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Just dropping by ... God’s curriculum

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairy Published on 08 November 2021

Once again, the gold, scarlet and orange leaves flutter to the ground leaving the trees stark and bare against the blue sky. The dates on the calendar fly as quickly as the hour changes on a digital clock.

Yesterday was New Year’s Day. Valentine’s Day sped past in a flurry of hearts followed by shamrocks and Easter eggs; then flags and fireworks flashed in the sky and were replaced by ghosts, turkeys and Christmas lights. All are gone into the sealed files of yesterday. I wonder where it all went, and here it is, Thanksgiving time again.

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Thanksgiving is my favorite time of the year because it isn’t heralded in with a big fanfare of commercialism. Of course, the turkey and autumn-leaved plates, table decorations, sample menus and pilgrim pictures appear almost hidden among the skeletons, jack-o’-lanterns of Halloween and the holly wreaths and the glitter of Christmas.

Thanksgiving is a time to reach into your heart and reflect on your freedoms and the blessings of the past. It is a time for prayer and renewing. It is a time to prepare your heart for the true meaning of Christmas and prepare for the new year, which will march in on “wings of lightning.”

Thanksgiving reminds me of the never-ending cycle of the seasons. The flowers of spring and the towering grandeur of summer are gone, and winter’s ice is not far away. Our lives, like the seasons, pass almost without notice, until streaks of gray sprinkle our hair and we feel the creak in our bones, or we have a wake-up call from a doctor’s visit.

My autumn time is here, and I wonder when the snows of winter will flutter into my life. All sorts of thoughts flood your mind: “How much time do I have left? I wonder if I got it right. Did I fulfill my mission in life? Did I do what God sent me here to do?” My life can practically be summed up in one sentence: I was born, grew up, went to college, taught school, wrote a few plays and articles, married, raised a family and here I am. What have I really accomplished? What have I really learned? Have I gathered lasting treasures, treasures that will be a legacy in the hearts of my children and loved ones?

The answers come gradually as I search back over my life. I really know that God lives and that He knows and loves me as He loves every individual on the face of the earth. How do I know that? I have felt the touch of His gentle hand guiding my life, and I have heard the soft whisper of His Spirit in my heart.

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God has a curriculum that helps us grow and learn. I discovered it years ago and have intermittently put it into practice. Why didn’t I do it all the time? Distractions come and adversity shakes the tree, but that is all part of it. How else would we grow?

Like the changing seasons, we are not sure where the cycle starts or where it ends. It just repeats and repeats. God’s cycle of learning includes experiences in building faith, learning to seek answers, overcoming adversity and learning that gratitude is inextricably the connecting link between adversity and faith.

Paul said in his letter to the Hebrews: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV). In other words, we peer into the future with hope looking for assurance and evidence that God is really there.

When I was a child, my faith began in a family circle of prayer. Every day we invoked God’s power and were blessed with answers. We went to church and read the scriptures looking for evidence of God’s existence. Because we looked, we found assurances. Sicknesses were healed, harvests came despite drought or floods, and we were protected from the evils that could have destroyed our family.

As we exercised faith in the teachings of the scriptures, we learned to pray with more faith. Prayer is an expression of our faith in what the scriptures have taught. We proved our faith by putting into practice the principles we learned in the scriptures: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39 KJV) and “Charity suffereth long, and is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4 KJV).

Faith is not a one-time experience. It is a lifetime of trust and learning. It is relying upon God’s word and trusting that He in His infinite wisdom will never let us down. The mustard seed of faith spoken of in the scriptures grows much like a tree – a little bit at a time. We must nourish it with the sunlight of prayer and scripture study and the water of doing the works of God.

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One would think as we learned to trust in God we would not have adversity, but that is part of the cycle. Adversity tests the mettle of our soul. It allows us to answer the question, “Do I really believe in God’s mercy? Do I really believe and trust His wisdom?” Without adversity, how would we ever know if we truly had faith or not? Adversity is a time to align our wills with God’s. To do that, we must get a few “no” answers. If we only got “yes” answers, we would probably miss our mission in life. It is like driving down a road with a trusted companion who has traveled the road before. If we were about to take a wrong turn, the trusted traveling companion would say, “No, that is not the right turn.” You don’t ask, “Why,” you simply trust him or her. C.S. Lewis in a time of great adversity said, in effect, “I am not praying to change God’s will; I am praying to make His will my will.”

The next part of the cycle in God’s curriculum of growth is learning to express gratitude. Gratitude is essential because it allows you to tell God you trust Him and you are on board with His directions for your life. It is this faith feedback that gives God a chance to send down His warm fuzzies from Heaven through the Spirit. When we express true gratitude for the things God has given us, we feel His sweet love sweep over us. We are humbled at His power to bless our lives, and we are filled with desire to learn and feel more of His goodness.

This works in times of great adversity as well. I have been taught that those who “receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious, and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea more.” When God is in the passenger seat holding the map, we will never go wrong. We will get and keep what we truly desire. It does not matter what trial we must endure; He always turns adversity into blessings.

Desire is the last part, or the first part, of the learning cycle. With cycles, you never are quite sure where they begin or end, but desire is an important part of the cycle. The Lord will give us what we truly desire. C.S. Lewis said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done.’ And those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’” If you argue with an experienced traveler who knows the way, sometimes he or she will say, “Go ahead, have it your way.” You end up traveling miles and miles out of your way because you insisted upon being right instead of being humble. That is the way it is with God.

If God will give us what we desire, then it is important to desire the things God wants for us – that is where the blessings are. When we go through adversity or have a heartfelt longing, we can ask the question of the rich young ruler who asked Jesus, “What lack I yet?” (Matthew 19:20 KJV)

If we are in tune with God through prayer, words will come into our minds, and we will feel the Lord’s instruction permeate our souls. As we follow through on His instruction, a wonderful feeling of love and warmth washes over us. That is how God teaches us through faith, prayer, adversity and gratitude. It is a cycle as trustworthy as the cycles of the ever-changing seasons. Thanksgiving time is my time to check out how I am doing.  end mark

Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.

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