Seasons

I’m pretty done with summer. As a person who usually runs hot anyway, the past two or three months have been uncomfortable to say the least. I’m ready for fall, for the entire three or four weeks we’ll have where it actually feels like fall and not winter. Yes, three weeks where it’s not terribly hot or terribly cold. I’m eagerly awaiting the season change.

While I’m waiting for the seasons of weather and nature to change, others are waiting for their seasons of life to change.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NRSV) reads, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

That pretty much covers it, doesn’t it? I can’t think of a single aspect of life that Solomon didn’t cover here.

For me, this scripture is usually a comfort. Whenever I think about the hard times I’m going through, I recall this scripture and think, “It’s okay. It’s just a season.” I think of how seasons flow into one another so seamlessly, and I remember that whatever I find myself in, I will eventually find myself out of it.

But what if we get stuck? What if we find a rut in one of those seasons and we just sort of stay there?

Unlike seasons of weather, the seasons of life don’t have a specific date or point where they switch, and they don’t all last the same amount of time. Your season to kill may only last a month, but your season of love may last a year before changing. So before you write yourself off as being stuck, consider that maybe your season is just lasting longer than you would like.

That being said, I do believe it’s possible to get stuck in a certain season, and that could very well happen to anyone.

We’re always presented with choices and opportunities, and if we’re in a season (more than likely a bad one) and we take our eyes off of God or make choices that drive us away from Him instead of towards Him, we’ve lost any sort of momentum that’ll pull us out of it. God’s hope and love are what guide us from one season to another, and if we lose sight of those, we may just be left where we are until we find them again.

During Alan’s sermon on Sunday, three different Disciple songs came to my mind, and I’m going to share them with you because I think each discusses a key part in changing seasons.

The first song that came to mind was “Thousand Things.” It’s a song about finding God in everything, and the chorus goes:

‘Cause, Lord, if You showed me a thousand things
Brand new about You every day
I still would never see the fullness of Your glory
And, Lord, if You gave me a thousand years
To try and count up all the ways
That You have shown to me that You are just not enough
You are too much.

Believe me when I say that God won’t leave you. He never has, and He never will. So if you feel like He has, it’s your perception that’s changed. I assure you that He’s there. It may not feel like it or look like it, but He is. You’re the most precious thing He’s ever created. He’s not going to leave you when you need Him most.

We’ve discussed the idea of God’s grace being enough a lot here lately, and I don’t believe that’s an accident or a coincidence. I think God’s really trying to teach someone this. God’s grace is pure and abundant and powerful. It shouldn’t be underestimated or undervalued. And if we look, we’ll find it everywhere because God is everywhere.

That leads me directly to the second Disciple song, which is titled “Worth the Pain.” I want to point to two different parts of the song here. There are two lines in the chorus that proclaim, “It’s worth the pain / God’s in the rain.” The bridge of the song says:

There’s grace
When you’re at your wits end
Begging for it
He’ll take you by the hand
There’s grace.

This song means a great deal to me because it helped me cope with a really difficult time in my life. I was struggling with school and my father had cancer. And it showed me that even when it’s all dark and troublesome and pouring rain, God’s there. It also reminded me that rain isn’t always a bad thing. It can be refreshing, and it helps things grow.

If you’re struggling, remember that the rain you’re experiencing now is growing you to not only outlast the problems you face now, but it’s also preparing you for conquering other things you’ll eventually face. And even though it’s not fun, there’s a purpose, and God is there. He’s right there in it with you.

The last song that came to mind was “Lay My Burdens,” and it is about exactly what you would think it’s about. It’s about someone who is tired and tired of carrying his/her burdens. Exhausted, this person turns to God to lay down the burdens, to rest, and to be revived.

Sometimes a season in life just wipes us out, and sometimes it starts to weigh us down. It doesn’t make sense that we insist on carrying around things that harm us, but we do. We let it drag us down and pull us around in pointless circles.

What if we stopped letting it control us and let God take control? Instead of carrying that baggage and trouble into the next season of life, lay it down at God’s feet. And while you’re there, pick up some of His love, peace, and joy. It’s all plentiful, but I’m sure you’ll find that it’s all very lightweight.

I trust that you’re ready for the next season for your life, and I hope you’ll take the lessons you learned in this season with you. Remember that God won’t leave you, that His grace will always be readily available, and that God wants to take your burdens from you to fill your life with only the best things. Yes, there is a season for everything, but you’ll never have to go through a single season alone.

By Carrie Prevette

23

Psalm 23 is the most well-known psalm there is. People know it by heart. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard someone sing it before (which is appropriate because it’s a song, but also a bit odd because people don’t really do that anymore). It’s a great source of hope and comfort for many people.

But I’ll let you guys in on something: I don’t particularly care for Psalm 23. It’s not that I dislike Psalm 23. It’s just that I can’t think of a time it’s ever moved me greatly. I can take it or leave it. I’ve yet to reach a point in my life where Psalm 23 speaks to me, but I’m glad it’s there if I ever do desperately need it.

I’m not saying this to belittle the hope and peace anyone gets from this scripture. Hope is hope. You should get it wherever you can and hold onto it. And what I think about something shouldn’t affect the experiences you’ve had. If Psalm 23 was there for you in some dark or tough time, I say cling to it and shout its praises.

Everything in Psalm 23 points to peace and comfort. Green is a very calming color, and green pastures make us think of more rural settings where everything is slow and usually quiet. And the waters are described as “still.” They aren’t rushing or roaring; they’re perfectly still. David says that he isn’t afraid simply because God’s there. The rod and staff indicate that God will help and protect him. David says that God blesses him, even when he’s surrounded by his enemies, and he knows that those blessings will always be with him.

It’s a series of lovely scenes. First peace then blessings then prosperity.

David was a great man of God. He wasn’t perfect in any sense, but he followed after God with all of his heart. He made some bad decisions. He was forced to deal with some serious consequences. He sang songs of love to God when everything was going well and sang songs of anger to God when he was upset with how his life was going.

Doesn’t that sound familiar?

That’s us. That is each and every child of God. We’re on cloud nine and worshipping when it’s all going well and we see God’s movement in our lives. And when we’re down and out, we turn away from Him. We fall, we falter, and we reach up for God’s hand even when we know we don’t deserve it.

The closeness we see between God and David isn’t only for God and David. It’s special, yes, because everyone’s relationship with God is unique and individual. But there’s nothing stopping us from reaching that same level of intimacy with God. Even if we can’t express it as well as David does in Psalm 23, we can surely feel it in our hearts and souls. The only things that can hinder us from doing so are the things we allow to stop us.

Look at Psalm 23 again. This time, look specifically at the verbs. To begin with, they’re in present tense. David isn’t talking about the past or talking exclusively about the future. He’s talking about the here and now.

God is a very present God. We talk about the past – what He did, where He brought us from. We talk about the future and all the grand plans He has for us. But it feels like we never talk about the present, and I think it’s because a lot of times, the present isn’t that great. There are bills to pay and decisions to make and disagreements and trials. Oh, it may be better than our past, but it’s not nearly as good as our future. Or maybe it’s not quite as good as the past and we’re looking forward to the next mountaintop. What David is showing us here is that it doesn’t matter what our present situation is like. God is still God. If it’s grim or if it’s great, God wants to go through it with us, and He wants to bless us at this very moment in time.

The second thing we notice about the verbs in Psalm 23 is that they are active. The verbs are strong and they’re certainly happening. David doesn’t doubt what God’s doing or that He’s doing anything. He knows that God’s up to something, that He’s working in David’s life. Even if it didn’t seem like it, David knew it was happening.

The third thing we notice about the verbs is that God is usually the subject in front of them. God’s the one moving and acting here. David does something every now and then and an inanimate object will serve as a subject occasionally, but it’s mostly God. David shows us that this tranquil state he’s reached, this mound of blessings he has, is due to God. He shows us that it’s not about him or his victories or his deeds, but all of it, every last bit of it, is about God.

I’m sure when David wrote Psalm 23 that he didn’t expect it to be published and be handing out hope to people centuries later. He meant it as a song of worship, a song he would use to glorify God. He probably didn’t care what came of it so long as it made God smile and showed God’s power. And no matter how anyone feels about it, I think we can all agree that it certainly does both of those things.

By Carrie Prevette

Words

Five or six years ago, Sandra Bullock received awards for her performance in The Blind Side. She also received awards for her performance in All About Steve. The difference was that her awards for the former were because of how great everyone thought it was and the latter because of how terrible everyone thought it was.

I’m one of the only people on this planet that actually really enjoys All About Steve. Truth be told, I don’t understand why people don’t like it. I think it’s funny and smart. And it’s different. It’s about a woman named Mary who isn’t normal (e.g., her bright red boots, her festive vocabulary, her hamster named Carol). Mary goes on a date with a guy named Steve, a camera man on a news team, and obsesses over him. She loses her job as a crossword constructor at a local newspaper and follows Steve and his team around the country. Eventually, Mary realizes that she likes being abnormal and doesn’t need (or maybe even want) Steve.

Part of what I love about this movie is what Mary has to say about words. Mary works with words. They are how she makes her living and are a huge part of her life. When someone says there are no words to describe something, she replies, “Oh, but there are. There are always words.” She talks about how some words are boring while others are fun (“go” vs. “vamoose”). She also says, “There are meaningful words, there are pointless words, and then there are words that hurt.”

Stephen King’s book On Writing is partially a memoir and partially about the craft of writing. In a section about description, he writes:

Description begins with visualization of what it is you want the reader to experience. It ends with your translating what you see in your mind into words on the page. It’s far from easy. As I say, we’ve all heard someone say, “Man, it was so great (or so horrible/strange/funny)…I just can’t describe it!” If you want to be a successful writer, you must be able to describe it, and in a way that will cause your reader to prickle with recognition. If you can do this, you will be paid for your labors, and deservedly so. If you can’t, you’re going to collect a lot of rejection slips and perhaps explore a career in the fascinating world of telemarketing.

Words have power, both to portray how we see something or to explain what we mean. They’re extremely important because they are the main way we express ourselves, declare our thoughts, and communicate.

On top of writing, I do a lot of talking and even more thinking. I have a lot of words flying around, and some of them are directed at myself. The question is, what kind of words am I directing at myself?

If I’d asked that question a year ago, the answer would’ve been alternatingly negative and positive. The words that I used to say to myself and about myself depended on what sort of mood I was in. My self-talk was very circumstantial. If the rest of the world was beating me up, I’d beat myself up too. Like I deserved it. Like if I could hurt myself more than anyone else, nothing else could actually hurt me.

What about language that I don’t speak to myself, but that I direct towards myself? Like the music I choose to listen to or the people I choose to listen to. That’s also important. What’s more important there, though, is not the language itself so much as how the language makes you feel.

For example, take the song “Me” by The 1975. It’s one of my all-time favorite songs, and it’s very negative. What few lyrics are there are not lyrics designed to make you think of sunshine and happiness. Lines in this song include, “You see my face like a heart attack,” “I’m sorry, but I’d rather be getting high than watching my family die,” and “Oh, I was think about killing myself.”

I repeat, this is one of my favorite songs. That’s because when I’m at my lowest, the melancholy music and the sorrowful lyrics sympathize with me. They may sound depressing to someone else, but to me, they tell me I’m not alone. It’s like someone else understands me and is wrapping his arms around my shoulder. It may sound odd, but I find the song comforting.

The beauty is that you could listen to the same song and not like it, and that’s perfectly fine. Music speaks to us all differently. You may want something uplifting when you’re down. That would make you feel better. What makes me feel better is knowing other people are or have been just as far down as me.

And what about the people we surround ourselves with? I would say to surround yourself with those who will comfort you and encourage you in the best ways. Don’t hang around with those who pull you down when you’re trying to stand. Sure, they can sit with you at the bottom, but only if they intend to help you get back up.

And I want you to know, more than anything, what God says about you. The words He chose to direct at you in His Word are only positive and beautiful. He has great plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11). He wants you to live a full, eventful life (John 10:10). He wants to take care of you (Matthew 6:25-34). He wants you to be strong and empowered through Him (Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 40:31). He says we’re not alone (Matthew 28:20). And there is nothing that can stop His love for us (Romans 8:38-39).

The only thing more important than what you say about yourself is what God says about you. God says that you’re loved and that you’re worth it. And He wants you to feel that way about yourself.

That’s incredibly difficult. But I’m a living example that it can happen. Just believe God and turn to Him. Read and reread verses that prove how valued you are. Surround yourself with people who will make you feel loved and encourage you. Listen to things that make you happy you’re here and walking on this earth, whether it’s a tune you like to dance to or words you like to cry to. Let all of the messages and words in your life be positive, loving ones.

By Carrie Prevette

Weakness

Why is weakness such a bad thing?

It generally presents no moral issue; it’s not a sin. Someone who is weak is not a bad person due to his or her weakness. Weak people are only unreliable in the area of their lives affected by their weakness. (For example, if someone was only physically weak, one would not rely on them in regards to anything of physical activity, like playing a game of baseball or helping move into a new apartment. However, that same person’s mind and soul would remain fine and healthy. One could rely on them for advice or guidance.)

Synonyms for weakness include: powerlessness, helplessness, frailty, fragility, disadvantage, fault, and flaw. Weakness, in the simplest and shortest terms, is a lack of strength or power.

Maybe that’s why we don’t like it, because it means we’re lacking something. That never looks good. In a society where appearances are important, absolutely everything in most cases, it hurts us to not look or seem a certain way. It’s not just enough to keep up with the lovely Mr. and Mrs. Jones in terms of finances and materials. We want to seem just as healthy and just as happy too. We want to seem just as good as or better than them.

More importantly, lacking something never feels good either. It tends to make us feel inferior. We see others as they seem, not as they are, and start comparing ourselves to them. This leads to disappointment, which leads to anger or jealousy, which leads to our longtime pal, bitterness.

No, it’s not fun to lack something, particularly strength.

The word “strength” evokes many different images. A childhood hero, a superhero, a parent, a cancer patient, a soldier, a muscular man flexing, a CEO. Maybe it’s an object, not a person, like an oak tree, a brick building, a monument. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone thought of us when they heard the word “strength”?

I mentioned 2 Corinthians 12:9 in another blog post recently, and I’m going to use it again here. The NLT version of Paul’s words reads, “Each time [God] said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”

Whenever I’m not feeling terribly strong or powerful, I think of this verse and it comforts me. It’s nice to know that when I’m not at my best, it’s the perfect position for God to step in and do infinitely better than I ever could.

God’s power works best in weakness because it is evident who’s truly in control, who the power belongs to.

I’ve officially been at my job for a year now, so I’m up for review and hopefully a raise. Now, my job isn’t very hard. (I’m a bank teller.) I would say that I’m decent at my job, maybe good, but at the very least, I’m average. I mess up sometimes (Don’t we all?), but I  don’t continuously mess up.

So let’s live in a weird, unrealistic world for a moment and say that when my manager’s manager comes in to do my review, not only do I get a big raise, I’m also offered a promotion. Since I don’t consider myself weak in my banking abilities, it would be easy for me to turn proud and take all the credit for what’s happened. It’d be easy, although wrong, for me to claim God’s power and glory as my own.

Let’s live in this same strange world for just a bit longer, but alter the situation entirely. In this fictional situation, I’ve been doing well up until a month ago. Since then, I’ve cashed a fraudulent check for over $3,000 and slept through my alarm, coming in two hours late. I head into my review and find that everyone is considerate enough to let me keep my job and they’re actually giving me a slight raise. There’s nothing powerful about my part in that at all. It’s all extremely humbling. God would get all the credit.

(I’m not telling you all of this so you’ll go into work and be awful employees so God will receive glory. We mess up enough naturally without doing it intentionally. Plus, doing our best and automatically pointing it back to God gives Him just as much glory.)

Do you see the difference in our two scenarios? Is it clear why He shines in our weakness?

If people know or see my flaws and faults, yet they also see that I’m thriving despite those imperfections, they’re looking at the power of God.

Out of the synonyms I listed earlier for “weakness,” the one that sticks out to me is “disadvantage.” I don’t typically associate the two words, although it does make sense.

It makes even more sense in the context of what Paul’s saying. Replace “weakness” with “disadvantage” in the verse. “Each time [God] said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in [disadvantage].’ So now I am glad to boast about my [disadvantages], so that the power of Christ can work through me.” It becomes an umbrella statement for every miracle and blessing, an anthem for every underdog. It’s beautifully hopeful.

I would argue that it’s the very same without our little revision.

I find myself more comfortable saying “disadvantage” here because it references my situation, not me. So while it’s nice and sounds good, and I think Paul would dig it as well, it’s not entirely accurate for the purpose of the verse.

Like always, it falls to us to let it fall to God’s masterful, healing hands.

Don’t be afraid of weakness; don’t be ashamed of it. It’s part of life. Maybe it passes, maybe it won’t. (Paul is talking about a relentless thorn in his side when he relays God’s inspiring message.) Either way, don’t view it as you not being good enough. View it as God being more than enough and willing, wanting, to shine through you and your life.

By Carrie Prevette

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