65. Seasons Come, Seasons Go…..THANK GOODNESS!

SEASONS COME, SEASONS GO…..THANK GOODNESS!

      It happened last night!   It’s not official yet, but “it” arrived!  “It” was ushered in by a brilliant and rather loud display bringing a much needed change.  “It” happens every year around this time, but this year its timely arrival was particularly welcomed.  Normally “it” brings with it some unpleasant realities that I tend to dislike, but that seems like a minor irritant given recent circumstances.  Whatever the inconveniences may be, I can honestly say I was really glad to be awakened at 4 AM this morning by its annual entrance.  I’m hoping it brings with “it” some much needed change of perspective.

     The “it” I’m talking about is the change of seasons.  Though fall isn’t official until sometime next week, the dramatic change occurring overnight, and the weather outlook for the next couple of weeks, clearly state that autumn has arrived……THANK GOODNESS!   While the fall has always been my favorite season of the year, I don’t remember a time when I’ve been happier to be ushered into such a change.

     There are lots of reasons I’m particularly grateful today for this seasonal adjustment.  Like most of us privileged to live in the Northwest, the past week we have endured some of the worst air quality in the entire world.  The smoke from the wildfires in Oregon has been so thick, even in the metro Portland area, that you haven’t been able to even see the house across the street. It burned your eyes, irritated your throat, and gave you a nasty headache if you spent more than a few minutes outside. Lots of normal activities came to a screeching halt because of the poor air quality.  Already dealing with the ongoing pandemic, non-stop civil unrest, and the political turmoil of 2020, the wildfires and smoke were almost insult to injury.  Therefore, when we were hit with a huge thunderstorm last night about 4 AM, along with the rain showers we’ve experienced throughout the day, you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from everyone in our state.  Though many of the fires are still burning, and the air quality is still listed as “unhealthy”, that’s a welcome improvement from where we’ve been for the last week. 

      Fall normally ushers in a number of things I really enjoy.  That list would include the changing colors in the landscape that surround me, looking out my front door to see majestic Mt Hood covered by a fresh coat of snow,  the return of Oregon Ducks football  (at least in a normal year),  new programs being launched at the church,  just enough crispness in the air to wear a pullover sweater  (which is my best look by far),  the anticipation of  the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons,  opportunities to reconnect with friends and family members,  and much more. Given the strange experience we’ve all endured this year, not only here in the Northwest but literally around the world, I think a restart with a new season is something most of us desire.

     Of course, there are also a few things about fall that I don’t normally like – things like raking the leaves from the huge Red Oak In my front yard (how does that tree have so many leaves?),   political campaign advertising,   debates over college football conferences, paying property taxes, the end of summer blockbuster movie releases, retailers pushing Christmas displays in September, and getting my annual flu shot.  But this year those things feel like mere inconveniences compared to all that has happened since January 1st.  So many things have gone in wrong direction this year that I even welcome those routine hassles.  In a normal year you have to take the good with the bad, but the “normal bad” doesn’t seem all that bad this year. 

      Though it’s far from profound, I’ve been reminded in the last 24 hours that “seasons come and seasons go”.  Most of us are more than ready for the current season of life to disappear. In fact, like the smoke weary residents of the Northwest, perhaps you’re desperately looking for that change too!

      Change is actually one of the constants in life.  No matter how hard we try, no one’s circumstances remain static. We don’t know what lies around the next corner, how the decisions others make will impact us, or when we will come face to face with the unexpected.  Even in our most committed relationships there will ups and down that have to be navigated if they are going to be successful.  Learning to cope with these changes is a key to both survival and to find fulfillment in life. Those who cannot adapt to such alterations in their routines often find themselves struggling to regain their sense of equilibrium.  They are fine during one season, but not ready for the next.

     Like you, I’ve gone through my share of bad seasons in my life. The year 2020 may go down in most of our memoirs as a year we’d prefer to forget.  I haven’t always adjusted to such changes well. I’m not immune to getting discouraged, confused, lonely, hurt, or filled with self-doubt.  Worse yet, at times I’ve even had my doubts about God. I say things like “How could He allow this to happen to me?” or “That’s just not fair!”. I have a tendency to overlook all the blessings I’ve enjoyed just because a few things have gone wrong.  I complain, feel sorry for myself, and maybe even shed a few tears wondering when things will turn a corner and starting going my way again. Deep in my heart I know whatever is happening is just a passing season, but it doesn’t feel that way. It seems like negative things can pile up on top of other negative things until I begin to look at the world through dark colored glasses.  Can anyone else relate to those feelings?

     I know I’m not alone in such feelings, especially this year.  Part of my job is to meet with folks who are going through one of those tough seasons.  I have the unique opportunity to meet some of their immediate needs through resources and connections that have been placed at my disposal.  When I’m able to do so their outlook on life often changes almost as fast as the smoke receded during last night’s thunderstorm. The sudden alternation of their circumstances can be the beginning of ushering in a true change in seasons.  That’s perhaps one of the most rewarding parts of my current position. We need moments like that, and they always come, sooner or later!  THANK GOODNESS!

      I took a brief break a few moments ago to run an errand for my wife.  When I stepped outside for the first time in the past several hours I was stopped in my tracks.  There, right in front of me, was a patch of blue sky surrounded by the remaining clouds of last night’s storm.  It’s the first time I’ve seen blue sky in over a week……let alone real clouds!  It was almost stunning!  The smoke has been replaced, at least temporarily, with this often taken for granted symbol of hope. Whether it’s smoke, a thunderstorm, a wildfire, or even a mountain like St Helens blowing its top, no matter how gloomy the sky gets sooner or later the gloom will clear and the blue sky will shine again. 

       There’s a lesson in that I think!  We all walk through our share of  “gloomy” seasons in this life, both individually and as part of the larger community of mankind.  Together those of us who currently inhabit this tiny planet have been going through a season unlike any other in our lifetimes. Many people have been all but overcome by the prolonged challenges this year has thrust upon us.  But there remains a solid hope that the season will change!   The same God who feeds the animals in nature, makes the sun and moon rise every day, and upholds this little globe in an atmospheric envelope that enables life as we know it will see us through.  We can be confident that He loves us and will work even through the chaos of 2020 to fulfill His plan and usher us into a brand new season.   THANK GOODNESS!

      If you find yourself a bit overwhelmed by the ongoing struggle, be encouraged.  I sincerely believe God knows exactly what you’re going through and He will not leave you hanging in the lurch. He has a plan already in the works to bring you into a future filled with blue skies of hope.  Isn’t that great news?