Captured by Pam

words and images by pam wright

Tag: God’s Love

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: 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: 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: 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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