When Seasons Collide

I can’t help but ponder the transitioning continually taking place throughout the sameness of life. When winter lingers long into spring as it has done this year, it’s easy to become frustrated, melancholy, even despondent. A mixing of seasons is not how things should be. One season at a time is quite enough, thank you very much.

As I’ve watched this mysterious mixing play out over the course of these past months, this blending of snow and blossoms, of frost creeping to smother sunshine’s warmth, my heart longs to side with one extreme or the other, but not both at once. I’m quite discontent to mingle. Unwilling to see the beauty of this collision. Worried that Jack Frost’s gentle breath will encroach upon my spring and nip it in the bud, forever stunting its blossom.

It’s a perfect metaphor of life. I fear the newness will be lost in the old, smothered beneath a frosty chill instead of released to bloom in the brightness of the sun.

Will sameness forever stifle the fullness lying in wait beneath the surface?

Will the newness remain enslaved beneath the former’s heavy coat of duty, cloaked under the guise of doing things a certain way because it’s all we’ve known? All we’ve been taught to expect.

It’s time to learn to breathe freely.

Here.
Here in the very depths of our reality.
Here where the seasons collide.
Here in this mixing of the now and not-yet.

To trust the Creator of every new thing and every established work.

To trust His timing.

To trust for the coming of spring even when winter’s chill lingers long.

To trust and believe in the newness waiting beneath.

Close.

So very near.

To look with new eyes at the sameness, and ask for a heart that willingly transitions with the passing of days.

To be unafraid of unfulfilled promises, and trust in the makings of transformation at work in this moment.

Even when it lies beyond what naked eye can see.

Perhaps this mixing of seasons is exactly how things are supposed to be after all.

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More Than an Interval

Emmanuel did not come to be with us simply to create an interval where we could catch our breath before returning to the ordinary. Majesty did not don the robes of humanity to give us a change of scenery, a break from the usual pace. No, He has come to interrupt our existence. He has come to restore what was lost. He has come to transform the familiar into mystery and wonder. He has come to make all things new. This sacred pause is a catapult into uncharted territory, where the Divine collides with your story and redirects your path. You have permission to begin again. (from Just Adela)

As surely as the bows and tinsel are packed away with the ribbons and lights, so too, is the Christmas spirit which was just recently merry and bright. Marked down and sold at discount prices, there’s barely any reminders of the red, green, and gold decking the aisles of department stores. Treasured ornaments are tucked away in closets, lights are dimmed and carefully wrapped before being cloistered away in some box marked “fragile” as all signs of Christmas are removed from our dwellings.

For Christmas is, after all, merely a short reprieve from life as usual…

But that’s never the way God intended for Christmas to be. The birth of Glory among the souls of mankind was to be so much more than a story read once and put away until the following year. Majesty did not don robes of humanity to simply come for a visit. Emmanuel did not merely drop by for a short stay at the manger. He came to take up permanent residence within our lives.

To transform the fake and temporary with the authentic and eternal. For keeps.

Much more than a string of lights brightening the boughs of an artificial pine tree, the Light of the World has come to transform the darkness with the dawning of grace and truth. He has come to make all things new. To breathe life into the barren and silent womb. To bring joy in the place of mourning and sadness. To give peace that nestles into the souls of men and never leaves.

He has come to be with us – right here in this mess of hurt and pain that we call humanity- and He plans to stay until all is made right.

Until you and I are made right.

No matter that we may think the task impossible.

After all, impossible is merely an invitation for the Holy to come and declare Himself as Lord of all.

As Lord of us.

Miracle-worker.

Soul-shaper.

Healer and Restorer.

Author and Finisher of lives.

What will it require for you to invite Christ to collide with your story and redirect your path, to transform the pages of your heart and fill them with mystery and wonder?

In short, what will it take for you to allow the Spirit of Christmas to come and remain so you can celebrate all year long?

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Persuaded by Love

His love never fails; it never gives up. It never runs out on me…

He is with us. He is with us. Always. Always…

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane…. Oh, how He loves us….

Jesus, You found me, and You loved me first…

The same love that set the captives free, the same love that opened eyes to see, is calling us all by name…

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us…

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us…

Words of love songs and verses filled with agreement sweep over me, comforting my heart and calling me to a greater place of freedom and enjoyment in Christ… When I know and believe them, that is.

Being persuaded of God’s love is what causes me to walk in confidence.

With eyes wide open to truth, I am held by the firm grasp of reality when illusions are calling me to buy into the lie that life is somehow much less than God claims. Too often, I succumb to the belief that God has deserted me, or at the least, is disappointed in me and has moved from my side. Hence, I feel unloved. Unsettled. Uncertain of so many  things.

Myself, most of all.

It’s disconcerting how easily I am disconcerted when I forget how deeply Father loves.

I have a feeling I’m not alone in my natural inclination toward spiritual amnesia. How many times have you been duped into believing God’s love is somehow less than His Word professes it to be? I daresay we have all been sharers in this truth distortion at one time or another.

The good news is, there’s always a standing invitation to embrace reality. Verse after verse of Scripture assures us of God’s faithfulness and unconditional love. All four gospel messages portray Christ’s love in action. Story after story shows sinners showing up at the feet of Jesus. And being loved by Him. Just. The. Way. They. Were.

Even when the rest of the world scorned them.

Even when they scorned themselves.

Jesus never once shied away from sinners. Instead, He embraced them. Forgave them. Changed them.

Because that’s what real love does. It transforms the one who has an encounter with it.

 The next time you’re tempted to keep your distance from a God who lives to bridge it, I challenge you to do otherwise. Instead of holding back, I dare you to take that first step toward the One who welcomes sinners, especially when you feel as chief among them.  And if you’re struggling to remember that God’s love is present with you in your present state, I dare you to crack open the Scriptures and put an end to your spiritual amnesia. Take a long look at Romans 8:38-39, and allow yourself to be fully persuaded:

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Breathe. Just Breathe.

How many breaths will it take for the old to be uprooted and a new heart to be formed in me?

When I stumbled across these words in a blog post last evening, I couldn’t help but smile at yet another reminder from Father to “just breathe.” It is quite obvious that I am one of the slowest learners on the face of planet earth when I have to be reminded so very often to do something that should come naturally for one of God’s own. Constantly, I hear the gentle stirring in my spirit, “Breathe, Barbara. Just breathe.”

Why does something as elementary as breathing require such focus and effort?

Because I forget it’s all about grace.

Grace for me. Grace for others.

God’s grace.

Too often I find myself in panic mode when the waves of life come crashing down, forcing me beneath the surface, pressing heavy upon my spirit lungs. Desperately, I attempt to hold my breath until there is a calm between the white caps, a brief moment when I have a chance to gasp a much-needed respite before the relentless tossing begins anew.

And the Spirit within my own nudges me with the reminder, “Don’t hold your breath. Don’t suck in oxygen so desperately that you cause yourself to hyperventilate. Just breathe. And trust that My grace will be there.”

Trust that My grace will be there.

As much as I know from experience that God’s presence will calm my heart and carry the day, I still have the propensity toward panic. When trials come, my initial reaction is to gasp and flail instead of breathe and ease myself into His loving arms.

I still have the tendency to forget about grace. A grace that consumes all the flaws in me with all the holiness that is His own. No matter how many times I come to Him with the same struggles, the same temptations, the same sins wrapped around my soul.

Breathe, Barbara. Just breathe…                                                      

Inhale God’s presence… and exhale the old way of living.

Take on His life… and give up your own.

One. Breath. At. A. Time.

How many breaths will it take for the old to be uprooted and a new heart to be formed in me?

I figure it will be just enough breaths to take me to the final stop on this side of eternity. And that next breath? Well, I imagine it will, indeed, be heavenly.

Until then, I choose to breathe. Even though I’m sure to need reminded again. But that’s what grace is all about.

Reminding me of who I am. And Who He is.

And that, my friend, is enough for my next breath… and my last.

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It’s Time to Ditch the Dazzle-Painting

When my sons were little, it seemed they each went through a stint of having “camouflage” as their favorite color.  Not green. Not brown. Not black. It was camouflage. Whether they were intentionally choosing this “color” in hopes of concealing their real love for pink is something we may never know. Regardless, it was a memory that stirred within my spirit this morning.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the definition for the word according to an online dictionary site and came away with the following take. A few of the definitions for camouflage included:

* To conceal by the use of disguise or by protective coloring or garments that blend in with the surrounding environment;
* An outward semblance that misrepresents the true nature of something;
*An outward or token appearance or form that is deliberately misleading;
*A covering that serves to conceal or shelter something;
*The act of concealing the identity of something by modifying its appearance;
*And my personal favorite – the reference that the British navy used during World War I: dazzle-painting

I can’t help but wonder how many of us choose camouflage as our own favorite color, or at least live as if it is. For reasons sometimes unknown even to us, it tends to be the hue we think flatters us the most, and thus, we fill our spiritual closets with apparel that disguises who we really are. We wrap ourselves in a covering that is misleading, in hopes that we will remain protected and sheltered from hurt. We spend hours “dazzle-painting” our identity so as to stay below the radar of rejection. But no matter how much we try and modify our outward appearance, beneath it all, we remain the same.

Regardless of how intricate the weave, how carefully crafted the outward disguise, it cannot change the true nature of who we are. And that’s what hurts. Because no matter how much we buy into the lie that camouflage is the perfect shade for us, deep down, we know that it’s not. Because it never reveals the “real you.” It simply masks the truth.

The truth is, you would  look much better in a soft shade of blue or a flattering, creamy yellow – but it’s so hard to find. After all, camouflage is “all the rage” and lines aisle after aisle of choice. You’d really have to go against the flow and be brave enough to attempt a new fashion trend if you wanted to wear what suits you best.

And so, we settle for being what everyone else is, what everyone expects us to be… and we lose ourselves a little more each day.

But what if we decided to drop all pretense? To ditch the disguises? If we came clean with ourselves and chose to embrace who we really are – with all our flaws and wrinkles? What if we allowed ourselves to take that fashion risk and donned that creamy yellow blouse? What if we dared to live differently from others? Set apart from the masses. Seeking that which is above. Honest about our shortcomings. Genuine with our love. Transparent about our motives.

Because, underneath all that dazzle-painting, God knows the truth. And so do we.

The next time you’re tempted to hide yourself, go ahead and do so. But this time, ditch the dazzle-painting in exchange for Colossians 3:2-3:
Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.

The truth is, camouflage is NOT your best color. But the love of Jesus fits you perfectly. Why not try it on and allow it to transform you from the inside-out.