Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Changing Perspective

The last picture was supposed to be the last picture.  Yet, my young husband shook his head as he waited for me to find just the right angle, adjust for the sun light, and aim just at the right height to capture the sun flare, piercing into my soul from the tree line.

Well maybe not quite piercing my soul, but it begged to be captured, and held protectively in the digital confines of this memory catcher- my trusty camera.

We got in the car and he looked at the tree line and turned to me. "What is so special about what I'm looking at?"

I showed him the capture.

His eyes widened, blown away by the exquisite way the light burst through the leaves like a star, cascading flakes of gold on the branches and gently landing on the fence below- ending with a warm glow that only the late afternoon sun could emanate.



It dawned on me that this -the eye for the moment (the moments that call out to be taken) is not something to be taken for granted. These moments are the ones that captivate and manipulate emotions. These are the moments that render us sometimes helpless, unable to let go of yesterday. These moments simultaneously revive hope. When I look at my portfolio, and see the myriad of pictures taken, one would never determine there were ever hard and hurting times in my life.

Yet one would be wrong.

There were many moments when we did not know where the next meal was coming from. There were seasons where the ends just simply didn't meet. Days existed where dreams threatened to fade and die.

But in photos from those seasons I see rays of yellow bending light cupping daydreaming faces.

I see footprints in knee-high snow, like treasure maps to 3 nearby snow angels all in a row.

I see siblings in cornfields playing hide and seek.

I see backyard explorers, ready to take over S.S. Treehouse.

And I see young ones running through sunflower fields,  temporarily oblivious to the outside world.

These moments reminds us that in hard seasons, there are still smiles to be smiled, laughs to be laughed, and stories to be made. And so while it may look like we are just taking pictures from one angle, we're capturing moments, and encapsulating the beauty of life's ups and downs. We're finding the happy in the crappy and the joy in the "oh boy!" And  we are writing the awe in the awful and discovering, it too is awesome. You just have to look from through another lens, and maybe change your aperture for a new perspective.

*All Images property of Chantel L Dillard, subject to copyright and may not be reproduced or copied without express permission and accreditation.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Course He set

This morning in meditation my thoughts turned toward the sun and the stars and the moon and how their course and purpose was established from the very beginning. Since then they have stayed the course  (with the exception when God allowed the sun to stand for Joshua's sake). They have fulfilled their purpose. All of God's creation has done this, except humanity.
And I imagined my self as a star set on a course, a destined pathway. I realize that time and time again I've deviated off course in an attempt to satisfy my own curiosity or fulfill my own desires. 

But just as the course of the sun, itself a star, determines and shapes seasons, I wonder if maintaining or averting my course impacts seasons the same way. And not for myself alone, for others. I can't help but begin to feel the responsibility of someone discovering or not discovering something of God because I walk in, or fail to walk in, my God-ordained course, set from the beginning of my creation. 
My stalling or deviation may have hindered or diverted a divine encounter. 
Now God can make the crooked places straight. And I can not stop his plans.  "Nothing can catch Him by surprise- He's got this figured out..." (Travis Greene, Made A Way). 
But oh the awakening my mind is experiencing that each moment in the walk of Gods child is divinely appointed. Someone is being directly or indirectly impacted by what I do and say. 
I must stay the course,  to shine for him. I must trust my present and next step to his divine mastery. 

"I lean not to my own understanding.  My life is in the hands 
of the maker of heaven. 
I give it all to you God,
  trusting that you'll make something beautiful
Out of me"
-Leon Timbo

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The First Kiss: Keeping it holy

"Greet one another with a holy kiss"- Romans 6:16; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:26

One of the first mentions of the word kiss in the bible is in Genesis 27:26. Isaac asked his son to come near and kiss him. In this context it is clear that that kiss is not one of a romantic gesture. It is an action of greeting between those who have deep regard for one another. In middle eastern culture even today, a kiss on the cheek between males and females alike is a cultural standard greeting between friends and loved ones. The Hebrew word for kiss above is nashaq. It literally means to put together, to fasten up. It is also translated as a gentle touch as in Ezekiel 3:13, or in some contexts, nashaq is translated as “to arm” or “ to equip with weapons” such as in  1 Chronicles 12:4 , 2 Chronicles 17:17, Psalm 78:9.

A concordance search of the word kiss denotes the kiss, in the majority of the mentions,as a  form of a greeting--much like a hug among brothers and sisters, family and friends.

There is no question that a hug between friends and family is very different than a hug shared between a betrothed couple. Likewise the kiss.

In the concordance search there is mention of a kiss that is not between mere friends or family--platonic. It is the kiss of a romantic or sexual nature. This romantic kiss is mentioned clearly in Song of Solomon 1:2, where the kisses are contextually romantic. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.”  Also in Song of Solomon 8:1, the female speaker longs for an excuse to kiss her love without being reproached.

When the apostles encourages the brethren to greet one another in a holy kiss in the epistles, it is the word philema- denoting a fraternal kiss of brotherly love. Much like aforementioned in the middle eastern culture. It was not to encourage sexual or romantic philandering, rather bonding and mutual familial affection.

I think it is prudent  that the older/experienced believers, encourage our young men and woman to guard their hearts. When one is engaged it is easy to believe it is OK to engage in romantic kissing. Each has their own convictions on the matter, which is why I wanted to go to the word to clarify what God expects for his children. One peck on the lips, can began a progression that is not easily retracted. One lingering touch between lips that last a second longer than intended, can heighten sexual passion in an instant. Literally. Do not be fooled. Even Paul declared the evil he does not want to do, he does, because, the good that he wants to do is opposed by the present evil. Don’t give room to the flesh my dear brothers and sister in Christ.  We don’t want to be  stumbling blocks to one another- especially the younger ones who look up to you as young adults.

Social media today makes it easier to share our lives; this should cause us to be even more careful that we are not stumbling blocks to others based on our own personal allowances.

In conclusion- the kiss shared between a betrothed couple should be reserved for marriage- for when the vows are said and done, the betrothed couple is sacredly joined before God and man.

The nashaq is “to join”. To do so before you have vowed yourself one to another, only to “divorce” (a complete separation between two things) before you have "tied the knot" is to bring unnecessary shame and heartbreak. Save your first romantic kiss for once your marriage vows have been spoken. A betrothed couple should be sure to make it clear between one another their boundaries on expressing their affection toward each other before marriage.

When it comes to social media, be sure you both always agree on what should or should not be posted. At the end of the day it is your decision. Sadly, we can all ( myself included) make the word say what we want it when we want it if we want to do something badly enough.
Let the fruit of the Spirit be manifest in all we do.

Peace and Blessings,

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

An Essay on Growing

I’m Not Who I’ve Been

Goldie the butterfly was - hurt. Not physically. It was his feelings. His friends didn’t believe it was him. He flew over a leaning bird bath, where,in one cracked corner with peeling white paint, he caught sight of himself. He gasped at his reflection. Wowzers! He thought. This is going to take some getting used to. It’s me alright, he thought. Just different. He now liked nectar instead of leaves;  flying instead of crawling. But he still enjoyed the sun, and the trees and his buggy friends who all seemed to resent his change. “It’s still me”, he thought- I’m just not a caterpillar anymore…

It’s a  word  rich in hope and potential.
It says one’s present state of existence, is transitioning to a point or position where one is not-  at least not yet. The challenge is, moving from the being of now , to the being, to come. Who one is to become in the future is not always clearly known- at least not by the individual themselves.  We may be able to take a guess as to how we may look. We may have dreams and hopes that at present direct our next step. Yet, this is usually, the end of our knowing. From our point of view, most of our future self is written in hopes and maybes.

Somehow, however,  one thing is certain. There is an innate understanding that we can not remain the being we are, at present,  forever. Change is inevitable. The growth from a baby to an adult is the simplest change, yet, can not be avoided. Still, several things can make transition, or transformation, challenging. Here are two that stick out:
1.) self -limitations. We do not believe we can be something more than what we are now; and 2.) fear. We are afraid of either losing  parts of who we are now, or  afraid of being forced to embrace something unfamiliar or unknown about our future selves.

Limitations.There is no doubt that humanity is obsessed with itself. We study our own nature, psychoanalyze patterns and traits, and try to get a grasp on who we are. We fall into the trap of allowing ourselves to be comfortably boxed in by society’s philosophies regarding these personality traits and types, and astronomy signs. There is a plethora of sources ready to help you  figure out who you are and where you fit in. Why? It makes us  feel empowered. It makes us feel justified.  We want to own our identities and personalities, and solidify why we do what we do. Truth be told, we want to be free from accountability and responsibility for our actions.  This is evident in phrases like, “This is just the way I’m wired.”
Let’s be honest, it feels good to say, doesn’t it?

See the other day in a false sense of hopelessness, I turned to these natural methods of self-discovery. I am not saying they are all bad. I am saying we can restrict ourselves to the results of these “tests”. They supposedly reveal our personality, or thinking style, or dress style even, or whether we are sanguine or melancholy- or not. Before this point I thought,  why can’t I seem to break free of this habit of mine to (clears throat) procrastinate; or why am I so ( cough-cough) unfocused, or, when will I learn it’s OK to say no because I need a nap?  How relieving it felt as I read articles and clicked the multiple choice questions and watched “discover your truth” videos. Suddenly I felt understood, and so empowered when I read all about- ME. I read how my so-called deficiencies were not flaws, just misguided potential ticking bombs of positivity. I thought to myself, I just need to own that I am the way I am. All I have to do is capitalize on my strengths and view my weaknesses as just strengths-in-the-making. RED FLAG.

Without warning I was moving toward self-centeredness. I was becoming comfortable with simply being rather than becoming. I was willing to take the lazy road. Doing nothing required no effort.  I was being OK with limiting my existence to only what I see in the mirror, rather than beyond.  See, there’s a passage that talks about becoming.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away ; behold , all things are become new.-2 Corinthians 5:17

So God doesn’t intend for me to stay the way I am. He never intended for me to capitalize on my weaknesses, but to give my weaknesses to him. He states

“be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” - Romans 12:2

I almost unintentionally bought into the lie that I am good enough the way I am.  Please understand, this does not negate the perfect image of God in whom we were created. This only serves to confirm the effect sin has in corrupting that perfect image. We are fearfully and wonderfully made,  and it’s only in God we can get back to original form. God say’s it’s “ in him we live, and move, and have our being”. In other words, I am nothing without Christ. My very identity must be in Him, for he is the source of my being. He is to be also the inspiration for my becoming- more like Him- the way he intended from the beginning. And get this, it may not always come naturally. We have to work at it.

Ok so let’s talk FEAR. I get it. Who you are right now is comfortable. Sure there are things you’d like to change, but you‘ve come to the conclusion, it’s easier to continue presenting this present personality.You may think, If I make drastic changes, I’ll lose my companions. If I began to behave differently I’ll run the risk of confusing my family. In reality, you lose yourself if you keep forcing the growing version of you into the mold of who you no longer are.

Transitioning from the “now you” to the “growing you” can be daunting. Sure, you, and others around you, have only experienced you in the present. Your actions and responses and contributions to the party or group defined who you are, until now. With each passing day you learn more of who you are apart from the party and away from the group. Exercising individuality can be unfamiliar. Saying “no” when you’ve always said “yes” can have others raising their eyebrows at you. Or not.
Many of the fears we face are more in our own heads. Your circle of family and friends are not going to suddenly disown you. If we think about it, they are in their own various phases of “becoming”. Don’t suppress the unique individual that you are growing into, just to appease the comfort level of others. Your resentment and frustration of role playing will soon betray you.

Maybe a caterpillar knows it will be a butterfly one day. Maybe not. I laugh at the thought of the caterpillar stopping itself from crawling away to build a cocoon,because it didn’t want to offend it’s buggy pals. It wouldn’t survive in that form for long. If it kept trying to suppress the urge to go out on a limb and hang alone for a while, it would die. Can you imagine the energy and effort it would take for a caterpillar to force itself to not go to the next stage of growth? It can not be much better when we attempt it.  We may as well put that energy into becoming. Interestingly enough,  a writer named Paul understood this process.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.- 1 Corinthians 13:11-12

It’s Ok to not have it all figured out. It’s NOT Ok to deny your circle of family and friends the opportunity to support the person you’re becoming in Christ.
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,-Philippians 3:12-13

So how about it caterpillar? Don’t be afraid to lose out on squirming around munching and getting fat on leaves. Don’t worry about whether or or not you’ll know how to spin that cocoon. It’ll come.  Before you know it you’ll have wings. And I guarantee, those can take you much farther.