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.

 

Refrain, Forsake and Fret Not

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Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
 
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
 
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

Psalm 37:7-9

Bold

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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

 

Everything Photographic: Adjusting to Change

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I stayed in bed longer than I should have. I felt tired before I even started the day. Everyone has pet peeves – those particularly irritating circumstances custom-designed to decimate your personal peace. For me the most vexing problem, the one that magnifies the list of weaknesses personality tests use to identify my type, is when something I rely on doesn’t work. I hate it when a device breaks, or when someone fails to deliver on a promise.

Breakages seem to come in clusters in our house. My travel camera died in the middle of catching perfect light on a patch of pink yarrow. My computer sluggishly obeys requests then stubbornly freezes several times in an hour. The dishwasher merely rearranges detritus on cups and plates, and the rocking ceiling fan (in the middle of the hottest smokiest August I can remember) threatens to fly off its moorings and decapitate someone, probably me, since I’m the only one sitting under it.

It seems like every morning my body develops a new idiosyncrasy that will now require special attention to keep it moving. Come to think of it, this old flesh is acting like my old car that needs me to hold the steering wheel at a precise angle before the ignition key will work. Note to self: Remember to stretch the kink out before putting weight on that leg.

I stayed in bed longer than I should have because I lost my peace and I know I need to find it before I get up and rain gloom and misery on everyone. As Lena sang, “Stormy Weather, just can’t get my poor self together. Keeps rainin’ all the time.” Except it’s not raining in B.C.. That would be an improvement.

Part of the problem was that I read too many negative, blame-casting, fake/not fake/what-is-truth? uncovering and catastrophizing posts, tweets and blogs before I fell asleep the night before. It’s not just my stuff that doesn’t work. Many of the institutes I have relied on most of my life are broken. (I told you I feel out-of-sorts when things I rely on don’t work – and there’s a lot of stuff out there that is not working.) It doesn’t take a prophet to see that no matter what happens in the future it will require a major adjustment to change.

When I am flopped on the bed like a beached whale held fast by the inertia of my own weighty negativity I don’t have the energy to face more adjustments, whether it’s replacing old technology, or changing mindsets about how all levels of government should operate, or how churches should organize — or how both can function with accountability and integrity.

I’m tired.

Like millions of others I see so much that is broken, but I don’t know how to fix it. It’s easier to moan, roll over, and pull the covers over my head than it is to get my focus back on God through thankfulness and praise. I know I need to let him reassure me with his shalom kind of peace (nothing broken, nothing missing, everything I need.) I can’t do that with my head wrapped in a pillow of fear.

Help, Lord.

That’s when this photo came to mind. I found it earlier this week while sorting through the unsorted. I saved the pictures I thought I should take if the fires come any closer and we are put on evacuation notice like the town down the road. The photo of the old abandoned building in Edmonton spoke to me.

Ernest Brown must have been proud of his building on dedication day in 1912. Its windows overlooked the river valley in the brand-new city of Edmonton. He was the photographer in town. He offered “Everything Photographic.” In those days photographic equipment was something few people possessed. Even fewer possessed the the skill to use it. Ernest understood the technology and the artistry that went into creating a prized photo. His business took off. He was a success.

Then the first world war happened. When it was over people who were reeling from loss and disillusionment no longer had money for luxuries like photographs. Ernest went bankrupt. The only thing he could take with him when the bank foreclosed were his negatives. Later those negatives became historical foundation pieces in several museums. He was the man who documented an unprecedented era of growth while his own world shrank.

I took this photo of the old Brown building with my digital camera. I did not need to buy film, or paper, or developer from a photography shop. I don’t think Mr. Ernest Brown could have imagined the advancement in amateur and professional photography we see today. Would I want to go back to the days when I spent my entire allowance on developing one roll of snapshots? No. I probably delete that many duds without remorse every time I download my camera. Imagine trying to describe to Ernest a phone that not only takes photographs but sends them instantly around the world? Unbelievable!

Here’s the thing, times have changed, and times are changing. When the “Everything Photographic” sign went up people depended on one expert and his employees to provide photographs. Now, 106 years later I can do everything he did and more, all by myself. Change means letting go of something – and it’s not always by choice. Sometimes the gap, the in-between time, the liminal space before we see something better, is bigger than we anticipate. We can choose to respond to disappointment with bitterness or cynicism if we want, but that is not the way of peace.

God is not worried. I do believe he hears his people’s cries and he is exposing all this dysfunction because he has something better ahead.

This is why the Scriptures say:
Things never discovered or heard of before,
things beyond our ability to imagine —
these are the many things God has in store
for all his lovers.
(1 Corinthians 2:9)

The Lord answered my prayer for peace. He gave me a lens change. A line from a Kristene DeMarco song began to play in my head.

Let me show you what I see
You can’t dream too big for Me
So get up, get on your way
We’ve got things to do today

Fear not
If I could say it any louder, I would.

I got up. I did things. Writing this blog was one of them.