The Never Ending Pressure of Christianity

(Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

Like the rocks in this picture, we are subjected to a never ending force of pressure(s) in life. Pressure to fit in and appear as “normal”, being different is something to be avoided at all cost. Wearing the worldly cloak is less pressure.

The world’s philosophy says to live for self: but God’s Word says to deny yourself!  As Jesus said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it!” Matthew 16:25 True discipleship involves following Christ and doing His will, wherever His path may lead us.

“Above all else, we must learn how to bring our wills into submission and obedience to the will of God, on a practical, daily, hour-by-hour basis.” Jerry Bridges

Does denying ourselves involve sacrifice?  Actually, without conscious recognition through the culmination of giving-surrendering- ourselves to Christ and making Him our Lord and inviting Him to come live in us, the result of our invitation means we chose to give up our will for His. William Law said, “We should thank God that we are not left to the folly of our own minds, or forced to take up the shadows of joy and happiness that the weakness and folly of the world has invented.”

“Every Christian would agree that a man’s spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God.” C.S. Lewis

Fellowship with Christ- should be the lifelong goal of the believer, seeking God, always, and making Him our all in all. Always seeking the result of what C.S. Lewis describes, “Every Christian would agree that a man’s spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God.”

I don’t suggest this is easy for I personally find it to be a constant pursuit. More and more each day.

Blessings,

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

www.estokphotography.com
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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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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

www.estokphotography.com
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Gratitude, Thankfulness

 (Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

My ability to concentrate and maintain focus has been affected by my recent mental health issues. However, the act of gratitude, even through what feels like a fog of the mind, it has occurred to me that I am guilty of not acknowledging gratitude in my prayer life. I ask for my needs, only.

Why is it that gratitude is so difficult for us/me to acknowledge? We are quick to remember what we have asked for and have not yet received? And we stay focused on what we want and not the blessings received. Praying about what we want God to supply/or do is easy; giving thanks is not so easy as we have a worldly culturally influenced desire to put ourselves first.

“God has promised to supply all our needs. What we don’t have now, we don’t need now.” –Elizabeth Elliot

Our responsibility as Christians, I understand through the Apostle Paul’s letters is that we are to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV).

  • Rejoice always,
  • pray without ceasing and,
  • give thanks always.

Furthermore, I understand that an awakening posture of gratitude (meaning acknowledgement of having received something good from another) is crucial to having an abundant Christian life, even in times of deep sorrow and physical and emotional suffering. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is quoted as saying “It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!”

[bctt tweet=”It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich! Dietrich Bonhoeffer” username=”Estok Photography”]

Let us all “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12

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

www.estokphotography.com
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Everlasting Rock

 (Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

 

“Let God have your life; He can do more with it than you can” Dwight L. Moody

Spring is a season of new growth in this country; however, what has sprung up in me this season is an old illness, and I wish it had stayed below the surface lying dormant with mild or little manageable symptoms. Mental health, specifically anxiety & depression.

[bctt tweet=”I know that God, even in my struggles, remains my constant everlasting rock…” username=”Estok Photography”]

It’s not easy: shameful it is in fact. As a believer who has unconditional faith in Christ, I lived life recently thinking I’ve defeated this disease. Invincibility, based on being Christian-not so (it’s not a vaccination). It’s not a character defect, a spiritual disorder or an emotional dysfunction. And foremost of all, it’s not a choice. I know that God, even in my struggles, remains my constant “everlasting rock” just as the Prophet Isaiah states.

Isaiah 26:3-4  (ESV)

You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord God is an everlasting rock

Now is the time to pour into; rather than pour out of the relationship and give up on faith. The problem can be that when we think God is with us we will never go through trials. But we will go through trials; but God will be with us, He won’t abadon us. This is the time when mu mind & heart need to keep me focused on being “stayed” on God where I will find peace, true in my trust of His redemptive, nurturing and sustaining love. He isn’t angered by honesty in prayer as I ask why and I tell Him how much I hurt – He regards my prayers as holy and He judges my struggles as holy. God wants our relationships with Him to be authentic. His mercy reigns even in our brokenness.

“Being in the center of His will is our only safety.”
-Corrie ten Boom

These two quoted verses from the Book of Isaiah 26:3-4 have been the source of my recent meditations, giving me strength and assurance as I progressively heal. I will not let this disease obscure my sense of God and my desire for spiritual awareness and enlightenment. God is teaching me the most valuable lesson of my life: His love for me is solely dependent on His character, His grace and His goodness. He remains my “everlasting rock” who I love, honour, praise and worship.

God is the source of all peace!

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, please seek professional help immediately.  

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

www.estokphotography.com
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