June 11, 2017

Getting Ready to Go!

It is Sunday, and I am here at home, planning out my day in order to be ready to travel tomorrow a.m. to Indiana. I have most of my errands and other tasks completed, but I have a long to-do list that includes trip prep and packing along with school-related activities. I will have my laptop, so my students won't really know any difference, but I will be MIA on both Monday and Friday while I am traveling to and from Indiana. My prayer today is to enjoy the blessed morning -- the peace and the quiet -- before the rush of the day hits hard.

My parents are over at their church and my son is doing his thing at Central. I am here at home, car-less again, but plan on watching the live service from SBC at 11. I look forward to the day when I will have my car back, but until that day, I am content to do this type of churchgoing. I find the whole process interesting and since I am a media studies scholar, the idea of online streaming church intrigues me. Yes, I am part of the techno-generation of Christians who are choosing online church rather than in-person church. Sigh!

God is good to me, nonetheless, and He has provided a wonderful church for me to attend, one that has been a staple in my spiritual diet for now on 20 years. I love my church, but I have been disconnected from it for too long. My prayer is to reconnect once my car is returned, and then to get plugged in for fall. Right now, I am still leaning toward helping with Awana, but that may change as I get closer to fall, and I see how much time I have to invest every week. I am open to it, and Lord willing, if He has other plans, He will simply move me to where He wants me to be settled, ministry-wise. God be praised, He is good. He will do it. I  believe it and I have faith and confident hope that He will keep His word to me. He is faithful! Always, He is faithful!
Readying Myself

As I sit here and blog, I am steadily coming to terms with the fact that the Lord intends to keep me here in Phoenix -- despite what I may desire or long for -- and in doing so, this establishment is part of His will, His overarching will for my life. There is something for me to do here, right here in this place, and while I have longed to leave it for many years and many reasons, the Lord intends for me to do good practical and prosperous work here in this very city. I have come to loathe Phoenix, simply because of the memories I have here, but also because of the oppressive heat. Yet, the Lord has said to me that I am to remain, and with that command, I must stop thinking about this place in negative terms. Instead, I must begin to see the opportunity that abounds here in Phoenix, and I must understand that with the Lord, all things are possible. He can turn my night into day, and my day into night, and likewise, He can make a negative turn into a positive PDQ!

My life in Phoenix has been long and difficult. It is not the life I hoped to have lived for certain, but it is the life I did live, and with that realization, I understand that the past cannot be changed. The future is yet to be discovered, but the present here and now, is open for experience. I choose how to proceed. I choose how to live each day, and I can choose to be happy and be content -- or I can choose to be miserable and sad. I am choosing the former this good day. I am choosing to live each day happy, blessed, and oh so fortunate because the Lord, my Savior, is my King, my Shepherd, and my Rock!

As I process this information, I realize that for a long time now, I have known that the Lord would keep me here in Phoenix. I wanted to go elsewhere. I wanted to live in another place, to start over, to have my own life -- my way. But, I also wanted to go where He sent me, live where He said I was to live, and of course, do the work He had prepared me to do. I just never thought that the Lord would choose to make Phoenix my hub. I never thought that He would keep me here and let me make this place my home. I didn't want this to be my home. I didn't want to remain. I didn't want to stay any longer than I had to stay, yet the Lord has done nothing to move me elsewhere. He has opened no doors for me in other states, even places where I prayed and asked to be moved. He has only opened doors here. He has only made life possible for me here. What does this mean? Well, I think it means that I can keep on looking for doors to open elsewhere, but until that time, I have to take advantage of the doors that are wide open and waiting for me to walk through now. I can be hopeful, confidently hopeful, but the fact is that God has given me green light to settle here. He has made a way for me to be settled now, and there is a way for me to be settled in my future as well. I just don't think that I am to physically go anywhere for a while, and that while may turn into an entire lifetime.

Thus, as I think about all of this data now, I realize that I have been looking for happiness in every place but right where I live. I have looked to jobs, people, places -- trees and green grass -- as ways to make me happy. I have wanted a different life, one that looked different from what I currently have, and as such, my focus became so centered on this type of life that I stopped moving forward in my own little corner of the world. I believed that my life would begin after I graduated from Regent. I have believed that a job would come forth, and with that job, I would move to some wonderful place. Now, I see that the various jobs I do are important, and with each job, I have possibilities that are open-ended. I may never be hired to teach full-time at any of these schools, but each school offers me something, and each school has been gracious to me, they've hired me to do this work.

I am contracted at several good schools, and with those contracts, I am able to live comfortably throughout the year. I have good work planned for fall, and while it is not full-time as of yet, it is good practical work. Furthermore, the house I live in now is safe. It is in a safe neighborhood, and it is a place that is affordable in our present situation. It is not perfect -- nothing is perfect -- but what I have to live on and where I live is good. It is good. I have no lack.

I have decided to embrace what God has provided, to thank Him for it, and to be grateful for every morsel, every blessing, every opportunity. I am grateful, and I have a confidence in the Lord that tells me that I am to remain -- faithful, diligent, and hopeful -- and I am to expect good things from Him each and every day. I may never have my farm in the country or my cabin in the woods, but I will have a good life with good work, good people, and good outcomes. I will have a good life, and for that fact, I cannot complain. I must not complain.
Listening to His Voice

I listen carefully to His voice, and His voice says to me that I must remain. I wonder if He means "remain still" or if He means "remain where you are." I wonder if "remain" is conditional or if it is permanent as in "remain permanently still; remain permanently where you are?" Am I to remain fixed physically like in Phoenix? Or am I to remain fixed spiritually like where I am now?

Sometimes the Lord tells us to do something that is physically oriented. Other times, He tells us to do something that is 100% spiritual. I can move spiritually just as well as I can move physically, but which is which and when do I move and where? It can be difficult to understand if the Lord is asking us to move spiritually, to grow and to mature through deeper faith and belief. It can also be difficult to know if the Lord is saying "go to this place" like when He told Abram to leave Ur and go to Canaan. How do we know which is which? How do we know when to pack up our things and move on or when we are to sit still, but move internally, spiritually, into deeper and more developed places of intimacy with the Lord?

I struggle with knowing the difference. I have for a long time, and this means that I have vacillated about moving, going, and obeying simply because I couldn't discern the difference. I simply didn't know what He wanted from me. Did He want me to go to Tennessee? I would have sworn up and down back in 2007 that the answer to that question was a resounding "YES!" Now, I see that it may have been what He wanted, but I also see that it may have been a test in order to help me prepare for movement in my life, to prepare for life change. Case in point: after this time, my life changed drastically, and I did indeed move -- just not to Tennessee. I moved in life -- divorce and career -- and I ended up living on my own in a rented town home here in Phoenix.

In more recent years, I would have "bet the farm" so to speak that the Lord intended to move me to the Southeastern portion of the USA sometime after my graduation from college. Yet, here I remain. I am in Phoenix -- graduated -- and the Lord isn't pushing me to move to any of the states located in this region of the country. Why is this so? Perhaps it is because I confused physically going somewhere new with moving internally. Perhaps I thought that going to a new place was His desire for me when He was trying to tell me that He needed me to "grow up" internally so I could handle what He needed me to do.

I am not sure, I just can only see what is in front of me, and what is in front of me appears to be the latter. I have not moved in four years, and I don't see any opportunities for movement on the horizon. Instead, I see great internal movement, great growth, and great potential for continued growth. So whether I go or stay, I am to do as the Apostle says: "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31 NLT). I am to do whatever I do each and every day with this one thought in mind -- I am to work, to sit, to pray, to eat, and to drink -- with the attitude that brings glory and praise to God, the Father.

Does that mean that the Lord may move me in the future? Of course! In fact, I would say that now that I understand the two types of going, I see no conflict in moving physically to another place for the benefit of a good job, a better quality of life, or even for friendship, companionship, or simply enjoyment. Going and doing things in God's view is more about our inward motivation and our internal obedience thermometer. Are we walking in faith, hoping in confidence, and trusting in the Lord for His provision? If so, then for certain, He may move us to a new place simply to provide a higher standard of living, a better quality of life, or because it pleases Him to do so. 

Likewise, He may also keep us right where we are so long as it suits His purpose and need. For example, He may not move us physically from our home or work or church if there is reason to keep us settled. I mean, we may need the time to grow up, as I did here in Phoenix, living with my parents, and working toward my graduation from Regent. He said He would not physically relocate me until I was finished with my degree, and then it would depend on the job offer. So, I am where I am for a number of reasons including the fact that this is my home (I've lived here for 20 years), my son and my parents need me, and I needed to be settled while I was in school. Now that I am finished, I am ready to go as in "move" for a job. Yet, my son and my parents still need me, so while part of my life is ready to move on, there are other parts that are not. I cannot go and leave everything behind -- this would not please the Lord. I can wait, however, until my son is graduated and onto the next big adventure, and I can wait until the plans the Lord has for my parent's life are completed.

Thus, in all this talk of going and staying, I am more convinced that for now, my remaining here in Phoenix, and the Lord's command to "remain" are one and the same. I am to remain where I am because this is where the Lord has me planted. He may move me down the road, and He may choose to do so for a job offer or simply to bless me with a new type of home/life. However, He may also choose to keep me right where I am simply because it suits Him to do so, and because there are opportunities here to accomplish His will that I simply do not see or recognize.

In all things, I think what I have learned through this experience of going and moving and staying and remaining is that the Lord's vision is perfect whereas mine is dim and faulty. He sees my future, and He knows what will be possible as a result of my obedience and my faithful rest. He knows what He can do with me, and He knows what it will take to get me to do His work. Consequently, I have to trust the Lord completely. I have to believe that He knows what He is doing, and that the result of His actions will not only bless me spiritually, but that they will bless me physically (materially) as well.
In Conclusion

It is with a heavy sigh that I write this blog post today because I have wanted something different. I have wanted the thrill of moving elsewhere, and I have wanted the "newness" of living in a new way, in a new place, and around new things. Yet, in other ways, I sigh with relief because at least now I know that all my striving forward, looking at and wanting other places, was simply part and parcel with this life lesson. I was learning the lesson of being content. I was learning how to be at peace with a life that is less than perfect, in a place that is less than ideal, and with outcomes that are less than substantive. I was learning how to live with less, as Paul once said. I was learning to be content in my present circumstances, and to divest myself of my dreams, desires, and wants. My needs are met with His sufficiency, but my human wants and desires are fleshly. Mind you, they are not always wrong desires -- in fact -- my desires and wants have been quite good, spiritually and morally good. It was just that in serving God, I have had to learn that sacrifice means "everything." There is no "me" in His will. It is all His will, and while I desire certain things, good things, I have to relent and let these good things go, and in doing so, only then can I embrace the good things He has in store for me. I can only receive His reward if my hands are completely empty. Those hands, by the way, are both figurative and literal. I must empty myself of all my wants and desires so I can embrace the wants and desires God has for me. I cannot have my cake and eat it too. I must only wait for His cake, and when He provides it, then I can enjoy it -- savoring every last morsel of it's blessed goodness!

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