Eternal Light

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I haven’t painted anything for nearly a year. Sometimes I take out a canvas, put it on the easel and ask, “What should I paint?” I stare at it for a while. I go through my idea file of photos looking for something that inspires me. Then I pack everything back in the closet and go fold laundry or check Facebook again.

It’s kind of like spending an hour looking for just the right Netflix show to accompany a nap on the couch and then, failing to be enticed by yet another description of the protagonist’s discovery of a “dark secret,” turning the TV off and going back to work without the satisfaction of either a movie or a snooze.

Ususally I am energized by creative endeavours, but I’ve been slacking off writing lately too. I’m trying to discipline myself to make more progress on a big project, but it feels like I’ve been on a long climb for a long time.

It’s a strange place. The air is thinner here. My steps are slower. My stride shuffles rather than bounds. I measure progress on the novel by paragraphs completed instead of chapters. I measure personal progress in terms of surviving another day without letting fear or irritability dominate…too much.

I’m not depressed. I’m well-acquainted with what depression feels like. This is more like the fatigue that comes from working on a restoration project that has no end in sight — or climbing a mountain that is a lot higher than it seemed when the trek started.

Nasty side effects of medication I’m told I need keep me house-bound more than I like, even as an introvert. After four surgeries (one which was only the removal of a big toenail, but hey, that took a disappointingly long time to heal), my body is going to need time to fully recover. I understand that.  But I’m tired of being tired.

This week, friends issued an invitation for artists to come and paint during an evening dedicated to worship. Burn 24-7 calls for no agenda but focus on God and his goodness. People who attend are free to worship in whatever way the Lord leads them. Some sing. Some dance. Some wave banners. Some sit quietly. Some paint.

I’ve heard this type of art experience labeled prophetic art. Others call it worship art. One of my friends calls the finished pictures “painted prayers.” Any of those terms work for me. I decided, despite not feeling well this week, that I needed to go. I need to worship.

As I packed my tubes of paint and checked the condition of brushes I asked the Lord what I should paint. I had no idea. When I have painted at events like this before I often don’t know what’s going to happen until the music plays for a while. Nothing profound came to mind, but when I got there I realized that part of a choral song called Lux Aeterna had been playing in my head all day. The English translation is, “May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord, with Thy saints forever, for Thou art kind.”

I remembered a day almost a year ago when I walked through the tall cathedral of autumn-gold trees by the Elk River in Fernie, B.C.. We stopped for lunch on the way to an appointment with the surgeon who would remove the tumour from my abdomen. Fear almost won that day. I wanted to run in the opposite direction. I was afraid I would never see my favourite season again.

And now as summer becomes autumn, the trees along the path once again turn to gold. I am still here. My Lord still holds my hand and walks with me just as He promised.

I decided to paint my favourite cathedral – the forest. With the words “eternal light” still in my head I painted a prayer for that light to continue to shine in the scary shadowy places in my heart. I painted the celebration of another season of colour, and then I painted myself as a much-loved child holding the hand of the Lover of my soul. He leads me toward glory in the comfort of His friendship and humble majesty.

I can’t explain it, but there is something about an atmosphere of dedicated prayer and worship that makes painting faster and easier. Except for a few touch-ups this painting came together in one session.

I sat back and looked at it. “What are you saying today, Lord?” I asked.

This is the scripture passage that came up when I searched my Bible.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17.18 NASB)

He is kind. He is forever kind. He promised to never leave.

The journey continues.

Remember

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“I need to worship because without it I can forget that I have a Big God beside me and live in fear.

I need to worship because without it I can forget his calling and begin to live in a spirit of self-preoccupation.

I need to worship because without it I lose a sense of wonder and gratitude and plod through life with blinders on.

I need worship because my natural tendency is toward self-reliance and stubborn independence.”

~John Ortberg

Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain

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I met some firefighters at the grocery store this evening. They were in town picking up snacks and toiletries and enjoying the luxury of cell service. Everyone smiled at them.

The men and women who fight forest fires are heroes around here. They leave behind a cloud of ashes and the smell of smoke wherever they go, but they take with them the sincere thanks of people who live in British Columbia. This time they also received free advice from a kind soul who warned them to be careful.

“You need to keep your noses open because if you smell smoke there will be a fire somewhere,” he grinned, proud of remembering an important lesson. He told them if he had money he would take them all out for a drink. They thanked him graciously. They knew he meant it.

I asked which fire they were working. It was the big one that threatened the city of Kimberley and the beautiful valley of St. Mary’s Lake. “But we had lots of rain this week, so we should be finishing up soon,” one guy said.

One of my friends has been working at the perimeter of the same fire. He guards fire-fighting equipment all night because, believe it or not, thieves like to steal tools and machinery that men and women use to save lives and property – perhaps even the thieves’ own. Some people are givers and some are takers. Lord, help us all.

Yesterday I followed dramatic skies up to a little lake in the hills. I had to tuck my camera under my jacket and run back to the car when it began to rain. In a few minutes it began to pour.

After a while a gap in the clouds allowed the sun to pour through at the same time.

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We prayed so long for rain. And it came.

Rain feels beautifully cleansing and refreshing after a season of choking on smoke and watching for evacuation alerts. I felt thankful — thankful for the fire crews, thankful for the rain, and thankful for the green forests I love so much.

There is something about almost losing something that increases its value.

For those of you who have lost homes and beautiful wooded views, I am so sorry. May the change of seasons bring you hope of new beginnings.

We all need hope. Hope teaches us to dance in the rain by faith before the day comes when our clothes get soaked and we dash for the car.

So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain…

(Hosea 6:3 NASB)

Pay Attention To Your Heart

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I love this spot down by the creek near my house. Sometimes I sit quietly on the park bench and wait for my soul to be at peace.

I heard a new word recently — orthopathy. Orthodoxy is thinking in alignment with God. Orthopraxy is acting in alignment with God. Orthopathy is feeling in alignment with God. It comes from  ortho – right, and pathos –intense feelings of compassion.

Emotions are part of who we are as those created in God’s image. God has feelings and strong affections, but they flow from a unified heart filled with love. Jesus wept with compassion. There was no “it-is-what-it-is” emotional distancing when he engaged with real people with real problems. We are also told that he was ecstatic with joy when he saw who God chose to reveal his plan to first.

Our emotions tend to run all over the place like sticks caught in eddies of turbulent water. That’s why some people shut them off; they are afraid they will be swept away. Others wallow in emotion, having lost their footing long ago. Jesus offers to heal our emotions too, because healthy feelings are an important part of wholeness.

I think the reason I like the Psalms so much is that David and the other Psalmists are neither bereft of emotion nor do they plop down in despair or spin in giddy distraction forever. They rejoice. They wail. They lament. They admit feeling perplexed. But in the end they rein in affections to agree with God’s way of thinking and acting as they unwrap his words, his actions, his character, his promises. They soak in his words.

Fill your thoughts with my [Wisdom’s] words
until they penetrate deep into your spirit.
 
Then, as you unwrap my words,
they will impart true life and radiant health
into the very core of your being.
 
So above all, guard the affections of your heart,
for they affect all that you are.

Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being,
for from there flows the wellspring of life.

(Proverbs 4:21-23 TPT)

To Walk in Wisdom and Discover Discernment

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Today I have been asking, “What’s really going on here?” Spiritual discernment involves far more than sensing something is off and coming up with an argument to beat someone at I-know-more-Bible-quotes-than-you. Spiritual discernment is also far more than sensing something is on, because I agree, and coming up with endorsements.

Spiritual discernment means gaining a sense of that which is not obvious — the forces and mindsets that influence us without our being aware of them unless we learn to pay attention. Discernment means stepping back out of the current of flooding emotion or the apparent logic of smoke and statistics. It’s not suspicion. It’s not cynicism. It’s a matter of seeing the bigger picture and understanding the times.

I have also been asking for wisdom. It is one thing to see things as they are and another to understand what to do to bring about change. May I admit the phrase, “It is what it is,” feels like defeat to me? I react with irritation, particularly when it’s delivered with a sigh of hopelessness.

There must be more than this. Which voice is telling me there is no hope? Which voice is telling me he will never leave me and his grace is the empowering force to transform me into what he sees when he looks at me? Which voice am I actually paying attention to?

I didn’t feel very powerful today. I was tired of dealing with another life test. I needed to get away and go for a walk with the Lover of my soul. No talking. No doing. Just being. Just listening.

When I got home I read this:

My child, never drift off course from these two goals for your life:
to walk in wisdom and to discover discernment.
Don’t ever forget how they empower you.
 
For they strengthen you inside and out
and inspire you to do what’s right;
you will be energized and refreshed by the healing they bring.
 
They give you living hope to guide you,
and not one of life’s tests will cause you to stumble.

(Proverbs 3:21-23 TPT)

Lord, thank your for your never-failing love. Reveal to us the way that leads to wisdom and discernment. We thank you for provision for empowerment, strength, inspiration, energy, refreshment and healing. Show us how not to drift into distraction but keep our eyes fixed on You, our living hope.

 

Watching and Waiting

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Photo: Jimsmith Lake, fire season

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.

Micah 7:7

Smoke from the fires here in British Columbia blocks out the sun and our view of the mountains. I’ve seen the pictures of Slave Lake and Fort McMurry in Alberta and cities in California after wildfires swept in. We live in the middle of a tinder-dry forest. I know what can happen – and there’s no rain in sight.

The next town down the road is on evacuation alert. I wonder if I should be packing up a lifetime of family photos or deciding which paintings and heirlooms to take and which to leave to the flames if we need to run.

My anxiety level rises when I feel pressured to make a decision, whether it’s what kind of replacement laptop to buy or whether or not I should throw an old guitar in the back seat of the car. I can’t think straight. That’s when I need to take a step back into rest and trust and ask the Lord what I am missing.

Usually the missing element is peace, and it’s missing because FOMO (fear of missing out) or FOFSI (fear of forgetting something important) has taken it’s place.

Today is one of those days when I find I am actually pressuring myself to make decisions based on “What if _____________ (enter disaster de jour event here) happens?”

Sometimes I don’t receive direction because I don’t need it. I’ve noticed God tends not to bother with answers to hypothetical questions about events that will never occur.

Sometimes my frustration or confusion is due to an inability to hear because of a barrage of fearful thoughts that drown out God’s voice.

Sometimes I don’t hear because my confidence is misplaced. The author of the book of Proverbs wrote about the dangers of trusting in our own armaments over trusting in God. You can do your best to prepare for the battle, but ultimate victory comes from the Lord God. (Prov. 21:31 TPT)

Sometimes, when I remember to step into the quietness of peace where his still voice is best heard, he simply asks for trust. “Put your confidence in Me. Watch. Wait. I’m still here.”

The words of Fanny Crosby’s song, “Blessed Assurance” have been coming to me lately.

Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love…

His goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life, and His lovingkindness endures forever — even when I forget.

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