Sunday, August 10, 2008

Season of Change

Part of me wishes summer could last forever.

There's something in the rays of sunshine baking warm bodies like cookies on a tray, something in the bare feet running down either gravel roads or sizzling sidewalks, something in the tingle of wiggling fingers dipped in an ice-cold, running creek. There's something in all of those things that's hard to duplicate.

Maybe that's because I'm a summer girl. I was born in the winter, but my heart always awakens with the first dawn of a June morning. Something about summertime makes me feel perfectly bliss, and I think I've defined what it is. Comfort.

Summer means no school for many of us, and for those of us who have school during the summer months, it generally means less school and more free time. Summer also gives the much-appreciated chance for extra summer jobs for those industrious spirits among us, and the chance to spend more time on projects with friends.

During summer, our good times (for the most part) aren't inhibited by icy roads and snowstorms; rainstorms and short days. For me, summer means a time to enjoy life. And that's what I do nearly every summer. Enjoy life.

But summer doesn't last forever, unfortunately. Maybe it's not that unfortunate, though. Think about it. If summer had the rare opportunity of lasting forever, consider the detriment it would be to society. Schoolbooks would gather dust - hence, no one would learn anything from them, parents would be overrun by the constant chaos of the season - providing no schedule and no rest for them, vacations would take precedence over lives instead of work, and that perfect state of bliss I defined as comfort would become old and worn-out- like a piece of stale bread dried out on the kitchen counter.

The point is: seasons must change in order to secure our happiness. In our silly human minds, we often define happiness as comfort, but only our wise God knows that happiness never is formed in that mold. Comfort is only our idea of happiness. Happiness defined is living by the fashion King Solomon, thousands of years ago, penned.

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to morn and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away;
A time to red and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak;
A time to love and a time to hate; a time of war and a time of peace.
What profit hath he that worketh in that wherin he laboureth?
I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
He hath made everything beautiful in His time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
I know that there is no good in them, but for man to rejoice and to do good in his life.
And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour - it is the gift of God.
I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it: and God doeth it that man should fear before Him." Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

So apparently, God isn't happy about man's idea that one season is good enough for him. That's why He created change. He knew we'd never grow into the image of His Son without it.

I am standing on the threshold of change. My childhood bids me farewell just over my shoulder. The fears and reality of life are rising within my sight, just beyond this doorway. Behind me, and even where I stand, lies all of the comfort I've ever known and embraced. But somehow I've learned that I will never grow in grace within this comfort zone I love. Change stretches people in ways they feel keenly - but that's when they witness the power of growth and experience the grace of a loving God.

How can I ever change the world while insisting on dwelling in the lap of security? My eyes gaze out into the darkness of the unknown. How can I learn to rely upon the awesomeness of an almighty God without trusting Him for that which I cannot see? How can I expect Him to teach me to swim when I'm not willing to take the plunge? How can I run in the dark when I won't walk in it?

I can't. And in a way, all of life is like this. Unless my heart yearns for change with everything in me, my flesh won't be willing to let go of that ever-so-reassuring comfort, and change will be something I talk about often, yet never experience.

I am releasing the ties of my comfort inch-by-inch. It's throwing excuses at me, begging me to stay, reminding me of my failures and warning me of the unpredictable. I am afraid. But nothing ever said I wouldn't be.

This house of comfort screams at me from its every room - my social room, where it tells me that I must cling to comfort in order to remain popular. It smiles at me from the room of my ministry, where it tries to make me believe that I have been effective for Christ there, and that it's much easier to serve Him there anyway. Just when I think my temptation is over, it grabs me by the arm and whirls me around.

"Look," it tells me, "at your spiritual life."

I'm listening with a painful heart. But this time what it's telling me is true. I have, indeed, deserted the cause of Christ many times in this house of comfort. I have succumbed to the temptations of the world time and time again, and I have been indifferent to the mediocre relationship status I have towards the God who loves me.

Why, after stepping out into the unknown, I will be under the microscope of my social world, the magnifying glass of my ministry world, and the condemnation of my spiritual world which pervades it all. If I can't fly when jumping off a thirty-foot cliff, why should I fly being dropped out of an airplane at thirty-thousand feet? If I can't swim in a calm pool, why should I be able to swim in an ocean, battling against the waves that will inevitably be there? Trying to make it outside of my comfort zone and not only making it, but excelling to the glory of God - seems like a nice idea, but highly impractical. The idea has a high possibility of seriously embarrassing myself in the view of all the worlds watching me.

That's scary.

But there's something in that whole scenario that my comfort, still talking in my ear, has forgotten. It's real. It's powerful. It's happening for others. And it can happen for me.

It's the trick of the trade, the heart of the movement, and the power of the greatest secret of all. That is when a person steps out, takes the plunge, jumps the cliff, and braves the unknown in this amazing puzzle called life, that person experiences the greatest power of the universe in a very real way - regardless of the fact that this person has never been able to experience success previously.

It's this act of lowering ourselves before the great Authority of the world, the simple idea of humility in recognizing ourselves unable of doing good without the source of good - God Himself.

It's powerful. It's real. And it's available for everyone. This is part of what they call grace.

I turn for one last look at my childhood, this nursery of my comfort. My heart hesitatingly says goodbye, and in the time frame of an eternal second, my step is outside the door, and I am running, head back, heart forward, into the unknown, farther from the zone of my comfort and closer to the power of God. My eyes are blinded to the temptation of this culture and the worlds watching me by the shining light of the wonder of God. I know that only by actually running from the comfort zones of life will I actually run into the change of me, which must happen before I can change the world in any way, shape, or form.

I like summer, but do I really want it to last forever? Not really. Not at all, as a matter of fact. I desire change in my physical and spiritual life so that change can be worked in the lives of others.
My soul embraces this change - because I know the One who holds all change in His hand, the same hand that holds me.

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." 1 Corinthians 13:11
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13 & 14

Good night, Comfort, and good morning, Change. To tell you the truth, I'm not afraid. Not at all.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Every Sunrise

Someone recently asked me why I believe God exists. In fact, a lot of people have asked me that lately.

I always cringe at these kinds of questions, wondering why I feel like I need to defend a Lion when I know He is perfectly able to defend Himself. It's not my job to protect my God; it's my job to point Him out.

But how do I know that He's actually there?

I can prove the validity for reasoning there's a God. I prove it with science, history and logic. I can slam every point of every worldview that contradicts with Christianity, I can beat the person in front of me with key truths, and I can even convince my audiences that there is a God; even further than that - that He's my God: the God of the Bible.

And I can win. I can so win.

Yes, He's there. But what have I gained proclaiming that there is, in fact, a God? That He's the God I believe in? Just that. As soon as I gain my point, in a figurative way God becomes this little king sitting in a tall castle in the high heavens, laughing at His ridiculous creation - who is hopelessly out of touch with Him.

I've seen them before. The blank looks that stare at me across tables, shocked that I won a point regarding the case for a living God. But if I continue to rant on and on about the absoluteness of God and if I try to pound it into their strangely stubborn minds, I will suddenly see looks of carelessness. Because after all, who wants to be friends with a God who only exists to announce He exists?

I am a representative of the Almighty God. If I fail to communicate His greatest message to mankind, I have failed indeed.

I must tell them why it is that I have chosen to believe in Him.

I believe Him because He says He's there, I believe Him because I have found Him and Christianity to be objectionably true. But I also believe Him because I have experienced Him in a very real way. I have seen Him, first-hand, perform marvelous things in the lives of my family members and in my own life; things that are unexplainable in a reasonable, rational, human way. I know God. He is a part of my life because He loves me, and because He loved me first, I love Him. That's why.

That's God's greatest message to mankind. He loves them so immensely that He gave His Son for their eternal lives; so beautifully that He, the Creator of all, wishes to share an actual, personal relationship with His creation - mankind. This is the God I know. And that's why I believe in Him.

When Rachel and I sat down for music rehearsal one day this week, the thoughts of this song flowed from our hearts almost simultaneously. Together we penned the simple lyrics of the first song we recorded yesterday:

When this morning dawns/And the day is here/I will feel Your love/And see Your presence

I see You in every sunrise/I hear You in every whisper/Oh, they can say You are not here/But I know You are, 'cause I feel You

When they try to say/That You don't exist/My heart will protest/Because I've known You

I see You in every sunrise/I hear You in every whisper/Oh, they can say You are not here/But I know You are, 'cause I feel You

Lion and great King/How is it that I/Find this gentle love/Rising in me?

I see You in every sunrise/I hear You in every whisper/Oh, they can say You are not here/But I know You are, 'cause I feel You

Every Sunrise by Sarah and Rachel Byrum © This Bright Hour Music 2008