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

www.estokphotography.com
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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

www.estokphotography.com
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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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Blessed Reliance

 (Jim Estok)

 

It’s been a painful, sorrowful, tragic week where many deaths have occurred. Killing for the sake of killing. Human lives lost. The above image tragically is representative of evil too me- hidden darkness.

I hurt deeply and reflecting on the pain and suffering this Friday evening while sitting in peace and solitude but greatly disturbed I wrote this poem/prayer.

Crying, but not for me

Crying, because of what I see

Crying, death & violence

The perpetrators, their self inflicted penance?

 

Don’t know why so many need to suffer

We need to seek solace thru Jesus our buffer

God, embrace me, shelter me with love

God embrace us all and shelter the world and wrap us all in love

 

Blind us to the option (choice) of violence

Give us alternatives through blessed reliance

Jesus Christ our Saviour

 

We are all God’s children……..let’s learn to love and stop the hate.

 

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

www.estokphotography.com
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Hey, Buy You a Coffee?

 (Jim Estok)

On a recent morning I was up very early and out exploring nature with my camera hoping to capture some photographs. But is was a morning with challenges as a storm was fast approaching and of a greater impact was the fact that I was at a loss for creativity. Nothing seemed to be stirring my creativity. Just as that realization was starting to set in the rain started to come down. So, I decided it was time for a coffee (when is it not?) so I packed up my gear and I found a coffee shop.

As I was enjoying my coffee and processing the realization that today was just not the day for photography, or any creativity required activity, a Paramedic pulled into the parking lot.  I was suddenly overcome with the desire to buy the paramedic a coffee. This desire was in the spirit of gratitude for his service, dedication and sacrifice to the public at large. So I did just that. Now, he objected and said it was not necessary but upon hearing the reason for my gesture he was grateful and encouraged.

We all need and seek encouragement and through varying degrees we are fed encouragement. Is the encouragement we receive enough? Cautiously, we must temper the encouragement we receive with humbleness. A balance is required.

Let God’s promises shine on your problems. Corrie Ten Boom Click To Tweet

I find my greatest encouragement comes through the act of devotional & prayer time. Each morning I rise and read the Word of God and enter into prayer and I find my encouragement restored when restoration is required and strengthened when I am too face challenges that require encouragement. But this is personal and internal encouragement, which we need but of just as great importance is our encouragement of others. Therefore, we should use the encouragement we receive from our creator to encourage others and we should practice the encouragement of others often. Such activity challenges us and affirms our walk with Christ.

 “You are the only Bible some unbelievers will ever read.” John MacArthur 

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

www.estokphotography.com
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Emotional Paralysis of Grief

Mike Moyer

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Mike Moyer passed away on Friday June 24th.  I’ve been grieving and trying to come to terms with the emotional paralysis of grief. I’m numb, I’m sorrowful and I’ve cried. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I and so many others have lost a great, great friend. His family has lost a great, great: husband, father, son, brother, uncle and cousin. Jesus Christ has called Mike home to heaven. Mike was a proud Christian and a wonderful man. Many accolades have and will continue to be written about this wonderful man. But as I work through my grieving the one thing that I can’t allow myself to do if I wish to truly honour Mike, is to do what is often done at times of the death of someone too young and who was such a great example of a caring helpful person, and that would be to question God.

Questioning God’s: existence, His fairness, His purpose, His righteousness and His presence. This would not be Mike’s desire!

In good times it easy to credit God for all the good things in life and to feel close and part of God. However, during the bad times or the times we don’t see as necessary we tend to ask where is God in this situation and we feel distant from God. C.S. Lewis explained it this way. “Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in our time of trouble?”

Although I may think or verbalize these thoughts I can not allow it to drive a wedge between… Click To Tweet

As a Christian, like Mike, I must during this time of grieving reinforce and hold onto the belief that suffering, grief and sorrow are natural occurrences of life. And that the absence of suffering, grief and sorrow is not natural. In recognizing that I must further draw into the knowledge that is through the Christian life that allows us to rise above the emotional paralysis but not without its pain and experience. We do this through our relationship with God who provides for us and walks with us through our pain and suffering providing us the resources we never knew were available.

To distance myself from God at this time or anytime would not be Mike’s desire. Rather, if anything was to come from his death Mike would want all his friends and family to draw closer in relationship to God.

With love to my friend, Mike Moyer, his wife Kelly & all his family.

God Bless

Jim Estok

Reflection For Clarity

 (Jim Estok)

Tia Brazda performing at the Sound of Music Festival

Sunglasses, so cool. But when worn during a conversation they can be distracting, even annoying to a point when as the communicator you are trying determine if the person received the message. The clues of communication can be seen in the eyes. And sunglasses can hinder the ability to read the clues of the receivers reaction, their reception and indications of their feelings of what you have said.

Communication after all is a shared action. A shared response. C.S. Lewis felt that communication should combine clarity of expression with accuracy of understanding. And that there is a responsibility on the part of the both the speaker and the audience. The rhetoric he felt must be clear, the receiver must listen and interpret, and the shared meaning must be achieved.

However, in this form of communication captured in the image. I was experiencing the performance of an amazing jazz singer and where musicians are performing the communication is mostly on the part of the musician (speaker) and the audience (the receiver) is to enjoy and hopefully show appreciation.

And so this got me to thinking of my prayer life and how the act of prayer can become very one sided, when in fact it is a two way form of communication. So easily I forget this because I let it feel like it is all about me. Prayer is a conversation. God doesn’t just hear us but He reacts and participates, if we let Him. The challenge for me is to be patient and listen to His communication.

Prayer is a dialogue, not a monologue. Click To Tweet

In prayer we/I act like it is all about our wants, petitioning our needs and desires to God. We have not practiced listening to God at least I have not. But I know He is eager to speak to me but I don’t give Him the time because I don’t practice listening. I need to develop this practice of spending time with God that is undisturbed and focused.

“Prayers is not a cheque request asking for things from God. It is a deposit slip-a way of depositing God’s character into our bankrupt souls.” Dutch Sheets

 

Jim Estok

Stay! Don’t leave….

 (Jim Estok)

Stay! don’t leave….

Words that if overheard without knowing the full context of a conversation or seen written somewhere could lead one to speculation of a separation. An ending, maybe of a time together being no more, a departure or a separation of a temporary or permanent time apart.

But it could also be a confirmation. A positive affirmation that staying and not leaving is the best decision. And one that is being agreed too. It could be an agreement, supporting the declaration. Stay!

The disciples declared to Jesus Stay-they didn’t understand why he must die; specifically they didn’t understand why His death was necessary and that through His death-STAY- meant that He is always with us. He didn’t leave us.

“Nothing puts life into men like a dying a saviour.”  Charles Spurgeon

Context is so important- understanding something in its entirety, its intention and purpose is not always easily or readily done. It requires delving deeper and deeper into the details. So it is with God. Enter into relationship with our Heavenly Father and much, much more is revealed. Progressively, His love, His Grace, His nature, His compassion are revealed in greater clarity and experience in His presence.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Corrie Ten Boom

 

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

www.estokphotography.com
www.facebook.com/EstokPhotography
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