As the plane descends and the lights of Seattle become welcome, familiar reference points, I take a few moments to look back on what can only be called, “the summer of life” because of all the life giving elements contained in it, including:
1. A trip to Europe for my wife and I, courtesy of our generous and amazing church, so that we could visit our daughter who serves there, and hike the Alps. Body – Soul – Spirit – every part of us was enlivened through the hiking, the beauty, the hospitality, the good food, and drink, and conversation with dear friends in Germany and Austria.
2. Numerous Skypes with our other daughter, who’s been doing her college internship by working for World Relief in Rwanda this summer. We’ve seen her grow and change in ways that will expand her capacity to serve and bless the world in Jesus name.
3. A single day of rock climbing with my son became a rich celebration of recovery from a shoulder injury that had sidelined me, and a celebration of adult friendship with this man whose humor, humility, love of adventure, and honesty, bless me time and time again.
4. The chance to teach and be with people in conference settings, both in California and New Hampshire. I love settings that allow conversations to flow right our from times of teaching, around the meal, or the softball diamond, or on the beach while the kids splash. New friends – new stories – laughter and tears. It’s always a privilege to share life with people in this settings, and I come home feeling enriched.
5. The chance to teach a preaching class for Fuller Seminary has helped me develop the capacity to equip others for the marvelous, challenging task of opening the Bible and sharing what God has to say through them. Like the times of conference speaking, the fellowship with students was rich, the insights received from their preaching, poignant.6. Work with our staff at Bethany Community Church as we steer the ship towards the future. We’ve been refining our mission and vision, and continue to do so in order that we might be the presence of Christ in our city and world with ever greater clarity. This work has fueled the flames of joy for the future of BCC, believing that as we follow Christ into the future He has for us, the effects of Christ’s life will touch everything both within and around us. What an adventure awaits!
Can you see why I call it the summer of life? James tells us that “every good and perfect gift” comes from God, and this has been a season, for us, of gracious gifts. Thanks be to God.
But this is not every season. Several summers ago my wife and I nicknamed those long sunny days, “the summer of death” because death was everywhere: my father-in-law, my associate pastor, our neighbor, other relatives. It seemed that every few weeks, someone near and dear to us departed, and it was hard.
I know, too, that our summer of life has unfolded at the same time that others have been walking through a devastating season: Drought in Texas and Africa, torture and death in Syria, job loss continuing all around us here in Seattle, tenuous economics, health challenges, marriage challenges, children born with life-threatening illnesses. The stories are in the news and in the prayer room. Life is hard, and every peak has a valley – every rainbow has a storm – every sunrise has a night of darkness. There is, with certainty, a time for everything.
I ponder the contrast between our summer of life, and our summer of death as the plane nears the ground, remembering that the overwhelming evidence of scripture is that God doesn’t grant us immunity from the valleys, darkness, storms of life. They’re ours, each in their season.
Instead, God promises to walk with us through each season as our truest companion, the source of every blessing on the mountain peaks, and the God of all comfort in the valleys. Like Joseph, Job, David, Paul – we’ll need to learn to walk with God at every elevation. As we do, we’ll find that intimacy with our creator grows – He rejoices with us when, like children, we enjoy the gifts. He comforts us when the season of darkness and storms come, being our light and shelter. What could be better?
The suns’ coming up later these days, and football’s on TV. These are the signs that the season is changing. Soon coffee with God will move indoors and many of us will be weathering storms. These too shall pass. But until they do, God will be with us as we pour our hearts out to Him – and that will be enough.