It's what many of us are saying in the middle of February when we are sick of the cold weather and grey skies.
"I need Summer, NOW!"
We are waiting for a change in the season. We are looking forward to it as we stare at our swimsuits and sandals that have been tucked away for so long.
"How much longer must I wait?" we say. But we trust that the shifting of things will come and soon we will be sun-kissed and warm.
Yet, many of us know that summer doesn't come in quietly. In fact, it can be downright disturbing. Thunderstorms fill the meteorologists' forecasts. They say, "Well, summer is fighting its way through in a tumultuous way. Expect the shift of season to be unsettled, but be encouraged that on the other side of the storm is the beautiful season we have been promised and have been looking forward to."
We relate to this in our lives. The waiting out of winter. The longing for warmer times. The long-suffering. We hold on even as we say, "How much longer must I wait, Lord?" We remember that God is working things in a wonderful timing and the shift of things will come. We hear him say, "Be strong and take heart and wait on the Lord."
But the shift can be unsettling.
When God moves and begins to break us through into the new season, it can be in the wake of a tumultuous forecast. Trials come in like pop-up thunderstorms and it suddenly becomes the catalyst to a Change or an Awakening.
So we do not fear the Storm. Instead, we look to the Creator of all forecasts and are encouraged to know that on the other side of the Storm is the beautiful Season we have been promised and have been looking forward to.
He lead me to a small quiet river. A boat was waiting for us.
"Climb in." He said gently. "So glad you chose to join Me. The river will carry you Home and I promise to never leave the boat. Choose to stay in the boat with Me. It is your place of safety."
His eyes were sincere, blue and clear. It could see for miles into them -- like clear, deep waters.
"Stay in the center." He warned.
I looked over the side of the boat. It seemed calm and harmless.
"Many things will want to rock your boat along the way." He cautioned. "But, they have no control over you. I am the Master of this boat. Remain in Me. Do not fear the waters."
We travelled down a ways and I looked to my right. I could see the animals from the forest hiding in the trees.
"Do not fear the animals," He said. "But be wise. Not all of them will be for your benefit. Some will deliver words of encouragement in the form of delicious fruit. The birds will bring them to you. You will know they are from Me because the birds sing the Song of the Kingdom. But beware of the bats. They fly also but do not sing the Song. You must discern and never take the fruit they offer."
Then I looked to my left. There was a small cabin on the bank of the river. I could see lights shining through the windows and a fire burning in the center of it.
"You will see structures like this up and down the river." He said. "I have placed them there as watchman of the river. Their Light will never go out."
I looked up toward the sky. To my amazement, I could see the Seasons changing. It shifted from Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall right before my eyes.
"Why is the sky changing?" I asked.
"The sky will never stop changing," He answered. "Seasons will come and go. There will always be an ebb and flow. Do not depend on the Seasons to give you your happiness. Your Joy is found inside the boat with Me."
"Finally," He said, "remember this always. I have chosen this specific boat for you. I have chosen this specific river for you. I have chosen this specific journey for you. You must not become jealous when you hear of others' boats or others' rivers or others' journeys. I have chosen what is best for you. What matters most is that you remain in the boat with Me. There is much I want to show you as we ride together. There is much I want to tell you about Myself. I am eager for you to get to know Me. I have been planning our trip together before the beginning of time. I am excited to show you who you really are and who I really Am."
And with that, the boat picked up speed and we were carried off down the river together.
This Father's Day, my girls and I took my husband, Bryan, to play a game of miniature golf at a place that offers two different putt-putt courses. The business was running a special for Father's Day where dads could play for free. (Love free!) So, we purchased our games for both courses and got started. After the first course, though, everyone was getting a bit hungry. So, I went in and asked the attendant if we could get a rain check on the games we purchased for the second course. It was no problem and he handed me three free game vouchers to cover myself and my two girls, but not one for Bryan since his game was complimentary.
"Oh well," I said to my husband. "When we come back, we'll just have to purchase a game for you." We were thankful to get at least one free game for him.
Bryan agreed and then said, "Hey, don't forget, we get one last putt into the 18th hole. If we get a hole-in-one we win something."
So, we all took turns at our final putts -- first the girls, then Bryan, then me. No winner yet when it came to my turn. I set up, focused, and swung -- but not hard enough and it rolled back at me. I swung again. And again it rolled back at me.
"Harder honey!" my husband cheered.
"Go mom!" my girls shouted.
I could see other people looking at me as they waited their turn. They smiled as if to say, "You can do it."
(Insert Rocky Theme music)
So, I focused and..... swwuuunggg.
RRRRWWWWWWEEEEE went the bell!
"I got it in! Hole in One!" I shouted, as if someone had just called my name on The Price Is Right. I jumped and danced and wanted to hug the onlookers.
I looked over at the attendant who was smiling at me (probably laughing on the inside at me) and handed me a small white card.
I looked down and it read: "One Free Game"
Then I looked at my husband and said, "Look honey! We won! You got your free game voucher after all!"
Sometimes it can be hard to watch your spouse prosper. I think it can be a litmus test for self-focused thinking and/or our pride that wants the glory in a situation. It can just simply be humbling for some. Feelings of jealousy and a competitive spirit might rise up in us. The easy, fleshly response might be to downplay their achievements, winnings, creativity, success, etc. Or, we might become discouraged with ourselves as we compare.
But, we must remember that we are tied together in this life with our spouse. When they fall, we fall. When they rise, we rise.
As in the case of my hole-in-one. I won the game by making the shot. But, Bryan and I quickly realized that because I won -- he won, too!
I love being in the kitchen with my children. They especially love to make fried fish with me. They love how hands on and messy it is. And they love the idea of helping make something happen that has delicious results.
I have to be honest about it though. See, the truth is, I don't need their strength or talent. I'd get it done a lot faster if I just did it on my own. But, I purposefully decide to include them so I can have time with them, show them what I'm doing, and let them be a part of the process. I delight in making the meal happen with them. I love their fellowship. I love their joy in it. I'm not concerned about how long it will take. I'm simply wrapped up in the moment I have with them.
This is our Father's heart as He includes us in His plans. What a love-sick God He is! More than anything in the world, He wants a relationship with His children. (Just as we want so much to have relationship with our children!) He doesn't view us as objects to use. He sees us as His little wonders -- His children who have wills of their own and have the right to decide if they want to be with Him. His primary objective is to have a relationship with us. But, what's amazing is that as He has relationship with us, His plans are accomplished.
He invites us into His Kitchen and lets us stand on His chair so we can see what He has prepared for us to do. He doesn't then leave the kitchen and ask us to figure out what to do with the ingredients and handle the hot stove. No way! He has prepped the Kitchen so that we can make the meal with him.
So, we play in the flour and flip the fish around. (What fun it is to help Daddy!) And all the while He keeps His hand over our hand and lifts the fish with us. It's His strong Hand that carries the burden of the job. But, more than just 'getting the job done', the Father is relishing the moment with us. He can't take His eyes off of us. How thrilled He is that we would even want to join Him in the Kitchen. How delighted He is to fellowship with us! This is the reason He has prepped the Kitchen -- that we might join Him, love Him and fellowship with Him as He accomplishes His purposes!
A son wrote to his father who lived many, many miles away. The son was in need of advice. Though the son knew his father's address, he was unsure, still, that the father would receive his message.
"What if my father is too busy to take time to open my letter?" the son doubted. "Maybe I shouldn't get my hopes up that I will hear back from him."
Several days went by. As the son was outside reading on his front steps, he looked up and saw the mail carrier coming by.
"Your mail, sir." the carrier said as he handed him a stack of papers and envelopes.
The son flipped quickly through the mail as he normally did. "Trash, trash, save, bill, trash...what?"
The man looked up toward the carrier who had walked on to the next house by now. He looked back at the envelope and opened it slowly.
"Dear son, I received your letter and I am so thrilled that you wrote! I tore open the envelope the moment it touched my hands. I have been wondering for a long time when you would present this question to me and ask for my counsel on it. Here is what I think and what is true... "
The son grinned as he read the letter. How good it was to take in this word.
And, then suddenly, a thought entered his mind, "How do I know this is really from my father? I have not written him enough letters to know his handwriting. Maybe someone on his household staff read my letter and wrote back!"
Doubt clouded the man's heart and mind. His joy dissolved and his heart sank. His doubt had kept him from receiving anything at all.
There was so much I had to just throw away. I didn't want to. It wasn't my desire for it to be tossed. I had paid for it myself.
It all was once very beautiful and useful. It was soft and pliable. It had the potential to be used many times.
But, tragically, it was mishandled and ignored.
And over time it hardened as solid as a rock. I had no choice but to let it go.
I'm talking about my children's Play dough.
But, God can say the same thing about some hearts.
Those who, at some point in their lives, were tender toward Him. Their hearts were full of wonderment. Their faith was strong, believing anything could be possible. They could hear the Voice of the Holy Spirit. They could feel the Dance and hear the Song. And they not only were sensitive to it, they responded to it. They learned to listen and obey.
But then something tragic happened.
Their hearts were not guarded. Worry, like poisonous vines, started to grow around it. The wonder began to fade. The childlike faith turned to doubt and questioning. Trials stormed it with bitterness. And the once soft and tender heart began to harden. God hadn't change or shifted. Their hearts did.
But God is crying out to those hearts, saying "Repent! Turn back! Come back to your Maker and Potter. I will wash your hard hearts with the Water of my Affection. I will clean out the deepest and hardest parts of you! Don't try to change yourselves. You can not. Come and I will Father you once again."
It's too late for my children's Play dough. But it's not too late for your heart.
You've probably seen them at carnivals or other fun public events. A huge jar of jelly beans and a sign next to it saying, "Guess how many jelly beans are in the jar!" (If they're nice, they'll leave jelly beans in a separate bowl for you to enjoy as you guess.)
Every person looks at the same jar of jelly beans but each estimates it differently. Some are very close, some are very far off. Many people agree around the same number. But, no one can really say for sure what the true number is. Only the one who filled the jar knows that answer.
Sometimes when I think about the End Times and the Book of Revelation, I remember the jelly bean game. Yes, there are things we absolutely know will happen. We know for sure, for example, that Jesus is definitely coming back. But, there are many things God does not disclose the details on. It's like He's filled His Jar with jelly beans for all of us to see. We all can take our perspective on it, but only the One who filled the Jar knows the answers.
As Rich Mullins put it once, "God knows what He's talking about. The rest of us are just guessing."
What's important to remember is that we make sure we grab a handful of jelly beans He's left for us and enjoy His Goodness as we guess.