Monthly Archives: May 2014

Caught in a Kodak moment without a camera

Memorial Day Weekend 2014

Six of us were sailing yesterday. It was a beautiful day with steady wind and large swells. Fast enough to be fun, yet very relaxing after a long and busy weekend.

Suddenly we were in the middle of a HUGE school of dolphin. Riding the waves, playing in our wake, slapping their tails and even jumping clear out of the water. We had a front row Sea World experience without any trainers involved! At times we could have almost touched them — and this lasted for about an hour. It was magnificent.

Where are the pictures to  post on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram (none of the photos on this post were taken yesterday)? We have none. Not one of us had a phone or a camera. We briefly lamented that this would have been a perfect Go Pro moment, but then we simply enjoyed the dolphin — without the distraction of missing the perfect shot. It was absolutely delightful! We were all exclaiming, applauding and laughing. Truly a memorable time.

Dolphin at Alligator Point
Dolphin at Alligator Point

I love photographing special moments, and I love having beautiful pictures… to help my failing memory and to”share” with others. But yesterday I was reminded of what I used to know intuitively: the value of fully living in a special moment — with no regard for the Kodak capture. Just remembering the moment as I experienced it with others, and with all my senses.

The day before this, we were kayaking in the midst of scores of sea turtles. The normally timid creatures were popping up like popcorn. Mostly they ducked under as soon as they noticed us. But a few seemed as curious about us as we were about them — and floated at the surface a while.  It’s a good day when we see one sea turtle… over Memorial Day weekend, we saw about 40! All swimming, all wild, all without a camera nearby. Again — we were forced to be fully present enjoying the beauty of all God’s canvas, without the distraction of photography.

Eze, France

In no way am I demonizing photography. I have scrapbooks, multiple cameras and love capturing life through a lens. Photos are great, but memories can be totally awesome too!  I’m glad the fear of wet electronics left me cameraless for these special times with the dolphin and sea turtles.

Dallas Willard said, “Everything God does displays the inexhaustible creativity and extravagant generosity of the One who invites and empowers us to imitate him. Creative people long to be more like Father!”

I have a few very creative photographer friends. I appreciate their dedication to their craft and art immensely — whether they take photos of every day life, weddings, portraits, nature, journalism…  all are good and meaningful representations of God and His work through them. A picture does speak a thousand words. I like to think the same happens in me sometimes, when I create enduring art with my paint brush or a camera.

IMG_4169But there’s an ambivalence in me that I think is worthy of my attention.  I’m not always into tons of pictures  — because I have a tendency to let them take over and recreate my memories of very special moments — especially the ones that have a lot of emotion attached to them. Times like weddings, family gatherings, baby’s firsts… I like a few snap shots (at rare times, a video), but I don’t want to miss the real thing because of my compulsion to have the moment immortalized. Nor do I want my memory — created with my heart, mind, spirit and all 5 senses — to be faded to resemble a photo.

storm at sunset — Alligator Point, FL

In fact, the times when I have taken the most pictures, have been more documentary in nature. On safari in Africa (over 1600 pictures on 35 mm film), traveling alone in Italy (3 boxes of developed photos) — my camera was my friend. I was capturing all I was seeing, so that I could later share that special experience with someone.

Significantly, I was not fully sharing portions of these trips emotionally, and my pictures were in a way, an attempt toward that in the future. Not a bad idea, but in making my camera primary, did I possibly miss an opportunity to share these experiences more deeply with God? To know and understand Him better? I think so.

IMG_0930I purposely have an iphone and a camera with me almost all the time — you never know when will be a perfect photo op, right?

I think maybe God gently nudged me this weekend. I’ll still love taking pictures. But more often,  I want to mix in times where I am intentionally and fully present with God, just enjoying Life with Him (even if He offers an amazing kodak moment). I’ve slipped a little too far toward seeing the value in the captured and electronically shared moment, rather than the gift and the Giver.

Times like we had with the dolphin take on an added significance. They are moments to watch the Creator’s hand — His artistry — and to be with Him and His creation (human and otherwise). He showed us His love and His presence in His creation.  He gave us a thrilling shared experience. “We’re never nearer Christ than when we’re lost in a holy amazement at His unspeakable love.” John Owen  “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. The essence of faith is being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus.” – John Piper

jet lagged — in front of the Eiffel Tower

A couple of Bible verses pop into my mind…

Romans 12:2 which God is continuously placing on my heart lately: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

And Jeremiah 9:23-24 “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.’”

cool door handle in Islamorada

I’m committed to spending a little more time knowing God and boasting in Him in the midst of my many kodak moments, before I grab my camera to capture and share the moment, through photos,  with others. And I’m trusting Him that I’ll still have a lot of opportunity to capture Life through my lens for posterity!

Another treasured time:  More of our family were gathered on the porch on Sunday than usually get together… thank goodness someone thought of snapping a photo! 😉









Cheap is a popular word!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt seems we’re all looking for something cheap. We all like a good deal. When I googled the word “cheap,” I got 396 million results in .32 seconds. Cheap shoes, cheap flights, cheap restaurants, cheap hotels, cheap cars, cheap gas, cheap cell phones, cheap art… the list is endless.

Since I wrote my last blog post, Cheap Forgiveness, I have gotten over 300 comments (and rapidly increasing) — mostly from those pesky robots selling cheap knock offs of the designer labels. Whether we’re selling or buying it seems like there’s a lot of cheap stuff available in life.

It occurred to me that sometimes we all settle for less than the real thing — in order to have what we want in the moment? We try to meet our own “needs,” we look for cheap imitations of God’s gifts of love, peace, abundance and joy.

We are sojourners here on earth. Heaven is our home, and we’re all equipped with a desire and a hunger for all God and His kingdom are. We wonder at our purpose and the afterlife. We search for meaning and significance. We question violence, pain and illness. We aren’t quite okay with how things are on earth, because we were made for something more!

FSU – National Champs 2014!

Consider the familiar story of The Prodigal Son found in Luke 15:11-32 — with a little poetic license. The younger son was spoiled rotten. He had it all, but it wasn’t enough. (‘It’ never is, is it?) He didn’t want to be a part of his father’s household. He wanted independence! To live life his way, so he took early payment on the inheritance he felt entitled to and ran. He lived it up on the “best” the world could offer him — and wasted everything. He was broke and living in a pigpen.

He tried to make the pigpen a home. He threw a blanket on the straw and called it a bed. Ketchup on the slop and called it dinner. Possibly even lipstick on a sow and called her sweetie, but as the old saying goes, lipstick on a pig doesn’t change the truth.

Miami Boat and yacht Show

We do our best to create the “good life” in the here and now. Fancy cars, homes, and trips. Nothing is too much and nothing is quite enough. We need better. We need more. More money, better clothes, more customers, better grades, more memberships, better schools, more friends… finish the thought with whatever you and your family are focused on or hoping for. Many of these are good things that God intends for us to enjoy. But are they Life?

Some people seem to grab on to Jesus early, and focus on Him. Others are more like the prodigal’s older brother (another story altogether). I think I’ve resembled both sons at different times of my life. Definitely, even as a Christian,  I have tried to find and enjoy life my way at times.

Eventually, we realize the next achievement, the next good time or big toy is always a little further down the road, and we aren’t satisfied. We are forced to choose.  Either we pretend the life we’ve created is wonderful; that it’s all we want and need — or we can swallow our pride, turn our backs on the pigpens we’ve called home, and humbly return to the Father for Life, like the prodigal son.

photo-99This is always Jesus’ desire and invitation to us! “Seek first the King’s (God’s) plan: At the right time He will bring everything together under the authority of Christ — everything in heaven and on earth.” (Ephesians 1:10) It’s all a matter of primary focus.

We are on a  wonderful, adventurous journey! God wants us to experience joy along the way, but the destination is our goal.  We must keep it in sight. If all we care about is our comfort and the quality of our travel, the route we will take, who we will sit by,  and will it be in first class… If our focus is what it will take to pay our way? Where will we go next and what can we buy along the way … we will be settling for way less satisfaction that God intended.

Our hearts tell us that we were made for more. That the good life is somewhere else. We may not know exactly where we are going, but we know the journey is not our home. “God… has planted eternity in the human heart.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Life on earth is just the beginning!

IMG_4701I am turning 50 soon. To some that sounds ancient. Others think wistfully back to 50 as young. I’m wanting to age gracefully and say today is the best day of my life!  Somedays it’s true… others, not so much!  No matter where we are chronologically in our journey — youthful and idealistic, in the midlife sandwich generation, in our golden years, or even prematurely  facing death — it is tempting to look back and believe our best years are behind us. Worse yet, we can look back with regrets, feeling we squandered opportunities on worldly pursuits — trying to comfort ourselves and provide for our own life apart from God.

IMG_5919In the words of Max Lacado, “Hogwash! You will do your best work in heaven. Do you regret wasting seasons of life on foolish pursuits? So do I. But we can stop our laments. We have an eternity to make up for lost time. Are you puzzled by the challenges of your days? Then see yourself as a jewel and God as a lapidary. He is polishing you for your place in his kingdom. Your biggest moments lie ahead, on the other side of the grave. ” I love this quote, especially as I consider the very strange possibility that at least half my life on earth is behind me.

IMG_3008So what does it all mean for NOW? “Seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1) That means we obsess about God and His Kingdom. Keep Him in mind all the time. He is with us. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy the tangible and intangible gifts of this life. The people, the places, and whatever God blesses us with. But first and foremost remember God. It’s all about Him. Knowing HIm. Loving Him.  His plans and desires for us should be our own.

“I have called you friends.” (John 15:15) Knowing Jesus is life’s greatest joy and greatest achievement. Keeping Heaven in sight means giving Jesus our attention first, as our first love. He becomes more and more real as we spend time with Him.

Costa Rica

Sometimes we say we don’t have time for prayer or Bible Study. But what is so pressing? Isn’t it the things of the world that we are putting ahead of Jesus? Seeking God through prayer, if you think about it, is the biggest time SAVER in the world! How much is squandered by chasing and building our own pigpens, instead of knowing, loving and listening to the Creator — the One who will soon welcome us home — no matter where we are in life’s journey.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJohn 14 1-7 (MSG)   1-4 “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”

Thomas said, “Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?”

6-7 Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”









Cheap Forgiveness

IMG_3427I’ve always tried to quickly forgive those who wronged me. It’s in my own best interest and it’s what we do as Christians, right? But why do I sometimes not experience the freedom of forgiving — of letting go and letting God? Why does my resentment seep out and why do I still feel a need to explain it all at times?

I was taught that hanging on to grudges, anger and resentment only hurt me — not the one who did the wrong. And that unforgiveness is like a “cancer” that could grow inside me… who wants that? It all made sense, so I quickly forgave wrongs.  If I struggled with unforgiveness at all, I reminded myself of Romans 12:19, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:’It’s mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

I more or less said, “I forgive ___ for all he/ she has done.” And told God.  I didn’t have to tell the person, if it didn’t seem appropriate. After all, the bad guys don’t always agree that they have wronged us, or worse, they don’t always care. Forgiveness is between God and me. I could just tell Him that I had forgiven someone, and move on, hopefully feeling lighter and free. But that wasn’t always the case.

IMG_3535I don’t think this was necessarily wrong or untrue.  I was more than willing to disregard offenses, but my understanding of forgiveness was very limited.  Now God is beginning to teach me that forgiveness is a process I can enter into WITH Him. I can forgive myself or others from my privileged relationship with the author of forgiveness, and that’s  when the power and blessings really flourish.

Just after my divorce was final, someone challenged my definition of forgiveness. He said quick forgiveness can be cheap forgiveness. That to truly forgive,  I still needed to balance the ledger — to count all the costs. I thought I had left behind examining all the past unpleasantness, and I was more than ready to move on! So I was sad and frustrated to admit the counselor was making sense to me. How could I have really forgiven that which I hadn’t fully acknowledged or even named?

rural South Georgia

I started the process anew… God’s goal in the life of believers is to conform us to the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ. There is nothing more basic to our relationship with Jesus than His forgiveness, and His wasn’t cheap. One way we can look like Christ is to practice forgiving others. It follows that as His children we will be given ample challenges on this earth to forgive. In our ups and downs, through our own mistakes,  trials and wrongs done to us, all of us are given a lifetime to walk with Jesus and do the hard work of forgiveness.

This process of forgiveness with God is not quick, and often not that easy, but from my fledgling attempts, I’ve found it to be so worth the effort! Perhaps you have something you’ve tried to get beyond, but it feels like your forgiveness isn’t complete? While there’s not a precise formula for forgiving prayer, I have found a few Biblical examples to add to the original basics I learned. Combined they help me to get real with myself, with God, and to truly trust Him with transgressions.

IMG_3568First, the basics from Sunday School:

It’s true, some offenses feel unforgivable. Forgiving might not make us “whole” again. But unforgiveness guarantees we won’t be okay. Forgiveness is for our own good, and not for the ones who hurt us. Beth Moore says it this way,” God is faithful. He will plead our case and take up our cause… but only when we make a deliberate decision to cease representing ourselves in the matter.” We forgive WITH God.

Forgiveness means to send away or let go from oneself. It is the continual act of agreeing with God in a matter, and offering others the same mercy He gave us. It’s active surrender of the situation, the repercussions, and the offender to Him. Sometimes we need to recommit to forgiveness daily. We forgive TO God.

There are two important steps I’ve been missing: Pray ABOUT and FOR the person you need to forgive. The purpose of both prayers is to change our own hearts — to align them with His. To the point of my counselor many years ago, we need to pray about the person who hurt us before we can pray for them with sincerity and a pure heart — only then can we feel the full freedom of forgiveness.

IMG_3533Praying about a situation is basically tattling on them to God (instead of the toxic venting to numerous others our flesh seems to enjoy). Tell Him about all the things someone did to you, and all the ways you were hurt as a result.  Tell Him how upset you are and how unfairly you have been treated. Psalm 62:8 says “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is your refuge.”

David, a man after God’s own heart, told God about those who had offended him in emotional verses such as these:

  • Psalm 5:9 “Not a word from their mouths can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction”
  • Psalm 17:10-11.13 “They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance. They have tracked me down and now throw me to the ground… Rise up, O Lord, confront them, bring them down, rescue me.”

David vents his anger and you can almost hear whining as he voices his requests to God in prayer. He is real and doesn’t hold back. We are encouraged to do the same — to bring our authentic complaints and feelings to God. We need to pour out the confusion, anger, hurt, despair, bitterness, doubt and all the foulness we feel about the situation to God, so He can in turn fill us with Himself.

IMG_3275Some people best pour their hearts out verbally while alone, others in counseling,  journal entries, or forgiveness worksheets. There are many ways to pour out your heart to God, and all are acceptable as long as you are honest and thorough.  God knows everything already. What He’s teaching me is to allow Him do His work in me during the process of my confessing feelings and thoughts. Sometimes He listens quietly, and other times He helps me to see where my perspective may be skewed on an issue. God wants us to be real from the depths of our hearts, regardless of where we are.

When I’m willing to empty my whole heart to God (whatever it contains), I am giving Him my pain and hurt, so that it doesn’t turn to bitterness. In pouring out my thoughts to God, I’m forced to examine myself, and give Him the opportunity to correct me where I’m wrong. He transforms and fills me as I allow. I’m certainly not a master of forgiveness to freedom… but I’ve tasted a little of it, and I know I want more.

IMG_0241Thankfully, the Bible is full of great role models. Job is another example of a man in the depths of bad circumstances and raw emotions, who empties himself before God. Like David, Job’s complaints were not watered down, but were acceptable to God because he loved God with honor and reverence. Moses and Abraham, also friends of God, felt they could trust God with their honest laments and questions, even when they were mad at God. They were humble and trusting as they honestly shared their pain.

Like these men in the Bible, I know I’ve been mad at God Himself. “God you could have saved a life — stopped the divorce — prevented financial pain… with a glance or a whisper my way. Why didn’t you?” While I never had the right to be mad at God, He understands, and He can handle my anger. He welcomes us to bring our reality to Him, so He can minister to our hearts and minds. If we don’t start where we REALLY are, how can God move us to a place of truth and forgiveness — to remembering God’s faithfulness, goodness and love for us?

Highlands, NC

If you are struggling, as I do,  in being so blatantly honest with God, search the Psalms for countless examples to encourage you. Then continue pouring out all you hurts, tattle tell on your offenders, show God your wounds and their repercussions. Don’t stop until you feel the bitterness waning and God’s love filling the emptiness you have created. Trust and gratitude will be our signs that we are ready for the next step.

Pray for the person you need to forgive. I have often tried praying for my enemies… but my prayers “for” the forgiven lacked sincerity of heart and quickly slipped into the “talk about the offender to God” stage that I had skipped!  In this new process, God is teaching me not to rush through forgiveness. With God’s help, I hope to more supernaturally shift to praying FOR my offenders. I believe when I have given God all responsibility for handling my pain and burdens, He will be faithful to transform my mind, and fill me with gratitude, love and mercy.

IMG_5927Peter 3:9 says “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called, so that you may inherit a blessing.” Why should we forgive and pray for our offenders? Because it’s God’s way. And the way of our natural flesh — the way that feels right to me when I’m mad or hurt — gains us nothing but trouble. God created our hearts. He is in control and knows what we need to heal and prosper. And through Jesus’ work on the cross, He provided the greatest act of forgiveness ever.  Matthew 6:14-15 says “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before… The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.” (Job 42:10,12) Whatever forms our blessings come in, God will do the same for us when we are willing to forgive His way.

There’s a current situation in my life where I feel my forgiveness has been too quick. Too cheap. Done with too much independence.  I’m committed to continuing to practice forgiveness with God and to God. To doing the hard things He desires. To thinking as He does. To learning to pray for my offender in a way that feels sincere — and trusting and believing that God will bless me in it all.

Mark 11:25    “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. ”

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