Blue Monday Prayer

 www.estokphotography.com  (Jim Estok)
  {Blue Monday is a name given to a day in January claimed to be the most depressing day of the year.As a person afflicted with depression and anxiety, the day caused my reflection.}
Where to turn when the overwhelming hopelessness engulfs and consumes my thoughts, emotions, and life. During the times when I cannot bring myself to find hope & assurance. Depression’s overwhelming and all-consuming grip devours me.
 
But on this “Blue Monday”, I’m not about to give my total surrender to this disease. (at least in this moment) Rising up, in defense. I turn to Psalm 34, where  I find truthfulness and optimism in the knowledge of God’s protection for those who trust in Him.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. Psalm 34:15
This Psalm is a comforting reminder that the Lord cares for all who Trust in Him. Searching my soul as I read, my heart fills with love which is a reminder; of His assurance; of His protection. When we who believe in Him cry for His help He hears. He does not ignore us. His eyes and ears are focused on us. 
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.Psalm 34:17
We were not made for only the good and happy times. Realistic life, here on earth, comes with troubles and hardships. We will experience sorrow and suffering. But we have the assurance that when we walk humbly with God we then have the constant presence of God.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
When we place our trust in God, we find that He is faithful. God is good to those who seek Him.

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

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God’s Medium

 

 (Jim Estok)
www.estokphotography.com 

 

“God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on the trees and flowers and clouds and stars.” Martin Luther
 
God is our author and when we attempt to supersede God and become our own author, it all falls apart. For we impose our will, not the authoritative will of God. We are not designed and created for such autonomy.
 
A stunning revelation reading Luther’s quote the other day: physically, emotionally and spiritually. For a while now I’ve sensed something amiss with me beyond the depression and anxiety. I am at fault for trying to be my own author.
 
My self-worth and my hope do not have origin through my own devices. The good news and love of Jesus Christ is where my identity is secure, through and in the amazing grace of God. Establishing my true identity and self-worth.
 
“To some God is discoverable everywhere, to others nowhere.”CS Lewis
 
When I find my joy in Christ it allows me to find the gospel, not only in the Bible but also in all that God has created. C.S. Lewis commented, “To some God is discoverable everywhere, to others nowhere.”
 
My prayer is to discover God everywhere!

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

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Christmas: The Birth of Jesus Christ

 


 (Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com 

Let it snow, let it snow…..

For a very, very long time, it wasn’t Christmas “season” for me until I heard John Lennon’s  song Happy Christmas (War is Over). Another indicator of Christmas was Bing Crosby & David Bowie- Peace on Earth/ Little Drummer Boy.  For me, these two recordings symbolized a modernization of the Christmas Season, bringing Christmas music into my generation. I refer to this period as the Commercial Christmas period for me.

Change has taken place within me because I now find influence through the authority of the Bible start my rejoicing in the birth of Christ. Starting with passages in Isaiah “therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 ESV

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 ESV

And today the musical influence for me comes from a recording by Andrew Peterson entitled Behold the Lamb of God. One song, in particular, Labor of Love sung by Jill Phillips paints a vivid account and a new perspective on the birth of Jesus in the manager.  So, now the Spiritual Christmas season lives within me {no longer commercial}.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:11-14

Whatever Christmas means to you, I encourage you to open your Bibles to Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2 and read the Biblical stories of the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, may it impact you as it has impacted me.

Merry Christmas!!!

 

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

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Shadows Lacking Detail

www.estokphotography.com 
 (Jim Estok)

 

When I was in grade school, during the warmer months, I used to sit in the backyard of my parent’s house, once the sun had set and under the cover of darkness, and practice singing and playing guitar.

It was around that time period I heard a line from a song that questioned: “can you stand it in the light of day?” I understood that to mean if your convictions and beliefs are embedded sincerely in your heart, that they should be visible and on display always. It was my belief, then as it is now, that it is hypocritical to selectively reveal your beliefs & convictions only when convenient, or when they won’t face resistance or when they will not be subjected to peer judgment and pressure to conform otherwise.

Today, I struggle with my emotions, my hurt, my feelings, all negative; manifesting into depression and anxiety. Somewhere in my subconscious are the answers and slowly I’m working, through therapy, to unlock them and to gain some control. Control is the wrong word, it’s really the ability to recognize what is impacting and causing me to react as I do. To understand me. In the light of day, this is me today.

It’s a scary season. I liken it to looking at your shadow, it is you, but the details are missing, hiding in the dark recesses.

Thankfully, I am not alone as God is with me!

Blessings,

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

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Meekness in Character, Strength in Faith


 (Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

 

You know that experience when you apply something you were taught previously and you thought, at the time,  I’ll never use this it’s useless knowledge? Or perhaps the application of a life lesson is a revelation of a character trait you always thought was a weakness but now you see it as a character strength. 

Yesterday while attending a mission fundraiser at our church I saw a character trait of mine in a new light. Let me explain…. I was fortunate to be able to hold a two-month-old baby. {Neither the mother or I knew each other} The baby, was a beautiful little girl who her mother told me loves to be held. She was peacefully sleeping in my arms, with the occasional peek to see who was holding her; peeking glances at me with her beautiful blue eyes: eyes full of life, trust, dependency, the need for love and the miracle of creation.

A peaceful, humbling therapeutic experience: everything a person suffering from depression struggles to consistently acknowledge.

While I was holding her, Matthew 5:5 came to mind “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” This verse is part of the Beatitudes, where Jesus instructs His disciples and followers on the nature of life and proper living.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

And here is the lesson I learned from this experience.

The definition of the word meek in today’s culture characterizes someone as quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on, submissive, deficient in spirit and courage. However, the text of the New Testament was translated into English from Greek. The Greek word being, Πραθς,  prah-ooce- someone who is gentle and does not assert themselves over others to further their own agendas; but rather someone strong in [Godly] character as they trust in God to direct the outcome of events. The meek are also free from malice and a vengeful spirit. Meekness is manifested by God and given to the believer-Jesus was meek but He had the power of God at His command. They will inherit the earth or more precisely they will gain entrance into the Promised Land.

Aristotle defined meekness as the middle ground between two extremes, getting angry without reason, and not getting mad at all.

This definition- not to be boastful- but reveals a truer picture of my character trait.

Blessings,

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

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Agape Comfort Through Depression

 (Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com 

Hidden layers of our pain, our hurt, our anguish, our guilt, our embarrassment and our grief it is all in our subconscious memory isolated from our conscious memory. Our pain blocks the ability of conscious recall, keeping the anguish hidden. Have you ever noticed the happy memories are so easy to recall, but not so much the painful memories? Suppression=preservation?

Our conscious can be likened to a barn and it’s partner the silo(s) {many farms have multiple silos for each barn} the barn building representing the conscious memory: while the silo represents the subconscious memory. Deep in the dark recesses of the silo(s) lies our pain, our hurt, our anguish, our guilt, our embarrassment and our grief to name a few emotions.

“Life is like photography. We develop from the negatives.” Jason McNaughten, Confessions of a Depressed Christian: How a Pastor Survived Depression & How You Can Too

 

I’m finding out these days that even though my conscious recall has kept some memories hidden. That it is not really the case because my coping, or lack of, coping mechanisms are directly linked to my subconscious. Protecting me subconsciously and altering my behaviours, in fact, without realizing the effect it has created discourse, biases and emotional impact.

“Agape is disinterested love. . . . Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by loving others for their sakes. . . . Therefore, agape makes no distinction between friend and enemy; it is directed toward both.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

During these personal challenging times, the greatest comfort and my source of hope lie in the Agape love (from the Greek word ἀγάπη) bestowed upon me by God and my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Read 1 Corinthians 13 for a complete description of Agape.

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

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See Me, Hear Me, Heal Me

 (Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

 

“Before any great achievement, some measure of depression is very usual.” Charles Spurgeon 

Frustration, the nemesis 0f depression. Stealing, stealing pleasure, stealing joy and contentment. Why is it that I feel this way? (I feel like David- do you hear my prayers, God?) [Psalm 13:1]

Depression and anxiety, feeling the inability to enjoy life to its fullest. Although the origin of these symptoms is hidden deep within me – deeper than my feelings, deeper than thoughts, and my reactions greatly influence my behaviour.

Cycles, vicious cycles. Spiralling, possessing the skewed mindset. Attitude, behaviour reacting uncharacteristically, not like me?

Influenced by and through our environment. Biases, triggers, motivations, demotivation, mood, tension, desires, dislikes, reactions- how I react, it’s not the norm, what is the norm? Is it the need to conform to worldly thoughts? Also sights, sounds, social surroundings, emotional surroundings, physical surroundings.

“Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.” Charles Spurgeon

Teach me, Jesus. Please. Influence me, surround me with your everlasting and eternal LOVE. Thank you, for this season you have given me and for the season(s) this is preparing me for, let it all be for your glory.

“Sing, O heavens, and be joyful, O earth! And break forth into singing, O mountains! For the Lord hath comforted His people, and will have mercy upon His afflicted.” Isaiah 49:13

Blessings,

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

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She Said, How to Save the World

 (Jim Estok)

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She said “The only way to save this country is to eliminate all the people; because we are all corrupt. We are born this way.”

The above is a quote made by a nine or ten-year-old girl, a Christian girl attending a Christian school. It was not made to me directly but indirectly as it was shared with me by a friend.

My mind, when the comment was shared with me and to this day, deeply saddens me and leaves me a has me questioning how this little girl came to formulate this belief? What has she seen; experienced; been subjected too or seen others subjected too; how deep is her faith; has she been calling upon God through her prayers for this action; where does she see God in her world?

As I’ve wrestled with the impetus of her remarks I’ve come to believe her faith is strong; otherwise she wouldn’t see the corruption she speaks about, nor want to stop it. Her pain, I carry with me, and I pray for her to trust that God is at work in the world.

A further disturbing thought is how much more girls & boys, women & men have similar feelings? Lost, hopeless and giving up.

I believe God is at work in this world and I pray for those who do not know Him or doubt Him that they can witness His love and His majesty. My faith hols the belief that absolutely nothing that happens in the universe that is outside of God’s influence and authority. As King of kings and Lord of lords, God has no limitations.

Amen

 

Blessings,

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

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Walking Reflections and Joy

 


 (Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com 

Seasonal Picture!

Walking in the foot paths of our adolesence can be an emotional experience-pleasant or negative. Joyful, remorseful, embarrassing, humbling, sorrowful. Yesterday, I walked in the physical place of my footsteps when I was a teenager. It has been years since I was last there.

During that time in my life I was a long distance runner and a member of a track & field club. As part of our training, we did hill training, running up a hill over and over and over…This particular hill is in a park where there are also some trails. So what we did is we ran a loop, up the hill and return to the bottom of the hill via the trails (the shorter distance, ironically).

Back then I really liked and enjoyed running long distances [my arthritic knee prevents me from continuing]. That is I liked training, but not so much the racing competitions. I’ve always preferred and stayed focused on competing against myself more so than competing against others.

I’d like to say that the hill was not as imposing as I remembered and that when I started to walk up it yesterday I did have that thought. But part way up, walking instead of running, I felt the hills intensity. Its not that the hill is steep but rather it is its length as it continues on a steady progression upwards so that when you get to the top you have expended lots of energy.

Through my life I have: run, skated, walked and pumped iron as an athlete; played  music with fellow musicians; but the greatest and most impactful walk is the walk I am on now….walking with Jesus Christ.

“for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Regrettably, my walk with Jesus has not been a life long experience. As I walked that hill yesterday I couldn’t help but think of the missed years. Oh, to turn the clock back, not to regain my youth but to gain more time with Jesus in this life.

“And he walks with me
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am his own;”

A song from my childhood.

“Yes, give thanks for ‘all things’ for, as it has been well said ‘Our  disappointments are but His appointments.’” –A.W. Pink

Blessings,

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

www.estokphotography.com
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