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."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Isn't that just like God?!

Perhaps a week ago I was writing about my inner struggle and pain regarding the issue of if God was pleased with me.

Then God, in His grace and goodness, brought some new thoughts on this topic into my life.

It seemed like an accident.  One day I was just reading facebook and saw where Jefferson Bethke had posted how much he enjoyed the book The Cure.  On impulse I got the book and started reading it as well as going through the companion website.

The authors of this book and website are causing me to reflect on some of the things I believe about myself and God; to ask more questions.

In their first chapter they put forth the question of if you want to please God or trust Him.  They propose that life is to be about trusting God.  Although I've always believed in trusting God, I've also obviously seen pleasing Him as important.  But as my brother in Christ Mike from Christian Cognition commented the other day, there's no way I can ever please God and I need to get that settled in my mind once and for all. It's only by trusting in His love and acceptance of me, that I can experience what he has for me - not by doing all the right things.  Perhaps that's why I read in Hebrews 11 that without faith it's impossible to please God. Isn't faith another word for trust? Like I said yesterday, Ephesians 2:8-9, tells me that He'll give me the faith to believe in Him. So right now I'm trying to look more at trusting God and put my focus there instead of on pleasing Him.

Trusting God isn't easy for me; especially when things don't appear to be going well.  Truth be told I guess I'm selfish; I want things my way.  But life doesn't work that way and I've got to mature in my faith to where I trust God no matter what.

Do you find trusting God easy or difficult?  Why?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Executive secretaries and the voice of God

Something interesting happened at work today.

To put the event into context: I've been struggling at work since since that Terrible Tuesday meeting. I've struggled to get myself in to work in the morning and I've struggled with my attitude and emotions. But I've always become caught up in the tasks that comprise my day and given myself over to the completion of the seemingly unending tasks set before me to run the current program, work on audit corrections, see to it that our processes become entrenched, ensure that the new staff are trained, and pull together all the pieces that make up the opening of the new program next door.

 At the end of 11 hour days I find myself exhausted and nodding off to sleep by around 9PM in the evening. Only to wake up around 2AM with thoughts swirling around in my head. I've tried to put into practice Philippians 4:6-7 and not worry about all that there is to be unhappy about my unfair treatment at work; to trust and praise God instead. But in the very early hours of this morning I just couldn't seem to do it. I'd started reading The Cure this week and have decided to read and think on a chapter each week. Although I can't say that I've found the book well written so far, I was deeply moved by the theme of choosing to trust God that dominated the first chapter. In those angst filled pre-dawn morning hours today I talked with God about how I want to trust Him but just can't seem to do it. It seemed as if the Holy Spirit brought Ephesians 2:8-9 to my mind; that it is God who, by His grace, gives us the gift of the ability to have faith, or trust, in Him.

So it is in this context that I drug myself in to work this morning. All the while wanting desperately to stay home.

Then God spoke to me.

And He did it through the warden's executive secretary.

I don't even know that she's a follower of God. She's a delightful person and she and I have always gotten along well but she's never indicated any faith to me so far in the almost year that we've worked together. But today she came to my office for some documents and she came in. She'd just found out about my demotion and began to speak to me. I expressed how much this has hurt me and voiced feelings of failure even though on another level I don't' feel like I've done anything wrong. She told me to look at her; then she said that I have done nothing wrong. She said that because that detainee died 3 weeks after we sent him to the acute hospital, everyone was looking for someone on whom to blame the death.  She said that, unfortunately, that someone ended up being myself and the former warden. She told me that I'm a lot like the former warden in that we both give everything we've got, put our entire hearts into our jobs, which is why my heart is now broken. But she told me that she wants me to know that she knows I've done right and respects me tremendously and wants to make sure that I know that several people in "high positions" respect me as well. Then she went off into how this is bad company to work for because they treat their people wrong. After she left my spirit felt encouraged. The despair with which I'd been struggling was lifted. It was as if God spoke through her right to my heart and said the words I so needed to hear.  

Have you ever experienced a time when it seemed like God spoke through someone else directly to you?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tears and Friendship

I have a friend named Paula.

Paula is the one who, outside of John, knows me best and still loves me.  In an  earlier post I related the account of a Terrible Tuesday meeting at work.  Following that meeting I had to attend a daily exit from our pre-occupancy audit for the expansion at work and act like all was well.  Then I got into my car and started driving home.

Of course I called John first and, although John is supportive and wonderful, he's still a man.  We're wired different.  Then I called Paula. Paula let me cry and cry and cry on the phone without feeling guilty for crying or like my feelings were wrong.  Paula let me be heard.  Paula was there with me in the pain.

What a blessing her friendship is!

A couple of my favorite Bible verses are found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV):

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

I want to be a friend like Paula.  God has truly, not just this one time, but many times, used her to be His own comfort with skin on.

There's a sister in my church who I've loved from the moment I met her.  This woman and I have some things in common, yet we're separated in age by around 25 years.  Because I'm fortunately not part of any rumor mills I don't know any details about anything going on in this sister's life but I've kind of known that she must be going through some tough circumstances in her life.  So I've prayed for her, but never had the opportunity to reach out in any way.

I'd invited her to join another friend and I to go to a play yesterday and out for an early dinner following.  Over the meal she began to open up and share about some of the pains and struggles she's been experiencing lately.  I just listened and validated her feelings.  The other friend and I  let her cry and talk. I was grateful to get to be there for her.  I know how much it means, when all the tough things happen in life, to have people there who love you and choose to be with you in your pain.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

When the rubber meets the road

I can't say that I'm righteous because in and of myself I'm not.  But I'm sure grateful that Jesus' righteousness has been given to me; 2 Corinthians 5:21 proclaims the deal I got, my sin for his righteousness.

Then this morning during my time with God I come across these verses in Psalm 34:18-22(MSG):

18 If your heart is broken, you'll find God right there;
   if you're kicked in the gut, he'll help you catch your breath.

 19 Disciples so often get into trouble;
   still, God is there every time.

 20 He's your bodyguard, shielding every bone;
   not even a finger gets broken.

 21 The wicked commit slow suicide;
   they waste their lives hating the good.

 22 God pays for each slave's freedom;
   no one who runs to him loses out.

I need to think on these verses today because it's been an over the top bad week.

At work the customer for my department (a commander with ICE Health Services Corp) who is an RN has been giving me grief for months.  I've tried everything to appease her, anything that she says she wants or that we should be doing, I go and do.  I've been working 10-13 hour days, 6 days a week and being on the phone with work a lot of times when I'm not at work.  My heart has longed to make everything so perfect.

One of the issues has been that she's an RN who thinks only RNs or mid levels or physicians can really understand and ensure correct services, and I'm an administrator not a provider.  The company knew exactly who they were hiring when they got me and they know that my team and I have pulled off an incredible feat pulling this all together without any support from the company.  But I've basically compensated by just working really hard and doing whatever it takes.

To make things even more difficult, the company has in response to all this been sending in auditor after auditor from within the company every week.  Most of these are new to the company people who want to make a name for themselves so they've shared their vast knowledge by picking various and sometimes contradicting, things on which to focus.  Areas that in some job they came from they once found was a real issue; it's as if they want to show how they have some very valuable knowledge that no one else has ever heard about to show what an asset they are.  Most weeks for the past two months I've had to deal with auditors and then stay even later to get my actual work done as well as any follow up necessary from their findings.

So when this commander came to audit on Monday I believed it would finally go well because we've got all our systems in place, our services are great, and our charting looks immaculate.  But it didn't exactly go well.  She couldn't find any real problems so she brought up things that no one expects, things that are silliness and not community standard.  During her exit the warden assured her that we'd get on everything that she brought up but asked for an affirmation from her that she knows we're good to go on our expansion plans that are set to go into effect August 1 since, at best, all her concerns are very minor (only he said this in the most polite of ways), but she hedged and acted uncomfortable.

Then on Tuesday the warden called me into his office where I came upon my boss on both the medical side and the warden, plus the VP of medical services for the company, and the regional director of operations.  Just men in suits and me.  Bottom line is that they've brought in an RN to take my job and demoted me to her assistant. I'll only get 6% of the 12% increase in pay that I was supposed to get.  This person won't be here until August 13 so I'll still end up doing all of the hard work associated with an opening.  Because of some contract problems with the customer, the company would not give the go ahead to hire the staff we've got waiting in the wings, so I'll be short staffed.  Over the past few weeks I've written a few emails to both my bosses and the regional HR manager about the staffing situation because I can't ensure patient safety without enough medical staff coverage but I've been blown off.  They are finally responding and by August 13 those new hires will be in place.  I've put together a training program for all of these new hires so that everyone will be ready to go.  Then this new person will walk in and reap all the rewards.

But it seems that the company is counting on the fact that once an RN is in place this RN commander will be satisfied.  Everyone is happy.  Every one except for me; I feel used and betrayed.  This RN is moving from Colorado to take the job and they had to offer her 25% more than I'm currently making; this didn't just happen this has been in the works for months to make happen.  To make things worse I've got way more breadth and depth than her but she does have a correctional background and this is my first time in corrections - it really is a different world in some ways.  Basically both my bosses have admitted that I've been done wrong but this is just how it is.

So, with all this going on, I come to these verses.  So what do these verses say to me?

I am not alone.

God is here with me.

He is my shield.  Even if it looks like I'm getting the raw end of things, I can still count on Him.  I can trust Him.

I'm not a very spiritual person.  I mess up lots of times.  I'm not even always sure when God is talking to me.  My experience has been that God's voice is a thought in my head like all the other thoughts.  Only sometimes I am certain that one came from God and at other times I'm not so sure.  A couple of months ago when I was crying out to God about all this crud at work and how no other work doors were opening (I've been taking some time once a week to look and apply for other jobs during most weeks) I thought I might have heard God say: But will you trust Me here in this job? I thought I heard those words again when I was driving home on Tuesday night.  So my un-spiritual response was - what else am I gonna do Lord?!  You're God and I'm not and I can't change anything-it's all in your hands, Please help me have a good attitude and do what it right regardless of what is going on around me.

So here I am today trying to focus on these truths - I am not alone, God is here with me, He is my shield and I can count on Him, I can trust Him.  These are the things that I need to keep deep in my heart and let my actions stem from.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Faith and Doubt - The struggle

This morning as I emailed my weekly update to my son Devon who's serving our country in Afghanistan I found myself telling about my work, how much I long to make everything perfect and have someone in authority  recognize how hard I work and express that they are pleased with me and my performance.

As I came into my time with God those thoughts lingered in the back of my mind.  I found myself asking why I have this intense need to please.

It hit me - because I was created to please God.

That driving inner desire to please is not wrong, but I'm working to please the wrong ones.  God is the only One who matters. But then I started crying because I know I'm such a mess up, I fall so very short of God's ways.  I had to remind myself that this is why Jesus came and died in the first place, because no one is good enough.  I reminded myself that His grace is so much bigger than my mess ups.  His love is all consuming.

So I know that He loves me.

But I struggle with if God's pleased with me.

Does anybody else ever have these struggles?
                   I believe that in order for faith to be real, it can not only withstand all my doubts and questions, but grows through them.
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