Sunset Thoughts

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I glanced out our west kitchen window and caught a glimpse of the setting sun.

I hurriedly went for my camera and stepped outside for a few shots.

Don’t know why this was so important as I have a thousand photographs of sun rises and sun sets.

I snapped the sun from various angles and positions, but post only two images. It doesn’t really matter anyway. The sun shines and sets as directed by the Creator so where I stand to take a photograph really makes no difference. Nor does taking a photograph.

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However, a photographer, like a painter or writer, envisions that perfect image he or she has in the mind. It is an intuitive thing, I believe.

These photos are nothing extraordinary, but possesses a part of me. I was compelled to take it for no other reason than to bring myself a bit of satisfaction.

I share them to encourage you…to make an impulsive leap towards something which brings you joy and fulfillment…even for a moment or two.

I’ve been ‘down in the dumps’ lately and needed a bit of inspiration. Without a job and striving to start a new career as an independent business, I feel a sense of fear and self-doubt. Yet, deep down inside, I know I can make this adventure work to my (and other’s) benefit.

Every photograph, and every typed or written word helps.

I am blessed.

 

Shadows

Leaf Shadow June 23, 2017

I hiked in a nearby wooded park yesterday morning. Using my cell phone’s camera, I captured several images of nature’s creation. Besides the vibrant colored wild flowers and insects, this particular image grabbed my attention. The play of the sun sifting through the thick canopy of trees created all manner of shadows. In this case the dead wood provided the perfect screen for the leaves to project their shadow upon.

I didn’t linger as I was walking for enjoyment as well as for exercise. I have thought about shadows since I took this photograph. Wherever there is light, there will be a shadow. When I was atop a 12,000 ft. mountain in the Rockies several years ago, I recall these giant clouds rolling overhead at a very fast rate. Yet, their shadows seemed so small when blanketing the terrain. I recall feeling so insignificant in comparison. Nature has a way of putting our lives in proper perspective.

Shadows can’t always be trusted because they don’t always reveal accurately the very essence of the thing being illuminated. They can become quite distorted depending on the angle of light and the screen they are displayed on.

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Why is it we are sometimes afraid of shadows? I believe it hinges on the object being illuminated. If we don’t know what or who is causing the shadow, this is when our imaginations can run wild. Many movies have used shadows to invoke fear in the hearts of the actor, as well as the viewers of the movie. Dark alleys, blowing trees at night, a cat racing across a darkened room, an arm raised with an object that looks like a knife…there are endless possibilities!

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I have been ran over by my own shadow on many occasions. I have stepped on many shadows, as well. I’ve even had shadows follow me. But, I have never had a shadow hurt me. Besides making one feel scared at times, shadows can be fun…think of shadow animal figures projected on a wall. This form of art can become quite amusing. It is what’s in front of the shadow that we are really concerned about. A palm tree perhaps!

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Shadows

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Shadows can be fun, mysterious, frightful, intentional, random, and even boring. Regardless of how they are viewed and make us feel, they can all be explained by a law of physics: light is interrupted by an opaque or semi-opaque object and darkness is created in the form of the object on the opposite side of the illuminated object.

The shape and degree of darkness are controlled by several factors: light intensity, angle of the light source illuminating the object, movement of the object or light source, opaqueness of the object being illuminated, location of the viewer with respect to the object, the terrain upon which the shadow falls, and the distance of the shadow.

In the case of this lengthy shadow, I was atop the lighthouse with a clear view of the shadow being cast. The sun was bright and at an angle as it was afternoon. The lighthouse was opaque, except for the glass windows which reveal the light fixture. Although the type of surface which accepted the shadow changes from land to water, both are relatively level and flat. Hence, the shadow is directly in-line with the lighthouse.

However, aside from a scientific explanation there is something else about shadows-perhaps something almost sinister. Our imaginations can run wild so-to-speak when we allow the shadow to come ‘alive’ in our minds. We ‘feel’ its presence which can send chills up our back and make us look over our shoulder repeatedly. Yet, logically, we know shadows are not alive, but they are attached to the object casting it via invisible cords. Those cords which lead us to the objects are what we really fear-the shadows only confirm their existence.

There are more to shadows than meets the eyes. It is what they reveal which makes them so special..so ethereal. Not only do they reveal a hint of the object casting the shadow, they often expose something deep inside of us which is only triggered by the faded image. When I gaze upon this scene I am reminded of warmth, relaxation and discovery-all very pleasant feelings. Fortunately, I viewed this shadow in bright circumstances and there was no negativity attached to it or the lighthouse. That is not always the case.

I recall a memory of shadows which affected me unexpectedly. Many years ago I hiked to the top of a 12,000 foot mountain in the Rockies of Colorado. The day was sunny and the weather pleasant. After a while I noticed dark, swiftly moving shadows rolling across the rocky terrain. Clouds, and then more clouds. Fast and then faster they came. With the sun blazing above them they cast menacing looking images onto the mountain top. I recall vividly how I suddenly felt so very small and insignificant in comparison to the grandeur of nature’s power. The majesty of the mountains coupled with a storm fast approaching made me very aware that had I stayed on top of that mountain when the full force of the storm passed over, I would not have returned from whence I started. I was amazed that all it took were shadows to evoke these thoughts and feelings.

With a slight chuckle I think of the movies with sinister plots and shadows which scare those acting as well as those viewing.  Feelings of fearfulness and harm cause the heart to race-all because of shadows. Or, is it the shadows? Perhaps deeper reasons exist.

Why I Blog

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Funny, but I never, ever would have suspected that illness would unlock the door to my public writing.

After years of chronic back pain which culminated in a spinal fusion, I began to blog. I’ve always liked to put my thoughts on paper. As a child I would write notes of affection to my mom. When I dated I would write notes and poems to Cheryl. Once, I wrote a poem of gratitude for my dad a few years before he died. I would often record thoughts and experiences for no particular purpose, other than to solidify what I was thinking at the time. In the ninth grade when I was forced to make a selection as to what vocation I wanted to pursue, I chose journalism. I did not walk this path professionally, but in some small way I have practiced it by scribbling my thoughts down ever since.

The years of chronic pain took their toll on my physical health. Also, during the past decade I lost parents and nieces to the grave, left a partnership which ended up in broken relationships and was involved in a ministry debacle involving leaders who were my close friends. The stage was set and I eventually succumbed to a rather serious bout of depression which lasted nearly four years. Anxiety was a constant companion, as was fear and confusion. This was not that long ago and it was an ugly time. As I walked through this illness, I felt as though I were caught in a maze without a way out. When I fell asleep at night, not waking up became a comforting thought.

The recognition of my illness was forced upon me by extreme anxiety attacks. I reluctantly sought help. It is difficult for a self-sufficient man to admit that he has been taken down by an “ illness of weakness ”, as I once thought depression was. After a few doctors, several medications, and counseling, I started to pull out of my personal hell. I prayed often during this period. They were short prayers because my attention span was short. I didn’t receive any answers which perplexed me, however, I never felt abandoned by God-just tested. I thought about Job a lot.

Once I began to experience sporadic rays of light illuminate my being, I ruminated about what had been taking place within me. I recall reading a few helpful books and many a self-help book with multiple keys to wholeness and significance. They confused me so I quit reading them. What works for one may work for another, but in general each person must seek and discover his or her own formula for wholeness. It is the ‘ living abundantly ‘ part of my existence that I struggle with the most. I’m still searching while trying to enjoy what I have and where I am. Writing has become a panacea for me.

I was fortunate to come across an invitation thrown out by Civitas Press to contribute to a collaborative effort to create a book about depression. I wrote a short essay and was accepted. The book was published and my name was among the list of authors. There was no compensation, except the hope that whoever reads this book will benefit from it. After I received my free copy, I began to read the stories of others who suffered from depression. I couldn’t finish the book. It depressed me!

This brief encounter with having a piece of my writing published gave me confidence to explore how I could continue to write and be heard. Writing is a process of self-discovery, as much as it is anything else. I wanted to know me better, and I wanted to help others in the process. I was encouraged by a wonderful young lady named Angel, who was the marketing director of an inspirational website. After we had a few chats over the internet, she said I should consider creating a blog. I didn’t have a clue as to what a blog was so I began to learn. At some pivotal point during this process, I made the leap and started a blog in August of 2012. It was liberating and scary at the same time. It still is.

I concluded my inaugural post with these words, “And, maybe, I will begin to remove the hinges from the door that I can’t seem to open wide, and instead, remove it. Why should the door exist anyway? Who do I want to keep out, and why do I want to stay in? I don’t know. However, I seek to find out ”.

This was my way of expressing the frustration which percolated within me. To be true to myself, I can’t state that I am much farther along in answering those questions. However, one thing I do know is that I am not alone. My family and close friends have been a great support. Also, I have met some very wonderful and talented people as a result of posting and following other’s blogs. The greatest satisfaction I experience occurs during my interactions with others. My goal is to encourage and inspire so I am afforded the opportunity to do both via my writing and the posting of my photography. My soul has received the beneficial balm of inspired words and photographs by my fellow sojourners. I am grateful, and encouraged, as well.

My essence can best be described as tossed salad these days as I struggle to find my place in this world, as Michael W. Smith once sang about. At this stage of my life I am astonished that I am where I am. I fully expected to be more certain about life…and me. This does not mean I don’t have a strong set of core values. I do. The road I have traveled has been full of twists and turns, bumps and bruises. But, I must ask, haven’t all of ours been like that? Jesus told His followers that each day has enough trouble of its own. Those who are going through serious trials would even say this is an understatement. Of course, our Lord never under or over stated anything. He was simply making the point that life is hard. Therefore, we are encouraged to trust in Him; the Way, the Truth and the Life. This imploring to trust is easier said than done, but not impossible or He wouldn’t have commanded us to do so in the first place. ‘Challenging’ may be a more accurate assessment when it comes to taking up our crosses and following (trusting & obeying) Christ. Dying to self is not enjoyable.

Writing for me is a tonic of sorts. Sometimes it is bittersweet. At other times it is smooth and refreshing. Always, it is different. For each thought, every idea, the occasional epiphany are unique from one another. Multiply that dynamic by everyone who holds the pen or punches a keyboard and we have a vast garden variety of words which can impact us. It is my sincerest hope that my words make a positive impression, and occasionally inspire. At the very least, I pray my words don’t offend. To challenge and question is okay…yes?  I hope you can relate. Life is too short to waste on the trivial.

One last thought; actually more of a postscript. The personal experiences I listed are not to gain pity or sympathy. They are real, they hurt, and I am still wrestling with the residual effects of depression and, of course, daily pain. However, because so many people deal with so much more hardship, I considered not posting this piece. I did post, in spite of my reluctance, because I want others to relate and to be encouraged. Please note that throughout my life I have been the recipient of so many more positives than the negatives I have identified. In a nutshell, I have been blessed.

I have gleaned wisdom from the words of Christopher Reeves, after he was paralyzed, when he simply stated that he had accepted the cards he was dealt and was doing the best he could to play them. I am coping, striving, growing and stumbling. I press on, as the Apostle Paul proclaimed. I honestly believe the goal is well worth the trials. Not to say this is an easy thing to boast of when I am at my worst. Interestingly, I have noticed this: the darker the trial, the clearer the goal. In no way am I comparing myself to Stephan when he was being stoned to death, but there is a great object lesson to be learned from this tragic incident. Immediately before he died he saw Heaven open and Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. What a glorious vision he was given. The Good Shepherd yearns to restore souls and invites all to spend eternity with Him.