Season

On Friday morning I stepped outside to put some things into the recycling bin. This is something I do nearly every morning and regardless of the weather I usually go out in about the same attire – its just a few steps across the deck and it isn’t usually worth more than a flip flop’s worth of preparation.

I braced myself for a blast of chilly air and opened the door – as it turned out, it was about 65 degrees outside. It felt like I stepped out of my winter expectations right into the reality of spring. It was hard to go back inside, even with the promise of coffee!

A few minutes later, as I was texting with my friend, I said that didn’t think I could ever live some place that didn’t experience all 4 seasons; I just love the promise of a new thing always just around the corner. Every season has its wonders; miracles and metaphors. In the Spring we see rebirth, and in the Fall we see the beauty in letting go. The Summer is full of color and light, while Winter is full of mystery and potential.

Every season has its responsibilities; every season has its rest.

I took the above picture in November of 2019 after spending an afternoon cleaning up the wilted remains of summer and planting some bulbs to winter over for the spring. As I looked down with pride at what looked on the surface to be containers of dirt, a thought came to mind and I posted the image with this caption:

“It is amazing to me how different a successful day of gardening looks in the spring verses how it looks in the fall. A solid reminder, really, that success isn’t always in bloom.”

Just as the seasons we experience here on Earth come with different expectations for climate and growth; the seasons we pass through in our lives are no different. You would not expect a flower to bloom in the winter; you wouldn’t think that if it was just a little more committed – if it worked just a little bit harder – it could grow up through the frozen ground.

And yet, in the winter seasons of our lives, we expect so much more of ourselves than we do of the flower. We never allow ourselves rest; we refuse to accept a season of growth if it looks like relative dormancy on the surface.

But the thing is – we aren’t created to live in perpetual harvest. Your time spent planted in the rich soil of last season’s lessons is not failure. You need that darkness to see the spark of a new thing.

Back in November of 2019 there was more moving under the soil than would meet the eye. I was working in my yard that day because I was trying to get my head right after a particularly difficult weekend…and yet that season was actually the calm before the storm. The following winter was one of heartbreak and exhaustion, and I don’t think I need to tell you how the spring shaped up.

I think I do need to tell you that right before Easter, when it was time to produce and film music for Holy Week in my living room, those fall bulbs yielded spring tulips and hyacinths, right on time.

Promise

It has become a summer tradition for us to spend a week at the beach with our best friends. Our “framily“, if you will. Altogether, there are 9 of us – 4 adults and 5 kids – and we rent a big beach house and function as a big, loud, happy family unit for a week.

On the earliest trips, when the kids were younger, the ratio of kids to adults meant that there was always a kid convinced that one of the adults had “promised” something to the group. The 4 of us would practically hold staff meetings and develop a party line on the things the kids were lobbying for, trying to seal off the cracks where the kids might insert their own interpretations as much as possible.

But careful communication does nothing to prevent selective hearing, so statements like “we will go to Mister Whippy if its too rainy to go to the beach” or “we can go to the waterpark if it is open” usually ended with someone gravely disappointed. “But Mom promised!” “But Dad PROMISED!!”

‘BUTTTT YOUUUUU PROMISSSEEEEEDDDDDD!!!?!?!?!?!”

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

I think sometimes we read the Word and pull promises from it the same way my son pulls promises from offhanded comments about milk shakes. I have seen inspirational posters using just part of the scripture above: “But take heart! I have overcome the world”.

But that does such a disservice – not just to our understanding, but to the promise itself.

The promise isn’t that you will never face suffering; to believe that is to end up gravely disappointed, or worse, deeply disillusioned. Jesus knows this, which is why He tells us – “you will have trouble”. No doubt.

The promise is that, despite our inevitable trouble, in Him we will have peace. We will have peace because He has overcome the world.

This is a promise that we will endure; that the worst thing is never the last thing; that surely He will be with us to the very end of the age.

Gift

One of my favorite pieces in the library at SUMC is An Offering, by Dan Forrest. The choir has presented it as an anthem in our traditional service a couple times in the last 5 years or so. It is worth listening to if you don’t know it; in fact go do that if you are so inclined.

O Christ, Who spared not any cost, nor any grace withheld, but poured forth Your redeeming blood in love unparalleled. What would you have me offer, Lord? What must I count as loss that I may taste the fellowship that brings me near Your cross? Why should I cling to gifts You give? Why grasp in foolish pride? What You who gave Yourself for me now bid me lay aside? To know You is my highest gain worth any sacrifice. A treasure worthy to possess at any earthly price. Yet if behind my open hands, my heart shrinks from the cost, teach me that nothing offered You is ever truly lost. A hundredfold reward awaits in one glimpse of Your face. My sacrifice forgotten in the riches of Your grace.

Dan Forrest

The first time I heard this song I was struggling hard with the things that I was setting aside to better support Danny; we had hit a wall with him and the only options we could come up with involved doing more at home and less everywhere else. This song spoke directly to my heart at a time when I absolutely needed to hear it. It was painful to walk away from the things I had built and poured myself into but in the end I had no regrets; there really isn’t anything more important than what your child needs.

Nothing more crucial than what keeps your family safe and healthy and whole.

In the last year, what it takes to do those things has been costly in ways we could never have imagined. But it is a holy thing to make sacrifices for those you love.

So if March finds you looking over the sacrifices of the last year with deep pain and sadness, you are not alone. And when your thoughts turn to the celebrations that should have happened, opportunities that couldn’t materialize, or resources you no longer have; consider maybe that you haven’t lost these things, but given them.

“Yet if behind my open hands, my heart shrinks from the cost, teach me that nothing offered You is every truly lost.”

Bless

Danny has always been a picky eater.

Actually, lets say that Danny has always been a very “specific” eater. He eats a decent variety of foods, but when it comes to what he prefers to eat, he is very particular about the make and model. He really thrives on the consistency of mass produced food items that generally end up looking/feeling/tasting/smelling exactly the same way regardless of where or when they are prepared.

We have been known to refer to the items on Danny’s list of preferred foods as things that have been “blessed” by Danny.

Which is why, I imagine, when I asked him today what it meant to bless something, he told me it meant to “choose” it.

I didn’t correct him. Because isn’t that a beautiful thought?

To bless and be blessed.

To choose and be chosen.