Captured by Pam

words and images by pam wright

Tag: Love

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!

Captured: Querencia

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(This comes for a devotion I shared with kids at a preparatory meeting for VIDA Nueva on Jan. 31, 2009. Reading it again today was a good reminder to always invite Jesus into all that I do, into my life circumstances and into every other aspect of my life …) 

I want to tell you about Wednesday. It was a good day in the end, and I was reminded in a powerful way about two of God’s lessons. They weren’t new lessons for me, but I was shown them in a really cool way.

The first lesson was this:

When Brittney, Francis, Amos and I met this week to prepare for today’s meeting, it came to me that I really needed prayer against distractions. I was feeling like everything was getting in the way of my time with God. I really thought that if I could make a greater commitment to having more quiet time or being more focused on my relationship with God more often during the day, things would be better.

And, so, we prayed for that specifically.

And God had an answer to me for that prayer… the next day…

In October, I read an amazing book that I know some of you have read called The Shack. It’s a great book that has shown me so much about the nature of God. I gave it to my best friend, Helen, to read and she just returned it. As I was flipping through the pages, I came across a section of the book with my typical underlines, circles, highlights, lots of exclamation points and stars. I read it and had a ‘eureka’ moment. In the novel, the main character is having conversations with a personified God.

Here’s the section that interested me:

God and the main character are having a conversation about this very topic and the main character asks God, ‘Don’t you want us to set priorities? You know: God first, then whatever, followed by whatever?

And God Says: The trouble with living with priorities is that it sees everything as a hierarchy, a pyramid. If you put God at the top, what does that really mean and how much is enough? How much time do you give me before you can go on about the rest of your day, the part that interests you so much more?

You see, I don’t just want a piece of you and a piece of your life. Even if you were able, which you are not, to give me the biggest piece; that is not what I want. I want all of you and all of every part of you and your day. I don’t just want to be first among a list of values; I want to be at the center of everything. When I live in you, then together we can live through everything that happens to you. Rather than a pyramid, I want to be the center of a mobile where everything in your life is connected to me.’

WOW… it reminded me so powerfully that this was exactly what I have been doing… I was making lists, setting priorities. Yes, I was trying to make God my priority, but I was actually getting it all wrong. I should not be worrying about distractions from God. I cannot stop the distractions from coming… life is so full of distractions. We are busy. We spend time reading and watching TV and doing other enjoyable activities. We spend time in prayer. We go to church. But, he doesn’t want us to spend an hour on Sunday, or certain parts of the day in prayer or in quiet time with him, etc. He wants the joys, the laughter, as well as the tears… even the times when we are ashamed of ourselves. He wants to be our constant companion for everything. I’ve also learned that nothing will ever disappoint Him… He already knows every single thing I will do, every single day of my entire life. He’s not surprised by anything. He simply wants us to include Him… just like a lover wants to be included in everything concerning the beloved…  the good AND the bad.

OK… great, sure… I want that too… but how do I do that… with a bracelet, an alarm, what… ?? How do I feel an intangible presence all the time? I’m a really touchy/feely person, so this is very hard for me. My love language, if you’ve heard of the love languages, is physical touch and God’s seems to be quality time. How do we broach our differences?? And yes, I do feel closest to God when I am surrounded by beauty, etc… I am reminded of His glory, but what about in the mundane of life?? While grading papers, or washing dishes, or simply lying around doing nothing? It’s even harder to feel close to God then.

The ONLY answer I came up with is to pray for it, to pray that God creates this in me, does that work in me, because I know that I can’t do it by myself. So, my prayer has changed from God protect me from distractions, to God come with me into the distractions, to be with me in everything … please help me to feel your presence in all aspects of my life… I want you there for everything… the good, the bad and the ugly!!

The other ‘lesson’ is this….

That same day, I was perusing a book for English classes about writing, called Writing toward Home. One section of the book talks about finding your ‘querencia’. Now, apparently querencia comes from the world of bullfighting… the bullfighters want, above all else, to keep the bull from his querencia… the place in the bullring where the bull feels most at home, a place where he derives his strength… it’s a dangerous place for the bullfighters because now the bull has the upper hand… they’ll do everything to keep the bull from that place. They study the bull to learn this about him.

So the exercise in the book calls for writers to find their querencia… the ‘wanting place’ where they feel most at home; a place from which they can garner inspiration for their writing.

This led me to contemplate my own ‘querencia’… yes, I am inspired and feel at home in nature, with a camera in my hand, when I listen to music, when I sing, when I am surrounded by beauty, when I journal, when I write. And it also came to me that these are also the very places where my desire and my longing for God are most palpable. For me, it’s the same place.

Well after reading about this and contemplating on it, I went back to The Shack again and thought more about priorities, etc…  and I came across something I had written on one of the pages. In Guam, where I initially read the book, at a cross country meet that I was coaching, I had to accompany a runner to the hospital after she was injured. While waiting for her to be treated, I read the book, and I wrote this in a margin….

(A baby is crying here, saying over and over ‘I want to go home’- she knows it’s safe there… much like we long for that somewhere safe…) Whoa!!! I read that and was so amazed… I wrote underneath that statement… ‘querencia!!!’ … so ironic!! Or was it… )

That night as I lay in my bed feeling sad and sorry for myself, I began to contemplate this ‘querencia’ idea. That’s when both lessons of the day kind of came together. I was crying… feeling really miserable. I remembered how God wants to be a part of everything, so I invited God to share in my pain … I was reminded of times when I would just cry, never sharing it with God… instead, just feeling incredible loneliness.

As I lay there crying, praying, and talking to God, the ‘querencia’ idea led me to imagine where my ‘querencia’ really was. I wanted strength and I wanted peace. In the desire to share my pain with Jesus, an image came to me. I was lying on my side on my bed, in a fetal position, hugging a pillow to me… But, in my mind, I saw myself lying in the same position, but now at the foot of the cross, with Jesus hanging on the cross above me. It was a very vivid picture in my mind and heart. I was lying there, gathering strength and sharing my soul with Jesus. I could smell the dust and feel the hard ground, the air was warm, and I could feel the blood and tears fall from Jesus onto my body… grace rained down upon me in the form of blood and tears… and understanding. He knew first-hand my pain… and he comforted me there, in his own pain…

I felt safe there. I felt entirely myself there. I didn’t have to pretend like everything was alright and I didn’t have to put on a happy face like I do much of the time. He knows me. He loves me. I’m safe there. He’s my ‘querencia’… there at the foot of his cross.

ISAIAH 40:33

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

My prayer for all of you is that you, too, begin to invite God into all aspects of your life, not just relying on the QT’s, or praise times, or VIDA meetings, or church to be with God, (mind you, these are all VERY important) … but to bring Him into everything you do because…He’s there already…

He IS your Querencia…

Captured: 49 Days – 49 Days

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I’ve often heard the expression… ‘What will you do with the dash of your life?’ … referring to the dash between your date of birth and your date of death. For example, if I were to die this year, mine would be 1963 – 2013… in other words, what did I do with my life between those dates… what did my dash represent…??

I’m kind of doing the same with the dash in between the birth and death of my ‘love story’ … 49 Days – 49 Days. What happened in that dash? Still trying to figure that out!!!

Let me explain… I met ‘my love’ on an internet dating site. Yea, I know, but I was was cautious… oh, I was cautious. I met a man who was so like me… we loved to write, we loved God, we loved sports, we loved to be punctual (and in a world where everyone around me always seems to be late that’s a big one for me!!)…

We made plans to devote our lives to God, to each other, to our families, to work as a team for missions in Guinea and Guatemala… and to follow God’s purpose for our lives…

…we were a ‘match made in heaven’… I believe this because all we did from the time we met on-line, until the moment we met in person, 49 days later, was to write and share our souls. We never spoke on the phone, no skyping… we decided we would only write to each other until the day he would come to see me for the first time. Oh my… I couldn’t have met a man more perfect for me… a man who wanted to get to know my soul, above all, through letter writing… ??? Are you serious??

We wrote volumes… I mean volumes… so much so that on my 50th birthday, ‘my love’ offered me a book that he made for me… the best gift I have EVER received… compiling all of our correspondence those first 49 days… the cover of which you can see above.

The significance of the ducks in the photo … a photo I took on the day he proposed to me under a lighthouse (one of my favorite things and how he found a lighthouse in Texas is remarkable, but he managed to find one) … is that, in Korea, where I lived for many years, couples are offered wedding ducks as a symbol of fidelity for life. ‘My love’ knew this, which is why he used my photo on the cover of the book he offered.  Actually, I had a pair of Korean ducks that I bought myself in the hope of someday meeting someone, and I gave him one of them to keep until we were married… uniting the ducks as we became united. He still has that duck…

Tomorrow is significant for me because I will mark 49 days since the day I said goodbye to him… 49 days ago, he held me in his arms, told me it wasn’t over, that he had to follow God, with the parting words, ‘I love you too, honey’…

49 Days – 49 Days

What happened in the dash??? How did we get from A to B?? Of course, it’s a two-way street… YES, I made mistakes… but, I still don’t understand… we all make mistakes! I fail… he fails…

… we all fail. God is Bigger than failure, right???

In any case, falling in love with him was one of the most beautiful times of my life … his words were magic… our future seemed secure… he was the first man to get on one knee for me… I’d never been proposed to… he promised to take care of my heart, my health, my kids, my life… I’ve never been happier. We prayed every night together… on Skype, and then, when we were in the same city…. every night before we parted, we prayed…

Which is why the ‘dash’ is so hard to figure out… for me and for my family… we all believed.

Today’s sermon at church was about the ‘voice’ of Jesus, our shepherd… and how a sheep knows his shepherd’s voice and will only respond to that sound. The problem with humans is that we hear other voices that distract us, rather than the voice who most wants to protect us … and so often we only hear our own voice, a voice from within, based on filters of the past, and our own longings and desires, rather than the voice of the one who loves us most. And, so, we wander off from the direction of our shepherd.

What I’ve learned in the past 49 Days is that the only voice I should ever trust is the voice of my shepherd, Jesus… He is the only one who can protect me from the wolves, the thieves, those who might harm me, whether intentionally or just out of the circumstances of life… or perhaps because they themselves are not listening to the voice of their ‘shepherd’…

… instead they wonder off, as well … towards the desires of their own hearts… forgetting the sound of the shepherd’s voice… and his direction…

It’s so confusing, right??? Honestly, I believe discernment is what I struggle with most of all… who am I hearing??? How can I be sure it is God’s voice that I am hearing??? Yes, I’ve heard that if it’s in alignment with Jesus’ life and the Word, then we ARE hearing the voice of our ‘shepherd’… and we are in His will for our lives…

‘My love’ is human… he did the best he could… he failed in my eyes… but that is just ‘the voice’ I am hearing… I am not God, so I cannot know how God sees this other than to know this…

God loves me…

God loves ‘my love’…

And He wants the best for us both…

Each night, I continue what ‘my love’ and I first started the day those first 49 Days were completed … the day we first heard each other’s voice …

I pray for him… and I can still hear his voice praying for me…

I miss his voice… and I miss praying with him each night… not gonna lie about that… after holding someone’s hand and praying as a ‘chord of three’ and then being once again alone isn’t easy…

But, honestly, I feel safe and sound within the hearing distance of my shepherd… the one who calls me ‘my darling, my dear, my child, my beloved… my sweet, hurting girl…’

Yea… I’ll stay close to him… his voice is pure… it’s powerful… will never falter… and will keep me safe! And when I do wander off into treacherous terrain… I know he’ll come after me to lead me back where it is safe… and I love that!

49 Days seems like the perfect time to ‘put a bow’ on the finished gift of my ‘love story’…

… because it was a gift.

49 Days – 49 Days

… for me, the dash was love.

Captured: Sea Glass

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As a child, I loved to collect sea glass. We owned a cottage up at Lakeside, OH on Lake Erie, where I would spend hours upon hours collecting sea glass, organizing it into the various shades of blue and green and brown, marveling at how the water could make the edges so smooth… I continually ran my fingers along the edges, feeling the contours and textures.

Somewhere along the way I forgot about my childhood collection of sea glass…

A couple of years ago, while walking along a beach in S. Korea, I came across a piece of sea glass in the sand. Tears filled my eyes as I was wrenched immediately back to that time of my youth. I remembered that not only was sea glass a part of those endless summer days many years ago, it was also a time when I was formulating dreams for my life… dreaming of the prince charming who would be by my side for ever.

In contrast, as I came across that piece of glass on the smooth sand of Taejon Beach many years later, I realized that so many of those dreams had been shattered just like the piece of glass in my hand. I was going through a very difficult time in my life and that little piece of glass just reminded me of the pain of those shattered dreams.

But, then, just as suddenly, another voice inside reminded me that I no longer need to cling to those old shattered dreams, but rather, I could begin formulating new dreams for myself, dreams based on what God wants FOR me. I put that piece of sea glass in my pocket and I’ve been collecting sea glass again ever since… all the while dreaming.

A student of mine, an apparent angel in disguise, who heard my sea glass story in class, took it upon himself to create a piece of art with my name written in the sea glass that he had collected on vacation in his home country of Greece. He presented that art piece on the day I was forced to announce to the students and faculty at my school that I needed to change my name back to my maiden name after divorce … a very difficult thing for me to do. I was so distraught at having to change my name. But my student walked into my classroom that morning, before the opening assembly on the first day of the new school year, and presented me with his artwork. Having no clue that I was about to publicly announce my name change, I was startled to see that he, instead of spelling out Ms. Arzel in sea glass as I was known in class, had written…

‘Pam’

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God spoke to me through the sea glass, through the gift given to me by my student, reminding me that no matter my name, no matter my dreams, crushed or formulating, I am loved, hope remains, and I am treasured.

Just like my new treasure of sea glass.

When each of my daughters married the man of their dreams… the men I fervently prayed for them to find … they each carried a piece of sea glass with them… God has blessed them so wonderfully with the men He brought into their lives… and in many ways, He fulfilled many of my own dreams by blessing them so …

I have often offered a piece of my sea glass collection to a loved one as they venture into something new… the most recent was when I offered a treasured piece of blue sea glass (I only had 2 blue pieces) to my fiancé as he left me… I like that… offerings of love and forgiveness are all we can offer … right? We are called to offer something treasured… especially when it involves love and hope… I gave my heart to this man and I loved him… all I could do is offer a gesture of hope that his dreams come true, despite my own pain at losing him.

It gives me some peace…

Today, I have never believed more in the beauty of sea glass… and how God speaks to me through small pieces of broken glass…

God can take our broken dreams… our rough edges… and He, and He alone can smooth them over with His unfailing love, grace and redemption…

and He can provide new dreams….

… even when the dreams we clinged to so fervently just…

evaporate…

I find hope in sea glass!!!

reposted and updated from http://www.tumblr.com/blog/pamwright24

Captured: Athena

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No… that’s not Athena in the photo … that is me… a few years ago…

Yea I know…

it’s kind of something I kept quiet… scared of feeling lame, and pathetic and stupid… But, you know… it happened… it did… why hide it, why pretend… ????

The reason I share this is because I thought of this picture as I caressed my kitty, Athena, tonight as I settled in to fall asleep…

I got hurt a while ago, but I seriously think my cat was hurt worse than I … she was hit by a golf club, thrown against the wall, and so brutalized that she retreated under the bathroom cabinet… never leaving… not even to go to the bathroom… that poor cat was traumatized…

Yea… I was too… I remember one night in a hotel… just my kitty and me… scared to death of being found… scared of not living another day… it was a bad time…

But, that is now in the past…

I watch my sweet kitty, Athena, today… she has responded to love… to my caresses…. to good treatment and straight up love… I hate what happened to her… even more than I hate what happened to me… But, like Athena, I have been loved on too… I’ve been caressed and loved back to healing… not only from the people in my life who love me,  but from a greater love… my defender and the lover of my soul… ah, by Jesus!!! He has loved on me…

I KNOW that God is the greatest healer of all… I know that Athena and I were surrounded by angels on those days of despair, and pain, and unimaginable fear in California…

And, ah, my sweet, defenseless kitty… I know how I felt for my cat on those days… and I can only imagine how my savior felt for me on those same days…

Athena and I are good today and we forgive the one who hurt and scared us so…

Why???

Because he was hurt and scared, too … never, ever think that people who lash out in anger and violence are without hurt and fear themselves! I’ve prayed for this man… I forgive this man… I relate to him and empathize… and I hope that my Jesus is so loving on him!!!

Going to sleep now… remembering and thanking God for love and mercy… I share this not to garner attention to myself, but to share how GREAT is my God!!! He is AMAZING!!  And I love him so much… he who can save not only me, and my cat, but those who hurt us, as well!!!

PRAISE GOD!!

BTW, isn’t this the sweetest song ever?

Listening to it as I fall asleep…

You know, we all get hurt… and yet we all have the ability to heal by the love and grace of our savior … I’m grateful my kitty is alright today, despite what she went through…

… yea… I’m grateful I am too…

Thank you Jesus!

Here they are … Athena, and my puppy, Cosi! Happy at last… we are an AWESOME trio!! =)

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Nighty Nite…

Captured: New Life… New Hope

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This is a two-post kinda day!!

This morning I received a text from my daughter, Kristen, who teaches French and Spanish in S. Korea, and who is expecting a daughter in February.

First off, I have to marvel at technology! She texted me, for FREE, from S. Korea with her iPhone!!! When I was pregnant with her, I had to send my parents an actual letter, telling them about my life overseas and the news of her arrival… I sent cheap ‘aerograms’… because it was too expensive to call.

BTW, I still have all those aerograms! I kind of miss that form of communication…

Squirrel… !!!

Anyway, this morning she texted me (FROM KOREA… still can’t wrap my head around that!!) and her two sisters, Megz and Kat, that she felt her daughter move for the first time. Wow! What an experience! I remember it well. I have 5 children of my own and I remember those moments of feeling life for the first time!

All I can say is that I marvel, even more than I marvel at technology, at God’s miracle of life!

And to be a grandmother! To experience my babies having babies! I can only imagine how God must feel experiencing generation after generation of his children being born!

I have always loved the story of Ruth and Naomi… in fact, my best friend and I call each other ‘Ruth’ and ‘Naomi’…

I love how Naomi goes from being Naomi to Mara (bitter), and then back to Naomi with the birth of her grandchildren. I get that! I have been so blessed with the birth of my little 5-month-old, grand-boy, Riley, and I join Kristen and Harry in rejoicing over my little grand-daughter, who will enter this world in February.

That sweet, little child moved in her mother’s womb yesterday. Krissy felt it. We all felt it with her…

New life…

… new hope.

GREAT God!!

Captured: I Take it Back

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Oh, not a good morning. Last night, out of fear and hurt, I said some things to someone I care about that I wish I could take back.

Why do we continue to be exactly what we hate to be to those we love?? And where do we go when we can’t really take it back?

Well, we repent and we move forward, hoping that we will be offered the same Grace by others that Jesus offered to us. I feel terrible that I reacted the way I did. No excuses. No rationalities.

I behaved badly.

But, as I sat on my balcony, watching the sun rise this morning, I felt that familiar ‘hug’ from God… the one that says, ‘It’s OK, Pam… yes, you said some terrible things that you shouldn’t have and I am letting you know, firmly, that it was WRONG!

But I still, and will always, love you.’

Today, I will be thinking about how I let pain and fear dictate how I behave … and I will be praying that, tomorrow, I will treat others as I would have them treat me.

This life is hard. We fall, and stumble, and find ourselves being exactly what we wish we weren’t. But, there is hope…

The Holy Spirit is in me and I hear about it when I falter… and I know I am being molded into what I’m called to be. Step by step. One moment to the next. There is always a tomorrow… and the chance to be as loving to others as I am loved…

Oh, Lord… may I know that. May I be that! May I hate what you hate and may I love like you have loved me!! In Jesus’ Name…

I’m sorry.

I take it back…

Captured: Be Mine

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I love those little candy, Valentine hearts that say little things like ‘hug me’, ‘cute stuff’, ‘true love’. It was always so much fun to get those in the little bags we made in elementary school, decorated with lace paper and hearts cut out of pink and red construction paper. I would wait impatiently all day for the moment when we could open the bag, wondering if the boy I liked would give me one of those little, candy hearts with a cryptic message declaring his undying love for me… the beginning of a happily-ever-after love story.

I am the biggest, sappiest, girly-girl romantic on the planet and always have been. The only real dream I ever had was to fall in love and live happily ever after. I never cared about a career, or money, or success… I wanted to love and to be loved. However, I’ve never had a very good love story. I just haven’t. I’ve come so very close, but in the end, it just eludes me. It’s no one’s fault, really, and I don’t harbor resentment or blame. In fact, I’ve so often prayed that I learn to love unconditionally, without receiving anything in return for my love… well, perhaps God is just answering my prayer. Who knows??

I remember a sermon a while back, about Abraham’s willingness to offer his son as a sacrifice … the son he was promised to have, his dream, and the absolute love of his life … and the pastor asked us, ‘What are you holding back from God?’, ‘What dream are you unwilling to give up, keeping you from a fulfilling relationship with God?’ I was convicted then, and I’m convicted now… it’s my dream for a good love story here on Earth.

Ultimately, I do believe this …

God wants me to set my heart on him…

… and him alone.  And be completely satisfied in that.

John Eldredge’s books, Wild at Heart, Sacred Romance and Desire, and William P. Young’s, The Shack, have each had a huge impact on me about the subject of love… of true love… of God’s love story with us. God wants me to be head over heels in love with Him. He wants me to find the love and safety and comfort that I long for, in His own perfect love. He says it very plainly in Isaiah 43:2-4.

‘I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.’

I have gleaned from the Bible and the books I have mentioned that God is crazy about me. He loves me perfectly. Everything He does is to win my love, to romance me into his arms, to care for me. Everything. John Eldredge notes, ‘What he is after is us… our laughter, our tears, our dreams, our heart of hearts.’

I know how painful it is to be rejected… to have someone turn their back on you, to take another lover, to take your heart and toss it about… all of these have happened to me. John Eldredge says in Sacred Romance, ‘To make ourselves vulnerable and entrust our well-being to another, only to be harmed by those on whom our hopes were set, is among the worst pain of human experience.’

Oh, I do know this. However, I’m actually grateful for it (well, most of the time) because it does draw me into the comforting arms of my eternal love… the one who will never harm me and will always protect me.

I can only grasp how God must feel when we ignore Him or turn our backs on Him for stuff and people and pleasure and comfort and more stuff… idols all. He is a jealous God… not in the negative sense, but in the sense that he desires all of us in relationship, because he loves us so much. I’ve heard it said that God created males and females as a living metaphor for His relationship with us… to remind us of the love He desires to share with us.

However, because of our desire for a tangible, earthly love, we can create idols out of the very construct that should remind us of God’s love for us… the object of our affection can actually be the greatest hindrance to knowing God’s love fully. Recently, I have been reminded that this is precisely what led me away from God in the first place so many years ago. Because of my desire to be loved, I strayed away from God, chasing a worldly dream, beginning a journey filled with despair, rejection, extreme loneliness, a battle with alcoholism and very nearly death.

Eldredge says, ‘Our desire becomes insatiable because we’ve taken our longing for the Infinite and placed it upon finite things’.

Guilty. I often find myself daydreaming, longing for ‘someone’ and I can still so quickly forget that what I’m really longing for is God. Of course, we should hope for love in this life, for companionship. God says it’s not good to be alone, so yes, it’s good to hope for a love with whom we can navigate this life. But we must always be cognizant of where love truly resides and be completely satisfied in the greatest love story we’ll ever know … God’s love story with each of us.

In his book, Desire, Eldredge says,

‘God is the wellspring of everything that has ever romanced your heart…the thundering strength of a waterfall, the delicacy of a flower, the stirring capacity of music. The masculine and feminine that fill all creation come from the same heart. What we have sought, what we have tasted in part with our earthly lovers, we will come face to face with in our True Love.’

God romances me all the time and I don’t always realize it immediately… a perfect daisy along my path, a beautiful sunset, a butterfly landing on my shoulder. I remember my first solo vacation ever. I went to Thailand feeling lonely and blue. I was so reluctant to go on vacation alone and felt a bit pathetic. On the very first night, heading to Railay Beach all alone on a small, wooden, Thai boat, God romanced me with the most beautiful evening sky, filled with a gorgeous sunset, an already risen, perfect full moon and a thunderstorm on the horizon. It was so beautiful… of course, I was wishing I had someone there to share it with me, but I now see it as God romancing me, encouraging me to seek Him in the beauty of that place. I couldn’t help but be brought to my knees by such beauty. And I did. I spent the whole week with Him. It was a very meaningful, lovely vacation with ‘the lover of my soul’.

I’m also convinced that it is not the love I receive, but the love I give that enables me to even experience love at all. I want to be God’s love letter to those he places on my path and I want to love without expecting anything in return. God showed us how to love by giving us our freedom. He let us decide. He seeks us with pure love. He doesn’t force it on us because that would not be love. And he is patient with us. A quote from The Shack reminds us that…

‘So many believe that it is love that grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it. Love is just the skin of knowing.’ 

I love that quote!! The more we know about a loved one… their quirks, their mannerisms, even their flaws… the more we come to love them… at least that has been my case.

I am reminded that the Bible tells us that God knows everything about us, even the number of hairs on our heads. He knows everything we will ever do or think or feel. If love is the ‘skin of knowing’, then I can’t really even grasp how much he loves me. My knowledge of love is SO limited. And no one could ever even come close to loving me like he does. It reminds me how critical it is that I pursue him like he pursues me … to know Him, to spend time with Him and to seek Him.

Lately, a favorite Bebo Norman song, How You Love Me, has been the background music playing in my head as I go through my day. The lyrics say:

And should my dreams fall through
I will be safe with you
And with every breath I can breathe
I’ll sing about how you love me
I’ll sing about how you love me

Yes, God romances me … declaring His undying and unfailing love…offering little candy, Valentine Hearts that say ever so simply … but with such longing…

‘Be Mine’

 

 

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