Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Changing Seasons

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." Ecclesiastes 3:1

The season has changed. New growth sprouts silently from the muddied ground, leaf buds give life to barren branches; missing birds return, sleepy animals emerge from their slumber. The timeless evidence is unmistaken; it's spring.

It didn't announce its return with any loud fanfare. Instead, it crept in unnoticeably silent. We anticipated its appearance and yet for some reason, we were surprised to witness those first signs.

Isn't it that way with the changing seasons of our lives, too? The spring of our lives is full of growth and changes celebrated with great applause and recognition. All our needs and wants are met (hopefully) by loving parents. In summer we're independent, busy raising our own children, barely taking time to stop and glance into the mirror. Then fall arrives. Life slows down a bit. We take time for "us" and reevaluate where it is we're headed. We finally take time to look at our reflections. At first we're startled to see our mother or father staring back at us. Quickly coming to our senses we wonder, "When did all those gray hairs and wrinkles appear?" Ah yes, those timeless signs of change crept in unnoticeably silent.

My husband and I have watched winter from a distance for awhile, now. It began as a season of perpetual light with our parents enjoying the harvest of a growing, extended family. They're faces glowed and, except for the crowns of snow on their heads, they seemed younger to me. However, in these past few years, the storms have come with greater frequency. The winter winds are now howling. Timeless signs of change are no longer silent but rather roaring in like a hungry lion. They just can't weather these storms alone any longer.

Recently, God reminded me of His design for family; how we are to care for one another in every season of life. In the Ten Commandments God wrote, "Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." (Exodus 20:12). Unfortunately, our modern families have grown farther apart by distance and dysfunction. We've focused on ourselves ("me") so much that we've forgotten who gave us life. We've forgotten that honoring our father and mother applies to us until their death. Paul says it more pointedly in his first letter to Timothy, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Tim. 5:8). In other words, if we call ourselves Christians but don't care for your closest relatives, then we're hypocrites. Ouch!

I'll admit, winter is a tough season. The storms are frequent and harsh. But weathered together, surrounded by those you love gives you strength. It makes the season more bearable. Like every season, winter doesn't last forever. Silently, from beneath the snow, new life begins.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for Gods wrath remains on them." (John 3:36)

"And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." 1 John 5:11

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Silence, Rest and Solitary Places

" 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.' So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place." Mark 6: 31b-32

Silence. Pure quiet, hear-my-own-heartbeat silence is where I'm most comfortable. Silence is where I rest. Silence is where I gather insights through reading. Silence is where I process life. Silence is where my heart talks and my hands write. Silence is where I hear God whisper loud and clear.

So much of life is full of noise. Screeching sirens, clacking train tracks, engine whistles, honking horns, people walking, children crying, people talking, talking, talking; talking to me or talking at me in real life or on T. V. It's all the same. It's all noise.

When Jesus was at the peak of his ministry his days were full of people, noise and activity. He traveled miles in a day, teaching and performing miracles along the way. People as demanding as the paparazzi followed him around the countryside hoping for a glimpse, a touch, or a word. By the end of the day, he said to his disciples, "I'm beat. Let's get outta here!" Okay, maybe not those exact words but that's what he would've said in modern-day English. In those moments, he taught us all a great lesson: Rest comes when we retreat to a solitary place, with Him.

Today has been one of those solitary days. I've rested...retreated most of the day with only the sound of the ticking clock and the flame of the pellet stove for noise. My mind is rejuvenated; thoughts are flowing and I'm able to gain perspective on things that have been mulling around inside my head. My spirit is fed and while I'm digesting, new ideas are born. That's the creative process of silence.

Jesus knew the importance of silence and the creative process. Without both work and rest, our creativity suffers. Work allows our thoughts, ideas, visions to become tangible objects. But rest is where more thoughts, ideas and visions germinate.

We don't have to be secluded or alone to enjoy the benefits of rest. Jesus rested while he was surrounded by his dearest friends. He even invited them to his solitary place. We too, can enjoy silence, rest and take those we love with us. There are many nights my husband and I spend hours, shoulder-to-shoulder, in silence. We enjoy the presence of one another without speaking a word.

Other times, maybe in the instance of this scripture today, our rest includes decompressing together from the hard day in the seclusion of our living room. We block out the world and share stories of big and small victories or put our hearts out on the table when it's been less than a stellar day. We laugh. We cry. We disagree. We listen. We encourage. We come together. We rest. We end the day together in silence.

Don't fear the silence but relish it. Take full advantage of time, however small or large the chunk, go to a solitary place (even the bathroom) and sit in silence. Allow the day to drain from your veins and invite God's whispers to fill your heart. It's in these moments of rest where God's seed can germinate and we are prepared for the work ahead.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hope of Spring

"See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come." Song of Solomon 2: 11-12a

It was a wonder this weekend witnessing the rapid disappearance of those six foot mountains of dirty snow beneath the thick blanket of fog. What a joy it was to look out my front window and see the bushes, the green lawn and the neighborhood kids playing outside. The calendar is marked...thirteen days and counting...spring will officially be here!

But let's let that be our little secret. You see, today all hope returned when I pulled into my driveway to find spring had already sprung. To my surprise, I witnessed the dainty, lavendar and white heads of waving crocuses, lining the edge of my front flower bed to welcome me home. At first I wasn't sure I'd seen them so I backed up to make sure my eyes weren't just seeing what I was hoping for. Sure enough. There they were, waving back at me.

Oh! The first signs of spring bring such celebration. I guarantee you I celebrated by doing a little jig on the way into the house. My hopes for longer days, warmer temperatures, the smell of fresh cut grass, the hot sun on my face, building sand castles and pushing my grandchildren on the swings return all at once and filled my heart with joy.

It's been a long, cold winter but the promise of spring is here. It's happened without any effort of our own. It's been orchestrated by the Creator...our Creator...the one who formed us in our mother's womb...who numbered the very hairs on our head...who wrote down our days before we lived them and already knows the end of our story. That's no secret at all...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Thumper's Rule

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Lately, I'm so disappointed in FaceBook statuses. I agree, it's been a long, cold, snowy winter in just about every state in these United States and we're all experiencing a bad case of cabin fever by now. We've watched our share of old movies from our dvd libraries and the next NetFlix mailing isn't coming in fast enough to keep up with all the snow days. Our favorite spot in front of the fire isn't as appealing or as soothing as it was in January and our bottoms are spreading out from all the hot chocolate we've consumed. But seriously folks, what's with all the whining?

Is it that misery loves company so when we see one of our friends whining about the cold, the snow, the irritating habits of our spouses or our kids that we feel we must out-do each other and one-up the whine on our own FB status? Trust me, there are days I've said a hardy "AMEN" to many of my FB friends' status reports. I've even felt the need to air my gloomy moods in hopes to make myself feel better but when I typed in my complaint, it only made me feel worse. Besides, I thought, "Who cares?"

Rather than add to the long list of whiney drivel on my Home Page, I've challenged myself to add some sunshine or stick to Thumper's Rule: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," (Disney's Bambi).

Please, don't get me wrong. I find FB a wonderful tool to ask for help or prayer for a legitimate concern. What better way to encourage a long distance friend or to see God's hand at work through a tough situation?

As Christians, we're called to lift each other up and encourage one another in our faith with acts of love and through encouraging words. Let's challenge one another to use our FB status' to do just that.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Just Couldn't Wait Another Day!

"Enoch walked faithfully with God; and then he was no more because God took him away." Genesis 5:24

The first year Peter and I were dating I was "between" colleges. That means I took a year off after earning my associates degree to figure out life. He was a college freshman, 400 miles from home. That year our love survived the distance through Sunday night phone calls, love letters and gifts via snail mail, and occasional visits. As each visit approached I remember saying, "I just can't wait another day!" And when we did see each other, the reunion was sweet.

Love does that...makes you yearn to be in the company of your beloved until you just can't stand to be apart anymore and you go to them.

God loved Enoch that way; not romantically, of course, but in a way that caused God to snatch Enoch from where he stood on earth, fore go death, and bring him into His presence in heaven. Now that's the way to go!

This story of Enoch fascinates me so much that if time travel existed, I'd leap back in time to the day or so before God took Enoch. I'd study Enoch and try to figure out what he did that stole God's heart. I want to know what caused God not to wait another day to be with Enoch.

While I wait for my time machine, all I have to go on is what's written in the Bible. There's not a whole lot written about Enoch, but here's a few facts: he was the great, great, great, great grandson of Adam (Luke 3:36-38). He faithfully walked with God and this pleased God (Genesis 5:22, 24; Hebrews 11:5). He became father to Methuselah at age 65 ( Genesis 5:21) and 300 years later, (middle-aged for that time) "he was no more because God took him away" (Genesis 5:22-24). He prophesied about the second coming of Christ (Jude 1:14).

To know Enoch means it's more about reading between the lines. First, Enoch inherited faith from his fathers. Second, Enoch's faith was active. Scripture says "he...walked with God" which gives us the impression that Enoch considered God as the center of his life, his confidante, his guide; he took God everywhere he went and included Him in everything. Third, Enoch's faith was deeply rooted. He grew in his faith for 365 years. In that time, just like us, his faith must have been tested, matured, refined. Finally, Enoch knew God's heart intimately; spent time talking with Him and listening to Him. If this were not so, God would not have entrusted His words of prophesy to Enoch.

I may not escape death like Enoch but when I come face-to-face with God, may I hear "I just couldn't wait another day!" How sweet that reunion will be. (And certainly, I'll be looking for Enoch)!