October

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…Ecc. 3:1; NIV

Autumn leaves fall from the trees with flourish. Their last hurrah is resplendent in rich burgundies and golds, subdued browns and vivid greens. Though the trees know the days are fast approaching when unclothed branches stand vulnerably and helplessly exposed, they stand proudly, one last glorious display theirs to own. They understand the beauty of melancholy.

 

In a silent but splendid parade, autumn waves out the wild, loud, splash-in-the-pool fun of summer and welcomes cozy nights by the fireplace, soup simmering on the stove, warm sweaters and wool socks. Autumn calls us to quiet our spirits. It beckons us to embrace opportunity to simply ‘be.’ With dark, cool nights and slow to wake up mornings, autumn invites us to linger a few extra moments under the covers. Step out of the hurry and the rush, autumn whispers. Read a book. Write a note to a friend on pretty paper. Bake a batch of cookies. Reflect. Talk with a friend without watching the clock. Pray. Savor the solace of autumn’s hushed grace.

 

Our culture says that productivity is mandatory. Being on the go gets the going done. Autumn does not yield to a freeway sped up world. It listens to the gentle voice of the Spirit who calls our weary selves to stillness. Delight yourself in the warm colors of quiet this autumn.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength…’  Isaiah 30:15; RSV

October=The season of quiet

 

August Grace Note

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…Ecc. 3:1; NIV

 

August identifies herself as a summer month. She welcomes the hot summer sun and invites everyone to play at the beach. “Come on in,” she beckons. “I’ve warmed the water…have fun!” August reminds all to schedule time for vacations, lazy days, BBQ’s and watermelon slices. August is summer.

 

But, wait!  School starts in August. So, is August really summer? School=fall days, doesn’t it? The first day of school conjures up pictures of lunchboxes, cozy sweaters and fall leaves crunching beneath the feet of backpack laden children walking to classes. So, is August summer or fall? Does August not know who she is? How can she be so confused?

 

Oh, August, we understand. It’s the same with us. We spend our lifetimes discovering who we are, learning to accept the strengths and weaknesses that make us uniquely ourselves. We grow into acceptance of our own identities. But like August, it’s very easy to lose our own sense of identity when outside voices or influences tell us how we ought to be. We try to become more of this or less of that to please someone else. Not to mention that we totally disregard God’s shaping of and securing of our identities in Jesus.

 

August needs to assert herself for who she is and not compromise her identity for others. God placed her in summer for a reason (okay, yes, if you live in Australia, or Chile, or, ok, a lot of other places south of the equator this doesn’t hold up, but you live north of the equator so let it go.). He has diligently transformed you into more and more of the fullness of the you in Him who you were first intended to be. Release yourself from the expectations of others. No one can rob you of the identity God has confirmed in you. Tether your sense of self to Christ alone. And then…take off your shoes, wiggle your toes in the sand…it’s August!

 

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.   Eph. 1:11; The Message

August=The season of knowing who you are

 

July Grace Note

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…Ecc. 3:1; NIV

 

!Hot! is the parched cry of July. It’s too darn hot! One of the characters in a Sydney Smith novel complained the heat was “so dreadful that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.” When the temperatures rise into the triple digits, communal groaning and moaning rises in sync with the thermometer. Fans and air conditioning units run morning, noon and night. Can anything good come from extreme heat?

 

Streams flow in the desert. Hot sands will become a cool oasis…He will give a crown of beauty for ashes…But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings…Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand…he touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.’

 

When the heat gets turned up, when conditions are at the most extreme, God is at His finest. He brings streams of refreshing hope out of the desert of desperation and pain. Out of the ashes of burned up dreams and desires, He renews with beauty. The burning Sun of glory will heal the brokenhearted. A searing coal of might and mercy cleanses, forgives and restores.

 

It’s hot, all right. Stay cool. God rises above the hot air to dazzle and amaze.

 

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’ 

Heb. 12:28-29; NIV

July=The season of too hot

 

June Grace Note

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…Ecc. 3:1; NIV

June tiptoes in, silently motioning to the fog and grey clouds that’s it’s ok to roll in- the sun isn’t looking.  Hurry up, June signals… before the sun notices. June doesn’t ask permission; it just ushers in the season of not the way I want it to be.

 

June does what it wants.  In response, the temptation  arises to turn over in bed, pull the covers over your head and just NOT. Thereby stomping the feet of the proverbial inner child in protest:No!

 

Summer is supposed to be sunny days with true blue skies and carefree abandon. Not challenge or heartbreak or disappointment. But more often than not, life shepherds in the fog when you counted on sunshine.

 

The season of not the way I want it to be comes like the fog, without our consent or approval. A diagnosis. A teen pregnancy. A lay-off too close to the holidays. A break-up. An accident. A death of someone so loved. A rebellious teen. A broken water pipe flooding the house. A call from the police. The season of not the way I want it to be throws our hearts upside down. It’s supposed to be sunny, not foggy. How did this happen?

 

God never promises sunshine all the time. Not even in summer. He promises presence. He’ll wrap a blanket around your shoulders when the fog chills your bones. He’ll bring the sweater you forgot at home. He offers to sit next to you in the fog. He won’t leave you there alone.  All He asks of you is that you press on, persevere, never give up. He urges you to trust Him when you can’t see any further than the length of your arm. He promises the fog won’t last forever. There will be weeping in the night, but joy comes in the morning.  Mourning will become dancing. Rainbows will follow the rain. He will never leave you.  He will be your sun. Rain or shine. Even when it not the way you want it to be.

 

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.  Psalm 84:11; NIV

 

June-The season of not the way I want it to be

May Grace Note

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…Ecc. 3:1; NIV

A blossom is not a burst. Instead, it is a gentle unfolding, a promise of beauty yet to be fully realized. A blossom holds possibility in its petals. “Just wait,” it seems to whisper. Grace eases into being, one velvety petal at a time.

A tiny green sprout slowly thickens into a hopeful bud which gives way to a hint of color as the flower-in-waiting enlarges increments at a time.  Even as the bud matures into a flower, its full appearing is more of an unveiling, hours or even days passing until the first petal makes its appearance.  As the flower opens itself to the sun to reveal its beauty to the world, it emerges softly, quietly, imperceptibly at times.  To blossom is to become.  Once the flower has opened fully, it is still in process; its glorious color palette ranging from just a tinge to intensely rich to regally faded.

And so it is with us.  Blossoming into our own identity in Christ is an emerging; it is not an all at once explosion. Grace eases into being. Just as we cannot rush a flower into its completed blossom state, neither can we impatiently expect ourselves to be fully developed into Christ-likeness. Temptation arises to compare ourselves to the blossoms around us: a sister in Christ bearing fruit from the Vine, expressing love, joy, peace or patience by the Spirit is watched with envy…we wriggle down to our roots and want the same.  And we want it NOW.  We lose sight of the process our sister has endured, or that her blossom must by definition be her own and not the same as ours. A peony cannot blossom as a rose which cannot blossom as a marigold. Each of us must blossom as we were intended…one petal at a time, under the gentle care of the Master Gardener. Wait, beautiful one, you are blossoming one day at a time.

He has made everything beautiful in its time…Ecc. 3:11; RSV

May=The season of blossom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April Grace Note

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…Ecc. 3:1; NIV

Spring emerges. Like a baby pulsing its way through the birth canal, spring strains into its arrival. Letting go of winter’s cold to blossom anew presses the earth into labor pains. Rebirth is a welcome, yet curiously explosive process akin to the birth of a child.  With each contraction, a baby wrestles within and against her mother yet mysteriously, wondrously, also moves in perfect harmony to traverse from womb to world. In much the same way, spring bursts upon the earth, hopefully wild, eagerly anticipated.  The wildness of spring mirrors the struggle of coming forth each of us experience as God reshapes us as new creations into the image of Christ. Releasing the old to embrace the new is perhaps more of a painful wrangling than a graceful delivery.

 

Resisting the temptation to binge eat or drink to submit to healthy balance is a tug of war of the will. Thawing from the bitterness of winter to green into the buds of forgiveness is a yes/no, can/can’t striving. Dispensing of patterns of self-absorbed thinking to noticing the needs of others compassionately is a moment by moment challenge. Exchanging cursing for words of praise is a struggle. The old has gone, the new has come.

 

But the new has come laboriously. Cherry blossoms clothe spring’s trees with beauty and fragrance…but then, in an instant, the cold winds of winter storm violently in cruel rebellion to resist spring’s arrival. Make no mistake. Spring is wild. Rebirth into Christ is wild. Nothing easy, predictable or ‘normal’ about it. The wildness of spring illustrates the work, yes, the labor, of discipleship, of living out the upside-down, counter-cultural Kingdom of Jesus. Reckless, relentless love from the Creator compels reckless abandonment into His image, one contraction at a time. Take the risk. Be born anew, precious new creation in Christ! Yield to the wildness of spring.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come! The old has gone, the new is here!  II Cor. 5:17;NIV

April=The season of the wildness of spring

 

March Grace Note

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…Ecc. 3:1; NIV

Snow. Sunshine. Rain. Hail! …in like a lion, out like a lamb…March serves as the living metaphor for expecting the unexpected. Even daffodils and tulips are a bit confused in March…should we bloom? Should we wait? As their dainty heads are ravaged by cold winds, they seemed to plead with passersby…is it spring? Or did we read our underground bloom calendars incorrectly?

How like little daffodils and tulips we humans are. We’re so easily confused and thrown by the unexpected. As if we had any say as to what to expect in life. That’s the rub, isn’t it? When the unexpected blows its cold winds upon us with little disregard as to our preparedness, we suddenly realize how little we can actually control. We can’t stop the tumor from finding its way into the fragile body of a loved one. We can’t prevent the drunk driver or the school shooter from permanently damaging innocent lives. We can’t even stop the rain or the sun when our plans called for the opposite forecast.

Perhaps we learn to face the unexpected the way daffodils and tulips do. We bloom anyway. We bloom! Daffodils and tulips hold their lovely heads up high when winter pokes one more frosty finger in their faces.  We can do the same. We learn to recognize that we can only control what we can control. For example, we can decide to pass on the doughnuts someone brought to the office because sugar wreaks havoc on our metabolism. We can pay bills on time instead of procrastinating as if more money would appear if we just waited.  And we can accept, yes, accept, (not the same as resentful resignation) the unexpected with grace and faith. We can snuggle up under the refuge of God’s wings to fortify us to persevere through seasons of unexpected. We can let go of the fantasy that the unexpected is only expected in other people’s lives, not ours. We can release the illusion of control. We can even embrace the unexpected with confident hope that God will prove faithful, trusting Him to create something beautiful in the midst of the most painful, unexpected moments of our lives.  After all, this is the God who made tulips and daffodils bloom humbly elegant, and cheerfully splendid after months and months sitting in the cold, dark underground of winter’s hard earth as dried-up naked bulbs. What might He do with you!? Expect the unexpected!

Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.  I Peter 4:12-13; The Message

March=The season of unexpected

February Grace Note

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…Ecc. 3:1; NIV

Even the little seven-year-old girl who painstakingly prints her name on every paper Valentine already knows it. She’s not fooled by the candy hearts sloppily embossed with “Be Mine.” Her beating heart has likely already been broken. But she might be unwittingly duped by romantic comedies as she gets older…her hopeful heart might be persuaded to believe it’s possible that driving recklessly through traffic to run through the airport, getting to the gate just before the door closes in order to resolve relationship issues really works.  In those vulnerable moments she might forget the reality none of us want to admit: love isn’t easy.

Love isn’t easy. In fact, sometimes love is downright hard. Take a quick peek at those infamous love words of I Corinthians 13:4-7…always patient, always kind…not proud…not easily angered…? Wouldn’t we prefer to counter it with once in a while patient or when I feel like it kind or I wouldn’t be easily angered if you weren’t so_________!? True, no-matter-what love isn’t easy. Love requires daily, even minute-by-minute intentionality. Love needs a regular release of selfishness in order to flourish.  Love means you might just have to stop talking-yes, stop. And actually listen to the other person-from the inside depths of you, not just from the outside of your ears. Love depends upon give and take, not just take.

Being willing to love is being willing to start each day ready to give it another go. Forgiveness is a must; resentment hinders it. Love demands actions, follow-through, deliberate effort. Feelings do not get the final say when it comes to love. Even when we don’t feel like it, love says keep on trying, keep on doing, keep on hoping.

Rest assured, you and I don’t have to do this alone. God gets it. He knows we’re more apt to stomping our feet, wanting our own way, expecting grace we do not want to extend. He’ll love through us when we don’t have enough love breath to do it on our own.  In this season when love is sold as a box of chocolates, love real. Love hard.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God….whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  I John 4:7-8

February=The season of love that isn’t easy

 

January Grace Note

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…Ecc. 3:1; NIV

Almost everyone is attracted to new in some way. Who doesn’t love the smell of a new car? Or the fresh innocent, never to be replicated scent of a newborn’s soft skin? Isn’t it fun to show off a new dress or hair cut? Housewarming parties celebrate a new residence, a house becoming a home. New paint makes everything look better than before.

And yet. We cling desperately to the old when the new means change or challenge or redirection. New rises up like a fog to cloud us with fears and insecurities and uncertainty.  Even if the familiar is uncomfortable or unhealthy, we tend to hold onto what is known rather than risk the growth or presumed discomfort of what might be better.

Anais Nin put it this way: And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Tulip bulbs have to endure the cold, hard, dark depths of winter storms in order to bloom new in spring. Sometimes new hurts.

New threatens us, in fact, demands we accept the reality that we are not in control. We don’t know what to expect. We can’t see around the corner. The truth is, we’re not in control in the old, either. And we never knew what to expect then, either. But we likely fooled ourselves into thinking we’d had it  handled.

If we embrace whatever our new season for all that it is and may yet be, it is like wearing a new pair of shoes. They pinch and feel tight at first, but eventually, your feet learn to walk in them, one step at a time. As each of us learns to walk in whatever our new season may be, we experience more entirely the adventure of faith. Take hold of God’s hand more firmly. Trust that He’s leading the way, fully in control-of both the old and the new.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland…Isaiah 43:18-19; NIV

January=The season of new