November 27, 2013

treasure the little things


Thanksgiving is here. As exciting as it can be, shopping for dinner rolls or cans of cranberry sauce, rushing around decorating and going someplace to celebrate the plenty with which God has blessed this generation, I am going to assume that many of you feel you do not have much to be thankful for. Perhaps there are not many or even any incredibly wowing events in your life at the moment. Perhaps it is quite the opposite, that there is many a hardship which you are struggling through presently, many a person whose relationship with you seems irreparable. Perhaps there has been death or sickness, or other suffering in your life which puts that empty hollow in your chest, so that you feel you do not have the happiness you believe you should on such a holiday. Well, I hope to remedy this abject thinking. I am not going to give a long lecture on the pilgrims and their hardships and their thankfulness on the providence of God, although this is a wonderful fact of history to be reminded of. I want to explain the title of this chapter and how it applies to tomorrow. Read on.



Almost exactly a year ago when I began taking some portrait sessions for others, I came up with a slogan, if you will, for my photography: treasure the little things. I suppose I have not actually begun to use it yet on Alabaster Rose Photography (my Facebook page), but I say it often anyway, because aside from photography, I have short proverbs or mottos I like to quote to myself and others, more of which I shall probably blog about soon enough, but this one seemed best fitting at present. As said before, in this life there oft seems to be very little to be thankful for. Now I make a practice to never allow myself to ask God why things are not better than they are. Instead, I thank Him for the little things. Believe me, when you really think about it, you have so much to thank Him for.



Every single day when I wake up, I thank God for the day.



It is so simple, but life itself is an incredible blessing which we do not deserve! I could go on for pages and pages about God’s grace to everyone in allowing us to live even though we are all sinners and deserve death! It is part of His ‘common grace’, the grace given to both those who are Saved by faith in Christ Jesus, and to those who have never heard His name or worse, outright refused Him. Life is a precious gift that everyone takes for granted.



I thank God for every single meal I eat.



I have only ever gone hungry a very few times in my entire life. Not everyone can say that. In fact, there are millions of people in the world who can probably say that they have only ever had their stomachs filled a very few times in their life! Some perhaps have never even had an entire meal before. I get to wake up every day and have the problem of deciding what I want to eat. This is a gift from God. May I never dare to forget such a gift! On Thanksgiving especially I always think about the turkey, the cranberry sauce, and all of the staples of the season which are really privileges and blessings, not requirements, and one which many others certainly do not have the means to enjoy as we do. This is another subject I could go on talking about for hours, as it is one that breaks my heart; the idea of starving children compared with we who are rich – for we who have funds enough to purchase pleasures on top of our daily needs certainly are very, very rich – gorging ourselves on more food than our stomachs need because of the tradition of celebrating plenty. It is barbaric. It is heartbreaking. I thank the Lord for my plenty, and I pray for the poor over nearly every bite, and give when I can so that they may be filled. (James 2:15-16, Luke 6:31)



I thank God for my family.



Obviously not everyone has family. Who might they celebrate with on Thanksgiving? Might they celebrate at all? I have family. In fact, there is not one close member of my family – not one grandparent, not one cousin, not one brother or sister or parent who has died in my life. The great-grandparents whom I was too young to know have died. Distant relations and friends of friends have died. Many, many pets have died. In fact, the closest creatures to me who have ever died, human or animal, have been my cats. I cannot know this heartbreak, though I know that I shall have my share of it one day. This presence of all of the people whom I love in my life is a most rare and precious gift. Better still, though not all Saved, I do not have any family members with whom I do not get along. And I will thank the Lord even should these relationships crumble. I will thank the Lord even when I lose to death the people closest to me. He is sovereign, and I will thank him for the time I have had getting-along with and loving my family.



I thank God for books, I thank Him for knitting, I thank Him for blankets, for tea, for paper, my house, my own bedroom, for my last living and very dear cat, for lamps, candles, pens, my laptop, writing, memories, thick socks, the biting cold weather, my leaf collection, my moss necklace from one of my best and dearest friends, flowering plants, the piano, pumpkin pie, dry and moist skin, chocolate milk, the Hobbit movies and book, long and short car trips, singing, walking, sleeping, our cozy sofas, recipes, long nights, long mornings, long in-betweens, for babysitting, for all of my dear friends, and yes, even for my bright pink bedroom walls.



The point is, when it comes down to it, we have much to be thankful for. Count your blessings this season; remember how much God has given to you. And treasure the little things.

November 14, 2013

trust

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight."
-Proverbs 3:5-6

Lord, I do not know what the future holds, but I know that you hold the future.



November 13, 2013

Thor: The Dark World

My dear friend and I went to see Thor: The Dark World in the theater yesterday. I thought it was spectacular, as I knew it would be, and it was almost exactly what I expected... plus much more.

As always, Marvel had special effects to impress, characters too honorable not to love, and one character in particular whose changeableness somehow manages to capture my heart. What is is about such a dark and troubled character like Loki that causes this? Is it the charming actor who plays his part coming through bringing the audience to tears, or is there something in the character itself that demands the need for love? In this movie, as much as if not even more than the first Thor, I felt compelled to offer that love, if only I could. I will not give anything away to those who still dearly wish to see this film, but I will say, we all desperately want to see Loki change, become the hero... don't we?

Sadly, there was one part of the movie I did not appreciate at all, and that is crude humor. Sometimes I forget that the world thinks about suchlike dreadful things in the exact opposite manner that I do, but at the same time as feeling this disgust, I was grateful to know that something so awful still disgusted me.

In spite of this minor disappointment, I was a bit impressed with some of the allusions in the movie, especially one at the very beginning when Odin, Thor's father, introduces us to the film's main theme: light verses darkness. Odin says that before light there was darkness, and in a way, he was right. This is a nod to Genesis 1:1-5,
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day."

As usual, the secular world interpreted this truth differently. In the movie, Odin seems to claim that there was no light at all, only darkness, he does not explain how the light came to be, or any of that (we Christians know of course that God is light, and has always existed, and also obviously created the world and the light and darkness, etcetera, so we know the answers to those questions), but regardless of this confusion, I found it interesting how often, as in this example, allusions to God were made. Having good theological teaching and a proper worldview going into the theater probably helped with this.

Also, the humor was beyond expectation or hope! Ugh... I do not wish to give any of this away either, but Loki especially had the theater laughing out loud!

All I ask of you is this, that if you go see Thor: The Dark World, that you lower your expectations on purpose, in order that you are completely blown away. (I was!)

November 11, 2013

the Everlasting Arms

Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest and most popular preachers in the history of the Church, his words still ringing true and relevant and convicting in these times as much as when the ink was fresh upon his papers over a century ago! I have many favourites of  his morning and evening devotionals, and this morning is no different:
God—the eternal God—is himself our support at all times, and especially when we are sinking in deep trouble. There are seasons when the Christian sinks very low in humiliation. Under a deep sense of his great sinfulness, he is humbled before God till he scarcely knows how to pray, because he appears, in his own sight, so worthless. Well, child of God, remember that when thou art at thy worst and lowest, yet “underneath” thee “are everlasting arms.” Sin may drag thee ever so low, but Christ’s great atonement is still under all. You may have descended into the deeps, but you cannot have fallen so low as “the uttermost;” and to the uttermost he saves. Again, the Christian sometimes sinks very deeply in sore trial from without. Every earthly prop is cut away. What then? Still underneath him are “the everlasting arms.” He cannot fall so deep in distress and affliction but what the covenant grace of an ever-faithful God will still encircle him. The Christian may be sinking under trouble from within through fierce conflict, but even then he cannot be brought so low as to be beyond the reach of the “everlasting arms”—they are underneath him; and, while thus sustained, all Satan’s efforts to harm him avail nothing.
    This assurance of support is a comfort to any weary but earnest worker in the service of God. It implies a promise of strength for each day, grace for each need, and power for each duty. And, further, when death comes, the promise shall still hold good. When we stand in the midst of Jordan, we shall be able to say with David, “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” We shall descend into the grave, but we shall go no lower, for the eternal arms prevent our further fall. All through life, and at its close, we shall be upheld by the “everlasting arms”—arms that neither flag nor lose their strength, for “the everlasting God fainteth not, neither is weary.” 

This reminded me of the blessed hymn,

"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."

I have many a 'motto' or 'proverb' if you will which I oft repeat to myself and quote to my friends. One of these, and my favourite of all, is 'In Christ alone'. It is a reminder to me that my salvation is in Christ alone, that my hope of heaven is in Christ alone, that my life is to be lived for and in Christ alone, that my strength for each day lies in Christ alone, and that at the end of every day, when once I look back on my many failures and sins over the course of those sunlit hours then behind me, that I am still in Christ alone, and where I am weakest, He is more than sufficient; and more than that, Paul during his sufferings and afflictions heard from the Lord this:

"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." (from 2 Corinthians 12:9)

And Paul continues in verse 10 of the same chapter,

"Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

In Ephesians six, we are called to 'stand firm', to 'be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might',  to 'put on the full armor of God'. In 1 Timothy 6:11-12, we read,

"But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."

And finally, Colossians 1:16,

"For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him."

All for Jesus.
Assuming you are truly Saved, truly believing that Christ is God and Saviour and Lord of all, then I say, let us obey these commands in God's Word, trust in full faith that He will empower and protect us, ever upholding us in His 'everlasting arms', and praise Him every day in trial or blessing, in famine or plenty, in drought or downpour.

Let us live in Christ alone.
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