In Black and White

phlox ch DSC_0107

I like black and white photos because I am easily distracted. Images without a myriad of colour lack the yeah-but variations that take me in multiple directions, but monochrome states basic value.

morning glory bw ch IMG_5122

Sometimes I need to get back to basic values — basic values like this one:

“… O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8 NLT

white flower sq bw ch crop DSC_0034.jpg

Bold

sunflowers impasto ch rs

I become bolder as I grow older — about things that matter.

“You could have a greater following if you didn’t talk about the, like, God stuff, you know,” people have told me.

I know. I know people regularly follow then unfollow me. But I also know some people read what I write because honesty and the faith journey in real time matters to them as well.

As I grow older some things become less important. I let them go. Most couple’s squabbles are not about destinations; they are about the fastest, most economical, or most enjoyable methods of getting there. Does it really matter? I’m letting go of discussions of methods and looking more toward the drive to understand where and to whom I am being drawn.

I read, with some amusement, an impassioned plea from a young woman with a keen sense of fashion right and wrong. She begged older women with less-than-pretty feet not to wear sandals that exposed thickened cracked heals or obvious veins. Our feet offended her sense of aesthetic at the sidewalk café.

She also advised against the donning of bold colours that drew attention to crepe-skinned necks or sagging upper arms or aged-spotted hands.

There was a time when I would have surrendered to her sensitivities and clad myself in sombre tones and closed-toed sensible footwear. Then there was a time when I would have worn scarlet and tangerine and royal purple accessorized by jeweled flip-flops just to annoy her. Either way it doesn’t matter anymore. Both were reactions to someone who has not yet had the time to develop deeper values.

She may care. I don’t.

Am I mellowing or just realizing that the time left to me is more precious than ever? As the attributes that once gave me identity and place in a competitive society fade I realize how flimsy that identity was. And the place moved like shifting sand.

There were times when I walked boldly across a stage with my head held up and my tummy sucked in. I mainlined applause. I felt confident. For a while. But it was always a race to keep up to changing standards I never understood. “Do this and you will be good enough for us to love,” turned out to be a lie, because as soon as I did it another requirement popped up.

When I was a teenager I joked that our family motto was, “What will people think?” The joke was on me because the question voiced itself continually throughout my life as I tried to guess what was required to be accepted by people whose values, I finally realized, I did not admire.

A kind of freedom envelopes those who find their confidence in a firmer foundation. I have messed up too many times in my life to believe that I am always right or that this is the final resting place of most of my opinions. But this I know: the One who began to transform my life is still editing the poem, the masterpiece He already sees. That’s where my confidence lies. In the Master Creator.

Like the brilliant flowers in the garden, I can wear whatever bold or subtle colour God has created — and he thinks it’s lovely. I can be quiet. I can be loud. The only rule is the rule of love – for God, for others, and for myself. And it all originates with Him.

We have full confidence in Jesus Christ. Our confidence rises as the character of God becomes greater and more trustworthy to our spiritual comprehension. The One with whom we deal is the One who embodies faithfulness and truth — the One who cannot lie.

~A. W. Tozer

 

And Some Have Humility Thrust Upon Them

white flowers brown leaves ch rs DSC_0156

I almost walked past these little blooms on a low brown shrub. I don’t like brown. I spent years trying to rid my house of the brown walls, flooring and trim that was so trendy when we bought it. The experience left me with a dislike for brown décor and an aversion to popular fashion trends.

I wondered why anyone in a country prone to vegetation-killing frost almost three-quarters of the year would intentionally decorate their garden with a bush that looked so, well, humble compared to the colourful alternatives. When I slowed down to pay attention, I noticed the beautiful little intricate blossoms.

In dreams, the colour brown often represents humility. (Not always, of course. When God chooses to communicate through symbolic language he customizes it to take into consideration the connotations for the one receiving the dream as well as their willingness to follow clues.) In a culture that honours the right, even need of the individual to be “the winner,” the humble person who puts others’ needs before their own seems to exert little influence.

And yet God says over and over he is attracted to the humble.

We’ve heard Shakespeare quoted: “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.

I wonder if, in the upside-down arrangement of the Kingdom of God, where the proud stumble regularly and last shall come first, it might be accurate to say: Don’t be afraid of humility. Some are born humble, some humble themselves, and some have humility thrust upon them.

I can tell you from experience it is better to humble oneself than to have humility thrust upon one, but a loving Fathers chastises when necessary if we continue to ignore his advice. “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up.” He’s serious about your character development.

The humble are not victims, or grovelling worms unworthy of attention, or door mats willing to be trampled underfoot by the ‘entitled,’ nor are they sympathy addicts who use their challenging circumstances to attract people who will take responsibility for them.

Truly humble people have the advantage of knowing who they are in God’s sight. They know they are loved and secure and have no need to push other people out of the way in the race to admiration and acceptance. They are accepted already. They can appreciate help and correction, but they don’t need the approval of people who compete.

The humble know that God is God and they are not. Their confidence (which may be mistaken for pride) is a result of their trust in their Creator. They can afford to lift another person up to become all they are meant to be. They can afford it because they have access to all the riches in their heavenly Father’s house. The truly humble have prosperous souls.

Jesus-followers follow his example of humility.

So I’m asking you, my friends, that you be joined together in perfect unity—with one heart, one passion, and united in one love. Walk together with one harmonious purpose and you will fill my heart with unbounded joy.

Be free from pride-filled opinions, for they will only harm your cherished unity. Don’t allow self-promotion to hide in your hearts, but in authentic humility put others first and view others as more important than yourselves.

Abandon every display of selfishness.

Possess a greater concern for what matters to others instead of your own interests. And consider the example that Jesus, the Anointed One, has set before us. Let his mindset become your motivation.

He [Jesus] existed in the form of God, yet he gave no thought to seizing equality with God as his supreme prize. Instead he emptied himself of his outward glory by reducing himself to the form of a lowly servant. He became human! He humbled himself and became vulnerable, choosing to be revealed as a man and was obedient. He was a perfect example, even in his death—a criminal’s death by crucifixion!

Because of that obedience, God exalted him and multiplied his greatness! He has now been given the greatest of all names!

(Philippians 2:3-9 TPT)

Thank you, little brown shrub. I see you.