October 28, 2015

Death to Life, or Why I Love the Fall


It's my first October in Virginia, and this desert-raised girl has been eagerly anticipating the fall color. Almost overnight, the leaves have exploded into brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows.

I love the fall. Winter, not so much. But spring? Spring is my favorite.

It seems a bit morbid to love watching the process of leaves dying. And then, depending on the length of seasons where you live, you get to sit in that death for weeks or months. Winter has its own beauty, but it can also be dark and desolate, cold and bitter. Sometimes it seems endless.

But then spring always comes. Spring displays the brilliancy of life, new life, fresh life. Cast against our memory of the stark bleakness of winter, spring's hues seem even brighter and more lively.


As I looked out on the beauty of fall in my yard this morning, I was reminded of the verses from Sunday's sermon, particularly, Colossians 1:5a:
because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
 I love fall. And I hope that when it comes my time to die, I am able to die as beautifully as the leaves of a maple or aspen, all the the glory of God. If I do, it will be because I'm anticipating a glorious spring, the ultimate spring of heaven.

As Jeff told us Sunday, who or what we hope in will define how we think and live. Does my hope of heaven have any bearing on how I live? My future heavenly home should define and give meaning to my life and the way I live. For now, I need God's help to live in that anticipation each day, to allow that hope laid up for me in heaven to inform my heart and behavior.

Who or what do you hope in? How does this shape your daily life?



* (Sorry, summer. Our many years together in the Phoenix area and the Deep South have left us with a love/hate relationship.)

October 2, 2015

Exercising trust



We pray for sanctification and then are afraid God will sanctify us by stripping us of our idols and feel distressed lest we can not have them and Him too. (Elizabeth Prentiss in letter her dearest friend, from The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss)

One day, I'm going to write a post about how calm and peaceful my life is. How we're just trolling along, enjoying a season of rest.

This isn't that day.

Once again, this has been a season (and year) of significant transitions: some complete, some happening how, and others yet to come. This has been a summer of challenges, of hardships, of blessings. It's been a summer of holding on to the important, letting go of the fleeting, and learning to recognize the difference.

It's been a season of trusting.

Trusting in God's timing when plans are unavoidably delayed.

Trusting in God's grace when burdens are heavy and I'm soul-weary.

Trusting in God's strength when I'm physically, emotionally, spiritually worn down.

Trusting in God's providence when I'm near the end of my resources, humanly speaking.

I wish that trust was my default mode. But perhaps that's why God has me exercising that muscle so much lately -- it needs strengthening, it needs to be more defined. The beauty of exercising one muscle, though, is that other muscles usually have to be involved, also. My trust muscle benefits from the strength of my belief, hope, faith, steadfastness muscles... or suffers from their weakness. And those muscles are further strengthened when my trust muscle is exerted.

...train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:7b-10 ESV)

When we think of our heroes of the faith, those who seem to have (or had) strong and stable trust intact, we might think of the Apostle Paul, Elisabeth Elliot, Amy Carmichael, Eric Liddell, Adoniram Judson, and so many others. How did they develop such steadfast trust? They weren't born with it, any more than you or I. Each of them share in common a life of hardship, of regularly being faced with opportunities to exercise trust, strengthening their trust more and more along the way.

A steadfast heart isn't a dead heart; it's a heart that's pulsating with a vibrant, dynamic faith, God-centered thought, and redeemed emotions that bring life and color to every experience. (Elyse Fitzpatrick, A Steadfast Heart, page 110)

Our family has just transitioned to Williamsburg, Virginia. It's been a bit of a long transition, with bumps along the way. We've left behind family (two of our children, Jeff's parents, and extended family) and many friends. As part of the process of this transition, we've done all we know to do to be good stewards and to walk in God's will. We've researched, discussed, planned, consulted, and we've prayed. We've done all of these things before each transition we've made... and frankly, we've not always experienced the outcome we hoped for. In fact, we've faced some really difficult, really ugly situations in spite of our due diligence. It was hard. Sometimes it's still hard. Yet God has been good to give us glimpses of His purposes -- some of them, anyway -- in the midst of the hard and the ugly. These glimpses help me to gaze upon Him, to be reminded of His character in ways that help me continue to trust.

Unchanging.
Provider.
Loving.
Holy.
Sovereign.
Faithful.


He is all of this and so much more.