Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Light and Shadows


The first thing any photographer learns is that taking pictures is all about capturing light. To the youngest child with his first camera it quickly becomes obvious that without light, you can't take a picture. George Eastman once said, "Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography."

There are many things to know about light and the shadows created by its angle and intensity, and I feel like I'll always have more to learn. One thing you discover early is that light changes constantly. From one moment to the next the scene in front of you can change dramatically and is affected by many variables. If you aren't ready to capture that moment when it happens, it may never look exactly like that again.


We are living in an extremely changeable time in history. It feels as though nothing is as it appears; what we think we see turns out frequently to be an optical illusion. Leaders aren't what they proclaim, relied-upon institutions disappear in the fog, and the lives we once had can seem like a fading sunset. Life on earth is constantly shifting and we seem ever compelled to try to lock it in, pin it down, make it stay, to take the picture of the moment when it looks and feels the way we want it.


I am so thankful that in contrast to the variableness of life and light on planet earth, there is a kind of Light that never changes, never wanes, never goes out--the Father of lights Himself! Nothing ever casts a shadow on Him. His light is not the harsh glare of the noon sun directly overhead, (although it is even brighter than that), but it is the magical "golden hour" light that photographers so love to capture--it is warm, golden, and makes everything more beautiful. He is always the most brilliantly promising moment of a pastel sunrise and the most achingly beautiful nanosecond of the most gloriously intense sunset earth ever saw! Words just aren't enough!!


"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17 NIV

Look for the ways He lights your way, look for the "good and perfect" gifts He gives and capture them with the camera of your spirit--notice and save them, seeing Him expressed in them and look through your photo album often to remind yourself of the nature of Light! Remember George Eastman's words as you think about HIS light: "Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth . . ."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kiss It Better


 "It is through the Son, at the cost of his own blood, that we are redeemed, freely forgiven through that full and generous grace which has overflowed into our lives and opened our eyes to the truth."

Ephesians 1:7 (Phi)

Remember when you were little and you would fall and skin your knee and your mom or dad or some loving grown up would come and "kiss it better?" I'm not sure the pain in the knee was really better, but the pain in your heart sure was!

As little children, there was something so unexpected about falling down and getting hurt. One moment you were running along with the wind in your face and the world by the tail, and the next, you were on the cold hard ground, bloody and bewildered, wounded inside and out.

I fell down on my proverbial hands and knees yesterday. To add insult to injury, the thing that tripped me up was my own fault. I made a stupid and costly, but very UNintentional error. Doggone it, I so want
to go back and unmake that dumb mistake, but I can't unmake it any more than I could unskin my knees as a little girl.

I can remember so many occasions when I wished the sidewalk or the driveway could be made of something soft so when you fell on it, you would just bounce back up with no skinned hands and knees. Now they make playground surfaces out of recycled tires and tennis shoes--my wish came true, just a long time after I needed it. However, yesterday, when I fell down, I landed on a very forgiving surface--my husband. It would have been very understandable for him to be angry, impatient, upset . . . instead, he was gentle, understanding and reassuring.

He kissed it better.

He was like Jesus.

This was just the reverse of the abrupt jolt of going from fun to injury--I went from feeling terrribly ashamed of my failure to feeling utterly encouraged and completely loved in the span of a 3 minute phone call. What a gift he gave me. What a gift God gave me in this amazing man!

What an example he set of the power we have to bless one another . . . or not.

I don't ever want to miss an opportunity to be that kind of blessing--may I always extend, not my own grace (which is very limited), but the grace of God. With the unfathomable grace God has showered on me, I have limitless resource to be gracious to others.

Who might need you to "kiss it better" today?

"You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 2:1 NIV

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Willow Weeps


I am the very blessed daughter of parents who will celebrate their 49th Anniversary next month. In their front yard stands the enormous weeping willow tree in this picture. It has stood through many storms, and sheltered generations of us in countless ways since my family moved there in 1972. In many ways it reminds me of my parents--their marriage, like that awesome willow tree, has stood many storms and sheltered our family too!

Not only have they stayed together in proximity, but they have stayed so together in spirit, and are still so happy with the choice they made 49 years ago to get married, to share
the rest of their lives with one another. Their relationship has been a blessing and an example to me and so many other people who have had the privilege of seeing them together over the years. I am thankful beyond expression for the pattern they have given me. Thankful too, that my husband and I (more than 21 wonderful years together) are just as committed to our marriage as they have been to theirs.

Sadly, this story is not a common one.

Too many of my acquaintances, friends and even other family members have had different stories to tell, and the children of those broken homes are the ones who pay the highest price. I certainly don't come to this subject from a point of pride, only compassion and the humble awareness that "there, but for the grace of God, go I."

My heart is heavy with my prayers for those who already have broken hearts and shattered marriages, as well as for those who are right now just trying to figure out if there is anything left to be saved. I don't have the answers to all the questions, problems, hurts and missed opportunities in these troubled relationships, but I do know the One who does--the God whose idea marriage was in the first place, the God who hates divorce because of the harm it leaves in its wake, the God who loves the hearts that are broken when a marriage falls apart . . . His heart breaks too.

" The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Psalm 34:18 NIV

The following is a poem I wrote for a dear friend who was in just such a disintegrating relationship almost ten years ago. Although the poem was written for a woman, the truth applies no matter who you are, so I share it now in the hope that through these words, God's tender compassion and ability to heal will be brought into focus for someone who needs Him.

The willow weeps
Delicate branches sway in the wind
Like finest silk spun to golden threads
Bending not breaking
Straining, not snapping
Breezes buffet, storms stress
The willow weeps,
But the willow stands.

God Himself knits roots to earth
Holding fiber to fiber, leaf to stem, limb to trunk.

The lady weeps
Delicate heartstrings strive to endure
To make the best when love's proven false
Loving, not hating
Hoping, not despairing
Setbacks sting, burdens bite
The lady weeps,
But the lady stands.

God Himself knits her to Him
Holding spirit to Spirit, life to Love, branch to Vine.
©Copyright 1999 Shaunie Friday. All Rights Reserved.

If you have a good marriage, pray for wisdom, for God's protection and fight to keep it healthy--don't get complacent, don't let down your guard. It is too precious to take for granted!

If you have lost a marriage or feel yours slipping away, lean into the One who loves you most--You never know what He can do if you rely completely on Him.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rocks and Other Hard Places

 --
This week I have felt constrained, constricted, confined and confounded in trying to work within the demands of too many needs, circumstances, parameters and limitations. Not only are there too many of them, but they all seem to be at complete cross-purposes with the goals, dreams and godly desires of myself and my family. I think we all have felt that we are stuck between a rock and a hard place . . . or maybe many rocks and many hard places.

 

I don't think it much matters the particular rocks or hard places by which I am currently being pressed, and it would be too easy for a list of them to become a complaint. Aside from that, you don't need my list, because I'm sure you have a list of your own. Life on earth is fraught with pressures and circumstances that box us in. Despite the commonality of our experience, we never seem to get used to it. God made us with a desire for freedom and we instinctively fight to break free of whatever box in which we find ourselves.

Sometimes the hard places are of our own making, sometimes they are completely beyond our control, and sometimes God has led us there for reasons we cannot fathom. So often we feel like nothing is ever going to give and let us have the breathing room we so desperately seek.

Yesterday, I got a little bit of breathing room in the form of a drive with my family through some beautiful countryside, a delicious dinner at an old favorite spot, a glorious sunset and a campfire in the back yard with smores, sticky fingers, and lots of laughter.

Each of these was an "Up the Sunbeam" moment for me that gave me a series of tangible experiences of how beautiful, delicious, glorious and full of joy God is. Each of these moments was also a reminder that He is not just watching me suffer under pressure from outside where nothing touches Him, but He is in life's hard place with me, giving me breathing room from the inside out.
 

The pressures of this life will come and go--believe me, I am looking forward to them going, and soon!--but what is always consistent is God's wonderful Presence with me through everything.
The spot I'm in doesn't feel so tight when I remember Him in the midst of my fight for breath . . . in fact, HE is the breath I need.


"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair . . . " 
2 Corinthians 4:8 NIV
 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Tale of Two Trees

 
In San Diego's popular Balboa Park this amazing tree is a testament to the benefits of a strong root system. It is a Moreton Bay Fig tree and it was planted in 1914. In 2008 it was listed as having "a girth of 42 feet, a height of 80 feet and a canopy of 145 feet."

I took this picture on our la
st trip to San Diego while my children and I stood and marveled at the extensive tangles of roots winding and twisting their way to and through the earth. We felt and looked tiny under this sprawling giant that was so generous with its shade (my then-10 year old daughter is standing on the left side of the full-view picture). It is clearly an incredibly healthy tree, well-nourished, amply watered and firmly established in fertile soil. People come from all over to stand in its shadow. It is so impressive it is even listed in the California Registry of Big Trees!

I hav
e another picture of a tree with an extensive root system. This one is in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park. While these roots once provided water and nutrients to the large tree they supported, something happened to disconnect the roots from the ground. Maybe a powerful wind or a lightning strike, or disease caused this tree to fall down, but whatever the cause, the roots could no longer do their job and the tree could no longer draw life through them. I couldn't tell by looking what kind of tree this was, and it is not on any list of outstanding trees. Many people walk by it on the trail without stopping.

It isn't enough for a tree to have roots, no matter how complex they may be. A tree's roots must be growing in the ground in order to have access to the life-giving resources the tree ne
eds.

My Christian life is no different. I have wonderful roots of faith that go back many generations, and I have a wide and complex system of roots of Scripture knowledge passed on to me by my parents, pastors, teachers, and authors which can equip me to continue to live and grow as a believer. However, my Christian roots will only sustain me if I am not just rooted, but also grounded, that is, my roots dig down into fertile spiritual soil, which the Bible says is love.


" . . . you, being rooted and grounded in love, . . . " Ephesians 3:17 (NASB)

Groundedness, stability, permanence . . . such solid, dependable concepts. I want my life to be like the mighty fig tree in Balboa Park, making an impression, memorable to all who see it, standing tall and strong as a vivid monument of life and lasting beauty. I may not be on any earthly "Who's Who" list, but I very much want to live in such a manner as to be remembered in a durable way. I want to be so rooted and so grounded in the love of my Father in heaven that I can be a memorable, lasting testimony to the extreme, radical love of the One who came to save all who will believe . . . all who will put down roots in His love.

I pray with Paul, for myself, and for you,


"
. . . that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Dry and Thirsty Land




"For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground;"
Isaiah 44:3 (NIV)
 
A dry and thirsty land . . .

This time of year in California, all the grasses that looked like emerald velvet in February, turn a dusty gold, toasted to a dry crisp in the relentless sun. It has its own beauty, especially when contrasted with the deep green of the majestic oaks that grace the hillsides, but it is very dry.

Yesterday my family and I went for a hike (my idea) on an unfamiliar trail at the height of the afternoon sun, and I paid dearly for it. I am very sensitive to the heat, and I was unprepared for the sustained climb of this particular trail or the heat of the day and I wound up with a throbbing headache I have yet to completely shake loose.

I got to thinking about how thirsty I was up there, how dry and hot and dusty I felt. My desperation for water and cool shade was so intense, I could not go further without respite from the scorching sun above. I finally came to a place with a bench in the shade, where I could sit and catch my breath. I pulled out my blue bottle of cool water and savored every drop as if my life depended on it.

 A dry and thirsty land . . . what a picture of a life or a nation without God! Everything the world grasps after turns out to be a mirage, more cruel for having looked like a beautiful, green oasis. The impact of the evil deception of an offer not fulfilled, a promise not kept, a guarantee broken is all around us as we see people devastated with the disappointment of finding that what they trusted was not real, it didn't come through in the end.

To our great blessing and relief, there is something better than a mirage, something truer than a fool's paradise, which God offers to all who are thirsty.

"He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas; He brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers."
Psalm 78:15-16 (NIV)

God brought water out of the rock more than once for His people when they were in the dry and thirsty desert of their wandering, and He is still in the business of quenching thirst. I need the abundance of His water everyday, because life in this world is a desert life. But unlike the mirage of the enticements of this world, God's abundance is a true oasis, green and lush, overflowing with the clear, cool water of His Holy Spirit and the refreshing restoration found in His Word. If I must live in a desert, let me never stray from the wellspring of His unfailing love wherein my life is sustained.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Keep the Son in Your Eyes


Nature is filled with truth, with messages and illustrations from our glorious Creator--messages designed purposefully to show us something of Him. Like the good Teacher He is, He knows that we learn best when a visual aid helps us to see the concept instead of just reading about it.


A sunflower is a great example. It has an interesting property called heliotropism, which means that it continually orients itself to the sun. During the darkness of night the sunflower turns itself to face the east, awaiting the new dawn, so as not to miss even a moment of the sun's brightness.



This picture was taken just after sunrise and this sunflower is taking full advantage of the golden morning light. All through the day, as the sun moves, so does the sunflower, turning, turning, turning, slowly, consistently, staying in the optimal position to take in the maximum amount of light.

Sunflowers behave in a way that seems almost greedy for light. They aren't c
ontent like other flowers to get whatever light finds its way to them, but actively go out of their way to drink in every available drop of sunlight. It is as though they are desperate for light, dreading the dark and eagerly anticipating their next opportunity to soak up some more.

How much like a sunflower am I?


"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said,
'I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.'" John 8:12 (NIV)

Do I act like I know this? Do I constantly orient myself to Jesus, desperately seeking every bit of the light He gives? Do I keep my eyes so focused on Him that I have to turn my head to follow Him?

Sometimes I do, and when I do, my heart thrives and grows. I have to admit though that there are many things that can distract me and when I forget to stay fully, completely oriented to Jesus and His marvelous light, I put myself in danger of wilting, withering and stopping the growth I should enjoy. I do NOT want to walk in darkness and I very much want the light of life.

It is no accident that in English the words "sun" and "Son" are more than homonyms--they are very nearly synonyms. While we could never look directly into our earth's sun, we absolutely should keep the Son in our eyes! Lord, help me to be a sunflower today--fixed on Your light in a very dark world.


This photo is available as a brand new greeting card--click here to view or purchase!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Home Where I Belong


This picture isn't of me, but in many ways, this girl IS me and is so representative of my thoughts about my country.


I have a very soft spot in my heart for the 4th of July and all that we celebrate today. As an American girl who moved to Canada at age 8, something wonderful happened to my patriotism. . . at least I think it was wonderful.


I always loved being an American, but I don't think I gave it much thought until I was in a new country, looking back across the border. As a little girl growing up in rural Iowa, the 4th of July was about fireworks and family and community and fun--pure Americana at its best! When we moved to Canada I learned about what was then called Dominion Day, Canada's equivalent to our 4th of July but celebrated on July 1st. I didn't mind celebrating Canada's independence, but I did very much mind that there were no 4th of July fireworks to go with it!


As I got older, although I deeply loved my home in beautiful British Columbia, and it too is a freedom-loving countr
y with wonderful values, I became increasingly aware of missing my homeland. In high school, I frequently wore red, white, and blue and got into heated arguments with some of my teachers who weren't America's biggest fans--talk about fireworks!! I rooted for the U.S.A. hockey team in the 1980 Olympics, which was rather frowned upon in the heart of hockey-loving Canada! How I did relish that victory, especially when it was so against the odds and I had gone out on such a limb with all my Canadian friends!


I do passionately love my country. I ache for her, pray for her, vote for her and thank God for her. It was so good of Him to allow me to return to her. Over the years, it has occurred to me more than once, that my American patriotism and my experience of longing for home when I was away, is a mere shadow of the longing I have in my heart for another country, my real home, my heavenly homeland with Jesus.


". . .they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth
. . .they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God"
Hebrews 11:13b, 16 (NIV)

So yes, I passionately long for Home, and often run into naysayers who think it doesn't exist or don't believe that Heaven's team wins the final victory. In spite of that, just as I loved my adopted homeland of Canada and the dear friends I made there, I love life on earth too and value it highly as a wonderful gift from God. Though this is my temporary home, I make the most of every day, enjoy the unique blessings of this place, and love the people God puts in my life. I try to seize each earth day and live it well, but I also try to live with my eternal home in mind, knowing that someday I will get to cross another border and finally go home where I belong . . . and stay there forever!

Living with heaven in my heart helps me keep the ups and downs of life on earth in perspective. There is always a perfect "someday" out there ahead of me that lets me know that the aggravations of being earthbound will one day be over and done! Not only that, it enhances my life here too. With a heart turned heavenward, I am more sensitive to the glitter that sparkles off God's glory in the good and perfect gifts He gives every day. If the good things here are only tiny hints at Heaven, I wonder what the fireworks in Heaven will be like! I hope you'll come with me and find out!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Stand Firm


From a photographer's point of view, this is not a great picture, but for me, it is a message I need frequently.


In April 2007 my husband's company and his job were among the first casualties of what many months later would become the current economic crisis. When we got the news, we were disappointed of course, but immediately started looking for the good in it, and we both had great faith that God was going to use this for our ultimate good. We really didn't worry because we fully believed that God was more than capable of giving my husband a new and better job.


We just never imagined how long it would take.


We never thought we would lose so much.

We never thought God's provision would be so gradual.

We never thought we would be in such a precarious position for so long.


Before any of this happened, I had taken this picture and created a greeting card with it. Three years later, I feel like I frequently could benefit from sending it to myself! What I love about this picture, despite it's photographic shortcomings, is the posture of the little boy. He looks so small and so vulnerable in the face of the Pacific waves crashing at his toes, but to look at the way he is standing, you would think HE was the one with the power!


As a mother, this picture scares me to death . . . as a Christian, it bolsters my courage. Even though this time of trial for our family has for months-stretching-into-years been scary and continues to feel precarious, as God's children, we can defy the appearance of impending disaster and stand firm. The little boy in the picture is only confident because he doesn't know how powerful the ocean really is and like all small boys his age, suffers from delusions of grandeur. We however, can have confidence like his because of the true power of knowing and being loved by the One who made that big, overwhelming ocean.


The things in this life that could easily crush and drown us, are nothing compared to the power of God! When we belong to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, we have the assurance that He will take care of us no matter what! We don't always know how, we don't always think He acts quickly enough or in just the way we had hoped, but WE CAN COUNT ON HIM!


I want to stand rock solid in my confidence in God no matter how many waves there are. The circumstances may sometimes scream at me that I'm about to go under, but I will stand firm even when it appears to be ridiculous. He literally sent the Creator of the Universe, His only Son, "God-very-God," to rescue me from the fallen sinful state that had me enslaved. Knowing that He loved me enough to go to such lengths means that the promise-keeping God I love is worthy of my trust!


When the waves feel too strong,

And the challenge lasts too long,When you feel much too small
Stand Firm . . .
God Almighty is your deliverer!


"Do not be afraid.
Stand firm and you will see the deliverance
the Lord will bring you today." Exodus 14:13-14


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All content, words and images by Shaunie Friday unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved.
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