What’s going on here?

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose imagination is stayed on Thee.”  Isaiah 26:3

I’ve divided this page into two sections.  The first one that immediately follows is a much more “bottom line” approach to the back story of this site in which I share with you the basic underlying fundamentals and ideas that inspire my writing and what has driven me to create this site. For those who know me well, you already know in your hearts this is not the way I’m bent.  My basic nature leans heavily towards the idea that the journey on the way to the destination is a big deal that deserves attention because it’s what I enjoy the most.   My wife, and all you other “bottom-liners”, as well as those who perhaps don’t have the time nor the desire at this moment to take “the long way home” will no doubt gratefully and joyfully take the “shortcut.”  For those of you inclined to dive into the journey, then the second version is for you.  Lastly, for those few who can’t ever seem to get enough so that you end up reading both, well, my hats off to you and your hearts after my own heart.

Regardless of which version you choose to read please understand that the source of my inspiration, what ignites my passion, and continually fuels my fire is found in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Also know that I believe the entire Bible to be nothing less than the all-together trustworthy and divinely inspired Word of God and that it is just as relevant and on point today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow.  You want to know the Lord?  Spending time with Him in His Word is vital.  Just a few short years ago, about 6 to be exact, if I had been told I’d be writing a blog about my relationship adventure with the Lord I would’ve laughed in disbelief at you.  It’s funny, and nothing short of miraculous from my perspective, just how merciful and graceful the Lord is along the way of Him changing one’s heart and mind.  He has ever so gently and ever so generously taught me there is so much more to a relationship with Him than merely sitting in the same spot in church on Sunday doing my best not to nod off.   Do you know the Jesus that fills your heart so much that you can’t imagine a minute without Him…and since this is after all about a relationship…does He know you?

(the shorter cut)

Some of my writing is born almost immediately.  On the other hand some may take a while of simmering on the back burner.  Sometimes something catches my attention and I’ll take a photo of it and it’s not until sometime later that the inspiration for the writing comes.  Regardless of the timing, when I first started being inspired to write I’m embarrassed to admit that I used to think, “I wonder who this is for?”, but then I soon realized that many more times than not this was about something He was teaching me.  No real surprise there since pride has a way of keeping you blind to your own bad ways to the point you can’t even feel that giant, splintered filled log in your own eye.

As the eternal creator of all things, God is the Artist of artists.  What an artist creates reflects in some way, at least in part, who that artist really is.  That’s why we can look at a painting and immediately recognize just who the artist was that created it.  A piece of them is embodied in what they’ve created.  If this is true for people, then it’s equally, if not more so, as true for our Lord.  Reading through John Eldredge’s “Wild At Heart” I simply couldn’t ignore this thought.  So, I set out to “find” God the artist in His creation.  He does encourage us to seek Him and promises when we do so wholeheartedly He will be found, you know.  Much of what you’ll read on this site reflects this belief that I also obviously share with Mr. Eldredge, who happens to be my favorite author.  And let me say I haven’t been disappointed in my search for Him.  No, not at all.  In fact, I’ve been surprised more times than not because I’ve delightfully discovered that this truth also applies to “context of circumstances” as well.    You’ll see that in much of what I write as well, and rather than try and explain that concept to you here I’ll simply point you to what I’ve written in hopes that it will make sense to you.

It’s also important to understand that God truly does desire a vibrant relationship with each of us, His children. He knows each of us better than we do ourselves, so who, then, is better or more equipped to speak to each of us on a deeply personal and significant level than the One who created us for such a time as this? It’s like the intimacy we share with our significant other in our lives here on this earth.   Should we not expect the same in a relationship with our Lord?

Given we are each a unique creation of His, it’s also important to realize that my communication with Him might not look like yours so don’t get caught up in the trap of trying  to see things as I do, or being concerned about why you don’t.  Again, as a reminder we are each unique with different likes and dislikes, different strengths and weaknesses.  What catches my attention may or may not catch yours, and visa versa.  I happen to love words and word play.  Words that are spelled differently that have entirely different meanings, but sound the same (e.g. “seen” and “scene”) or nearly the same, are like a playground filled with the most spectacular jungle gym (or is it “Jim,” or perhaps even better said as “gem?”) you’ve ever seen to my way of thinking.  By the way,  I lean towards “gem” simply because that sort of word situation is literally a beautiful jewel to me, but as they say, I digress, so I’ll keep moving.  Obviously puns are particularly attractive to me.  Puns are not limited to mere words, however.  To think otherwise is to be, well, shortsighted.  Visual “puns” capture my undivided attention equally as well.   If you’ll scroll down, and then scroll some more, and yes, scroll even a little further (or you can get there “beam me up, Scotty” lightning fast by clicking here ) you’ll find an example of this in the “long way home” section.   No doubt you’ll agree with me that it’s a grate picture.  Yeah, I know…ouch!  But here’s the deal,  I love this sort of word/visual play!  This is who I am!  Do you not think the Lord knows this about me already?  You can bet your bottom dollar He does, because as we’ve already discussed, He’s the one that built me like this.  So, it should come as no surprise that the love language He and I share incorporates these qualities, these personal characteristics that make me the who I am that He’s created.  Let’s put the round pegs into the round holes here because that works remarkably well don’t you think?  The same can be said of you, of course.  He built you.  He knows you.  He’s knocking at your door so I say, no, I implore you, to greet Him with a huge smile and invite Him in for an amazing dinner. You won’t be disappointed.  Be yourself and not somebody else that He doesn’t know.  He’s there for the real you, warts and all, and not your false self.  Is there a better place to start a true relationship than one that begins with honesty?

The point of all of this is that a deep relationship…a life altering friendship…with our Lord is not only possible, but entirely desirable.  He knocks at your door because He wants to come in and have an intimate dinner with you today and everyday as I’ve already said.  This is something I didn’t understand for the longest time, and it resulted in me not only missing out on so much with Him, but also caused me to stray from Him for quite a long time.  When you’re not as close to someone as you ought to be, or your heart is not where it should be, we tend to drift away…it’s what I did as my own version of a Prodigal Son.  Oh, but He was incredibly long suffering with me and knew how to draw me back to Him with unfailing kindness and everlasting love.  And when He did He swept me off of my feet.  Years later to this day I remain swept off of my feet.  That’s what happens when unfailing kindness and everlasting love walks through the barricaded door of your heart one day unexpectedly.

So, here I sit joyfully blogging for and with my Lord.  I can’t think of a better place to be.  Home is supposed to feel like that, of course.  This brings me to yet another point that needs to be made, and it’s one that another one of my favorite authors, Allen Arnold, speaks about in his book, “The Story of With.”  Mr. Arnold’s premise is simple, yet incredibly enlightening and offers freedom to we, the captives, if we’ll warmly embrace it:  God created within each of us unique talents, gifts, strengths, and desires with the intent of our using them for His glory alongside and inspired by Him.   Did you catch that last part, “alongside and inspired by Him?”  Our gifts were never meant to be hoarded, squandered, and kept solely to ourselves for our own personal benefit.  No, they’re intended to be something we love to do not only with Him always in mind, with Him as the source of our inspiration, but alongside Him…with others in mind.  This is no selfish pursuit for personal glory.  No, your God given gifts are meant to be shared as a result of this wonderful dance:  The Creator’s creation creating with Him.  These are supposed to be shared, precious, and intimate one on one moments in which we enjoy time with Him.  It’s in these moments we feel His pleasure because we are doing exactly what He has created us to do.  When you get into that “sweet spot” you’ve been created for you will experience His pleasure.  In the movie, “Chariots of Fire” Eric Liddell says, “God made me fast.  When I run, I feel His pleasure.” Have you felt His pleasure before? “His pleasure?” you say,  “Why I don’t even know what it is He’s created me for so how can I possibly know about feeling His pleasure?”  The answer to these two questions may surprise you. The funny thing is that the more you know Him, the more you know yourself.  You want to find yourself?  Find Him, know Him…then you will find yourself…and then you will know what you were born to be and to do…and when you know that then you might just very well find yourself experiencing His pleasure as you go about doing what it is He’s created you to do.  Doesn’t it make sense that this is how it’s suppose to work given the fact that He’s the One who created you in the first place?

The bottom line of all of this is that He desires to be found by you and to spend quality time with you.  Do you believe that?   I’ve had to ditch some religious baggage on this journey in order to embrace more of Him.  No, I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but there have been suitcases I’ve had with me for most of my life that I’ve clung to for a very long time that finally had to go.  There was no other way, because eventually if you want to make it over that fast approaching, looming mountaintop you have to give that sort of extra weight that serves no real purpose other than to drag you down, overboard.  It’s what was necessary for me to get up off of that same old spot in the back of the church that I’d occupied for far too many Sundays.  Allow me to dovetail into that comment with this thought, “You will know as much of God, and only as much of God, as you are willing to put into practice.”  (Eric Liddell, The Disciplines of the Christian Life)

 

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(the longer way home)

Imagination.  Such a fascinating subject.  Albert Einstein once said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Wait…what? Now, imagine the implications of that observation for a moment.  Next, couple that thought with Mark Twain’s own downhome thoughts on the same subject: “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”  Our imagination is a world that exists only within our own hearts and minds, yet it is our imagination that drives the real world’s true forward progress in which we live.  Indeed, Einstein also observed, “Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere.”    Not just some places, but EVERYWHERE.   Because it’s unlimited we must use this immense power wisely for out of it are borne all sorts of things…some very good, but some very bad.  Thus the sheer power of our imagination cannot be underestimated because it directly impacts the paths we take in our life.  In short, what you think about truly matters.  It matters here on this finite earth, and ultimately it matters eternally…for you, and for those around you during the course of your life.  This is exactly why Oswald Chambers stated, “Imagination is the greatest gift God has given us and it ought to be devoted entirely to Him.” (My Utmost for His Highest, Feb. 11th, p30)

In sports, coaches are always admonishing their players to keep their eyes on the ball because they know that once the player’s eyes lose sight of the ball they will most likely not catch the ball.  We see this all of the time from youth athletics all the way up to even the pros.  Everything we do in life, as exemplified by this sports analogy, boils down to fundamentals. How many times have we all heard the announcer on the TV say, “Well, he didn’t make that catch because as we can see here in this slow motion replay that he started running with the ball before he actually caught the ball.”  Friends, in order to run with the ball you have to catch the ball first.  How many times have we all heard that observation? As followers of Christ, we’re admonished to not let our imaginations get away from us and go off in directions He never intended.  We are told to keep our attention focused on Him at all times otherwise we’ll “drop the ball.” In essence, Isaiah 26:3 can be rearranged to ask, “How much peace can be enjoyed when a ball that should’ve been caught is dropped?”  Rightly recognizing the undeniable importance of our imagination Oswald Chambers succinctly asks in that very same devotional, “Is your imagination stayed on God or is it starved? In The Sacred Romance, John Eldredge puts it like this, “(Godly) desire is kept alive by imagination, the antidote to resignation.  We all need imagination, which is to say, we need hope.” Essentially without our imagination we’re starved and relegated to a life of mere existence and survival with no hint of hope. It’s no small wonder then that Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) encourages our imagination to stay His course saying, “Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things.”

“Do we discern His hand or only mere occurrence?”  Oswald Chambers poses this question in his January 30th devotional (p20) from his much beloved and well known book, “My Utmost For His Highest.”  He goes on to say, “God never speaks to us in startling ways, but in ways that are easy to misunderstand.”  Invariably at this point we find ourselves asking the question, “I wonder if that was God’s voice?” Chambers notes that, “Isaiah said the Lord spake to him ‘with a strong hand,’ that is by the pressure of the circumstances.  Nothing touches our lives but it is God himself speaking.”  In the previous day’s devotional Mr. Chambers asserts, “There is no escape when the Lord speaks.  He always comes with an arrestment of the understanding.  Has the voice of God come to you directly?  If it has, you cannot mistake the intimate insistence with which it has spoken to you in the language you know best, not through your ears but through your circumstances.”

This question as to whether or not we discern God’s hand in our circumstances is an age old question, of course, and one, that I personally think, M. Night Shyalaman beautifully addresses in the movie “Signs” when he says, “See, what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you?  Are you the kind that sees signs, sees miracles?  Or do you believe that people just get lucky?”  In “Signs” the main character, Graham Hess, played by Mel Gibson, muses, “People break down into two groups. When they experience something lucky, group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence, that there is someone up there, watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck.  Just a happy turn of chance.  I’m sure the people in group number two are looking at those fourteen lights in a very suspicious way. For them, the situation is a fifty-fifty. Could be bad, could be good. But deep down, they feel that whatever happens, they’re on their own. And that fills them with fear. Yeah, there are those people. But there’s a whole lot of people in group number one. When they see those fourteen lights, they’re looking at a miracle. And deep down, they feel that whatever’s going to happen, there will be someone there to help them. And that fills them with hope.”  Every single time I read this quote I can’t help but think of Romans 8:28 (NKJV) which says, “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  So, which camp do you fall into, camp number one, or camp number two?  The camp of hope, or the camp of fear?

Personally, I can’t imagine living a life without hope.  How utterly desolate and ultimately lonely is a life with no hope?

 While another movie, “Castaway” doesn’t ask Mr. Chamber’s question directly, it does so indirectly when the large piece of metal is found along the shoreline by the castaway, Chuck Noland, played by Tom Hanks.  Do you recall what Chuck says in a later scene regarding his thoughts on finding this piece of metal along the shoreline?  “And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket.  I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive.  Somehow I had to keep breathing.  Even though there was no reason to hope.  And all my logic said that I would never see this place again.  So that’s what I did.  I stayed alive.  I kept breathing.  And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail.  And now, here I am.  I’m back. In Memphis.  Talking to you.  I have ice in my glass.  And I’ve lost her all over again.  I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly.  But I’m so grateful she was with me on that island. So I know what I have to do now.  I have to keep breathing.  Because tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide could bring.”  The metal sail that improbably washed up along the beach wasn’t the first gift given to him for his survival and eventual deliverance.  There was another “sail.”  A sail that sustained him throughout his lonely stay on the island.  A sail of hope that ensured his survival.  Yes, his intense desire to see the love of his life, Kelly, played by Helen Hunt, was that first “sail brought in by the tide.”  So what do we do when we are presented with such a set of circumstances in our own lives?  Again the central question emerges: “Do we discern His hand or only mere occurrence?

In “The Four Loves” C.S. Lewis weighs in on this question as well saying, “In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out.  It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

What do you do when circumstances so improbable, so unlikely occur in your life that you find yourself face to face with your nose smashed up against this question’s  unwavering nose?  What do you do when you realize you’ve been given a gift you absolutely don’t deserve?  A gift that far exceeds anything you could’ve ever possibly imagined for yourself?  What do you do with such a gift knowing deep down what you really deserved instead was a bowl of two week old oatmeal, or something far worse?  Ah yes, the world’s perspective of right and wrong, good and bad, delivered by way of the spoon named “no mercy” with the distinct taste of “you had it coming to you” as it first touches your tongue.  Truth be told the world’s perspective would be right if that was the only viewpoint to be had.  But, what if there’s so much more at work here?  Again,  “Do we discern His hand or only mere occurrence?

An improbable, unforeseen, and most assuredly undeserved sail washed up on my shoreline as an unexpected gift a few years ago at the age of almost 60.  What do you do when the owner of the company you’ve worked almost 20 years for comes into your office and totally out of character and out of the blue asks, “Jim, why don’t you and your wife move to Florida?” Before I could even answer that question it was followed up by “I don’t want to lose you.  So, I think I have an idea that will allow you to move to Florida and still work for me using the internet.  What do you have to do for that to happen?”  “Well,” I replied, all the while trying to maintain my composure in these totally uncharted, unexpected, and completely inviting waters, “First off we can’t afford to move there and not be employed so we weren’t planning on going anywhere just yet.  Besides, I like working here.  As far as making it happen we’d have to sell our house, of course.  That might take a while since there have been houses for sale in our neighborhood for several months and even longer so who knows when that might or might not happen.”  Fast forward not quite two months later having sold our house in a week and closed in a month we found ourselves in Florida, our longtime vacation spot and only previously dreamed for number one retirement place on our list not as the retirees as we once imagined we would be,  but as unexpectedly still part of this nation’s workforce.   In practically a flash our lives had been turned upside down in a most dramatic and surprising way. Reading this some might be tempted to say that my wife and I were obviously living for God and were being “all-in” sort of followers of Him leading up to this remarkable scenario, but, in fact, the opposite was true at the time.  After spending the first few years of our marriage in the church whenever the doors were open we had slid all the way into the position of having gone to church only once, and begrudgingly so at that even though it was Easter, the year before the move.  Sad  and embarrassing to say, but all in all we spent almost 30 years wandering around in the world apart from Him in what I often refer to as our own “self-made desert.”  Speaking for myself, the once coveted daily alone times with Him in prayer and study that I had hungered for immediately following my salvation so many years ago at the age of 29 were rare.  Gone also was the desire to give Him offerings through the church.  Gone were so many of the thoughts of Him that I used to enjoy throughout my day.  Where He once stood, the world now stood in His rightful place.  Essentially I had abandoned Him just like the Prodigal Son had left his own father in Luke 15:11-32.

So, I ask you, how can you not be utterly swept off of your feet by His unfailing kindness and everlasting love through this extraordinary gift which was given in the midst of my several decades long Prodigal son disobedience of forging my own way?  What do you do when all of a sudden you realize you were never out of His thoughts even though He was largely out of your own thoughts for so many years?  Five years after the miracle of moving here to Florida His mercy and grace extended to us on that day in my office with the president of the company still sweeps me off of my feet.  Tears of gratitude still flow easily as I think about the extravagant generosity and love He demonstrated to me and my family beginning in that moment.   And all given in the midst of our disobedience and separation from Him.  Yes, that’s the love arrow to my heart, friend, one that I’ve not since even dared remove, nor do I desire to remove.  Jeremiah 31:3 (NKJV), says, “The Lord appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.’”  Indeed, how can you respond to such great unmerited love, mercy, grace , and such unfailing kindness with anything other than love and adoration?  Our self-imposed exile apart from Him for decades had come to a merciful and grace-filled end.   So, again the question comes forth, “Do we discern His hand or only mere occurrence?”  Friend, by now you know for certain how I wholeheartedly and unashamedly choose to answer this important question.

What do you do at age 63 when the job that moved you down here, and one you’ve prospered in for almost 20 years, disappears three years into the move to Florida?  At 63 most people, including many of my friends, are nearing retirement or have already retired.  No way were my wife and I financially prepared to call it a day and join the ranks of the retired, and that mainly due to our own bad choices during those desert wandering years.   Financially we were between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

I’ve spent the better part of my life, 40 years or so, in the oil and gas business as a prospecting petroleum geologist.  The odds of me finding a similar job here in the Florida Panhandle are similar to winning the lottery.  From a work experience point of view I’m a laser guided missile aimed at one target, and one target only.   Attempting to come anywhere even close to the salary we had grown accustomed to during my career outside of my field of expertise was an impossible task.  The same downturn in the oil and gas industry that cost me my job also meant there were almost no openings anywhere for someone like me, especially at my age, and also guaranteed that there were hundreds of equally qualified people like myself chasing the few openings that were actually out there.  My resume joined thousands of others like myself looking for work on one online oil and gas employment website.  As if the mountain before me wasn’t intimidating enough already, as I was attempting to “high-grade” the site’s information about me I came across a pull-down regarding “year you received your degree(s).”  All well and good I thought to myself until I continued to scroll down and down and down some more only to realize that the very last year available to select was the year after I received my final degree.   My degree year was, well, off the charts  relegated to ancient history.  Yes, that thud you just heard was my heart hitting the floor as the true enormity of our situation planted itself squarely on my head and shoulders.  Whose wouldn’t?

What do you do when your prayer request is answered, but in ways you didn’t see coming?  How many times have we all heard this before?  A year before my layoff I had been led to pray for “job freedom.”  That freedom surprisingly came in financially painful cut-back increments of 25%, 25%, and then the final 50% cut.  In my mind I just knew the Lord was going to cause an overlap between my former job and whatever my new job would be.  Instead I was greeted by a chasm the size of the Atlantic Ocean made even more treacherous by the knowledge we had only 3 to 4 months of savings to keep the wolves at bay.  Yeah, but then you’ve got unemployment to help you out some of you will say.  No, that parachute was not even available to us because I had officially terminated my employment with the company as per our agreement if I moved to Florida and in doing so became an independent LLC contractor thereby making me self-employed and unable to claim unemployment.  But along the path that ultimately resulted in losing my contractor’s job I was given the extra time by way of these three separate installments of “job freedom” to devote to forging a new career direction.  Again I ask, “Do we discern His hand or only mere occurrence?

prayer circle

Three days after I became unemployed, my good friend, David,  called to tell me he’d been let  go along with almost a thousand other folks  as part of his Houston based company’s attempts to fix their bottom line during the downturn.   David’s area of expertise by education and training is as a lawyer/landman.  David and I first met several years ago when he was hired by that same company I was contracting for that offered the move to Florida to me.  We hit it off immediately personally as well as professionally and remained in contact even after he left the company to go to work for this other company in Houston.  Even before he left to go to Houston he and I would sit in our offices and we’d arm wave and daydream about one day how great it’d be if we could start up our own oil and gas exploration company together.  That thought was always fun and enticing, but seemed like an absolute impossibility at the time.

Over time David became discouraged with his position and work in Houston.  At that same time I was now in Florida, and I, too, had grown increasingly restless in my job as well, thus my prayer for “job freedom.”  The fantasy conversations regarding our teaming up together to form our own company continued via long distance phone calls and emails finally reaching a point about a year before our forced unemployment in which we decided to see if we could come up with a business plan, or vision, for a startup exploration company.  By the time the layoffs happened we already had a business model in place, but lacked the courage to finally “pull the plug” as they say and make it happen.  Unhappy as I was in my job, it was still a steady source of income which made it difficult for me to leave for something that was no more than a PowerPoint presentation of our daydreams.  David, with a young family, faced similar tough choices.  And then everything changed with the layoffs.  We both found ourselves on the streets within a three day time window of each other.  A few months later our exploration company, the one David and I had first only daydreamed about years ago while sitting in our offices, was born on a wing and much prayer when the first of several investors climbed on board with us immediately after our longtime industry friends skilled in the business of operating oil and gas wells, an area in which David and I were glaringly deficient, decided seemingly almost out of nowhere over an impromptu lunch to become a part of what we were doing thus providing us with a legitimacy and expertise we simply couldn’t muster on our own.  As the last of our three months of savings ran dry, we gratefully received our first paycheck from the startup company.  Our area of drilling activity in which we’ve now drilled our first three wells in is an area I prospected for oil in around 25 years ago for yet another company on my career path.   At that time I had no idea just how important those 5 years of experience I gained exploring that particular geographic area for oil prospects would be because the company I had most recently worked and later contracted for was almost entirely focused on natural gas well drilling in another part of the country.  Although the entire industry suffered on both the natural gas and petroleum fronts, it was by far and away the natural gas segments of the industry that took the brunt of all these massive cutbacks and layoffs.   Because I had previous experience searching for oil I had the expertise under my belt to craft an exploration strategy for our new startup company which had to be built on oil and not gas exploration.  Oh yes, indeed you know by now what question is, and rightly so, coming next: “Do we discern His hand or only mere occurrence?

Where does one go from this watershed experience moving forward once this question regarding discerning His hand at work has been unequivocally answered?  For me, the answer was crystal clear in my mind and the desire deeply engraved on my heart: The Lord encourages us to seek Him.   Yes, I must seek to know My Rescuer, the One who showed me mercy when I deserved none, the One who ultimately drew me with unfailing kindness even in the face of my own Prodigal Son’s actions.  Who is this God that loves me so much?  Deuteronomy 4:29 (NKJV) says, “But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”  Indeed, Isaiah 55:6 (NKJV) tells us, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.”  But how might those interested in finding Him go about this search?  Where and how should we look?  The obvious starting and foundational “true north” point is in His Word, the Bible.  Psalm 119:105 (NKJV) proclaims, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Without this “spiritual compass” to guide you along the way you can rest assured you’ll lose the trail, and dangerously so just as I did during the time I spent wandering aimlessly about in that desert of my own choosing.  Spending time with Him in His Word is absolutely essential.  Jesus said as much in Matthew 4:4 (NKJV) saying, “But He answered and said, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every world that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”  I can unequivocally say that these past few years would not have even been survivable apart from Him in all areas of my life.  Life for me now without Him is simply unimaginable.  I love what our brother in Christ, Rick Warren, says in a Youversion devotional plan entitled “The Invisible War” regarding this idea of an all-in Christ-centered life:  “You’ll never know that God is all you need until He’s all you have.  Are you there yet?  There’s no better place to be.”

Martin Luther once penned, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet and runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”  Such a passionate and intimate way to describe the Lord’s words and their effects upon his life don’t you think? For Luther this was an intimate, deep, ongoing, and utterly alive relationship that far surpassed merely reading an old book.  He experienced the living God in these words and pages.   Can you relate to what Luther is saying?  Or, going in the complete opposite direction, would you perhaps be more comfortable if the Lord were nowhere to be found at all?  Amos 8:11 (NKJV) speaks of just such a situation saying, “Behold the days are coming,’ says the Lord God, ‘That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.  They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it.”  Imagine for a moment, a world, a life, completely empty of His presence.  What if God were to withhold Himself from you?  Would you even notice His absence? Luther would, of course.  The difference between these two extremes is like standing on one side of the Grand Canyon and looking across the shadow encased depths of the canyon floor at the distant cliffs on the far side.  Our Lord Jesus addresses this chasm by simply proclaiming, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” (Matthew 12:30, NKJV) Ultimately this is a matter of one’s true heart is it not?  Isaiah 29:13 (NKJV) says, “Therefore the Lord said:  ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.”  Pulling no punches Jesus again addresses this issue of where, or rather whom, your heart lies, by saying in Revelation 3:14-16 (NKJV), “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: ‘I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”  The real tragedy of being lukewarm is that you don’t get to enjoy everything He has planned for you. A lukewarm heart falls far short of the plans He desires for you, and for me, which He established for us back before we were even born.  If you’re lukewarm where is the abundance of the blessings of His everlasting love that He has in store for you to be found?  Deep down don’t you want to experience God just as Martin Luther has described?  Don’t you want to feel pursued and laid hold of by Him, too, such that He is not just God, but rather He is so much more than that?  From the very depths of your soul and heart don’t you want to be able to passionately say with no hesitation, He is MY God?  “And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God.”  (John 20:28, NKJV)   He is standing at the door to your heart knocking ever so gently, ever so patiently, what will you choose to do?

In “Wild at Heart” my favorite author, John Eldredge,  asserts, and I think rightly so, that each artist puts themselves, who she or he is, into their creations, into their artwork such that you are given glimpses, little pieces of themselves, or even whole delicious mouthfuls, of who they are when you view their creative efforts.  So, embracing the idea that art reflects the individual artist, then surely as far as artists go isn’t it entirely reasonable to say that God is the artist’s Artist, THEE ultimate Artist?  Therefore, is it not also completely plausible to expect His art, the visible results of His handiwork He has created, to reflect Him, who He is, in some manner?  Should we not be able to examine and observe the world around us and find Him in all things in some way, big or small, obvious or not so obvious, regardless of their part on the world stage that He has set them upon?  God has framed, matted, and put on display each of His creations and in so doing He has graciously given us an open window through which to not only see Him but to know Him.  After all, we’re reminded in Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NKJV), “He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”

“As workers for God we have to learn to make room for God-to give God ‘elbow room.’  We calculate and estimate, and say that this and that will happen, and we forget to make room for God to come in as He chooses. Would we be surprised if God came into our meeting or into our preaching in a way we had never looked for Him to come?  Do not look for God to come in any particular way, but look for Him.”  (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest”, p17 “Leave room for God” January 25th devotional) Are you looking, really looking for Him?  Like a dog with its nose to the ground you must be intentional as you seek Him.

Just as each artist individually creates something different from another’s work, so then do we, as observers, respond differently to what has been created.  In other words, you and I may look at the same artwork but be moved differently by it.   We are all unique, both as artists and as observers.  This is why Picasso’s work does not look like Monet’s creations, or why Bach and Beethoven didn’t create the same exact music.  It’s also why you and I don’t react the same way to what we’re observing or experiencing.  Surely the One who knows the number of hairs on your head and Who knows the number of your days having known you before you were born while you were yet in your mother’s womb, and Who also knows when you arise or lay down or what you’re going to say before you say it knows best how to get your attention and how best to communicate with you, wouldn’t you agree?  Would that always look the same for each and every one of us?   Since we’re all unique, I think the answer to that is rather obvious.  This is important to understand because ultimately what my attention might be drawn to is not necessarily the same as what might “float your boat” so to speak.  In other words, you don’t need to be out necessarily seeking and finding God as I do.  The moments I’ve shared on this site may or may not resemble your moments with Him.  The larger and more important point, however, is that He’s promised that if we seek Him He will be found.  Each of us have within our grasp, if we will just believe and do so, the opportunity to enjoy an intimate and deep relationship with Him that is so much richer and more meaningful than merely sitting and dozing on the back pew of the same church we’ve been attending for year after year.  I have demonstrated excellent skills in this area from time to time, by the way.  No, there are rich, deep, intimate moments to be shared with the One who loves you so much if you’ll simply take a step in His direction.  He wants to do life with you, of this I am certain.

Contained on this site are “moments” I’ve shared with Jesus as I’ve learned to walk with Him down the path He has set before me.  These moments consist of marrying scripture with my love for photography alongside my love of word play, particularly in the form of puns and words or phrases that can be whirled around like a child’s spinning easel paint toy.  For me words are pictures, and pictures are words.   As an example I offer you this photo I personally consider to be grate…

grate photo

Ouch!  For years I kept such eye rolling puns largely to myself, but over time I’ve begun to embrace this sort of “bad dad joke” thing as part of who He has made me to be.  I’ve learned that being anyone other than who He has made me to be is not only dishonest and unfair to those around me as well as myself, but also in its own backwards sort of way questions Him as to what He was doing when He created me, quirks and all.  I am unique.  You are unique.  He has His reasons for creating you as He did, so embrace the you He has created.  You want a relationship with Jesus?  Start by being yourself with Him, flaws, quirks, and all.  Let your guard down with Him.  Newsflash:  By far and away, He prefers the real you over your fake self so give it the heave ho.   And then get ready for some transformation.

Some of these moments of insight are like the clap of thunder heard whenever lightning appears.  Others have been rather drawn out and prolonged, more like an evolving process as if you were watching time lapse photography of a flower blooming.   Along this path it’s not been unusual for my attention to be drawn to something at the time, only to find it not placed into context until sometime later in an “ah hah!” sort of inspirational moment of  understanding.   So, for instance, something unusual will catch my eye and I’ll snap a photo of it.  It might be weeks later before the story it has to tell comes to my mind and heart.  In the early goings of these conversations I would almost always wonder to myself, “I wonder who this is for?”  I have to laugh at my naivete and roll my eyes at the pride such thinking obviously involves because as time has gone by I’ve realized that these were many more times than not my lessons to be learned.  He has been long suffering with me to say the least as we’ve traveled this path together.  Along this path I’ve also observed that the more scripture I’m exposed to the more I “see” it played out in the context and circumstances of my life.  It is these moments I share within the pages of this site.  Make no mistake, the treasure map used to seek God is His Word, the Bible.  Want a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Lord?  Study His treasure map, the Bible, and then let Him open up a world to you unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before.

I don’t pretend to think I’ve “arrived” and have all of the answers.  Indeed, in Philippians 3:12-13 (NKJV) Paul sends a great reminder our way regarding this issue of our thinking as to whether we’ve “arrived” or not,  saying, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” In so many ways my journey with Him is still just beginning…and the prospect of journeying through the unknown portions of the path with Him absolutely excites me!  But, I can tell you that I no longer see Him as remote, distant, and largely uninterested as to what’s going on in my life.  I have found Him to be an ever-present friend who loves me just as I am.  The depth of His compassion and kindness demonstrated towards me these past few years has been astonishing and uplifting.  He has made me feel at home and secure with Him.  Not once has He let me down always showing up in just the right manner and at just the right time with exactly what I needed.  My cries for help as well as my outbursts of joy have all been heard and intimately shared and experienced with Him.  He has been, and is, my Rock, my Strength, and my Hope.

“Do we discern His hand or only mere occurrence?” Do not simply fly by that question and let the significance of it fade away with not so much as a yawn on our part.  There is far too much to gain and far too much to lose considering this question.  So much hangs in the balance.  Whether you realize it or not this question draws a line in the sand.  On which side do you find yourself standing?  Do you stand on the side that “sees His hand” warmly filling you with hope, or do you stand on the other side that sees no more than random occurrences and unmercifully leaves you cold and starving?  A funny thing happens when you give over your imagination to Him.  All of a sudden this great big old world becomes an even grander and gloriously larger new every morning experience filled to overflowing with Him by your side.  I can’t help but think about MercyMe’s opening lyrics to that beautiful song, “I Can Only Imagine” which say, “I can only imagine what it will be like…when I walk by your side…I can only imagine what my eyes will see…when your face is before me…I can only imagine.”  Everyone’s favorite poet beginning from our childhood, Dr. Seuss, captures this spirit in “Oh the Places You’ll Go” when he says, “You’re off to great places!  Today is your day!  Your mountain is waiting, so…get on your way!”  Indeed, where will He take you today, my friend?  Now, please, let me share with you a few of the places He has taken me these past few years.

Before I go, allow me a few words about these moments I’ve shared with you on these pages. With few exceptions all of the photography herein is my own.  I’ve received permission, of course, from those friends whose few photos I’ve used in addition to my own.  Also, please know that it’s always my intent to present to you the context or circumstances of the photos intact with no editing in that regard.  I will remove logos and such that I don’t have the rights to in the photos, however.  If I think the photo needs to be enhanced by tweaking the color etc. so that the photo is more interesting, in my opinion, I certainly won’t hesitate to do that either.  What can I say since that’s my own inner artist demanding to be heard, you know?  Lastly, while I genuinely love and enjoy beautiful, stirring photography as much as the next person, a good bit of what you’ll see here does not fall into that description because it’s the context of the photo that makes the story come alive.

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