Monday, July 26, 2010

Masquerading...

Ever felt like you're not being who you're supposed to be? As if you're not fulfilling your God-assigned role in this world? Pretending to be something you're not? I do. Maybe I'm not dressed like a lobster like my grandson, Cannon, is in this picture, but there are times, nonetheless, when I feel as though I'm masquerading as someone I'm not.

A writer, for instance.

There are many mornings when I sit down in front of this computer monitor and ask myself, "What now?" I never get an answer--not from me, anyway. But there are times when God Himself gives me a nudge on the back of my head as if to say, "Go on now. Be who I made you to be. You may not feel like a writer, but that's who you are. Live with it."

So I do. Some days I'm able to pull it off; other days I look (and feel) like a writer about as much as Cannon resembles a lobster without his costume. But he's a pretty convincing lobster when he is wearing it, so I guess the least I can do is be a convincing writer when God tells me to put my writer costume on.

I just wish I looked as darned cute.

Until the next time...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Bigger Picture

I've learned a lot during the past two weeks. For instance, I learned I can do things I never thought I could do (and live to tell the tales). If it were not for the encouragement of Darice, Ron, and Alan, I might never have enjoyed these special events. For starters, I rafted down a river, hiked long and arduous trails through the Alaskan countryside, drove the Parks Highway between Denali National Park to Anchorage, and in general, pushed myself beyond my pre-conceived physical and psychological limits. I'm not ready for hang-gliding or spelunking quite yet, but who knows? (Oh, who am I kidding? I'm never going to hang-glide or spelunk. Just got carried away with the possibilities, I guess.)

But I also learned some lessons that were less physical in nature. My brother surprised me with the gift of his Canon Powershot S5 IS camera, along with a phenomenal camera bag. I'd been admiring his camera and its attributes the entire time he was here; on his last night at our house, he made it mine, first making me promise I wouldn't refuse his gift. Without knowing the extent of his generosity, I accepted. I was floored at his gesture, speechless (and that doesn't happen often), and overjoyed. Alan and I share a mutual love of photography; in fact, it runs in the family. Both our parents enjoyed taking pictures, as does our sister, Shelley. As a whole, the Harpers seem to have a bent toward this wonderful hobby.

But Alan's gift to me extends even further than the obvious value of such an expensive camera and all it can do. He told me he's seen my work, believes in me, and knows I can (and will) use this superior piece of equipment to bring my photography skills to a higher level. I told him that owning this camera will change my life. And it will. Already I'm discovering how to capture the beauty of God's creation with my new camera. The photo above records just a tiny fraction of the intricacy found in the Alaskan rainforest we trekked through yesterday--sort of a "drop in the bucket" of all the things I'll now be able to discover and record.

Sometimes accepting gifts is difficult. We can't believe others think enough of us to give us something special. Perhaps we don't feel worthy. Maybe we're leery of selfless generosity--"What do they want in return? Is this too good to be true?". But when we accept the kind gestures of others, we're allowing them a chance to perform an act that's meaningful to both parties.

And so it is when we accept the gift of salvation from Jesus Christ. Unbelievable as it may be that He wants to do this for us, that He gave His life so we could live with Him for all eternity, that His offer is simple, binding, and eternal--it is, nevertheless, a gift He extends to us with the sincere hope we'll accept. When He holds out His hand for us to grasp, He too is saying, "Please accept my gift. Don't say 'no'."

I guess you could say that when we accept His gift of salvation, we become an important part of a much bigger picture.

Until the next time...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brothers and rapids and bears, oh my!

Let's face it: some days are just better than others. Such was the day Darice, Ron, Alan and I moseyed on down the Kenai Peninsula and took a 10-mile float trip down the Kenai River. I've never been in a raft before--a healthy fear of water (well, a fear of dying in water) and lack of opportunity have kept me shorebound-to-date. But I was determined that in honor of Alan's visit from Michigan, I was going to sit in a raft, by gol, and drift down a river. Some things just deserve an extra spurt of courage.

I'm so glad I did. Not only did none of us die, we also managed to have the time of our lives drifting past the wooded shoreline of the Alaskan wilderness, watching bald eagles glide overhead or tend to their young in their massive nests--sort of the McMansion of the bird-of-prey world. Everywhere we turned, we faced yet another of God's beautiful creations--rocks, beaches, towering mountains, rushing water, blue and sunny skies, salmon and trout, ducks, beaver dams, and a host of other glorious aspects of this part of the world. We even took on some class 2 rapids! Now I can truthfully say I've rafted in whitewater--not very white water, mind you, but hey, rapids are rapids.

Following a wonderful lunch at the lakeside Kingfisher Roadhouse, we then hiked a 5-mile round trip trail down to the Russian River Falls. There we watched majestic salmon fight their way up the falls for the right to spawn and then promptly die. While I can't fathom their enthusiasm for dying after all that hard work, I have to respect their determination. And although we didn't find any bears at the falls (returning hikers we met along the trail reported bears catching dinner across the river), we did run across one on the way back to the trailhead. Fortunately for us he meandered away, content to let us continue our trek unmolested. Good thing, too. Although we carry bear spray everywhere we go--grocery store, library, on rides around the base--the one time it might have come in handy is the one time we leave it in the car. I think he simply took pity on us.

All in all, it was a day I will never forget. But even more important than the exhilarating experiences we had  enjoying God's gifts is the sheer pleasure I had simply spending time with my brother. Many states (and many more miles) separate Michigan and Alaska, so my chances to visit him are, in large part, dictated by my finances. Having him with us for two solid weeks has been a pleasure I'll never be able to describe... but I sure hope we can duplicate it some time in the future.

I've been thrilled countless times since coming to Alaska at the wonders our Heavenly Father has created for His children to enjoy. But none of them are greater than His gift of a family. Thank You, Lord, for my family and for the time you give me to spend with them.

And thank You for Alan.

Until the next time...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Living in the shadows

Reflections allow us a second chance to enjoy a beautiful sight. Normally, we think of reflections as accurate representations--a mirror image, if you will--of the original. But there are also times when the same can be said of shadows, even though the word conjures thoughts of gloom and doom, fear and darkness, evil and the brevity of life.

Who can forget Psalm 23:4, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Or Job 16:16, "My face is red with weeping, deep shadows ring my eyes." These Bible verses and others like them equate shadows with the darker side of life.

There are times, however, when a shadow, like the one in this photo I took at my sister's house, can reflect all the glory--the multiple colors and delicate details--of the original, not just a dark approximation of it. And so it is with God. Psalm 91:1-3 says, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." While we are resting in His shadow, we can also be reflecting His glory.

I pray I will always be a bright reflection of the glory of God even as I seek shelter in the shadow of His mighty wings.

Until the next time...

Laughing with the Lord #4

Welcome to #4 of Laughing with the Lord! Wondering what makes God smile has long been a burning question for me. I know He smiles and laug...