Biblical Holy Day Musing: Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)- Sorrow turns to Joy.

Tonight is the start of one of the final fall festival in the Jewish calendar. Sadly, as with most of the Biblical festivals we know very little about this day and the experience of the Holiday, yet it is one that will be part of the experience to come (See Zechariah 14:6). This festival is not just a day but an 8 day party. This festival does not involve fasting or sacrifices. This involves celebration. It is not a somber time, it is a time to celebrate. Now, admittedly this writer does not have much understanding of the rituals, traditions, or symbolism of the days of this festival but in reading about the Holiday the concept of embracing Joy and Happiness in this time is central.

There is a distinct flow to the fall festivals. It starts with the alarm, the call, the trumpet, the awakening of Rosh Hashanah and the ushering in of the new. It is followed by ten days focus on change and repentance. Then comes Yom Kippor, the day of Atonement, or At-one-ment; it is the day of cleansing, of sacrifice and ultimately of judgment. It is a solemn day. Then five days later it is party time. Note that during the days preceding Sukkot there is much focus on change, self, and being right with God. In that there is much sorrow. When truly engaging in recognizing areas of change and then stepping into them, it is not easy. Leaving old ways for the unknown new is tough. There is grief involved in leaving the old behind, in turning to follow what God leads without knowing how it will play out. Yet, starting tonight and for the next eight days, God designated a party. So what is that about?

Well, one thing I have learned about the day in learning about the events of this upcoming week is the booths/tabernacles/shelters/tents. Hand-crafted shelters are made and lived in or at least meals taken in the temporary shelters. The imagery really points to the temporariness of the things of this life and even that, which is of our own hands. We live in dwell in the temporary but there is something greater: God and His love. Everything that God offers pales to what we depend on. It is in recognizing the fragility of self and own works and the greatness and fullness of what God gives. It is taking focus off of own life, pain, and sorrow and embracing joy, letting the feeling swell because of the goodness of God who has given all beyond measure. Such consideration turns sorrow into Joy. The changes lead to what God will do when the focus leaves self and turns to God. In such action does sorrow turn to Joy, in this does mourning become dancing, as recognition is given that God brings that which is beyond measure and lasts.

The whole focus is that beyond our circumstance to what God provides. He provides refuge and strength. We change not of own accord but obedience empowered by the Holy Spirit through obedience in faith. The little bit of reading about this celebration points to demonstrating the whole submission of self to God in faith. It points to complete surrender of self in every aspect and direction of life. In such surrender is sorrow turned to Joy. For the focus is on God and His Glory. It is a focus on the great things He has done. It is a time to PARTY.

So here is a challenge. Each day for the next 8 days take time to focus on what God is done. Celebrate. When you feel sadness, pain, or anxiety, take time to praise God. Something stressful happens praise God. Make concerted effort to bring your mind, heart, soul, and strength to focus on what God has done and celebrate. This is a time for Joy, let Joy envelope you to the core. May the Holy Spirit feel you with Joy beyond measure as you set aside all that burdens and turn all to God; for His ways are not our ways, and He always delivers what He promises. Beyond measure! So rejoice. Party! For God is Good and His Love Endures Forever!

Musing from 2nd day at #AACC National Conference: A matter of refocusing perspectives

Today at the AACC National Conference was a day that broadened perspectives. The workshops attended today were more focused on facilitating change toward particular problem areas.   Skills and knowledge were built upon. Yet, there a was a theme to the day for me.  It started from the first speaker of the day and moved on to the last.  The theme of the day was reviewing perspective.  The perspectives view are about our perspective with God, others, and self.

The thoughts on my perspective with God was a reminder of standing on the rock of God’s truth.  Abiding in His word. It is His word that contains the truth that sets us free.  His word is the foundation upon which we are to act.  It is knowing and acting on His word that gives us the only true and secure base.  Anything else will falter.  No matter what each of us is going through, God and His word are always secure.  So a question for each of us, is how is our attachment to God.  Or as Dr. Tim Clinton would put it, how is our “God Attachment.”  There is not one of us that is does not need to examine our perspective toward God. How is our vision and how can we grow deeper in the limits to our perspective of God. 

As to perspectives of others, the thought in my mind is about we need to at time refocus how we perceive those in our lives both in terms of our family, our community, and those brought to our lives. There are people like myself whose vocation is to help those hurting and needing help.  The starting point is to continually evaluate my own perceptions of those who come to me for help. It is easy to develop perspectives on clients that create negative mindsets. There are particular diagnoses that bring negative reactions and actual resistance to providing sound counsel.  So there has to be a perspective that no client is hopeless and all are capable of help and change.  Now there are ways to restrict clients to assure working with a particular class the generates a sense of productive help. It does take work and changing perspectives and finding solutions to help facilitate change.  And the goal is to facilitate change, which an also be related to helping people see things in their life differently. Finding different options other than doing things they have always done. This can involve building skills and helping them make changes to their perspectives.  In essence, changing perspectives is all about helping them find their way. What is there view of what life stressors and how to get them to view broader in ways not examined.  It is broadening and focusing perspectives ultimately that help generate change, as a person is ready.

Lastly, the thoughts went to focusing on my perspectives of myself.  What are the lies I hold to?  What are the distortions of God I hold?  How is my perspective limited? What do I oppose? What do I fear? Where is my faith? Is my perspective on this world or on eternal matters?  This challenging of the perspective of self comes during an interesting time. The Jewish calender has already started a several day celebration of Sukkot, “The Feast of the Lord.”  It is a day focusing on the ultimate victory and a move from the temporary to the permanent.  Is my walking in this temporary tabernacle one that is continuing on the path set before me or is the things that draw my attention and attract me to places dark. 

So today was about building up skill in part, but it really was a day of perception checks.  Where is the focus.  Tomorrow is the last day of the conference.  The progression as a flow to it so it will be interesting to see where my thoughts go tomorrow.  Yesterday it was about reviewing foundations and ultimately going deeper. Today it is about refocusing perspectives, tomorrow has yet to play out.  Praise God for the works he is doing, not just in the life of this man, but all who are here.

The best way to end this article is a quote from Dr. Ken Nichols of www.aliveministries.net “God’s word influences my perspective.  My perspective influences how I respond. My response influences the outcome of the situation. 100% of the time.”

Musings on Seasons

Life consists of a varied series of seasons. We know the obvious seasons of spring, summer, winter, and fall that are part of the regular ebb and flow of life. Yet, the seasons of life are more than the orderly flow of time. Even the flow of the seasons is variable. The Bible even indicates that in life there are many seasons in Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 (ESV):


For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what 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 mourn, 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 seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, 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 for war, and a time for peace.

Many things come, go and are part of life. Often the things we enjoy and get pleasure from last too short. The things that hurt and are painful last too long. The lengths of season are variable and impacted by our perceptions of the season. Sometimes a treasured relationship ends abruptly; conflicts last too long. In the end, our time in life is but an instance. As James 4:14 (KJV) states: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

Yet, many focus on capitalizing and focusing on pursuit the seasons of pleasure. We all like pleasure, yet when we encounter it, we do not savor it but rather often seek to engorge on the pleasure. For many, life is just moving from one momentary pleasure to the next. Yet, those seasons of pleasure fade, times of pain and sorrow always come. For many, life is about minimizing the suffering and maximizing the pleasure. There is another way. A way that looks beyond the constant shifting of seasons, there is something solid that stands up to the shifts. While seasons come and go, the Kingdom of God always stands. The rock of the Gospel is everlasting and un-shifting. It is not a momentary pleasure that last but awhile. It is the source of wholeness and completeness. For only in establishing right relationship with the Creator, which only happens not by self-effort but by, the redemption offered in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It all really comes down to where the focus of your life is. The continual pursuit of self and the temporary seasons of pleasure, or surrender to the King of Kings and accepting the gift of redemption allowing reconciliation and citizenship in the Kingdom of God.