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catching firefliesTeaching Your Heart to See God's Light Everywhere
By PATSY CLAIRMONT
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 Patsy Clairmont
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIn the Beginning
I'm a light girl. No, not low tonnage. I wish.
What I love is illumination-morning sunrays sneaking around the corners of my window shades, encouraging me to rise up; the yellow glow on a firefly's keister dancing in the distance; or lightning streaking across a night sky like an insistent exclamation point. If it lights up, I like it. With the exception of red bubbles on top of police cars beckoning me to chat. Quite honestly, I just don't have the time.
I'm sure my fascination with light-bearing objects is why I love the book of Genesis, especially the part where light was birthed.
When God said, "Let there be light," there was! But take note that He didn't design the light holders -the sun, moon, and stars-until four days later. Have you ever considered that, during creation, light was bounding about willy-nilly until it was corralled into designated positions? That fascinates me. I wonder if it looked like an explosive aurora borealis.
I would have loved a front row seat for that light show. I think.
Then again, in Scripture, people responded by falling on theirfaces when they encountered a heavenly messenger, witnessed a miracle, or heard God's voice. They had a compelling reason for responding that way, I'm sure. We humans derive a great deal of our security from what we know, and generally speaking, we're not sturdy enough for the "other world," full of its wondrously fierce mysteries.
Remember when Moses climbed to the mountaintop and asked to see God? The Lord's mercy covered Moses as He passed by because Moses wasn't prepared for what he would have seen. Oh, he might have been desirous, curious, and even devotion-driven to look on the Lord, but God knew Moses wasn't ready for such a startling encounter.
Majesty, purity, and holiness, to name a few of God's qualities, are piercing in their perfect state. Our hearts couldn't take the jolt.
Remember Jacob? He wrestled with an angel, and because of that encounter, he walked with a limp the rest of his life.
When angels appeared to people, the heavenly beings greeted those mere mortals with the words, "Fear not." They understood that fear would be our first, knee-knocking response.
So taking into consideration that we wouldn't have had the moxie to handle witnessing the first stirrings in the universe, let's stretch our limited minds and try to imagine it. A time when there was no time (what must that be like?), just total darkness (now I'm scared), chaos (this feels familiar), and emptiness (I don't do bottomless falls).
Actually, reading that description-dark, chaotic, and empty-reminds me of last week, when my son's visiting Jack Russell discovered our laundry basket full of clean clothes. He chewed the support out of my new underwire. I am of the personal belief that Jack Russells were fashioned from the spare parts of pogo sticks. No, I'm not bitter, just reflecting on how, perhaps, this Jack Russell's interior must resemble creation before God brought order to it.
Alas, I digress. Back to the invention of light.
Let's consider for a moment what happens when the universe's scary dark is abruptly interrupted. At God's command, light crashes through utter darkness, bursting forth as conqueror.
Does that sound superhero-ish? Well, that's my interpretation of how it might have happened. And whether light crashed onto the scene, sauntered in, or flowed like a river, we know this for sure: God spoke, and it was so! Which should be a strong reminder for us about the wallop God's words carry.
Recently I was thinking about the phrase, "Let there be light," and it hit me anew that those are God's first recorded words. I don't know if that makes them more important or holier than anything else He said, but that reminder caused me to lean in and listen deeply because I don't want to miss the impact of His proclamations.
As I further explored "Let there be light," I was reminded that not only does Scripture's first book open with light, but the last book also closes with it. The theme throughout the Bible, from beginning to end, cover to cover, from Genesis to Revelation, is Jesus, the Light of the World.
As a matter of fact, we could say that the Bible is bookended in light and a holy fire. For light is the symbol God has chosen to represent truth, and Jesus is the flame of our faith. Of course, divine insight is full of light, and Christ is that light; so anytime we understand something that's true, something we never had grasped before, Jesus is all over it. Don't you love that?
I can become downright giddy when a fresh truth settles inside me. I want to shout from the rooftop, "I get it! I get it! I finally get it!"
I've found "in the beginning" truth igniting. It sparks hope inside me, whether it's the beginning of a grand new day, a new project, a new resolution, or a new understanding.
I hope this book will offer you new understandings and thoughts that kindle your desire to seek God in fresh ways. Together we will explore different kinds of illumination that help us to find that path. I've been known to lose my way, and I've been ever so grateful to those who have come alongside me with their lanterns to shed some light on the direction to take. So if you're feeling unsure, take my hand, and we'll step this out together. I believe that just as surely as God had a place assigned for the sun, moon, and stars, He has a place for us as His light holders. A place where we get to shine.
I hope, shiny girlfriends, we can take time for some laughter, too, for it will lighten our load and our countenances. My prayer is that you might find in this book God-inspired bright ideas to slip into your purse to help clarify your next step, and the next, and the one after that ... even in the dark.
His sanguine spirit turns every firefly into a star. -Arthur Conan Doyle Sr.
I love when my dreams are of steamy summer nights dripping in hand-cranked ice cream. Then that yummy dream is drizzled with squealing children who fill mason jars with fireflies. That's my remembrance of childhood summer vacations.
More than fifty years ago I was one of those squealers, and when I think about it, I still can feel the same tummy-giggle at the sight of the lightning bugs that dotted the landscape with magic. Those pinpoint flashes sent us kids dashing down the hill to capture them in our glass jars. Then we would line up the jars on the picnic table, creating a row of luminous lanterns. Oh, how they glowed!
Today Michigan, my home state, has lightning bugs aplenty on the edges of our woods, pleasing me with wisps of promise. But long ago and far away, the fireflies of Kentucky won my childhood favor. Fireflies are a child's white lightning, leaving us tipsy with glee.
I remember how, after I had eaten a heaping bowl of homemade ice cream, I would carry my treasured firefly jar, pinging with fireflies, into my mamaw's home to get ready for bed. After my bath, I would climb into shorty pajamas and crawl between the sun-sweet sheets onto a feather bed. The whirring of the nearby fan created a rhythmic lullaby, sending ripples of cool air across my pillow. When I sank into the pinstriped covering of the down bedding, it would rise up around me to form puffy clouds. My last waking moments were a delicious blend of adult voices drifting on the breeze and my nearby jar still abuzz with specks of light.
By morning my lively lantern light would be gone, the jar carried to the front porch after I fell asleep and my light bearers freed. The empty jar sat next to my papaw's rocker awaiting another night run. I wouldn't disappoint it. As darkness settled around the house, I would once again run, capture light, have more ice cream, and then sink into dreamland.
Dreams are prevalent throughout Scripture. Firefly dreams? Not so much. But the Bible's dreams or visions always seem to contain light, whether a burning bush (Exodus 3); Paul's Damascus road encounter (Acts 9); Joseph's dream in which the sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him (Genesis 37); or Daniel's dream about the Ancient of Days sitting on a throne blazing in fire (Daniel 7). Why, Scripture's "dream" scenes are flooded with light, when you think about it.
So we shouldn't be surprised when dreams bring enlightenment-if not to us, then maybe to others. Like what happened to me one morning a few months ago ...
During the first thirty minutes I'm awake, I'm not an eager participant in the morning, and then I get over myself and move on into the day. This particular morning I hadn't yet shaken the webs of sleep loose when my husband Les came in, holding out the phone to me. I had heard it ring but had ignored it. I shook my head to indicate that I didn't want to talk yet. I hadn't yet brushed my teeth, and I don't talk until after I brush. It's in the world's best interest. Les gave me a look that strongly suggested I speak into the phone. So I did ... with a snarl.
Then what I heard on the other end changed everything. A woman whose lips dripped Southern accent said, "Is this Patsy Clairmont?"
All my kin were from Kentucky, but those whom I knew and loved there have gone to be with Jesus. So when I heard the lilt of her voice, drenched in sweet tea, she became my new best friend and a postcard from heaven. My head buzzed with fireflies.
"You are going to think I'm crazy," she continued, "but I had a dream. I dreamed that I was talking to a woman on the telephone, and she asked me, 'Do you have a list of potential friends?'
"I told her, 'No, I don't. Who is this?'
"'This is Patsy Clairmont,' she answered."
And then the woman who had called me said she woke up.
"I thought it was a strange dream, and it made no sense to me," the Southern voice confessed. "But it wouldn't leave me. It followed me from one room to another. Finally I did what I always do when I'm not sure what to do: I got down on my knees, and I prayed. I said, 'Lord, this dream makes no sense to me. So if You are trying to tell me something, I don't understand.'"
That was when she heard a voice within her, which she knew to be the Lord's, say, I want you to tell Patsy Clairmont that I have not forgotten her.
"I'm willing to do that, Lord, but who is Patsy Clairmont?"
The Southern phone voice continued, "I went on with my life, but His instruction remained clear in the back of my mind that I was to call someone I didn't know. I took a trip, came back home, and was busy restoring order to my home, when I pulled a book off my library shelf. It was a book I had never read, and I was trying to decide if I should keep it or pass it on. A friend had given it to me when I had my first grandchild, and now I have five, and I still hadn't gotten around to reading it. It was a compilation book, and I glanced down at the authors listed on the cover. That's when I saw the name Patsy Clairmont."
She made a series of calls and was able to track down my number. "I'm not a sweating woman," she confessed, "but my hands were perspiring when I dialed your number. I asked the Lord, 'Couldn't You give me something more significant to say than You have not forgotten her?'"
I had listened intently to her dream, her prayer, and now her concern. "You know what?" I said. "I don't think you could have told me anything more moving and significant than that God has not forgotten me. That He would put my name in your dream and a message in your heart, and that you would have the courage to follow through so I might be encouraged is deeply touching."
After we hung up (and I brushed my teeth), I was basking in the wonder of God's love. And then I remembered ... in the wee hours of the night I had awakened, slipped out of bed, and curled into a chair in my office to study and pray. I had asked the Lord if He would clarify the message He wanted me to speak to women this year, but the heavens seemed still. After a time of waiting, I crawled back in bed and slept soundly until I awoke again.
As I pondered the sequence of my hours, I realized that the message the woman delivered was not only for me personally but also the answer to my prayer for the women I would encounter this year. "God has not forgotten you" was to be the heartbeat of my message, the lantern lit with God's love.
My friend, God has not forgotten you. He knows your sorrow, your troubles, your finances, your fears, and your dreams-and He has not forgotten you. He promises to redeem our hardships for our good. Sometimes we think that if God doesn't fix or change our struggles, then He must have forgotten us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Questions to Ask Yourself
* Did your childhood sparkle with fireflies? If not, what creatures lit up your life?
* What important dreams have you had?
* Do you have trouble getting over yourself? In what areas?
* What do you tend to do when you don't know what to do?
* When have the heavens seemed silent to you?
Consider Job. People have been for centuries. Job lost everything that mattered to him except his wife. And as if that wasn't enough, he was covered in oozing sores. His wife thought he should curse God and die. That was her only recorded contribution. Sad, but understandable coming from a woman who had just buried all her children. She had given up, thrown in the proverbial towel. We hear it in her grief-torn, anger-laden words.
Job hung on even when friends arrived and said all the wrong things. Just when Job needed them the most, their counsel only added to his indignities. But then Job began to see past his pain, past the people, and past opinions, to flickers of light in the dark night of his soul. He heard God speak, and the Lord's every word glowed with a future.
Job entered the lantern-lined path of hope. His life-picture shifted, and his end years flourished.
"The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning" (Job 42:12).
A life of faith involves seeing past what's happening today and believing in God's redemptive care in our tomorrows. How do we respond like Job? Let's see ... Job didn't run around frantic (my tendency); he sat down and listened (not so much my tendency); he didn't give up even in the face of despair (hmm); he knew God's voice (I like that); and he leaned into God's sovereignty (my life goal).
"I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2).
1. Be still
Five luminous lanterns to help us during our night-seasons to know God hasn't forgotten us. Be attentive when it's the darkest, for that's when lightning bugs do their best work ... and nothing fans faith's imagination like the dance of a firefly!
* * *
To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe. -Anatole France
Chapter ThreeMorning Light
The windows of my soul I throw wide open to the sun. -John Greenleaf Whittier
Have you ever noticed how invigorating dawn light skipping across wooden floors is? Or the wonder of morning light as it refracts off prisms, twirling rainbows on ceilings? Even though I'm not naturally an early bird, I confess I'm disappointed when I miss those first soft rays that fill the morning with light. That's when dew sparkles like a bride's diamond, tulips rouse full, tomatoes glisten on windowsills, and droplets of light freckle my bedroom wall.
No wonder photographers stir before sunrise and wait expectantly for daybreak's dance to waltz past their lenses. It's spectacular, warm, hopeful, dimensional, promising, and artistic.
On toasty summer mornings, my favorite spot is a garden. In those early hours, joy blooms in pots, runs askew down pansy borders, stretches up sunflower walls, and is fence-festive in morning glories. Call me an intruder, but I love to carry my camera to a patch of veronica and slip up on a butterfly sipping nectar or a grasshopper nibbling a leaf. "Breakfast," I hear the nearby bumblebee buzz.
Morning births opportunities. I like that. Because some days become sullied, and I find it encouraging to know that, within hours, a new day will unfold with a potential fresh start.
Excerpted from catching fireflies by PATSY CLAIRMONT Copyright © 2009 by Patsy Clairmont. Excerpted by permission.
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