Remember

Idlewild rainbow crop ch DSC_0185

“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

Pay Attention To Your Heart

creek rest ch DSC_0059

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)

Everything Photographic: Adjusting to Change

IMG_2048 photographic building ch

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.

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.

Wisdom Plays

boy on beach bw ch rs IMG_9520

Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.”  ~Heraclitus

I nestle into a warm form-fitting spot on a colourful beach towel and watch the children. This boy has a plan. He has a vision. He digs. He moves the earth, forming mounds and channels with shovels and pails and his own bare hands. Towers grow on foundations he creates. Monuments to industriousness spring up where only impressions of bare feet dented the wet sand before he arrived. He pats towers into temporary permanence.

No one tells him what to do. When he finished throwing stones into the water, a ritual  all boys must follow, he picked up his tools and got to work, as oblivious to the calls of his siblings as he is to the seagulls.

They both steal his potato chips. It doesn’t matter. He is creating. He creates because he was made to create. It’s who he is. He builds because he must build. It’s who he is becoming.

The Creator made him in His image. He carries the Creator’s purpose somewhere deep inside. He is a child of God and must be about his Father’s business. His play is his work.

I watch and remember the Spirit of Wisdom saying:

I was there, close to the Creator’s side as his master artist.
Daily he was filled with delight in me
as I playfully rejoiced before him.

I laughed and played,
so happy with what he had made,
while finding my delight in the children of men.

(Proverbs 8:30,31 TPT)

It is the nature of the Godhead to laugh, to play, to find delight in each other, to find delight in their creation.

I can see the source of their joy in this boy, on this beach, on this day.

I watch the children play on the beach under the warm summer sun. Cool water laps against the division of water and land. The afternoon breeze skims over the lake and rises to play with trembling aspen leaves and sing through fir tree branches. Ospreys soar in a blue sky too full of light to see with unshaded eyes.

The boy straightens up and stands like Colossus with sand-covered legs astride the harbour. His hands, like mighty David’s hands, still hold pail and shovel like weapons of praise at rest.

“Look what I made!”

He smiles. He is proud. He knows.

I feel God’s pleasure.

Joy.