Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Healthier, Qieter, Connected

Healtier, Qieter, Connected - those are my three focus words for the upcoming year.

I don't want to set specific goals about how many pounds I'll lose or all the things I'll do but I want to focus on making some lifestyle changes. Just a few at a time. Lasting changes. I'm starting by actually going to the Doctor; something I never do. I'm going to find out my weight by their scales (always a few more pounds than our bathroom scale), cholestrol, and BMI. My work has a personal coach available via phone for a few sessions this upcoming year to set some goals and begin to make changes with an online tracking guide, so I'm going to take advanatage of it.

I've become convicted that in the stress of the workplace and life that I've started to get into a pattern of thinking I'm "venting", but what I'm really doing is talking bad of others. I don't want to be that way and, by God's grace and power, I'm going to stop. May He put a guard on my lips. May I come to Him with my grief, anxiety, and frustration; find my peace and solace in Him so that I can give to others.

Sometimes it's easy for me to go through spiritual motions as it were. I want to have more quality time with God, be more connected. I desperately need Him to become the wife, mother, employee and friend that my heart longs to me. I need His vision and inspiration and direction. Not to metion that He is so great, so awesome, so WORTHY that I want to be connected to Him.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A few choice Words

As I was driving to work yesterday the morning show radio host was talking about new year's resolutions. He said that he doesn't make them. He explained that for him that approach represents a pass or fail situation and he likes a more progress-oriented position. He said that a preacher years ago suggested an approach that he's been using ever since he heard about it. The idea is to pick a word for the year, a focus. His example was that last year he picked "deeper"; he wanted more in his relationships.

This approach appeals to me because I tend to be an all or nothing kind of person. I can get bogged down and discouraged by resolutions. I'm trying to change and to approach life more in terms of the 12-step slogan It's about Progress, not Perfection.

So this concept has been on the back burner of mind, simmering, since I heard it. I'm thinking that maybe I'll pick 1 - 3 words. I'm praying about it.

If you were to do this, what word(s) would you pick?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Grateful for His grace

As I was reading in Jonah this morning these words of Jonah's about God delighted me:

I knew this was going to happen! That's why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness! (Jonah 4:1B-2, MSG)

Isn't that just like God?!

And isn't that just human to sometimes be upset when we feel someone else isn't getting punished the way we think they should?

This morning I'm just plain grateful. Grateful for His grace and mercy. I mess up constantly and I need him.

What about you?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

When the going gets tough I need to be grateful

Times have been just plain tough for me these past few months. I’ve battled frustration and exhaustion. Due to work and life demands I’ve often not even gotten enough sleep. But I know that when life gets tough I need God. Need to do things His way. That my hope is in Him. So I’m trying to choose to note, and reflect on, the blessings that come my way every day.
Colossians 3:15 directs the followers of God to:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
With this in mind I want to spend time today in gratitude and reflecting on recent blessings:
My niece has been studying some and says she’s actually starting to understand her math class sometimes. (She came to live with us this past August and her last progress report had 3 Fs and 1 D)
This same niece came to church today with her boyfriend.
The above mentioned boyfriend claims to be a Christian. I think they’re kind of the same type of Christians; she and he both have heard the Word and responded but are enticed by the world and are following after those things right now. But at least he’s open to the gospel and truth.
My middle son is open and honest with me. Even if right now he’s not sharing the things I wish he would; he’s into drinking alcohol and partying.
This same middle son is getting decent grades in college and has started a part time job now that football season is over. I’m also grateful that he’s in college on a football scholarship. Mostly grateful that God does have His hand on this young man's life and that my prayers for him are not in vain.
Friday afternoon the assistant warden at work came and sat in my office. He told me that the warden asked him to come talk with me. They wanted to let me know that they recognize that there’s no one in the facility that works harder or more hours than me. That they realize that I am getting nothing from anyone in the company and am on my own. They recognize that they had been beating me up all week and been so hard on me, because the customer ICE has been hard on them. They understand that many of the problems are not anything I can do anything about, and those that are, they see that I am working to resolve.
Oldest son Devon will be home for Christmas (I haven’t seen him since his college graduation in May 2010).
My husband John is encouraging, supportive, and loves me. That we we get to have time alone together.
That a friend took me to a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas home and quilt tour yesterday put on by the local quilt guild.
It’s beautiful and I live in Wrightwood with the clear skies and majestic tall pines.
Even though I’m tired and have so many challenges before me, I have so much to be thankful for. May I choose to think on these things.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Blessings keep coming

Lately I've been thinking about how blessings seem to follow the really tough times if you persevere, and about choosing to look for, acknowledge, and enjoy the blessings –and boy are those thoughts still relevant!

Yesterday was a really bad awful terrible day.

I worked 13 long hours and it seemed like nothing could go right. I had an hour meeting with the warden and assistant warden that turned out to be what I think of as an ambush meeting. The warden had emailed me over the weekend when I’d emailed updates to him regarding various detainee specific events, that he wanted to meet with me. I assumed it would be regarding all these events and came to the meeting prepared with a print out about detainee specific events and system issues. However, as the meeting progressed, it became apparent the topic of the meeting was how-medical-keeps-messing-up-and-had-better-stop-it. At the very end of the meeting the warden asked, so do you have anything for us? By that time I was exhausted and spent . He also said he’d like to do this every Monday and Friday and include the Chief of Security in our meetings; you can bet I’ll be ready to speak to their issues next time.

Because I did know about the meeting I got to work early; around 5:30AM. Since it was early I did not eat prior to work. The day was hectic, just one thing after another, so I didn’t get a chance to take a lunch break or eat. By the time I went to leave at the end of the day I was so exhausted that I absolutely could not remember by ID number to put my key back into the key watcher. I had to embarrassedly call the assistant warden on his cell, explain the situation, and request direction – I was mortified! Fortunately he was really kind to me and, after telling me what I needed to do, he told me to go home and get some rest.

So this morning I got to work early again and I prayed the whole way there. Today was another tough day but I had a strategy. I’ve started my campaign to train and delegate. We hired on some more staff so now there are enough people to do the work and I can get some of this way too much work off of my shoulders.

Sometimes it’s the little things that really get to me. That’s how it was today; it was those few small bright rays of blessing that made it all worthwhile. The staff who must have noticed that I often miss out on lunch and saved me a plate and brought it to me. Those staff who came to me requesting training and duties that I could delegate to them. It was as if some of my staff were actually looking out for me – and I don’t take that for granted. I’m grateful.

What are some of the little blessings that have come your way lately?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Unexpected blessings from unexpected places

You many have caught on by now that I work in an immigration detention center. I'm the health services administrator.

This means that I work around a bunch of alpha male macho men all the time. Not any of my staff, because in medical we're just a bit different than the rest of the facility, but the rest of the building are pretty much that way.

Sometimes they drive me nuts.

My experience is that many immigration agents really do think they're all that. That male wardens really are, when you're blessed to get a good one like I have, great leaders but really intense. Sometimes I find the intensity draining.

Recently I was talking with my oldest son Devon on the phone. We were sharing about what's going in our lives. At one point I was talking about how frustrated I am with how these guys all treat me sometimes at work. He commented that "you know it's because you're so nice all the time and they can treat you that way". (Devon works in the macho world of the US Army.) To which I replied that I think nice is grossly under rated in our society. That nice people make the world better.

I've thought about it since then, and even through sometimes people may mistake my kindness for weakness, I still believe I'm who God made me to be and that the world needs kind people. People who actually care about how others feel.

But sometimes the Holy Spirit in me prompts me to stand up for myself.

Just such an incident occurred recently during a department director's meeting with the warden. There are about 15 people in this meeting, most of them men. The warden started saying stuff about "not to be disrespectful" and talking trash about my psychiatrist in medical. Specifically in terms of his management of this one specific detainee. Without thinking about it, I heard myself utter the words: "but you are being disrespectful sir". I then explained that that our psychiatrist, psychologist, NP who has a specialty in psych, and myself who ran secured psych facilities for 10 years all see the situation the same way and it's him who has the outlier opinion.

The room was silent for that second after I spoke. I felt uncomfortable.

Then the warden started laughing. Possibly because I'm always so nice and put up with so much stuff from these guys all the time and here I was, in a public venue, calling him out, and it was just so unusual that it struck him as funny. He was very tickled and laughed quite a bit and even made a comment to the effect that the two guys (himself and the head ICE man on site) were the only two who thought this detainee was crazy and that they were the two crazy men. Then the meeting continued.

Afterward, I caught the female administrative lieutenant who was in the meeting and asked if she thought I'd been disrespectful. She smiled hugely and said no, that she wanted to cheer for me.

A day later I received an email from the warden wishing me a happy Thanksgiving and these words:

I appreciate your hard work, integrity, and honesty. You have a difficult, lonely, and thankless job. We will keep making progress. I do hope you know I am joking about making diagnosis. I don't have a clue and I definitely respect and trust you"

Words can't express what a blessing this email was to me!

How about you, have you had any unexpected blessings lately?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The blessing always seems to come after

I don't know about you, but for me I've repeatedly noticed this pattern in life. The pattern is that I get discouraged and tired and life gets really hard, so hard that I've just about given up. After things have gotten so bad that I feel like I just can't keep going, and by His grace and power I keep on, it's then that I see the blessings flow one after another.

For the last couple of days I've been thinking about these words from James 5:10-11, I adore the way Peterson has paraphrased them in The Message:

"Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You've heard, of course, of Job's staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That's because God cares, cares right down to the last detail."

Mentors are people who invest into your life. So I've decided I'm going to read anew the minor prophets so that their stories can affect my thoughts and perspectives. I also want to take some time to think on all the blessings that God's been bringing my way lately because sometimes I can get so busy looking at the tough stuff that I fail to enjoy all the good stuff that's right there.

How about you, have you noticed recently in your life that it's only after you've persevered that you've experienced His blessings?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Most excellent harmonies

Peterson, in The Message paraphrase, says Philippians 4:9 this way:

God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies

I want his most excellent harmonies in me and my life!

But I've had attitude problems lately. Attitude toward my boss on the GEO care side who gives me little to nothing in the way of instruction, training, or anything else I need, but garners up any good results to be attributed to himself. Of course he insures that any blame there may be to be had comes my way.

Yet I know in my head that I only need to run my race; to do that which God has set before me. I don't need to concern myself with what he does...yet I struggle in my emotions.

Hate to say it, but it doesn't end there. I've had attitude about my niece who came to live with us in August and who is basically failing in all her classes. Of course she was failing before she came to live with us too; but I'd thought we might be able to make a difference. We sure haven't yet. So I've let myself get out of sorts regarding this as well.

So it was with these struggles that I came to God today. Came and forced myself to praise Him (but have you ever noticed that once you make yourself start praising God; joy, reverence, and awe just take over?!) Chose to read aloud Philippians 4:4-9.

As I read the words there I felt impressed to spend some time this week looking at the topics listed in verse 8:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

To spend time in prayer, meditation, the Word, and where ever else the Spirit takes me, on each of these topics. That these thoughts would be more prevalent in my heart and mind. That God will use these thoughts to bring His peace to me and make me an excellent harmony.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Confused and Tired

I'm a bit confused right now.

I started a new job in August that I thought was what God had for me. Now I'm beginning to wonder....

We opened up on August 29 and since then my life has been working 12-16hr days 6 days a week, being on the phone with work frequently when I'm not there, being awakened during the night due to work calls, learning by constantly messing up (verses being trained), stress, constantly hearing from the warden how I've messed up. Add to that that we had 2 physicians who were over the top horrible (one was a princess who lasted 4 days and was very mean to the staff and the other was an unmedicated Bi-Polar who yelled and talked incessantly - honestly, I'm not making this stuff up!) that did not work out; so I've been without for much of this time. A nurse practitioner who loves God and is really skilled but who has missed 1/3 of the work days due to various reasons. Also we've been down an RN for 2 weeks. Maybe I'm dramatic but I feel like the children of Israel when Pharaoh had them continue to make bricks but did not give them the needed materials (Exodus 5:6-9). Also, I am willing to work really hard but I HATE when I can not do things well. I desire excellence; and right now I can not say that anything in my department is totally together. Even though it's not all my fault because I was not given what I need, I'm still here and it's me who's going to have to make it right.

On the other hand I've got some incredible, hard working, gifted, smart, likeable, and dedicated people working for me. I find my heart very attached to them; part of it is because we're going through so much together. We all love what we do and we're getting better every day. It's just that we were all thrown in here and told to do it from the ground up and we've been figuring out what it is and how to do it (such a ridiculous way for a large company to do things!) So I'm tired, and often feel like I could perform better if I could get some real rest.

I'm just sustaining in the rest of life so I know I've been a total wash out where a lot of things are concerned such as my husband, youngest son still at home, niece who came to live with us, Kingdom Bloggers, Women's ministry with our church, etc. I have been able to continue to have the very small group Bible study that meets at my home twice a month and it was like a steam of goodness washing over me this past week! The Word is good and I take time for God each morning....yet I feel guilty for struggling so.

I'm just kind of trying to figure out if I'm doing something wrong here and I'm not where I'm supposed to be, or if this is just a difficult time. Or am I where I'm supposed to be but I'm stupid or something? Am I doing something all wrong and not seeing it and that's what the problem is? Am I perhaps defective? I'm so physically tired that it makes it difficult to know for sure. I feel like this job is my responsibility so, until I know differently, I must do it to the best that I possibly can. I just can't tell if God is just using this to grow me and make me better, or if I really missed it and shouldn't be here at all.

Have you ever gone through a time in your life where it seemed like nothing was working right no matter how hard you tried? What helped you during that time?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Inward Reservoirs

I'm overly sensitive.

Sometimes I get caught up in trying to defend myself when I perceive criticism. My frequent prayer is that God would free me from these patterns of mine.

This morning I was reading in Luke 16, and this part of the 15th verse caught my eye:

You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others
Yep - sounds just like me sometimes. Initially as I read this I felt conviction and prayed for forgiveness.

But then as I was praying and meditating on this I was reminded about how I have freedom in the Spirit through grace and justification by faith alone. My security and peace in the face of my own failures, or even the false criticisms of othes, is not in my ability to explain why I messed up or explain how I did not. My security and peace flows out of drawing on the inward reserviors of God's assurance.

I needed this today. I love my job but one of the things I find frusterating is that frequently I am in situations where no matter what I do, I'm going to hear about it from the Warden. Fortunately the Warden is someone who I respect, admire and like. He's someone who is very respectful in his demeanor; it's just that this is a difficult environment to navigate and is extremely political. I've been praying about this a lot lately, and here this morning the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart!

What greater joy can I have than knowing that I am loved by God and acceptable in His sight because of the grace that's mine through Jesus?! These truths really put it all in perspective for me.

What's happened to you lately that's put things into perspective for you?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The gift of an open heart

This morning I was gripped, as usual, by the drama in the story as I read from Acts 16:11-40. But what really hit was these words from the second half of the 14th verse:

"As she listed to us, the Lord opened her heart"

I was struck anew with how it is God who opens our hearts; for salvation, for His presence, for His power, for understanding and wisdom. I was struck anew with my intense need for Him.

I'm so prone to wander over to the natural, to live by what I see in front of me. Lately, with all the challenges of opening up a new facility (long hours, calls from work during the night that interrupt my sleep, training staff and not always being successful, learning how things work, etc.), I've been tired. I've struggled with discouragement.

These words bring me back to God. May He open my heart up to Him.

I don't understand it all or have it all together, but somehow, I do know that it is in Him, in His presence and by His power in me, that life begins to work. It is in Him that I find beauty and joy.

This morning, as I sat out on our deck in the quiet of morning solitude, with the beauty of a blue sky above me and pine trees around me, I could experience His peace and refreshing well up within me. I had that sense that everything will be all right. I experienced the pleasure of being able to absorb the beauty around me.

How's God opened your heart up lately?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The blessing of a godly husband

One of God's greatest blessings to me is my husband John.

I'm feeling rather bad because I've been either at work (12-16 hour days) or on the phone to work, a LOT of time during the past 3 weeks. I've barely cooked for the family, haven't been there to enjoy time with John, and haven't been as affectionate as would be normal. Most men would probably complain and encourage me to get a different job!

But John knows my heart. He knows my passion for this work and how I want to get this operation up and going and for it to be successful.

So, instead of complaining, he encourages.

This morning he came to me and shared a devotional that he'd read and had caused him to think of me. The devotion was out of Exodus 16:1-12 ; about when the nation of Israel left captivity in Egypt. How easy it was to look back, when current hardships came instead of trusting God and moving forward. He told me that he's impressed that he sees me doing that very thing; he doesn't hear the words "I want to quit" out of my mouth, that he keeps hearing me speak words of hope for the future.

So I confessed the truth to him that I've thought about quitting plenty of times. But my spirit is never at peace when I think of that. I know that I'm where I'm supposed to be. No matter how hard it is.

I did not receive adequate training to prepare me for anything (nor did my poor staff since I was the one who was supposed to have trained them!) But with each mistake made, with each situation that goes poorly, I am learning a better way to do things. Certainly this is not the best way for things to be handled but it's what I've got and, by God's grace and power, I'm going to make it work.

But what a bonus that I get John!

That, when I'm home from a terrible, discouraging day, I can get words of strength, hope, and encouragement from him.

What about you, has God blessed you with a partner or friend who's there for you? What kind of difference does that make in your life?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Battling Giants

Have you ever been in a situation that you felt was impossible?

I've been in such a situation lately. I was supposed to start a new job on August 1. I'd been given the final you're hired (conditionally to passing an Immigration customs enforcement background check) near the middle of July. They called me in 4 days before I was to start to help them prepare for an audit. So I juggled the job I was still working, while coming in as many hours as possible to help out. I was given a bunch of polices all printed and in disarray and a CD and told to put all the policies, with the corresponding forms, into a binder. I finally set aside the printed papers because they were a mess (missing pages, in no kind of order, etc.) and just printed everything out and organized into a large binder. I'd also been given some standards on which we were going to be judged so I went through those and wrote down corresponding policies that we had, and well as ones we did not have and questions.

Then I went through a one week general orientation that everyone who will be working there went through. This orientation was a welcome-to-working-in-a-correctional-setting kind of training. Then I went through 2 days of learning an over view of each department in the facility. Then I was handed that binder that I'd put together (only it was about half the size of what I'd put together because someone had taken out a LOT of the policies and forms) and told that supplies had been ordered so myself and my team needed to figure out how we wanted to set things up as they came in and to get ready and train my team and set it all up. I kept asking for a list of what was ordered and finally got one 2 days before we opened (all in all we had 4 weeks prior to opening; 1 of which was spent in that general orientation, 2 days on site and then I had 13 days with my team; half of which came in a week later then the initial group). The list I was given did not include but half of what myself, an ER RN and a wound care LVN could figure we'd need. So I set about trying to get the other needful items ordered. I kept asking the man who hired me questions since I really didn't understand the set up but he was vague and never really told me anything.

Then we opened on August 29.

Fortunately my boss' boss came in on August 29 and began showing me the company systems. The problem was that at that point I was both doing the job and learning the job along with my entire staff who were in the same situation. Also, this woman had her own job she was doing while giving some time to me. To say that it's been crazy would be an understatement. I worked all of Labor Day weekend because my thought was that if my boss' boss was there and willing to teach me, I'd take all I could get from her. She left on Wednesday the 7th. I still do not know all the systems, am not sure if we have all the supplies we need, am still learning the policies (a 4-inch binder of them), and have found that many policies simply say that the H.S.A. (who is me) will make the site specific procedures. Add to this that the physician is over the top difficult to work with and talks a LOT so it's difficult to get work accomplished, plus he orders a bunch of unnecessary tests and sends people out inappropriately, all of which makes a lot more work for the rest of the medical team. In the midst of this our nurse practitioner went off on sick leave for 8 days.

Basically, it all just feels like too much. As if I'm under a pile from which I do not see myself (or really anyone else if they were given the exact same circumstances) having the ability to create order and stability.

So I'm meditating on Jesus' words from Matthew 18:27:

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Sure I know that he was specifically referring to salvation in this passage. But I think there's a principle that can be lifted out here about how our God can do what we can not. So, since I know that God gave me this job, and that He desires me to bring Him glory, then I'm choosing to believe that He will give me the abilities beyond what I have in the natural to bring this all together. I'm counting on Him for stamina and endurance, mental ability and wisdom, and for me to get things done no matter how many new obstacles keep coming my way.

My husband John keeps reminding me that Joshua and Caleb had to take the promised land; they didn't just get to walk into it, they had battle giants to enter into what God had for them. Perhaps all these problems are my giants to battle.

What about you, do you have any giants in your life right now that you're looking to God to do the impossible regarding?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Be very careful when you turn down a Facebook Friend Request...

My names Tony C and...okay...I'm a social media geek.

Now I'm not saying I need a 12-step program or anything like that...just yet...but there are few days that go by that I'm not in touch with someone via one or several social media tools.

Come to think of it...I'm using one now.

Where I attend church, I've been adopted as the social media dude. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, YouVersion and Blogger are all in my arsenal to decimate information about the love of Christ and demonstrate that love firsthand. I've seen my share of skeptics that believe the internet in good for nothing but evil. Quickly I always counter with- If Satan's there, then Christian need to bring Jesus to the fight. In my opinion, nothing ticks off the Master of Lies more than Christians parading Jesus on his claimed turf.

So what does this have to do with how God communicates with me? Is He one of your Facebook Friends or something? Where's the connection?

As I stated, Facebook is nearly a daily ritual for me. I pull it up on a tab and leave it open most of the day at work taking time to occasionally venture over and see what's happening on my News Feed. At lunch, I often shut my office door and spend a little one-on-one with Abba Father in the name of the Son. Before doing so, I check the continuously updated prayer request list on my desktop and glance at my Facebook profile page where the sidebar list of ten friends is always rotating new smiling faces into view. I pray a general prayer for them too.

Here's where my story gets interesting. Since the beginning of the year, I've tried focusing a bit more on that revolving friend list. On many occasions, a particular person will stand out to me. Not long after implementing this exercise, I felt a surge leading to contact one of the friends about church. I was by no means more than an acquaintance to this person, but I stepped at on faith that the Spirit was drawing me to this person. So, I sent a Facebook message...

The very next day this person contacted me back enthusiastic about my message. Within a month, he was coming to church. Add another month, and he was attending my Sunday School class. Since starting, he has been faithful in attendance going on several months. Praise God!

I don't believe in coincidence, so I opened up to more leads under the assumption these were people God was directing me to contact. Invites, words of encouragement, offers of support and prayer have all been on the table so far, and without fail, the response from each has been met with genuine warmth and appreciation. To God goes the glory always!

Honestly, if someone had come to me just a few short years back and proclaimed God was communicating with them through Facebook or MySpace, I would have smiled politely and probably eye rolled when they walked away. The very thought shames me today (as it should) for a number of reasons. None probably more shameful than I'm the very guy that has the following as the signature for all my emails:

For with God nothing shall be impossible.  Luke 1:37

Practice what you preach Tony C...practice what you preach.

Thanks Tracy for having me on board. I write not only for Kingdom Bloggers each Friday but also on my personal blog at Tony C Today. Love to have you come be a part!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hearing God Isn't Only For the Holiest People

I used to think hearing God speak was a mystical experience, made available only to the holiest of holy people. And at best, it was a one-off – kind of like Abraham. He heard God say, “Go,” and then nothing for the next 20 years. Let me say for the record, I’ve been a Christian since I was 6 and I’ve had direction and leading from the Lord, but I never heard his voice. I didn’t know I could hear it and so I didn’t pursue it.

In 2003, I moved to a new community. My Man, my Boy and I changed from urbanites to suburbanites. It had been years and years since I had to choose a church and even then, I usually followed a friend. I didn’t know anyone in my new community so I made a very logical plan to choose a church: I picked 3 churches and I was going to make a visit to each of them 3 times and then I was going to make a decision.

Some time, during the first 3 weeks, I saw another church closest to my home that I thought I would add to my choices. Initially it wasn’t on the list because it was a Mennonite Brethren church and I had been trying to distance myself from the culture since leaving home after high school; I certainly didn’t want to be part of the faith.

On the 4th Sunday in my new community, I walked into the MB community church for the first time. As I walked into the foyer, I heard a voice – it seemed audible in my head, but it wasn’t. The voice said, “This is where you are going to serve.” Um, excuse me? That certainly wasn’t my voice. I wasn’t looking for a place to serve; I was looking for a place to meet my needs. It wasn’t Satan either because that would be sending me to work for the other team. That left only God.

I didn’t return to any of the previous 3 churches. I had found my church because God spoke to me and I heard it.

It’s been seasons of ups and downs at that church and throughout it all, I heard God speak. (You can read about it some of the recent changes in a post I wrote, here). Over the past 8 years, I’ve had other conversations with God. I’ve seen friends leave and I wandered whether it was my turn to leave but God always reminded me about what he said to me the first time.

Epilogue: God is always speaking but men haven’t perceived it (Job 33:14); once I learned the truth, I’ve been actively pursuing conversation with the Lord. Holiness is desired but isn’t required to hear God.

My name is Andrea York and I want to be a trophy wife. Every Wednesday, I join Tracy and the other Kingdom Bloggers for a weekly commentary of various topics and I write regularly about kingdom living on my own blog, Write Down the Revelation.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Was That You?

By David of Fire  Grace
Thanks Tracy, for hosting this week's round of Kingdom Bloggers! I love your blog, and enjoyed my last guest post quite some time ago - like 2010!

This week you'll be hearing personal stories from the Kingdom Bloggers about how God speaks to us. They are personal as our relationship with the Lord; no pattern, no formula, no cut and dried, sure fire way to know that it is God. However; as His sheep, we grow accustom to hearing his voice.

Here is what happened to me:

Many years ago, sometime in the early 1980s I got fired up about Jesus. Some how I was set on fire in my spirit and started to devour the Word of God. I bought a set of Moody Bible Institute study guides, along with Unger's Bible Handbook, a Concordance and a Lexicon. I set to work to learn all there was to know about God! Although I had a genuine conversion experience and would close my eyes and feel the presence of God, I hadn't really heard his voice - yet!

My relationship with Jesus was using him as a spiritual bellhop, asking, asking, asking, but never expecting to hear him. I did all sorts of Bible stuff, went t seminary, and then Bible School. Still, asking, asking, asking, and not hearing. I have a relationship with the book, and I could one-up most folks in Greek, Hebrew and traditional Christian Doctrine; and I had a bad case of spiritual smugness along with a dose of intellectual elitism.

Growing up was tough, because the church never really discipled anyone. They just rammed Bible down our throats and asked us to work our way into a personal ministry which was mostly setting up chairs, or making coffee. The praying and preaching was done by the professionals.

There was one man who believed in me. He invited me to do a talk about study on a men's retreat. he knew that I had read hundreds of Christian books, and watched me go through the Bible studies and school. All of the talks were reviewed by a peer group. It was tough going for me and my feelings were easily hurt, but I persisted.

After months of prayer and preparation for the retreat, there I stood with 60 men in front of podium. They had an intercessor in the chapel praying for me, for the talk, and for the me to receive it. I started - and some where about 3/4 the way through I felt inspired to talk about my conversion, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and my comical view of the woman taken in adultery.

It was all unscripted, but God moved in a way I had never seen Him. 

When it was all over, one of the priests gave me a hug, and then I heard the voice of the Lord. "I am calling you to ministry." Simple, clear, and certain, that I was heard. It is pretty cool that God speaks Anglican, because I thought it would be in the Episcopal Church. I was wrong, and God was right. I would be over 10 years before I really heard God on a regular basis in so many situations I can't name them all. It is common place for this Christian, and the key to fulfilling my destiny!

How about you, can you look back see that God was in control of your destiny?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I feel strongly both ways

In the last post I was thinking about how I, wrongly, let my bad experiences affect my participation in Christian gatherings where Believers participate in all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Today I want to look a bit closer at my experiences, what the Word says, and what that means.

In that last post I said that I'd been in a church for three years where things ranged from well meaning Believers who, simply because of that charismatic culture, made "power of the Spirit" things happen, to downright misuse of situations to manipulate people. I want to look a bit closer at this because writing helps me process my thoughts, because I hope that some may be able to relate to my experiences, and because thinking about concrete situations helps make conceptual ideas real.

An example of a well meaning cultural make-happen was this couple that I knew. These were wonderful people who really loved God and desired to minister His love, grace, forgiveness, salvation, and power to people. This couple ministered in jails, prisons, hospitals and homes. They truly were good people. But one day I was watching them pray for people. Each person that they prayed for was "slain in the Spirit" and fell over. But there was one young woman who was very new to the church and the culture and they prayed for her; she obviously did not know she was supposed to fall over, and she did not. But the funny thing was that the wife in this couple had her hand on the woman's head as they prayed and kept firmly pressing. So what ended up happening was the young woman being prayed for would keep stepping back and the woman doing the praying would keep pressing forward; it ended up that they were practically doing a walk-back around the room. I quickly realized what was happening and, for some reason, caught the husband's eye (he had been praying with his wife for the young woman). He and I shared one of those super brief moments when you realize what the other is thinking and we were both amused.

An example of a manipulation was a specific prophecy over the church janitor by the Sr pastor's wife. This was a large church that had their own 2 year school of ministry that was attended by people wanting to become ordained and go into full time Christian work. The janitor attended this school. One morning the Sr pastor's wife called the janitor up in front of the church for a "word from God". I don't remember all of it but it was very encouraging to the man; all about how he had the cleanest hands in the church and how God has new, big things for him right around the corner. Two weeks later the Sr. Pastor and his wife had a supposed revelation from God that the three other pastors were meant to "leave the nest" and no longer be pastors at that church any more. Again, because I was privy to much of the happenings behind the scenes and knew all three of those pastors who received that word that day, I knew that none of them had felt that they were meant to leave that specific local church. But all three of them had been asking questions about some financial situations that just didn't seem right. It sure looked to me as if they were getting rid of the "trouble makers" and paving the road for the janitor to become a new pastor. The janitor had no idea about any financial misdeeds. I also happened to know that the janitor was a good guy who was in severe denial and struggling intensely with an alcohol addiction that would have prevented him from being able to minister until he dealt with that and experienced some time of sobriety.

When I look at these situations now, in light of what I've read in Chan's book Forgotten God, I see things a bit differently then I did at the time. At the time I figured that this church represented most charismatic churches and decided to attend a non-charismatic church. But now, as I'm looking at 1 Thessalonians 5:19-24, I see that God calls me to test the spirits. This scripture does not say to just believe whatever you hear as long as it's said in a church; it calls Believers to specifically test prophecy and to hold onto what is good. I did the opposite. In a sense I did test the spirit and see that it was wrong, but I held onto what was wrong and let it prevent me from continuing to participate with other Believers in prophecy in the context of community and accountability as God had intended. What I should have done was let go of that one bad prophecy, perhaps even that one corrupted church, but continue to have my heart open to God speaking to His people through prophecy.

I find today that I really am open to doing that, but continue to have difficulty finding a group of Christians that participate in all the gifts of the spirit in a healthy manner. It seems as if the pendulum swings from one end of the continuum to the other. My experience with local churches is that they either over emphasize the gifts and abuse prophecy or on the other end of the continuum they ignore it all together.

Am I the only one with this experience? Do you see a polarity in the local church with regard to practice of all the gifts of the Spirit?

In light of this challenge, I'm sure grateful for the 23rd and 24th verses in this Thessalonians passage:

"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. "

These words remind me that I don't have to sweat it because it's not all up to me - it's up to God. He is faithful and He will bring me to where He wants me to be.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch

I'll let you in on a truth of which my kids are very
much aware - I'm old.

I can still remember how excited we were at my school when I was in 6th grade; the administration had let us bring a turn table out beside the building at recess a couple of days a week and play records. We thought we were so cool out there grooving to the music. Some of the stuff we listened to was really cheesy. One such group was the Osmund Brothers. They had a hit song entitled One bad apple. The basic premise of this song was that one bad experience in a situation (in the case of the song the situation was being "in love") does not mean that the entire situation is bad.

I was reminded of that song this week as I was thinking about the second chapter of Chan's book Forgotten God. He points to the passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 that commands Believers to not quench the Spirit and to not treat prophecies with contempt. The questions and thoughts that he brought up in that second chapter have been bouncing around in the back of my mind for the past week.

One experience that Chan relates in his book is similar to my own; he talks about how, when he read those words in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, he basically assumed he wasn't quenching the Spirit and moved on. That's been me; since I love God and want to live for Him I kind of assumed that of course I wasn't quenching the Spirit. Yet I've been extremely closed off toward most prophecies.

You see the problem is experience. When you have good experiences that sets you up toward something favorably, but when you have bad experiences it has the opposite effect. I spent 3 years in a charismatic church where I observed and experienced many abuses of prophesy and the supposed power of the Holy Spirit. Initially attending that church had been fun and exciting. Every week we believed we'd hear from God. There was always something fresh and new. Unfortunately as I got more involved, and because I was privy to many behind the scenes happenings, I began to realize that much of what was going on had nothing to do with God. Things ranged from well meaning Believers who, simply because of that charismatic culture, made "power of the Spirit" things happen, to downright misuse of situations to manipulate people.

So I took that one "bad apple"/bad experience and let it make me, to quite an extent, give up on participating with other Believers in settings where they practiced all the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

What about you, have you ever let one bad experience sour you on experiencing all God has for you?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Looking at the whole

It's always seemed to me that I should emphasize the things that God does. We all know that there are some things talked about repeatedly in the Bible; like God's love for us, our sin, and His provision of Jesus - it's in there from Genesis through Revelation.

One of the thing that Chan does in his companion workbook to Forgotten God, is have you look up 15 different Scripture passages about the Holy Spirit (I've linked those passages here to each of these 4 blue words.) As I've spent time thinking on these scriptures during the last 3 mornings, I've noticed that only a few of these are about the miraculous. There's more emphasis on the change the Holy Spirit brings in us and the power.

There's one Christian woman at work who's always talking about the miraculous and God's power. But I've noticed that people don't tend to like her over much; she's sort of self-absorbed and difficult. It's almost like who cares if you've seen God grow back a leg, do you love me, the person right in front of you kind of thing. Makes me think. I still don't have answers, just more questions.

When I wrote about my investigation into the Holy Spirit the other day, I mentioned wanting to experience more of Him in my life. Well isn't it just like God to give me so many opportunities this week to do just that?!

I've had more stuff heaped on me than seems even possible for any one human to do. There's a lot going on at my current job that I need to get finished out, and I've been surprised by the emotional response I've received as I've let people know that I'm leaving (I've only been there 10 months). I'm the type to quickly love people and become attached, but haven't seen those kinds of feelings returned (or haven't recognized in the past if it's been there). So there are opportunities for God to love these folks through me; at the same time as needing to get lots of work completed. To be candid, I don't really know how to respond to my co-workers (one of my managers, interestingly enough the one I've found the most difficult to work with, got tears in her eyes); but I know that it's God giving me an opportunity to....what? So I'm praying and asking Him to show me; in the Word He talks about opening our mouths and He'll fill them; so maybe He'll do that for me right now, I don't know. It's definitely one of those ok God You're gonna have to take this one - use me.

Then my new job calls and wants me there right away due to some audit - so now I'm balancing two jobs. I have an intense desire for God to show Himself mighty through me at my new job; I want to be like Joseph and do things well and be able to give God glory through my performance.

Then my 16year old niece, who my husband John & I have been praying for consistently during the past few years, and have offered her to come live with us, suddenly decides to take us up on the offer. The fact that my sister is allowing it is nothing short of miraculous. My niece has been through so much and I so desire to love her and have God use me in her life. School for her and my youngest son starts August 11 and I've got to get her registered and the whole thing about me being guardian regarding educational matters worked out.

Did I mention that my middle son leaves August 8 for college in Nebraska? I want to make a few special times with Him. I'm praying that God would work through me however God chooses to in my son's life; but I definitely just want to love on him and let him have security in the knowledge of his value to me.

Fortunately both my sons who are still at home are on vacation with their dad this week, and John's out doing his wild-man-in-the-outback-at-Yosemite thing. So I can work really long days and get a lot of work done.

I don't think it's by mistake that I've embarked on this quest to see the Holy Spirit more in my life right now. I NEED Him. I'm excited about His empowering me to not only accomplish all these tasks but to minister to these people in my life through Him.

I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Can we get enough?

As Christians we can never "get enough" of God. I think we want to grow and learn and see more evidence of the Holy Spirit's power and leading in our lives. I know I sure do.

I appreciate something I read recently by FB Meyer recounting an experience he had when he was crossing the Irish channel on a dark, starless, night:

"I stood on the deck by the captain and asked him, 'How do you know Holyhead Harbor on so dark a night as this?' He said, 'You see those three lights? Those three lights must line up behind each other as one, and when we see them so united, we know the exact position of the harbor's mouth'"

Meyers explains the implications he drew from this experience, "When we want to know God's will, there are three things which always concur - the inward impulse, The Word of God, and the trend of circumstances. God in the heart, impelling you forward; God in the Book, collaborating whatever He says in the heart;God in circumstances. Never start until all three agree".

Lately I've had the inward impulse to learn more about the Holy Spirit. Not so much on an intellectual level as on an experiential level. I want to see more of the fruits of the Spirit manifest in my life, I want to be used more to bring people to God and help them grow in Him, I want to have greater impact on the lives of my sons and the people with whom I work.

Recently I had the experience of looking through the CBD (Christian book distributors) website and saw a book by Francis Chan entitled "Remembering the Forgotten God Revising our tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit." I ordered both the book and the workbook. I've decided to read 1 to 2 chapters each week during the evening, and work through parts of the workbook during my morning times with God (there are sections in the workbook where you're looking up scriptures so those portions would work perfectly for my morning times with God).

Most likely I'm the same as you and have met many wonderful, and many struggling, Christians during my life. For myself, I've often fallen into the struggling camp and it's only by God's grace and goodness that I don't stay there.

I've unfortunately had the experience of encounters with some people in my life who talk the most about the Holy Spirit, yet seem to evidence the least of His fruit. These people seem so caught up in going on about the miraculous, to think that the sensational proves who God is....yet, is that really what the Holy Spirit within us is about?

I do know that God's heart is one of compassion. Over and over in the gospels I read about God in the flesh-Jesus-and how he was moved with compassion for people. He was also constantly healing people. I'm also impressed by what I read in Acts 4:13; that the world saw a difference in the followers of Christ. Being around Jesus, having His Holy Spirit within them, made them different from the rest of the world. I want to be like that; for people to see Him in me.

I grew up in a Baptist tradition and have many people who I respect greatly who are into dispensationalism. While I agree with lots of that thought process because I see much of it clearly in the Bible, I'm not sure about all of it. Some I know would go as far as to say that while Jesus walked the earth, and for His first followers to be authenticated, it was a time for the miraculous, but that God does not really work that way today.

While I can not see that, on the other hand I do not see people doing miracles to the extent that we see the disciples doing them in the gospels or the early church leaders in the book of Acts. I don't see the Christian groups I hear talk a lot about the miraculous, as a whole, living any differently than those who are not of faith. Or any differently from the Christian groups that are not into the miraculous. Is this an example of the fact that, although God's character, Word, and purposes do not change, His methods do? Or is it for some other reason? Should the miraculous even be where I'm looking; should I instead look to see His fruit manifest in me and then He'll show me what I'm to do?

These are just questions that I have and things I've been pondering.

I'm certainly not looking to Chan's book to provide me with the answers. But I see it as an aide in this process; I don't think it matters if I end up agreeing with Chan's conclusions or not, it's the process of examining the subject that interests me.

What about you, do you ever have encounters with Christians who talk a lot about the Holy Spirit but don't seem to manifest His fruit? Do you wonder why we see so little of the miraculous in the western world? Do you ever question the place of the miraculous in our lives? Do you have questions about the Holy Spirit and His place in your life?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Getting to enjoy some good stuff

I've shared plenty in the past here about the hard times I've gone through these last couple of years with parenting challenges/frustrations and my job loss and job interviewing. Perhaps even because of all this, I find myself giving thanks to God and appreciating some good things that have happened lately.

On the parenting front I'm grateful to be able to say that my middle son did finish high school and keep his football scholarship. It's a division 2 school and he'll be red shirting his first year so it's only a partial scholarship, yet God blessed and we've got this first year covered so he won't have to take out any loans. The first week in August he'll be heading off to Nebraska (Chadron state college). He's driving with a friend of his who also has a football scholarship there; so I see another opportunity to trust God in my near future. This son is a good person but really impulsive; interesting is one word I could use to describe the thought of him driving that far with another 18-year old (anxiety could be another word but I'm choosing to trust God instead).

My youngest son has actually said the words I love you, and thanked me for stuff I've done for him, a few times in the last couple of weeks. I handled this matter of factly on the outside but boy was I shouting praise to Jesus on the inside! My husband John and I have both prayed our thank yous for what we believe to be the turning of the tide of this son's heart with regard to me. All I can say is that what is impossible with man is possible with God!

On the job front, God has blessed me with a job!!!

Of course I've had a job for the past 10 months and I do admit that I've enjoyed it. It's just that it pays 57% less than I used to make and was what I did 16 years ago for another company. This new job pays decent, uses more of my skills, has some exciting new challenges, and appears to have potential growth opportunity. Is God good or what?!

My new position will be Health Services Administrator (HSA) for an immigration detainment and processing center that is opening up not too far away. I'm excited about it being a new program and the opportunity I'll have to make a difference where that's concerned and to build a team. Health services are one of the most humane aspects of any detention center, so I'm looking forward to being part of a department that can make a positive difference in the detainees lives during what will be a super hard time for them. It's a bit different than what I've done in the past so I'm looking forward to trusting God to help me be "smarter than I am" (a phrase I learned from Beth Moore) so I can learn a lot of new stuff and still be effective.

What about you, what's some of the good stuff you've been enjoying lately?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What are your convictions?

Last Sunday the pastor spoke about convictions and since then I've been mulling over that sermon in the back of my mind. I'm always curious about that subject, and interested in hearing what different people see to be their convictions.

It was suggested last week, and then again this week, that we actually take the time to write out our convictions. So I decided to take some time and write out my convictions, linked to why these are important to me.

So I want to share my convictions and then I'd like to hear yours.

The over arching principle, or conviction, in my life is that I want my life to be about Loving God and Loving People. I'm convinced that, for myself, there are some ways that can happen and I'm committed to the following convictions of seeing that love for God and love for people lived out:

Love for God
  1. I'm committed to daily spending time in His presence. Praising and worshiping Him, Reading His Word and thinking about it throughout my day, Praying, and listening for His Voice.
  2. I'm committed to a life of gratitude. God has done so much for me, and I want to live my life in thankfulness and enjoying all the good gifts He's constantly giving me.
  3. My life is not my own any more, I chose to live it following after God. There's a few ways that impacts daily life: A.Money and stuff is not the goal so I'm very careful with my money so that I can use it as I feel God wants me to. I don't want to be in debt so that I'm all tied up. B.I want to keep myself available body, mind and spirit to God. Because of this I need to take care of my body (practical things like sleep, exercise, nutrition). C.I want to keep myself available body, mind, and spirit to God. Because of this I am committed to keeping myself free from things that will pull me away from my major focus (this could be TV, music that promotes lifestyles and attitudes that I don't believe are the ones God wants for me, or even some movies or books). This is a difficult one because it's so specific and it means that I just need to pray about things and evaluate them in light of this commitment. I do not always have to read, watch and listen to things that I agree with. Contrary ideas and thoughts can be helpful and growth producing.

Love for People
  1. Because I love the husband with whom God has blessed me I protect this relationship and refrain from contacts and relationships that could impede this relationship. For me that means I never go out alone with another man. I don't look at things that involve looking at what could be considered "sexy" men's bodies (in clubs, magazines, movies, etc.). I am committed to never allowing my mind to wander to what it might be like to be in a relationship with anyone other than my husband.
  2. Because I love my sons with whom God has blessed me I consider how any decisions I make in life will affect them, and make decisions accordingly. I choose to invest time into doing things with them. I make praying for them regularly a priority (2Xs a week are set aside for just that purpose).
  3. I don't want anyone to die without God. So I've spent time praying and thinking about how to share the gospel; I try to live my life open each day to opportunities to share as situations arise.
  4. I choose to live simply and without debt so that I am free to give money to others as God leads.
  5. I want to be open to helping the people God's put into my life - however that may look. Be it being helpful to a co-worker even if it means taking on more work, or listening to someone who I get the feeling needs to unload, or making food for someone, or being friendly to someone in a social situation who seems left out. These are not things I can know in advance, it's about having an open attitude and trying to look for ways to extend love. (This is the opposite of getting caught up in my own agenda and living with blinders on)
  6. I'm committed to humility. To not thinking I'm better than anyone, to listening to what others have to say, to not having to always have my own way. Another part of humility is being honest; not needing to make things better or worse than they are, just being true.
So what about you, what are some of your major life convictions? What made these important to you? How have these convictions impacted your life?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

At least it was better this time!

For those of you who've borne with me in my rants about losing a job and let me drone on about the trials of job interviewing - THANKS!

And so the saga continues....

The last time I talked with my oldest son on the phone, he'd asked about my job interviewing experiences. When I told him about the last fiasco (the one where the CEO I'd driven two hours to meet with walked out during the interview) he asked me questions that caused me to think. He asked why I was interviewing for geriatric nursing home administrator positions when, in the entire time I've had this nursing home administrator's license, I've never worked in a geriatric setting. I stumbled as I replied; speaking of how noble it was to provide care for the elderly and what a wonderful ministry. Then I honestly explained that I need a good paying job and that could be one. I also sheepishly admitted to him that I have no idea why, but that, if I'm really candid, while I find working with the elderly to be admirable, what really does it for me is working with psych patients, or substance abusers, or criminals. But then I asked - what does this say about me, as I laughed. To which my son replied - that it's a vocation for you.

I thought about that and realized he was right. Working with those populations is where my heart is at. So I prayed about it some more and went back through all my avenues of job searching again. I again came to a position for a health services administrator with a private company that sub-contracts with the state and federal government to provide correctional type facilities; it was at a relatively close (when you live in a small, mountain resort, town anything within 50 miles is considered local. Especially if you don't have to drive all the way down the mountain) location. I applied for this job a while back, but I sent them my resume, with a cover letter that I spent some more time on, again.

Within a week I heard from a man named Ted who's the regional director for this company's health services operations in the western US. He asked me to come over to a local hotel where the company was interviewing people and meet with him. This interview wasn't at all like my recent experiences, this guy was a type B personality just like me. I was relaxed and asked him all kinds of questions about the position. We just talked. He didn't feel like he had some set agenda and I felt like I could just be myself and find out about the job and discover if it was something I wanted to do. I didn't feel like I had to sell myself (something I can't stand about the typical job interview). When we were finished he gave me a very lengthy application and explained that, since this new location that they are opening is sub-contracted with the federal immigration department, all applicants have to complete the federal application.

This was on a Thursday, and Ted said to take the application home, that he would be back at the hotel doing more interviews the following Tuesday-Thursday and, if I wanted I could give him and call and he'd sit down and go through my application with me. I thought that was so considerate and helpful of him.

The application turned out to be a real pain so I was grateful of his offer. Plus I figured that more face time with him would be a good thing. So Monday evening I called Ted and we set up to meet Tuesday (which was yesterday). We went through my application and he didn't have anything that he thought I needed to fix. When we finished he told me that I'm his first choice for this position so far but that he did have a few more interviews to complete. Then Ted said he wanted me to meet with the warden of the facility since he would be my actual boss in terms of day to day life. I said I'd like that too so he called me back yesterday and invited me to meet at the actual facility this morning with himself and the warden.

Well, when I go to the facility there was another man there as well, another applicant for the same position. I thought to myself - oh no, not this again (that last time, when the CEO walked out on me, the operations manager I'd been interviewing with told me that I was his favorite but the lady who would've been my boss liked another candidate best. It was such a NOT fun situation). My "competition" had not been interviewed yet by Ted. The competition looked sharp and had corrections experience (I don't have corrections experience). But, as I waited while Ted and my "competition" interviewed, I didn't get anxious. I just figured - if this is where God wants me, I'll get the job. If not, then I don't want to be here anyway. So the warden finally finished giving a tour to some judges who wanted to see the facility and my competition and I were introduced to him. Then the warden, Ted and I sat down and talked (followed by the warden, Ted, and the competition having a private chat). The warden made me more nervous than Ted, but he's a good guy. Ted was going to give the competition and I a tour of the facility after we'd each met with the warden and the warden asked Ted, so when are you going to let them know who gets the job? Then he turns to both of us and says how we're both good people and the hardest part of the whole interview process is the not knowing, and that it's better to know as soon as possible if you don't get a job because then you can just move on. I appreciated his considerate attitude.

So Ted took us on the tour and then my competition and I awkwardly said our good byes. Within 10 minutes of being on the road Ted called me and said I'm still his top candidate. So I said great and how much I appreciate him letting me know right away. Then I asked - what does this mean? Do I have the job? He said it's not a formal offer yet and that he wants me to meet with the immigration department HR people and go over my application. We discussed times that I could make such a meeting and then he said he'd talk to the HR folks and get back to me. Ted called me back later and gave me a time to meet with a representative from the Immigration department HR, at that same local hotel tomorrow.

So we'll see what happens.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

You mean it's not all about me?

This week over at Kingdom Bloggers we're talking about our Identity in Christ. Today I'm sharing about how understanding my identity in Christ helps me see others as important.

How does understanding your identity in Christ affect your relationship with others?

Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4th Thoughts

I once heard it said that as Americans, every time we hear the song God Bless America we should change it up to think about it this way: "God bless America through me".

Sometimes it's easy for me to get caught up in attitudes that are like two sides of the same bad coin. On the one side I can be so critical of those who are in power in our nation, or the sliding condition of morality and values. On the other side I can think that loyalty to my country is about proving that we're bigger and better. Both are unhealthy.

I believe that God calls every person to be a loyal citizen to where ever they live. It seems fitting, as an American, to spend some time thinking and praying today for guidance. To ask God to show me a need in our country, and how He wants to use me to help fill.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Failure is Part of the Plan

Emotions can be tricky things. I've learned to refrain from depending on them, to choose to base my life and actions on what I believe to be the truth. Even so, I'm still affected by emotions.

A couple of years ago I was fired from a job after working for a company for 7 years straight, and then on and off (as they called me to come help them out in situations) for another 3 years. The termination was really about politics; some regional consultants has changed and those new to position people did things differently than I. I do not know another way to describe these folks than to say that many people would consider them low class - extremely crude and foul mouthed (I'm not talking about the occasional cuss word here, I'm referring to explicit sexual talk and intense swearing), and into drama, gossip, and vendettas. Unfortunately, I got on the wrong side of them and a couple of them basically set out to get rid of me. Since I was the one who lost her job, it could look like they were successful.

But I knew that I was in the palm of God's hand and nothing happened in my life that He did not allow. I chose to trust Him.

Initially I was bewildered, hurting, and devastated. Then I got past all of that and was hopeful; I believed that God would bring me another, better, job. Then after completing countless job applications, going to many job interviews, and dealing with rejection upon rejection, I finally had an interview with some people who I really liked. They offered me a job, but it was doing something I'm overqualified for; it's something I did for another company 16 years ago, pays 57% less than I'd been making, and did not allow me to utilize the skills I'd worked so hard to acquire. After much prayer I decided to take the job until I could get a better job.

Through all of this God has been faithful and we have always had all our needs met, although I have had to utilize a large chunk of my savings. I started this other job with high spirits, still believing God would bring something better my way.

It's been 8 months now and I'm still at that job. They're super happy with me and I enjoy the day to day work and people. But I still long for more, and continue to apply and interview for other work. I've even studied and added a certification onto my credentials during this time.

Lately I find myself struggling with discontentment, feeling disconnected and sad. It's not because I've stopped loving or trusting God (I mean, God could never allow me to get another job and I'd still choose to love Him and believe that He's got my best in His plan), and I'm still actively involved in service to others. It's just that my emotions have been having a hard time lately.

It is in the midst of this situation that I came across these words from Micah 7:7-8 during my devotions this morning:

As for me, I will look to the Lord for his help. I wait confidently for God to save me and my God shall certainly hear me. Do not gloat over me my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord himself will be my light.

So today I've been thinking about how failure shouldn't be a surprise in life; it should be, in a certain way, expected. Expected in terms of the fact that if you try challenging things, failure is a definite possibility. Logically, if you try often enough, the probability of failure increases. I'm thinking that somehow failure needs to be part of the plan, looked at as a step in route to achievement.

I know that I've learned a lot from my failures in life. Failures in marriage, with my children, in jobs, in interviews - in every situation when I have not seen the goal met, I've learned in the process. This doesn't negate the fact that failure is painful, just accepts the truth that it is inevitable. I adore the simplicity of that line in Micah: "though I fall, I will rise again".

I'm also thinking today about how failure does not have to equal defeat. God is not just the God of second chances, he's the God of countless new beginnings! That both my own mistakes and misdeeds, as well as that of others, will not keep me from His plan.

What about you, how does failure figure into your plans?
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