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God’s Appointed Seasons

fall-leaves-on-deck

There was not the usual gentle, graceful swaying of tree branches on the lake today. Gusty autumn winds prevailed as if driven by a higher power with a divine purpose. I watched as leaves fluttered to the ground fated for a season of change.

Repeated attempts to clear the avalanche of leaves from the deck proved futile and I gave up. This was a God appointed season change; my continual raking wasn’t going to change anything.

 “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—“
Ecclesiastics 3:1

We have two choices when God assigns a seasonal change to our life–take pause or face down. In past years, I would have assumed a face down attitude… “You want to get confrontational with me, God? Well, you got it!” That demeanor didn’t set well with the Master of the universe.

And so, He gifted me with life experiences that fused rebellion with knowledge. It forever changed my view of God’s seasonal changes within my personal life. I now see autumn’s fallen, withered leaves as heavenly compost that conditions the soil of my soul to sprout new growth.

God’s ebb tide for the seasons of our life continually changes.  From the time of our conception, a spiritual blueprint was designed for each of us. It is divinely drafted to meet not only our eternal needs, but to point us in the seasonal direction of our earthly needs.  That’s the beauty of our Lord.

Are you are being tossed and swayed by current life circumstances?

My past life reads like a best-selling novel and certainly not something you would expect from a preacher’s daughter. But God’s grace changed the seasons of my life into something miraculous. I encourage you to trust in the Lord and let Him orchestrate the season of your imperfect life.

 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”  Matthew 10:30-31

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Beep of Death

communication-1472636_640 There was urgency in the continual beep heard down the hallway. It clearly indicated something was wrong and I sensed it wasn’t good. Overtaken with panic, my steps quickened as I hurried to find the source of the warning signal that pierced the air.

When I opened the door, computer monitors and tangled cords greeted me. I pawed through the jumbled mess and located a thin black box. The back-up drive was no bigger than the palm of my hand and contained years of photos, business documents, e-mail archives and personal data. It was my lifeline in the event damage occurred due to hardware malfunctions, viruses or corrupted files.

As the beep of death resonated from my lifeline all hope of restoration was swallowed into the abyss of digital darkness. Years of effort vanished in an instant.  It was a wake-up call that gave pause to how I had outsourced the back-up plan for my spiritual life.

Computer memory is very different than biological memory. A computer receives and stores information in the form of data. The human brain, on the other hand, takes that same information and processes it into knowledge which is stored as a living memory.

There is an advantage to a living memory over stored data.  When we commit something to memory we are less likely to lose that knowledge. This is especially important for Christians.  To outsource our spiritual life to digital technology is an open invitation to the beep of death.

There is no digital equivalent to physically opening your Bible to read and memorize scripture. It is a process that takes God’s Word from our minds, to our heart, to our lives. His Word become alive within us and is a lifeline that never malfunctions.

Knowledge benefits our life. Information, on the other hand, is merely an accumulation of facts that can overload us with useless information. This type of data clutters our back-up lifeline. The risk associated with fragmented data is the beep of death

The acquisition of more information doesn’t necessarily increase knowledge or wisdom. In fact, the plethora of stimuli and data at our fingertips can invoke a feeding frenzy where information is ingested, but never digested. The influx of information is more likely to bring distractions.

To continually ingest information but neglect to cultivate that information into knowledge deprives us of wisdom.

“The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.”
–Proverbs 19:8

Do you have a back-up plan in place for your spiritual life? At a moment’s notice, a life malfunction could trigger the beep of death and spiral you into darkness. Would you be able to recover?

You are not a Jeopardy contestant; there is no value in useless information. Instead, focus on the pursuit of knowledge so that you may acquire wisdom and seek understanding in all things.

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JUST PASSING THROUGH

100917080512+copyI slid my passport under the glass panel to the agent tending the a line at the customs checkpoint.

“What is your citizenship?” he questioned.
“United States,” I replied.
“What is the purpose of your travels?
“I’m here for vacation.”

The gentleman carefully surveyed my picture I.D before motioning me through the international gate. I breathed a sigh of relief as I tucked my passport back into my travel pouch.

The armed soldiers who walked the corridors of the Paris airport made me uneasy. My steps quicken as I firmly clutched my carry-on bag and headed to the baggage claim area.

Paris was my first overseas trip with my husband. He was a seasoned traveler and undaunted by the military personnel that circulated the airport with loaded weapons. This wasn’t a typical scenario at my local Michigan airport; otherwise, I would have never left the comfort-zone of my home to board a plane to the other side of the world.

I wasn’t prepared for the great number of Muslims that populated Paris. Subways and sidewalks were filled with chants, music and attire foreign to me. At one point, a Muslin woman cranked up a DVD player on the subway to broadcast her religious antics. Commuters appeared apathetic to their surroundings. But for me, a cloud of opposition and unrest seemed to hang over the city of Paris.

My feelings would prove true. On the morning of our departure, a group of Muslims protested in front of the US Embassy over a film produced in the U.S. denigrating the Prophet Muhammad.

I was overcome with relief when our plane safely landed on US soil.

It was a false sense of security. The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three embassy staffers had been killed in an attack on the American consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi earlier that day. Most disturbing was information that US government officials may have had foreknowledge of the attack and engaged in a cover-up.

Since my September 2012 to Paris the world has witnessed an onslaught of hideous massacres, attacks and devastation against humanity. Christians have become the primary target of Muslin extremists at home and abroad.

We’ve grown accustomed to the term ‘weapons of mass destruction’; it no longer has an impact on us. But that is about to change. God’s prophetic scripture is unfolding before our eyes and the world is rapidly approaching a time of reckoning for our immorality and blasphemous rants against the sovereignty of our Creator.

My faith remains unshaken in the belief God is firmly in control over all events and people of the world. I rest in the assurance that Jehovah-Shammah will bring a perfect end to everything He has started.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Continue to trust the heart of God and His plan for the future.
We can’t control the future events of our life, but God can. Jehovah-Shammah walks with us into whatever tomorrow holds because of His great love. GOD IS THERE in your tomorrow and in my tomorrow.

Though the world is in crisis and turmoil among nations is epidemic, do not fear. Our citizenship is in Heaven and our spiritual passport is stamped with the blood of Christ. It confirms this world is not home; we’re just passing through.

“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. “
Luke 21: 20-22
“When these things begin to happen, stand up tall and don’t be afraid. Know that it is almost time for God to free you!” Luke 21:28

Postscript:
When writing, I keep track of my word count as publications have limitations on the number of words that can be submitted for a given article/story. I was taken aback when I noted that the word count for the above article was 666. Hmmm….????

WordCount_666

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I DON’T KNOW ABOUT TOMORROW

WhoHoldsTomorrow

The past several weeks have been filled with heartache. I lost a good friend to cancer and a family member at age 59 to Alzheimer’s. I grope for words of comfort to share with those families torn with grief at the death of a loved one. Amidst this recent roller coaster ride of emotion, I received word that a cousin has been diagnosed with liver/colon cancer. The devastating diagnosis comes just days after her sister’s husband was laid to rest.

Nothing equips us for the detours of this earthly journey. We can prepare, plan and pray, but ultimately, we can’t control our future. For me, the reality of our human limitations was most realized as I watched my Daddy take his last breath. He was a dedicated minister, pastor and Bible teacher. His commitment to his faith was unquestioned; yet, he suffered a debilitating disease that led to death. He couldn’t control his future.

Did my Daddy pray for a miracle? Of course he did. Did he question or understand the earthly path God had chosen for him? If he did, he never shared those thoughts. Instead, he chose to accept those things he could not change and to live each day with hope and purpose.

Only God knows what tomorrow holds for us, our nation and our world. Satan continually deploys detours to keep us from following God’s divine plan.
His earthly arsenal includes sickness, disease, addiction, poverty, abuse, persecution and even death in his attempts to undermine our commitment of faith in Jesus Christ. Stand firm in your Christian faith; refuse to let the enemy compromise or have a stronghold on your faith.

This is a song my Daddy would sing in church when I was a youngster. It still seems very appropriate.

I DON’T KNOW WHO HOLDS TOMORROW
I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine,
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what lies ahead.

CHORUS:
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But, I know who holds tomorrow
And, I know who holds my hand.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
Romans 8:38

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DIVINELY APPOINTED

God has Diviinely Appointed our LifeThis morning, as I gazed out my kitchen window, I watched a spider work non-stop at spinning a web that stretched in every direction. Host of insects were entwined in the silvery threads of the web like trophies of his accomplishments. And yet, the spider continued to weave a bigger web.

The spider and his web are akin to humanity as we work and stretch ourselves to a breaking point in an effort to prove our worth and value to the world. I am at the top of the guilty list as I weave myself into new projects that have no real purpose. Why do I do that?

I believe it is a ploy of Satan to distract us from fulfilling God’s intended purpose for our life.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

Spinning a bigger web of accomplishments is meaningless unless it aligns with God’s divinely appointed plan. I have found that when I operate outside of God’s plan and try to control and ensnare my OWN dreams and goals, I become anxious.
The following scripture is often used to give validity to choices we make outside of God’s divine plan for us.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

The truth is, we can do anything we want, but God is not going to strengthen us if is not part of His divine plan; the plan that leads you to all things eternal and brings you to the place God desires you to be to fulfill His purpose within your life.
So many times, we try to spin our own web only to find God has different plans for us. When we move and breathe in the Spirit of God, we have peace. Are you living within God’s divinely appointed life for you?

“In Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28

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GIVE IT ALL TO JESUS

shattered-dreams3There is no amount of preparation for blind-sided moments life randomly throws into our path. One minute life is good and then something happens that stuns our senses; within seconds our immediate reality becomes surreal as we struggle to make sense of what just happened.

The phone call informing me my sister-in-law had been killed instantly in a car accident was just one of those blindsided moments for me. There have been others; like the words ‘Stage IV’ uttered by the oncologist when my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer or ‘I’m leaving you for someone else’.

History is filled with stories about mankind being blindsided by events or occurrences they can’t control. Certainly the Philistines were blindsided when the walls of Jericho came tumbling down and Samson was blindsided when Delilah cut off his locks of hair. Life doesn’t afford us the opportunity to redo moments in time. I wish it did and I am fairly certain you feel the same.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if my ex-husband still loved me, my sister-in-law was still alive or my dad’s cancer had been miraculously cured? But none of that happened and it never will. My new reality is to accept the challenge to regroup and move forward. It’s the only survival option we have and with God’s help it’s not impossible.

If you have been blindsided by something or someone in life, there is hope in Jesus. In our brokenness, hurt and sadness, he reshapes the attitude of our mind and infuses hope within us. The scars still remain, but so do the scars on the hands and feet of Jesus. It is our blindsided scars that bear witness to our desire to survive amidst some of life’s most difficult moments if we give them all to Jesus.

This song sums it up for me.

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DIANE’S STORY

Today, I share with you one of my sister’s writing from an upcoming book to be published. It will contain real-life stories, just like this one, to help encourage, uplift and bring hope when life situations break you. I have walked in the shoes of Diane; not just once, but twice. I pray this shared story uplifts the heart of someone today.

my storyThis vacation would be like no other.  I had no inkling of the devastating news I would receive.  As we packed and prepared for our summer family vacation, I felt a nudge from the Lord to talk to my husband Steve about an incident that had happened years ago earlier in our marriage.  Brushing it aside, I thought, “this happened 20 years ago.  Why would I bring that up now while we are getting ready for vacation?  “This can’t be God”, and proceeded to talk myself out of such a revealing moment.

Our vacation was going along well, until the last evening.  After dinner, I had decided to take a walk along the lake behind our campsite. Steve followed me after I had been gone for a few minutes.  It was at this time my husband of 21 years asked me for a divorce. My mind reeled, thinking “Divorce?”  I was plainly in shock, not suspecting this scenario at all.  It’s amazing I could even think of saying, “you’re involved with someone aren’t you?”  His response was “yes.”

After this confirmation, I recalled the nudging I had experienced prior to leaving on vacation and began to relay to Steve the incident of 20 years ago.

We had been married for a few years and living in California.  We were at a very low point in our marriage.  Steve had been discharged out of the army and doing drugs.   I was working and feeling very alone taking care of our son Steve, who was between two and three years old.  During this time of loneliness, I had an affair.   As I relayed this to my husband, his face expressed shock but still dead-set on wanting to end our marriage.

It felt like a tsunami had hit me with violent force.  I felt physically ill.

In that moment, he expressed to me that I was a great person, and even a great mom, but we were just too different.  I was a Christian, and he was not.  “You should meet someone more like you.”  Already feeling emotionally stunned, he expressed he wasn’t happy.

How do you recuperate from that, having to pretend none of this happened, since my youngest son and his friend were with us?  We had the packing up and the drive home yet.

Upon returning home, he wanted to stay living in our house together for at least another week.  After what seemed like eternity, he moved out.  Before he did, we sat down with our two boys, Steven and Karl, and told them the uncomfortable news, “mom and dad are getting a divorce.”  I left the room crying forced to face the fact that our marriage was over.  Thankfully, my boys were very comforting to me.

Seven years went by before he filed for divorce.   Divorce is a painful experience.  You really do become one.  I experienced pain from crying but also an actual physical tearing from deep within my soul.  Thoughts would swirl around in my head wondering “what am I going to do now? I can’t believe this has happened to me?”

I needed help in getting through this, so I began going to divorce care and read a book on divorce from the perspective of the one who asked for the divorce.  It was a real eye opener.  I started to grasp his emotional disconnect when he broke the news.  He had already separated himself from me and made the decision to leave.  Now I had to start the process as well.

Divorcing is a lot like death, except the person is still alive.  I went through the stages of grief.  In order to get through my stage of anger, I began working out, lifting weights, because I didn’t know what to do with myself.  Some of my angriest moments were watching my children trying to handle our divorce.  I eventually came to the place where I would allow myself the space to feel it emotionally.  I knew I needed to.

Something remarkable happened to me in 2013 as I sat in church.  Our pastor was preaching about husbands and wives, something that was still uncomfortable for me to hear.  As he preached, I felt my emotions stir again, feeling the pain.  In that moment, I brought this pain to the Lord, giving it to Him, not knowing what else to do.

That Sunday evening, as I was getting ready for bed, I realized the emotion I was feeling was unforgiveness.  “After all this time, unforgiveness?”  The Holy Spirit was telling me that I needed to forgive Steve.  Forgive him for taking away my dream of growing old with someone.  I recalled thinking that thought when he told me he wanted a divorce. Praise God for that extraordinary evening when God’s presence burst into my life and I relinquished my unforgiving heart.

Through all this, I have learned I cannot control anybody else or their choices, only my own.  I’m responsible for me……Diane.  I had to deal with regretful thoughts like “how come I couldn’t win over my husband like the Proverbs 31 woman? I did pray for him, fasted for him?”  I had to come to terms that I was not responsible for the choices he made.

I’ve learned to embrace today and realize that once today is gone, it’s gone.

I have found a strength I never knew existed in me – living alone, doing things on my own.  My circle of friends has become larger.  I am totally surrounded.

Today, when I look at myself, I see someone completely different.  There are things I will not settle for again, when I do meet someone else.  It has made me know the Lord as my husband and deeply enriched my faith family.

Interviewed and written by Sharon Garner