Living Sunny Side Up

To everything under the sun there is a time and a season. These seasons bring about changes in our lives, attitudes, status, positions, hopes, dreams, and priorities. Some of these seasons are like springtime when the grass is green, the flowers are blooming, the rain is soft and sweet, and the little animals come out to play. In fact, the world may seem like a playground. We go about feeling the cool breeze as we dream of swinging higher and higher. Everything is wonderful in its own way.

The hot summer season watches us stew and steam in the smoldering heat as we go about our days and nights. The discomfort of this season reminds me of the smothering situations of life that make it difficult to breathe as we keep gasping for air. This can be an unsettling time when things are not going well. We wonder, “Where is God to cool us off?”

The fall season brings more beauty and balance and helps us get a grip on the situations that have easily beset us. Soothing and tantalizing fragrances waft to our nostrils and enhance the appreciation for the colors of the falling leaves, and the beauty of the earth and sky. Crises and circumstances seem a bit more under control and things calm down to a pace that we’re able to master. Life is not so unbearable. We can enjoy the crisply blowing winds that cool us down to a manageable temperature. Not a bad season at all.

Winter reminds me of the quiet, dormant, still, even cozy and cuddly settling down from the ups and downs of life into a place of quiet rest and anticipation for a new tomorrow. We can cover ourselves with the light wraps of thought-provoking activities and daydreams of the impending festivals and celebrations to come.

Maybe you’re in between seasons or just can’t recognize which season of life you’re in. It gets that way sometimes. With all the confusion, question marks, unrest, upheaval, distress, oppression, depression, confusion, agitation, aggravation, and even hesitation you may be experiencing, you may ask, “What’s going on, Lord? Why is life like this for me? Did You forget about me, God? Am I important to You, Jesus? What if this or that does not work out for me?”

Questions, questions! We all have questions. But thank goodness, there are answers. When life is a mess and people are disturbing you; when the bills are due and your health is failing; when your children are acting crazy and your loved one is gone; when your boss is unfair and your work environment is not a sanctuary; when you talk to your friends about your problems, but they have problems of their own; when you are disappointed and disillusioned about life and you don’t know where to turn, there is a message for you: “Baby, God will make a way!”

Pray and seek the Lord about which season of life you’re in and ask Him how to recognize the sweetness, joy, hope, faith, tenderness, and love that’s wrapped up in it—whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall. When you trust in Him, He will wake you up to the reality that life is not nearly as rough and rugged as we’ve been taught to believe. When you arise every day and your name is not in the obituaries, it’s a great day! Just ask people who have lived after the doctor said they were dying: getting up is a blessing! Every eight seconds or so when we bat our eyes we have been given another eight seconds to draw in our wondering minds and conclude, “I have another chance to alter the course of my life and change my burdensome season to a brighter day.”

Now is a glorious opportunity to start your season all over again. No, the circumstances might not change, but you have a choice to change your attitude from the doldrums of the cold winter season of your life to the beauty of the springtime or fall. First Peter 5:6-7 says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (NKJV). Wow! What an opportunity to delight in your season whatever the climate—because whatever you’re going through, there’s been someone else on the journey who decided to bask in the beauty of springtime, to chill in the heat of the summertime, to rejuvenate in the elegance of the autumn time, and to regroup in the warmth of a protective covering in the dead of the wintertime. So, rise and shine, because it is true that every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before—anytime!

By Thelma Wells (©2009, 2017 Thelma Wells, All Rights Reserved.)

 

Advertisements

Grace and Peace to You

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the beautiful and encouraging greeting of the Apostle Paul in most of his thirteen letters that are part of our New Testament. Four of the letters—Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians—are known as the Prison Epistles. The “grace and peace” greeting is included in each of these letters penned by Paul while he was a prisoner in Rome.

Philippians was most likely written prior to the other three Prison Epistles, and is unique in that it contains the characteristics of a thank-you note with an overarching theme of joy. Paul prepared his Philippian letter to go back to Philippi in the hands of Epaphroditus, a member of the Philippian church who had come from Philippi to Rome to visit Paul in prison, bring him a financial gift from the church, and discuss church concerns. During his visit, Epaphroditus almost died of an illness himself!

Grief and loss could have been the theme of Philippians, but the letter is known to be Paul’s most positive letter. How can he be so joyful and hopeful despite his grievous circumstances? Philippians 2:4 gives us a glimpse of Paul’s grief support and recovery model, stating, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (ESV). Paul then goes on to tell us of the divine example of grace and peace: that of Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a servant for others.

In fact, in Philippians 2:6-11, Paul’s words “sing” what is known as the “Christ Hymn.”

Paul is known for singing in difficult circumstances. You may recall the Acts 16:16-40 passage and how Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God while they were prisoners in jail at Philippi, shortly after the church was first planted. While they sang, an earthquake broke them free from their chains, the jailer and his family accepted Christ as Savior and were baptized, and Paul and Silas continued in ministry as led by the Lord.

Paul’s greeting in his letters seems to be original with him, drawing from both the Greek and Hebrew traditions. Grace, the Greek word charis, is God’s unmerited favor in Christ Jesus. Peace, the Hebrew word shalom, means wholeness, and is derived from traditional Hebrew greetings. Paul sent these words to each of the churches and his pastors, all of which were struggling under persecution and loss as he wrote his thirteen letters. When Paul sent the words graceand peace, they were words from God Himself, which in turn inspire us to receive and extend the same greeting to others who are in difficult circumstances.

In Paul’s writing of Philippians 2:4, a key word is others. With Christ and His Apostle Paul as examples of this divine principle, we will find joy and personal meaning when serving others. We may even find healing for our own sorrows as a result of looking outside of ourselves.

Grief and loss come in many forms. Some which may be familiar include: death, loss of physical or mental capacity, and loss of a job. But grief can be caused by the loss of anything that is important to a person. So, while it can be something as devastating as loss of life, grief can also result from the loss of a dream, a friendship, or a pet. As varied as people’s losses are, we also know that grace and peace can come through people in various times and places. As Christians, we understand that these gifts have been freely given to us by Jesus Christ, and therefore, we can purpose in our hearts to consistently and positively be others-focused as we live in this world of grief and loss. God most often uses the comfort and encouragement of people to help those who are suffering. When we take the time to be with the bereaved, we extend the Lord’s grace and peace to others.

5 Ways to Bring Grace and Peace to the Bereaved:

  • Acknowledge and speak to them about the loss immediately.
  • Listen to them. Let them talk about their loss (and continue to give them many opportunities to speak about it).
  • Hug or touch them gently (if appropriate).
  • Be aware that tears and emotional responses are common.
  • Look for practical ways to be helpful and supportive.

In my work as a professional healthcare chaplain, I have found that a greeting and blessing of benediction often frames the content of the visit. Interestingly, it is noted that Paul’s letters not only begin but also end by sounding the note of grace. In the weeks to come, you may want to read through Paul’s letters noting the beginning and ending of each one. As the Lord uses you to minister to others in their grief, you might speak these beautiful words: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.

 

A Royal Encounter

Most of us know the story of Cinderella. She was born of high estate, was dearly loved by her father, and had everything that made her happy and secure. Then life happened—loss, betrayal, cruelty, and abuse. In her heart she knew there was something better. Sparked by hope—an invitation to a royal ball—she dreamed of a […]

[Continue reading...]

Fit for a Queen

The story of Esther captivates me. No matter how many times I read it, my heart leaps with excitement and joy. It seems to be the type of story I would read in a novel or see played out as a Hollywood movie, yet there is nothing fictional about it. I believe God has woven […]

[Continue reading...]

God’s Changing Room – Leaving the Masks Behind

Batman, Spiderman, The Flash, and Mr. Incredible are some of the greatest masked characters in pop culture. Why do they wear masks? They wear them to conceal their identities. If no one knows who they really are they can’t be hurt. These masked vigilantes hide their weaknesses, desires, hopes, and dreams. If the world discovered […]

[Continue reading...]

Your Victorious Voice

Like a city on a hill You are a light in the darkness. Your cry is one forged from pain and disappointment, A cry that has been tried in the fire. It started as a plea for peace and an end to the storm, But has become a battle cry. For through the storm and […]

[Continue reading...]

Blossoming Friendships: How to Plan the Perfect Summertime Brunch

“Above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another.” – 1 Peter 4:8-10 (NKJV) I always look forward to summer! As spring unfolds into summer, new life begins […]

[Continue reading...]

Summer Steps: Ordered in Holiness

As a young girl growing up on a farm, summertime meant barefoot time –liberating my feet from the snugly fitting shoes I’d worn all winter. Early in the season, I learned to avoid the “sticker-patch.” I vividly remember the deep purple stains on my feet from playing under the mulberry tree. Now that I’m grown […]

[Continue reading...]

 A Unique and Wonderful Treasure

In today’s society, we are continually looking ahead to where we need to go next and what we need to accomplish. We seem to be nonstop, running from soccer practice to dance recitals to parent-teacher conferences and everything in between. When we are goal-oriented and task-driven, we tend to focus on all of the things that […]

[Continue reading...]

Fashion and Compassion

Walking into an expensive store or high-end boutique can be intimidating. Even though the clothes or accessories look beautiful, it can be awkward when you feel uncomfortable in the place. I used to call these stores “Movie Star Stores” because only the rich and famous can buy there. Despite the intimidation, it can be intriguing to go […]

[Continue reading...]