Wednesday, December 18, 2013

God's Plans May Surprise You

When we assume we know how God may meet a need, we are often wrong.  This year has been a prime example.  I was told in March that my hours were going to be dramatically cut at the community college where I have taught developmental mathematics for nearly eighteen years.  I would be getting less than half of my normal hours.

While others panicked, I wasn't initially worried at all.  I just "knew" God must have plans for me to teach full-time in a public or private school setting.  After all, I had just renewed my teaching license last year.  It had been expired for over a decade, and I had finally figured out that I should have it renewed just in case I needed it someday.  That someday was coming sooner than I thought, and I was practically congratulating myself on renewing my license just in time.  I was just sure that God had laid it on my heart to renew my license for such a time as this.

Over the spring and summer months, I spent countless hours jumping through the hoops of applying for dozens of teaching jobs.  I took personality tests, submitted a variety of documents, filled in hundreds of blanks.  I just "knew" I would be an ideal candidate, since I would be a cheap hire with lots of experience.  With only one year of public school teaching experience, I could give them my over twenty years of teaching background for the salary of a second year teacher.  What a bargain!  But God had other plans.

At the beginning of the summer school session, I "knew" God was going to give me a summer class, even though my original class had been cancelled due to low enrollment.  After all, I had taught 52 consecutive semesters at the college, and my daughter was planning to be married in July and funds were needed.  But God had other plans.

When we moved in 1999 and bought another house, God orchestrated the sale of our other house just in time to avoid double house payments.  I "knew" God would do the same when we moved about two years later.  But God had other plans.

In fact, I questioned God about that when we began having to make double house payments.  I prayed, "God, why isn't our house selling?"  He replied, "I'm building your character."  That was not the answer that I wanted to hear, especially since I had made the point of specifically not asking God for patience.  Thankfully, it only lasted a couple of months, and we never missed a payment.

Many times when God has other plans, I see his hand in the situation so clearly AFTER his plan is finally revealed.  Although I didn't get a full-time teaching job in the fall, I did obey God in the writing of my book, The Thankful Principle:  A Journey into Thankful Living.  Six days after I finished writing my book, I received an unexpected e-mail from someone who spotted my resume on a recruiting site and asked if I would like to apply to be the center director for a new math learning center.  The job seemed tailor-made for me, and within a few weeks, I was hired.  Many of my past work experiences have developed skills that will be needed and useful in this new challenge and opportunity. 

And even though I did not end up with a summer class, God knew that I needed a summer off from teaching after 18 years.  Not only that, but he provided a consulting project that covered the costs of what my husband and I spent on our daughter's wedding.

God is continually building my character, and I am working on being more thankful and accepting of letting his plan unfold, instead of rushing toward what I assume is God's plan.  His plans always have our best interests at heart.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord.“  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV)

Monday, December 16, 2013

News on the Kindle Edition of The Thankful Principle

The Kindle edition of The Thankful Principle:  A Journey into Thankful Living is now available.  Stay tuned for news of the print edition.  Just copy and paste the link below:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Gift of Encouragement

Did you know that encouragement is a gift?  Just the other day, I almost missed out on being a blessing and receiving a blessing, simply because I didn't feel like getting out on potentially icy and snowy roads.  It would have been much easier to stay home and relax, rather than attend an optional training session for teachers at the college where I work.

After dropping my nephew off at work, I realized that the roads were in pretty good shape.  I felt a prompting in my heart that I should go, and I had just enough time to change into presentable clothing and dash off to the event.  When I got there, I sat with several colleagues and excitedly showed them the cover design for my book The Thankful Principle that was beautifully created by my friend Tracy.

The women were all interested in hearing more about the book, so I gladly shared details about The Thankful Principle and the impact that Philippians 4:6-7 has had on my life.  All four women were receptive to my testimony and commented that they were excited about the book and would like to read it when it becomes available.  We had a great time of sharing that morning over breakfast, as we waited for the training to begin.

As the uplifting conversations continued through our lunch break, I learned things about each of the women that revealed to me God's plan to encourage them that very day.  I realized that by sharing the Thankful Principle with them, I had spiritually equipped them to fight their daily battles.  Whether they were dealing with health issues, a divorce, a grown son recovering from the devastating effects of a stroke, a challenging teenage child, or some other personal concern, practicing thankfulness to God would empower them to deal with the issues that were consuming them and help them to experience God's peace in their lives.

All day long, I kept thinking to myself how wonderful our time together had been.  I marveled at the fact that I had almost missed it.  I wondered about how many other times I have missed out on giving or receiving a blessing because I took the easier route.  Only God knows, but I am seeing that when I am obedient to his prompting, I am more in tune with what God would have me to do the next time.

Isn't it wonderful that when we make the extra effort, God gives us opportunities to bless others and to receive a blessing?  I love it when that happens.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Getting Out of My Comfort Zone

Many times in my Christian walk, God has placed me outside of my comfort zone.  He does this to bring spiritual growth and to use me in ways that are greater than I could ever imagine.  Whether it be a prompting to offer to pray for someone or to take on a new responsibility, I am often challenged to obey and trust God in each instance.  Sometimes I feel as though I am going out on a limb, but God does not let me fall, if I am walking in obedience to him.

Just the other day, I was speaking to a friend about a recent offer to pray for someone's healing.  A woman I knew seemed to be experiencing a serious medical issue right in front of me, and only one other person was in the room with us.  She sat very still, as she began to perspire.  Her face turned beet red, and her heart was racing.  I felt very helpless and questioned whether we should seek medical assistance.  The only other option I had was to pray for her.  Because I wasn't sure if she was a believer or how she would react to my offer to pray, I hesitated for a moment.  Would it be awkward or embarrassing, if she refused?  Would she think I was some religious nut?

However, I realized that God wanted me to offer to pray, and so I did.  She nodded her head in agreement when I asked, and I prayed out loud for God to heal her in the name of Jesus and for her body to line up with the Word of God.  As I was praying, I felt a warmth and knew that God was working in her situation.  I commented, "I don't know exactly what happened, but I believe God is doing something in you."  Fifteen days later, I saw her again, and she excitedly shared the details of a miraculous healing.  After months of suffering from a variety of medical problems, her CAT scan had come back completely normal.  In addition, she had experienced none of the troubling symptoms since the night we had prayed together.  I rejoiced with her and was thankful that I did not give in to my initial reluctance to pray.

I was nearly 20 when God first told me to minister to someone for healing.  At the time, I was attending a bible study with some girls in my dorm at Evangel University.  One of the girls was experiencing terrible back pain from muscle spasms, and someone prayed a prayer over her that seemed hollow and empty.  She had meant well, but it came across like she was throwing up a prayer that she didn't expect to be answered: "Lord, please touch her, if you've got the time."  I thought to myself, "We aren't ministering to her."

When the bible study was over, we were having a time of silent prayer, and God spoke to me, "Marcia, I want you to minister to Bev's back."  I tried to argue with God and tell him that I wasn't a minister.  My dad was a minister, and my brother was going to be a minister.  How could God ask me to minister to someone?  Finally, God gently and firmly told me, "Marcia, if you'll minister to Bev's back, I'll heal her."

How could I continue to refuse?  If I didn't obey God's prompting, then it would be my fault that my friend was continuing to be in pain.  Nervously, I asked Bev how her back was feeling, while inwardly I prayed, "Please say that you were miraculously healed from the earlier prayer."

Instead, she replied, "It's still hurting."  I gulped and launched into telling her that although I had never done anything quite like this before, I had seen my dad minister to people with back pain, and I wanted to offer to minister to her back.  I prayed for her and commanded her back to be healed in the name of Jesus.  When she sat down in a chair, we could see that her hips were out of alignment and one leg was about a half-inch shorter than the other leg.  As the other girls in the room and I prayed, everyone saw a miracle, as the shorter leg lengthened.  Afterwards, Bev reported that all the pain was gone.  She began jumping up and down, and everyone else did also, as we praised God.

Sometimes when I share stories of obedience and answered prayer, others assume that it always comes easy to me, but they would never feel comfortable doing such a thing themselves.  They hear the victory at the end at the end of my story, but they don't realize the tendency I have to drag my feet until I can no longer ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  Others tell me that they do not know how to hear God's voice.  Listening takes practice.  When a thought comes to you that does not seem to be coming from you, test it against scripture.  Does it line up with the Word of God?  Does it ring true in your heart?  If so, then you are probably hearing from God.

"Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him." (Psalm 128:1, NIV)