Anonymous Seasons – 12/2017

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52 niv)

Wisdom that comes to us from others is one of God’s blessings—an example of the importance of community, of the church, of the family of man. Recently I read somewhere that “the hours often go slowly, but the years fly by.” That struck me as a wise saying.

Colleen, my wife, has often been a source of recommended readings for me; she should have been a librarian! This year she shared with me an amazing book—Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours, by Alicia Britt Chole. I highly recommend it. The basic premise is that we know little about the first thirty years (90%) of Jesus’ life. The Bible focuses on Jesus’ three years of public ministry; but His first thirty years were foundational. That quiet season of anonymity prepared Him for true greatness and made Him unshakable when His time came. Chole writes that when our potential is unseen and our abilities are unappreciated, when we are living in the gap between our dreams and life’s realities, we are in what she calls an “anonymous season of the soul.” She centers the book around Matthew’s account of Jesus’ forty days in the Judean wilderness and explains how she sees Jesus’ life up to that point preparing Him for His encounter with Satan.

One of many sentences that really grabbed my attention opens Chapter 18. “Time is not really spent. Instead, it is invested in a future we cannot see.” Reflecting on that thought and the whole book has helped me deal with “anonymous seasons” in my life, like the one right here and now. Colleen and I have a son who has numerous “disabilities,” or what one of Colleen’s special education professors called “differing abilities.” Ben is forty-two years old. He has not been able to complete schooling beyond high school nor hold a job. Ben lives in an apartment on our property, takes his meals with us, and is with us many of his waking hours. It is hard for him and us. We all wish Ben could have things in his life about which to feel good. He is angry at his situation and us much of the time. Colleen and I struggle to meet his needs and find opportunities for him. We rarely get off our place as a couple. That’s hard.

Anonymous said to me that perhaps Colleen, Ben, and I are in a season of preparation for things ahead. It rejuvenated my hope that God’s answer to our and friends’ and family members’ years of prayers for help will move from “not yet—wait—trust” to “yes.” Just after I finished the book this fall, we got word that Ben’s place on the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs waiting list for services had progressed from number 5381 in April 2014 to Number One. We are close to direct services for Ben and services that will meet some of our needs for respite care. Time invested praying, working and waiting has brought us closer to the future that we could not see. Not all is clear, nor will it all go smoothly, but hope lives on!

Steven L. Preston

Steven is a retired Library Director from Milligan College in Johnson City, Tennessee and former ACL president. He has been a member of ACL since 1986.

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Ambassador for Christ – 11/2017

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24 ESV)

This year the faculty of Grace University has been reading the book Marching off the Map: Inspire Students to Navigate a Brand New World, by Tim Elmore. The basic premise of the book is that faculty can’t effectively connect to the new students coming to us today using the same methods that were successful in the past. Mr. Elmore is suggesting that one must “think outside the box” in order to reach the technology savvy youth entering our campus doors. The book goes on to suggest new methods to use to effectively reach the minds of the next generation.

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God’s Love and a New Tribe – 10/2017

“And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9 NKJV)

“The Love of God is Greater Far. . .” The sound of my students singing this song on the last day of the seminar still rings in my mind and heart. I was in Bujumbura, Burundi for three weeks this past summer to teach a library research seminar at Hope Africa University. The words of that song so encapsulated the blessing of those days.

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Seasons – 09/2017

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 niv)

One can see God’s created order in the seasons and cycles of nature. After three summers in the hot climate in the California interior, I am figuring out the change of seasons, and that the times for planting and watering the rose bushes are very different from the North. Genesis 8:22 speaks of a natural order in God’s creation: “As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

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God’s Plan May Not Be What We Think It Is – 06/2017

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

A recent Christian movie set in the 1950s showed a young couple lying on the hood of their 1956 Chevy, looking up at the stars. One of them quoted Jeremiah 29:11 from the New International Version (which ironically wasn’t published until the 1980s) and talked about their upcoming marriage. Based on this verse, they thought everything they ever dreamed about was about to come true.

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Don’t Quarrel on the Way – 05/2017

“Then he [Joseph] sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, “Don’t quarrel on the way!” (Genesis 45:24 NIV)

It speaks to my weird sense of humor, I guess, but I find this verse very amusing. Joseph, who had been sold into slavery by his brothers, has been placed in a position of authority in Egypt. When the brothers come from Canaan to Egypt to purchase food, Joseph recognizes them and through a series of back and forth moves, convinces them to return home and to return to Egypt again. He tells them their younger brother had better accompany them on the next visit. Finally, he tells them to go home and return with their aged father and their families and settle in Egypt.

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Mowing in the Rain – 04/2017

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26 NIV)

Usually during the months of July and August, Kentucky lawns get brown and crispy, with great gapping cracks appearing in the clay soil. Not last year. Last year there was so much precipitation that the grass and weeds needed cutting every four days to avoid Long Rows of Clumped Grass (LRoCG), and Grandma Patti does not like LRoCG.

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Unvoiced Perspective – 03/2017

“Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation,  just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15-16 NIV)

There can be no higher critical praise than to describe an author’s writing as scripture. And it is rather interesting that Peter reprimands readers who are at fault rather than placing blame with the author for difficult passages. Peter calls these misguided interpreters “ignorant and unstable.”

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Fan into Flame – 02/2017

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7 NIV)

I suspect that most of us have made many New Year’s resolutions over the years. How are you doing on the most recent ones you have made? If you are like me, your resolutions involve attempts to be or do better.

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Happy New Year – 01/2017

“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5 KJV)

The New Year brings a fresh start, another “start over.” Those of us who work in academic settings feel like we get more chances to begin again—each new semester as well as each new calendar year. But the Lord faithfully gives us a new season, a new moon, a new week, and—every twenty-four hours—a new day. We can start over anew! That new start inevitably comes with optimism and hope, even in the middle of winter, even with a healthy dose of reality mixed in.

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