Seasons of the Soul

PATSY KUIPERS|GUEST Editor's Note: The following is an adapted excerpt from Patsy Kuiper's new book, Be Still: Quiet Moments with God in my Garden. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 Nature’s Seasons I once attended a presentation where the speaker began with, “Summer, fall, and winter are seasons – spring  is a miracle.” I’ve thought about her comment every spring since. Early warm spells begin to nudge plants from their slumber in January here in the South. Witchhazel, Lenten roses, and paperbush start the floral parade that continues for multiple weeks as plants take turns in the spotlight. Trees, flowers, baby birds – all embody the joyful message of rebirth, which in turn stimulates hope and rejuvenation in us. But spring gives way to summer, and tender ephemerals[1] disappear for another year as heat-loving specimens flourish.  Summer annuals and perennials bloom, then set and disperse their seeds before beginning their decline. Fall arrives. Crops are ripe for harvest, the fruit of spring planting and summer tending. Soon daylight hours decrease, as does the temperature, and autumnal leaves create a riotous display of color – one last hurrah before they let go and blanket the ground for the winter. Ah, winter. Based on my observations, I’ve concluded it is the most misunderstood, under-appreciated season, at least from a gardening standpoint. Those unfamiliar with the ways of plants scan the leafless, apparently lifeless landscape and pronounce, “everything’s dead.” I used to think that too, but my horticulture studies dissuaded me from that notion. For instance, some seeds won’t germinate without scarification,[2] and some bulbs won’t bloom without adequate chill time. Many plants depend on the decreased daylight and increased darkness that accompany winter to flower at the appropriate time. My newfound knowledge has given me a different perspective...

Seasons of the Soul2022-05-04T23:01:02+00:00

Remember the Red Sea Road

When my youngest was little, we took her up the St. Louis Arch. I was excited to have my youngest join me for this notorious St. Louis excursion, and when we entered the cart that makes the slow trek up the steel structure, with excitement I said, “Are you ready?” And then she screamed. I attempted to reassure my daughter, who listened to absolutely none of my comforting words, and then resorted to lollipops and singing. But none of my tricks removed the panic…until we got to the top. With the snap of a finger, all was well again, and she couldn’t get enough of the people below who “looked like ants.”  When we visited the arch again several years later, my tween girl seemed a little nervous about the impending cart ride. So, I reminded her multiple times of the fact that she made it up fine the last time, and that she loved the experience once at the top. Remember how much you liked it? Remember? But apparently, she did not because when we entered the cart, she screamed. She was fine once at the top, and while she admired the incredible view, she said, “Mom, next time just remind me that the ride is not so bad.” Right. The Red Sea Road In the book of Exodus, the Israelites also struggled to remember how they had been brought through a great trial. In chapter 14, God’s people are pursued by Pharaoh and his army. And this was not a small group chasing them; we’re told Pharaoh had his horses, chariots, horseman, his entire army. Understandably, the Israelites were exceedingly afraid!..

Remember the Red Sea Road2022-05-04T23:10:28+00:00

Where do Your Burdens Carry You?

Our burdens carry us somewhere. Where do your burdens carry you?  2 Corinthians 12 records a burden Paul carried, a thorn in his flesh. Three times Paul pleaded with God to remove it. But to keep Paul humble, God would not remove it. Paul’s response was to see his suffering as a reason for rejoicing because it revealed Christ’s power at work. “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10) A Present-Day Example When I think of people today who have carried burdens for long periods of times, I think of Joni Eareckson Tada. If you have read any of her books you know that Joni attempted a dive into shallow water in the Chesapeake Bay. The moment her head crunched against the sand bottom, she knew she was in trouble. She recalls feeling like her life was over when she learned she was permanently paralyzed. Joni was a Christian at the time and spent those early months praying for healing, getting anointed with oil, confessing every sin that she could recall and attending one healing service after another, until finally she whimpered, “I cannot live this way. I’m so lost. God, show me how to live.” Her burdens drove her to Christ where for over 50 years she has lived in a wheelchair, and describes her life as dying daily to self and rising with Jesus. Joni wrote this about her life: “A ‘no’ answer to my request for a miraculous physical healing has meant purged sin, a love for the lost, increased compassion, stretched hope, an appetite for grace, an increase of faith, a happy longing for heaven, a desire to serve, a delight in prayer, and a hunger for His Word. Oh, bless the stern schoolmaster that is my wheelchair!” The thorn in Joni’s side has never been removed. Her burden carried her straight to Christ’s arms...

Where do Your Burdens Carry You?2022-05-04T23:36:23+00:00

Call Me Bitter: From Recovery to Restoration

Editor's Note: The following is adapted from Elizabeth’s devotional, From Recovery to Restoration: 60 Meditations for Finding Peace & Hope in Crisis: Crisis and Recovery Rain pounds the windows and roof as I type. Tropical Storm Marco is making its way through the Gulf coast, so far wreaking only a minimum of havoc. Tropical Storm Laura follows fast, also threatening to flood homes and businesses along the Gulf Coast. Meanwhile, in California, the Lightning Siege wildfire rages, having torched some 1.5 million acres already. So much destruction, even as hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost to the coronavirus pandemic. While these current crises rage, many of us are facing personal crises, radically life-altering events: a bad diagnosis, a daughter’s divorce, a lifetime of injustice, a major surgery. The crises and recoveries we face can plunge us into a state of chaos and confusion, disorder and depression. Shalom has been shattered, equilibrium lost. Despair threatens hope. Strife assaults peace. What we yearn for is a return to normal, a way to regain what was lost in the crisis. A recovery. From Recovery to Restoration Although we may find our way to a new normal after a crisis, we may never fully regain what we lost in the shattering. And yet, there may be hope. In literature, crisis refers to a turning point in the story. What if our crisis presents a turning point in our story? What if our season in recovery leads us to unearth treasure even richer than what we lost?  Scripture suggests that God has something more for us in crisis and recovery. What if we could discover the genuine hope of final restoration in our recovery? What if we could discover… Restored trust in the God who allowed this suffering? Recognition of our profound need for a Savior who has rescued us from sin? Renewal of our hearts, souls, bodies, and minds, so that we may live and love like Jesus?...

Call Me Bitter: From Recovery to Restoration2022-05-05T00:10:32+00:00

When Pelicans Can’t Fly: God’s Comfort in Our Pain

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for animals. I’ve been known to pull off the road to move a turtle out of harm’s way, and I’ve taken home one too many little rodents after stopping by the pet store. My husband fears what might end up tagging along home with me every time I say, “Just running out to grab some dog food.” While on vacation, we took an evening stroll on the beach and I noticed a pelican in front of us standing strangely still. As we got closer, it became apparent that the bird was hurt due to a fishing hook caught in its wing. True to my nature, my heart went out to the creature who was clearly helpless in his plight and fearful because of our close proximity. I wanted so badly to fix the injured wing so it could soar again, but there was little I could do, and the bird was incapable of helping itself. Unable and Helpless I thought of this pelican a few times since returning home. Its presence was a vivid picture of my own inability to fix the brokenness I feel internally and that I see in the world around me. There have been times when personal suffering has felt paralyzing because no matter what direction I move, the pain still lingers. And as I watch headlines that blare agony, disillusionment, and death, I again feel unable and helpless. Paul was a man who knew suffering, and we see just a glimpse of the extent to which he suffered in his second letter to the Corinthians...

When Pelicans Can’t Fly: God’s Comfort in Our Pain2022-05-05T00:26:15+00:00

When a Tree Falls: God’s Faithfulness in Trials

In September of 2019 I embarked on a journey along with my husband. He walked 1,300 miles from Pittsburgh, PA to Orlando, Florida; I biked 310 miles from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, DC. My husband loves doing crazy things and for some reason, I typically come alongside him! An Unexpected Obstacle For the first 310 miles of his “walk” I biked “with” him, although 98% of the time I was alone on the trail. He would get up each morning and begin his day on the trail while I drove 20-25 miles ahead to a trailhead, where I would park my car unload my bike and all the gear, get on my bike and ride back toward him, typically about 11 or 12 miles. Then once we met up, I would bike ahead of him his last 11 or 12 miles for the day, waiting for him every 5 miles until we reached the car. We would then set up camp and sleep until morning. We repeated this daily until we reached Washington, DC. (At this point our friend supported him with an RV and I drove to Florida to await his arrival 55 days later.) I consider myself a “brave chicken.” I typically think of everything that could possibly go wrong with a plan, but I tell myself that if I don’t do “it” I will miss out, so I push through with my chicken heart and my brave soul! This usually consists of a lot of research, planning, and even more prayer. But sometimes, even with all the research, planning, and prayer, the unexpected arises. And on this journey, it came about on Day Two. I was about 6 miles into my morning ride heading toward my husband, when I encountered a huge tree that had fallen on the trail. There was no way around it, over it, or under it. My only option was to go through it, carrying my gear laden bike. I had to lift it over part of the tree while ducking under a huge branch. There was also a tangled mess of vines I had to precariously walk through while I was climbing, carrying, and ducking!! God’s Faithfulness Through Trials Once I got through this obstacle, I took a break to reflect a bit on the scene. I was instantly reminded of my life—a life that has been filled with many unexpected tragic events that can seem overwhelming if I dwell on them too much. It made me consider the truth that in each of these events, there was no way around, over, or under, only through them. And it was through those situations that God refined me. His plans for each of these tragedies in my life drew me closer to Him in ways that on my own I could never have handled. Even in the events that occurred prior to my salvation, He used to prepare me to trust Him....

When a Tree Falls: God’s Faithfulness in Trials2022-05-05T00:32:59+00:00
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