To Everything a Season

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

This fall everything seems to have come early, including Christmas. Since I work part-time in retail, we have to start ahead of the season. We started talking about Halloween decorations in September and planning for Christmas. Then I got an idea. People who know me well get a little nervous when they hear that phrase coming from me, but I should have been the one who was nervous.

My idea was for a collection of Christmas novellas about four women who had lost their love for the season. I came up with the basic concept in the middle of hot Alabama summer at the Southern Christian Writer’s Conference several years ago but never quite got around to working on it. On a whim, I sent an email to Cheryl Wray asking if she had any Christmas ideas for her new publishing company Southern Story Books. She liked the idea but there was one catch: In order to publish by Black Friday, she needed the finished manuscript by November 1.

That was near the end of September, so I had roughly five weeks to write four novellas. Luckily for me, Hallmark starts early too, so I had some inspiration to get me in the Christmas spirit while the world was setting up for Halloween. You may have heard about Novel in November, well I was early for that, too. I did it in October…barely.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

In the midst of pandemic panic and election mania, God provided everything I needed. He opened up time and space for me to work when I thought there was none. He gave me inspiration and ideas when I thought there was none. He gave me strength and energy when I thought there was none. God has a way of making the impossible possible and something out of nothing.

Now, Black Friday has arrived and so has my new book, something I was beginning to think would never happen again. My Christmas present came early this year, but I am willing to share. So, Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas and may my words spread a little joy and laughter in the midst of this crazy year.

Now I have and idea…

Redefine

Everybody likes makeovers and shows about makeovers. There is just something satisfying about seeing a before and after photo, whether it’s a person or a house renovation. We just like to see something spruced up and revitalized. Given 2020, most of us would like a makeover for the year. There’s just one catch: In order to have a makeover we have to be willing to let go of the old.

18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Personally, I reject the phrase “new normal” as most people apply it these days. I prefer the word redefine. My world has changed in recent years but not because of the pandemic. There are different seasons in our lives due to changes in age, job situations, relationships, and health. There are mountains and valleys. When a new season comes, we have to let go of the old so that we can enjoy the new. If we want to enjoy the colors of fall, we have to put away the shorts and flip flops of summer.

The same is true spiritually speaking. Growth can be a painful process sometimes but the blessings far outweigh the negatives. We can sit around and whine about what we don’t have, or we can be grateful for what we do have. Look around and I’m sure we can find reasons to thank God. We shouldn’t let what isn’t steal the joy of what is.

When we are tempted to complain about how different things are at the moment, we need to take a moment to grieve what has passed, whether it’s a loved one, a job, or even a dream. Then, we should take stock of what we have and where we are, and dream a new dream. Give it all to God and let Him make something new out of it.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

God only wants the best for us, but sometimes that means giving up something we think is good in order to have what is best. The key is learning the fine art of letting go so that we can hold on. Let go of whatever is not of God, and hold onto our faith.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.

Philippians 3:13

So, as we move into a time of giving thanks, let’s be mindful of what we have and open to the new things that God will do. Let God redefine us so that we are more like Him tomorrow than we were today.

Flowers out of Season

When Tropical Storm Zeta descended on my house in the wee hours of a Thursday morning, I was awakened by sudden silence. I realized the power had gone out, shutting off my diffuser, fan, and nightlight. It was dark and very quiet in the house, but outside was a different story. The wind howled and yanked at the plastic covering some of my windows. Every time I would start to relax it would start again. After several hours, the storm abated enough that I drifted back off to sleep. I woke up the next morning still without power, but the house was intact, so I was grateful and got ready for work by flashlight. When I went out to the car, I saw these lilies and was reminded of God’s goodness.

Earlier in the summer some friends and I were trying to get my yard under control. Weeds had overtaken my flower bed. In the process of cutting down tall weeds with a Weed Eater, some of my lilies were mown down, too. I was sad but hopeful they would return in the spring. That morning not only had the lilies miraculously returned, they were also blooming in all their splendor totally out of season. God was kind enough not to make me wait; He sent me flowers as a reminder that He was listening to my prayers and was able to answer.

So, as the season for thanksgiving approaches, let us remember that it is always the season for thanksgiving. No matter what the situation, no matter what the problem, God is always the answer and no one else.

21 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing. 23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24 These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. 25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. 28 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

Psalms 107:21-30

No matter what kind of storm we are facing outside, we can have a haven of rest inside when we trust in the goodness of God. When we cry unto the Lord in our trouble, He will bring us out of our distresses and into our desired haven. Above all that, sometimes He sends us flowers out of season just to show us:

 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

Matthew 19:26

Recharge

Wings Like Eagles

I am thankful for two days in a row off from work for Thanksgiving. It has given me a chance to catch up on cleaning and working on some projects for Christmas, but it also has given me a chance to recharge. I got to sleep past daylight and to just sit on the couch with my cats without thinking about what needed to be done next. Since I work part-time in retail, we have been working every afternoon to get ready for the busy season, so I have come home later than usual each day for the last few weeks and my batteries were getting low.

BatteriesBatteries have a limited amount of energy and will eventually run out of power if they are not recharged. We have a multitude of electronic devices that run on batteries these days, and they all come with a cord to plug into a power source in order to recharge them, sometimes on a daily basis. The other day I was working at my computer and the screen got dim. After several minutes, a warning came up about low battery. I had to stop and plug the computer into the outlet to recharge the battery. The screen was immediately brighter. The same is true for humans. When we recharge our batteries, we work better, both physically and spiritually.

When we feel like we are lagging spiritually like the screen on my computer, it helps to stop and recharge our batteries. The Holy Spirit is our link to the ultimate power source. We just have to plug in to the source through prayer, reading the Bible, or just taking a moment to worship the Lord. Ephesians 3:16 says, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.”All we have to do is take the time to plug into the power source.outlet

Some days may require plugging in multiple times, but thankfully there are no blackouts with this power source. While everything in the earthly sphere is subject to break down and decay, God’s power is infinite. When we are weak, He is strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” We will never need an alternate power source.

In order to recharge, we need only rely on the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 says, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” When we give Him all our cares and burdens, He lightens our load so that we can rest in His strength.  So, take a moment and wait on the Lord, and He will recharge your batteries so that you can soar with the eagles.

 

The Surety of Adversity

Adversity Flower in Concrete

“Divine comfort is given that a man may be stronger to bear adversities. And temptation followeth, lest he be lifted up because of the benefit.” – Thomas A’ Kempis

Storm WarningI was listening to a CD of devotionals and heard an excerpt from Priscilla Shirer. She was repeating something I had heard her say in the simulcast where I got the CD. The idea that a storm is a given. You are either going into a storm, are in a storm, or are coming out of a storm. In any case, it will pass. Either the state of rest or the storm will pass as you move into the next phase of the cycle. Why? I think the quote above from Thomas A’Kempis spells it out for us.

When we are at rest, we soon forget who we owe the joy of rest and peace. Sometimes we even begin to believe that we earned the blessings we have received. We forget that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17, KJV). Storms come to keep us grounded.

Matthew 6:19-21 says:

 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

MistSometimes we must endure storms and suffer loss so that we will remember that everything on earth is ethereal, a mist that can dissolve as quickly as it came. We are merely passing through this world as well. As Christians our eternal home is Heaven where there will be no need of storms to remind us because we will be in the very presence of God.

How are we to live then, knowing storms will come as long as we walk this earth? Learn to ride the waves as they come. Be joyful in or out of the storms, knowing this too shall pass. Enjoy the blessings with a thankful heart and be thankful that in the storms we have the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Lay up for yourself treasures in Heaven through obedience to God’s Word. Then, as Paul says:

 “11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:11-13, KJV).

 

 

 

Motivation

We all have the best of intentions of getting up in the morning and getting things done, and then the alarm rings and we groan and roll over. Monday morning…notice I said Monday… I was not ready to get up yet. It was the day after Easter, and the weekend had been busy. I just wanted a few more minutes. As I started to drift off to sleep, the persistent poking of a small paw woke me up. I lifted up the covers, thinking she wanted to join me, but she jumped under and back out again. We repeated this routine a couple of times until I felt something tickle my arm. I sat up and turned on the lamp to find a palmetto bug in my bed. Sassy was chasing it around, which is why she wanted me to move the covers. Let’s just say that motivated me to get out of bed and get said bug out of my bed. Going back to sleep was no longer an option.

As it turned out, I got quite a few things done that morning before work, which made me feel productive and got some things off of my to do list. However, I still had hard time not being aggravated for the ruckus that got me up and moving. I was thankful for the end result even if I would have rather skipped the unsettling events that led up to it. I think God has a way of using unsettling events to move us in the direction that we should go when we would rather stay under the covers and nap.

We all like our comfort zones, where we feel all warm and safe, but God wants to go on an adventure with us, spiritually speaking. He wants to us to cast out into the deep and go fishing where we never have before because He wants to do something new in our lives. In John 21, Jesus comes to some of his disciples who were fishing all night and had caught nothing. He told them to cast out into the deep and cast their nets on the right side of the boat. They were a little skeptical, but obeyed and caught almost more than they could haul. The reward for obedience was greater than they had imagined.

Mind you, the rewards are not always tangible, but they are always more than we could have imagined. God wants to do something great in our lives, but sometimes he has to unsettle us and shake us free from our routines and send us in a new direction in order to do something new. Sometimes it is something substantial like the loss of a job, and sometimes it is just a palmetto bug in our bed that motivates us to change our morning routine to make room for something new. You may not like the motivation, but use it to cast out into the deep with Christ and you will not be disappointed by the end result.

The Great Vending Machine

Vending machines can be very convenient, even more so since many of them now take debit cards. You don’t even need cash. You just walk up, swipe your card, make a choice, and out comes your desire. Of course, most of the choices are not healthy, but it is our choice to make. However, sometimes when you go to the vending machine it will either not take your money or card, or it will not give you the item you chose. Sometimes it will give you something you didn’t choose. How you choose to respond to the vending machine is a good metaphor for our spiritual lives.

For example, in Sunday school, the teacher was using the vending machine as a metaphor in relation to children and parents. As long as the children get what they want from their “vending machines,” they are happy, but the moment the vending machine doesn’t give them what they want, they react. Think about it. What is your first reaction to the vending machine not acting like it “should?” You punch the key harder. You rearrange the bill or card and try again. Eventually, you resort to rattling the machine to make it drop your choice. Some people will shake the whole machine, or even kick it. Some people have been known to lose all control and either bust the glass or turn the entire machine over all because they didn’t get what they wanted.

I think this metaphor is a good analogy for our spiritual walk, especially prayer. We walk up to the vending machine and give our payment of praise and offer up our choice. Everything is fine as long as we get what we ask for. When we don’t, we get petulant and hurt and angry. How dare God not give us what we wanted! Sometimes we can’t even get Him to respond. Then we are really angry. We deserve to receive our request. But, what if what we requested is not what we need, or what if God has something better in mind? Maybe we are trying to get a bag of chips from the machine when God has a steak dinner with all the trimmings down the road.

God knows what we want, but He also knows what we need. The choices we see with our earthly eyes are not all the choices. God has a universe of options to choose from and the ability to see the future and know what we will need down the road. We might need more protein for the road ahead when we only want a sugary snack. When we hit the middle of the journey, we will be grateful for the protein that will sustain us when the sugary snack will have long since faded. By all means lift up prayers and petitions, but make sure to give it to God and let Him decide what is best for us and accept whatever He gives with gratitude, knowing that one day “we will understand it better by and by.”