June 27, 2017

Where the Mind Goes…

So yesterday was a good day. I didn’t do much at all, other than take care of some business around the house. I rested mostly, slept about 2.5 hours in the afternoon (not sure why I was so tired), and then worked on my classes in the evening. In all, it was a pretty uneventful day.

I am guessing the reason why I was so tired had to do with my serious hot flashes that seem to be coming on more and more during the night. I felt pretty washed out yesterday, so I am thinking that my sleep disruption that has been accruing for a while simply caught up with me, and well, I just zonked out.

I slept better last night, though, I still struggled to fall asleep. I think I did sleep soundly, and when I woke up this morning, I had that “I’m dead as a doorknob” feeling. I mean, I felt so draggy when I first woke up. I really prefer to wake refreshed, but lately, I have been “hungover” and again I think it is due to my waning hormones more than anything else.

Still, I am feeling well. I have a slight headache (sinus), and I feel a bit wonky still (off-kilter). The hot coffee is doing it’s thing — magic — and I am starting to wake up and feel more like myself.

Seeking Clarification

The plans for today include grading portfolios, checking in on all my students at Regent (two classes is always a rush), and then working on my buffet (clearing the clutter). Hopefully, in the middle of all of that teacher doing and cleaning doing, I will find some clarity of mind, I will come to that place of peace again.

I am not sure what happened, but yesterday, I lost my peace. I woke up feeling calm, settled, and then something happened, and I stressed and struggled all day long. I went to bed last night feeling that something wasn’t quite right, and even this morning, I still have this nagging sensation that I have done something wrong — like really wrong. Perhaps it was my desire to move forward, take some big steps forward, and in doing so, I simply encountered my enemy. Or perhaps it wasn’t my moving forward at all, but rather my interpretation of events, situations, or scenarios where I drew conclusions that were not correct. I am not sure, but this morning, my prayer is for clarification. I am asking the Lord to help me understand if I am off the mark or if I am where I should be but I have misread some of the signs. In either case, I am asking the Lord to help me to know and to understand — to comprehend — so that I can feel peaceful again, calm and sorted, and I can remain steady and faithful on the path He has me on today.

So, as I mentioned previously, I am in this place where I don’t feel necessarily at peace. I sort of feel off, like I have misstepped in my interpretation or I have taken a slight off-the-mark turn. I am not sure what happened or how I got to where I am, but one thing I have learned over the course of the past 10 or so years is that when a loss of peace occurs, the first thing to do is to confess. Yes, the first order of business is to confess any known sin (the intentional behaviors — words, thoughts, and deeds). The second order of business is to confess any unknown sin (the unintentional behaviors — words, thoughts, and deeds). Once confession is done, the next order is to ascertain what actions may have prompted a change in peace factor. For me, this just means I may have turned a certain way, either figuratively or literally, and that turn may have caused me to lose my sense of peace, my feelings of “it’s good, it’s okay.” My next step in the process of understanding how I came to lose my peace is to simply backtrack, to turn around and walk back to where I last had a sense of peace. Often, the answer is easy — I just walked too far ahead of the Lord — and I got myself to a place I wasn’t meant to be. I turn around, say “I’m sorry” for walking ahead of Him, and most of the time, my peace returns. However, sometimes, just turning around isn’t enough. Sometimes, I have to confront a thought that has lead me astray. Sometimes I have let my enemy suggest a way that is not the way God told me to go, and in doing so, if I follow that thought, I often find that my peace goes with it. I lose my peace when I listen to the lies of the enemy.

How to Stay Focused

Physical actions are often what we think of when we find ourselves off-the-mark. We agree to do something we shouldn’t or we accept an offer that is not God-ordained, and well, we know it in short order. We find ourselves in drama — in chaos — and we know that we made a huge mistake. Sometimes our mistakes are the result of foolish behavior, but sometimes our mistakes are the result of a lack of foresight or critical thinking. Yes, sometimes we run ahead of the Lord into a situation that looks really good, really appealing, but is a situation that simply looks good on the outside, but is rotten on the inside.

Unfortunately, physical actions that lead to missteps are not the easiest mistakes to correct. Depending on the severity of the decision, the outcome might be life altering. This is why Scripture stresses the need for wise counsel as well as prayerful submission to the Lord in all matters (of heart, especially). Before we run out the door, we should be well-prayed, well-prayed, so that we know for certain we are going in the right direction, making good choices, and keeping the Lord’s will for our life front and center.

Mental actions, conversely, are a different matter altogether. Mental actions are thoughts that we give life to in order to bring them to the point of physical action. In essence, thoughts are the forerunners of action. What we think, we often do, so to speak. If you think about that cheesecake, you may find yourself greatly tempted to eat that cheesecake. The more we think on something, the more we desire it. It is a known fact that our thoughts often lead to action, thus our mental state is of vital importance when it comes to making good decisions, good choices for our lives.

A mental turn is when we consider another option, even after we are pretty well settled on a particular path or direction. A mental turn happens when someone says to us, “Have you thought about this…” and we give thought to their words. At the moment of the suggestion, we have two options: 1) consider their words or 2) reject them out of hand. I believe this process is what Paul was speaking about when he wrote to the church at Corinth. Paul urged the believers there to understand how important it was to control thoughts and to destroy deceptive ideas (beliefs, philosophies, ideologies, and worldviews) that ran contrary to the Word of God. More so, he stressed that believers needed to stay firm, focused on God’s purpose, and to “capture every thought” that could lead one astray from that purpose. In 2 Corinthians 10:5-6, we read:

“Our battle is to bring down every deceptive idea and every imposing argument that people erect against the true knowledge of God. We capture every thought to focus on our purpose: understanding and acknowledging the authority of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).

I am guilty of not staying on tasks, of not remaining fixed on purpose. Yes, I often make mental turns, where I consider a thought or an action, and in doing so, I begin to move toward that thought. I begin to think about the thought, give it presence, and in short order, I am easily led down the wrong thought path. Sometimes we don’t give enough credence to our thought life. We think about sinful thoughts, and we know what to do in order to take control or authority over them, but we don’t always treat casual thoughts in the same way. We often let our mind wander, and when we do, we can easily entertain thoughts that are planted by our enemy, thoughts that are positioned for one purpose — to knock us off our game plan. Yes, our enemy can speak lies to us that are so innocuous, so simple, that we allow them past the gates of our stronghold. In short, we let the lies in along with the truth.

The process of mental turning is critical to physical action, thus where your thoughts go, your body often follows. Subsequently, the adage that says, “Change your mind, change your outcome,” is often true. Our minds are the battleground the enemy uses in his attempt to destroy us. He attacks us mentally because he knows that he can easily push us off the target, the path we are on, simply by suggesting another way, another very plausible and seemingly good way. This is especially true if the way we are walking is in obedience to God. Keep in mind that I am not talking about thoughts that would lead us away from God, rather, I am talking about thoughts that serve to diminish our ability to do the will of God. The hard and true fact of the matter is that our enemy knows that for some strong believers (myself included), there is little likelihood that I will turn away from God — not now, not at this point in my life — so he doesn’t always attack me with the “Did God really say” approach that He used to cause Adam and Eve to doubt God’s sovereignty and plan. Sometimes he is more subtle than this, and in doing so, he suggests ideas and thoughts that seem good on the outside, but are less than the perfect will of God on the inside. When we consider these thoughts, when we give them air to breath and room to grow, we might find that our conscience is muddled, and our once clear path to accomplishing the Lord’s will is not so clear any more. Satan often uses these wily tactics with firm believers because he knows that he can cause us to doubt God’s word as well as His intention without a lot of effort. In many way, he attacks us by simply making us consider other options, other ideas, that might be God approved, but not God ordained (I will explain this later). Our enemy is a subtle and devious schemer, who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy us (John 10:10) and the plans God has for us, in any way possible.

Therefore, controlling our thought life is the first step (after confession) to help us stand firm against the trickery of the enemy. Joyce Meyer writes about the mind as a battlefield in her best-selling book, “The Battlefield of the Mind.” Meyer understands the power of the mind, and in her book, she helps her readers come to terms with the problem and power of thoughts. She stresses the need for metacognition or the process of “thinking about thinking” in order to overcome negative thoughts that can lead to negative life outcomes. She writes, "Thoughts are powerful, and according to the writer of the book of Proverbs, they have creative ability. 'For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. As one who reckons, he says to you, eat and drink, yet his heart is not with you [but is grudging the cost]'” (Proverbs 23:7).

In a blog post written by the staff at the Church of the Living God, the author says something similar when he writes, “Our bodies follow our minds. What we think matters.” The staff writer is sharing a story of faithfulness and diligence in preparing our minds for battle with the enemy. Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against.” As such, our battle requires a mindset that is prepared for warfare. In essence, we must show up ready to do battle with the enemy, and that means showing up with our “game face on” and our mind ready to take action.

My mistake this past week has been to question the Lord’s plan for my life. As I have blogged about my experience over the past dozen or so years, I often find myself in situations where I question the veracity of the Lord’s word to me. I question His authority, His purpose, and His plan, but more so I question is integrity, His character when I seek other advice, other counsel or I consider other “options” rather than accepting what the Lord has offered to me. You see, I weigh the offer, I test it, and in this way, I test the Lord. The Lord is patient with me, gracious to me, and despite the fact that I do this (more than once, I admit), He often doesn’t chastise me for doing it. He does, however, permit me to learn lessons as a result, though.

I believe that this past week was another opportunity for me to learn a good lesson, a lesson in obedience, and a lesson in standing fast and not giving sway to thoughts that suggest other options or avenues. Yes, I learned “the hard way,” that with God there is only one acceptable response and that is to obey His word, and to be faithful to keep it.

Lesson #1

Do what the Lord tells you to do. The first part of the life lesson for me was a reminder that God calls His people to obedience, and that obedience is one of the ways we demonstrate our love for Him. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Obedience to God’s word is always a priority. This means we are to obey the written word as well as the spoken word (testimony, revelation, and exhortation). The story of Jonah illustrates what can happen we do not obey. Likewise, the story of Lot’s wife reminds us that when the Lord says to do some and we fail to heed, consequences will follow.

Lesson #2

God has a plan for our lives, and His plan includes general and specific characteristics. By this I mean that God has a general plan for His people. Peter said, "The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9 NLT) as a reminder that God’s promised deliverance and reward are for everyone. Furthermore, Paul writes to Timothy, “This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4 NLT). God’s general will includes His plan of salvation, to save us and to save others. This is the great commission with which Jesus commands His disciples; It applies to all believers in Christ Jesus, we are all commanded to go into the world and preach the good news. But, outside of this general will for each Christian, God does have a unique and wonderful plan that considers our natural and spiritual gifts, and often helps position us so that we can fulfill the great commission. You see, while we may say, “God wants me to be a teacher,” and we believe we have been equipped to do so, we must also realize that as part of His will, we are to teach more than just our subject area (for me, it is English). We are to use our gift and His will for our life in combination to further His plan for His creation.

Lesson #3

Following the plan God has for our life is not optional. Once we have taken hold of His gift of grace, received salvation, we are adopted into the family of God. By His mercy and goodness, we are also grafted into His plan and purpose. Thus, we have a role to play within the Body of Christ. We are gifted in certain ways, and we are to purpose our gifts with passion and intensity so that we do our part. Paul uses the analogy of a body to help believers understand that we are all made uniquely to serve one purpose — to be the body of Christ. Therefore, we must do our part, whether we are called as an eye, an ear, a foot or a hand. We all must do what God has called us, created us, to do. But we are not to do this for our own purpose — toward our own design — rather we are to work together in unity, harmony, and with one mind, the very mind of Christ. In this way, we will become the living body of our Lord, and we will do His work here on earth.

Once we learn our position and purpose, we are to attend to that end goal. We are to be the best ear we can be, the best foot possible — in all — with the desire to worship and glorify God, the Father. We are not to squabble, have gross divisions, but we are to seek to serve one another in humility and with submission. We must, however, do our part, and this is non-negotiable. We must grow up in mind and in body, understanding the lateness of the hour, so to speak. We must realize that we are to make every effort to be on guard, to be focused, to be faithful because as Peter says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).

Lesson #4

Though we may not always understand the plans the Lord has for our life, our response to His plan is to recognize His sovereignty and His will in creating, establishing, and bringing those plans to pass. He is sovereign. He rules over us. He is King, and we are His subjects. There is headship involved in this relationship, and we must not lose sight of who He is and who we are. He is Creator, and we are the created. In the Old Testament and New Testament, the writers often refer to God as the Potter, and in this way, they use a simple analogy to demonstrate the difference between the Potter who creates, and the clay, that is used to be made into some object or thing. Paul says this in Romans 9:21, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” in speaking of the vessels formed for good use and for destruction. In Jeremiah 18:4, the prophet was told to go down to the potter’s house and observe how the potter was working the clay. Jeremiah writes these words, “And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do” suggesting again that the Potter (God) has total control and authority to make whatever He desires and designs from the clay in His hands. Likewise, in Isaiah 64:7-8 NIV, we read,

"There is no one who calls on Your name, Who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.  But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.”

In this way, we are reminded that God is God alone, and His will, His work, and His way are known only to Him. He chooses what to reveal to us, and Scripture clearly provides His general will for us in the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-19 NIV,

“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.”

In understanding His specific will for our lives, the believer must draw near to the Lord, abide in Him as John 15:15 says, and spend time resting (being still) in His presence. Yes, the only way the believer in Jesus will come to know the expressed, precise and unique will that God has for their life is to be wholly devoted and wholly dependent on Him.

Wrap Up Life Lesson

What this means to me today is simply that I know both the general and unique will the Lord has for my life. I know what the Lord has asked me to do with my life as a teacher and communicator. I know the plans, so to speak, He has for my life. What I don’t know is the details, the tiny details that consist of steps, many steps forward, from one place (this one) to the next. I don’t know how to get from here to there, so to speak. I don’t have a good map, in layman’s terms. But, what I do have is instruction to help me submit, yield, rest, be patient, and so forth, while the Lord, the Potter, makes a way for me to go. You see, I have been told how to live my life, which is more about the process of how to become more Christ like than the path used to make me more Christ like. I liken it to how I teach writing to my students. Writing consists of two things: thinking about writing (the process), and creating the written product (the outcome). Most of the time, we only think of the latter, the production of a written text. We don’t always give consideration to the process involved in writing. In this way, I am not just speaking about drafting, editing, proofing, etc. (the steps), but really I am thinking about the mental action that occurs before we even put pen to paper. It is metacognition, it is the process of thinking about thinking about writing. In Christian terms, the metacognition is the process of thinking about becoming more Christ-like. We are to become like Him, and the outcome is the finished product of all that thinking work. The more we think about Him, the more we desire to become like Him. The more we obey His words, the more that obedience is worked out for the world to see. It all starts inside our head, in our heart, and then through daily application, daily abidance in Him, we eventually will be transformed to the point where we will be like Him.

I don’t know how to get myself from a physical place (Phoenix) to another physical place (Virginia). I mean, sure, I can read a map, plot a course, and drive from A to B to C. But from a spiritual point of view, if the Lord desires to move me from A to B to C, there is more to that move than simply sticking a pin on the map. There are decisions, choices, options, etc. that all must be carefully weighed, and with the Lord’s help and the guidance of trusted counselors, the map — the chart — will be made clear to me. Until then, however, I need to focus on the internal part, the obedience part, the becoming like Jesus part. The Potter, my Father in heaven, is more than able to create pin markers for me. He is able to move me from A to B to C with ease, but He needs me to be settled, to be fixed in my purpose, in my calling, in my unique plan. He needs me to stop moving about, stop trying to figure out the map, and focus more on the inward heart and mind motivation that begins and ends with obedience. I will go. I will follow. I will obey.

In Closing

I know what I have done. I understand now how I got myself all twisted up (again), and it had more to do with my willingness to entertain other ideas, other thoughts, other options long after the Lord has said, “This is my will.” I bargained with the Lord for other things that I thought were just as good as what He was offering to me. I asked for more, when He had already given me everything I needed. I lost track of my purpose, my overarching plan that includes both His kingdom mandate and the specific work, training, and calling He has graciously given to me. I wanted more, but not to become more like Him, rather to simply have my own way, to have what I liked “better.”

The confusion stemmed from my own mental actions. I let the enemy confuse me by suggesting other, really good options, which the  Lord, my God, had already said “No.” I fell prey to the taunt, “Did God really say this to you…” when I should have simply said, “This is what the Lord said,” and then followed suit with obedience. The enemy, Satan, doesn’t like it when Christians obey God, when they listen, heed, and follow the Word. He will flee just as James says in chapter 4, verse 7 (NET):

"Therefore, submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you.”

Submit means, “accept or yield to a superior force or to the authority or will of another person” (Dictionary.com), and as such, when we submit, we surrender to God not because we are being forced to do so, but rather because He is God and as God, He knows what is best for us. He is the Potter and we are the clay. In nearly 5,000 years, this fact has not changed. He is Creator, and we are His creation.

June 26, 2017

Thoughts for Today

It is a good morning, and I am sitting at my desk, blogging away the early morning hours. It is 9:15, and so far this morning, I have managed to get myself out of bed, and out to the kitchen for coffee and a bagel. Not too shabby if I say so myself. I am not feeling 100% my best today. I didn’t sleep well last night, and I tossed and turned as well as had hot flashes (really hot ones) several times. I didn’t turn my fan on, so every time I flashed, I suffered miserably as I was soaked to the skin with sweat. I hate hot flashes, and recently, I have had more intense ones than previously experienced. I am thinking it is because I am going on 10 months without a menstruation cycle, and according to the medical professionals, 12 months without a period signals full-on menopause. I guess I am getting close to the end of my reproductive years, and as such, my body is just a bit haywire most days. Still, the lack of quality sleep coupled with the hot flashes and some weird dreams has taken a toll on me physically and mentally this morning. I am worn out, and I feel off my game today. Thank goodness, it is Monday, and I have a light (almost light) day ahead of me. God is good. He is so good to me!

Hope and Faith = Belief

So, despite my feeling off, I am spending most of my time reading blogs, social media, and other articles that I happen to find as I browse the Internet today. I enjoy reading for the most part, but sometimes I get rankled, and well, I don’t really like to get my ire worked up early on in the day. Yesterday, my hackles were charged up due to a post regarding Pew Research’s findings that 63 out of 100 people in America (if America only had 100 people) considered themselves to be religious. I thought the study was interesting, but the comments were horrid, absolutely horrid. Most were from atheists who delighted in stating that all people of faith (all, not just Christians, but every single person who claims faith in a higher being or some spiritual purpose) are looney. The vitriol was difficult to take, and for a time, I was really upset by the fact that so many people of non-faith (no faith, no belief system) had such hatred for people who do. I mean, it was like unless you were a completely rational and logical person (which presumes you can have no belief system outside of science), you were ignorant, stupid, and plain crazy. One poster suggested all people of faith be locked up as insane. I thought it was amazing that these people could be so violent in their expression — really what social media calls “haters” — simply because of the fact that not everyone agrees with their views on life, the origins of life, and the possibility of something greater, bigger, and unknowable existing outside their worldview and perspective.

What Life Looks Like Without Hope

The turning point in my understanding came to me when I realized that these people (and most on the site were clearly atheist) were so hostile to people who believed differently, who held a different worldview. They were intolerant of anyone who thought differently or saw the world differently. And, rather than accept the fact that there is much in this world that is presently unknown, they assumed that all things are knowable, and that somehow their rationality makes them more intelligent and knowledgeable than anyone else. The arrogance was amazing to me because they refused to accept the fact that some people were actually smarter than they were. More so, the real fact that was apparent by their rant was that they believed, they trusted in, they placed their faith, in something just as surely as the people they were railing against. Yep, these so called non-believers were believers in science and rationalism, and as such, they were adherents to a faith-based system as clearly as the Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Pagans, and Christians they maligned.

It took me a while to come to this understanding, and after my ire and hackles settled back down, I moved on to a place of sorrow and sadness for these people. You see, from the tone of their comments, the language they used, the way they spoke against other people not like them, what became clear to me was the fact that most atheists (the vocal ones I witnessed) were really sad people. Sad, lonely, and lost people. These people were the adult version of the bully on the playground, the child who breaks every balloon just to steal the joy from another child on his or her birthday. Yes, these folks were bent on causing pain, suffering, and sorrow — stealing joy — from others who had found a way of life that brought them happiness and peace. In short, the atheists on this website were sore losers, people upset and not wanting anyone else to be happy in life. It was pretty clear to me that the most hateful comments came from people who simply hated life — and everyone and everything in it. Yes, they were haters of everything good in the world, and they made sure that anyone who seemed to enjoy life was centered and fired upon as the target of their anger, hatred, and pessimistic worldview. It was really sad once I came to terms with it. I saw the horror in these peoples words — a life with no hope — a life with a hard stop at the end of it. They were the exact reflection of Thomas Hobbs famous quote:

“No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” (Hobbes from Leviathan)

My heart breaks for people who despite their own choice in hard living, demand the same from everyone else. No Pollyanna’s allowed in the door; no idealists are permitted. The life of the atheist is hard, precise, and unforgiving. There is no hope, no future pleasure, just hard, difficult, and dark living. 


Plans for Today

At present, my plans include grading final portfolio for my class at ASU. I am not sure if I will be assigned to teach in session B this summer or not. This class doesn’t begin until midweek, and I may not even know if I will be assigned until the weekend. It really depends on attendance, and whether or not they need extra instructors. I am OK with either end because I have my two classes at Regent gearing up, and well, the slower pace is a blessing to me. But, should the Lord will it, I will gladly teach a second session this summer. I do enjoy the money, and the extra income will be a blessing as we turn into the middle part of the off-season. Yes, a little extra oomph in my income would be a sweet provision, should the Lord choose to provide it to me.     

On other good news, one of my colleagues just received word that he has been hired full-time to teach at Southeastern University in Lakeland, FL. I can count two colleagues now that have received job offers from this AG school. I am very happy for him, as this position is definitely a boost up and confirmation of his hard work toward his PhD. I am thankful that God is rewarding my faithful colleagues with good practical work, but also with the provision of a new life that will be both rewarding and satisfying.      

The funny thing is that both of my colleagues are not PhD’s yet. One is still in her 3rd year, and the other is ABD. Here I sit as a fully-formed PhD, and I have no work on the horizon. Part of me wonders if I need to switch denominations and join the AG ranks! I know, just kidding, but there seems to be something to it. I am thankful for what I have, which is enough, and for the provision the Lord has graciously given to me. In time, I will have my offer. I time, I will be promoted too. It is hard to see my friends and colleagues move up ahead of me, but I am choosing to celebrate with them because I know they would do the same thing for me. They would be the first to wish me well, and to cheer me on as I am promoted to Assistant Professor at the school of the Lord’s choosing.

So with that said, I close this blog post. My trusted friend, Winston, is lounging on my desk, making it really hard to do work. I am ready to get moving forward, in everything I mean, but I know that until the Lord does it, I have to wait. I have to be still. I have to sit still. He knows what is best for me, and I trust in His opinion, His counsel, and His wisdom.         

June 25, 2017

Ready to Go!

It is a blessed Sunday here in hot and sunny, Phoenix. The skies are clear, and the forecast for the next dozen or so days is much the same: hot. I am thankful for good cold, AC, and I am thankful that I don’t have to venture outside today unless I really, really, really want to do so. Hooray!

My morning was spent as many in the past — I woke up early and spent the first hours at home alone. I attended my church, Scottsdale Bible Church, via Livestream. I am anxious to get back to attending in person but until I have my car back (soon, I hope, very soon), I am content to join in the 11:00 service and participate online (in a live way). It is a wonderful experience to attend church online. I don’t recommend it as a regular practice because I believe God desires His people to do “life” together, and that means in physical proximity to one another. However, the blessing of live streaming an event is simply that people far and wide can attend. I love this fact of technology, and for me, live streaming services has made it possible for me to attend my home church and enjoy the blessing of worship and awesome messages from right here in my home. God is good to me, so very good to me!

Praise and Blessing

This morning was another rock solid message from a guest pastor. The summers at SBC are filled with rotating pastors, since our own senior pastor is on vacation. He normally takes personal time during the summer to spend with his wife and children, to visit his extended family in Michigan and Ohio, and to do his summer study break (when he works on sermon series for the following year). This summer’s series includes a number of well-known local pastors along with some from other states. Today, for example, we had Pastor Carl Klausen. Carl is from Chicago, and is a radio host for Moody Radio. He also is pastor of a new startup church called, 180 Chicago. Carl has preached for us before, but not in the past 8-10 years. He was on fire this morning, and his message was powerful. I was humbled, left in wonder, and challenged to submit and surrender even further to Christ as a result. Good stuff. Really good stuff.

In all, as I sit here today, I marvel at the wonders of the Lord. It was earlier today when I heard the Lord say to me that today would be a good day, a really good day, and that I would come to understand more clearly His will for my life. Of course, I hoped for details, you know — juicy details — of when, how, why, and wherefore. Instead, I received a powerful message that simply showed me how to position myself strategically to receive keener insight and yes, clarity, for the vision God has for my life. I didn’t get the details, but I sure did learn how to get ready to receive them, praise be to God!

Now, I am ready, so very ready to go. I feel compelled to go forward, to begin moving forward, and with that forward movement, I am prepared to defend myself against the enemy and his attack. I am ready, geared up as they say, and while I am not looking forward to a good bashing, I know that this is what will be. I must go forward into the will of the Lord, and any time I move up one, two, or a dozen steps, my enemy is right there ready to pound me good. I stand fully clothed in the armor of God, and I have the WORD inside of me, yet I know he will attack me. He will hit me where it hurts most, where I am most vulnerable. The message today, though, provided insight in how to thwart that attack — well, lets just say — how to lessen its effect. The message was all about surrendering and submitting to God, getting down on your knees and embracing your brokenness. It was about being at rock bottom, and giving everything to God, every single thing — mind, body, and spirit — to God. The business of being laid out before the Lord is all about humility, and the acknowledgement that no human part of us can accomplish the Lord’s work. It is about really understanding what it means to abide in Christ, and what it means to be wholly dependent on the Lord for everything — not just spiritual needs, but physical and emotional needs as well. It is about walking alone, leaving the mockers and foolish people in our lives behind, and following after the Lord with every ounce of our being.

I realize that the message preached is not a new one. I have heard something similar before, but the power with which the message was delivered and its timing were unique. I was transformed through the hearing, and in that way, I was changed from moment to moment, from glory to glory. Yes, I developed insight, received clarity, and in many ways, the eyes of my heart were opened to seeing the Lord’s work and will differently. I came to see my life differently. I came to see confirmation of my path, the path I have been on for the past 10 years, as the path of the Lord’s choosing. I came to understand that everything He has told me, said to me, revealed to me, was true. The pastor today said words to the congregation that basically were the same words I received in testimony from the Lord. I mean — like I was able to say — “Oh, so I am right where I am supposed to be?” I was able to be confirmed. I am doing what He wants. I am going in the right direction. I am living my life as He wants me to live it. Sure, the material, tangible things are not all aligned yet, but spiritually I am doing exactly what I must do in order to begin to receive His blessings, His reward, His provision. I am right where I belong, and praise be to God, I am ready to take the next big step forward.

As I move forward, I am ready to take on more and more of His work. I am ready to begin to develop the ministry He has called me to develop. I am ready to meet the people He has prepared for me to meet. I am ready to take on the tasks, the workload, and all the difficulties and challenges associated with His will. I am ready, but I know that the only way I will be able to do what He is asking me to do, is to humbly submit and yield, to lay fully still before Him and let Him do this work in and through me. I must be emptied out so He can fill me up. I must be the branch to His vine, and I must let Him produce the good fruit in me. I am ready, Lord. I am ready to be used for your Name and for your Praise and to bring you Glory.

In Closing

Today is a good day, a really good day. I am yielded. I am humbled. I am ready to be used by God for His glory. I rest now in my work because I know that what the Lord asks of me cannot be done in my strength, through my intellect, or because of my passion or pursuit. I must relent, let go, relinquish all authority and power and control over my life, and I must let Him lead, guide, and provide for me. In truth, I can do all things through Christ alone. Thus, it is in His name that I confess my utter dependency, and it is with His power that I do the tasks and the work assigned to me this good, good day. He alone is worthy to be praised. He alone is worthy to be praised! Selah! So be it. Thy will be done, Amen.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13 NIV)

June 24, 2017

It is Saturday!

Hello, Saturday! Where have you been all week? Yes, it is Saturday, and I am home and resting in my very comfortable, almost “Shabby” bedroom/office. I am at peace. I am resting comfortably, and I am sensing this amazing calm right now. I just feel good — about everything — and praise be to God, I am thinking this has to do with His will and work and not with anything that I have done. At the least, I feel pretty confident that this is all about HIM and “oh so" not about me. Selah!

It is a good afternoon, and I am blogging late due to a busy morning. I didn’t do anything amazing this morning, but rather, I spent most of my early hours working around the house, helping my parents, and dealing with my two very active cats. My parents are out of the house right now, and my son is still slumbering away in his room next door. I am at my desk with my faithful friend, Winston, and well, I am enjoying the blessed peace and calm and quiet of my urban home. Yes, you heard me right! I am enjoying the blessed peace, calm, and quiet of my home — right here in the middle of Phoenix, and right on the corner of Busy and Busier Street (in my neck of the woods, Greenway Road is one of the busiest East-West thoroughfares).

I am blogging now since I have a bit of downtime before I have to get to grading student projects. My class at ASU has come to a close, and final submissions are due tomorrow. I have some projects from earlier in the week to grade, and I need to update the grade book so that I can post final grades by next Wednesday. My other courses at Regent are finishing up Week 1, and I have some discussion to attend to as well as topic ideas to approve. In all, my grading is really low key, but I have timing and deadline issues to consider.

I still haven’t heard a peep on my transcript. I had hoped (fingers crossed) that the Registrar’s office would update my file yesterday, but it appears that nothing happened. I was told the case would be resolved by the weekend, and well, here it is Saturday, and there is no resolution. Perhaps Monday will bring me good news? I sure do hope so, but even if I must wait again, I will wait. I believe the Lord is Lord over this issue just as much as He is Lord over ALL of His creation. I can do nothing but trust in my Lord’s hand and power and authority, so I wait. I wait with hopeful expectation that my degree will finally post, and with that event, I will be one step closer to being hired full-time. I believe it. I am hopeful. I am expectant. He is good. He is so good to me. Selah!
Shabby Thoughts

So I spent most of yesterday working in my room. I have been on a kick to get my room in better shape now that summer is here and because I have more free time. I have gone round and round with style, decisions about design and color, and I have finally embraced what I think is the best style for me. I hate to admit it, but the Lord does know me best. I was pretty much settled on Modern Farmhouse (a la Joanna Gaines), but the Lord was not quite ready to let me stick with such a “kitchy” style (meaning popular or fadish). He pressed on me to consider other styles first, and over the past 8-10 months, I have gathered thousands of pins on Pinterest that explored Traditional/Transitional, Farmhouse, Modern, Eclectic, and yes, New Country (or really English/French Country). I explored design styles, paint colors, fabric choices, and even room layouts until I finally ran out of steam (and pins, LOL!) As of today, I have pinned:

  • 3,883 pins for Modern
  • 3,566 pins for Farmhouse
  • 3,008 pins for Eclectic
  • 2,101 pins for Country
  • 1,732 pins for Transitional

Can you see how Pinterest has become my new best friend? Well, not really, but the social media platform has served a valuable purpose in my oh-so harried life. I found pinning to be the ultimate in relaxation for me. In many ways, Pinterest tapped into my love of reading design magazines. I used to spend my evenings (20-30) years ago with stacks and stacks of old magazines. I would pour myself a cup of coffee or tea and I would read articles and look at pictures in books and magazines as a means of relaxation. When I moved house and relocated to Phoenix, I tossed all my magazines out (I had almost every issue of Country Living from 1985 through 1996). Pinterest is the 21st century version of day-dreaming with magazines. I love, love, love Pinterest.

So I digress. After spending 10 months pinning myself silly, I really was able to discover my true decorating identity. I realized that for one thing, I happen to love a lot about several different styles. I also came to accept the fact that I am quiet eclectic in my tastes and my preferences run the gamut from shabby chic to bohemian to ultra modern. I really like many styles, but when I had to finally choose, finally decide on the style that I could live with for the next 20-30 years, I settled on Country French or New Country as I call it.

Country French is a design style that mixes rustic, industrial (some) with French couture. There is a sense of elegance to the style, but not too much “fancy” to ruin my appreciation of farmhouse and Americana. Country French embraces the beauty and boldness of the Queen Anne and Victorian period all the while keeping things fresh and light. Typically this style includes a lot of white, beiges, creams with mixtures of blues, greens, browns, and reds.

I am not glitz and glamour, but there is a part of me that enjoys some sparkle. I like mercury glass for example, and I appreciate old mirrors with film and haze. I like whitewashed furniture with ticking, toile, and checks. I like beiges, tans, creams, and white along with lots of brown. I like the way that these colors blend with one another. I am a bit shabby as the fad goes in that I do like crystal chandeliers and English transferware. I like doilies, Battenberg lace, and slipcovered sofas and chairs. In all, I am Country at heart, but with an upscale and desire to bring in rustic comfort.

My bedroom, for example, is a little bit Country French. I have added some pieces overtime, but I still don’t have the look quite right. Partly this is due to a lack of space, but also it is due to the fact that I have had to start over. I was thinking back to my first apartment. My ex-husband and I had a rag-tag collection of furniture, mostly cast offs. I decorated our apartment in what would be called “Flea Market” or today, “Shabby Chic.” I didn’t know that I was doing that back in the early 80s, when all the rage was primitive country, but I liked the colors of roses, the sway of geraniums, and the old fashioned way lace curtains ruffle in the breeze. Yes, I was a shabby girl, but I never knew it.

Years later, almost every magazine I would pick up at the market would be one that featured my colors, my style. I didn’t put any name to it until just recently when I started to think about decorating my own place — my first real home — and I had to make a decision as to how I would do it. Now, I am content. Now, I have a style in mind, and while my final version may not be catalog worthy, it will be unique to me, and it will represent all the things I love most — white, creams, tans — and beautiful light (soft, creamy wonderful light). Yes, I am ready to decorate, ready to create my own style, to design my own place, and ready, thank the Lord, to embrace a style that says, “Hey world, this is ME!”
My Purpose and My Identity

How is decorating important to my sense of self? I have prayed about this for a while, and I asked the Lord why He was so bent on having me explore design styles. Sure, I needed an outlet for my frustration, and Pinterest fit the bill. But in truth, I think there was more to me accepting my style, finding a style, I should say, and then really embracing it. First off, I really had to come to terms with an important point and that was that my identity (the real me) is founded in Christ. I am a Child of God, and I find all value, worth and esteem in His opinion of me. He has accepted me as His own child, and as such, I am valued by Him. He esteems me, loves me, cares for me, and as a result, I am no longer at odds with the Lord. I am on His side, so to speak.

My identity is not found in the work I do. I am a teacher. Teaching is a label for me, and yes, it is something I do and I love to do. However, my identity is not formed through my teaching. I teach because the Lord provided teaching as a career for me to do to earn income and to pay bills. I appreciate the fact that teaching suits me, that I love to do it, and that the Lord chose a way for me that blesses me day in and day out. However, I do not find my joy, my satisfaction or my good pleasure in teaching. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but my joy, my satisfaction, and my good pleasure come from my relationship with the Lord. He is my everything, and He is the source of all my sufficiency.

Secondly, once I accepted my identity as being rooted and firmly planted in Christ, I began to think about how my identity is shaped (internally) and expressed (externally). What do people see when they look at me? Do they see a fashion model? Do they see a Mom? Do they see a teacher? What do they see in me, personality wise, when they meet me? Do they read correctly that I am a wholly devoted follower of Jesus Christ or do they see the world first and Christ second? More so, when people come into my home what do they find? Do they find the world, the trappings of the world or do they find a community of hope, love, and mercy? How does my external world match with my internal world? What message do I communicate to those around me, outside my family?

With all of these questions in mind, I started to think about how I need to work on my external world. I need to shape my external world so that it matches what I say I believe, feel, and think on the inside. I need to create spaces that cause people to feel welcome, at home, and to make them want to sit a while. I started to view my space as more than “my space.” I started to see the spaces I inhabit as community spaces where people can gather together. With this new mindset, I realized that I had to design space that suited more than just my style preference. I needed to design space that embodied what the Lord wanted to do in that space. In this way, my personal space merged with public space, and as a result, my ideas, my thoughts on what would work/not work changed. Now, I am not saying that my private home needs to be designed like a Starbucks, but I am saying that my private space needs to function like a Starbucks. It needs to be open to strangers, comfortable for sitting, lounging, and just hanging out. It needs to have a vibe, a good vibe, and that good vibe is created through a combination of several things.

Space: In interior design, the way a space is laid out is important to the overall atmosphere. Open spaces suggest an invitation whereas closed spaces say “stay out.” Space design needs to be considered, especially in furniture choice and placement. Lighting in space design is also really important because how a space is lit will determine how people feel about using the space. Bright light is good for working, soft light is good for romance or quiet study.

Function: The function of a room is also an important consideration. Tiny rooms make it really difficult to have people in them. If there is no room to move around, the function of the space becomes diminished. Large rooms, on the other hand, can give plenty of space for activities, but without careful planning, they can also feel like bowling alleys or conference rooms (no personality or so large they are like a cavern).

Style: Style refers to how a room is decorated. It can be a combination of furnishings, but it can also be designed with hardscape (flooring) or wall surface. For example, tile or wood floors give a certain feel to a room. Barn siding also can create a certain feel or look. Likewise, open arches or cut-outs in the wall shout modern or contemporary whereas columns or other architectural detail say traditional. Colors from darks to lights give a room a presence, and lighting as mentioned before can illuminate a room and make it more functional or practical.

I’ve thought a lot about the space I inhabit. Right now, my space is limited to my room. Although, I share an entire 4-bedroom home with my parents and son, my personal space is really just a 11x11 room. Someday, though, I will have my own home. I will have more space to design, and I want to make sure I am on the right track, thinking community rather than private, and being open to the idea of sharing my space with my brothers and sisters in Christ as well as those who are seeking to learn more about Him.

The space requirements that I have are minimal now, but in time, I see that I need private and public space in my home. I also need professional space. I need a full office to do my work from home. I need a bedroom for my rest and relaxation. I need public space in a kitchen, dining area and common area for when I entertain friends and family. My son, should he remain with me, needs a bedroom and a studio room. Thus, at a minimum, we need a 4-bedroom house. If I want guests to stay over, I need 5 bedrooms. It is hard for me to imagine that I need this much space, but since I work from home, my space allocation doubles.

The function of these rooms, the public ones, is pretty simple. I need a place where people can sit and talk. I need a place where people can watch TV (movies or other things). I need a place to prepare food. I need bathrooms, of course, and then laundry facilities. In short, I need my space to function well. I need a decent size kitchen, not a galley hallway. I need space for a big table with at least 8-10 chairs. I need a family area where I can have me big screen TV and enough seating to accommodate 10 people easily. Yes, I intend to host gatherings whereby I will easily have 8-10 people in my home.

Thus, as I think about the space and the function, I must consider what to do with that space once I have it in hand. I can certainly just leave it as a blank canvas, a big white box (or tan as most come these days). But, since I am familiar with design and how atmosphere is created with lighting, furniture and placement, I realize that in order to create an inviting place where people feel welcome, I must also consider the colors and the overall effect that each room has on visitors. Therefore, the past 10-months of pinning had purpose outside of simply helping me relax and rest from my hard work of teaching and doctoral study. Yes, my pinning prepared me to design a home that will be used by the Lord for His work and His will. Selah!
In Closing

As I think about all of this today, I am reminded that the Lord does nothing short of perfection. He leaves “no stone unturned,” and in this way, He is careful regarding details. He lacks nothing when it comes to designing spaces that He intends to use, and with a humble spirit, He will help, guide, and provide so that the spaces we create and live in and enjoy can be used for His praise, honor, and glory.

Today, consequently, I learned that my space, as much as it is about me, is also His space, and in this way, His design, style, and management requires that I let go, and that I let Him direct me so that what is created suits His purpose. His purpose, I should note, is above and beyond my purpose. His purpose factors in my needs, but ultimately, it is about His work and what He intends to do in and through the space He provides for that work.

June 23, 2017

Friday or FRI-YAY!

It is a good day in sunny and hot, Phoenix. Yes, it is set to be another HOT day in the Valley of the Sun. I am getting used to the triple digits, but part of me still hopes for some break from the monotony of the “same old, same old” thing. I checked the weather report for day, and the forecast calls for sun (no surprise there) and 112 degree heat. Yes, it is summer in Phoenix!

Summer Days and Summer Plans

Summer days like we have in June call for smart planning. It is impossible to spend the day outdoors, so instead, options for work indoors take preeminence. For me, that includes teaching summer school online, but also it includes some work around the inside of the house. Yesterday, for example, I finally made the decision to do something about the fish tank in my room. The tank has been 3/4 full for over a month now, and it has remained empty since my fish, Lenny, passed away back in early March. For a time, I thought I might want to get another fish, but with my schedule and such, I decided that it was best to forgo fish and let the tank be used by someone else who really loves fish or has a need for a good 20 gallon tank to house reptiles.

So with this plan in mind, yesterday, I did the deed. I emptied the 20 gallon tank and took it outside to dry. I still need to clean it, but I intend to offer it for sale to anyone who might want it. The process of cleaning out the tank took less time than I had thought, but the benefit of doing it yesterday meant that I had the opportunity to reorganize my room a bit. I took some photos of my room after cleaning, and I have to say that I really like to “look.” I still want to change a few things around, but for now, I am happy with what I have done to make my room feel a bit more “Shabby” and a bit more like me (or my style).

One of the things I would like to do today (if I can) is find a piece of metal art to go above my bed. I was looking online at Kirklands, and I found this really cute scroll work piece for $15.

I need to go over to the store to see if they have it in stock. If not, I can order it online and have it shipped to the store for free. I think the scroll work will look better on my wall than the country folk art print that is there now.

Another item that I need to buy is a small mirror to go in the space between the lamp and the end of the bed frame. Now that the fish tank is gone, this space looks empty. I thought about putting up a picture, but I think a square or round mirror will look nicer. I found this little round scalloped mirror at Target for $15. I think it is a bargain and it will look great in this spot.

I am also thinking of spray painting my headboard white. I’ve vacillated about whether to paint it black or white for 6-7 months, but now that I am sort of going all “Shabby” in my room, I think white suits my style best. My Dad said he would help me, but the heat is pretty intolerable, so I think painting the headboard will have to wait until fall. I could just buy a new headboard, but I kind of like this one. It is just this weird green color — sort of a light sage green. I really would prefer it to be either white or black.

I’ve blogged about how I am running out of book space for a while now, and the small shelf unit I bought to hold the tank never really was used for anything other than storage. I am trying to figure out how I can get another bookcase in my room without giving up my bed or dresser or desk, but so far, I am stuck. I pretty much just cram my books into the case as I can, which is not a pretty look. One area I have considered repurposing is the area where the cat condo sits. My cats don’t use this condo at all, except to get cat toys (I tossed them on the floor for the photo). 

I have about 40 inches between the book case and my file cabinet/printer (not shown). I’ve thought about getting one of those cheapy book/cubby units at Walmart. I thought I could turn it on its side and then create a book space as well as a kitty window seat.

Now, though, I have turned it into a display place and bookshelf/unit, which means that my desk has miraculously gone from cluttered to cleared (yay!) 

Today, my task is to clean out my buffet. I use my buffet as a catch-all for books and papers, and every so often it gets stuffed to the point where it is overflowing. I have wanted to declutter it as well, so the plan is to work on the buffet later this afternoon.

Theology and Bible books are on the first shelf behind the glass

The drawers and doors are crammed with storage and paper

In all, I am feeling good about my space again. I am feeling like there might be a way to make my small room more appealing, and while I cannot move to my own place just yet, I can start to plan some small changes in preparation for that move.

One of the areas I think I will work on next, after the buffet that is, is the bathroom. My bathroom is used by me and my son, and it is beige and blue and sort of a “Beach” feel. I never really decorated it when we moved in because I didn’t have the time to do it. I used my Mom’s decor from her old house, and simply bought a blue/green shower curtain to pull everything together. I like blue, mind you; but I really prefer my Shabby Chic look in beige, cream, and white better. I am thinking the easiest fix is to change the shower curtain (for white), purchase a new beige rug, and then pick up a few new white towels to go with all the gold, beige, and brown towels I have now. Then, I will add some shabby decor, and presto! My bathroom will look more like my room in an instant.

After the bathroom is redecorated, I plan to focus on the hall closet that sits right outside my bedroom door. It is jammed as well, and the space is really not very functional. I need to clean it out, toss out all the old towels and linens and then use some plastic bins to sort and organize some of the items that are stored in there so that I can use them as needed. Right now, I have to dig around and often I don’t even know if what I want is in the closet or not.

Making New Plans

I guess you can say that I am trying my best to make the “most” of my current living situation. I am trying to make my style come about despite the fact that I live with my parents in a home we both rent. I am trying to make my home look more like me and less like my Mom. Although, I love my Mom and her style has always been traditional, I simply prefer something different, and now after living together for 4 years, I am really feeling the desire to make a home “nest” again. I want to have a place that is mine, reflects my style, and feels “good to me.” I hope that doesn’t sound crazy, but I have this desire to “nest,” and no, I am not pregnant or thinking about marriage or a major lifestyle change. I think I am just ready to set down roots, dig in, and make a life for myself. And, making a life means to me, making my style, embracing my style, and making my home reflect me and my identity. It is what I desire now that I am almost 55 years old, and while I am content to remain as I am, sharing this home with my parents and son, I feel that the time has come for me to step out and be my own person. I am ready to be ME.

The plans the Lord has for my life include, I believe, a place of my own. I believe this is right and proper, and since I am now a professor and capable of earning a decent living wage, I feel that I am ready to act and live like a grown up acts and lives. Mind you, I do live this way now, but I really want my own space, and in that desire comes freedom to do as I please (within the Lord’s will, of course). I really want to have my own place, with my own things, and designed and styled to suit my preferences.

I know that I must wait for this to be. I cannot have what I want now. I have to be patient, and in time, I will have what I want. I will be able to have all the things I desire, and to design and decorate once I am on my own. Until then, I simply can dream and envision, and yes, design a little bit here and there, as the Lord provides and wills it to be so. He knows my needs. He knows me best, and He knows that there are times when I do feel really constrained to remain in my very small space. I know also that my son feels this way too. He feels cramped in his small room, and since we both intend to work from home, to have studio and office space, we really need a house that is designed to function in this way. We cannot do proper business from a bedroom that is shared sleep and work space. No, we need enough room to spread out, to have sleeping space for relaxing and retreating after a long day, and functional office/studio space where we both can be creative, inventive, and yes, do research and study.

My parents do not understand this as a need. They simply see life through old-fashioned 9-5 eyes. My Dad thinks we spend too much time in our rooms, but that is because he sees work as something to you do outside the home. Work at home is for hobbies, for play, for enjoyment — it is not for income or a profession. But, in 2017, work from home is a viable way to earn a living, and since I teach from home and my son intends to compose and record music from home, well this then is our life. Our needs are shifting now to compensate for those needs.

In time, the Lord will provide — of this I am sure. My hope today is for some movement forward in the Lord’s plan for my life. I am waiting for my transcript to post, and then I feel confident that the Lord will show me that full-time job. I believe everything hinges on my degree posting, and until it does, I am stuck in “status quo” mode. I will wait, Lord. I will be patient. I will endure until the time comes when you release me to go forward, to embrace the life you have called me to live.

In Closing

As I close this blog post today, I remember that nothing will happen outside the Lord’s will for my life. Nothing will change until He says “change.” Until then, I look up. I rest in His timing, and I wait for His word to go, to stay, to change, to move. He is the author and finisher of my faith, and He has a great plan in store for me. I must heed His timing, His direction, and above all, His counsel. I must listen, abide, and heed — obey — and in this way, His work, His will, and His way will come to pass in and through my life. It is so. So be it, Lord. Amen.

June 22, 2017

God’s Goodness is Real!

Happy Thursday! Yes, it is Thursday, and I am sitting at my computer this morning giving the Lord praise for His goodness. I am so happy, so very happy. I should say that I am filled with joy — the joy of the Lord — as well as filled with a sense of wonderment and awe.

This morning, I received an update from Regent University Advising that said that my transcript issue was being resolved. Praise God! I should say that yesterday, I called the registrar to inquire as to the delay in receiving my transcript. I was concerned about the protracted delay, and the fact that most of my colleagues had already received their official transcripts. I had called before my Indiana trip and I was assured my transcript would post within 1-2 days. Unfortunately, 12 days later — and I still have no transcript. I didn’t want to seem impatient, so after some prayer, I made the decision to follow up to see if there was any issue, any problem.

It was a good thing that I did because it turned out that there was a clerical error in processing my cohort’s evaluations. Apparently, the catalog for 2012-13 said a course, COM 788, was needed for graduation. But, the department changed that requirement for students after 2013 (my group). So starting with my class, this course was moved to an elective in the catalog, and another course was required in its place. In truth, I don’t think any of us even knew about the class because it was never offered in the registration system (I digress).  The problem was that the catalog said the course was required, and the degree evaluators couldn’t approve the degree without proof of passing the class. The COM department needed to provide a waiver of sorts (a petition) to have the class removed from our degree evaluation requirement. This petition was included with our file, but the holdup for my degree was due to this paper not being attached (or misplaced). Advising said that several of my peers were also in the same boat, and that there were a couple of us still waiting for their transcript to post.

The good news is that my call triggered an alert in the registrar's office as well as in advising. So now, the problem is being resolved as we speak, and according to Advising, I should expect a degree posting by the end of the week!

God is good. He is so very good to me!

Yes, it is a good Thursday, and I am thanking the Lord for His mercy and His goodness in this particular situation. More so, I am thanking Him for His graciousness to me. I am praising Him for His work, and for His ability to help me to see the problem more clearly. Furthermore, I am in awe of His kindness toward me. I certainly do not deserve it. I really do not deserve His grace at all, but I am thankful for it. Today, I have my answer. Today, I have clarification. Today, I have some closure on a rather sticky and unknown situation.

Coming to a Place of Clarity

As I think about my recent good news, I marvel at the Lord. I am filled with wonder and awe, and I am reminded of His goodness, and His participation and presence in my life. More so, I think about the fact that just yesterday, I was stressed about my transcript delay, stressed about my life being so unresolved, and stressed over my future opportunities (the big unknown). Yes, just yesterday, I was stressed beyond imagination, and I was in this rather unpleasant state of mind. Let me explain...

You see, even though I was resting in the Lord (or trying to do so), my mind was wandering about aimlessly, and I was hopelessly in a funk. I felt unresolved inside. I felt tension between what I know and what I don’t know, and no matter how hard I tried to let it go, let the unknown and the feelings of things being unresolved go, I simply couldn’t do it. I tried. I tried really hard to be at peace, and despite having peace internally (inside, peace with God, etc.), I simply didn’t have peace in my outer life. I didn’t have peace in my life.

Last night, I struggled to the point of feeling unwell. I had a headache by the time I went to bed, and I struggled to fall asleep. Then, after some turning, I prayed over my situation. I prayed about what was going on inside, and I prayed about my response to it. You see, all my fussing and flurrying around was having no effect. I wasn’t receiving clarification from anyone, not even the Lord. I was simply feeling confused, confounded, and without clarification, I found myself unable to be calm in the midst of the storm.

I prayed to the Lord, asked Him to help me see my way through the clouds, and thankfully, the Lord provided a way for me to find clarity. He didn’t provide closure, mind you. I didn’t get a big windfall that solved all my problems, so to speak. Rather, I simply was able to see how my actions were contributing to the problem, how my unwillingness to accept His timing was causing all sorts of frustration for me, internally and externally. I was a jumbled mess simply because I was unwilling to wait, to patiently wait. I was unhappy about the delay, and not just for my transcript, but also for potential work, and all that unhappiness was coloring my outlook. I was two-faced, so to speak. I put on a happy outward face, but inside, my face was a grumbling mess. Yes, I was unhappy about the delay, the messed up paperwork, and the fact that my transcript was holding up my forward progression.

If you read my blog yesterday, you will recall that I had a dream about being stuck in a parking lot. I was in my car, engine revving, but I couldn’t move because the lot was jammed up. No matter how I tried to move, left or right, I simply couldn’t get myself out of that jam. I had to patiently wait for the cars up ahead of me to move. Likewise, my dream was a metaphor for my physical reality. Yes, I was jammed up, so to speak, in real life too. My life was on hold simply because my transcript and my degree were not officially conferred. In so many ways, I was stuck waiting on paperwork. I was stuck waiting for people and things to move -- to move out of my way -- to allow me to begin to move forward.

I know a transcript doesn't seem like a big deal, but to me, it really is the "open door" that leads to new teaching venues and jobs. In fact, I have been waiting for my transcript to post so I can be approved to teach at Grantham University. My potential employment has been sitting on hold for almost three months. I also know that I cannot be hired for the permanent position the Lord has for me until my transcript posts. If I intend to start full-time this fall, I have to have “degree in hand,” as they say. I have to be able to prove that my degree is conferred, and the only acceptable way to do that is to provide an official transcript. So you see, my entire life is on hold — I cannot move forward — until my transcript from Regent University posts so that I can request an official copy for prospective schools.

All of this is to say that the Lord has been telling me to be patient, to wait, to let things resolve. I, of course, said I would do this, but when push came to shove, I started to worry. I started to panic. I started to get angry. Sigh! I did everything EXCEPT be patient. And, in my failure to be patient, I started to suffer internally. I started to suffer simply because I refused to do what the Lord asked me, no -- told me -- to do.

The good news is, of course, that with this new information in hand, I am able now to rest. I am able to see a tiny bit of movement. I can see the car in front of me move forward -- just a bit -- and that little bit of movement gives me encouragement. God is good. He gives us encouragement when we need it most. I am encouraged today because I can see a light at the end of my tunnel. I can see light now when before I just saw more darkness. I can see the possibility of movement (HOPE), and I can see that my life really will start moving again. Soon. Soon. So very soon.

So what does this mean for me today?

Well, it means that I can rest in several areas in my life. I can rest in the knowledge that my degree is approved, evaluated, and yes, completed. I really am a PhD (LOL!) Secondly, it means that in a couple days to a week, I will have an official transcript that can be supplied to prospective schools.  Third, it means that resting in the Lord also includes waiting. Sometimes we rest when we are weary, but sometimes we must cease striving. I was reminded of Psalm 46:10 last night, which says: Be still and know that I am God. Be still (rest, stop moving) and remember who God is and what He is capable of doing. The Message says it this way:

Attention, all! See the marvels of God!
He plants flowers and trees all over the earth,
Bans war from pole to pole,
breaks all the weapons across his knee.
“Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
loving look at me, your High God,
above politics, above everything.”

The point being that in the midst of our struggles and strife, being still means to look up and recognize (acknowledge) the ONE we worship. We worship the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. We worship the Holy One of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Yes, we worship the One True God, the Living God, and not a God made with hands -- by human hands.

In all my striving to know, to understand, to grasp some word, some kernel of knowledge, I simply forgot to rest in the One who holds my future, the One who keeps His word to me, and the One who knows my length of days. I forgot to do as Solomon said in Proverbs 3, verses 5-6 (The Message),

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.

In hindsight, I looked to my own way, my own hand, and as such, I found confusion and discomfort. However, when I rested, trusted, and leaned on the Lord, I found my peace again. I found the patience to wait, the fortitude to rest, and the resilience to simply let Lord do what He does best, and that is to orchestrate the details of my life.

Moving On and Making Headway

Therefore, with all of this fact and figure in mind, I know today that I am right where the Lord wants me to be. I am in the middle of His will, and with this truth, I am moving at His pace and not mine. I may not like the fact that right now I am tarrying a while as the river moves me ever so slowly toward my destination, but there is a reason for it. God has decided how fast I am to move forward. He has chosen this pace for me -- for a reason. Perhaps He knows that I am busy enough as is. Perhaps He knows that I need to physically rest more, that I am not quite ready to jump into full-scale teacher mode just yet. Or perhaps He knows that the school that intends to hire me isn't quite ready for me to apply, to interview, to be hired. I don't know, but there is reason for the slowness. What is more is the fact that now that I know that the reason for my transcript delay (and it isn't my fault), I also know that there really isn't anything I can do about it. I cannot make the paper trail proceed any faster than it is going today. I cannot run the paper from here to there --> meaning --> I cannot get that little paper from an office in VA (Advising) to another office in VA (Registrar). It is out of my hands, thus I need to let this be. I need to let this rest.

Joyce Meyer tells a story of her daughter and how she always shrugs her shoulders and says, "whatever" to situations that she cannot control. She says that it is her daughter's personality to be really low-key. In one particular video clip she says that her daughter will simply say, "Whatever" when the circumstance is beyond her control. I remember laughing at seeing her shrug her shoulders and just walk about the stage. In one of her devotions on worrying, she writes:

"So stop worrying about everything, give it to God, and live in grace. Grace isn't just divine favor—it's power! Don't waste another day of your life worrying. Determine what your responsibility is and what it is not. Don't try to take on God's responsibility. When we do what we can do, God steps in and does what we can't" (Meyer, 2017).

Worrying about situations you cannot control can lead us to lose our peace, our joy, and in this way, we can become embroiled in a battle that really doesn't need to be fought. Meyer (2017) says it this way,
"Worry and worship are exact opposites, and we'd all be much happier if we learned to become worshippers instead of worriers. Worry opens the door for the devil, but worship is reverence and adoration for God that leads us into His presence. God created us to worship Him, and I don't believe we can walk in victory if we don't become worshippers. Sometimes when we don't have what we need or want, the enemy tries to discourage us and keep us from worshipping God. But when we know that God has our best interests at heart, we can worship Him regardless of our circumstances. Remember, God is good even when our circumstances are not! God doesn't always give us our heart's desire right away. He wants us to develop a deep, personal relationship with Him and an outrageous love for Him so much so that we can't live without it. This kind of relationship and love brings the worshipful attitude that God wants us to have."
Worry or Worship? It is our choice.

I know that I don't have that same attitude. I am a worrier. I am someone who MUST KNOW and when I don't have details, I tend to panic and try to figure things out. I guess it is my analyst brain at work, but often my need to know gets me into hot water. I simply find that when I don't know details, logistics, data, I suffer. My brain goes into overload mode, and I begin to analyze everything I can get my hands on in order to help me come to some conclusion. The problem with this approach is that while it is good to analyze data for research or for problem solving, sometimes, the problem is not solvable, especially when it is spiritually grown. In real life problems, analyzing data can and should be a proper step in understanding and creating solutions. 

However, in spiritual contexts, sometimes analyzing doesn't help, especially if the problem is not of the will. What I mean by that is simply that when we sin or have an issue of willfulness, then analyzing the root of the problem often reveals our part in its creation. We can come to terms with behaviors and attitudes that led to the problem, and with humility, we can take steps to change our minds, our hearts, and our actions. In this way, we can hopefully make changes that will lead to resolution. But, with problems that are not under our control or our influence, our meddling doesn't improve the situation. No matter how well we analyze the data, there might be nothing we can do to change the outcome. 

In these cases, as my transcript delay illustrates, there is nothing we can do but accept the delay and learn to deal with the emotional and intellectual disruption. We simply have to DEAL WITH IT. In this way, we need to have a "Whatever" attitude because there nothing we can do, and being upset or angry, will only serve to cause us suffering (more than the waiting, more than the patience, more than the situation warrants).

In Closing

As I close this blog post, I am reminded of this verse from scripture (Matthew 6:34, MSG), which says,

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

I worry about things I cannot control even though I know better. I worry about my future plans, the hopes and dreams I have in my heart and whether or not they will come true. I worry about what will happen to my family, my parents, my son, and in all of this worry, I forget to remember that most of what concerns me are details and logistics that are outside my control, out of my hand. I am consumed with what if and what may be, when in truth, I should be resting in the knowledge that my Lord has all of these details well in hand. He knows me well. He knows me so well, and He has my life ordered, planned and prepared. I don't have to worry because God is the One who is the keeper and controller of my days. He has me well-covered. Amen, so be it, selah!

Today, I am choosing to put on an attitude that rests in the Lord, trusts in His will and word, and believes in His power to effect change in and through my life. He is able, more than able to handle anything and everything that concerns me this good, good day. He is good to me, so very good to me. He has a great plan for my life, and in and through His merciful will, He has made a way for me to go. I will go and do His work. I will go and do what He asks me to do. I will go. I will follow. I will let Him lead, guide, and provide for me this good, good day.