Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Beauty of Balance

In Sausalito, CA there is an artist named Bill Dan who works with rocks in a very unique way. As this picture shows, he balances groups of rocks in formations that seem to defy gravity. In fact, the first time I saw his sculptures standing on the shore of San Francisco Bay like frozen sentries, I was sure there was some kind of wire or glue involved. As if he could hear what I was thinking, he turned to one of his creations and just nonchalantly took it apart, tossing the rocks into the pile, turning them back into ordinary rocks again.

Moments later, he began a new stack and I was completely transfixed as I watched him work. He held each stone carefully like he was listening to something he alone could hear. He would position stone upon stone, making almost imperceptible adjustments until suddenly he would just remove his hands and as if by magic the rocks stood still. Despite appearances, it is not magic, but his understanding of physical laws that allow this wonderful artist to do what only looks impossible. Clearly this man knows things about physics most people never imagine!

Just as there are physical laws at work in the balancing of rocks, there are spiritual laws needed to balance a human life. If Bill Dan accounted for the shape and mass of the rock, but ignored the effect of gravity, his sculptures would not stand. Similarly, if I adhere to my favorite spiritual laws, but ignore others, the structure of my life or my theology will not be stable either.

If I see only God's love, but forget His justice, I may be tempted to think He is a push-over. If I see only His justice and not His love, I will be afraid to draw near to Him. If I put my trust in God's grace and mercy, but ignore His call to holiness, I am in danger, as Paul warns, of "sinning so that grace may increase" (Romans 6:1 NIV). It is only when I recognize that God is BOTH loving AND just--fully, completely and simultaneously--that my view of Him will be healthy and my relationship with Him can flourish. Only when I am BOTH fully convinced that His grace exceeds my sin AND fully responsive to His call to holiness will I be in the sweet spot between joyous freedom from guilt and whole-hearted commitment to Him.

Equilibrium is not the stillness it appears to be, but the active, fully engaged, powerful and opposing forces of laws that are so perfectly calibrated that neither force out-pulls or out-pushes the other. Some of the biggest lies people believe are really instances of believing one truth to the exclusion of another. Lord, help me to stay balanced in all I do and all I believe!

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching,
rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:15-17 (NIV)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pure Joy

"What I'm about to tell you is true. Anyone who will not receive God's kingdom like a little child will never enter it. Luke 8:17 (NIrV)

She was only 7 or 8, riding in one of the youngest divisions in the junior rodeo. She was clearly on a very well-trained and experienced horse and her confidence in him was unmarred by fear or apprehension or pressure of any kind. This beautiful little girl rode in every event for girls of her age group, and the entire day she rode with her feet out of the stirrups and a smile that never left her face.

She was the picture of pure joy! Everything seemed to exhilarate and delight her. You could see that she rode every race to win, but it was the doing of it that she loved--winning could only be icing on the cake for her. She loved the wind in her hair, the sun on her face and the horse beneath her that gave her wings to fly.

Ever since that day, when I think of the "joy of the Lord," this is the picture that comes to mind. No fear, no worry, no pressure, no need to put my feet in the stirrups, just amazing freedom and complete exhilaration in the ability to move through life in ways I could not do on my own. Running to win, all the while savoring every moment of being in pursuit of the victory. With complete trust and confidence in the One who carries me and has guaranteed that victory, there is no reason for me not to live in the joy of the Lord! Father, let nothing hinder the joy You give!

" . . . the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

On Being the Clay

“Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)

I am so often prone to believe that I have to ACT right, WORK hard, TRY with all my might to become the person I ought to be, and yet, this passage tells me that I am clay in the hands of the Master Potter. The only help the Potter needs from me is to be soft and pliable when He shapes me. That is so counter-intuitive in our modern culture where everything is about performance, achievement, success, image. I have the hardest time being patient with a process that takes place on God’s timetable, not my own, and over which I have no control except to be still. I was writing about this to a friend this morning to encourage her in her Christian walk. I wanted her to rest in the truth that the Christian life is not about self-imposed behavior modification, but the transformation that comes at the hands of a loving Father who has promised to make us just like Jesus.

The idea of being defenseless clay in the hands of a powerful God can be frightening, especially for those with an image of God that is stern, angry and disgusted with our imperfections. It is, in fact, quite the contrary. While He does want to remove everything that doesn’t look like what He is making us to be, He is not in a rage while He is doing it, but is affectionate and careful in His attention to us. He is both Father and Potter. He is not clumsy or heavy-handed in His shaping, but is patiently bringing forth artistry in His masterpiece—us.

I got to thinking about this and how the same hands that shaped mountains out of rocks and dirt and clay, work daily in the medium of wispy, water-vapor clouds. If He is artist enough to have that kind of range in forming our earth and its atmosphere, surely I can trust Him to be skilled and nuanced and loving enough to handle the stony places in my will AND to work in the fragile stuff my heart is made of. David wrote in Psalm 103:13-14

“As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.” (NIV)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Up the Sunbeam

"And these are but the outer fringe of His works; how faint the whisper we hear of Him! Who then can understand the thunder of His power?" Job 26:14 (NIV)

I squeal over wild skies and catch my breath at mountain splendor and fairly explode with the exhilaration of the wind roaring like a freight train through the pines. I can't pass by an Iris in bloom without stopping to marvel at the imagination of the God who not only thought up its form and colors out of nothing, but made it exquisitely beautiful for everyone . . . or no one . . . to see—He made it just because He can and because it displays something of the beauty that He IS.

C. S. Lewis once wrote to his friend of the blessing of seeing, feeling or experiencing something pleasurable, "It is a message. We know we are being touched by a finger of that right hand at which there are pleasures for evermore. There need be no question of thanks or praise as a separate event, something done afterwards. To experience the tiny theophany is itself to adore. Gratitude exclaims, very properly, 'How good of God to give me this.' Adoration says, 'What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!' One's mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun." (Letters to Malcolm, Letter XVII) I simply cannot read that quote without tears.

That is why I take pictures. When I capture a moment with my camera, it is my attempt to "run back up the sunbeam to the sun." When I create a card from one of those captured moments, I hope that I can lead others "up the sunbeam" too. This blog is meant to be a place where I can share these moments as I see them and the truth they speak to me.
I sincerely hope you are blessed by my pictures and my musings.


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All content, words and images by Shaunie Friday unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved.
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You will find Scripture quotes throughout the posts of Up the Sunbeam. I am careful to note which translation I am using with a 3-letter abbreviation after the reference. Here is a list of the ones I use, for your information:
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