By Clarissa Toll
If you have been around church for any amount of time, you’ve heard about seasons.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. -Ecclesiastes 3:1
A season for birth and death
A season for planting and reaping
A season for healing
A season for building
A season for tears and laughter
A season for dancing
A season for embracing
A season for tearing down and mending
A season to be silent and to speak
There is so much to glean from these seasons. So much goodness and importance are housed within these defining portions of our lives, but what happens when they aren’t as easily defined?
What happens when you don’t know exactly which season you’re in?
These are the in between(s), as I’ve recently started calling them.
Ya know those times when a big something is ending In a short amount of time but you’re not quite there yet or you see a change not far off but you’re in a period of uncertainty? A job change, a birth of a child, the start of empty-nesting, graduating high school or college, deciding on a move… the list goes on.
Right now, I am literally in the season (summer) between graduating college and starting my big adventure into a career and my future.
The in between(s) are really hard on me, at least that's what i'm learning in this season of what feels like nothing but endings and the waiting on beginnings. I'll finish school up this coming December, "real-adult" like life will start after that, along with which will come a bunch of other big heart things to size up and settle into before the looming deadline. Its weird and uncomfortable, to be honest. I've been warring with being content, holding on, and running full speed ahead for some time now.
It’s an odd place to be in, while I may feel finished, I’m not yet done and there are still hoops to jump through. I can feel the pull to jump off and start, yet I’m in between the end and the beginning of two major chapters of my life. I don’t know the career I’ll fall into at the end of December or where I’ll be this time next year, but I’m in a-not-so definable season nonetheless.
Sure I’m building, but I’m also waiting. I’m embracing the beginning of the new, but I’m also reaping what came from the planting that is four years in college.
But y’all want to know what I’ve learned by seeking and pondering about seasons? Each season isn’t defined by one word. A lot of them are marked by these words from Ecclesiastes, but there are in between(s) to each.
It’s never wrapped up with a nice one word, easily defined bow, but even the in between(s) are just as important and chalk full with things to glean.
I’m the type of person who likes to find boarders and parameters; I like to label things and scrutinize over there definitions. But the older I get, I’ve realized the undefinable are the things we learn from the most.
No season the Lord leads us through will be completely comprehended by our human abilities, so why do I (we) limit them to simple, short worldly definitions?
We catch such sweet glimpses of what He is teaching us as we walk through them, but some of these fruits we will never fully grasp this side of heaven (Ecclesiastes 8:17).
So we’re going to reap and build and tear and laugh and cry and speak and be silent in each season of our lives, possibly with one or two playing a larger role in each, but it’s all going to add up into a season.
In each, though, I pray we choose to glean and seek where the Lord is.
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord. -Psalm 27:13
Where do you feel in between? Where is it you aren’t sure how to define where you stand?
Lord, our time on this earth is a constant time of change and seasons. There is mess and stability, brokenness and joy; but in it all is where we find you. As a church, I pray we recognize the seasons and the in between(s) we’re in so we can seek you and know you better in our lives. This side of heaven is full of your brush strokes of mercy, lets us glean from them Lord.
Our youth summer conferences are a time for both students and adults to grow closer to one another and God. The students are able to hear from amazing speakers that challenge them on multiple levels. As adults, the other sponsors and I get to hear from a "campus pastor" whose responsibility is to look after the adult leaders exclusively.
This year, we were challenged by the campus pastor to ask four key questions of our students. These questions are an important part of their growth and development as Christ-followers but they are also questions that each one of us must ask to grow deeper. The amazing thing is to realize all of us have asked these questions at one time or another. They are not complex but can be very revealing when asked correctly.
The first question is, "Who is God?" Simple right? Who we believe God is has a great deal to do with our spiritual development. The primary source we have for knowing about God is His Word. God uses His Word to reveal Himself to us. If we are not willing to read God's Word, then we will not have an accurate picture of God. How many times have we all heard someone make a definitive statement regarding the nature of God that was obviously incorrect? The root of such things is almost always a lack of commitment to reading God's Word.
The second question is, "Because of who God is, what has he done?" This question not only drives us to God's Word, but we can also see what God has done and is doing in our individual lives. When we see God asking Adam and Eve in the garden, "Where are you?" It's not because God is unaware, it's because he wants us to know that He is seeking a relationship with us. Furthermore, He wants us to know where we are in our relationship with Him. In John 3:16 we read that God loves us so much that it moved Him to give His only begotten Son. Timothy Keller speaks of God as being "prodigal" in nature. That His love is lavish,even reckless, in regards to His desire for a relationship with us.
The third question is, "Because of who God is and what He has done, who am I?" The word Christian means "little Christ", thus as Christians we find our identity in Him. We see from who God is and how He has pursued us that we are wanted and loved. It is God who gives us our identity.
The final question is, "Because of who God is, what He has done, and who I am, how is it that I should live my life?" The previous three questions should bring about a result that manifests itself in our lives. The motivation of asking these questions is not about behavior modification. We may be able to change our actions without transforming our hearts but what God truly seeks is that we completely establish ourselves in him.
Here's the problem. It is easy, and even culturally fashionable, to reverse these questions. This is extremely dangerous. If we start by asking, "How am I living?" Then, "Because of how I'm living, what is my identity?" We will inevitably reach the conclusion that, "Because of my established identity, I must conclude that God intended me to be this way." This is how much of our society's view of God has skewed away from a Biblical view of God. We have created a God of our own making rather than making us a people of His creation.
Let us not be unaware, this twisted world view can easily make its way into the church and our individual minds. If we are not consciously aware of where we are suppose to start, this will be the result. We MUST start with God and never ourselves.
I'd argue the most practical benefit of living in the age of technology is the tremendous access to information. At no point in the history of creation has it been so easy for people to access so much information as we now can through the internet. And while much of what is made accessible to us through the internet can be seen as a distraction at best and a temptation at worst, for the Christ follower there is also an unprecedented opportunity to discover pockets of helpful, insightful and disciple-producing content.
Most of us own at least one device whether it be operate on iOS or Android that is capable of offering an astronomical number of apps to make connecting to this information easier. Frustratingly, the sheer number of apps available to us often makes finding quality apps that really help Christ followers grow in their relationship with Christ a difficult or overwhelming process. That's why I thought I'd share a couple apps with you that I use on either a daily or regular basis and have proven to be immensely helpful in my growth as a Christ follower. And if you have an app that you use, that you have found helpful, I'd love for you to leave it in the comments section to share with myself and others.
Let me know if you find these helpful, as in the future I'd love to share more great apps and how they are helping me grow as a Christ follower.
The Bible App
Nothing has the power to drive growth in an individual like getting into God's Word. Not only has having the bible on my phone impacted my daily bible reading, but it has also made possible things like having the app read the Bible aloud while on a long drive, doing a quick search for that passage that's partly fuzzy in your brain to make sure it says what you think it says. In so many ways having instant access to God's Word can be a world-changer for someone committed to growing in their relationship with Jesus. My preferred Bible App is this one, both because for me it seems to be the easiest to navigate and because it offers a tremendous selection of bible translations at absolutely no cost. There's also a tablet version that has a great interlinear function which I find incredibly helpful when doing intense study. Available for iOS, Windows Phone & Android
Right Now Media App
As a church we've been excited about Right Now Media for years. We refer to it as the Netflix of Bible Study videos. Now boasting over 10,000 video bible studies available this is a great resource for anyone looking for sound teaching covering a wide range of topics. I find myself on Right Now Media at least a couple times a week watching something when I am waiting in the car to pick up one of the kids or just looking for a fresh perspective on living the christian life. Through our partnership with them, Right Now Media is available free to every attender of VVCC, if you don't have a username and password for the service, email me and we will rectify that.
Right Now Media is available at rightnowmedia.org, and they recently launched an app for iOS devices with word that an ANDROID version of the app is in the works.
People are the most important thing in the world. Their value is infinite. If we look at the cost of a human soul we see this to be true. Making the assumption that the Bible is true, we read that the God who created the universe also created human beings. These humans had an intimate relationship with God but separated themselves by choice. They chose to disobey.
Then God enacted a ridiculous plan, a plan so audacious it makes all mythological stories about heroes seem silly and trite. His plan was to send His Son to pay the price for all humanity to bring them back to an intimate and eternal relationship with Him. Humanity deserved to die, but God could not die. So the God who created the universe became a man, a man of flesh and blood.
God had been invulnerable. Nothing could have hurt Him. But now He was vulnerable. Now God could bleed. Now God could die. That was the point. That was the plan.
This person, Jesus Christ, both fully God and fully man, was killed and His blood was poured out for all humanity. The blood of God, so antithetical and strange. The blood of God, so precious and unique. The blood of an infinite loving God given for human kind. No other substance in the universe could have done this great work, only the blood of God.
Therefore, people are the most important thing in the world. Their value is infinite. The cost of a human soul is the blood of God Himself.
Life is constantly changing, and with every transition in life comes adventure. Growing up, I never thought of myself as an adventurer, but I have found that I can be pretty adventurous, especially when my adventures include my favorite person to take adventures with, my husband. When we were newly married, I had no problem moving to Kenya with him. 21 years ago, I was excited to leave Orange County and move to the high desert. I was more than just willing to go on a mission trip to India. I eagerly left an area of ministry I had grown comfortable in to a ministry that would provide a challenge and become a growing experience for me.
Parenting is another adventure we embarked on together almost 23 years ago and I honestly did not know what an adventure that would be! I can honestly say it has been the best adventure of my life. It is also the adventure that I have struggled the most in adjusting to the natural transitions. I loved being a mom to little ones. I enjoyed being involved in their schools and classrooms through elementary school. I was honored to be an ear to bend and a safe place for my girls to turn to during their difficult Junior High days. I watched with anticipation to see where they would go to college and what paths they young lives would take. My daily prayer that they would keep Jesus first and foremost in their lives.
I was unprepared for the mixed emotions I would feel when they were ready to actually step out on the paths that were laid out before them. I was excited for their adventures, yet struggled with the knowledge that those adventures would be THEIR adventures. I had to let them go, let them experience all that lay before them. The fun. The difficult. The exciting.
My daughter's are adults now. My husband and I did our best raising them to be independent and strong women. A mama’s heart takes a little time to catch up to that reality, and I think mine is just now finally catching up. I am learning to step back and trust that Darin and I parented the best we could, confident that God has them and always will. I am so excited to see how he will use them.
As I think about all this, I'm reminded that this is the time of year when many parents must deal with transition. Their little ones getting ready to start Kindergarten. Others moving on to Junior High or High School. Some are getting ready to send their “babies” out into the world. Each is a milestone to be celebrated but still a difficult transition. Enjoy and cherish all the transitions. Having made your journey, my advice is to continue to pray for your children and trust that God “has them”!
Watch as they begin their adventures. Be their cheerleaders. Be their safe places. Be their prayer warriors. You may find it is the best adventure you ever had.
I believe that the internet can be a safe, life giving, soul encouraging place.
I believe that the internet can be a place to be transparent and honest for good.
I believe as a church we should be honest and real in all facets of our lives, including in our little corner of the internet.
I believe this is a place for honesty and reality to come together to form words and phrases for God's glory and the betterment of this church.
Because I believe these things to be true, I can be honest with you in this space and confess that I haven't been in the Word with any consistency for about six months.
I can tell you all my excuses; a busy schedule has me doing other things, that an extra half hour of sleep is a necessity, and that live is moving so much that just to sit in silence would be “nicer.”
But, none of that is worth it in the long run. None of those excuses are soul sustaining, life giving, or truth reveling.
Being busy is just a fact of life, but it is important to acknowledge its time and place. Sure, we will never not be busy in between all the school, laundry, family, work, PTA meetings and sick dogs, but I want to raise the question; are we allowing it to rob us of our time to break it all down and approach the Lord quietly and expectantly?
I'll admit it. I have let my schedule corrupt my time with the Lord. I have chosen to glorify being busy, instead of zealously fighting for and carving out time with the Lord.
I am living a busy life, but that doesn't mean I can give up my ability to choose time in the Word.
Maybe at this point you too are questioning with me where we lost our battle against letting busy encroach on our quiet time.
Listening and nodding along with Jeremy on Sunday mornings isn't enough.
Playing Air 1 on our way to work and dropping the kids at school isn't enough.
Pinning pretty pieces of scripture onto our Pinterest boards isn't enough.
We shouldn't want those things to be enough. We should crave more, want more, fight for more.
Our quiet time is sacred and not something to let busy strangle.
We need to rally as a body of believers. Through social media, on Sunday mornings, or in coffee shops and tell it like it is. Be honest and fight together for our time with the Lord. We are called to be in community, hold each other accountable and spur one another on.
But how are we supposed to spur one another on if we don't tell each other the realities?
So this is me, telling it like it is. I haven't been gleaning from the Word, i've let busy win, and I am choosing more from today on.
It's past time we hold each other accountable and fight for our time even if our lives are going 90 miles a minute. We need it. We are called to do it. We will be better off for it.
As a church we are stronger when each of us commit daily to being in the Word and seeking the Lord.
If you are already carving out time and sticking to that commitment, I commend you. If you are like me and needing to refocus, I appeal to you to stand with me.
Let's choose to put our foot down and start today fresh.
DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a post about Football... If you don't care about Football please don't let the picture below keep you from experiencing the thoughts offered here, please hang in there through the first paragraph. -Neil
A couple weekends ago was opening day for the NFL, and for another year there was as much talk about the players who weren't on the field as there was about the one's who were. Over 30 active players and even a team owner are currently serving league issued suspensions. All but one of these suspensions stemming from issues having nothing to do with Football. For instance, that suspended team owner I mentioned just a moment ago, he is serving a 6 week suspension for driving under the influence of prescription pain meds. Or take Ray Rice (pictured above) who was suspended indefinitely (the latest rumors indicating permanently) when 8 month old video footage came to light showing a physical altercation between he and his then-fiance.
So what does this have to do with Christian living? I'm continually amazed that it surprises people when they discover that events in one part of their life cause serious ramifications in other, seemingly unrelated arena's of their life. The NFL just offers up further evidence that it is impossible to insulate the various aspects of your life from others. You may be able to keep it bottled up for a little while, but eventually what is going on in one corner of your life ripples across and impacts other aspects of your life. I didn't think that would be such a surprise to people, but I guess it is.
Too often we talk about "this part of my life" and "that part of my life". We discuss things like "my work life", "my social life" and "my family life" like we have multiple lives taking place simultaneously, but we don't.
But this isn't anything new, when we look at the bible we see people trying to do the same thing. For instance, Sampson, even before his run in with Delilah he was acting as though he could create a separation between the sacred and the profane, his role as God's champion and his companionship choices. Sampson was deceived into thinking that his romantic decisions wouldn't impact his ability to honor God and eventually that deception caught up with him. Or look at Ananias and Sapphira who thought they could separate their business dealings from their commitment to God, that didn't go so well for them.
When we stop and think it should be clear that we have a singular/unified life in which a multitude of interrelated events are unfolding. Are there different arenas in our life where expectations are going to vary. Absolutely. It probably isn't the best idea to treat our office environment the same way we treat our living room (which is probably the only reason why my shoes are on and my feet aren't up on the desk while I write this post at the office), but do the wins and losses, stresses and celebrations of the time spent in the office have an impact on me when I finally make it to the living room? You bet. And if I'm being incredibly foolish or rebellious in one area of my life is it likely that eventually that creeps into or unsettles an area of my life that I don't want it to? Absolutely. Even if we are mindful of all that, is it still incredibly tough to resist the temptation to claim small pockets of life for "doing what I want to do"? Absolutely.
I've been thinking a lot about the many ways that we are deceived into thinking about life as though it is made up of these smaller, distinct compartments. Places where we can indulge sin and quarantine it. This was the topic of my message last week as we continued our "Under Attack" series by talking about the danger of compartmentalization. If you missed it you can check out the video from Sunday here. Hopefully, you were with us over the weekend to be challenged to consider the idea that we are holistic beings whose spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, financial, vocational, social, and personal selves are all wrapped up together to make up this thing we call "life". Hopefully you were challenged to examine how easily we are deceived by this scheme of the enemy. And hopefully you were encouraged to examine your life and to give God authority in every aspect and arena of your life.
It would be awesome to hear your thoughts about the attack of compartmentalization and how you have experienced it and responded to it in your life. Please take a moment and share your thoughts in the comments section below.
From upcoming events to random thoughts, each week this is the place to hear from a staff member or guest writer.