November 18, 2017

Distinguishing the Seasons

early spring 3 , meissner

By Chaplain Mike

It is late February here in the Midwest, a time that will drive you crazy. In the same week, we might have snow, ice, rain, and a 65-degree sunny day. My wife noticed that the daffodils were coming up yesterday. Today, I went outside and hosed off the deck and back walk from the residue of salt and kitty litter we’d put down to avoid falling on the inch-thick ice we had recently.

We’re missing the big snow storm that’s moving across the upper Midwest today, dropping more than a foot of snow in northern Illinois and Wisconsin, but such storms are not unheard of where we live. After all, high school basketball sectionals are not far off, and we have an oral tradition of getting snow during those games.

Oh, by the way, I had this post all ready to go and then I watched the late news. Overnight, the temperature is supposed to rise and get up to about 60 degrees by morning, then fall throughout the day, with rain turning to ice and snow by evening.

Stay tuned for what’s next. You never know.

Late winter has a way of messing with your head. It can be cabin fever or shorts and flip-flops. Mostly it’s that unsatisfactory in-between, not warm enough to get out on the baseball field, and everything either slushy or brown and matted down under bare trees showing no buds yet.

The spiritual life is often like that. Occasionally we can read the “signs of the times,” and figure out how to dress for the day. We go through an intense trial of illness, conflict, doubt, or trouble, and it signals that we’d better button up against the cold, icy winds. We find ourselves in a time of happiness and abundance. Perhaps we are celebrating one of life’s major occasions or turning points, rejoicing in some new opportunity, or grateful for some plenteous provision. We don cheerful colors, put ice in our glasses, and raise them high to toast the sun’s warmth and bright blue skies.

However, on any given day we may find ourselves “in-between,” and discover it is hard to distinguish the seasons. Winter coat or spring jacket? Sweater or shirtsleeves? Do I need an umbrella? My ice scraper? Stay tuned for what’s next. You never know.

transition 3, meissner

When we lived in Vermont, locals recognized a season I had not heard of before. They called it ‘Taint Season. Other seasons were fairly well defined in the mountains of New England: spring, summer, fall (when the leaf peepers arrived in droves), and winter (when the flatlanders came up to ski and give us their money).

There were lesser seasons as well. As winter began to melt, we had sugarin’ season for making maple syrup, and even mud season, when the roads going up the mountains turned to deep muck. After the mud came the indistinguishable days of ‘Taint Season, so named because ‘taint no other season. ‘Taint sugarin’ and ‘taint mud, and ‘taint spring yet. ‘Taint Season.

I think one of the greatest challenges in our journey with Jesus is learning to navigate all the ‘taint seasons we go through. We tend to think about the crisis times, either dreading or anticipating them. They are easier to identify. They stand out. And they do form us and in some ways define our lives. Somehow, when they arrive, the natural gift of adrenalin, God’s supernatural grace for the moment, and the supportive systems around us kick in and we make it through.

However, before, during, and after every major high or low point in life there are countless routine moments of simply living, working, relating, and dealing with the ordinary stuff of life. Kind of like ‘taint season.

We celebrate a special wedding anniversary (they are all special, honey). It quickly morphs into the day by day practice of learning to love: being patient and kind, not being jealous or boastful or proud or rude, not demanding one’s own way, not being irritable, refusing to keep a record of wrongs, never giving up, never losing faith, remaining hopeful, and enduring through every circumstance.

We lose a loved one. During the days around the death, we are kept busy with decisions, gatherings, services, meals, and so on. Then relatives return home, friends go back to work, the church resumes its ordinary activities, and we ourselves still have bills to pay, daily work to attend to, and personal routines to assume again. The intensity and pace of those crisis days diminish dramatically and we are reintroduced to the “dailiness” of daily living. We must work out our grief as we walk through ‘taint season.

Life is never as clearly defined as we make it out to be. We move through the various periods of each year, each month, each day, reacting to the weather fronts that blow through our lives, preparing for clouds on the horizon, and trying to plan our outings for days when the weather will cooperate.

During Advent, I wrote a post called, “The Contexts of Faith,” in which we discussed Walter Brueggemann’s analysis of the Book of Psalms and its depiction of the experiences of life. According Brueggemann, the Psalms teach us that the three major seasons are Orientation, Disorientation, and Reorientation. He posits that “the flow of human life characteristically is located either in the experience of one of these settings or is in movement from one to the other.”

This week, we will explore these three seasons and how the Psalms describe them in more detail, in order to learn how God’s grace sustains us and forms us through them and in the movements between them.

Stay tuned for what’s next. You never know.

____________

*Note: Today’s artwork from the website of yvonne meissner.

Comments

  1. I would love to have your prayers as I’ve been going through a season of underemployment like so many others and it’s hard to get through it without self-doubt and discouragement. I need a grander vision of what God is doing through this time.

  2. I would like to believe that God is still working on my behalf, even though I don’t deserve it!

    • are you breathing? He is.

      you’ll be given love
      you’ll be taken care of
      you’ll be given love
      you have to trust it

      maybe not from the sources
      you have poured yours
      maybe not from the directions
      you are staring at

      turn your head around
      it’s all around you
      all is full of love
      all around you

      all is full of love
      you just aint receiving
      all is full of love
      your phone is off the hook
      all is full of love
      your doors are all shut
      all is full of love!

      all is full of love
      all is full of love
      all is full of love
      all is full of love
      all is full of love