Angels Among Us?

(Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

Sometimes we end up speaking with a stranger, or a better way of saying that, is a person we have never met before. Yesterday, I had such an occurrence, and a rather pleasant conversation evolved.

I was attending a downtown festival in a neighboring city and had stopped in at a coffee shop. Outside on the patio, there was only one seat available on a bench beside a woman (Pamela). She graciously offered me the seat expressing she was happy to have some company. I was simply looking for a place to eat my croissant and drink my coffee and had no other motives. However…..

Both of us being Canadian, we, of course, discussed the weather first and of course, we interjected the word SORRY into many parts of our conversation. (Eh?)  We then moved onto governance, specifically local politics (Pamela was very well-versed on the subject) and then discussed social assistance, the poor and marginalized. She confessed that she was poor and currently lives in subsidized housing.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  Hebrews 13:2 ESV

Pamela taught me a valuable lesson on hospitality even though we never discussed the subject. I’m guilty, negligent of hospitality, because lately, my passion for socializing has been absent. Suppressed,Stifled, Smothered-uncharacteristically so. To know me is to know I enjoy engaging with people and take advantage of every opportunity to do so. I have no trouble meeting people, in fact, it is a great joy for me.

Without being intentional, or boasting, I had a great conversation and a rewarding experience: all in the pursuit of coffee and a croissant. No other agenda.  As I think about this expereince…..Maybe Pamela was an Angel?

“In the poor man who knocks at my door, in my ailing mother, in the young man who seeks my advice, The Lord Himself is present: therefore let us wash His feet.” C.S. Lewis from a letter to Don Giovanni Calabria, March 27, 1948

Blessings,

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

www.estokphotography.com
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Despondency & Finding Comfort

(Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

Sleep, with no need for soporific assistance, as currently sleep comes too easy and is a comfort during the constant turmoil of emotions. Being depressed & having anxiety, I take to sleep when I’m feeling overwhelmed, usually sleeping some parts of my days away- even after a full nights sleep. Why so much sleep? So I don’t have to feel or think. Escapism ? Is it?

” I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.”

Psalm 4:8 NRSV

With so much sleep, times for photography have dwindled and are at a premium. The exception being the attached photo which miraculously I awoke real early on that morning, early enough to see and capture the sunrise.

Psalm four is classified as an evening (hymn) prayer. The psalm is suggested to be used by the believer to speak with the Father and further assists the believer in meditating on God’s fatherly care. The psalmist commits to having confidence in God, who will not abandon His beloved people, but rather will restore His blessings and joy in them. Claimed also by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6. Resulting in our confidence and giving rise to our inward peace. Following this teaching is important and it is an action we should all incorporate into our spiritual lives.

“The presence of hope in the invincible sovereignty of God drives out fear.” John Piper

This inward peace allows me (and should allow all of us) to leave my (our) troubles and anxiety in God’s hands and sleep without fear and sleep with the peace that comes as a blessing from God. Therefore, it is escapism as made possible through our relationship and worship of God.

 

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

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The Fallen & Rescued

(Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

I’m not sure why I am so captivated and attracted to photographing waterfalls, cascades and water in motion. In fact doing so has led to physical injury causing humility and humbleness.

In fact, just this week pursuit of this attached photograph resulted in a series of falls.  The first event in the series of falls came about as a result of the need to scale down a rock face using a rope and the jagged edges of exposed rock. It looked easy-but was not to be as I lost my footing and not having a secure hold of the rope I fell to the landing, fortunately on my feet. However, that was only momentary as firm footing didn’t last long and I quickly lost my balance and went tumbling down the embankment. My second fall was stopped rather abruptly by a fallen tree.

To my rescue came a young male teenager who had been swimming with friends in the pool of water under the waterfall.  He quickly extended his hand and helped me up and to secure footing. He then helped my friend down the rock face.

Now, aside from instilling a greater appreciation of hope in today’s youth. This experience brought about humility and humbleness. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18.

“You can have no greater sign of confirmed pride than when you think you are humble enough.” William Law

Pride…haughty? It’s a valuable lesson that in order to eliminate the risk of a fall, we need to test our humility. Otherwise, God may use a fall to humble us. Applying this lesson to my experience is one example; however, greater examples of pride and being haughty can result in more extreme life experiences. Where I erred is in thinking I was invincible and did not admit that my age ( and surgery on both of my knees)  required me to be more careful- I threw caution aside.

[bctt tweet=”If you plan to build a tall house of virtues, you must first lay deep foundations of humility. Augustine” username=”Estok Photography”]

True humility comes through the recognition that all we have, including our faith, comes from God.

 

Blessings,

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

www.estokphotography.com
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Pathway to Adversity

(Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

All humans experience adversity. Adversity is without favour and experienced by all humans: it has no favourites but rather shares itself without prejudice to any resident here on earth. (Planet Hollywood as one pastor refers to earth)

“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” Proverbs 2:10 (ESV)

Character, true character is revealed in times of hardship. Lately, I feel my family and myself have had our “fair share”. Daunting, challenging, unsettling, discouraging and overwhelming.  Adversity taxes the scope of all of our emotions.

Positively though, it has caused lots of opportunities for me to spend time in deep reflection and times of prayer which has become more sincere, open and passionate.  It has when I take the time to acknowledge the fact, filled me with excitement, as I anticipate what God is going to bring about through these experiences of this season of hardship. Charles Spurgeon said about adversity “Christian, remember the goodness of God in the frost of adversity.”

“Adversity is always unexpected and unwelcomed. It is an intruder and a thief, and yet in the hands of God, adversity becomes the means through which His supernatural power is demonstrated.”– Charles Stanley

I have strength through Jesus Christ  and I have faith-“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Romans 11:1-faith in that all is in God’s control.

[bctt tweet=”Let God’s promises shine on your problems.- Corrie Ten Boom” username=”Estok Photography”]

Blessings,

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

www.estokphotography.com
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Recalculating Independence

(Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

The other day I met a friend for coffee & conversation. He had chosen the venue ahead of time and had given me precise and detailed directions. Of course, I disregarded his directions and found my own way to the coffee shop. (recalculating-a common GPS utterance) Just my nature to find my own way.

But wait, it’s more than just me, in fact, it’s human nature to know a better way. We all have a determination and assumption in doing life our own way. Advice, like directions, is something to fall back on only when our way fails us.  I believe that it’s our self-esteem (pride) that drives us to this independence and reluctance to receive help.

Reaching out to Christ is not weakness; we can always turn to Christ. During His life here on earth, He demonstrated an ever constant reliance on the Father. Seeking God through prayer.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

CS Lewis said “Look for yourself and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him, everything else thrown in.”   Human weakness provides an ideal opportunity, if we allow ourselves that honour, for the display of God’s power and love for us. God’s grace is sufficient therefore we must remind ourselves of the ever present availability and sufficiency of God’s grace.

“Look for yourself and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

Recalculate your independence and have faith in God.

God Bless

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

www.estokphotography.com
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Shine Like Diamonds

 (Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

Shine like diamonds…. But aren’t we all more like diamonds in the rough who need God to supply the finishing touches in order for us to shine like diamonds. Within all of us lies God given talents, skills, characteristics and potential that has been given to us by God, who will draw upon for His glory. The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

“What are we to make of Christ? There is no question of what we can make of Him; it is entirely a question of what He intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story.” C.S. Lewis

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2) The renewal of the mind here refers to the surrendering too and approving of God’s will and thus being pleasing to Him.

“The way we look at ourselves means a radical change. When self is displaced by Christ, the changes are always good, but they are always deep. Many people don’t want change. Even though such change is good change.” Nick Harrison

To Shine Like Diamonds requires obedience and surrender to the will of God; therefore, we are not to live by the flesh but rather by the [indwelling] of the Spirit who helps us discern the true will of God.

 

God Bless

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

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Warning: I’m Not As I Appear

landscape, chasm, cove, creek,headland,heath, knoll, prairie, quagmire, ravine, scrub, summit, thicket, trees, valley, vista, wood, brush, flat, hill, valley, ridge, cut, fill, contour lines, leading lines, beautiful, green, agricultural, arid, artificial, barren, beautiful, broad, certain, charming, coastal, cultural, delightful, desolate different, distant, diverse, dramatic, early, english, entire, european, exquisite, fair, familiar, few, fine, finest forested, french, great, green, historic, historical, imaginary, industrial, inner, interior, large, little, local,loveliest, lovely, lush, magnificent, many, most, mountainous, natural, new, northern, open, other, own, particular,pastoral, physical, picturesque,photo, political, real, romantic, rugged, rural, sacred, scenic, several, small, social, specific, spectacular, suburban, such, sunny, tropical, urban, varied, various, vast, western, whole, wide, wild, sun drenched, clouds, sky, breathtaking, lush, abundant, wooded, desolate, sun, sunrise, reflections, sky, red sky, clouds, dramatic, wondrous, sun, hue, emblazoned sky, water, sun burs (Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

 

Warning: Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear. Warnings! They serve a purpose and are helpful. They also reduce liability particularly for the auto manufacturers in the example provided.

These days, I could use a warning label stating: the visible external me is drastically different than the internal me. On the outside, I appear “normal”; but, within me lives anxiety and depression- a turmoil that causes me to want to crawl into bed and sleep, because when I sleep I don’t experience suffering.

This is the second time in my life I’ve suffered mental health issues, the first time being about eight years ago. But how long it has returned and taken up residence again within me is difficult to know because the manifestation of the symptoms slowly increased until they became too obvious for me to ignore and too destructive for me to manage day to day responsibilities. (for the record, I’m not suicidal nor am I wanting to hurt myself in any way)

I’m under my doctors care and receiving counselling.

My counsellor the other day asked me if I was embarrassed about by my condition. To which I responded- no, it is what it is.  Do I feel I’m being punished or possessed by demons ( a belief that was held within the church years ago)? NO! I don’t.

“Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ”

― C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Like C.S. Lewis, I hold the belief that this “infliction” is a vehicle to grow deeper in relationship with Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul tells us to let our times of troubles be a catalyst for prayer. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God..”(Philippians 4:6) Through this illness I have and will continue to focus on the nearness of God. He is near and ever present and He feels our pain and suffering.

Note: I write this not to seek pity; but rather to encourage hope for anyone else expereincing anxiety and or depression. 

God Bless

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

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Enrichment of Life

 (Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” Jeremiah 29:12

It is my understanding and my practice of prayer that we are actually seeking to orient ourselves around God’s activity in our lives and in our world. So goes the quote: “Prayer doesn’t change God. It changes me.” CS Lewis

We are not praying to a God who doesn’t care or know us personally. We are praying to a Father who exists on a higher plane of reality than we exist on; a Father who is with us in the deep relationship established through the Triune-Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Jesus role as our mediator reaffirms to us that we exist based on God’s grace. It is in God that we must place our hope.  Jesus also teaches us that we are not only in the relationship for what we can get out of it, nor are we capable of living a problem-free existence, but instead we are made to invite the Kingdom of God to continually impact the world around us and through us.

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” – Mother Teresa”

Therefore, if we start to believe that we are able to handle things on our own, or that we are in fact doing God favours with our efforts, things will surely end badly for us. Ending our prayer by stating our continued need for God, keeps us in a state of mind wherein we seek to maintain a character of faithfulness toward the one whose benevolence guides us to abundant life.

God Bless

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

www.estokphotography.com
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Against Myself

 (Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

“God, harden me against myself!” Amy Carmichael

An awareness I have of myself is that I know that I’m the biggest obstacle Jesus has in dealing with me; therefore, the best thing I can do is just get out of His way and allow Him to form in me His will.

Surrender, though, is not that easy, even though it is my greatest desire. Submission to the will of Christ is something I understand the importance of, know why it is necessary and is my constant focus.  That is why, as Amy Carmichael said, “God, harden me against myself.” Reduce in me the importance of my wants, desires and feelings and increase in me a desire to obey, love and serve you, God.

[bctt tweet=”Lord, do Thou turn me all into love, and all my love into obedience, and let my obedience be without interruption. Jeremy Taylor” username=”Estok Photography”]

Jeremy Taylor is quoted as saying “Lord, do Thou turn me all into love, and all my love into obedience, and let my obedience be without interruption.”  I know His love is ever available to me and nothing can seperate us from the Love of Christ (Romans 8:35); therefore, I need to give Him the position He deserves in my life, that of Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

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

www.estokphotography.com
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Mistaken Identity

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 (Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

 

When I was a teenager (which is a long time ago now) I had really long hair. Life, at that time for me, revolved around music, long distance running and more music. One day I was downtown on Main St. trying to catch-up with some friends, who were up ahead, when a police cruiser pulled up beside me and the officer ordered me to get in the back seat, NOW! I complied with his instructions.

Within a block of driving with me in the back seat of the cruiser, it was confirmed by the officer through radio communication that I was not the suspect being sought. It was a case of mistaken identity.

Sometimes in life, we ourselves are guilty of our own mistaken identity which distances our lives away from God. This may happen during a season of suffering causing us to forget who we are in Christ or it could be arrogance in believing we know better and rely less on God. Either of which is dangerous.
[bctt tweet=”I’ve come to believe that God is using this as a time for my spiritual growth” username=”Estok Photography”]
In my own current season of suffering, I’ve come to believe that God is using this as a time for my spiritual growth. I know God walks with me through my suffering, not just because scripture tells me to “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you”  (1Peter 5:7) But beyond His Word, there is significant assurance that He is present throughout my suffering.
 As Christians, our identity is found in Christ, and our identity in Christ is critical to a fruitful walk with the Lord.

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

www.estokphotography.com
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