Sunshine, Shadows and Moving On

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As much as we might wish it, life isn’t full of blue skies. There are clouds and shadows, too — a lot of mountaintop and valley experiences. We know that.

Blog posts from fellow bloggers illustrate that many have faced staggering obstacles and struggled through difficult times.

The internet has made it easier to share our troubles and our faith, as well as our support for others. It helps to know we aren’t alone, but most often we’d prefer resolution to empathy. We’d rather have health than sickness, life than death, tolerance than bullying, peace than war – and, in the world of writers, publication rather than rejection. But those positives are elusive.

We all look for answers, but the reality I’ve found is that the only way out of the valley, out of the shadows, or past rejection, is to keep moving. Sustained by faith, we keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Occasionally there are magic and miracles, but often as not we simply have to persevere on the journey. A hand along the way makes the going a bit easier. It gives us the opportunity to look up from the rocky path and see the sunshine in the distance. A glimpse of hope. But we still have to keep moving to reach it.

Have you reached out to accept, or offer, a hand of encouragement lately? What difference do you think it made?

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Sending prayers and wishing sunshine to those in the shadows.

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Thou art the Sun of other days. They shine by giving back the rays.
(John Keble, “The Christian Year: Easter Days”)

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God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46:1)

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He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
(Psalm 91:1-2)

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The power of perspective

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Perspective is a powerful thing. This weekend we’ve had visitors from Taiwan with us – my brother-in-law and one of his students — and we did a lot of sightseeing around Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. The promised sunshine never made an appearance. Both days were dismally wet and grey, and I often found myself saying, “Oh, I wish you could see this on a sunny day. It’s so much nicer in the sun.”

Sunday afternoon we visited the abbey of a local Benedictine monastery to see its wonderful stained glass windows… the ones I’ve mentioned before, here and here. During the tour I wandered into the gardens and tried to take a few photos, but felt uninspired without sunshine. I knew they would be lifeless and uninteresting. Until I looked closer.

Westminster Abbey Bell Tower

Last week Diana on her Just Wondering blog pondered what we miss when we focus on the wrong thing:

“So, I wonder.
What happens when we focus on one thing in this life,
one thing to the exclusion of others.
In that singular process, I wonder how often is it true that we don’t see
what is right in front of our faces?
That beautiful, deliriously inviting thing
that God is doing just for our benefit;
that gift that’s waiting to be unwrapped and appreciated.”

Reading her words again today made me think of a conversation after church this morning. We were admiring the intricate work on a traditional Paiwan tribal outfit brought from Taiwan, and one woman commented on the lovely woven design.

Except that it wasn’t woven. When we looked closer we could see the design had been painstakingly hand done in fine cross stitch, and bordered by perfect lines of identical shells.

When we focus on the overall, we miss seeing the detail.

That’s a problem I have in my writing, too. It’s easy for me to get hung up on the story as a whole, thinking of what the reader will take from it. With that perspective I miss providing the little details that will enrich the whole and may be the difference between ordinary and spectacular.

Perspective changes everything. In life, faith and writing we see so much more when we take a closer look, or choose a different viewpoint.

Can you think of an example where changing your perspective made a difference? 

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Looking and Seeing

Seeing is a relative thing. A blind person may see things better than a sighted one simply because eyes can’t be depended upon to provide a mental image. Instead the object or view must be experienced to be fully observed.

That’s one reason why I sometimes write with my eyes closed – so I can put myself into the midst of my words and “see” the person or the scene more clearly in my mind.

I was reminded of this yesterday as I read Sandra Heska King’s post entitled “Deep See Diving” in which she said, “Lately, I’ve been prone to wander off the path to see. To see deep. To deep see dive. Seeking. Wondering at the mysterious and the marvelous. Finding joy in the sacred.”

Like all artists, writers must see deeply to produce their best work, but it doesn’t end there. I believe Christian authors have an even greater need to search beyond the surface.  That’s where God builds the foundation of our life story, one brick, one thought, one prayer at a time.

It’s too easy to live each day immersed in trivialities, oblivious to the significant. Instead, we must search beyond the obvious to discover the real story waiting to be written, both on the page and in our lives.

Things In Common, Or Not

They arrive together, an unlikely pair – a female Red-winged Blackbird and a Black-capped Chickadee.  Sometimes the male Blackbird comes, too, and then the Chickadee waits on the sidelines, resting on the tip of a cedar trellis for his turn at the birdseed.

They’re here every morning for breakfast before the other chirpy horde arrives. The male Blackbird returns periodically throughout the day, but the female does not. I can’t determine if the Chickadee is among the many others who flit in and out.

It’s strange to see them come and go together each morning. I wonder what they have in common and then I realize — of course (duh!) — it’s their need for food.

It matters not to them that the other is of a different size and species. There’s no aggression – not like when the squirrel comes to chase everyone else away while he gobbles his fill – no quarrelling as there is between the Hummingbirds who fight over who will sit where.

We’re told in scripture to consider the birds… “they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”* I’m sure we are. But I think we might learn something from them, too.

* [Matthew 6:26]

A Notable Quotable

I happened onto a blog called “Journey Toward Stillness” today and found the following quotation that appears on the back of T-shirts at the blogger’s school. It was directed towards students and staff, but is so very appropriate for writers, too.

“The only thing that stands between a person and what they want in life is the will to try it and the faith to believe it possible.”