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Shining Our Light: How and why do we do it?

Niagara Falls Illumination

Shining Our Light for Others Without Fear!

Most of us have heard the expression that, we need to shine our light to the world, but what does that mean exactly?

I had an interesting – illuminating experience lately that demonstrated to me what this expression means and how beautiful of a blessing it can be for the object – person, situation or the entire world – on which we are shining our light, but also what gets reflected back to us in doing so.

During the holidays of this year, I was asked to go to Niagara Falls – in fact, I was supposed to go there for New Year’s Eve to finally witness the grand illumination of the falls which I have heard about many times, but have never seen in person.  It isn’t an invitation a girl turns down lightly!

In fact, turning down things – listening to my own G.P.S. – God Positioning System – isn’t something I have a lot of practice in.  I generally live my life with the belief that we must suck the marrow out of life and go in the direction of our dreams (Henry David Thoreau), no matter what.  At times, this belief has led me to travel and meet extraordinary people and see marvelous things.  At other times, this impetuous nature, as my mother likes to call it – I like to call it spontaneity – has led me down paths that perhaps were not the easiest or the most pleasant to be on; and in God’s grace, he’s had to recalculate me back to a better one!

In this particular instance, being invited to see Niagara Falls on New Year’s Eve, I listened to my G.P.S. and declined the offer.  I knew that going down that path – even though the physical destination was going to be amazing – the journey to and from it, would not.  In other words, the person I was going to go with was someone who my G.P.S. had been telling me was not the right path to be heading down.

I declined and instantly felt the disappointment of it and as the season progressed, I repeated to myself that perhaps I should have gone; that I should have walked through that door when it opened.  However, at some point, I realized that by going over it in my mind, I was stuck in the past – of what could have been and I was stealing any joy from the present every time I thought of it.  So, I surrendered it up to God and told him, one day I’d like to see the illuminated waterfalls.

What we don’t often realize is what is taking place behind the scenes in our lives and if we did, I’m sure we’d be much more inclined to surrender things and let God put them into place for us.  What I didn’t know was that my close friends were not only moving to Niagara Falls, but that I would receive another invitation shortly after the holidays that would forever illuminate my life!

My friends, a lovely couple that I’ve known for over five years now, were eagerly awaiting my visit to see their new place and have dinner with them, but because of circumstances in  my life, I hadn’t had the time to go – nor did I really want to do the drive alone, to be honest.

However, after they asked me several times, I decided that it was time to simply make the commitment and go.  It was a Saturday evening that I planned to drive there and early in the afternoon, just before I was about to leave, I got a phone call that one of my favourite and closest aunts had passed away suddenly.  I was very sad, upset and of course, began to think that I should just stay home and tell my friends that it was too much to come and visit.

However, I suddenly remembered that another friend of mine had told me that she had never seen Niagara Falls in the winter time, and I decided to invite her along for the company.  She said she’d love to come and was very excited about seeing the falls.  I told her, however that my friends didn’t live right in the area and we’d probably just be seeing the waterfalls from a distance.

When we arrived for dinner, we shared a lovely meal with my friends and after dinner, my friend Jay, said, “Let’s get you girls in the car.  I want to show you something.”  I couldn’t imagine what, but we obliged him, got our coats on and piled in the car.

As he began to drive towards the falls, I assumed he was just going to drive by them so we could see them.  When he pulled in and up around an old circular stone building and parked, I had no idea what we were doing.  He got out and said, “Follow me girls!”  We followed him to an old steel door and he knocked on it, holding a cup of coffee for someone I assumed was inside.  When we entered, Jay introduced us to an older gentleman who worked in the dilapidated old building.  “Girls, ” Jay said, “how would you like to not only see the lights of Niagara Falls, but actually be able to change the colour of them?”

He led us out another steel door on the other side and instantly, we heard the roar of the falls just metres away.  The first thing I saw were huge, beaming lights – of purple, red, blue and yellow casting their beautiful beams over the parkway towards the illuminated falls.

We entered a tiny galley like room and were shown these contraptions that looked liked computers from the 1980’s era.  There on the screen were buttons, the same colours as the beaming lights and we could choose whatever ones we liked, and then step out into the cold night air and watch as the roaring waterfalls, changed their colour to what we chose for them, right before our eyes.  I cannot express my or my friend’s  excitement at that moment – it was like we were two little girls given a puppy at Christmas.  Our childhood enthusiasm exuded from us as we played with these mammoth, colourful lights.

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As I watched not only the Canadian, but also the American waterfalls change the colours that I chose from a remote computer, I realized some invaluable lessons:

Firstly, I had listened to my G.P.S. – my intuition – a month earlier and surrendered the idea – and hope – of seeing the falls illuminated during the winter season and here I was not only seeing them, but actually controlling their illumination and the experience of it was pure joy.  I realized that whatever it is we think is being taken from us or delayed; God will restore it – bring it to us in His time, better than we could possibly imagine.

Secondly, I learned how important it is to shine our lights out to the world, because we each have our own unique colours to shine for people and when we do this, it also becomes an illuminating experience for us as well.

Thirdly, as I watched the remote stage lights send forth their light; the beams were very visible in the mist of the falls and I became aware that they are made of millions of light particles and lit up the entire night sky as well.  Isn’t this like our light, when we shine it out to the world, it isn’t simply the person we are shining it on, but people around us that also can see and feel it’s brilliance?

Fourthly; many times in my life I have hid my “light under a bushel” {Luke 8:16-18} because I was afraid that I was too much for people.  As the youngest of seven, you get told this a lot as your older siblings do not want to hang out and play ‘Barbies’ with you, despite how exciting you think it might be!  I was also told this by teachers because I asked too many questions; friends, because I thought differently than most kids; and in relationships because they thought my hair was “too big, I wore too much make-up, I was too smart, too pretty, too “out there” or “too” something!

The best thing, my sister Denise ever taught me, after she made a video of my life, accompanied by Cyndi Lauper’s song, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was that too many people wanted to “hide me away from the rest of the world” and I should just go out and “walk in the sun!”

The truth is, I wanna be the one to walk in the sun!  And I know that God wants this for me as well.  I believe he wants this for all of us!  So go shine your light and don’t dim yourself down for anyone!

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So how do we do this – shining our light thing?

Sometimes it can be as easy as smiling at someone.  I have rarely smiled at someone and not had them smile back, even if all they can muster is a little smirk.  Saying good morning to the people you pass on the walking trail is shining our light.   Let’s be honest, we don’t always feel like doing this, especially if some people do not reciprocate our efforts.  However, I have actually made it my purpose before I go for a walk  that I will say good morning to everyone I see with no expectation of the outcome and it buffers those times when someone isn’t ready or capable of expressing back the same salute.

Another way to shine our light, is if we are having any kind of conversation with a cashier, or someone who is in their work place, ask their name and introduce yourself.  People like to be acknowledged and simply asking their name or repeating it occasionally during a short conversation can make them feel seen.

Obviously, when we volunteer or help a friend or help out in our community, we are shining our light.  However, God’s G.P.S. is not complicated.  He will arrange Divine Appointments if we ask him and this may simply be picking up a loose can of vegetables someone dropped in front of us or opening a door for someone.

Often times, this might lead to a short conversation and who knows this other person might illuminate our day instead.  One thing is for sure, what I have learned from this experience is that God is more than willing to bless us – usually unexpectedly – I believe the Big Guy in the Sky loves surprising us.  Maybe because he knows everything that has, is and will happen and he never gets a surprise; he loves to lavish them on us!  I don’t know.  What I know is that rarely have I ever shone my light and not had His light or some illumination return to my own life.

Don’t be afraid!  Go shine your light on someone today and then wait and see how that light bends back towards you!

"Ours is the responsibility to keep our lights bright for others to follow." --Thomas S. Monson #LDS #Mormon

Cyndi Lauper:  Go Walk in the Sun and Have Fun!

 

 

 

 

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Do NOT fear or worry: Jesus is in the SAME boat as us!

 

Jesus was in the SAME boat!

Jesus storm - The painting

Often when we are in trouble and we share our woes with others, we hear the expression, “I know, I’m in the same boat!”

This is said usually to bring comfort that someone else is going through a similar experience, and we can know that we are not alone in our time of need.  Similarly, the Canadian musician, Avril Levine sings:  Watcha Crying for? It’s all been done before!

There’s not only comfort, but truth in these words: Being part of humanity, we can be sure that someone, somewhere has gone through what we are going through – or far worse for that matter!   Knowing this can be a sobering reality for us.  It also gives us an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and to hear possible solutions.  If we are blessed enough, God will send us someone who knows exactly what we are going through, if not to offer answers, than at least to offer support.

However, sometimes we feel like just when we need someone the most, our phone never rings; no one knocks on our door and we’re convinced that we could drop over dead and it would be days before someone finds us!

Well, what we need to remember is that even though we feel alone, someone is listening and someone is with us.  This is made evident in the story when the disciples of Jesus, find themselves being tossed to and fro in the sea; scared for their very lives.  Meanwhile, Jesus is at the front of the boat, sleeping!

Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”  He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.  The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” {Matthew 8:23-27}

Theologians and pastors have often comforted us with the truth that no matter what storm we go through Jesus can calm it.  Well, here’s even better news:  Did you know that when the disciples were in that furious storm and they cried out “Lord save us! We’re going to drown” they temporarily forgot one important thing:  Not only was Jesus able to calm the storm.  HE WAS IN THE SAME BOAT!

He wasn’t far off somewhere enjoying a drink on the beach!   He was in the boat with them.

More so, amidst a storm, here he was, sleeping, seemingly oblivious to the fears and the imagined doom of his friends.  It wasn’t because he didn’t care about them or that he was neglecting their needs.  It was because he knew what they should haven known; that he, in his faith, was able to calm the storm.  He was their protector.

He would never jump out of the boat and leave them to fend for themselves.  He was sleeping because he could rest in knowing that whatever the conditions of that storm, his power was greater.  And yet, what did Jesus say to his disciples – and all of us – just before he ascended to heaven:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  {John 14:12} 

What we need to realize is that we too have authority over our own storms.  We can go to bed at night, knowing that if we speak that our storm will pass, truly believe that God’s “got it”, we can also sleep as Jesus did, without worry.  This is exactly what God wants us to do and that is why he had Jesus asleep in the boat – to illustrate this point to us.

It’s not like the disciples didn’t know this wisdom too!  They had seen him perform many miracles greater than calming a storm.   It would seem that even his disciples needed reminding of this fact on a regular basis – as do we sometimes – and that’s okay.

As Jesus says:  “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest…learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  {Matthew 11:28-30}

Jesus assures us that as long as we are in the same boat with him, he will give us rest also.   He too has experienced his own storms and his own burdens.   He doubted; he was tempted.  He even said to his father in heaven before his crucifixion, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”   {Matthew 26:38}

If even Jesus can feel such sorrow, surely he knows how we feel.  He is in the boat with us and he is resting because He knows no storm is greater than his power.

So when you find yourself in a boat that feels like it is sinking, put aside your own little Dixie cup and let Jesus bail you out!