Imagine a group of people standing in front of the two photos of old windows included with this blog. There would be a variety of opinions about the colorful presentation on the glass. Some people would consider the paintings quaint, clever, beautiful, attention-grabbing, or a work of art. Other opinions may edge toward dislike.
But no matter how much you like them or dislike them—what you are looking at is a fake. The drawings are representing something that isn’t there—isn’t real. There are no curtains. There is no vase or pretty flowers.
At a glance, the paintings make the world think they are genuine and give the house that lived-in look, an indication that happy times still exist. But they don’t. The pretty, painted windows hide emptiness, disrepair, shabbiness, and promote a lie.
How does this compare to life and people? Some people are a work of art but they are empty inside. Others put up a fancy front and hide hurts. A bold outward appearance may be a cover for insecurity. A jolly laugh might screen depression. The list goes on.
It’s very difficult to learn how to discern what is really behind the established faces. But as we get to know people, we can catch a glimpse of the pain, rejection, and hurts behind the make-believe. God loves the person behind the façade. He doesn’t just look at the outward appearance. The Bible urges us to look beyond the pretense and see the real person, the troubles, and the hurt. God’s word tells us to love everyone, not jump in with rags to clean them up. We can’t assume we have the ability to scrub their grief away, attempt major changes and overhauls, or redo them to suit our standards.
Behind the fancy painted glass there may be emptiness, but you can help fill it with hope and a better life. Ask God to give you the ability to discern when a careful painting is taking the place of a real face. We can express God’s love to those around us by reaching out to them and giving of ourselves.
Please scroll downward and leave your comments. Otherwise, how will I know you came to visit?
~Karen Campbell Prough
Shadows are images without light. They are the outline of something, which is not quite discernible or real.
Are we shadows?
When people talk to us or connect with us through avenues in social media, are they seeing just an outline of a human being? Our images may not be bad; we might not purposely present only a silhouette.
But shadows seem to be multiplying in today’s world.
Friends may include an ever-widening circle of remote acquaintances, people who have recognizable faces, but with whom we’ll never shake hands, laugh, speak to, or hug.
What makes us genuine in today’s world and not a shadow? What makes us tangible? How do we touch others when we live hundreds of miles apart, countries apart, and will never stand side by side?
Compassion, kindness, and willingness to give of ourselves, breathes life into our shadows. We become real to people. They cannot forget a shadow that begins to glow with color. Reaching out to others, giving sound advice, talking them through rough times, and being online to comfort a hurting friend, while the rest of the world snoozes, helps us reflect God’s light. People will suddenly perceive something different about us.
Our good deeds, kind messages, or emails may not go down in the world’s “journals of renown”, but really—is that why we’re here on this earth? No. We need to brighten our shadows by privately messaging a friend instead of clicking “like”. We should be real quick to pick up the phone and put a voice to our images.
In other words—we dare not become a shadow of ourselves.
Remember what God’s word says: “Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.” Philippians 2:3-4 NLT
People need a human touch, a human greeting, hugs, and even the posted word “friend”. Our careful words, typed or spoken, can add light to someone’s shadow.
I need to work on this. I’m trying to notice the “shadows” walking around in the grocery store or in the local restaurant, and other places. I need to smile at them, speak to them, and joke with them.
~Karen Campbell Prough
I bet you have but you didn’t give the feeling a real name. So think of it like this …. The most insignificant roadblocks or problems in our lives can soon grow out of proportion and literally consume us. When this happens, we sometimes withdraw from reality.
We can all relate to the old saying about taking a small hill of dirt—created by a mole removing soil from underground—and making a mountain out of it.
Panic can set in over troubles that pop up unexpectedly.
And what is the first reaction we humans have?
The problem can resemble a bumpy-hide alligator sunning along the river where your kayak just dumped you. Within moments, the six-foot alligator grows five feet longer. His beady eyes open and stare straight at you, and his massive jaws gap wide open with anticipation. Forty-thousand, pointed teeth gleam in the sun, and you know that your puny size is no match for the monster. Your safety—the kayak—has drifted away. Any movement on your part will cause the reptile to remember that breakfast was hours ago. Your mind starts wondering if you can out swim the green ogre, because he’s heading for the mudslide on the riverbank.
That could be it. Or maybe it’s God’s whispers and steady nudging. If we welcome God’s presence into our lives, we can lift our eyes and study the problem in a different light. God knows when troubles wait near us and eye our visible weaknesses. He knows that our supposed solid foundation is actually just a piece of plastic adrift on murky waters.
If we call on God, he helps us put things back into perspective. But we need to make the connection with Him before bad things happen. With a relationship with God, we are already on our way to safety. “I will call to you whenever trouble strikes, and you will answer me.” Psalm 86:7 NLT
God is bigger than any problem.
Have a nice day. Please scroll down and leave your comments.
~Karen Campbell Prough
MY DADDY’S HANDS
Not too long ago my dad had to stay at the hospital. Come evening, I would step into his room, relieve my mom or one of my brothers from their post at Dad’s side. We would all tell Mom to go home and sleep. I would sit until the early morning hours, at which time Mom would sneak back into the dimly lit room and insist I leave. During one of those evenings, as Dad took a short nap, I snapped a quick picture of his folded hands. They looked so calm and capable.
You see … there are times when Dad’s mind disconnects from reality, and he forgets things he once did with ease. Painting is one of his talents and a direct connection to the job he once held. But the last portrait he did was not effortless, and it did not turn out perfect. It was the painting of two children and their faces appeared distorted and not recognizable.
But the night I snapped the picture of Dad’s hands, I realized his mind probably could still do the job. It could imagine the curve of a cheek, envision the details of a tall pine tree, and picture the form of a grazing deer, but there was a loss of intimate communication. His hands no longer heard the right message. They drifted away from the smooth, straight line being painted and made it a curve. The blue eyes on a baby’s face did not match. The happy smile was crooked. But Dad had continued to labor over the painting and brought it to a finish.
God never leaves us. He still whispers directions, urges us to the right paths, but we drift. We wander off the trail, fall over cliffs, and damage ourselves. We hurt others in the process and many times regret it. We suddenly realize that we have ruined close relationships or broken down lines of communication. We’ve strayed from the path.
Our lives can become a mess, the wonderful picture ruined, and tears run like globs of watery paint.
But God does not leave us. He keeps speaking, urging, calling, and forgiving. The picture of our life might not turn out the way God wanted it because we fail to pay attention to his voice—and to fulfill his bidding.
You are His child. You can hear God’s voice if you care to listen and desire His direction. The painting of your life will have fewer mistakes if you heed what God whispers. Willingness is the key.
“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” Hebrews 2:1 KJV
All pictures by Marshall E. Campbell
I WROTE THIS CONFESSION A FEW YEARS AGO
Have I told you about him? No? Well, it’s about time ….
It seems like he’s always been in my life. I can’t imagine life without him. Oh yes, my life would be calmer, my weekdays a little quieter, and I’d get something accomplished—instead of wanting to be with him, hug, and kiss him.
One look from him can melt my heart. My will to stay strong wilts when he grabs my hand. I try to type, endeavor to write stories, but he interrupts me. He pleads and makes silly demands. I leave my work and do his bidding. Yes, I know … I should be strong and not give in.
His eyes are sky blue—such a bright blue. Women turn to smile at him in stores and restaurants. I should be jealous because of the charming looks he gives them. It stops them in their tracks when he returns their smiles. I can tell they want to reach out to him. And some do reach for him! But that’s when he leans toward me, reaches for me, and they have no doubt he cares for me. He won’t let them come between us.
Today we went out to eat and it didn’t matter that he stared at every woman that walked by. He literally turned around in his chair to see what was going on behind him.
He also dropped his spoon, pushed his cup off the table, and demanded a drink of my coke. Would you believe he spit a mushroom on the table because he didn’t like it? He wrote on the tabletop with a crayon and grabbed a straw out of my glass.
He wouldn’t eat all his food but wanted his toy truck from the diaper bag. He laughed and smiled at all the other people in the restaurant, creating quite a scene.
Life can be that way—a stretch in time that does not hold promise or beauty.
About me were the shards and relics of someone’s past life, empty and ghost-like. Gray, wooden walls held weathered roofs in place, balancing them until the storms of life would push them to the earth. Wavy glass reflected the blue sky and the heat of the day.
Echoes of a voice sighed with the wind as it passed between a house and barn. An old mule lifted her head and waited for the owner of the voice to appear and lead her into the shelter of the barn. But not even a shadow drifted near.
I tripped over a discarded board and came to a stop. My eyes traveled across the dry ground and I lifted my head. Flowers nodded in the slight breeze—a pink flush adding life to the dirt between the railroad ties. I drank them in while my clouded sight cleared.
The flowers held to the dry soil but lifted their faces upward. They had grown from fallen seed. They did not fear the heat of the train that might pass over their bed of unfit ground. They never worried that my ambling feet might crush the life out of them. Their leaves did not quake in dread that the old mule would grind them between worn teeth. They lived with their petals open and waiting—waiting on the rain their designer would surely send.
Ridiculous thoughts about some wild flowers, you might say, but my heart stirred and lifted. I stopped to take a picture of them. Their colorful faces reflected the love of their creator and my God. My mind turned to scripture I had hidden in my heart. I have nothing to fret about or dread, even if I fall to the ground. I will get up. God gives strength to those who look to Him.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4: 11-13 NIV
Please leave your comments below. Have you felt content in God’s arms?
That remark can refer to other things besides the clothes we wore four years ago. We can suddenly realize we no longer fit in with an old group of friends—but we hate to admit it. Life has a habit of rearing up and pushing us in directions we should not go. But, at the same time, God may be beckoning and pointing to a new, fresher path.
Sometimes we balk, plant our feet, and state that we will not detour from our self-appointed missions in life. When that happens, no one can persuade us to stop and think about the whole picture. We can refuse to reflect on why change is good. We keep forcing ourselves into our preferred “box of life”.
By stopping and listening to advice, we can begin to see how small our world has become and how rigid our thoughts have grown. The freshly dug well of inspiration may be close by—deep and inviting—but we are still trying to sail that huge ship out on the wide ocean. We do not pause to think about the depth of godly advice. We fail to perceive how broad our horizons can become if we will only open our eyes and catch sight of those trying to direct us.
Stop today, look up and away from the discouraging things that have kept your attention. Are there things in your life not worthy of an extended fight? Let old dreams drop from your fingers and thoughts. Start watching for God’s direction—whether it is from friendly advice or a whisper in your heart.
“Intelligent people are always open to new ideas. In fact, they look for them.” Proverbs 18:15 NLT
Thank you. Please, leave your comments below. Are you chasing old dreams?
~Karen Campbell Prough
(Connor, thanks for the inspiration for this blog.) 🙂
© Karen Campbell Prough 2012
How hard is it for you to get rid of things? Are you emotionally attached to material possessions?
How do some people have garage sales, set up forty tables all over their front yard, and clean out their house without collapsing in a flood of tears? I have family members who have no problem selling their child’s first bike. “Oh, no—how could you!” is more like my shocked cry. “His little feet touched those peddles. His dimpled hands hung onto those handlebars. The ice-cream cone in his hand dripped down the front fender … chocolate smeared on shiny blue paint. I can still see it in my mind!”
I’m posting pictures of a doll I got when I was three and one of me at six-years of age, still playing with the doll. Her name was Janet. Her rubber legs started ripping (see the tape wrapped around one leg) and by the time I was eight–she went to doll heaven. I think that’s what they told me. But I became the happy mother to another baby doll, which I still have. My daughter played with it and grandaughters have laughed at it and its wild hair.
I think I’ve always hung onto things. My mother’s doll, which is seventy-two years old, reclines in one of my doll cradles. I received that particular cradle when I was small enough to sit in it. It doesn’t matter that my dad actually filled in cracks in the doll’s composite head with wood putty and repainted it. Yes, he did that. Yes, I know that ruined the value of it. (Let’s hear a chorus of groans.) I was in total shock when I saw it afterwards but I keep it. I don’t think he’ll read this … so I can pour out my heart to you. 🙂
I’m the type that looks a mess in the junk drawer and mulls over the possibility that all the stuff could someday come in handy or turn into an antique, which everyone in the whole world is hoping to get their hands on it. And of course … if I throw something away, without fail, I’ll need it next week. Oh, my, I should’ve kept that old dog cage in the shed, because one of my chickens had a stroke and needs a small space to recuperate.
Yes, I know deep down happiness can’t be found in material things or relics of the past. Our hope and life is in Christ. We must release to him all the material things and possessions we have and be comforted in the fact that he is our “everything”. With all that is in us, we must cling to Christ and not hang onto what this world deems important. Freedom from entanglement brings peace. While those around you shake their heads and say they can’t understand why you don’t panic at times of loss, you can feel a sense of peace.
Psalms 90:14 gives us something to live for besides worldly assets. “O satisfy us early (in the morning) with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Mercy is something we all require and we should long to experience it repeatedly during our life. We shouldn’t toss this huge gift in the garbage heap.
“The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15. Knowledge is another piece of life we should try to obtain, cling to, and not throw away. The right kind of knowledge can keep us from getting into a lot of trouble. Knowledge will release us from being pulled aside by those who don’t understand a walk with God.
Be happy and forget about “things” in your life. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 13:34.
Please scroll down and leave your comments about “things” in your life. Are you one of those people who have no qualms about throwing away that scribbled picture of a puppy, which a child gave to you in a sincere moment of love, and placed on your refrigerator door? It’s the picture with ten magnets holding it firmly in place. I saw it at your house last week. I would have filed it … somewhere.
Now, back to cleaning out another closet ….
How dark has your life become? Do shadows dim the path you have chosen? Does sin make your heart ache?
The red drops of our Savior’s shed blood can cleanse all sin. Ask him to draw near.
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:
though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18, KJV
Please, scroll down and leave your comments about your walk with God.
Thank you. All pictures were taken at Homeland Heritage Park or the Peace River boardwalk in Florida. I worked at Homeland for two years, plus led tours at the Peace River. If you read my Welcome page, you will see that I love writing about this area and hope to get my book published.
Karen Campbell Prough
The screams came from the neighbor’s yard.
With my dripping paintbrush posed in the air, no makeup on my face, and my heart in my throat, I jerked open the door.
It was the child across the street. I saw little legs running as fast as they could go. Screams of glee alternated with explosive giggles.
I heard a man’s deep voice yell, “Okay, it’s your turn! I’ll do the counting this time.”
Hide and seek. The man was playing hide and seek with his three-year-old. “One, two, three ….”
Since when does a grown man play hide and seek in his front yard? What kind of an idiot is he? Doesn’t he realize people will see him—hear him? They are driving past his house as he leans against an oak tree with his face buried in his elbow! Doesn’t he know they’re all wondering what he’s doing?
Has he lost his mind?
No, the man has let down the wall protecting his self-image. He’s taking the risk that someone might see him acting like a child. He’s not ashamed. And just think of the wonderful memories that child will cherish in the future.
I closed the front door and caught sight of my imperfect reflection in the hall mirror. Yikes! I’m glad I didn’t go running out into the yard. I didn’t know that yellow paint streaked my nose and forehead.
That got me to thinking about the true images we actually reveal to others. Are we hurting others and ourselves by only showing the image considered perfect, by the world’s standards?
How high is the wall protecting your self-image as a mature adult? What does it really hurt to let it crumble?
We are so careful to preserve the images we have built up around us. Should we practice letting them drop? How many blessings do we miss or fail to bestow on others because we frantically hold in place the high wall of self-image. We brace our hands and self-will against it, add more mortar to it, pack it tight with bright smiles, and make sure it stands in place when we walk away. We can’t let it crumble!
I’m guilty. Don’t worry, I’m fussing at myself. Many times I’d like to hide, seek safety among a crowd, and not stand out.
It takes a lot of guts to let down your guard and be totally yourself. God knows us. He knows our insecurities and strong points. He accepts us, and it’s only his opinion that really counts. I need to remind myself of that fact. Do you?
If I have a crazy-hair day, and dare to venture into the grocery store, but then smile at a lonely, elderly person in the store, who cares? God does. He notes our smile in his records. I’m sure the lonely stranger goes home with a warmer feeling in their heart because someone brightened their day. And I bet they don’t recall that my hair resembled the back of crazed, wild hog.
So, shake off the constricting walls around your self-image and go forth with a smile! Ahh, I’m trying to. 🙂
Please scroll down and leave your comments.
© Karen Campbell Prough
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