Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Topic We Know Too Well and Not Enough

--
The woman in the pew in front of me had a distracting habit of rocking back and forth as though she were soothing a baby to sleep. I had to work to turn my attention from my annoyance at her rocking and focus my attention above and beyond her to the guest speaker. He had an engaging style, and had thoughtfully provided fill-in-the-blank notes for his sermon, which was a welcome way to pay attention to him and not the rocking woman I couldn't NOT see.

His topic this morning was utterly familiar, much-studied, well-known . . . and woefully under-practiced, both inside and outside of the church. He spoke about LOVE.

The visiting seminary professor brought a message that was both convicting AND uplifting (evidence of his giftedness), and he highlighted many points of truth about love and our responsibility that are absolutely crucial to our lives in Christ. While I will continue to chew on the meaty goodness of this message, there was one idea he shared that really sparked my imagination about a very familiar verse:

 "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Have you ever wondered why love is the greatest? I have to admit, I think I always just accepted that love is the greatest without contemplating the why of it. Citing the teaching of D. A. Carson, the professor said that love is the greatest because love is the only one of the three that God is and does. He inspires faith, He gives hope, but He IS love.


God is love, and knowing Him is my highest calling.  If I am living out that calling, I MUST be transformed into a channel of that awesome, overwhelming, and matchless love. The degree to which I love is in direct proportion to how well I know God. If I claim to know Him, I had better not be restricting the flow of His love by anything of myself.  Knowing God is knowing love, and when I really know Him, I cannot stay the way I was.

The days we walk on this troubled blue marble are fraught with distractions and annoyances large and small that can take our eyes off what is really important. We can so easily become fixated on the things of earth that we lose our focus on the only thing that matters--the eternal glory of knowing God and being transformed by His love. When we are so transformed, our lives will become conduits of His love to others in real, tangible, practical, boots-on-the-ground ways that change lives. I pray that we will look above and beyond ourselves and the things that distract us (like rocking church ladies), to pay full attention to the One whose very essence is love.

Heavenly Father, please, never let us allow love to become the truth we know so well we know it not at all! Help us to be ever increasing in our knowing of YOU and ever more filled with the rushing river of Your transforming love!

What is the difference between knowledge of God and knowing God?
How does that difference affect your ability to love?
________________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

#521-535
521. The opportunity to be a sounding board and a cheerleader (AKA Mom!)
522. To do items checked off and new ones underway
523. Mommy and Daddy taking turns on the phone with me!
524. The amazing present they are offering me!!
525. Spicy sausages
526. The climbing number of sunbeam climbers--what a blessing to be in such good company!
527. Frosty cold iced Peet's Decaf Major Dickason's coffee
528. Drummer Boy toughing it out when he was sick--projects, finals and final recording session
529. She So Sweet singing sweetly at her school's coffee house
530. Drummer Boy's comedy routine in the waiting room at the doctor's office--how we LAUGHED!
531. Negative strep tests, and Drummer Boy starting to feel better
532. Hero Husband who works so hard for his family and NEVER gives up!
533. Two new card designs, my first t-shirt design and the desire to design more for Friday Dreaming!
534. The fun of coming together to watch Nanny McPhee Returns, and really enjoying a sweet story.
535. Reminder of the most important sentence in the Bible: "God is love."  1 John 4:8 NIV

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
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Joining Michelle DeRusha for:


Joining Jen's Sisterhood:


A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Perfect Mix

--
Perfect?

Nope . . . no perfection in sight, despite my many years of pursuing it.

Now what? Should I keep going? Give up? Should I stop pushing buttons and fine-tuning the dials and reconfiguring my settings to get closer to the "perfect mix" that eludes me? I hear that being a perfectionist can be unhealthy. On the other hand, I hear that many of the world's most effective and successful people are, at least to some degree, perfectionists.

What to do? What to DO?

Is there anything wrong with the pursuit of perfection? It couldn't be right to be in pursuit of IMperfection, now could it?  After all, it was in His sermon on the mount that Jesus went so far as to say, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48 NIV

Whoa!! So not just perfect, but PERFECT . . . like God-caliber PERFECTION!!  And here I thought I was discouraged by trying to be small-p perfect. How in the world?!!

What did Jesus mean by that? That was easy for Him to say--He was God, He already WAS perfect. But He said it to those less-than-perfect, ordinary people who listened to Him that day, and I'll bet they weren't too different from us. It would be cruel to expect people to do what they had no way to do, and that doesn't sound like the Jesus I know, so there has to be something more than meets the eye.

In the English, Jesus' words appear to be giving a command to be perfect right now just as God already is perfect. However, in Greek we get quite a different picture. The more distinct use in Greek of different tenses helps us understand more clearly. God's perfection is referred to in the present tense, and is indeed a present reality, an ongoing state of His being. Okay, what about us? When Jesus said the words rendered as, "Be perfect," in many translations, He used the future tense, which is described as the "certain occurrence of an event which has not yet occurred."  I think the New King James comes closest to reflecting these contrasting tenses, "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:48 NKJV 

One more little tidbit that comes out of looking at the different tenses in this verse--
this is not a command.  It might be better expressed as you shall be becoming perfect, and is framed as an action we take ourselves on our own behalf. That sounds a little bit like being a perfectionist to me. A perfectionist, but not the harmful kind, not the kind that interprets current evidence of imperfections as proof of inferiority or worthlessness.  Not at all! This kind of perfectionist sees imperfections through the eyes of hope and treats them as opportunities to learn and grow, knowing that perseverance in the pursuit of perfection will move a godly heart closer and closer to the character of Jesus until God Himself completes us in Him.

Great!!!  So when will this perfection arrive?

"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." 1 John 3:2 NIV

When we see Jesus face to face, we SHALL finally be like Him, relieved of all our imperfections.  Until then, we can be in the process of becoming like Jesus, and at the same time being patient with not yet attaining the perfection we pursue.  So, as I continue to fine tune the dials and knobs and sliding controls that adjust me to His ways and His Word, I can do so with confidence that it is NOT an exercise in futility, and I don't have to get everything right TODAY!




I DO want to be perfect!!  I DO want to be like Jesus!!

It's okay to be a perfectionist as long as I don't expect to be perfect any time soon . . . 

AND
as long as I don't beat myself up for not being perfect yet (still working on that part)!!
Maybe THAT is the "perfect mix!"


How do you balance the pursuit of being like Christ with
the patience needed for the process?

(Just as an aside, I am not a Greek scholar by any stretch of the imagination. I only got to take 1 semester of New Testament Greek in Bible college and I may just be able to write the Greek alphabet on a good day.  The foregoing are observations made from that knowledge applied to information readily available in the Interlinear study tools at studylight.org and biblos.com if you want to look into it further, which I highly recommend that you do. Another good site for help with understanding the many facets of Greek tenses can be found here.)


Sliding in under the wire for Bonnie's Faith Jam:
and joining Emily for Imperfect Prose:

A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Undeniable Contrast

--

The energy in the room changed dramatically. The entire audience seemed to feel it and sit up a little straighter in their seats with anticipation. Intermission was over and the band my son assembled to perform some of his original songs in a concert at his college was about to play--the debut performance of

Jordan Friday and the Beautiful Romance!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Being on a college campus, the concert up to this point had been an eclectic mix of musical styles, varied cultures and lyrical content. There had been . . .

. . . profanity-laced rap and hip hop . . .
. . . some nice acoustic guitar work punctuated with angst and anger, lyrics about men reverting back to apes and violent rituals and despair . . .
. . . and finally, my first introduction to a live performance by a screamo death metal band--lots of rage, frenzy, desperation, writhing on the floor and sounds I didn't know human voices could make "singing" words I think I'm glad were unintelligible.

Musically speaking, I'm a pretty cool mom and can wrap my head around a lot of musical styles, so from that perspective, none of the music I heard was a problem for me. I sort of live by the motto, "Have earplugs, will travel!!"  What WAS very hard to withstand was the sense of gloom and darkness in the lyrics and demeanor that, layer upon layer, was expressed, reinforced and almost embraced as the evening went on.

Finally, the intermission was over and it was Drummer Boy's turn. He and his band, including She So Sweet on violin, brought such a breath of fresh air into an otherwise dreary evening.  The smiles they were wearing, the fun they were having together, the enthusiasm in the way they played, the beauty and passion of the music and the hope and joy in the lyrics were pure celebration! I can honestly say that I'm not just being a proud mom here (although I clearly am that!), but there was a tangible difference in the way it felt to experience the gift they gave to the audience and the way it felt to experience the other performances.

Let me be clear.  I am not in any way being critical of the other performers who were incredibly committed to their music and their expression of how they see their lives. Their talent and the raw honesty in their creativity are undeniable.

This too is undeniable . . .

. . . the contrast between darkness and light is truly stunning . . .
. . . the contrast between despair and hope is unmistakable . . .
. . . the contrast between death and life is the battle line the world is teetering on!

"Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, 'I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.'"  John 8:12 NASB

In some situations and some settings, some divine appointments, a boldness in sharing the Gospel openly and directly is called for. In other places, at other times, our job is just to let Jesus shine through us, just to be in stark, glaring contrast to what may otherwise be a dark room.

When we really walk in the Light of life, we become the contrast of a powerful spotlight in a dark concert hall! The world is moving further and further into the inky night of it's long rebellion.
We MUST light the night with 
our HOPE and JOY and PASSION and FAITH and LOVE
that are so utterly different than the offerings the world gives!

----------------------Shine bright!!--------------------
----------------------Glow warm!!---------------------
-------------Light the night around you!!-----------

I hope you are as inspired as I am by this music video of one of Drummer Boy's songs he played with his band last night! He says it well, Now Is the Time!


What are your favorite ways to let your light shine in the darkness?
______________________________________


Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

#506-520
506. 3 hours of great conversation, dreaming, planning and encouraging with Hero Husband at Peet's Coffee
507. An amazing sunset and eyes to see it (how I wish I could have captured it with my camera!)
508. Fun morning with Drummer Boy
509. Knowing that he wanted to hang out with me badly enough to wake up early to go with me!
510. Hearing from a teacher that She So Sweet's integrity is glowingly discussed by other teachers!
511. Buttery, creamy white kidney beans
512. Knowing God can be trusted to turn a friend's horrible situation for good 
513. Hero Husband wanting everything God wants for me.
514. Conversation with an old friend and a chance to point him to Jesus . . . again.
515. Holy discontent--not wanting to stay the way I am today
516. When potential catastrophes have easy fixes!
517. Seeing a leader truly lead and speaking humble, powerful words to the whole world . . . God bless Benjamin Netanyahu and the nation of Israel.
518. Good smells coming from the kitchen
519. Going out to Denny's after the concert--brings back great memories while making new ones!
520. Being inspired by my children who shine so bright in a dark world!!

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

and joining Jen for her Sisterhood



A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rear-Ended in the Twilight Zone

--
BUMP.

She So Sweet and I looked at each other in surprise.

BUMP again!

The car behind us in the drive-thru had bumped into us, not once, but twice! After a restaurant employee took this picture of the contact between the two cars, I pulled up a few feet so I could get out and take a look. Nothing in all my life prepared me for finding myself suddenly on the dark side of the Twilight Zone.

While I inspected my car, the other driver had gotten out of her car.  She was 50-ish with hair dyed an unnatural shade, wearing ordinary casual clothes, but what really struck me was her hollow, world-weary expression and the hardness in her eyes. I guess I thought she might apologize, or explain what happened, or feel embarassed--any number of responses could have been appropriate. Instead she indignantly and agressively questioned me about why I would even look for damage when she "was only going 0-5 mph!"

What?!!!

I quietly explained that I just needed to make sure before we left the scene, and reminded her that SHE had hit ME (twice), not the other way around, which was how she was acting. I took one last glance and turned to get back in my car while the woman continued to rail and protest. She So Sweet saw how irrational this woman was and she said sincerely to her, "I'll be praying for you. I hope you have a nice day." (Such Image-bearing!) At that, irrational went into overdrive and the woman's expression twisted into a mask of mocking rage. She spat an uncomplimentary remark toward She So Sweet, and then turned her wrath toward insulting me with mean-spirited, hateful words intended to gouge pieces out of me.

My daughter and I got in the car and drove to the other side of the restaurant so I could get the picture the employee had taken.  We thought the woman had left, but instead she drove around and back into the parking lot where we were standing. She got out and continued her tirade, spewing more of her disparaging opinions of the many things she thought were wrong with me.

I really wasn't sure what else she might be capable of, so I got in my car, and with her still yelling and even pounding on my window, I drove away, adrenaline roaring through me, heart hammering like a war drum in my chest. All I knew was that I needed to get my daughter away from this ugliness and potential danger!

At the time, I wasn't even concerned about myself—I grew up in the "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" era, and I wasn't about to give an old-enough-to-know-better bully ANY power over me. However, my darling daughter, ferocious little wildcat that she can be, was infuriated and upset on my behalf. She said through her angry tears,

"MOM! NONE OF THOSE THINGS SHE SAID ABOUT YOU ARE TRUE!!!"

My sweet, loving and fiercely loyal little girl!

When my pulse returned to normal, it was easier to hear the replay in my head. Now that it was all over I had a chance to reflect on those insults She So Sweet promised me weren't true. Even at the very worst of my most difficult days in junior high with the obligatory "mean girls," no one ever talked to me like this troubled woman did.

No one has ever said such harsh, demeaning, hurtful and vicious things to me . . .

. . . except me.

WOW.

I am my own mean girl!

The mean girl without and the mean girl within--neither one authorized to say such ugly things to anyone, not even herself. I have never been the mean girl without (saying awful things to other people), but it is high time for me to quit being the mean girl within (saying awful things to myself). I didn't see it coming, but I got rear-ended by a convicting truth.

"For as he thinks in his heart, so is he."

I do NOT have the right to talk to any Image-bearer the way I talk to myself. I'm not even sure how to quantify or qualify the ways it must affect me to have this internal harangue going on, but I am completely sure it has to stop lest the things I say to myself become self-fulfilling.

I am a little surprised to find how thankful I am for my trip to the Twilight Zone and the way it shifted my perspective on my own behavior. Rod Serling was always good at writing stories like that--God is even better at it!


Do you ever suffer at the hands of a mean girl within?
Have you ever learned a powerful lesson from an unexpected teacher?
_______________________________________

Joining Emily Wierenga for:

Joining Bonnie Grey for:
FaithBarista_FreshJamBadgeG

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What To Do With Dreams, Delays, and Dashed Hopes

--
I had this teeny tiny dream.

I wanted to create a line of rodeo-themed greeting cards.

That SOUNDED so simple, but I had no idea that I would have more than two years of delays and dashed hopes in my pursuit of getting that teeny tiny dream to become cards-in-my-hand and on the market.

The first pictures I took were at a rodeo run by a big rodeo association.  I wanted to do things right and get the appropriate permissions necessary. When I spoke with the PR director, she was very interested and asked me to send her some samples.  She LOVED my work! She loved the pictures so much she wanted to not only get me permission to make my line of greeting cards, she wanted to use them in the souvenir programs that would go out to all their rodeos in North America the following rodeo season, AND give me a byline, AND list my website!


Victory lap, right?!!

Wrong.

Since I was not a licensed photographer with her association, the powers that governed such things would not give approval for any commercial use of my pictures, at all, anywhere, for any reason. They said NO.

The PR director was bummed, I was bummed--big disappointment.

Long period of thinking my teeny tiny dream was dead.

Eventually it occurred to me that there are more than one rodeo association in the world and maybe there would be others that would have less stringent rules about licensing. I started researching and found a local junior rodeo association. This time I made contact before taking any pictures and asked for their permission ahead of time. The woman who was the president was very excited and gave me the requested permission and promised to help me secure model releases after the pictures had been taken.

The weekend of the rodeo arrived and I took 1200 pictures in two days trying to capture what I find incredibly beautiful and inspiring about rodeo, both the people and the animals.

For the next three months I worked feverishly to select and artistically process the pictures I wanted to use for my greeting cards.  When I finally had my final selections made, I contacted my friend again to enlist her promised help in identifying and contacting the people in my pictures to request model releases to enable me to use them.

To make a long story short, something had changed. She told me she was too busy and didn't know when or whether she would be able to help me.

I think a kick in the stomach would have been less shocking and less painful. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't think. I didn't even know what to say. I mumbled something in my bewilderment and tried to gracefully end the conversation without losing it.

After I hung up the phone, I sat motionless in my living room in a silent, tearful meltdown wondering why, after all that work, it was going to end like this. Lord, where are you? I know it's just a teeny tiny dream, but it REALLY matters to me. Does it matter to You at all?

Just then Hero Husband walked in the door and all my upset spilled out in a tumble of words that probably weren't very coherent, but he got enough. Sympathetically and without any fanfare, he gently gave me calm, godly wisdom, "All you can do is let it go. You have to release her." If I needed evidence that it mattered to God, Hero Husband's on-cue entrance and heaven-sent words were that and more.

I hated how deeply I knew he was right. He was ABSOLUTELY right. If I didn't let it go, it would eat me up inside and my teeny tiny dream would become a mighty nightmare.
Hard Place Encouragement card
Minutes later, before I could overthink it or chicken out, I pulled out a copy of my "Hard Place" encouragement card and wrote a heartfelt (and heartbroken) note, thanking this woman for the help she had given up to that point, and not to worry about anything more. I told her I understood feeling overwhelmed by too many responsibilities and that I would pray for the demands on her time to ease up.

That's all. I didn't plead my case, or ask her to help me when she could, or list any expectation beyond asking her to accept my gratitude, and my prayer for her life to be blessed.

THAT was HARD. But as soon as I dropped the card in the mailbox, I was the one released. It still hurt like crazy to think my teeny tiny dream was dead (again), but the anger and resentment just melted away.

Three weeks later I received something unexpected in the mail--a short note scrawled on what looked to be a piece of scratch paper snatched from the day's junk mail. It was from my overworked contact, saying she hoped this would help and there were 6 names with phone numbers on it (only a few of what I needed) and she said that was all she could do. I immediately sent her an email thanking her profusely for taking time to help me.

Over the next few weeks, with the unbelievably generous help of those first six people, I got all but one of the model releases I had hoped for, and the Rodeo Dreaming Collection was finally no longer a teeny tiny dream, but a reality. Here's a little proof:

All Out cardRarin' to Go cardFancy Red cardJoy of the Lord Encouragement cardBehind the Chutes card

I tell that story, not to sell greeting cards (although that would be lovely), but I share it with you, FOR you, just in case you think your teeny tiny dream (or maybe great big God-sized dream) has breathed its last and that God has let it die. If that describes you, if you're sitting in a pile of dashed hopes or feel that repeated delays have killed your dream, don't panic. Sometimes it is in the release of a dream that you are made ready for it to come true or for something better to come in its place.

We can trust God with our dreams, even when it seems all is lost.

If you haven't read it recently (like, TODAY), I invite you to read the story of Joseph, a dreamer well-acquainted with delays and dashed hopes . . . AND dreams come true at the hand of His VERY GOOD GOD!!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.

Have you ever had to release a dream before it could come true?
How has God honored your obedience when you've done something hard because you knew it was right?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I've thanked them many times, but I happily do so again--my deepest gratitude to everyone who helped me realize this dream, particularly all the parents who helped me contact people and who signed the model releases for my images of their beautiful children!
________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

#491-505
491. Breakfast made by the talented hands of She So Sweet
492. Mother's Day cards from Hero Husband, Drummer Boy and She So Sweet that made me laugh and cry
493. TOTALLY unexpected, and very thoughtful gifts that will be a blessing to me every single day!
494. William Wilberforce and the movie we watched together that told his story, Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

495. The joyous tears that roll when I hear Larnelle Harris and Ladye Love Smith sing "I've Just Seen Jesus" (my parents were on this cruise and heard this performance live!)


496. A whole day spent together!
497. The thrill of seeing my favorite bull rider, Chris Shivers, win his 21st career PBR event!  So humble, so inspiring.
498. Unexpected rearrangements in my schedule that actually make things go easier!
499. Fun with Drummer Boy, She So Sweet and Sparky
500. House full of music--band rehearsal for the first time in a long time!
501. A chance to say the Pledge of Allegiance
502. Laughing with Drummer Boy watching Horton Hears a Who!

Horton Hears A Who!Horton Hears a Who (Widescreen and Full-Screen Single-Disc Edition)
503. Finding out that the AC repairs were extremely minor!
504. Packages that arrive after thinking they're lost!
505. Allergy medicine that works

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:


Joining Jen's Sisterhood:


A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

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