Fall Colors in Nature and in Us

Fall colors

Fall…the time when (in places other than Florida!) nature dons flamboyant garb as God paints His world with vibrant colors. Lush, supple leaves in shades of green gradually change color until the green is just a memory, replaced by vivid red, yellow, and orange.

But where do the fall colors come from? What causes the bright transformation each year?

Actually, those other colors were there the whole time.

Remember middle school science class? Chlorophyll in the leaves creates the green color. Other chemicals, such as carotene, create orange, yellow, and red pigments. The other colors are always there. But the work of the chlorophyll overpowers those chemicals and conceals the additional hues.

Shorter days and cooler temperatures cause the chlorophyll in the leaves to break down. Since the chlorophyll is responsible for the green color, as it breaks down, the other pigments are free to strut their stuff.

Of course, you know there’s a spiritual application in all this, don’t you?

Life can be moving along, fresh and lush. Good things are happening and you’re growing in the warmth of the sun. And then suddenly there’s a chill in the air as tragedy strikes.

You lose your job.

The bank is about to foreclose.

Your husband wants a divorce.

The prognosis is terminal.

And you and I have a choice.

  • We can curl up in a corner and surrender to defeat. Or we can allow the cold circumstances to reveal strength we never knew was there as we depend on God for His upholding.
  • Instead of being overpowered by a situation that would conquer most people, we can stand firm in the power of our heavenly Father.
  • We can become bitter because life didn’t turn out the way we wanted. Or we can grow in the grace of the Holy Spirit as we follow His leading.
  • We can resent our losses. Or we can trust the Lord for what He will give us in their place.

fall colorsOur choice will determine the colors that shine through our life.

Will you and I allow disappointment to be His appointment?

Will we allow God to turn our messes into messages?

Our tests into a testimony?

And our trials into triumphs?

Sometimes green is just for a season. But there’s a season for reds, oranges, and yellows, too. And even when those vibrant colors turn brown and it feels like there’s no coming back…

Fall follows summer.

Winter follows fall.

And spring follows winter.

And with spring comes tender shoots with lush green leaves…again.

What season are you in?
Which colors are you displaying?


 
What are You Leaning Into?

leaningEver hear someone refer to God as a crutch? Something only weak people need to lean on to get through life?

I’ve always found that argument irrational, all the more so when promoted by people who practically worship rationality.

It implies that weakness is the exception. But aren’t we all weak in one area or another?

Superman is a fantasy figure, and even he had a weakness: kryptonite (or Lois Lane, depending on your point of view 😊). Show me one person who won’t admit to any kind of weakness, and I’ll show you a person who is delusional.

And even if we agree that everyone has some type of weakness, it’s still not easy to personally admit it. Our culture reveres strength. An admission of weakness carries the stigma of being “less than.”

Less than adequate.

Less than acceptable.

Less than whole.

Admitting weakness requires admitting we need help. That’s usually okay physically. If you break your leg, it’s foolish to try walking without the aid of a crutch or other tool to help you get around until your bone heals.

So why is it many of us find it next to impossible to admit we need help mentally, emotionally, or spiritually?

If the Bible is true—and nothing has yet proven that it isn’t—then we are weak in every area, not just physically. Jesus Christ became human to bring the healing and wholeness we need, first spiritually, and in other areas of life, too.

To reject the wholeness He came to restore to us would be as foolish as a person with a broken leg rejecting crutches or a wheelchair.

We all lean into something or someone when we’re weak, whether we admit it or not.

When life doesn’t make sense, which way do you lean?

When tragedy strikes, which way do you lean?

When your energy is sapped, which way do you lean?

Do you lean into God or away from Him?

  • The atheist denies God’s existence and leans into humanity’s wisdom.
  • An agnostic leans into the certainty that it’s impossible to be certain about God.
  • The Christian admits his or her need, and leans into God, through the cross of Christ and dependence on His Holy Spirit.

Real foolishness is denying our weakness in the face of the overwhelming evidence of our need.

Do you really think people are born good? Then why is it we never have to teach a toddler to say “no” or “mine”? Or why do we have to teach a child to share, but we never have to teach a child to be selfish?

Adults are no better. We just learn to hide our sin under a veneer of civility (although these days, even civility has suffered a black eye).

Take a long look around. Then take a long look in the mirror. There are no exceptions. No, not even one.

That’s the reason Christ came to earth as a human and died for us. He did what we could not do for ourselves. He met our greatest need: the need to be restored to the divine relationship for which we were created.

If Jesus Christ is not who He said He is, then in the words of the apostle Paul, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (I Corinthians 15:19 NIV).

The older I get, the more I realize that often the worst thing I can do is try to make sense of life with my limited perspective and understanding. For if this world really is all there is, then life is, indeed, a cruel joke.

I recently experienced a severe loss. It has left me feeling weak. But when I lean into God during my times of need, I gain:

  • strength in my weakness
  • peace as I face unexpected circumstances
  • equipping to accomplish the tasks before me
  • and hope as I face uncertainty.

Corrie ten Boom said it best when she said, “You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”

Whatever you’re facing today in your weakness, will you lean into Jesus Christ?

It’s the strongest thing you’ll ever do.


 
Oaks From Acorns Grow

Oaks from Acorns Grow

Remember the song, “Tall Oaks from Acorns Grow”? It’s a cute children’s song—one I hadn’t thought of in decades…until I began catching up on long overdue yardwork.

For the past 2 years, circumstances have caused me to neglect our yard. Shrubs grew wild and leggy. Weeds invaded where flowers should have bloomed. Two years of growth in a state where the growing season is year-round.

The solution to tackling this task is much like the answer to the riddle about how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time. So in recent weeks I’ve trimmed a bit, weeded a lot, pruned the plants I want to keep, and cut out the unwanted vegetation. Even with all that work, I’ve barely made a dent in our abundant Florida growth.

Oaks from Acorns GrowBut before discouragement could set in, I realized that in recent days I’ve been crunching acorns underfoot. And the children’s song came to mind.

We can joke about clichés, but the truth is, the large oak I labored under did indeed start as a tiny acorn. Planted in fertile soil, it simply did what it was created to do: hold its ground and grow.

As I work in the dirt, reflecting on oaks and acorns, I’m reminded that even though it might seem as if my situation is burying me, God is using it to plant me instead.

Oaks from Acorns GrowStill, I need to remember…

The darkness can be frightening, but His light shines brightest in the dark.

The duration and weight of our circumstances may be painful, but the combination of time and pressure drives us to the One who is our Refuge.

And the sense of loneliness in the face of our trials helps us appreciate the intimacy of our relationship with the One who created us, saved us, and indwells us with His Holy Spirit.

Thinking about acorns and oaks also reminds me of the passage in Isaiah 61:1-3:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (NIV).

This prophetic passage pointed to the Messiah—Jesus Christ, the anointed One who would come hundreds of years later to God’s chosen people as their Savior and Lord. It speaks to people who are hurting.

Those who feel buried in dark circumstances.

People in mourning and despair.

People who have been waiting so long that they’ve almost given up hope.

Yet this passage refers to God’s people as “oaks.” Plantings of the Lord for His glory.

Are you feeling discouraged today? In dark despair? Are you convinced your circumstances will bury you because you don’t have the strength to persevere?

Consider yourself planted instead. And know God does not abandon His children, regardless of their situation. Run to Him when you’re lonely. Welcome the light of His presence to dispel the darkness. Trust His perfect timing.

And remember…oaks from acorns grow.


 
What If God Allows It?

What if

It’s hurricane season in Florida. With every new tropical disturbance identified in the Atlantic Ocean, Florida residents play the “What if?” game.

What if a hurricane strikes us again?

What if we experience similar flooding to the Carolinas?

And the what-ifs extend beyond the weather.

What if the diagnosis is cancer?

What if the prognosis is terminal?

What if my prodigal refuses to return?

Most Christians say they trust God. We quote Bible verses that talk about God as Provider, Protector, and Healer. We memorize verses describing God’s loving nature and His compassion.

But even as we quote truth, our circumstances can unleash fears in overwhelming waves.

What if God allows the cancer to return?

And what if God permits my prodigal to remain lost?

What if God allows us to lose our home?

The resulting fears rise above our immediate circumstances to influence our view of God.

We doubt God’s goodness, even though the Bible declares that God is good (Psalm 100:5)

And we doubt God’s provision, even though the Bible tells us He will meet our needs (Phil. 4:19).

We doubt God’s love, even though the Bible tells us God is love (I John 4:8).

When we allow our fears to trump our faith, it’s the equivalent of saying God doesn’t have our best interests at heart. And even when we don’t fear, we can rebel against God by choosing what we think is best, rather than what He says is best.

  • It’s what Eve believed in the Garden when she believed Satan’s lies and ate the fruit that God had declared forbidden. What if God is keeping the best for Himself?
  • It’s what the ancient Israelites believed when they refused to enter the promised land for fear of the “giants” in the land. What if God allows us to die in the Promised Land?
  • It’s what King David believed when he allowed lust for another man’s wife to cause him to commit murder. What if God wants me to deny my physical desires?

How are your circumstances influencing your perspective of our heavenly Father? Do you hold a high view of God? Have you allowed what you don’t understand about His ways to prevent you from trusting His nature?

God calls His children to trust Him despite our what-ifs.

And if our what-if actually happens, will we still trust Him?

What what-if are you struggling with today?


 
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