There’s Reasons For The Seasons: Spring (2 of 5)

springThere’s Reasons for the Seasons: Spring (2 of 5)

The cold and dreariness of Winter is past and the blossoms begin to appear. It is the season of renewal. The birds are singing, the honeybees are getting back to work. Butterflies and hummingbirds grace the air that flows through my backyard.

My wife Sheryl had planted some tulip bulbs last winter. Bulbs are interesting, they are like seeds with a delay switch on them. You plant them, you forget about them, and then one day you walk out and you say, Wow!

We do truly reap what we sow. Spring reminds brings the new growth that seems as if it were busting forth from nowhere, but in reality it is the confirmation of past plantings.

Dr. Charles Stanley says, “We reap what we sow, more than we sow, and later than we sow.”

Some of the plants that have bloomed in my yard did it on their own. Those plants are called perennials for a reason! Others need to be replanted annually, and some just live for a season or two. Spring reminds us that we must enjoy some things while we can. Blooms do not last forever.

People have seasons too. They do not come with the regularity of our natural seasons, but they do come to all of us. To recognize our seasons of life we need more than a calendar.

What time in your life do you most associate with Springtime?

I found myself thinking of the days of my youth. I suppose most people would find themselves drawn back to the exciting days of their yesteryear’s. The anticipation of a journey not yet taken and all of the endless possibilities that lay ahead!

The Springtime of life is not only reserved for the young. Many of us have had great new opportunities in the later years of our lives. God specializes in new beginnings. Maybe you have opened a new business or are pursuing a new course of learning.

Some of us may be feeling the Winter of old habits or addictions that die hard. You may have been in a season of grieving over the loss of a loved one or the loss of a dream. There is good news! Spring can come to you and warm your hurting soul!

Maybe you have entered into the Springtime of a new relationship. The excitement of sharing our lives with someone we love is one of God’s greatest gifts. It is a time for establishing a firm foundation which will lead us into the other seasons of life with a commitment to one another which goes beyond mere circumstances and feelings.

Springtime does not last, but it does return again and again. It is important in the Springtime of life to ask what kind of seeds we are sowing into the fields of our lives and the lives of those we love and care about.

The seeds of deeds done out of a heart of kindness and compassion toward others with a view to eternity bring about the kind of harvest that does not bring regret or disappointment.

The Apostle James put it this way, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:17–18, NLT)

In what ways is it Springtime in your life? Is it time to make a break with some old ways and make a new beginning?

Make sure to take some time out to enjoy the sights and sounds of Springtime in your world and in your heart. Oh, and don’t forget to smell the roses!

(Special thanks to Sheryl Lewis Vallotton for planting the Tulip bulbs and for a great picture!)

 

There’s Reasons For The Seasons (Part 1 of 5)

 

There’s Reasons For The Seasons (Part 1 of 5)Pictures from my handheld 156

Life moves in cycles. There is a certain rhythm and rhyme to life. Like good music, sometimes you need to be able to get a feel for the beat.

We are young, and if we are fortunate we have the blessing of growing old. In between, we meet with all of the ups and downs that life in all of its complexity can throw at us.

Who doesn’t become overwhelmed at times? Albert Einstein once said that time is what keeps everything from happening all at once.

Although our ultimate destiny as believers is Heaven, we are for now earthbound creatures. Subject to gravity, space, and time. We feel the weight of the past, the demands of the present, and yearn for a certain type of future.

In the times when we are discouraged, frustrated, or longing for our hopes and desires to be fulfilled it is good to reflect on God’s order. The 4 Seasons can give us new perspective and encourage us to embrace the current context of our lives with renewed hope.

Most places in the world have changes of the seasons. I have often wondered what it would be like to live somewhere that does not have the definite changes. I love the Caribbean and the turquoise blue waters that seem to always be warm are so welcoming. They seem to have mystical healing properties. But would I ever get tired of everyday being Spring?

The Eskimos in Alaska experience seasons, but they are very much unlike the ones most of us are used to here in the Continental part of the country. Maybe you know firsthand of places that do not experience much of a change of seasons.

Each of our four regular seasons of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter serve a purpose beyond just giving us different scenery. In the next four blog posts we will take a look at each season and hopefully gain some insight into what makes each season so special, and perhaps be able to see what season of life you are in as well.

The Earth is not the only thing that has seasons. We do too. In the midst of particularly hard seasons we may lose grasp on the reasons for the seasons. God knows our times and they are truly in His hands.

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, NLT)

 

No matter what season of life you are in there is hope. Please join me as we look at “Spring” next time.

 

 

Who Has Made a Lasting Impact on Your Life?

Grandma January 2010Name Three People You Have Personally Known That Have Had Great Impact on You.

I had this question asked of me some time ago. It is a great question. I have known some amazing people. There are three that come to my mind most readily.

The first is my Mother, Carolyn. The second is my Grandmother. The third is my wife, Sheryl. The three women that have had the greatest impact on me. A kind of trinity of wisdom that God has put in my life. I would like to share a little about my grandmother.

My Grandmother was Fay York. She died on Valentine’s Day, February 14th 2010. She lived a hard but good life for almost 92 years. She was a faithful person. She understood her place and that God was God and she was not.

I am thinking of the time that my pickup broke down on highway 5 as we were traveling back to Oregon from Valley Springs where she had stayed with me at my home there. It was a 500 mile trip and we were less than half way there. My little Toyota pickup was overheating.  We are sitting on the side of the freeway  in sweltering 105 degree heat with most of all that she owned in this world in the back of my truck inside the camper shell.

I am panicking at the thought of leaving the vehicle.I am fearing that the heat will be too much for her. What should I do?

She calmly turns toward me and says, “I have learned that if no one is bleeding, most things turn out alright!” Sure enough we ended up alright. We let the truck cool down enough to drive to the next exit and found a shop that fixed the truck for a decent fee and we were back on the road with little pain.

She was humble and she was soft spoken. It did not mean that she was weak. She worked hard and always had time for people. She had a strong will but you would not know it to see how gracious she was. She was a good friend and confidant. She said that we could speak “man to man.” I loved her sense of humor.

My Father in heaven I thank You for her life, and I know that You are with her even now. Keep her in Your loving arms until I come to see you when my life’s course is finished. Thank You for allowing me to be born from her, and help me to live my life in such a way that when I close my eyes for the last time, that I will open them again to see You and my loved ones again!

A Godly Grandmother, Mother, and Wife. A truly beautiful heritage all given from God. These are the treasures in my life.

Who are three people that you have personally known that have had a great impact on you?

Why?

How did they make you different or better?

(Pictured: Fay York at 91 years)

 

The Three Most Important Questions You May Ever Ask Yourself

 I would like to share with stock-footage-fire-question-markyou something I wrote back in 2007. It is as true today as it was when I originally wrote it. Except one thing has changed:

I have less time than I did then to do what I feel is most important. So with a renewed sense of urgency I must pursue my highest hopes. I am not alone, you must pursue yours as well.

Today is December 31st, 2007. The journey continues. Sheryl (my wife) asked me to think of three very important things that I want to accomplish in the coming year.

I need to separate things I need to DO…. From things I want to BECOME.

Becoming is the highest order. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do, excellence is not an act, it is a habit.” That is pretty scary…. I am what I repeatedly do. There are bad habits and good habits as we all well know.

Who would not want to replace some of their bad habits with good ones? Then why do so many people remain unchanged? I believe the answer is that it is easier to remain the same… even if that involves pain and disappointment.

Fear keeps most people from changing course and making the necessary adjustments for better and more fulfilling living.

What do I really want? This is perhaps one of the most powerful questions that a person will ever ask. As the saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for.”

Everything is bought with a price. Any pleasure has some kind of inconvenience, sacrifice, and even pain of some sort attached to it. High achievers know and understand this. It is a given. Yet for some, it seems like we never do really grasp this simple concept.

So, for now instead of asking what I want… Maybe I should ask myself what I am willing to give up.

I am thinking of the little plastic hand held game I played as a child that has 8 little squares with numbers on it, and there is one open space (total of 9) in which you can move at any given time to rearrange the squares. Our lives are that way…

It is not that my life is not full…. The question is what is it full of? And the next question is what can I get rid of in order to make my life more meaningful and fulfilling for myself and those whom I love.

1. What do you really want?

2. Who do you want to become?

3. What do you need to remove from your life to make that happen?

I encourage you to take some time and write these things out on paper or on your computer. Mark the date, and look at the answers from time to time. You can reorder your life and still accomplish and become all that God has put in your heart to do!

The Credibility Gap: 3 Steps to Help You Move From Maybe to Absolutely.

“The Credibility Ga3-20-10 Hike at Indian Joe & Little Yosemite 005 copyp”– The gap between ideals and actions. The distance between planning and productivity.

In my own life, especially concerning the things of God and fulfilling my ministry it is often the vacuum which exists between information (knowledge) and transformation (application).

The dictionary defines a “credibility gap” as “A discrepancy or disparity, especially between words and actions.” In other words our actions do not line up with our testimony!

There is a glaring difference between the mind set of the first century Christian believers and many professors of Christianity in modern America today.

Modern Christianity is often an exercise in mere intellectual assent.

Just check each of these boxes, and then at the bottom of the page sign your name and you are in! (Don’t forget to sign your initials on the waiver: “If at anytime I find myself dissatisfied with my experience in Christ I am free to take on other philosophies and doctrines to satisfy my flesh”).

How can we avoid avoid this “Credibility Gap”?

Step 1: Get rid of divided loyalties. “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.

Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” James 1:5-8 (NLT)

Do you have divided loyalties? Is your measure of faith invested 80% in the Kingdom of our Father and 20% in the world and its system’s and values? What is wisdom for? Is it for us to look good in front of the world, or is it for us to be effective in revealing Christ to the world? I believe we all know the answer to these questions.

So what do we do? Let’s make sure that our faith is truly invested 100% in the Kingdom of God. Jesus promised us that if we seek Him and His Kingdom all these “other things” will be provided as well. What are those “other things?” The necessities of life.

Step 2: Stop seeking for mere information. Let us be willing to ponder the idea that what we are lacking in our Christian experience is not information, but actions. Yes we need knowledge, and we need proper training and doctrine. Beyond these foundational resources we need God’s Spirit to anoint our lives for service.

It is the anointing, the seal of the Spirit in and on our lives that gives us the power to do the works of Jesus Christ today. Ask God for his Spirit to empower you so that you can be His hands and feet in your world today. Ask Him to help you place ALL of your faith in His finished work on the cross. Take back whatever percentage of your loyalties that have been misplaced in this world and its systems and its values and reinvest them back into the only place where they truly belong– in Christ!

Step 3: Take your undivided loyalty to God and His Kingdom and move forward with the things that you are passionate about!

With proper knowledge and the wisdom which comes from above we have been given the promise that we can do His work right here in our everyday lives here on earth. Let’s put it into practice and the Kingdom of Heaven will move on our behalf. This is the only way to remove “The Credibility Gap” from our midst. When God moves in power all doubts have to flee!

The Enevitable Pain of Disappointment and How We Can Properly Respond. Part 4 of 4

Message StonesIn the last few blog posts we have looked at three areas where disappointment comes to every person.

Disappointment with God, Others, and Ourselves. There is a positive side to disappointment. We can grow, mature, and even thrive on the other side of them.

In the midst of our disappointments we need to keep trusting God when we do not understand. Corrie Ten Boom said, “You can trust an unknown future to a known God.”

It means forgiving others who have disappointed us and showing them empathy, going beyond mere words to actions that show we all have a share in being mere mortals and are quite capable of letting one another down.

For those who find it hard to overcome our disappointment with ourselves we find that we are in good company. Without the cleansing that comes from our faith in the God who loved us so much that He gave His only Son so that we would not perish, where would anyone of us be?

Disappointments can help us to grow up.

“God allows disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavor. It occurs when the boy who has been enchanted in the nursery by stories from the Odyssey buckles down to really learning Greek. It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming to laborious doing.” -C.S. Lewis

Don’t ask God to do what you want. Ask God to do what is right.

When God doesn’t do what we want, it’s not easy. Never has been. Never will be. But faith is the conviction that God knows more than we do about this life and he will get us through it.

Disappointment is cured by revamped expectations.

Max Lucado wrote, “I like that story about the fellow who went to the pet store in search of a singing parakeet. Seems he was a bachelor and his house was too quiet. The store owner had just the bird for him, so the man bought it.

The next day the bachelor came home from work to a house full of music. He went to the cage to feed the bird and noticed for the first time that the parakeet had only one leg.

He felt cheated that he’d been sold a one-legged bird, so he called and complained.

“What do you want,” the store owner responded, “a bird who can sing or a bird who can dance?”

Good question for times of disappointment.”

From Let the Journey Begin: God’s Roadmap for New Beginnings © (J Countryman 2009) Max Lucado

One final thing… Did you know that God is not disappointed in you?

How can I tell you that? You see disappointment comes from false or unreasonable expectations about something or someone.

God knows everything about you, and He is NOT disappointed in you. He could never be disappointed in you. He knows that you have struggles and He is not here to condemn. He came so that you may escape the condemnation of sin in all of its different forms.

He wants all of us to rise above our disappointments and embrace the challenges ahead. Will you do it? He is rooting for you and so am I!

The Enevitable Pain of Disappointment and How We Can Properly Respond. Part III

faceDISAPPOINTMENT WITH OURSELVES.

Mark Twain famously quipped, “I have had more trouble with myself than anyone else I have ever met.”  I must admit, I feel the same way! How about you? Is there ANYONE that has caused you more heartache, trouble, and disappointment than you?

Should we be disappointed with ourselves when we fail or come up short? When you think of your greatest defeats and things that you should have said, or should not of done, are you overcome by a sense of remorse? Then you are not alone.

When I think of this issue the first person that comes to mind is King David.

The man who killed Goliath, was later defeated by lust. The man who sang and wrote the sweetest songs, murdered an innocent man to hide his own sin. How did David ever come to grips with the reality of his own disappointment with his own actions? Because of his sin with Bathsheba their first child died.

“For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with BathSheba.

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.

For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.” (Psalm 51 NLT)

King David, in spite of all his failures was still called a man after God’s own heart. How can that be? Because in spite of his sin, and his own disappointment with his own actions he always turned back to God and pursued Him with all of his heart. He confessed his sin, turned away from it, and that brought about the healing of his relationship with God.

A right relationship with God is the beginning place for overcoming disappointment with ourselves.

In the next blog post we will put it all together and look at how we can better deal with disappointment with God, others, and ourselves.