Finding Beauty in Your Season of Life

My eyes can’t get enough of their beauty; if I could only capture it in my mind before winter comes. Yellow, red, and gold autumn leaves have come to the mountains, but they stay only a short time. Seasons come and go; things never stay the same. But there is always beauty in the changes. We may have to look for it though and always remember it.

In the past few months our family has gone through seasons of change. The ending of the season of college years with a graduation and the beginning of a new season with a wonderful new family member through our son’s wedding. Now I move on after the celebrations and joyous memories are tucked away into photo albums.

Our lives are all full of changing seasons – new jobs, new friends, and new locations. Yet, other seasons may bring loss of a job, people, or even our home. Some seasons seem to last forever feeling stuck applying for jobs, taking care of children or a sick family member, or longing to be married instead of single. As a nation, we are going through a season of leadership changes that may affect our very lives and families. During these times, we feel like we are riding an emotional roller coaster. Joy, fear, grief, sadness, happiness, anger, peace and excitement grip our hearts.

Thankfully, each season has its own beauty, even in the darkest suffering. That beauty lies in God, the Designer and Master of all seasons – “He changes times and seasons…” Daniel 2:21. Yet, HE is NEVER changing. He does not change with the seasons but orchestrates them remaining in control and at peace.

“God who is enthroned from of old, who does not change…” Psalm 55:19

“I the LORD do not change…” Malachi 3:6

King Solomon, one of the wisest kings in history understood seasons of life:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,…a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace… He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

God has made everything beautiful. Everything! How? Because He is God and He is good. He is in control of time, circumstances, kings and kingdoms.

God is All-Knowing, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God.” Hebrews 4:13

God is All-Powerful, “All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases…among the people of the earth. No one can stop him…” Daniel 4:35

God is Love and is Faithful, “Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens, your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.” Psalm 36:5

God is Good, “The LORD is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.” Psalm 145:9

God is Sovereign, “He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; He alone is God.” 1 Timothy 1:17

God is Holy, “No one is holy like the LORD! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” 1 Samuel 2:2

Every season comes from God for a purpose – to accept His salvation personally through His Son Jesus, to trust His word, to make Him a refuge, to rejoice in Him, to grow in faith, or to be quiet and enjoy His presence.

Do you see the beauty in your season? Look. God is there with you and will make “everything beautiful in its time”. You can trust in His loving plans and abide in His love. Through the seasons He produces beautiful fruit through our lives as believers for His glory. What fruit do you see?

 

 

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Silence and Trust is Your Strength

Living in an area that offers rest in the mountains, quite often people are instead attracted to the many activities and tourism. Even though surrounded by the quiet beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, some don’t know how to enjoy the silence. They have become too accustomed to noise and busyness.

These past few months have been a time of silence and quiet from blogging and writing so that I can read God’s word, pray and renew my mind. From these times of silence, quiet trust, and prayer God renews my strength to help others and minister to their needs. Silently reading and meditating on God’s word and listening in prayer, I have the words to speak and write for others. In our American culture of busyness and noise, even in the church, this spiritual discipline is rarely honored in the Christian community.  In fact, we “glorify” being busy.  We rarely seek silence before God. Instead we seek our own ways, asking God’s “blessings” on our plans instead of first going to Him in silence, listening to His instructions and gaining His strength.

Often a recurring problem among God’s people, centuries ago, the Israelites decided not to listen to the Lord either, wanting to go their own way, as “children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord.” (Isaiah 30:9) They decided to seek someone else’s help and guidance in Egypt. They didn’t want to hear from God – they had their own plans, thank you. Yet, even in their disobedience against God to listen, He wanted them to come back and rest in Him:

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

It is our silence and trust in God that give us the strength and words to minister to others in this hurting world. We are too quick to make our plans and not stop to be silent and pray. Too many Christians, even those in ministry, are following their own ways, and the influence of others’ worldly knowledge instead of seeking God’s instructions in silence and prayer. God could say to them as He told the Israelites, “You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances that are not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins.” (Isaiah 30:1. NLT)

In his book, The Way of the Heart, author, Henri Nouwen talks about the importance of solitude, silence, and prayer. Nouwen says:

“A word that bears fruit is a word that emerges from the silence…from it we speak to those in need. Solitude and silence can never be separated from the call to unceasing prayer…The literal translation of the words ‘pray always’ is ‘come to rest’…It is a rest in God in the midst of a very intense struggle.”

In the quiet clinging to God in prayer, we grow in our strength. The deep roots of the tree grow in silence but its strength is shown through withstanding the power of the wind and storms.

Can we just stop for a few minutes or even an hour? And dare I say, even perhaps not attend another Christian meeting or event before we have spent silent time with God, listening to His instructions? Can we turn off the noise around us, put down the tourist guide, and get away so our strength is renewed? You never know what you might hear God say to you in His word and through prayer.

“He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries…Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.” Isaiah 30: 19, 21, NLT

 “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him,” Psalm 62:5

 

Keep Focused!

Waking up to another morning of low dense white clouds, I could barely see past the trees in our yard; the cloud’s thickness engulfed everything in sight. Low lying, thick clouds are common in the mountains, yet driving through them on curvy roads can be dangerous. In the car, hands clinched to the steering wheel, there is a great deal of uncertainty so I focus on the white painted lines on the pavement and the red tail lights on the cars in front of me. Never knowing when the clouds will lift, I stay focused and am always relieved when I finally come out of the thickness and can see far ahead on the road in front of me.

Often in our lives, there are times when we seem to be surrounded by dense clouds. We can’t see very far, perhaps only a few feet in front of us. We become frightened, anxious, and not sure of our surroundings. It muddles our thinking and we feel lost and unsure of where we are headed. If only we could see farther ahead and make out our path.

During those times, we must stay focused. If not, we could veer off the path and go down a dark hill or get stuck somewhere- not even knowing where we are. Just like the white painted directional lines on the road, we need to fix our eyes on a clear guide. There is only one sure guide through the darkness, One who knows the right path, step by step – Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the way…” John 14:6. He is the way toward God and His love, peace, forgiveness, and wisdom for life.

Not sure of the path in front of her, Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), a brilliant and famous artist, searched and prayed for clear directions. Fixing her eyes on Jesus, she decided to put aside her art to take the message and love of Jesus to Algeria. Joyful and at peace in following Jesus’ clear path, Lilias wrote several books and tracts about her love for Jesus. In her tract, Focussed she wrote:

“It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies. Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day? …Then dare to have it out with God, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His glory…Turn full your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.”

Inspired by Lilias’ words, Helen Lemmel wrote the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”:

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Are you in some darkness, surrounded by thick clouds from difficulties, or perhaps wrong choices or failures? Have you lost your way not seeing the path in front of you? Then look only to Jesus. He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Let His words, God’s words, guide you through the clouds. Read God’s Word daily, clinging to its truths.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil.” 119:133

“The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.’” Psalm 32:8

 

Disease in the Vineyard

Book Photo 3

Did you wake up this morning to more bad news?  More killings around the world? More political disappointments? Are you mortified over the continual celebration of corruption, deception, vulgar speech, rage, slander, and mockery of God and His people?  As Christ’s followers, we understand the world condones this type of behavior. But, like me, you may be shocked to see many of God’s people, who claim to follow Jesus, succumb to this indwelling evil. They, like the world, support and encourage leaders and political figures that have no respect for God or His laws. These leaders are depraved and full of arrogance, rage, slander, and division.

There is bad news in God’s vineyard; a disease is spreading and the branches are becoming weak and fruitless. Some have no interest in remaining in the Vine, Jesus. Worldly thinking has taken their thoughts captive. Perhaps, these members in the church accept such behavior because it reflects their own behavior.  They are not bothered by their own acceptance of deceiving to get their own way and using anger and slander to bully others. They have left God’s standards and embraced the world because it feeds their selfish desires. Their acceptance of worldly pride in others is a mockery to God.

Paul warned the new believers in Colossae of following after worldly godless leaders:

“Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.” Colossians 2:8

Jesus told his disciples to “remain in me” but he also gave a warning to those who chose not to remain and joined with the world:

“If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” John 15:6

Yet, Jesus continued to remind his followers of God’s love, even in the midst of warning:

“’As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.’” John 15:9 

God the Father, motivated by His love, is warning His people and desiring for the prodigals to return and remain with Him. Consider His words that still speak to His people today in the midst of their sin and turning away from Him:

“Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”  Joel 2:13

 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us…” Hosea 6:1

“…let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him.” Isaiah 55:6-7

There are dire consequences for continuing down the path of worldliness, away from God – in our personal lives and our nation. God is calling those who have left His side to return back to Him again. It is time to wake up and return to God!

My book, Wake Up! Return to God- a call to personal revival from God’s Word is now on sale at amazon.com. God is using this book to change lives and encourage those who have strayed away to return to Him. Are you ready for a change in direction? Do you know others who need that change in their lives? The time is now to wake up!  We can’t wait any longer while evil continues to rule our land!

Already Forgotten?

Old Christmas tree2

 

Lying on the ground among the leaves and snow, its pungent evergreen smell approaches the steps of our house. Once decorated with glistening ornaments, wrapped in bright lights, our Christmas tree brings memories of the celebration of the birth of Jesus just over six weeks ago.  The decorations are packed away, gifts put to use, and cookies or candies all eaten.  But has the Christ in Christmas already been forgotten among the daily grind of life?

After the “first Christmas” when Jesus the Son of God was born, that amazing historical event soon became memories to those who experienced it. And what amazing memories!  A long trip to Bethlehem for Mary and Joseph to register for a census, then the virgin birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world – his bed an animal trough, the appearing of an angel announcing the birth to shepherds joined with a heavenly hosts saying, “Glory to God in the Highest” and finally the shepherds finding Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus. There was great rejoicing!

Celebrating all that had happened, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:19-20). Their hearts were filled with joy as they returned to their homes.

The shepherds continued their daily work tending and caring for sheep. Returning to Nazareth with their new baby, named Jesus, Mary and Joseph continued their daily work as well. Joseph continued his business as a carpenter – creating, and building. Mary busily took care of Jesus – feeding, cleaning, and raising him. They went back to daily life but they took with them the Son of God.

Now in the year 2016 six weeks after the Christmas tree is gone and celebrations have ceased, do we return to our daily lives “glorifying and praising God”? Do we acknowledge Jesus the Savior of the world in our work, our homes, in our everyday happenings? Do we talk with Jesus, thanking him and asking him for his strength, his peace, his direction every day? Or have we already forgotten him as we move onto other events and holidays?

God gave the world a gift that never goes out of season, his Son Jesus who would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. (Isaiah 9:6) Whether shepherds, carpenters, business people, mothers, fathers, singles, widows, orphans or whatever our role in life we can go to Jesus for counsel, experience his mighty power and loving arms as a father and know His peace in all circumstances.

Don’t forget to include Jesus in your daily activities. If you are a believer in Him, Jesus is there in your presence today. He hasn’t forgotten you. He is the Vine, our life source. In fact, the Christmas celebration never ends when we take Jesus with us into our daily lives “glorifying and praising God”.

The Missing Fruit of Thankfulness

thanksgiving table

Like most families, during this season of Thanksgiving our family would make lists of things we were thankful for in our lives. As we sat at the table we shared our lists which included family, jobs, friends, food and housing, happy events, God’s love for us, His provision and His salvation. It is always good to spend this time giving thanks for all the gracious benefits and comforts God has given to us in our lives.

But often we are missing one of the fruits of thankfulness on our lists.  We don’t add the difficult things to our list of thanks. Wouldn’t that be strange to thank God for the difficulties and hardships in our lives? Who does that? Yet, when we only thank God for the good in our lives and not the difficult things we miss out on having a true thankful heart.  We miss out on acknowledging the character of God – He is good, loving, kind, patient and totally in control no matter the circumstance.

Paul, a follower of Jesus, who had been beaten, imprisoned, stoned and suffered for his belief in Jesus wrote,

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”                          1 Thessalonians 5:18

always giving thanks to God the Father for everything.” Ephesians 5:20

Even Daniel, a servant of God, who when he heard that a law had been passed to persecute those who prayed to and worshipped God instead of King Darius, responded with thanks to God:

“But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room…He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” Daniel 6:10

Grateful people are those who can be thankful in all circumstances. I have met very few who can do that. And most of those were believers overseas living in difficult conditions with little freedoms and great persecution. Yet, they were glad to praise and thank God in all their circumstances.

It seems unthinkable to be thankful for the difficulties and sufferings in our lives. But it is during those times that we can come to know first-hand the kindness, mercy, love, goodness and sovereignty of God. Then, by faith in God’s character, we can be thankful knowing there is a bigger picture and purpose in our small world of pain and hurt.  As I desire to abide with Christ and be more like Him, He will produce the fruit of thankfulness in my life. He desires for me to be thankful for everything.

Are you going through a difficult time? Perhaps you are suffering and hurting. You can be thankful that there is a loving, merciful, wise, all knowing God who sees your pain, cares for you and has a plan.  It takes faith to thank God during those times. He will give you that faith if you ask.

This Thanksgiving, when I make that list I will be thankful for all that I have and don’t have, for the good and also the challenges and difficulties in my life. What will you include on your list?  I desire to say as David said,

“I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak His praises.” Psalm 34:1

Withering But Awakened to New Life

rose bud

A bright yellow bud is finally appearing on the rose bush. After clearing a bank of weeds and dead plants in front of our house, I needed to fill it with other plants, so I went to our local garden shop. I always look in the back for plants that are half dead, the ones that no one wants but are ridiculously inexpensive, and I found a few plants plus an unrecognizable “Royal Golden” rose bush.

Taking them home, I took special care to plant the rose bush where it would get a lot of sun. Green started showing on the bush but no rose. Finally last week, nearing the end of summer, I saw a beautiful yellow bud on one end of a green stem. I just wanted to see one rose before the end of summer. A sigh of relief and joy, I was glad it was true to its name on the tag – a “Royal Golden” Rose. If there were no roses on the bush it would just be another green plant with thorns. I would have to throw it away because a rose defines a rose bush.

Like the shriveled up rose bush, many people who call themselves Christian don’t have fruit that looks like Christ at all. Their thoughts, actions, and speech are nothing like Jesus, even though the “tag” says “Christian”. There is little or no fruit in their lives, no buds on the branches. Just a green plant with thorns. From years of not talking with God, not reading His word, and not fellowshipping with other believers they have withered. And they need new life. The soil has become dry. Maybe just living in a sinful world, they have allowed themselves to become bitter, discouraged or apathetic by hurt and rejection. They just quit and no longer trust God and His nourishment for their lives.

Yet God sees them and wants to renew their lives, to bring fruit to the unrecognizable branches. God is extremely patient and longs for those who know His love and forgiveness to return to Him and be renewed. God wants those who know Him to abide with Him and seek Him. Then He will produce fruit, rose buds in their lives.

God shared this message with His people centuries ago through Hosea:

“…stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.” Hosea 14:8

“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”  Hosea 6:3

God cares for those who know Him. He produces the fruit as we love only Him and not the idols in our lives. He wants to shower His rain into our hardened dry hearts. He says:

“Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD.” Zech 1:3

Right now there are too many defeated, apathetic, and lifeless believers in Jesus who need to return to their God. Seeing God work in my own life, just like the rose bush, I wrote a book to encourage others, Christians and non-Christians, to seek God and let Him renew their lives. Wake Up! Return to God will be out on Amazon in a few weeks. God always longs for His people to return to Him and be made whole, to live fruitful lives that reflect His glory to the world. As we seek God and only Him in our daily lives, He alone can create a vibrant life, full of hope, joy, peace and goodness. He gives us a life full of abundant rose buds bursting into radiant fragrant roses.

Are you like the rose bush in the corner needful of new fresh blossoms, a restored relationship to the Creator who loves you and wants to care for you? Go to Him, He knows exactly what to do and will plant you in such fertile soil you will be amazed at the abundant fruit in your life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and a witness of Jesus in your life.