It’s Not About Me

 (Jim Estok)

Distractions. It is so easy lately I find to become distracted. While reading, while doing menial and routine tasks I find my mind wandering. Disturbingly though I find my mind wandering during morning prayers. It bothers me; actually it troubles me so much that I feel I’m committing an act of defiance. Defiance to God. After all prayer is an act of reverence- deep respect for the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. It is also our chance to hear God speak, touch us and moves us to His will.

C.S. Lewis Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks… Click To Tweet

I feel selfish asking for my wants in prayer. God give me this or that…. Because it is not about my will but rather and most importantly it is all about His will. That’s where I get lost with that recognition in my mind I get lost for words. It’s not my turn to speak so I sit in silent reverence honouring God…..and my mind wanders. Help me God turn off my vision, turn off my hearing so I can only hear you and all the distraction are removed. I want a deeper level of communication.I pray.

I feel selfish asking for my wants in prayer. Click To Tweet

Pressing on and continuing to process my thoughts I am starting to believe that these distractions are the result of  God directing my attention to something or someone that He desires my attention too. Or even more possible He is calling  me to action. So today I prayed and my mind wandered and I prayed for people that entered my mind and I prayed for tragedies occurring in the world. And I prayed for God to use me for His Will. I also thanked Him for all the blessings He has bestowed on my life , my family, and all who I know and I prayed for forgiveness, for I am not perfect and need redemption.

Fact is its not about me……its about God.

 

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

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Stepping Into Mom’s Prayer

 (Jim Estok)

 

All that I am or I hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother Abe Lincoln Click To Tweet

God’s loyalty-who’s Love is limitless and full of Grace. Last week I wrote about the fear I had of His judgement and how that judgement, more specifically that fear of His judgement, held me back from entering into relationship with God.

“All that I am or I hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.”  Abe Lincoln

It struck me the other day while driving, how much my mother who prayed for my salvation from the time of my birth until her passing never gave up hope – even in my wandering- and she believed in the power of prayer. She never ceased praying for me! Right to the very end of her life. Another amazing fact is the people to this day I still meet who prayed for me with my mother. My niece Kim and I were with mom when she passed into Heaven and as she drew her last breath she was smiling.

My mother never ceased praying for me! Click To Tweet

I was not yet a Christian at the time of mom’s passing.But now as I think back on that moment maybe mom was smirking knowing what was to come- as God gently whispered to mom, well done my good and faithful servant. I further envision God telling mom not too worry….. that Son of ours will come to know me very soon.

Somehow I find some irony in the fact that very shortly after I lost my mother-my greatest advocate for salvation-I came to know Jesus who took me by the hand and introduced me to God! “How marvelous, How wonderful……(a hymn my mother sang often)……..Is my Saviour’s love for me.”

Mom’s worldly days of prayer ended but I’m sure they continue in Heaven. And as she entered into the arms of God and God took over the work she started in me.

Salvation reigned!

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

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Anticlimactic Poke

 (Jim Estok)

The other day I had to go for a medical test. Part of the test was conducted by a technician and the last part of the test was performed by the doctor as it involved puncturing the skin with a needle at five specific points. Each time the doctor prepared to pierce my skin with the needle she would announce “poke coming” which of course would heighten the anticipation that pain was to follow. However, each time it was anticlimactic…..no pain ever appeared. It brought back memories of when I was a child and that announcement of “poke coming” would have been confirmation that the process was painful, even if it really wasn’t. Childhood stories shared in the neighborhood play grounds would’ve magnified such a process to the point of shear terror. Maturity makes a difference in how we perceive and  process life’s activities and events.

So too is the forgiveness of God anti-climactic in that it is not painful; but rather it is… Click To Tweet

The fear of judgement contributed to my resistance of entering into a relationship with God for far too long a time. Because it was truly hard to believe that God would forgive my sin. That fear of judgement conjured up images of an angry God. And for me, I believed God would be justified in His feelings because as a child I was raised in the church and both my parents were faithful to God and openly practiced their faith but I as a young teenager thought I knew better and left the church behind. Not for me, don’t need it. Although I still believed there was a God and he was responsible for all creation- I thought I was above all that and didn’t need God. So my image of  God  and my image of judgement was not an image of a Father longingly waiting with open arms to greet me and forgive me but rather it was an image of Father who was angry and waiting to punish and scold me. It was going to be painful.

“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” SOREN KIERKEGAARD

But it wasn’t that way at all in my experience. It was a joy when I entered into relationship with God through Jesus Christ and was surrounded by His loving arms and forgiveness was given. Apprehension and fear evaporated and were not even present as His love wiped away all…helped by tears of joy washing the fear of judgement and my heart swelling with love, filled with redemption.

An anticlimactic Poke!! Judgement full of joy!

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

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All Who Labour

 (Jim Estok)

As we celebrate Labour Day…. I include an image portraying an early century pharmacist I took at a recreated village of the period.

For me the greatest Labourer is Jesus Christ who laboured for the benefit of all of us!

In Canada, Labour Day has been celebrated on the first Monday of September since the 1880’s. The origins of the day trace back to 1872 when a parade was staged to support the striking Toronto Typographical Union. As a result of the support for the unions who continued to recognize the day,  Prime Minister John Thompson made Labour day an official holiday on June 23 1894. And it stands to this day to celebrate workers who fought and continue to champion the cause for better working conditions.

Labour day according to the Gospel is also significant as Jesus spoke:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon… Click To Tweet

In the time Jesus spoke these words he was speaking to the people who were bearing the burden and yoke put upon them by the traditions and ordinances which the Pharisees and scribes had imposed on the consciousness of the people. It was the pressure to conform to the legalism of the their faith.

Compare this to today where we have the pressure to conform to worldly influences. As such we work at jobs to find lasting satisfaction through our work where we seek status, power, money and prestige. Some of us try to find satisfaction through the fulfillment of our successes at work. Where others try and find satisfaction from the fruits of their labour….money. Either way leaves unsatisfied.  As Christians we are in conflict with the world. 

When Jesus said “Come to me…” it was not solely for the purpose of pardoning sin. Period full stop.  There is a further depth he calls us too, his proclamation is an invitation to walk beside Him day by day becoming more and more like Him and to walk with the Lord for His glory and honor. We are to love Him. So that that is the ultimate motivation and outcome. But there is more not solely for your own benefit but the benefits of others. Remember the two greatest commands (Matthew 22:36-40). Love God  Love others.

“Without Labour nothing Prospers.”  Sophocles

I long and strive to go beyond the selfish faith of: Going to church to grow personally; and to read the Bible to find personal direction; and to sing praises to feel an emotional charge; that in my understanding of the Gospel is simply obeying for personal blessings. None of these are wrong in fact they are a part of the Truth of the Gospel. The full scope of what Christ wants and invites us too however, is to take on the attitude of Christ and look to others’ needs more than our own (Philippians 2:3-5).

God Bless you as you Labour in the calling of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

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Contra the Most and the Least

 (Jim Estok)

What we need the most in our lives is what we want the least in our lives. And it is usually through pain or suffering that this lesson finally becomes obvious and that we recognize and admit the errors of our ways. At least this has proved true for me.

I was recently having coffee with a family member and sharing in some great conversation when a common thread in life experiences was revealed. We both had attended church with our parents when we were younger but during our teenage years became disengaged with the church due to the hypocritical actions of our (youth aged) peers. For him it was during youth group events at the church when a portion of the youth group would sneak out behind the church for a smoke. For me it was at school where I saw all the “devout” youth (the ones my parents encouraged me to be more like) from church acting out and not living the life they proclaimed at church. We both had the same reactions and walked away from the church.

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us. Augustine Click To Tweet

I’ve since returned several years ago to Christianity and the church and I expressed to him that I so regret that I ever left. I wish I had stayed involved in the church because I feel regretful that I missed so many years of christian life. I thought I knew better but what I needed the most I wanted the least.

I have unfortunately learned many life lessons in this fashion. Contra the heard-that’s me- always in opposition to the trend. I’ve never been one to jump on the proverbial bandwagon of the current trends. I’ve always been more about finding my own way and setting my own course, opposite the trend. Better described as having an attitude of defiance- if its popular and main stream its not for me. A great example of this is that as a music lover I’ve never let “the charts” determine my musical interests; rather the the artists I enjoy have usually never received “chart” success although they may receive critical acclaim they are not known for mass popularity.

Since our conversation an ironic thought has come to mind. When I, in my youth, walked away from the church it was more popular, using the measurement of church attendance, than it is today. Does this mean that I am simply following my own established tendencies to go opposite the mass of society. No, no there is more to my faith. A faith based on what I (we) are made for.

Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not. C.S. Lewis Click To Tweet

God created us to have a close, personal relationship with Him and with one another. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with our entire being. The second greatest is that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. I have experienced God’s compelling embrace and how awe-inspiring his beauty and joy can be through a personal relationship with God. It is God’s will to save us, and for the establishment of an everlasting relationship with Him.

I’ve accepted what I need the most in my life!

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

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The Road Less Comfortable

 (Jim Estok)

 

Last week I spoke about stepping out of my comfort zone and trusting God, completely and wholly without questions or reservation. And I compared this to the choice of the road we choose in life: 1) the road of self driven and living for oneself, based on worldly values or 2) the road God provides when we choose to follow His values, His ways and His leading. Let me stress that I hold no sense of morale superiority over those who are not traveling the same road but rather believe that caring for my neighbour is a central tenet of the gospel.

“Its not my ability, but my response to God’s ability that counts.” Corrie Ten Boom

God’s road is not paved with gold where He gives us everything we ask for and want; but rather He gives us what we would have asked for had we known everything He knows. Some of my greatest defeating struggles have been against what I thought I needed the most. Like the acceptance of the love of God that has come out of the relationship with God I avoided for far too many years. So on this road I follow there is heartache, sorrow and disappointment. And many things I have asked of God I haven’t necessarily received, but there are many provisions and learning’s I haven’t asked for that God has provided.

For God does provide in unexpected and exciting ways, ways that are uncomfortable at times revealing such astonishing revelations such as: me and how He is changing me; what He does provide and why; and the astonishing amount of hope He continues to instill within me and continuously replenish in me. My hope is based on the trust I have in God, Jesus Christ my rock and foundation and the guiding of the Holy Spirit. What God provides gives me hope. The biblical definition of hope is “confident expectation.” Hope is a firm assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown and is a fundamental component of the life of the believer.

You can have the Godly road or the worldly road; to be blessed or seek self destruction; to be in Him or to be away from Him! God has given you the abundant life, but you still have to reach for it and apply it by faith and obedience.

 

 

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

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Combustion of Lives

 (Jim Estok)

 

When you look at your life, do you like what you see? If you think back to your childhood and compare your dreams from that time for your future does it resonate with joy or is there still a longing for those dreams to come true?

When I think back to my childhood I really never thought much beyond the moment I was living in. I was hoping for the current moments and experiences to continue on for a lifetime. The present was good enough. The only dream was for more of the same- playing sports, playing guitar, singing, and listening to music- a world revolving around music, sports & fun and very little in the way of responsibilities.

For me, moving into adulthood meant being responsible and making decision and most of all sacrificing independence. I’d have to work for the woman/man. Being told what to do, when to do it,. Oh rebellious one…fortunately acceptance prevailed. Conforming to the norm.

Now conforming is interesting and leads me to the recognition in life that we really only have to two directions to choice. Even though we have four points of direction based on the reference points of the compass: east,west, north & south. However, only two directions really exist because if you travel far enough west you eventually end up east and likewise if you travel far enough north you end up south. Other analogies exist but getting to the point it comes down to 1) a self driven life living for oneself or 2) being in a relationship with God and following His ways. They are contrasting sources of values; that provide contrasting quality of life and contrasting outcomes of life.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all… Click To Tweet
As Christians we are in conflict with society. Society is going in one direction, and the Christian is going in the opposite direction. This brings about friction and conflict. But God has promised, in the midst of trouble and conflict, a genuine peace, a sense of assurance and security, that the worldly person never knows. And that peace is what sustains me in a world that is traveling the more traveled  road away from God. But I’m encouraged and moved to do something in this world as Vance Harner said,

 “We are not going to move this world by criticism of it nor conformity to it, but by combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God.”

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

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Catharsis

 (Jim Estok)

Changes! Sometimes they come upon us without us realizing and other times it’s a disturbance within us that creates the realization and the need to change.

Taking inventory of my life and the affect of my life begs the question: is it having an impact? Is it following God’s plan? For I know God has a plan for my life but am I following that plan or am I following the plan that society has created for me-one of self-fulfillment- with some compromises towards God’s plan. Appeasing God for a compromising balance and doing just enough to alleviate guilt.

Appeasing God for a compromising balance and doing just enough to alleviate guilt. Click To Tweet

Letting fear, because we don’t want to be “different”, provide us with the motivation to follow worldly values, allowing worldly values to shape us. That I am guilty of allowing. Rather than to step out of my comfort zone, that of worldly influence, and trust God who calls us all to follow Him. Letting God shape me, lead me, and humbly learning to fully depend on Him for my provisions. Changes! The prime goal I and we all should be pursuing is to find our new found comfort and experience through our self-growth being established and based on the character and quality displayed in the life modeled by Jesus. Shedding our worldly values and life’s mission based on individualistic achievements measured by societies standards and living out God’s plan for our lives.

What and how has God gifted me? What has God planned for the utilization of my gifts? What is God’s timing? Not mine.

” You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C. S. Lewis

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

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Light Shines

 (Jim Estok)

 

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” St Francis of Assisi

So how does the light penetrate through, penetrate through the darkness of this world where evil has been so prevalent recently? Is it not when we are at our lowest most desperate point: a point where we can no longer take it and we feel at a desperate loss and where carry on seems impossible-darkness encompasses-we are spent:emotionally, financially, physically, spiritually. The sense of desperation and the loss of hope is overwhelming. All consuming darkness, leaving us with no ability to see hope and a way forward. It is the bottom, our bottom point.

This is the most powerful time, it is the time when the presence of Jesus penetrates the darkness and the Light shines through. And at this time we have a choice and can embrace the light and shun the darkness; or we can embrace the darkness and shun the light. Choices….

...we can embrace the light and shun the darkness; or we can embrace the darkness and shun… Click To Tweet

Choices!

You see in trying to process the ongoing violence that is becoming such a disturbing and tragic occurrence. I assume that Evil can still keep its hold on us even though it’s already brought us to our lowest point- it can still hold its allure and grip. This is where I think the perpetrators of horrific violence and terrorism are propelled into such violent horrific action. Because a low point in their live must have come and in their deepest darkness they chose, not the Light, the decision to go deeper into the darkness. Defiance of the light.

I don’t know that my thoughts make sense but I’m trying to rationalize this violence! In confidence I know that I’ll turn to the Light of Jesus Christ where my hope, confidence and trust rest and pray for others to make the choice of  Light their choice. Not the darkness.

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, lead thou me on. Cardinal John Henry Click To Tweet

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

www.estokphotography.com
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