Seasons Come and Seasons Go

We go through seasons in life, just like the earth goes through seasons as it travels around the sun. Spring, summer, fall and winter, all have their presence on the earth, even though they can look quite different depending on where you live. I follow a few fashion bloggers who are based in Australia and it is winter there. It seems odd to see them talk about enjoying their sweaters and heavier weight outfits, even though their pictures still show sunshine and no snow!

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Seasons in our lives can manifest themselves differently for each person. When you are a young adult, you might be going to college, checking out the party scene and figuring out what you want to do with your life. I wasn't a partier. I was studious, but I also liked to go out to eat with my friends and walk the streets of Chicago down to Lake Short Boulevard and the beach or State Street and the Gold Coast. That season of my life, helped shape who I am. I met my husband during that season and discovered I was more interested in getting married than in becoming a missionary overseas.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
2 A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NASB)

After college, my husband and I got married and it wasn't long until we started a family. I wish when I had been in the throes of that season of life, I would have had an older woman come along side of me and tell me, "This is just a season. Before you know it, in the blink of an eye, your children will be grown and gone. Enjoy it while you can." So often when we are in a particular season of life, we think, "When will this be over? When will it get easier?" The problem with that mind set is that we miss so much. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

The writer of Ecclesiastes was Solomon, considered the wisest king of all time. I think he pretty much summed up the complexity and simplicity of life in those first eight verses of chapter 3. He knew that every season would come to an end and be replaced by another season, which would then be replaced by another season, and so on, and so on.

What season of life do you find yourself in right now? Is is a time of planting or a time of uprooting? Is it a time of laughter or a time of weeping? Or is is a time of being silent or a time of speaking boldly? The inevitability is, the season you now find yourself in will change. How do we handle the seasons we are in and the busyness and difficulties that come with each of those. 

1. Recognize that it is God who changes the seasons.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;
— Genesis 1:14 (NASB)

God, the Creator, is the One who designed the seasons to change. We often think that fall and winter must be a result of the fall, but it says in the above verse that God's intention from the beginning was an earth that changed on a regular basis. So many of us don't like change, but change is a part of God's plan. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

2. Don't be afraid of the changing seasons.

There is plenty to fear in the world we live in. Watch the news on a regular basis and you'll get a boat load of fodder for an anxiety storm. 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

I grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible. I decided to use the New King James Version as it is the one most true to the version I memorized. Many versions use the word timidity instead of fear. I am not a Bible scholar so I am not here to argue which version is closer to a word for word translation. I prefer the word fear, because I feel it is closest to what we feel on a regular basis. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I am preaching to the choir here, friends. I regularly have to combat my fears. I don't think that fear is wrong, but I do believe that dwelling there or as Timothy put it, having a "...spirit of fear..." is not what God wants for us. I am sure the numbers of people in our country who are taking anti-anxiety meds is staggering. Yet, what is anxiety but a fear - fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of death, fear of illness, fear of any and everything you can imagine. 

It is normal to face fear, when the seasons of our lives are changing. It is scary to face an illness like cancer or the death of a spouse or child. It is terrifying to lose your long time job and have to suddenly be out there looking for a new position in a sea of people in their 20's. Yet, God knows these seasons are changing and as the Psalmist realized, we are precious to Him. 

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
Hide me in the shadow of Your wings
— Psalm 17:8 (NASB)

3. Look for beauty in each season.

Every season that comes and goes has something about it that I love. Spring ushers in new growth, returning birds and an explosion of green. Summer abounds with laughing, playing children, a chorus of lawn mowers and the clinking sounds of glasses filled with iced tea and lemonade. Fall, which is perhaps my favorite, throws an amazing party of color and smells during which the trees undress themselves as they prepare for winters' long sleep. Winter, in areas of snow becomes a white backdrop for red sleds and even redder noses and cheeks. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Yes, every season has its difficulties. Spring can be full of torrential rains and often the temps don't climb as high as we would like. Summer can be a time of drought and the ebb and flow of crowds vacationing and squeezing in to fairs and summer festivals. Fall brings early darkness and winter seems akin to the time of the dead, especially for those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

However, just as any transition in life brings change we need to focus on all that is lovely and beautiful, even in the sterility of a hospital room or the stifling sadness of a funeral home. Where else in the world can we get 24 hour quality care? The sadness of loss also brings with it the memories of lives journeyed together and moments of love and laughter. A diagnosis of long term illness allows us the opportunity to stand before our Creator and claim the promises He gave us in His word, that He would never leave us or forsake us and that He would give us peace and strength. 

Beauty exists in the form of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and He never changes, no matter what season we are in.

4. Have patience.

Remember what Solomon pointed out in those verses? The seasons change. Our lives are in constant flux. Knowing that God is orchestrating our circumstances allows us to lean back on His strong arms and wait for Him to do what He is going to do. The sooner we realize the reality of this next  two verses, the better. 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
— Romans 8:28 (NASB)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

God is at work and will never give up on us! Isn't that amazing? It drives me to my knees to realize that the Almighty God who created us from dust, loves that same said dust to the point of sacrificing His only Son, Jesus, so we might be able to have a relationship with Him.

I don't know what season you are in. I hope it is a season of reaping and praising and planting, but if it is a season of tearing apart, war and great weeping, don't forget He is with you. Always and forever. 

Divine Appointments

We live in a society of planners. Architects design and plan buildings. Engineers design and plan roads and parking lots. Fashion designers plan for the next season always thinking ahead to the next color palette or trend. Even those of us, who would not call ourselves true planners make dentist and doctor appointments, write up grocery lists and plan get togethers with friends. 

Pixabay - checklist

Jerry Jenkins, is the author of a myriad of books including the Left Behind Series and numerous biographies on people ranging from Hank Aaron, to Luis Pulau to Walter Payton. He even assisted Billy Graham with his autobiography, Just As I Am. Jerry also owns and runs The Jerry Jenkins Writer's Guild, of which I am in my second year of membership. I remember one of the first webinars I took from Jerry, where he talked about the difference between two types of writers; the panster and the outliner. Like Jerry himself and another big name author,  Stephen King, I am a panster.  I write my blog and my fiction by the seat of my pants. Where as an outliner has a plan or an outline they follow as they write. Neither one is better than the other, they are just different. There is also a hybrid of writers who combine the elements of both styles of writing. They come up with a loose outline, but fill in details by the seat of their pants. 

Pixabay - typewriter

When we talk about making plans versus living by the seat of our pants, we can see that there are good points and bad points to both ways of approaching life. Planners, usually, get more done, but they are often so rigid in their schedules that they have forgotten how to enjoy the moment. Those who live by the seat of their pants are usually more relaxed and easy going, but often have projects piling up, because they neglect to develop a plan on how to get them finished.

We as Christ followers can often be guilty of both, planning too much and not planning enough. When I was a young mom, trying to figure out marriage, family life and eventually home schooling, I was often impatient and frustrated because I looked at life as a list of things I had to accomplish. This mentality become more pronounced as I home schooled our daughters from kindergarten through high school. I became a list person, which is a planner, if you didn't know! I think it is amusing that I could be a panster as a writer but in every day life, I was a planner. I loved to get a new planner every year as I looked forward to a new year of home schooling. I still love planners, but I'm not quite as rigid in how I used them. 

Pixabay - planner

What does God say in His word about having plans? Let's take a look. 

Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.
— Proverbs 16:3 (NASB)
The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)
Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.
— Proverbs 19:21 (NASB)
The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.
— Proverbs 21:5 (NASB)

Obviously, God inspired King Solomon, the author of Proverbs to pen these many verses about planning. It is normal and it is good to have a plan, whether you are talking about retirement or about next week's meals, planning can be beneficial in saving us time, money and frustration. 

Unfortunately, many of us have made plans that didn't work out. We have been disappointed by failed relationships, ruined vacations and the chaos of life that constantly seems to want to get in the way of our well thought out plans. The beauty of being a panster, when it comes to real life is a drastic reduction in stress and pain brought about by waylaid plans. 

A mindset that has recently come about in my own life, is that of divine appointments.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
— Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

If I really believe that God is sovereign, and I really believe that He is good, then I must also believe that every bump in the road and every plan that doesn't come to fruition, He already knows about and has a purpose for. How often have you had a plan for your day off and the day draws to a close and you didn't accomplish anything that you had planned? I see those hands our there! In addition to that, how many of you got frustrated because what you had planned got sabotaged by life....a child stays home from school sick, your mother needed your help with the garden, your teenagers and your spouse call saying that won't be home to eat that delicious meal you slaved to prepare....this is the reality of life. The question then becomes, am I supposed to stop planning? Do I just let life fly and go with the flow, like some sort of 1960's flower child, content to sit in the sun and listen to the music?

Pixabay - hippie

Like so many things we talk about, I think the key here is, balance. I think it is important to have plans, but we also need to allow God to do that thing that He does best...orchestrate our lives. Recognize that those speed bumps that come into life are allowed by Him. Everything that comes your way, even the little annoyance and inconveniences, have passed through Him. This is even more pertinent when we are talking about divine appointments. These are those interruptions to our plans that revolve around people. 

Sunday, my Grandson came down with a nasty virus. I am the primary care person when he is out of school, as my daughter, a single mom, has to work a full time job. He comes to my house, when he is home from school. Sunday, I had plans for Monday. I was going to get ahead on my blog, do some writing and try to tackle the laundry. It wasn't going to happen. In fact, here it is Wednesday and the poor guy is still running a low grade temp, so once again, he is home from school. You know what? It's okay. Did my plans get ruined? Not ruined, just adjusted. When I look at life as a series of divine appointments, not only do I have an easier time adjusting to the bumps, but I also keep my focus on the author and finisher of my faith. 

Whether you are a planner or a panster, allowing God to direct your life, day in and day out, gives you the capacity to be less frustrated and more in tune with exactly what He wants you to do. Next time you have a plan and it gets interrupted, ask yourself, could this be one of His divine appointments, then let Him meet you right there. 

Mulling It Over - Part 9: Ephesians 6:17

Last time in this Mulling It Over series, I looked at the beginning of Ephesians 6:17. This week, I'd like to mull over the last part of that verse. 

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
— Ephesians 6:17 (NASB)

The helmet of salvation was the last of our defensive pieces of armor. All of the defensive pieces are articles that are worn on the body, or as in the shield of faith, are used to protect the body from assaults from the enemy. The sword of the Spirit, is the first weapon listed. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

We might wonder why God gives us so many pieces of armor to protect ourselves and only two weapons with which to actually attack the enemy. Obviously God knows what is best and I hope to illuminate why this is the case.

First, I think we need to look at 2 Corinthians 10

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
— 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NASB)

These verses clearly state the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful. In other words, our weapons are divinely empowered. In essence God does the fighting for us. Our job is to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13) and resist in that evil day. Our job also involves destroying wrong thinking and taking all of our own thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. 

Next we need to look at what exactly this sword of the spirit is. We all know what a sword is. A long sharp weapon that was meant for slicing, chopping and stabbing. It was meant to inflict harm and even kill. There are numerous types of swords from the Roman Gladius, to the English Broadsword, to the modern foil used in competitive fencing. For the most part a sword was meant for close combat. While we occasionally see in a movie a sword being flung long distances and making its mark, the sword is meant to be used when the enemy is at arm's length.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I find it interesting that God directed Paul to write the sword of the Spirit, not the axe or the spear, both of which were often thrown from a distance. The axe, especially one used during the Viking era, was often used in close combat to chop, hack and bash, but a sword enabled the user to finalize his victim with a well placed point to the heart or a slicing slash along the throat. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

This sword we are given to use is meant to be taken up when we are in close combat with the enemy. This sword is of the Spirit and is the word of God. God's word is a powerful, offensive weapon for us to use when we are face to face with our enemy, the devil. 

What does this look like in real life. I know for me, when I am really struggling with some specific difficulty, using God's word is the best way to kill the wrong thinking that is so often associated with sin. For instance, more recently I have had anxiety. Nothing new right? We all deal with anxiety. However, anxiety left unresolved and allowed to run rampant will becoming a raging bull, one that we will not be able to control.

When faced with anxiety I have learned to use God's word to remind me of His truth. His word says this in regards to anxiety and fear:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
— Philippians 4:6 (NASB)
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

I love the 2 Timothy verse in the King James Version because it uses the word fear and it also uses the phrase sound mind. What is more chaotic and confused than the anxious mind? 

Here are a few more scriptures that have to do with fear.

So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
— Matthew 10:31 (NASB)
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
— Romans 8:15 (NASB)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
— Psalm 23:4 (NASB)

These are just a few of the verses in scripture that deal with fear. Perhaps your issue is not fear, but anger, or lust or pride. God's sword is capable of delivering fatal blows to all of our enemy's minions. Let me say, it may not happen immediately. When I was in college I was struggling against several different sins that kept coming back to haunt me, but as I matured in my walk with Christ and began to take His word seriously I just kept using it when the temptations returned. Over and over, I stabbed and jabbed, sometimes on my knees, sometimes laying flat on the floor and sometimes pacing with my fist in the air, but eventually that sword did its job. 

Often when we struggle against the same recurring lies of the enemy it might be our "thorn in the flesh" so to speak, but God's word is still faithful, no matter how many times the enemy returns to attack us. If you have His Spirit in you and you are able to yield the sword of His word, victory will come.

Don't forget when you put on your armor in the morning to grab that sword before you walk out the door.