Kodak Moments

KODAK and camera

Since digital photography has replaced the camera film processing of yesteryear, the word Kodak might not mean anything to you, depending on your age. The Kodak company manufactured the film we used in our cameras. There was a saying back in the day. “Kodak moment” indicated the perfection of a great photograph, snapped in merely a second, that captured some great memory. If you didn’t know better, you’d think the photo represented a perfect life. But, you’d know better…

Psalm 44:1-4 “We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us what You did in their days, in days long ago. With your hand You drove out the nations and planted our fathers; You crushed the peoples and made our fathers flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your face, for You loved them. You are my King and my God, who decrees victories for Jacob.”

I’ve had some Kodak moments that have reminded me of the light of God’s face. In these moments, I know that it is God Who chases away the darkness that threatens to swallow us. He sends us tender moments to experience here on planet earth. In these, He reminds us of His redemption. He whispers “all is right” in this moment, and one day it will be every moment because of Jesus. Remember this.

Joy was all mine recently when my 1-month-old grandson slept in my arms for over an hour. His little breaths and expressions…my goodness – definitely a Kodak moment! Joy was all mine when I went to see the movie Incredibles 2 with my oldest granddaughters on the last day of its local showing, an impromptu plan that came together (Elastigirl is my hero!). Kodak moment! Joy was all mine when Pop Pop cooked a country ham in July and helped relieve a broken air conditioning situation in one of our children’s homes! Kodak moments.

Joy was all mine when I worked alongside my daughter-in-law to sort and store baby clothes for almost a week, a reminder of her three precious children. Kodak moment, definitely. Joy was all mine when one daughter shared a huge mercy that was wrapped up in her new teaching position. Joy was all mine in a last minute rendezvous at a local brewery with one daughter’s family on a summer evening. Kodak moment! And dinners with good friends. And a beautiful 4-hour taxi-cab tour of the Isle of Man on a sunny day. And a new leadership position for a respected colleague. The list goes on. Kodak moments all!

After all that Joseph experienced in Genesis 37-50, especially being sold into slavery in a huge betrayal by his own brothers, there came a moment, a final redemptive moment in Genesis 50:19-21: “But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he assured them and spoke kindly to them.'”

Kodak moments. Look for them. They are everywhere. A whisper of God’s love. The hope of redemption. His right hand. The light of His face. His love. His kindness.

 

 

 

Elijah and The Still Small Voice

Still Small Voice - Kim Clayton Lance

Photo Credit: Kim Clayton Lance

He hit a wall. Even Elijah’s great faith ran out once upon a time. Even after he solidly challenged the prophets of Baal, where God displayed His great power – Elijah had trouble relying on God when Jezebel shortly thereafter threatened him. My friend Virginia wrote an amazing blog post about Elijah’s situation. You will be encouraged if you read it. https://rosesintherubble.com/2018/07/20/elijah-elijah-elijah-elijah/

Was Elijah just tired, or was his faith teetering on the edge of a cliff? I Kings 19:11-12 (The Message) says: “Then he [Elijah] was told, ‘Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.’ A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.”

One of my favorite sermons about Elijah is delivered by Timothy Keller. See this link and look for the sermon on June 30, 2016 entitled “The Still Small Voice.” https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-still-small-voice/id352660924?i=1000371718377&mt=2

God seems to know what we need and how we need to hear from Him when we are feeling low and terrified and tired like Elijah. He has command of the wind, earthquakes, and fire. No question. He could use any of these powerful means at any time to communicate a truth we need to hear or His presence that we need to experience. But, sometimes He knows we hear Him better when we are alone in the quiet place with His word. Sometimes He comes nearer to us in the solitary and secure place when our faith needs reviving. With a gentle and quiet whisper.

For me, it is often the wind of my selfish pride, the earthquake of my failed plans and near breakdowns, and the fire of my uncontrollable circumstances that is required to get me into a position of stillness before the Lord. It is often what is required to knock me off my rocker of schemes and independence. Elijah was under great pressure. His very life was in danger. He was at the end of his resources. He really hoped for an end to everything.

But God, in His grace, intervened. Tim Keller explains that God’s intervention was multi-level. Elijah’s needs were complex. God’s first interventions included food and listening. How practical and helpful. How loving. How healing…

Elijah’s story reminds me how much I need God’s intervention. His restoration. His comfort. His way of settling my spirit down. His way of breathing new energy into my soul. His way of letting my faith revive. His way of leading me back to His Word. His way of nudging me back to attention on His mountain.

I fight it often. God knows.

But, God has still given me ears to hear His still small voice.

Psalm 146:8-9 “The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but He frustrates the ways of the wicked.”

 

 

Dependence Day

Red White Blue

Independence Day. I see in the microscope – many images of red, white, blue. Fireworks, apple pie, picnics. Hot southern summer days.  In the “macroscope,” not so much…

Psalm 37 inspired my blog awhile ago because of God’s promises there when things are not vivid red, white, or blue, apple pie-like or picnic-like.  Which is most of the time. “Fret not” became an image of real faith for me, when I needed a deeper and wider place to find footing in Christ. “Fretting not” became not a temporary coping skill, but rather a lifelong disposition to be cultivated through faith in Jesus Christ. How does this disposition form?

I see that “fretting not” has come through a horrendously crushing road of tests and opportunities sent by God to strengthen my faith. In this life so far, two “crushings” in particular have challenged my core. My “go to” was far worse than mere fretting. It was more like a huge infusion of adrenal-laden anxiety that never slept. What I learned from the panic associated with the first crushing helped me to breathe during the second crushing. That epidemic anxiety disrupted my life because I could no longer engineer or manipulate my white-picket-fence facade of circumstances…

Psalm 37:1-6 (Message version) says “Don’t bother your head with braggarts or wish you could succeed like the wicked. In no time they’ll shrivel like grass clippings and wilt like cut flowers in the sun. Get insurance with God and do a good deed, settle down and stick to your last. Open up before God, keep nothing back; He’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.”

I’m wiser now. In Psalm 37, “fret not” is given as an imperative, not a suggestion. Probably because God can be fully trusted. Days of unhappiness, sadness, anger, humiliation, disappointment, physical pain, and emotional upset do not need to be further tormented by fretting. Because I can trust in God and His purposes and control. Romans 8:28 is a scripture reference tattooed to my ankle for the last ten years as a reminder. Because it sings its message in my heart.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” The good. Not the happiness. What? A radical truth. The echo: my good, not my happiness… For me, Independence Day was the day I understood Romans 8:28 and realized that, although my happiness is not God’s purpose in my life, that He causes all things, even misery, to work out for my eternal good. He wants me to be holy.

Torturous circumstances simply do not change the truth of Romans 8:28. A root canal gone south, screaming kids in the back of the car, a disastrous family gathering, a door slammed in anger, a pot of creamy soup spilled on the inside of the refrigerator and all down on the floor, traffic jams on I-64, strife in the workplace, estrangement from former friends…

I don’t read Oswald Chambers (MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST) every day, but I did read it yesterday (the entry for July 4th). Is it any surprise that Oswald’s take on Psalm 37 is about the trouble with fretting? Is it any surprise that it is precisely about being fully dependent on God as a lifelong disposition? Chambers says “fussing always ends in sin.” He is SO right. Fussing becomes all about me and my will. How I want to engineer my circumstances. How I don’t deserve a certain outcome. How I have done everything right and should be rewarded. Oh, how sick my soul becomes with this thinking. I end up completely doubting that God has any power and authority over what goes on in my life.

Chambers says (in THE LOVE OF GOD), “It is misleading to imagine that we are developed in spite of our circumstances, we are developed because of them. It is mastery in circumstances that is needed, not mastery over them.”

Everything about the gospel turns upside-down what we think we know. My greatest freedom is not equivalent to independence. My greatest freedom is found in complete dependence on the substitutionary sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf and the life He wants to live through me through faith.

Dedicated to Dad: A Hero of Faith in My Life

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My dad taught me that being faithful to God is difficult when literally everything in the world pulls us in the opposite direction. That pull that draws us away from silence and stillness. That pull that makes us obsess about the next meal or cup of coffee. That pull that replaces rest with restlessness. That decision that compromises our integrity. That email that replaces face to face interaction. That absorption with media and content that replaces the true study of God’s Word.

My dad taught me that many other pulls would come. The ceaseless and distracting demands of parenting. The choking hours of a rising career path. The idolatry of the “work hard-party hard” never-ending cycle. The skin deep friendships that replace the authentic “soul care” relationships. The small talk that replaces gospel conversations. The entertainment drug that strips away being present in the moment. The various good endeavors that open the door to bad things. The various side roads that can turn into harmful addictions…

Psalm 37:39-40 says, “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; He is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him.” My dad taught me the truth of this scripture. Oswald Chambers, in his book MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST (June 16), said “Salvation is easy for us, because it cost God so much. But the exhibiting of salvation in my life is difficult.” My dad showed me that exhibiting salvation is a lifelong challenge.

I see that taking refuge in God (Psalm 37:39-40) is the key to exhibiting our salvation. All the flawed heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 were known by their faith, were declared righteous by their faith, were long remembered for their faith. Because, even at times of weak faith, they still had faith.

My dad taught me that the difficulty of exhibiting salvation in my life is tremendously eased when I turn my heart and affections to Jesus Christ, Who is the only One Who can deliver me from the forces that pull me in the opposite direction of the world. He taught me that prayer is the cord that connects me to Jesus and expresses my desire to be delivered. Sometimes it is half-hearted. No matter. It still expresses my faith, little as it might be.

I don’t grieve about the difficulty of exhibiting salvation in my life. I know it’s difficult. Tremendously difficult. But, I do appreciate that it needs to be exhibited in some increasing and obvious measure. The salvation that cost God so much simply cannot be hidden if it is real in my life. Thankfully, God’s Holy Spirit provides the help we need to be overcomers, exhibitors of salvation.

My dad is still showing me this!

 

TYPOLOGY THOUGHTS

TYPOLOGY

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This is not a soap box. This is merely a suggestion. Theories of personality can be helpful tools. I confess, the study of types has always been interesting to me. Myers-Briggs was always the best one, in my opinion. Until recently. A good friend recommended these two books about the Enneagram. Having never heard the word “Enneagram” before, I was curious. I read the books two or three times and recommended them to others. Even my “OBX girlfriends” and I agreed to read them before our April trip. Great discussion material…

As I age, I really really want to be characterized by the visible quality that comes from the refining and crushing process of doing God’s will during my lifetime. I want it to be obvious that I have lived for Him. The alternative of living a listless, self-indulgent, and useless life will end without any visible quality. I just don’t want that at all.

I draw much encouragement from Psalm 93:12-15: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.’ ”

The Enneagram books, workshops, podcasts, and conversations have given me plenty to think about along these lines. Mainly, in regard to family dynamics. The 9 types have given me a new appreciation for the various members of my family in a way that nothing else has. I am grateful. If for no other reason than I have developed a level of empathy regarding people who do not see the world the way I do. And I could never figure out why…

More importantly, the study has pointed the finger at my heart. Thankfully, the two books pictured are written from a Christian worldview and suggest the sin problem that particularly besets each type. I found this to be “right on” in my case. This exposure has had the desired effect. I want to address this sin problem and inhabit the true self that God intended me to be. This requires coming face to face with God’s grace and actively rejecting the false self.

I am a “5” out of the 9 types. There are currently no other fives in my family, except possibly one granddaughter. I feel like everything, especially family dynamics, I previously saw in black and white. And now, I am seeing things in vivid color. The Enneagram study is not the “be all, end all” by any means, but it is definitely a path to help me age well and realize that there is so much more that God wants to do in my life…

Romans 14:19 says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

In context, these are scriptural instructions for the Christian community, of which I am gratefully a part. Within the community, there are different levels of faith – ranging from weak to strong. But, there are also different levels of type… Typology adds a rich dimension to these instructions that I find very helpful. Maybe you will too.

 

 

These Girls: An Inspiration

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Photo credit – Kim Clayton Lance (Red Leaves)

These girls… What can I say? Their lives tell a great “God story!” Too much to tell here. But I can say a few things. What I can say is that God has truly set His seal of ownership on them.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” What I can say is that they live out the mystery of their identity in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Colossians 2:2-3, 8-10 says, “My purpose is that they…may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, Who is the Head over every power and authority.”

Yesterday, two amazing ladies graduated from Covenant Christian School. They are part of God’s love letter to the world. Along with the sister of one and the teacher of both (pictured top right), there is no doubt that Christ’s fullness is reflected in their young lives. Jesus is their True North. No mistaking this. They will not have an identity crisis as they boldly live out their faith. How refreshing to celebrate a real life fulfillment of 2 Corinthians 3:2-3: “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

In words from their class hymn, BE THOU MY VISION, these girls inspire those around them because they confess these steadfast beliefs, “Thou my great Father, I Thy true son, Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one…” Jesus Christ is “their dignity, their delight, their inheritance, their shelter, their tower…”

As they continue to touch the world by radiating their identity in Christ and His fullness, I am inspired that they dare to be different in the name of Christ.

These girls…

Swept Down

STORM at sea

“When neither the sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” Acts 27:20

I have experienced at least one season (actually several seasons) in my life where one decision, one unheeded warning, changed the course of history in a monumental way. And ushered in an unbelievable storm. When the storm passed (and it always does), I never forgot the wake of destruction and the marks of what the storm did.

The next warning given, I hope to heed. Be different. Be wise. Praying I will learn from the past.

Acts 27:21 says, “After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss.’ ” The damage and loss can be shocking. You wonder why you didn’t listen to sound and wise advice when it was offered. I know what this is like…

But, I also know what it is like to trust God in the storm and to be sure that He uses even the worst scenarios to further His purposes in my life and the lives of others caught in the storm. Hence, the reason I love Psalm 37. I’ve seen God bring beauty from ashes. Not overnight. But, closer to a lifetime. I’ve seen Him weave the story so that I begin to trust Him more, have more wisdom in my storehouse, have better preparation for the next godly advice I receive.

When you see the storm coming, you have decisions to make. When you later realize that it could have been prevented by one different decision, then you know the power of decisions. You think you have affirmation from God, but all you have is some kind of consensus from those around you. You think you did your research, but it turns out you missed a few important things. One different phone call. One different conversation. One different employment decision. One different family decision. One different leadership decision. Could have averted disaster.

Acts 27:25-26 says, “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

Running aground can be merciful. It is God’s way of setting you on a new and better course. He doesn’t let you dwell in the “what ifs” but He challenges you with the “what nows.” The “what now” is God’s way of rescuing you and reminding you that He is in charge of the northeasters in your life. He is in charge of the course of history and our part in it. He is not mocked by our bad decisions. He uses every phone call, every conversation, every meeting, every failure, every disaster to move us toward deeper trust in Him and His eternal purposes. Keep up your courage.

God’s eternal purposes trump our temporary purposes, bad or good, disaster or not. And remind us that, when you are God’s child, no ignoring of wise advice, no inviting of unnecessary disaster, can thwart God’s plans. If anything, He uses the disasters to mature us in Him and put godly character in us where it was missing before. Keep up your courage.

Be careful to discern God’s voice. Acts 27:11-15 says, “But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest. When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the “northeaster,” swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along.”

Keep up your courage. Prayerfully question the advice of the pilot and the owner of the ship. Ask God for discernment. Decisions are powerful. I thank God for the “Pauls” in my life. I’m a better listener now.