Wednesday, January 25, 2012

To everything there is a season

The daisies in the back yard are blooming.  So are the hellebores.   
The trees are full of buds, and my hosta is coming up.

The effects of an exceptionally mild winter are evident,
and an untimely exhibition is currently underway.

The trees, the plants, the flowers,
are responding to erroneous cues.
 They have been tricked into a premature display.   
Exposed to the elements, their beauty is in danger of being eradicated, or, at the very least, damaged, by their hasty arrival. 
Their growth will be stunted, their impact, diminished.

What is covered in blooms today,
will be covered in frost tomorrow.
The blossoms, vivid today, will be muted tomorrow.
The buds, so pregnant with promise today,
will be hollow with barrenness tomorrow.

Balmy days will give way to icy tomorrows.
Today’s sunbeams will become tomorrow’s shadows.

It’s bound to happen,
because it simply is not time.

The time has not come for such an audacious presentation.

To act prematurely is to invite disaster. 

We see it in nature.  We see it in our lives.

Seasons occur consecutively, not concurrently. 
We cannot live in two seasons at once. 
One season follows another. 
That’s just the way it is. 

A season of preparation must precede
 a season of performance.  

Dark winters give birth to vibrant springs. 
Isolation paves the way for demonstration.

We have gifts, talents, skills, and abilities
that we long to unveil. 
We lament that no one sees, that no one knows,
what waits below the surface.

Like a long-dormant bulb
straining toward the winter sun,
we yearn for what the spotlight reveals. 

We succumb to the seduction of recognition.  

We convince ourselves that what we have to offer
is so essential, so necessary,
that we close our ears
to the inherent risks of employing our gifts too early.

We drown out the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit,
because, in our estimation,
the world needs what we have. 

We want to bloom now. 

We yearn to break out of the darkness of anonymity,
into the light of acknowledgment. 

So, concluding that our germination is complete, we act.

Independent of God, and unprepared for the long haul,
we soon find ourselves
withered, stilted, and lifeless. 

The flowers, while lovely,
can’t withstand the harsh conditions. 

They bloom too early, and fade too fast.

There is another way. It’s called trust.

We demonstrate our trust in our Creator
by waiting for Him to tell us when the time is right.

We acquiesce.  We submit.  We yield. 

We allow Him to transform our
impatience into acceptance,
by allowing us to see the purpose for our season of waiting.

We resolve to embrace our time spent in the shadows,
understanding that only when we are content there,
are we ready for the spotlight.

Helen Keller said, “Keep your face to the sunshine
and you cannot see the shadow.” 

Perhaps, we could say it another way:
“Keep your face to the Son,
and the shadows won’t matter at all.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

From the Far Country to the Far Country

I sat by the fire recently with my boys and listened to them discuss the Great Commission and what it means for us today. 

The average person might read the preceding sentence
and miss the miracle. 

The average person could read
about how we spent Monday night,
and never know that extravagant grace has been poured out on the Carroll family.

Jimmy and I know. 
Austin knows. 
And we will never take it for granted.  We will never
cease to marvel. 

We, the underserving recipients of His grace,
will never forget that we serve a
covenant-making, covenant-keeping God. 

Our family, and what took place around that firepit, is evidence of the power and faithfulness
of our Red-Sea-Parting, Manna-Providing,
Miracle-Making God.

You see, those conversations would have been impossible just a few years ago, because our son was a prodigal, dwelling in the far country, estranged from God,
and even, at times, from us.

I had a plaque hanging over Austin’s bed when he was small that said, “God danced the day you were born”,
 and I think He did.

Austin was a delightful, joyful child who stole our hearts and filled them with unprecedented love. 
We had never known such love. 

You know:   the kind that aches, the kind that keeps you up at nights, the kind that suddenly makes your own life of less importance, because now
there is one whose life matters so much more.

The years when he lost his way were difficult, made even more so, because we loved him so much.  The depth of our pain corresponded to the depth of our love, and I think we all suffered from broken hearts during that time.
He had to find his way, and eventually he did.  We never wanted sadness or pain for him, but all of it brought him to this point, and he emerged with a living, active faith that he would not have had otherwise.  He now owns his faith, and it is a beautiful thing to behold.
He will be leaving this summer for the “uttermost parts of the world” to share what he has found with those who are still searching.  He has left the figurative “far country”
for the literal “far country”
and we are honored to share him with God.

The Prodigal has come home, and now, rather than debating the existence of God, he discusses the words of God.  
The Prodigal has come home, and if God never blesses us again, that’s enough.  Our cups overflow.
Having loved a prodigal, I can relate with both characters in the story.  I empathize with the Waiting Father,
and I weep with the Prodigal.
 I feel the pain of both.

I also understand, in ways I never could have before,
why the Father threw a PARTY when his son came home.

We wanted to.  We were giddy, humbled, overwhelmed, grateful, and almost three years later, we are still partying. 
Still mindful.  
Never forgetting.  
Always aware that the wait could have been longer.
Austin has come full-circle. 
We always knew that God had a special plan for Austin’s life. 
Now, Austin knows it, too. 
And that discovery has been worth all the pain,
all the tears, all the doubts.

Parenting a prodigal is a marathon, not a sprint,
and it is not for the faint of heart. 
Our story was years in the making, and is an enduring chronicle
of a faithful God, at work,
in a seemingly hopeless situation.

For every parent who has seen hopes dashed
and dreams destroyed,
find hope, today, in God. 

Be comforted by the One Who rescues from loss,
Who redeems what He allows,
and Who, ultimately, devises a plan