Captured by Pam

words and images by pam wright

Category: Christianity (page 1 of 4)

Captured: Encountering a Dream Angel

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I have had encounters with angels. Several times. This is the story of one of those encounters.

Many years ago, I was just coming out of several years of heavy drinking that very nearly killed me. I was so very fragile emotionally, physically and spiritually. I started going to a 12-step program in Seoul, South Korea, where we were living at the time, and there I met a fellow alcoholic with more than 25 years of sobriety, who would have a great impact on my own recovery.

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Captured: Seeking (the Other) Mary at Christmas

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Be honest. How many of you, man or woman, found yourselves running around trying to finish last-minute preparations for Christmas, looking a whole lot more like Martha than Mary?

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Captured: Facing the Mirror of our Lives

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My daughter has this huge floor mirror that she received for Christmas a few years ago. I love that mirror because for some reason, whenever I check myself out in that mirror, I look really thin. Not going to lie, I like that.

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Captured: Discovering the Naomi Within

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There was a time not so long ago when I might have said the same heartbreaking words that Naomi utters in the Book of Ruth after losing her husband and sons in battle, which forced her to return to her homeland with her tail between her legs and her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth along for the sad trip home.

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Captured: Just Call Me ‘Caesar’

Francis Ware Wright, Jr. (right), better known as Caesar, with his lifelong friend, Bill Hoyer, on the waters of Lake Erie — the place where he once said he felt closest to God.

Francis Ware Wright, Jr. (right), better known as Caesar, with his lifelong friend, Bill Hoyer, on the waters of Lake Erie — the place where he once said he felt closest to God.

His name was Francis Ware Wright Jr., but he was better known as “Caesar.”

He was my dad.

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Captured: A Miraculous September Morn

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There is a day in my life that I will never forget.

I love South Korea very much. In a certain sense, it is my birth country because I left that county a very different person from the one who arrived. That time almost seems like a dream, a nightmare really.

When my family moved to Seoul in 1999, I was suffering from the final stages of alcoholism. My doctor later told me that had I continued drinking, I would have been dead within three months.

For many years, I was self-medicating to alleviate emotional pain, feelings of loneliness, despair and to forget some painful experiences that were no fault of my own.

That day in Korea started like so many before — waking in my my bed, bile rising in my throat, trembling from withdrawal, and trying desperately to get more alcohol into my system so I could me feel normal again.

That morning turned out to be very different, however.

I lay there watching the sparkly dust fairies in the sunlight streaming across my bed, mesmerized by the glow of the dust in the sunlight and the dance of each individual piece of sparkling dust.

Without warning, I heard the voice of God rise within me, telling me to move. It literally felt physical as I experienced a sudden revelation and conviction rise in my soul. I suddenly knew that if I didn’t do something immediately, I would die.

Fear gripped my heart as I got out of bed and dressed. I somehow managed to grab some money, get myself down the hill from our house, into a taxi and ask for a hospital.

It took an hour to get to the hospital and I thought I would die at any moment all the way there.

A few hours later, I found myself locked up in the mental ward of Samsung Hospital in Seoul. They didn’t know what to do with me. At the time, there was no such thing as a cushy rehab center for alcoholics in Korea, and the treatment of alcoholism and other addictions was still in the infancy stage.

I didn’t speak any Korean and none of the doctors seemed to speak much English. I was so scared. And let me tell you, withdrawal is as awful as you might imagine. It feels like you have bugs crawling under your skin, like you might die of fright, you can’t stop trembling. It’s just impossible to describe.

I was so sick and the pleasures of drinking had now turned on me. It wasn’t fun anymore. It never made me feel good, or cute or funny or anything but horrible. It was hell on earth. I think I understand a little bit of what hell is — what it feels like to be completely separated from God.

It is desolation.

They took everything from me and just locked me up. I had nothing but an IV in my arm and a gown on my back. I was terrified and I was completely alone. No friends. No family. My husband took my little boys to his family’s home in France and my three daughters were left home alone with the “adjumonie.”

The guilt and pain and fear was unbearable. I couldn’t stand the thought that my kids would have to tell their friends their mother had died an alcoholic, and I knew that’s exactly what would happen, and soon, if I didn’t do something. I thought I would die right there. And I sort of wanted to die right there.

My soul felt empty and my life worthless. I have never felt so powerless and lost and there were no more excuses. No where else to turn. No one to reach out to.

It was just me and God in that room. He held his hand out to me …

I fell off my bed right there in Samsung hospital, literally onto the cold floor, and gave it all to him. I gave up the fight of trying to control my life and my pain, and I surrendered. I begged him for help. I begged, begged and begged some more. It was the most heart-felt prayer I had ever offered. I was a broken, broken woman. And, although I have never felt more alone in the world, locked up in a Korean mental ward, I know Jesus was in that room holding out his hand to me, begging me to just hold out my own.

And I did. I held out my hand.

In answer to my pleading, God sent an angel in the face of a young, Korean man. Just a few moments after begging God to save my life so I could be the mother I longed to be for my children, the man walked into my room. He didn’t seem much older than a teen.

He walked in, placed a bible in my hands without saying a single word, bowed low, and and then walked out the door. I didn’t know who he was and I never saw him again.

There I was in a Korean mental ward with nothing but an IV in my arm, a hospital gown on my back — and now a Korean-English Bible in my hand. Needless to say, it was a powerful moment — a tender, precious moment.

I eventually came to believe he was the answer to my prayer. I believe the young, Korean man was an angel sent to answer my prayer.

That’s how grace and love resurrected my life and, eventually, that of my family. All I had to do was ask. Over the course of the next few months and years of healing, God comforted me, he held me and I never want to let go of his hand again.

I see my life in two halves — before God stepped into my life in a mental ward and after that memorable day. Life is really no easier now, and it can sometimes knock me upside the head. But, it’s an entirely different way of living.

I know that God is with me, even in the loneliest of times and through the greatest difficulties and moments of grief.

Before that September morning, when I awoke to the vision of dancing dust fairies in the streaming sunlight and the voice of God, I felt entirely left on my own. Since that day, I know I am never alone and I never have to feel that way again. I rely on that truth.

The resurrected life has far-reaching consequences of its own.

Ever since that day in Seoul, I’ve prayed relentlessly to see a change in my family’s legacy of dysfunction and addiction. I prayed for years that my children would learn about a different life than the one I knew before that day in Seoul — a resurrected life, a life for God.

I am seeing those prayers being answered each and every day, and I watch my children — and their children — live out their lives centered in Christ.

It’s miraculous.

Captured: Gazing Into Eternal Eyes

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A photo recently taken of my 17-month-old grandson, Riley, and his paternal great-grandfather moved me from the moment I first saw it.

There are just some photos that say so much, that convey a thousand words and elicit deep, deep thought.

The moment captured between the two in the photo is even more poignant today because Riley’s “PopPop,” John Loux, died last week, a little more than a month after the photo was taken.

I can stare at the photo for hours, pondering the gaze between the little boy just beginning his journey here on earth and that of the old man, who was about to walk through the door from this life into eternity.

What are they saying to each other in that gaze? What wisdom is PopPop wanting to impart to his grandson? What questions does Riley have for the man who had lived in this world for nearly a century?

Riley seems so intent on his great-grandfather’s face in the photo. Perhaps it’s John’s striking Colonel Sanders beard that attracts the young lad or perhaps it’s just seeing an aging gentleman. After all, Riley doesn’t come across many people of that age as he goes about his day-to-day existence of being a toddler.

I don’t think that’s it, though.

I think Riley sees something powerful and intriguing about the man with the weathered face, hinting at a life that knew joy and heartbreak, fear and pain; a life marked by his love for God, his servant’s heart and his absolute devotion to family.

Perhaps Riley could somehow grasp that this man had something important to share with him through that gaze.

Perhaps he longed to know the secrets of his PopPop’s long life.

John’s own gaze into the eyes of his grandson is just as precious, and I can only imagine what he was thinking in that moment.

Riley’s grandmother and John’s daughter, Bonnie Temple, was the one who snapped the photo and later told me that John was not doing well that morning.

John had been living with the Temples for several months after the death of his wife.

That morning, John had slept in very late and woke to the sounds of Riley playing in the living room. As John emerged from his bedroom, little Riley toddled towards his PopPop, arms raised for him to be picked up. Bonnie said her father reached down to gingerly pick up Riley and sit him down with him on his favorite chair.

Bonnie was concerned that her father, whose health was fast deteriorating, wasn’t strong enough to lift Riley, but was touched to see a sudden burst of energy empower her father enough for that moment with his grandson.

I think God wanted Riley and John to share that moment together, knowing that he would very soon be calling John home.

My musings take me to the words exchanged through that gaze.

“PopPop, tell me,” says Riley through his eyes. “What can I expect of this life? What should I do? What will it be like?”

“My little Riley — first of all, know that you are beloved,” John responds. “Life is a magnificent journey full of adventure, difficulties and uncertainty. Life will be replete with challenges, of that you can be certain. Sometimes you will be unable to make heads or tails of which way to turn, what decision to make and how to navigate the ups and downs of life.

“But, if there’s one thing I can tell you, it is this …

“Cling to God.

“Cling to him through the good, through the hard … no matter what comes your way, cling to him and you will live a wonderful, abundant life. You may not have a dime to your name at times, you may be ill, you may have concerns and experience the unfathomable pain of loss and heartbreak, but through it all, you will have an abundant life and you will know joy.

“Never forget, my boy, what was done on your behalf and take this knowledge into account in every decision you ever make, especially when it comes to people. Love like you have been loved, and take care of the people God brings into your life.

“Be kind. Be generous. Love well.

“And don’t worry. I can tell you — from this vantage point of having lived a long time and through so much change — that all will be well. God will remain faithful to you and yours, and there is nothing that you won’t be able to conquer with God in your heart and mind.

“I’ll be going soon, beloved boy, but Jesus and I will be waiting for you. You didn’t get to hear all of the memories I’ve made and cherished, but when we meet again, I’ll tell you all about this wonderful life I’ve had. I’ll be watching over you, little one. Be good. Listen to your mommy, daddy, nana and papa … they will teach to you what I taught to them. I love you, buddy.”

Bonnie told me that John grew up in a home that did not allow dancing because of their religious beliefs. She said the first time she ever saw him dance was at her wedding.

Perhaps that is why John’s eyes lit up every time Riley danced about with abandon and pure joy.

Today, John is dancing and singing with the angels, surely with his own complete abandon and purest joy.

I believe he was greeted by Jesus and the people he loved who had gone before. I know Jesus said, “I am pleased, John. You did well, my wonderful son … welcome home.”

And I imagine John took a bit of time to share with all of them the memories he had made and cherished. I imagine, too, that he thanked Jesus for his love and protection, and for precious moments he was able to enjoy with his family here on earth.

I’d bet John’s eyes lit up at encountering the sights of heaven in the same way they lit up when he looked at Riley performing his toddler antics.

And I marvel at what John must have felt at that instant when he gazed into true eternal eyes — into the absolute, unimaginable love found in his savior’s eyes.

I’d bet he thought of Riley and about the moment he shared with his great-grandson not long before his death — that captured moment when the old man and the little boy, separated by nearly a century, gazed — for just a brief, everlasting instant — into eternity.

Captured: Aftermath

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No one goes through a time of trial and heartbreak without being changed…

…and I’m no different.

The past months have been difficult, beyond difficult, and now that I’m on the flip-side of pain, I can take a moment and look back at that time and look towards the future with new insight.

Some of the insights are wonderful.

I’ve learned that I am resilient, that I overcome obstacles and that nothing can destroy me completely. I’ve learned that I am loved, that I have God-given gifts and talents, and that the only voice I really need ever listen to is God’s, because no one knows me like he.

I’ve learned to be content within the moment. I’ve learned to appreciate those I love and who love me, and to stop what I’m doing to spend a moment basking in the love of family and friends.

I’ve learned just how blessed I am and that I don’t need a significant other to be complete… something that has taken me my whole life to figure out. I am happy just being…

I’ve learned that it’s not when or if, but here and now… this moment is all I will ever need to be happy.

Being without a job and home for these months taught me to be humble, to rely on others when I prided myself on being self-sufficient, and to give God control of my life.

I’m grateful that, despite the stress, I always knew that God had me… that I would be alright. My faith and hope got me through, and got me through far better than I ever imagined or anticipated.

Yes, there are some changes that bother me.

I’ve lost trust in people, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or if it’s just temporary. I have given my heart so completely in the past and I’ve been burned. I always used to cherish that part of me… that I could trust and love so quickly without ‘guarding my heart’ as so many warned me against.

I don’t really want to trust so readily anymore and I want to guard my heart above all. Yes, I want to love others, but I don’t want to lay my life into anyone’s hands but God’s. That is where disappointments lay and where hurt resides. I put too much faith in others when they are only doing the best they can.

We are all doing the best we can and we fall so, so short.

I know that I can trust God completely and that’s it. Oftentimes I’m hurt by those who don’t mean to hurt me, but as part of the human experience, we just hurt each other. I hurt people… they hurt me. It’s a sad part of living in this fallen world.

So, yes I am changed.

I am happier just being…

I am excited for the future…

I have learned to guard my heart…

I have learned to relax and let God do his thing… because when I do, he provides wonderful, unexpected surprises!!

I love my new career and community…

I am loved and cherished…

Yep, It’s all good!

Captured: Grief-tide

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I have been through many seasons of grief. I’ve grieved over the death of loved ones, over the end of relationships, and over the end to a way of life. Grief happens whenever we lose something that is dear to us. The degree to which I suffer varies, but it is never a pleasant experience, and, well, grief is grief. Like the tide, we cannot control grief… it ebbs and flows of it’s own accord.

I lived in France for many years, and there, the tide is called La marée … we spent our summers at a house in Le Moulleau, near Arcachon. I remember that the tide would be greater or smaller depending on the moon. When the moon was full, especially at the spring and autumn equinox, they called it La grande marée … this is the time when the tide was said to rise as fast as a galloping horse at Mt. St. Michel. Where we stayed further south, the tide would be so great that the entire beach would be engulfed with water at high tide.

I find that my grief is like the tide … sometimes it’s like la grande marée and my whole soul seems to be consumed by my grief. There are days that ebb, when I feel like my old self, full of confidence and hope; then there are days that flow, when I have difficulty even breathing. I even find that sometimes I’m caught in a riptide, unable to find my way back to shore.

I’m in a season of grief now and it has been a true grande marée. But, it has taught me much. I find that I don’t always handle grief well. I tend to try to control my grief by doing things …

… going for a run

… taking a drive

… watching endless amounts of television

… eating ridiculous amounts of junk food

… lashing out at those around me

Rather than allow the sorrow to come…. I’ll do whatever to forget about the pain for a bit.

What God has been teaching me through this particular season of grief is that if I try to control my grief, I only make things worse. Instead of handing over my grief to God and allowing myself to grieve in his care, I tend to react poorly, trying to control my circumstances. I so want to be that happy, everything-is-fine person that I stuff it down, deep down, until the moment it erupts. And these past few weeks, I fell into the same old patterns and the truly ugly in me emerged. I’ve hated myself for the way I’ve reacted and it hurts even more to realize that I’m capable of being the person I really just don’t want to be.

God has been whispering to me that the only way to heal is to offer forgiveness, to others and to myself, and to make amends when I react poorly. By reacting in anger, hurt and bitterness, I’m only prolonging the pain. God is asking me to allow him to control my grief, to fall into his arms, and to accept grief for what it is … a time to mourn what is lost, to seek his face, to be changed by what is revealed in me, and to heal.

I don’t like the pain and other negative emotions that have rippled through my days of late, but I am full of gratitude, as well. God has been revealing things in me that need to change; things that I can offer up to him for his refinement. I’m grateful because I do want to change, to be more ‘Christ-like’ in my relationships… with Jesus, with the people God has placed in my life, and with myself.

In grief-tide, it seems that the best thing to do is relax, surrender to the ebb and flow, and trust in the healing waters of Jesus’ love, comfort and forgiveness.

Captured: Just Some (deep) Thoughts…

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God and I have been in deep, deep in discussion over the past few months… He has been revealing so much to me through His word, prayer, music, nature, books, and through sermons. I say ‘revealing’ because I’m realizing that God does not teach us anything, it is revealed because being ‘created in His image’ means that truth is already a part of our being, but has been ‘hidden’ from us because of sin. That’s why most people are born with a sense  of justice, why we love , and why we are appalled by violence and hate. We WERE ALL created in the image of God with all of His/Their (Father, Son and Spirit) qualities. But we turned from it and the full glory of who and what we were created to be is gone. What is left is so evil, we can’t even be in the presence of our good and sovereign God apart from Jesus

There is one particular series of sermons that has made a great impact on me … the ‘Doctrine Series’ by Mark Driscoll. He really helped me to understand the concept of what being ‘created in the image of God’ means and its implications for our lives today. As image bearers of God, we were meant to live in a ‘shalom’ relationship in 4 areas: with God, with others, with the environment and with our selves. But, because of the fall, all those relationships were severed.

We suffer greatly from our separation from God and many don’t even realize that this is why they suffer.  Most of our relationships with friends, peers and family are accompanied by problems and misunderstanding and often times, with heartbreak, bitterness and pain. When God made Eve from Adam’s rib, he sang about the joy of having Eve by his side… but when Eve sinned because of the lie she believed… that God was holding something, some pleasure from her – which is why we all, still to this day, try to control our lives rather than trust and rely on God with the leading and direction of our lives. Because of Eve’s sin, Adam immediately assumed the posture of a victim and pointed his finger first at Eve, then at God for giving her to him in the first place. Many of us are very guilty of blaming others for all the hardships, sin and pain in our lives, instead of accepting responsibility for our sin. They are ours and ours alone.

Instead of the Garden of Eden, we now live in an environment where people starve, there are tsunamis, accidents happen, tornadoes wreck havoc, and pollution destroys any semblance of the beauty God created in nature.

And above all, we suffer because of the glorification of very selves… we have come to worship the created rather than the creator. Instead of loving God and loving others like God has always loved us, we create idols of ourselves. Our desire now is to glorify ourselves rather than to glorify the image of God in us.

We talk a lot about hypocrisy. I agree that hypocrisy is a particularly painful sin for the person who continues to do the things that brings anything but glory and honor to God, as well as to those around him or her.  At the same time, I’m finding that discussions on hypocrisy are futile because there is not a single person who is not a hypocrite, myself included. I was shown this in a very powerful way this summer when God revealed my own sin like never before. I was shown that every thought, every emotion, every gesture ultimately was about myself, no matter what I did. I realized that I was guilty of spiritual pride… I thought that God had done so much in my life and I was free from so many of the bigger, more obvious sins like my alcoholism. And He has done so much and my life has changed dramatically. I am so very grateful. But I realize, too, that God has only barely touched the surface of my sins. I understand that my sin is deep and all pervasive. This is what the fall has done to all of us. One sin isn’t greater than another… sin is sin. Whether one of us drowns our sorrows in drugs or alcohol, or spending, or porn, or whether we stay at home and glorify ourselves for being so ‘good’’, we are all guilty. When we get disappointed in ourselves or shamed by ourselves or proud of ourselves, it’s because we love ourselves so much. And I agree, guilt is a good thing if it turns us towards God, but it becomes a sin if we turn from God in shame because of it. So many feel like we’re not good enough to be with God… we think we have to wait until we become good… until our behavior is such that God will love us again. That’s so false. God does love us. He just wants us in relationship AT ALL TIMES. And we must remember that God’s unfailing love and Jesus’ gift of salvation is absolutely not a free ticket to sin… we are held even more accountable to our sin because this truth has been revealed to us… that’s why the gift of the Holy Spirit’s conviction can be so painful at times.

When faced this summer with the extent to which I sin on a daily basis, I was heartbroken and began to feel like it was hopeless… how could I contain my thoughts, my actions… how could I begin to love God, the environment and others more than myself? How could I find shalom in all the areas of relationship that God intended for us?? I saw it as insurmountable.

In the weeks since, I have been realizing that I was right… it IS insurmountable of my own devices. I cannot change my heart or my behavior. But, I can give it up to God to do that work in me. Only God can ENABLE me to love in that way, by the power of the Holy Spirit. I am coming to realize that I really do need to let go and let God have everything that is ‘me’… from every thought, every desire, every emotion… everything. My desires MUST be God’s desires. It’s not just the big, obvious sins that I must relinquish. No, I need to relinquish and surrender my very life. The words, ‘my life is not my own’ is becoming very real to me… slowly but surely.

In a sermon about God’s Image, Mark Driscoll referred to something Calvin said about how we are like a mirror intended to reflect the image of God… but that, with sin, the mirror is broken, reflecting a distorted image of God. And that it is only through Jesus that we are able to reflect a more genuine reflection because He Himself is the image of God. I love that.

Our reason for living, our reason for doing anything really is to love others more than self, as Jesus did, and to reflect Jesus. Apart from that, life is wrought with pain, and futility and is entirely unfulfilling.  I had a friend who always used to say, ‘we are here for a purpose, with purpose.’ He’s so right. And our purpose truly is to reflect… to each other, to our friends, our families, and to our foes … a clear image of God, though Jesus Christ.

As we give our lives over to God, as we study His word and as we come to love Him more each day, He enables us to love like He loves us, which, in turn, affects our behavior. We tend to try to control our behavior, which, in my case often leads to a loss of control… in my actions, in my words, in my thoughts… Instead, we should allow God to work in us, returning the broken shards of our broken mirror into one of clarity and perfection. He alone gives us the capacity to love outside of ourselves. If we allow Him in, He fills us with love, which then overflows to those around us. But, we must, at all times, stay close… without being close to Him through prayer, worship, study and fellowship, we are not ‘softened’ enough to allow Him in to make the change in us.

We are responsible for this… it doesn’t just happen. It is a RELATIONSHIP… a relationship cannot happen without communication, discussion, love and caring… we must engage in the relationship in order to be changed!! And one of the more wonderful benefits that I am coming to appreciate and enjoy is that it makes the hard parts of life so much easier to bear… because, every once in a while, there is less of me and more of Him. And in those moments, when my heart is breaking, God finds a way to express His comfort and love and grace to me, and I am filled with hope and awe and wonder and joy. It’s a very different experience from the days when my relationship with God was pretty much non-existent…

I really believe our joy is rooted, not in the job or the spouse or the children we have or the ‘good works’ we accomplish, although these are blessings that God provides and loves to offer… he does love to give us presents… but real joy lies in our willingness to mirror Jesus, to be in relationship with God and to love others more than self.

Nothing else can even touch that!

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