Pastor Gary

Seasons of Change

From the comfy confines of a class A office space in Atlanta, I walked outside like I have done so many times before. The weather seems to be magnified in the downtown area – if it’s hot you can feel the sun beaming off the concrete jungle, and when it’s cold you feel the hurricane like wind tunnel that can only be produced when two 50 story buildings sit across from each other. This time, not unlike the others, I sensed a change in the weather and a resulting change in emotions.

For the first time since spring there was a cool breeze blowing, signifying the stifling heat of summer would soon be over. Even in the concrete Jungle there are trees for the breeze to blow through. The leaves made the sound they only make in the fall. The breeze rustled the leaves and some even made their way to the ground. The green leaves will soon turn colors and all will fall from the branches on which they are perched. My first emotion was of sorrow. This summer had been so busy. We rushed through an All Star season of baseball with Levi. We rushed through selling our home. We rushed through moving churches and squeezed a vacation in the middle. I wanted more time to do the things I felt I missed. More swimming…I hadn’t taken the kids to six flags or whitewater…school had already started back. It didn’t matter if I had sorrow or not, the weather was changing and that was just a part of life. I could never turn back the clock.

I thought about the summer passing quickly but I also recognized the beginning of fall meant the beginning of an end. Spring brings newness, summer brings a fullness of life, and fall begins the downturn toward hibernation and ultimately bareness that brings an ending. Perhaps in the back of my mind I related all this to seasons of life for man. We begin with such newness and great expectation and then we reach full bloom and then the “back side” of life. Perhaps this day was reminding me that another year of life was quickly passing. As a youngster it seemed life would go on forever and I’d never be “old”. Life has a cruel way of making you see reality.

On my 47 mile drive home I contemplated the emotions that were stirred inside of me. I guess the sorrow was about ending of another season. It was a realization that life was indeed a vapor. It’s here one moment and gone the next. Did I miss an opportunity to do something I wanted? Had I put off until tomorrow what I could have done today and now it was too late?

After the moment of remorse I began to think about the benefits of the change. Football would soon begin and I love that feeling of attending a high school football game with the brisk cool air. It’s the coolness that requires a light jacket before the onslaught of frigid temps that require the thick bulky jacket. The smell of a hot bowl of chili or soup would soon be common and provide that warmth that the weather so often seems to take out of our bodies. There would soon be the smell, sights and sound of a fire in the fireplace that seems to put me at ease. I Love the spring and summer…but I love the fall and winter too. I can’t have both at the same time…one has to give way to the other.

Youth may be passing or even passed but that doesn’t mean it’s time to sit back and do nothing but remember the “good old days”. Each season of life brings opportunities that only exist in that season. Rather than think about what could have been, I need to think about what can be. Paul the apostle would say “This is the day of salvation”. Not yesterday or tomorrow. We must be forward looking no matter what season we are in. After all Ecclesiastes says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”.

Maybe I put too much thought into that first autumn feeling of the year. Just maybe God was teaching me a lesson. Living life isn’t always the same. If we get too comfortable it can be hard for us to be used by God. Following God often requires we are removed from our comfort zone so as to not serve ourselves but serve Him. Whatever season we find ourselves in…there is much to do and much to which we can look forward. Whether you are joyous, sorrowful, sad, glad, mad or even depressed, God still has a plan for your life and you are just in one season of many for your life. The book of Jeremiah says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

I don’t know what the future holds but I trust in God and know he has the best plan. So I welcome the fall and winter and will look for opportunities to serve him…I hope you will too.

I'm Hungry

I wonder if anyone else has similar experiences to me. I have a fairly good size family, (4kids) and we eat a lot of food. We usually go to Sam’s Warehouse about every 6 to 8 weeks and really load up. I usually make a joke with the cashier about paying over a 90 day payment plan…sometimes they laugh and sometimes they look at me like I’m from outer space. Now in between those trips to Sam’s we usually make a trip or two to the grocery store weekly. The further away we get from the last Sam’s visit the more frequent we go to the grocery store…right down to every day.

Whenever we arrive home from shopping I go into somewhat of a manic mode. I have a mission to fit all that food into the freezer/fridge and pantry. Now I don’t just stuff it in there…I try to organize it by vegetable, meats, fruits, soups…etc… I even turn the labels out so everything looks nice. I’ve thought about alphabetizing everything but that would cause people to make fun of me and I don’t need any more of that than I already get.

Now we buy a lot so it barely fits when I’m done…a few times I started sweating because I didn’t think it would all fit in the freezer….I just take it all out and start over to make a better puzzle with less wasted space.

I said all that to say this; I like having the house full of food. It makes me feel good and supplied. I won’t have to worry for a while about what we will eat. It seems like all is well with the world.

After a week or two it gets pretty sparse. Sometimes it feels like we feed the entire neighborhood. I still think of everything being full but it isn’t. In fact I think my wife and I have fussed before over this. She would say something like; what are we going to eat? We are out of food. I say something like…we can’t be I just filled up. She would say…”like two weeks ago”. Even when the freezer is empty I still feel like we just loaded up…but…we are empty. It will take two weeks or so for me to come to terms with us being out of food. It’s like I’m in denial. The truth is…it doesn’t matter what I think…what matters is the truth. I’ve just convinced myself there is food when there isn’t.

There have been times in my life when I was so filled with God’s Holy Spirit that I felt I’d never be empty again. Like a trip to Sam’s Warehouse where I simply could not hold anymore at my house. There have been times when God presence was so real in my life that I couldn’t get any closer to Him unless I joined Him in heaven. I really enjoy those times and they increase my faith.

Something happens after those experiences. After about a week or so some of God’s presence gets used up. Sometimes it’s used up by giving it away to neighbors like we do our food. It also gets used up in daily living. Some even leaks out of this less than perfect vessel.

The problem is…I still think I’m full. I point back to when I “went shopping” and God filled me up. You see…what I got yesterday isn’t enough for today. Now I’ll try to convince myself that I still have plenty and everything is ok…the truth is…it doesn’t matter what I think…what matters is the truth. I’ve just convinced myself there is God’s presence and Holy Spirit when there isn’t any left.

We don’t just have one experience with Christ or maybe two or even 100. We need a constant experience with Christ. John 15:5 says "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. In truth…I have to fill up each and every day.

I have to read His word every day and speak to Him every day. I can never get enough of Him in one setting that will last me forever. It says I have to stay connected to Him.

We live in a world where we come and go and do whatever we please. If God and church fit in this week then we go and do. If not…we think we have enough to last us a while. We are wrong.

We cannot live on one grocery trip every now and then. We need food to sustain us every day. We can’t live on a little God and His spirit every now and then. We need Him every day.

Jeremiah 29:13 says: You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Let’s be honest and seem Him with all our heart…because we need Him. He will be faithful to give us what we need when we seek Him with all our heart.

It really doesn’t matter what we think or convince ourselves about…what matters is the truth.

Moving

The thought of moving invokes a wide range of emotion. There is a little excitement, as moving provides an opportunity to buy the home that perfectly fits your family. There is a little dreading, as packing up everything you own and changing your life and daily routine can add serious stress to your life. No matter what emotion drives you at the moment, there is simply a great deal of work to be done.

My family and I earnestly began trying to sell our home in the middle of July. Before we took our yearly trip to the beach, we worked (mostly Kristi) diligently to make sure the house was in pristine condition from top to bottom. Thinking about the feel of sand between my toes and sitting under an umbrella watching the waves roll in, I locked the doors to our home with a sense of great pride- knowing that whoever toured our home would be impressed with its condition and cleanliness. In fact, when the realtor placed the photo’s of our home on the internet I was so pleased. I said to myself, no one would believe six people live in such a clean and lovely house. It was so clean I wanted to invite everyone to visit our lovely, perfect home.

This flawless house quickly drew attention and the first people who toured it were indeed the ones who bought it. It was now time to move out of this beautiful, flawless and wonderfully clean home. Packing came fast and furious and I’m afraid that wonderfully clean home was not as previously thought.

I started packing, not one but two junk drawers in the kitchen, (I know we are the only family that has drawers like this) When company was coming and the house was a little messy…everything on the kitchen counters wound up in one of these drawers. There was so much junk in the drawer it could barely be opened. I threw about half of the stuff away and packed the rest. I thought to myself…well…maybe my house wasn’t as clean as I assumed …but now that I have taken care of this…my house is clean.

I soon found my way to the closet. My clothes were neatly hung in place and things looked pretty good. As I checked the floor below the clothes I discovered items I had not touched in 4 years. What a mess. I packed them up and again proclaimed my house clean.

It came time to pack all the furniture and as we moved each piece I found myself shaking my head. Where did all that stuff come from under my bed, the kid’s beds and the kid’s closets? There was so much dust under there it seemed the dust had taken on a purple hue. I held my head low and said to myself…this house wasn’t as clean as I thought …but…it’s in great shape now…at least I thought it was.

In a few days an inspector came to check out our home to insure it was sound mechanically. I had no doubts…my home might have been dirtier than I thought but there is nothing wrong from an operational stand point. I soon got the inspectors report. One valve on my sprinkler system didn’t work (I rarely used it so I didn’t know), There was a plumbing leak under the house and a few other small matters that needed repairing. It seems it wasn’t in perfect order. I, everyone who visited our home and the people who bought our home all thought the house was perfect when, in fact, it wasn’t. No matter how clean I thought the house was, no matter how clean the house appeared…in the places no one looks and to the areas I gave little attention, there was something wrong. Only upon a complete thorough inspection of my home did I find the areas I had neglected.

Once I had everything moved out, we (mostly Kristi) cleaned the house from top to bottom and it was truly clean. Once I had the repair guy come fix all the problems, it was truly in great shape. I’m afraid if I had lived in the house another 30 years…those areas of my house needing attention now would still need attention 30 years later. The only way to make it clean and in working order was to stop assuming everything was ok and actually make sure it was ok -even in the places no one looks.

Could it be that many of us who follow Christ say everything is perfect in our lives and we are in the perfect will of God because at a cursory glance we seem that way. Could it be that when everything wasn’t in perfect order and someone would view our lives, we took everything we didn’t want to be seen and stuffed it in a drawer and forgot about it? Perhaps we can be guilty of sweeping things under the rug or placing them on the back burner rather than dealing with that issue in our lives? We forget about it and actually believe our lives are clean and in order simply because we neglect to address something we decided wasn’t that important at the moment?

Could it be that we haven’t examined our lives where furniture has sat for years? We answered God’s call to put our life in order but never returned to nurture. Just because we have been in church for years doesn’t mean we have arrived. Our lives require constant maintenance.

In 2 Samuel, Chapters 11 and 12, David thought everything was ok until Nathan came and confronted him to examine the nooks and crannies of his life. What he found was a dirty home in need of repair. One of the greatest religious leaders in the bible had problems seeing his own life as it really was…I suspect we too need help.

Could it be that we think our lives are in perfect working order yet when an expert is called in they see areas that need attention. Why don’t we invite the Holy Spirit in on a regular basis to inspect every aspect of our lives?

The cold hard truth is…I fooled myself into believing my house was in perfect order. I like to use the phrase “intellectually honest”. Are we being intellectually honest about ourselves in light of what God expects? Be careful before you answer…you better check the closets, drawers and under the bed. These areas often go unnoticed and can cause you to be untruthful to yourself.