizing come next May 2018. It is hard to believe that 2017 has come to a close (academically speaking) and that it was two weeks ago when I walked across the commencement stage at Regent University to receive my degree. My Ph.D. has been conferred, though I am stilling waiting for official confirmation, as in a transcript, and of course, the receipt of my diploma.

As I wait, I wonder about my next steps, the plans the Lord has for me, and where He intends for me to go. Yesterday, I received two unexpected gifts -- my bound dissertation and my graduation announcements. Today, I purchased my official pictures so the only thing I am still waiting to receive is my transcript and diploma. At that point, I will be done -- as in -- OFFICIALLY graduated. I am so excited to think that my long, long, long journey to Ph.D. has finally ended. It has been a fantastic ride, and I have learned so much during the past seven years of graduate school. I never believed -- thought, really -- that it was possible to be a Dr., but here I am, and I am so thankful for the Lord for His blessed provision of this good, good gift.

All Things Work Together for Good

As I sit here now, I think about everything that has come together to make it possible for me to graduate from Regent with my Ph.D. Often, I know this is true for me, we think about our life as a collection of random events. Each event is its own unique experience, and while we understand that life events are connected by threads, we don't always see the relationship that is formed between two or more specific instances. We view them in isolation, and in this way, we lose that connection or understanding of how each event builds upon the next, how each choice we make, is partly responsible for the consequences that follow. In my life, I tend to isolate the events, especially if they are emotionally charged. I tend to look at them like some photo -- only seeing that which is relative -- to a particular moment in time. Yet, in totality, all the events of my life have worked together to produce this result -- my life as it is right here and now. In circumspect, I see my life as a beautiful tapestry of events, and in this way, I see everything -- the bold and beautiful colors -- along with the sad and dreary colors -- as producing a lovely mural that is a summary of my life, my hopes, my dreams, and my vision for the future. Yes, in all things, God does really cause events to work together for our good -- to produce good things -- for us. I believe this is true, and I believe that my life is GOOD because God has chosen for the events in my life to be used to produce good work, good fruit, and good outcomes that bring Him honor, praise, and eventual glory.

My life, therefore, is a book (as the metaphor goes), and that book has been written, chapter upon chapter, to express His glory and praise. My life has an ending, and that ending comes with my death -- burial -- and resurrection. My book will end, but a new book will begin after my death. I will experience a new life when I am in heaven, and I will have many new chapters devoted to my experience there. For now, however, I have many chapters left to be written in my current book of life. I have many experiences yet to be lived, and I have challenges yet to overcome. In all things, though, I have choices, and the choices I make will determine the paths I follow. I am determined to follow the one true path, which is the Path of Jesus Christ. But, within this one true path, I have many options of byways and highways, a virtual map of choices that will provide opportunities for me to enjoy. I want to choose wisely, for certain. I want to make sure that every path I choose is rich and rewarding. I have spent far too many years wandering down unfruitful and difficult paths. I don't want to make a choice that will send me spinning on backroads that lead to nowhere in specific. Rather, I desire to take the roads that will bring me the best chance of finding success (of course, practically-speaking) along with the most opportunity to bring the Lord praise and honor. No matter which course I choose, I believe that my way has been blessed and favored. Thus, it is difficult to make a bad choice simply because I have put "first things first," and in this way, I am seeking Jesus first in all avenues, decisions, and outcomes. He is first in my life, and everything is second. Amen, so be it. Selah!

With this in mind, I am ready to begin a new journey, a new adventure, and I want to make sure that the path I follow is the best opportunity available to me at present. I don't have a lot of choices right now, but that doesn't mean that in the near future I won't have more options. For now, I am content to remain where I am (as in located in Phoenix) and I can see a good future here. But, I long for more than just a good financial future. I long for much more. I want to see and do things that are not available to me here in the desert. I long to live in a place where there are more places to explore, more places to go and visit, and more opportunities for enrichment and advancement. Yes, I am thinking about my career. I need to teach at a University that recognizes me as talent. My schools right now do not see me as anything other than a part-time faculty person. I think I have an opportunity at ASU, but not as full-time faculty. I do have research options, which is a good thing, but I don't see any hope for a future as faculty. Likewise, I am well-liked at GCU, but I have not had any success moving from part-time to full-time in the almost five years I have worked on campus. I know they like me, they appreciate me, but not enough to give me a faculty position. Thus, I need to look elsewhere, and in AZ, the pickings are slim, as they say. Yes, I need to look outside my state for potential work.

Right now, that means that I need to consider Regent as my best provision at this time. I love my school. I love teaching at my school, and despite some internal organizational issues and poor decisions -- the school, the faculty, the curriculum have my heart. I have asked the Lord to open a door for me there, to teach there full-time, and I have even applied to work in this way. I am part-time only, and I have good solid contracts to keep me busy. But...it is not enough. I need full-time work with benefits, and that means I need someone to give me a chance, a job, an offer.

Will Regent be the fulfillment of my desire? I don't know. I do know that this school holds a special place in God's heart. I feel it every time I step on campus. But, God knows what is best for me, and perhaps what is best is for me to remain as adjunct faculty only. I trust His judgment and provision. He has me well-covered.

My heart longs to be settled as well. I long for my own home, my own place, my own life. I really would like to enjoy day trips again, to go places and see things (like museums and such), and while I can do this here, it is not the same thing. For example, I really would like to visit the East coast, to enjoy the beaches and mountains, and to see the cities -- DC for example -- and really enjoy the blessed history that exists in New England, the mid-Atlantic, and the South.

Will the Lord move me east? I am not sure. Like I said, I am content to stay put, Lord willing. I am happy here, but there are dreams and desires inside of me that don't seem likely to be fulfilled in Phoenix. My heart belongs to Him now, and with that said, I must relent. I must let go. I must trust Him to provide and meet each need, and as I once did a long time ago, I must let the dreams and the desires -- rest. He is faithful. He will provide. He will open doors that no man can close. I have asked Him to close all doors that are not His best for me. I have asked Him to open doors that are only approved by Him as good for me. I am waiting for His permission, provision, and promise, and soon, very soon, I will go. I will know where I am to go, what I am to do, and when He intends to move me. He is good to me, so very good to me! Selah!
Knowing Yourself Well

One of the things that I have actively worked to understand these past 10 or so years has been myself, my personhood, my being. I have spent a great deal of time writing about my thoughts, my feelings, and my experiences on this blog. I have taken the time to be counseled, and I have worked through deep hurt and abuse issues in order to be freed from the painful memories and even addictive behaviors I developed to cope. Now, I have grown in this process, and I am better able to understand myself -- including my motivation and heart intent. The Lord has graciously helped me to come to terms with my childhood, teen years, and young adult/married years. He has helped me develop good behaviors, good feelings about my person, my image, and my identity. I am confident, I am mature, I am self-reliant. In many ways, the Lord developed me in such a way to make me strong, confident, and mature. He has "grown" me in order to prepare me for His work -- of this I know. Now, I am ready to embark on the path that will enable me to engage in ministry, to develop my skills further, and to produce work that will effect change within His Church. I have to go -- to go where this work is -- and while I believe I can do this work anywhere His Church is, lately I have come to believe that He desires that I do work in a specific place. He has desired that I do work in a unique and wonderful place, and to do work among people who are dying to receive what I have to teach them.

I do not know where this place is or who these people are, but for a long time, I assumed that these people were foreigners in this country. I assumed that these people were from someplace else and that my ministry was dependent on me going to where these people live. For a time, I thought I was to live in Northern Europe, in Germany, France, and Italy. I have felt the Lord desired that I study these three languages, French mostly, but that He intended me to have some connection to the people from these places. I know that the triangle where He had put me was very dark. It was deceived and many of the people who lived there had no interest in Jesus. Lately, however, I have come to see that the Lord doesn't intend to send me overseas; rather, He intends for me to study and to be made ready to receive people here in the US.

I am not sure how this will be or what the Lord wants me to do because in my mind I know only that my ministry involves teaching the Church how to communicate more effectively in this postmodern era. I know that this is my calling, my mandate, but I don't know where I will do this particular work or how I will do it, other than that I will produce books, videos, etc. to use as ministry tools. Does this mean that I will engage in public speaking to groups in order to teach this information? Yes, it does. This is why the Lord put me in education, and this is why I have spent the past five years teaching on campus. I had a great fear of public speaking, and the Lord gave me time to learn how to overcome my fear. It has been eradicated -- presto! It has been demolished, and while I still get nervous, I am far more comfortable in front of groups of 10-100 than I have been before. I am comfortable, confident, and I can present -- preach and teach -- to groups now. Praise God!

What then am I to do? I don't know. I know that I am to do this work, and I know that my PhD was for this expressed purpose. While I teach in higher education, my degree was about His work always. I went to Regent for His work. I graduated from Regent for His work. I work at Regent now, but only part-time, and in this way, I am doing His work at the school of His choosing.

For now, I sit and I wait. I wait patiently for the Lord to open the door, to call me forward, and to say to me, "This is where you will go, my little one!" I will go, of course, I will go. I have been waiting for now on 11 years to go. I will leave my family behind, my home as I know it, and I will place my faith, my trust, and my hope in the One who has a great plan for me. I will follow my Lord to the place of His choosing in order to do His work. I will not go for a teaching position, per se; despite the fact that He will provide one to me. I will go for ministry alone. I will go because He asks me to go there to minister to people there, and while I will teach to provide income for my needs, my focus will be on His work -- 100% on His work -- for His praise, honor, and glory.
In Closing

In conclusion, as I sit here today, I am reminded that I am called to do His work, and His work is not teaching English. Teaching is the professional calling He has given to me. It facilitates an end, so to speak. It is good practical work that suits me. However, my spiritual calling, my mandate is about ministry, and this is what He wants me to understand. I have spent the past 12 years learning about myself, well enough, to let the past hurt go, to embrace my true identity, and to come to like myself enough to set my wishes, wants, and desires aside in favor of His will and His work. I have come to know myself well -- in all things -- and as such, I am comfortable now to simply say, "Yes, Lord!" I will go and follow because I love the Lord. I trust Him with my life -- the here and now as well as the future life. I believe the chapters yet to be written will be done so in another place. He will give me a blessed opportunity, ongoing favor with the school of His choosing, and continued options to enlarge my territory and to build a successful future that is not only financially secure but spiritual developed and significant. God has a great plan for my life, and I am ready to embrace it this good, good day!

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