Adjusting the focus through the eye of his lens
He captures beauty of God’s creation.
The Earth poses silently as the sun rises
Awakening a new day,
A day of new possibilities,
A day of discovering something that was unseen before.
He takes a deep breath before pressing the button
A beautiful image he doesn’t want to miss.
Snap…… perfect exposure.
Adjusting the focus through the eye of his lens
It’s just a number. Another year to celebrate. I remember a few years back having a sinking feeling in my gut because I was quickly approaching the big 4 0. I dreaded the fact that I was getting older, further away from my days of youth. Today, I’m 42. I find that funny for some reason. It’s my geek showing. “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” says 42 is the answer to the great question of life, the universe, and everything. I don’t really believe that, but it is humorous to me since it is now my age. I feel the older I get, the more appreciative I am of the smaller things that life brings me. I’m thankful I have a son who couldn’t wait to give me a card and a kiss this morning. I’m thankful for a husband who is my biggest encourager and admirer. He continues to look at me like I’m young and spunky. He’s very patient with my erratic emotions. I’m thankful for the breath in my lungs and being able to still feel younger than the age I represent. I’m thankful for the teens that are placed in my life because of youth ministry. They remind me how hard it is to grow up. I’m thankful that I know God. He gives me fuel to continue moving forward every day, especially the hard days. I’m thankful for the difficult lessons that I’ve learned in life. Those lessons have made me see God’s grace to the fullest. I’m thankful that I’m still learning new things everyday about myself, others, God, and life in general. I’m thankful for family and friends who love me for me. Yes, there are a lot of reasons to celebrate today. Forty-two years ago I begun this journey called life. I hope that I will always embrace the opportunities that God places before me. I hope that I will learn to be more positive and not let life’s obstacles get me down. I hope that I will be mindful of others and cautious with my words. I hope to be more grateful. I hope that I will let God lead me more instead of trying to take the reins myself. I hope that I will always find humor in life and remember that yes, life is marked in numbers, but it is remembered by character.
“Forty-two!” yelled Loonquawl. “Is that all you’ve got to show for seven and a half million years’ work?”
“I checked it very thoroughly,” said the computer, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Last night, I ran into an old friend of mine from school. We locked eyes and were genuinely happy to see each other. We embraced each other and talked about how quickly time passes and she nodded toward her daughter when I asked if she had grandchildren yet. Her daughter was pregnant with her first grandchild who would be arriving in a few months. She spoke briefly of struggles she had been dealing with but that she was doing better. The new baby gave her renewed hope and direction for her life. I encouraged her and told her that she could continue to come out of her struggles. Hope is often something that seems lost in the moment of struggle. At least it does briefly, until you refocus on the goal at hand, but more importantly hope is found in God.
Our community has been hit lately with some tough weather. We’ve had two weeks of snow and slick roads. Then it warmed up, which was great, but then yesterday morning the rivers and streams began to overflow. Many areas are dealing with flooding and being trapped once again in their homes by weather. Today it is sleeting, so the roads are very icy. The weather is affecting business. It’s also affecting others paychecks because they can’t get to work. But, we can’t let it get us down. We have to still live and do. I started thinking of the much quoted scripture in Jeremiah. “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.” That verse has often reminded me that God’s hand is on my life and that He wants the best for me. But, I decided this morning to explore the whole chapter. I think we should really remember to look at the whole context of the passage. Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiles in Babylon, this is what Jeremiah 29 is about. He reminds the people that God knows where they are and why there are there. It makes no sense to the people why they are captive and dealing with trouble, but God knows the full picture. Jeremiah reminds them that God hasn’t abandoned them. He also warns them about listening to false prophets. These false prophets were telling them that their captivity would be brief. That wasn’t the case; their captivity would be for seventy years. Jeremiah tells the people that in this time period continue to build homes, plant gardens, and marry their sons and daughters. It’s hard sometimes to continue living even when the circumstances aren’t good, but we have to continue on. If we just sit down and do nothing when things are bad, we would not do ourselves or our future any good. Why does Jeremiah encourage them to keep building, planting and marrying? They needed to continue doing so because they are readying the future generation to come into the Promised Land. When we are struggling, we have to look past ourselves and look toward those who will benefit in our struggling. We have to teach the next generation that hope comes from God. We have to endure, so that we will survive, but more importantly so that the future generation will survive.
Think about your life and tough moments in your life. It was tough to go through those things, but have they helped you to be compassionate to others who’ve went through similar circumstances? Have they given you the ability to feed into someone else who is going through what you have already overcome? I know that through tough moments in the past and even current ones, I question God and ask why. But, we have to be ok with the fact that He knows and that His plans aren’t to harm us. He wants us to call upon Him and seek Him. He wants a relationship with us. He wants us to rely fully on Him. He wants us not to be selfish but to think of others. He wants us to build our future through people, our offspring and our community. We need to keep building and planting. Our relationships with mankind need to be reaching and lifting. Our arms need to embrace each other. We need to encourage one another. We need to pray for one another. We need to love one another.
“For the Lord says, ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you and keep My promise to you. I will bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for well-being and not for trouble, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will look for Me and find Me, when you look for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord. ‘And I will bring you back and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have made you go,’ says the Lord. ‘I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you away.” Jeremiah 29:10-14
The cursor blinks at me
I want to write
But my mind is as blank as this page.
Do you ever have those moments where you just want a masterpiece to unfold?
By the tap tapping of the keyboard?
Yeah, it’s not happening tonight.
Just random words splatting on a page,
Filling up the void in front of me.
My mind is frozen like the tundra outside my window.
Winter…..stillness, frozen in time.
I’m hoping as I tap upon this keyboard
Those thoughts will thaw out and a moment of inspiration will awaken me.
It’s just not one of those nights.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:2-8.
January is always tough for us. This January is even more so. They say when it rains it pours, that is so true. My husband and I own two small businesses. It’s wearing on you physically, spiritually, and emotionally when money trickles in and debt/income ratio is unbalanced. Adversity has reared its ugly head and it’s trying to make us falter. I’ll be honest; I just want to give up. But, I can’t. I’ve just got to push through and believe that God will make a way. When I’m stressed and at the end of my rope, only going to God will help sustain me. I thought of the above scripture in James. I always remember the first few verses, but decided to continue reading. First off, I will admit that I lack patience. I want my problems fixed immediately. I want answers right away. Problems and answers take time to be solved. I’m still learning and asking God to help me there. With the problems, I need to ask for wisdom. I need to in turn trust the wisdom that God has given me. Trust and not doubt! Oh doubt, how I hate you, yet I listen to your wretched voice. Doubt tosses me to and fro, making me not trust God. This is something I need to let God help me with. See in my impatience, I start doubting that God isn’t working. But, He is. Things look scary, I can only see the obvious but I’m supposed to have faith. I’m supposed to trust Him. I’m allowing doubt to toss me around; it’s causing me to be unstable. I know also that as bad as I feel and how huge I think my problems are that there are others in worse circumstances. But, I’m looking at what storm is over my head. God, help me to trust you. Help me to not be double minded. Help me to see that you are in the storm, walking on the sea. You are stretching your hand over me and my circumstance. You want me to trust you. Help me to trust and not doubt. Forgive me for doubting and allowing it to toss me along the waves.
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
― Maya Angelou
“Struggle is the food from which change is made, and the best time to make the most of a struggle is when it’s right in front of your face.
“Now, I know that might sound a bit simplistic. But, too often we’re led to believe that struggling is a bad thing, or that we struggle because we’re doing something wrong.
I disagree. I look at struggle as an opportunity to grow. True struggle happens when you can sense what is not working for you and you’re willing to take the appropriate action to correct the situation. Those who accomplish change are willing to engage the struggle.”
― Danny Dreyer
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” Romans 8:18-21
Today, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what I’ve been teaching the teens in youth. We’ve been exploring wisdom and the book of Proverbs. The older I get, the more I realize that I still have so much to learn. Everyday there is an opportunity to learn something about yourself, God or others, if you are tuned in to what the Teacher wants to teach you. I’ve always liked the book of Proverbs, even when I was running from God. I think the reason I like it so well, is because it simply shows you the cause and effect of your actions, good and bad.
I came up with three quick “Rascally Proverbs” that I’ve learned through my life so far. The first one is “The more crow you eat, the easier it is to swallow.” It stinks to admit when you are wrong. There have been moments in my life that I’ve thought beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was right about something, only to quickly realize I was completely wrong. Nothing is quite as embarrassing to have to eat a heaping pile of crow in front of those you’ve vigorously argued against. The crow slowly morphs into a nice fat slice of humble pie with each swallow.
The second one is “Jealous or untrue words against someone is like a baseball bat to the knees.” The bible says, in the book of James, that we praise God with our tongue and with the same tongue we turn around and curse our brother who is made in God’s image. Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth and it shouldn’t be. The old phrase, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me,” is a big gigantic lie. Words hurt more than anything else someone can do to you. Words of others can paralyze you. Words can weigh you down. Words can make you unsure of yourself. Words can make you doubt. Words can cause you grief. Words can make you sick. Words can make you bitter and angry.
Yet, if we allow the holy spirit to guide our words they can bring peace to someone’s sorrow. These words can propel people toward a goal. These words can lift heaviness off of someone’s shoulders. They can make someone believe and trust again. They can make people smile. They can make people grow and flourish. God reminds me daily to bridle my tongue, sometimes I let words slip and I need to quickly apologize when that happens.
The third and final Rascally proverb of the day is, “Forgiveness rescues your heart and soul from disease.” There are people throughout my life that were hard for me to forgive for various reasons. I remember being so weighed down by unforgiveness that it anchored me in hate. I was hurt and instead of letting hurt go, I fed it. That unforgiveness and hurt made me rebel against God and any other authority in my life. I blamed God for what people did, instead of seeing that it was their fault, not His.
But, as I progressed through my life, I learned that I diseased my heart by letting unforgiveness grow there. I tried to keep the hurt enclosed in a petri dish inside my heart but it was growing out of control. I was destroying myself with it. That unforgiveness was released when I saw someone I hadn’t forgiven; completely broken themselves. I saw them sobbing and spiritually devastated. I could’ve easily laughed and say that’s what they deserve, but instead I saw them as human again. Weak flesh, like me. Fragile, so easily broken. Compassion overwhelmed my heart and I went to them and let them cry on me. I started crying too; with each tear drops of forgiveness melted within me. The balm of forgiveness repaired hearts and relationships that day. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other;as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:12-13.
God, continue to teach me daily. Help me to see when you are trying to show me something and help me to extend your love to others.
Finding serene skies in January is rather wearisome.
Instead, January brings bleakness to the atmosphere,
With fog as bulky as the Christmas sweater you didn’t ask for.
Optimism is promised with the first month of a New Year,
Yet not seeing the signs bring a fear that is hard to elude.
Light penetrates through the coldness of the sky.
The cloud dissipates from my mind.
My squinting eyes refocus.
God I see you.