Monday, August 29, 2011

There Will Always Be More

--


 "Every idea of Him we form, He must in mercy shatter.
 The most blessed result of prayer would be to rise thinking
'
But I never knew before.  I never dreamed . . .'" 

C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm, Letter XV
    

Some quotes, like this one from one of the world's greatest storytellers, C. S. Lewis, grab your attention, won't let go, and yet remain a mystery.

I have found myself drawn to this one, so much so that without trying to memorize it, the words stay in my heart and ring softly once in awhile like a breeze-kissed wind chime when I think I get just the faintest  glimmer of it. In the span of a mere 250 pages of a book I've been meaning to read and finally got around to, the mystery is solved, and gone is the pride that kept it hidden from me.

I think I really thought I knew God . . . at least well enough to have a pretty fixed picture of Him.

I don't mean I thought I comprehended all of Him, clearly that would be foolish in the extreme, but I thought that what I knew of Him was not in need of adjustment, I thought that what I knew was pretty solid.  I supposed that maybe God would increase my understanding from time to time, a little here, a little there, but no big changes were expected, well, until Heaven, I guess. In the words of Gert Behanna, "That'll do just fine for a sin."

I just finished reading The Shack by William Paul Young. Many of you may have read it, I know I'm late to the party. If you haven't read it, I hope you will, and if you do, don't let anyone tell you the story ahead of time, just let the story tell itself.

After devouring the loveliness of this book in two days, the Lewis quote has come fully into focus for me.  I have had my idea of God gloriously shattered by this wonderful work of fiction.  How can anything be fiction that is so true and so truth-full. It made me laugh in surprised delight and cry for joy in God's goodness and I finished it aching for more, yes, more pages to turn, but more importantly, more glimpses of HIM. Oh the power of story!!

It will take me some time, and a few more readings to digest all the truth that is unfolded in this book. It occurs to me that Jesus  knew we would need something to flesh out the flat medium of black ink on white pages to help us know what He meant by the profound words He spoke. He frequently told stories, parables, to give an illustration or a scenario that would put muscle and skin on the bones of the words His disciples struggled to understand and that we read all these centuries after He said them. The Holy Spirit continues to gift storytellers in every age with the ability to write new stories out of old truth to give each generation a way to connect with Jesus as He really is (many of you know this because you ARE the gifted storytellers!)

The truth never changes, but the stories God uses to convey that truth are endless.

Through the wonder of story, my old static image of God has been shattered, not shattered like broken glass, but shattered like the stillness of a paused TV picture that is broken by pressing 'play' and setting the image in motion, or the way the night sky is shattered by the exploding beauty of colorful fireworks! I wait in eager expectancy (so different from expectation) to see how God will continually, for all time be surprising me with Himself! There will always be more!!

"Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."  John 21:25 NIV

As a reader of stories, and a lover of words . . . and the Word . . . and the Logos, I bend in humble thanks to the Word-God for His gift of story and for His storytellers who weave their fantastic tales only from threads of truth. I pray that each of us would allow Him to mercifully shatter our old ideas of Him and leave us daily breathless, saying, 'But I never knew before. I never dreamed . . .'

How has God used stories to help you understand Him?
When was the last time God shattered your previous image of Him?
___________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Mondays
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!"


#716-730
716. The glint of morning sunlight off high school football helmets in pre-season practice
717. The missing that means LOVE!
718. Grapefruit-flavored water! www.truelemon.com 
719. One brave little green tomato growing . . . finally!
720. Remembering to do something I sometimes forget
721. Hero Husband & She So Sweet home from their trip
722. Being able to get rid of stuff no longer needed
723. The bottom of the box
724. Finally getting my new computer all arranged--perseverance pays off!
725. A high five from my doctor =)
726. The joy of being around high school kids while volunteering at school
727. Having a 15yo daughter  who will hug me and even walk hand-in-hand with me front of her friends!  Come to think of it, my 20yo son will too!!  What a blessed momma I am!
728. The Shack
729. Sticking with my commitment
730. The things they do without being asked

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

Monday, August 22, 2011

WWJD?

--

WWJD? 

Widely recognized initials symbolizing the question "What would Jesus do?" Many believers wear it on bracelets, carry it on Bible covers, put it on their key chains, anyplace that will frequently remind them to check their actions against what they think Jesus might do. It's a good question to ask ourselves.

Maybe there's another question.  Maybe there's more to it than knowing how Jesus might behave in a given situation.  Maybe that's the end and maybe there's a beginning I need to find first.

Maybe it's less about what Jesus would do and more about who Jesus IS.

Jesus, the great I Am who confined Himself to helpless infant.
Jesus, the King of kings breathing sawdust as a carpenter.
Jesus, the Christ wrapped in the frailty of human flesh.
Jesus, the Creator of all becoming the servant of all.
Jesus, the very Son of God choosing to call Himself the Son of Man.
Jesus, the sinless God-man crushed beneath the weight of all humanity's sin.
Jesus, the Righteous Judge pouring out rivers of mercy.

Humility
Servanthood
Reaching out to people
Sacrifice
Grace
Forgiveness

When He has gone to such lengths to make Himself known to me and to give me a way to understand more of God than I ever could without Him, how could I stop at merely wondering what He would do when there is so much of Him that I can know?

We will only begin know what Jesus would DO when we spend time knowing who He IS! Paul was simply profound when he wrote:

"I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified." 1 Corinthians 2:2 MSG

What do you know of Jesus that helps you know what to do?
___________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Mondays
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!"


#701-715
701. Flights that arrive early and curbside hugs hello!
702. Staying up until 3:00 in the morning hearing about Drummer Boy's trip even though we talked every day he was gone
703. Counting down the days 'til it's my turn to go!!
704. The enormously tall sunflowers at the house on the corner where the people always wave!
705. Birds splashing in the bird bath
706. Hero Husband's prayer for me that left me an encouraged and tearful mess--he's amazing!
707. Seeing both Hero Husband and She So Sweet SO excited about their father-daughter trip next week!! Soooo happy for them!
708. Hard work that feels productive
709. Parmesan Baked Tilapia with Honey Lemon Glazed Grilled Pineapple
710. My new keyboard and mouse that feel just perfect!!
711. A clean-swept garage floor
712. Rescuing a baby dinosaur--okay, so it was just a tiny brand new less-than-2-inch-long Western Fence Lizard (or Blue Belly), but I still say he was a baby dinosaur!  Cutest little guy!!!


713. The return of football--always ready for some!!!

714. Crepe myrtle trees in bloom everywhere
715. Receiving the gift of all the highlighted, marked up, note-filled Bibles that saw Franacious (she went home to heaven 03 March 2010) through a whole life of getting to know God--what a treasure.

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

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and joining Jen and her Sisterhood:


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

Friday, August 19, 2011

Young at Heart

--
I wish I had asked her name.

I was in a bit of a hurry, and really needed to find a parking space close to the front entrance of our Costco store so I could get in and out quickly. I spied a family of 4 and an elderly woman, each pushing their carts heading toward cars in the first bank of spaces, so I pulled into position to snag the first space available.



The elderly woman was closest to me and I watched as she moved item after item from her cart to the trunk of her car. She was small and slender, but there was nothing slight about her. She moved easily and efficiently, not even appearing to feel a strain when she picked up a box of assorted items out of the big basket. Finally everything was loaded into her car but one green box of Pale Ale she had put on the bottom of the cart. She looked around like she might like a little help with what was surely the heaviest item especially since it would need to be lifted from down so low.

With what appeared to be perfect timing, an athletic-looking, mid-40-ish guy in an expensive polo shirt, khaki shorts and mirrored sunglasses approached. She looked hopefully at him as he breezed right by, checking his watch and not bothering to notice the little lady with the big box who would have liked his help.

Before I even had turned my car off to get out to help her, the sprightly little woman gave him a mildly surprised look as though she wondered what had become of chivalry, and without a moment's hesitation or energy wasted on annoyance, she bent down and handily lifted that box and put it squarely in her car.

Just then, the family of four pulled out of their space and I pulled in. I got out and locked my car. Unable to resist the chance to talk to her, I went to ask if she'd like me to take her cart, which she was happy for me to do.

"I hope I'm as strong and capable as you are when I'm your age!" I said with an admiring smile.

I'm not sure she heard me clearly--I think she thought I asked her her age, so she said, "I'm 90."

I about fell over! I don't know how old I thought she looked, but I would NEVER have guessed 90!!

"90!!" I said.  "You're amazing! You had that box in your car so fast I couldn't even jump out to help you!"

"Oh no," she said, blushing sweetly as she waved off the compliment. She smiled at me and seemed rather pleased with herself in a quiet, humble sort of way. She got in her car and drove confidently out through the parking lot.

What a can-do attitude! What a picture of being young at heart! What an example for me!

Seeing her so fit and so able, so confident and good-natured in the way she approached her life and her age and other people, gave me such a shot of inspiration! These last few months I have dealt with several little pesky, nagging things that go along with aging, nothing awful, just irksome and and I have admittedly been frustrated by them. My "chance" (ha!) encounter in the Costco parking lot with someone who is aging so gracefully was such an encouragement to stay the course in my efforts to get healthy and in good shape. Here I am feeling all old and creaky when she must look at me like some young whippersnapper! If she can live like that at almost twice my age, surely I can get myself in a position to live like that now!! I come from a long line of long-livin' folks, and if I am blessed with anything close to their longevity, I want to do all I can to be living like that until Jesus comes or until He takes me home!!

One more thing--there would have been nothing wrong for this lady to ask someone for help. Sometimes it is absolutely the right thing to ask for help when you need it. But, coming from a different time (another time of economic challenges) when people relied on God, did for themselves, took care of their own, and looked for ways to help others less fortunate rather than looking for a handout from the government or anyone else for that matter, my little parking lot heroine showed her character in taking care of herself that day. Many people and politicians would do well to learn from her example. I have a feeling that her lifetime of hard work and doing what she has needed to do is an important factor in how healthy she is at what looks to be the wonderful age of 90 years young!!

"Gray hair is a crown of splendor;
   it is attained in the way of righteousness."


I may not know her name, but I shall not soon forget her.


How do you see the aging process and how does your faith affect your view?
What keeps you young at heart, no matter your age?
__________________________________

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

Monday, August 15, 2011

Who Paints the Morning Glorious

--

Three days after God called LIGHT out of nothing into the blank space of His new universe, He gathered a handful of it up and rolled it into a fiery, glowing orb and set earth whirling around it. From that day to this one, there has never failed to come a sunrise. We set our lives in whirling motion of our own every day, based consciously or unconsciously, on our confidence that another sunrise will come tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that . . .

Our faith in the next sunrise is not something we have to muster up, or exert effort and break a sweat to produce, or even think about most of the time. We have a good long track record to base our faith upon, we've never known the sun to sleep in or call in sick or go on vacation, so we trust that it will continue to be its faithful sunny self for as many bright tomorrows as God allows.

When it is so easy to have faith in something as finite and beyond our control as the sunrise, I wonder why we have such challenges with our faith in God?

Faith is a funny thing.  Christians and Christian writers talk about it all the time, we can quote Scriptures about it, we know it is the key to everything, but it is exactly at the point of our faith that we seem to have the biggest opportunities for disastrous failures . . . or dazzling successes!

Hebrews 11 has been called the "Faith Hall of Fame" chapter, and it, maybe more than any other passage, tells us so much about this essential, but sometimes mercurial thing called faith. This is an extremely well-known chapter, but bear with me, and resist the urge to think you've read it so often you already know everything it says. I'd like to specifically zoom in on two verses that I believe are connected in a way that will put a finely focused point on what faith believes in and what it does as a result. Faith may often be hard for us, but it is truly simple and uncomplicated at its core.

"Now faith is
the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen."
So does that mean that faith is the assurance of anything I hope for, any old conviction I have about what I don't see? That's how some people use this verse--they are hoping for a new car and they have a "conviction" that God wants them to have it, so they "claim" this verse, believing God for that new car.  Is that what the writer of Hebrews was saying? If you've read the rest of the chapter, I don't see how you can get there. As is always true of Scripture, context is EVERYthing! Let's look at one more verse to see what it tells us about "things hoped for" and "things not seen."

"And without faith it is impossible to please God,
because anyone who comes to him must believe
that he exists and
that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
This is the kind of faith verse 2 tells us "the ancients were commended for." I hope you will read the rest of the chapter and test my thinking, but I really believe there is a direct correlation between verse 1 and verse 6. Is it possible that the most fundamental thing "not seen" is "that He exists?" Could it be that the overarching "thing hoped for" is "that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him?" Clearly verse 1 is not limited in scope to these two aspects of faith, but when you boil it down, these two basics were the foundation for every leap of faith chronicled throughout the rest of the chapter. Every point of obedience, every person who believed the impossible, every step forward into untold peril, was possible, not because they had faith for a certain result, but because they had faith in the God who IS, and knew beyond knowing that He would reward them for putting Him first.

Is it really that simple? Is faith really so easy to grasp?

I believe it is. That is why even very young children can respond in real faith--they believe that God is real, and that He rewards those who want to know and love Him. Why do we "grown ups" make it so hard I wonder? Why do we act like trusting God is so complicated? Why do we struggle and waver when God has proven Himself faithful through just as many days as the sunrise has put in its appointed appearance? When we know Who it is that keeps our planet spinning on its axis and following the orbit He designed, when we know that each day's sunrise is called forth by His faithfulness, how then can we wonder if we can trust Him with our hearts and families and livelihoods and dreams?

If we can so blithely trust the sun to peek over the eastern horizon tomorrow morning,
SURELY we can put our faith in the God who paints the morning glorious with that very same sunrise.

Are there things of earth that you trust more than you trust God?
What, besides the sunrise, shows you the faithfulness of God?
___________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Mondays
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!"


#686-700 
686. No traffic on the way to the airport!
687. Feeling so confident in Drummer Boy as he leaves on a great Canadian vacation adventure
688. Waking up with a happier knee
689. Sun-dried tomatoes
690. Street Pitas with Hero Husband and She So Sweet
691. Fun phone call from Drummer Boy
692. Crickets chirping
693. Frogs that sing in the dark
694. The wild, lonesome yip and howl of coyotes (makes this country girl feel right at home!)
695. Cocoa Roast Almonds
696. Clean crisper drawers in the refrigerator, filled with vegetables
697. Making my little girl proud of me (she inspires me!!)
698. Words from Hero Husband that make my spirit soar!
699. Classical music
700. The anticipation of getting our Drummer Boy home again!

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
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and joining Jen and her Sisterhood:


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

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

View from the Sidelines

--

The lush, grassy expanse was fragrant and inviting under the not-too-hot August sunshine, just begging for bare feet to run and jump and play there. Games of catch with balls of various shapes and sizes ensued, played by people of even more varied shapes and sizes. After a huge family dinner to celebrate my mother-in-love's 70th birthday, everyone decided to try out the new volleyball net brought along to the resort where we were celebrating.

Oh the games people play, and the joy they get from playing them!

. . . at least some of them do . . . although I have rarely been one of them.

From as early as I can remember I have loved to
watch
 sports of all kinds.  Growing up the delighted daughter of a football and basketball coach, sports were as much a fixture in our everyday lives as the couch in our living room or the kitchen sink. They tell me I went to my first basketball game when I was two months old and by the time I started school I had spent untold happy hours at football fields, gymnasiums and in front of our black & white TV enjoying the wonderful, endlessly unpredictable drama of sport!

It was somewhere along the way in elementary school that I made a deeply disappointing discovery--I was NOT a natural athlete. All through school, what had previously been a pure love affair with sports was replaced with a new and unwelcome love-hate relationship. I still LOVED to watch, but I hated to play. I wanted to be as good at playing as I was at watching, and the truth was, I just wasn't. Maybe even more devastating than my appalling lack of athletic prowess, was the realization that I didn't have the strong internal competitive fire all great athletes have. Oh, I always hoped to win, but I didn't
HUNGER to win and while I never wanted to lose, if we did, it wasn't the end of the world. Ask any real athlete and they'll tell you they ALWAYS want to win, and they HATE to lose more than anything. I didn't have "it"--I didn't have what it took to be the kind of athlete I had always so admired, the kind I wished I could be.


All of that added up to a quiet dread and a painful knot in the pit of my stomach every time I was put in a position to play a game in PE. I couldn't stand the thought of seeing a fly ball coming my way and the pressure of trying to make a catch I could see beautifully in my head, but didn't have the skill to make in reality. The prospect of running a relay race and being too slow to help my team, knowing I would let them down was enough to put me into a cold sweat before the race had even begun. Heaven forbid that I have to take a buzzer beating shot to win the game--all I wanted was to get the ball out of my hands and let someone else be the hero or the goat! Seeing the disapproving looks when I cost my team a win was just about the worst thing I could think of.


Despite the anxiety, I did play volleyball in elementary school and junior high, and played one horrific and tear-soaked season of basketball as a painfully self-conscious 8th-grader, but that was about the extent of my career in team sports.


 . . .  as an athlete, that is . . .


Clearly I was not cut out to be on the court as a ball player, but I knew I didn't want to stay on the sidelines either, so I got involved as a scorekeeper. Now
THIS I was good at!! If there was one thing I knew, it was how to WATCH a basketball game! I had been keeping stats for my dad's teams since I was old enough to understand what was going on, so running the score sheet was right up my alley! I could even do it under pressure!! I was the head coach's "starting player" when it came to score keeping for the biggest games of the Valley Championship Tournament hosted at my high school my senior year. He knew my love for the game, and had confidence that I would get it right.  For me, it was like getting the nod to be the one to take the last second, must-make, 3-point shot that would win the game, only this time, I WANTED
the ball in my hands!!

. . . but I digress . . . pardon my reminiscing . . .

That was just a glimpse into the flood of thoughts that ran through my mind when my brother-in-law started organizing the volleyball game and said, "Shaunie, you're playing too!"

"No," I said, holding up (hiding behind) my camera, "I'm here to take the pictures!"

He's not really the type to take no for an answer, so he said I could sub in after I took some pictures.


I snapped away, happy to have a legitimate reason to stay on the sidelines, and secretly hoped no one would think to sub me in. As I watched and tried to capture the action, to capture the playful spirit that went with the good-natured ribbing, something unexpected snuck up on me . . . a desire to play. I actually started to WANT to leave the sidelines and be a part of the game. I argued back and forth with myself, but I finally got up enough courage to say it out loud, "Can I play?"

My contribution to the game was completely forgettable as volleyball goes, hampered as I was by a bum foot and just being so incredibly out of practice, but I did have one nice bump to set up a good return that was pure muscle memory from the practice I put in as a 13-year old.  That felt great! What felt even better was knowing that I didn't let the moment pass me by and I wouldn't have to live with the gnawing refrain of "I wish I had . . ." running through my head forever afterward. Instead, it's the feel of the ball lifting off my outstretched arms into gorgeous blue sky and not just the view from the sideline that I'll get to carry with me always.

"15
Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people),
    16Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.
    17Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is." Ephesians 5:15-17 AMP

Whether it is something as simple as a family volleyball game, or an opportunity to invest in eternal Kingdom glory, I want to be in the game! I want the ball in my hands!

I want so much more than a view from the sidelines!
Don't you?


Do you have regrets about things you wish you had done when you had the chance?
How about great memories or big successes when you seized the moment?
What opportunity is calling your name right now?
___________________________


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