Photography and Thoughts by Norma Beaird
Photography and Thoughts by Norma Beaird
2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made.
Article by Curtis Beaird
Photography by Curtis and Norma Beaird
To say that Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel has been a strong influence on me is an understatement. When I read,
"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy",
I listen and I listen to Rabbi Heschel.
For starters, he never fails to point me in the right direction......
"Six days a week the spirit is alone, disregarded, forsaken, forgotten. Working under strain, beset with worries, enmeshed in anxieties, man has no mind for ethereal beauty. But, the spirit is waiting for man to join it.
Then comes the sixth day. Anxiety and tension give place to the excitement that precedes a great event. The Sabbath is still away, but the thought of its imminent arrival stirs in the heart a passionate eagerness to be ready and worthy to receive it."
You can see why it was not a hard thing for me to find my way into writing about the Sabbath. The week has come and gone. Obligations are suspended.
The spirit and gifts of the Sabbath prevail.
The Sabbath: A guiltless moment of reflection and soul rest. Time when fixing the broken, solving the problem of meeting "their" needs is suspended. The focus becomes grace, forgiveness and solace for the soul.
The sound is that of hearing the care of God, experiencing a work of grace, and finding again the song in your soul. For at least a second, the context of time gives way to the essence of the eternal.
The Sabbath: That time when the noise of demand, the need to control, the illusion of power and property ceases to hold sway. The vision and dream are made of gift and promise, love and silence, hope and future. The soul is permitted the luxury of being still; the mind’s eye envisions the land of promise.
You become quiet. Demands, both inner and outer are suspended. The Sabbath offers a moment when we are complete, whole, integrated, fully alive, fully together; one, at least with ourselves.
The Sabbath: A chance to be comfortable and comforted in an out of control world. A world short on care and long on sensation and threat. A world that addresses the dark with a thrill and flees from the healing grace of silence.
The Sabbath settles as well as excites. The hope found in the Sabbath generates the excitement of possibility, rather than the escape of distraction. The Sabbath heals as well as calls. The Sabbath collects, gathers and inspires us to the highest and best. The Sabbath is invigorating. It shows us more than the obvious and looks past the pain.
The Sabbath frees the slaves.
Exodus 20: 8 - 11 (King James Version)
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Copyright 2012, Curtis Beaird. All rights reserved.
The picture above is how it feels. We want the peace of that lighthouse......that beacon of hope.....that symbol of guidance........ and here comes the cargo ship full of stuff that we can't live without. Here comes that load.....that responsibility........that heaviness.
We are represented by the fishing boats who must go out into the sea of life, to cast our nets, to weather the storms, and make the living......... to afford the stuff.......to lift the load.
It's overwhelming, exhausting and consuming.......can we find peace on planet crazy?
Romans 8: 5 - 6
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Being busy and being productive can reside at opposite ends of the scale. Sometimes, having more means having less. Rest and spiritual renewal are worth their weight in gold. We cannot alleviate our need for peace and contentment.
I want to share seven thoughts, ideas and motivations that can lead us to a more peaceful existence.
1. Don’t live beyond your means. Don’t go into debt for things that will be in the landfill next year. We were created in the image of God, not the Mall of America.
Be happy with what you have and learn to be creative with less. It’s not as difficult as is sounds. After all, you’ll be tired of it in two months, but you’ll still be paying interest on it. Don’t fall into the advertising trap.
Learn to ask, “Do I really need that and will I actually use it or wear it?”
If you can't afford the big house, the designer sports car, the bass boat or the latest iPhone, be thankful. Celebrate the fact that your friends won’t be jealous (a little humor here). Owning less doesn't make you any less of a person. Ownership equals responsibility. Ownership equals upkeep. Someone has to pay the taxes, utilities and insurance. Someone has to mow the lawn.
Plus, the debt for high-ticket items creates a financial, emotional and mental prison that can affect every aspect of your life in a very negative way. Debt and stress will actually affect your family relationships and spiritual life. Don’t let your wants overrule your needs. Give yourself some financial breathing room. Money doesn’t buy happiness…….neither does a maxed out credit card.
Love and family makes a house a home, not granite countertops.
The void we have is a spiritual void, not a physical void. Material things cannot replace a spiritual need. We must turn to Jesus Christ for true peace and contentment. We are spiritual beings. We were created in the image of God.
Stop tweeting for five minutes........embrace your family and tell them you love them. Cherish your true friends. Learn to appreciate the things that are really important, not the things that rust, break down, end up in the dumpster or eventually fall apart.
What is more important.......your health or a garage full of stuff? Think about the time we spend during the course of our lifetime just hauling and moving stuff from one place to another. We buy it, get tired of it, yard sale it, donate it to charity……and start the cycle all over again. Fun….isn’t it? You spent your Saturday having a yard sale when you could have been playing with the kids, hiking through the woods or grilling hamburgers on the patio.
Sometimes, Curtis and I find writers and bloggers who serve as an inspiration. There is a website called Zen Habits that confronts the problem with materialism and clutter. The writer of the blog, Leo Babauta, has an incredible perspective on stuff. He promotes the minimalist lifestyle in such a way that will truly make a person think twice about what is important when it comes to the things we buy and hoard on a daily basis. His emphasis: Less is truly more.
2. Learn to exercise your creativity by using your talents, gifts and abilities. Be willing to explore your interests and hobbies. Put your energy into developing the talents that God gave to you. Don't spend your precious energy trying to keep up with a culture that is desperately trying to empty your wallet. God gave everyone talents, ideas and abilities to be used for His glory.
Who knows? Your talent or ability may be the catalyst to a business that could free you from the job that is driving you crazy. You can turn a hobby into a business. Get creative. Explore.
3. Stop comparing yourself to those who seem to be in a better situation than you. Just because they seem to be successful, have more money or live in a bigger house, doesn’t mean they have a Swiss bank account or an investment in the Cayman Islands. They may be head-over-heels in debt.
Perception and reality can lie at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Don’t compare your style of dress, education or career with your friends, co-workers or next-door neighbors. Everyone is different and unique in their own special way. Celebrate the fact that God made you unique. Everyone has different talents, abilities and educational pursuits. People are mentally and emotionally wired for different jobs and careers. What may work for your friend or neighbor may not work for you.
The world wouldn’t work if everyone was alike.
Everyone is physically different. People have different tastes in clothing. There is nothing more destructive to your psychology than trying to compare yourself to someone else. Learn to appreciate the uniqueness of your individuality and capitalize on your strengths and downplay your weaknesses.
4. Explore the natural things that fascinate and amaze you. Learn to enjoy the beauty of nature. Experiment with gardening. Hang up a few bird feeders in your yard and watch the different species of birds land on your feeder.
Plant some flowers or hang some ferns on the front porch or back deck. Take a walk through the park or the woods. Take a drive through the countryside. Take pictures of a cotton field, a valley or the coastline. Notice the smell of rain before a storm. Don’t be ruled by neon lights, social media and the latest gadget. Don't allow the artificial to overwhelm the natural. Walk outside and breathe.
The Tufted Titmouse on one of our bird feeders
5. Learn to laugh. Learn to laugh at yourself. A sense of humor can get you through some really difficult times. Laughter is truly a gift from God. The Bible says that "a merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22)
Stop being so serious about everything. Let your hair down and laugh. Find the humor all around you. Watch a light-hearted, funny movie. For our laughs, we take pictures of funny signs and sometimes post them on our photography site.
We live in an unstable world, constantly dealing with serious issues. But........24/7 doom and gloom will have a very negative impact on your mind. Emotional stress can lead to physical problems. There are times when our minds need a rest from all of the constant bad news, crime reports and political propaganda.
6. Have faith in God. This is the most important. If you are a Christian, you read in the Bible that “without faith, it is impossible to please Him"(Hebrews 11:6). Life is hard. Living without faith is harder. Yes, it’s a supernatural experience to trust that God will answer prayer when you don’t see anything physically transpiring. But, that’s the joy and satisfaction of learning to trust, wait and be content.
Knowing that you’re not alone on life’s journey will help you to take life one day at a time. It will increase your faith. The answer will come.
God may not be early. He’s never late. But, He's always on time.
7. Don’t over-commit yourself.......to meetings, schedules, games, appointments, committees or even good deeds. After all, you’re only one person. Yes, we all want to feel productive; and, if we’re living the Christian life, we obviously want to be community-oriented. We want minister to those around us. We want to press on.
We want to keep the kids busy. We've all heard the old saying, "An idol mind is the devil's workshop". However, in an attempt to discourage laziness or temptations, don’t engage your family in too many activities, especially if they never have time to sit down and rest.
Don’t fill up their calendar every night of the week. Children need to rest and study for school. Husbands, wives and grandparents need to rest and meditate upon the Lord. Even church activities other than services can turn into a tiresome experience if you never take time to rest and renew your spirit. There is definitely such a thing called burnout.
There are 24 hours in day. About eight hours are reserved for sleep. A few hours are reserved for meals, showers and going to the grocery store. About a third of the hours are reserved for work and career or managing a business or ministry.
Keep your life in perspective.
Currently, our culture demands 24/7 busy-ness and 24/7 entertainment. Many husbands and wives pass each other in the driveway. Sometimes, a family can live in the same house and rarely see each other.
On top of this, social media demands that we report our activities with location, date and time. Keep up the stressful pace and you’ll finally have another appointment on your calendar….. with the doctor.
Never neglect your spouse or your family. If the entire family is non-stop busy, you never have time to listen to each other’s needs, hopes and dreams. Why? Because you have to be somewhere in five minutes. Learn to say “No”. Most importantly, don't neglect your time with God.
Your time with God will give you peace on planet crazy.
Keep it in order…….God, family…..and everything else.
It's your decision, though.
Copyright 2012, Norma W. Beaird. All rights reserved.
Article By: Norma W. Beaird
Photography By: Curtis and Norma Beaird
And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
For years, when I heard about bird watchers, I always envisioned a professor wearing a khaki photographer's vest with a matching safari hat. He would be holding a pair of expensive binoculars while standing in the middle of a wildlife preserve. In my mind, I would picture him on an exotic safari, gazing at the many colorful bird species or lobbying for the protection of a rare bird through environmental causes. Consequently, we have learned that bird watching is an intensely exciting adventure for people from all backgrounds and all walks of life, something enjoyed by college students, professors, environmentalists, photographers, housewives and grandmothers!
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is the leading authority on the study of birds in the United States. On Facebook, they announced a fun event called The Great Backyard Bird Count. This event got us started and off to Lowe's we went for a bird feeder! One Backyard Bird Count and we were hooked. My only regret? I wish I would have started watching birds years ago. This has brought a sense of peace, joy and excitement that has fired me up spiritually, emotionally and mentally. I have been utterly fascinated by the many different species that I never realized existed.....until now. God has truly created a beautiful, colorful and fascinating world!
I have always admired the beautiful exotic birds, such as Parrots, Parakeets, Cockatoos and Scarlet Macaws, but for years, I didn’t give much thought to the many species of birds that surround us every single day. Like most folks, I was busy with college, work or various family responsibilities. One fond memory that I always had as a child was sitting on the front porch with my grandmother and listening as ‘Ole Bob White whistled his loud and cheerful bird song in the woods across the street. This sweet memory leads me into a heart-warming story about my grandmother.
Before I was born, my grandmother had a parakeet that she dearly loved named Billy. He would sit in his cage while she was cooking dinner or supper (in the South, lunch is dinner and dinner is supper), and she would teach him to talk. “Billy is a pretty boy!” “I love you!” or “Give me some sugar, darling!” My grandmother became attached to Billy as he became a very entertaining member of the household.
On one particular occasion, my grandmother went into the hospital for surgery and was hospitalized for a week. During her hospitalization, my mother said that Billy completely stopped talking. It was as though he went into a depression because my grandmother wasn’t there. The day that she came home from the hospital, my mother said that Billy looked at her and checked her out from top to bottom, and the next day at breakfast, he would not hush. Talk, talk, and then talk some more. He was so happy to see my grandmother. It was so special that a precious little parakeet had such an affection for my grandmother. After Billy died, my grandmother didn’t seek to have another bird because she became so attached to him, and it is so sad when the beautiful creatures you adore pass on to bird heaven.
So, now that there is a bit of history, why do Curtis and I have a fascination with birds? Well, it’s actually a long story, but then again, we can sum it up in several paragraphs, to include the life lessons that are learned through years of experience, decision-making, introspection and observation. Hopefully, as time moves on, we gain a little wisdom and clarity, realizing the spiritual need for peace and contentment in our fast-paced modern culture.
When we are all younger, we think that the only way to “make it” or “succeed” is to go ninety-to-nothing, blowing and going, meeting and greeting, shaping up or shipping out. We have to network and nitpick, upsize and modernize, friend and trend, look the part, act the part and keep up with the Joneses. It’s never enough to be ourselves; we must be what the culture demands we should be.
We work and work and spend and spend, saving nothing emotionally or spiritually for the future. We store and hoard, pay room and board, stipulate and congregate, prioritize and monetize; and finally, when it’s all said and done, we burn out the candle on both ends.
We become tired, empty, discouraged, and a shell of what God created us to be.
We may have the distinguished career, the office with a view, the perks of upper management or the nicely-manicured home; however, if we have high blood pressure and plaque in the arteries, was it really worth it? Emotionally and financially, our culture is stressed to the max and the ever-busy worker bees come home every evening to eat, sleep, shower and start the tiresome process all over again. Rest has become a four-lettered word. In our restless, non-stop, activity-laden culture, there is little time left to enjoy the awe-inspiring gift of God's creation.
People rarely take time to smell the roses, watch a sunset, or......feed the birds.
Stories like these can go on forever. But, you get the point. We make life more difficult than it needs to be. The Bible says in Philippians 4:19, "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." However, in most cases, our wants overrule our needs and our desires overrule our better judgment. Thus, we end up with a lot of stuff and a nice facade, but little peace or happiness. Why? Because working constantly to attain more stuff leads to utter exhaustion and the need to insure it, store it or repair it. Sometimes we fix it, sell it or trade it, and then start the cycle all over again.
For example, when people acquire the objects of their wildest dreams, they never really learn to appreciate them. The object or thing....... the home, the car, the boat, the jewelry or even the achievement will become another notch on the belt of accomplishments and acquisitions. It seems that nothing can be treasured, cherished or admired. It is calculated, measured and stacked. An oil painting or a unique piece of jewelry is not viewed as a work of art, but rather another material object to be checked off of the list that's entitled, "I Couldn't Live Without It". It's no surprise that this attitude devalues the object's personal meaning. People want it.......but do they really appreciate the creativity, talent, technical expertise or artistic ability that went into the acquisition on their list?
Inevitably, spiritual discontentment brings people to their knees. After folks graduate from the school of hard knocks with a Bachelors Degree in Stress and a Minor in Exhaustion, they step back, re-examine their priorities and start searching for a better life. This is not a life that includes more titles, more money or more stuff, but a life that includes an appreciation for what God set in place for us…… absolutely free of charge. This includes the gift of His salvation, the breath of life, the love of family, the beauty of nature, the joy of contentment, and the birds. Peace....... without a price tag.
Philippians 4: 5 – 8 says it best:
5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
When we read these verses of scripture, it we take heed of verse 8 especially, we will understand that many of the worldly things that we seek do not fall into “whatsoever things are pure, lovely or of good report”.
Because the things that most people seek are temporal, not eternal. Material possessions will rust or fall into disrepair. They will pass away.
The spiritual always supercedes the physical.
Remember these words of Jesus?
Matthew 6: 19 - 21
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
So, even if we lay up vast and immense treasures upon the earth, when it’s all said and done, what have we really accomplished? Have we acquired or have we made a difference? It’s not about the grind of success or the accumulation of material possessions. Real living is about serving the Lord, loving our families, helping our neighbors and taking care of this lovely earth that God has entrusted into our care.
How many times have you heard about a dying man or woman lying on their deathbed and lamenting, “I wish I would have made more money,” or “I wish I could have had a bigger house.” Most people wish they would have spent more time with family and had appreciated the relationships and beauty that God has placed all around us.
Therefore, we have learned to appreciate the excitement and gratitude of a little bird as he lands on our feeder, inspecting every seed to be delivered to the nest. There’s nothing like it. The world may never learn to say “thank you” for your hard work or achievement. Your material possessions may never bring you peace; but, all of this is suddenly forgotten when you see that the little American Goldfinch at your thistle feeder has brought three more to partake of your offering. That may seem miniscule to most, but it means a lot to folks who finally figured it out. Life is best enjoyed through the truth of God’s Word and the beauty of His creation, not through the conventional results of worldly pursuits.
Another positive aspect of bird watching is that it requires the bird watcher to be still and quiet. How many times do people take the time to be still and quiet, to watch and wait? When we photograph an inspiring picture of a Blue Jay in flight with a peanut in his beak, we realize that the time and silence required to capture the moment was absolutely worth it. Sometimes, silence is truly golden!
Sometimes......opportunities in life work and sometimes they don't. My grandmother always said, “Sometimes life’s disappointments are God’s appointments.” I have found out that she was right. Life is full of ups and downs, laughter and tears, celebrations and disappointments. Sometimes, our earthly journey brings us to a place that requires us to look at life through a different set of spiritual glasses. The things that we once thought were so important were mere blips on the radar screen of life, as we were on our way to living a life infused with the fruits of the Spirit.
Galations 5: 22 - 23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Things don't always turn out as planned; sometimes they actually turn out better. Sometimes we learn to be still and pray, meditating upon the goodness of the Lord and knowing that God has it all under control. Sometimes, we learn to rest and be at peace.
Today, we appreciate God's blessings all around us, finding inspiration and contentment in the beauty and wonder of nature. ........and that's why we became bird watchers!
All scripture is King James Version
Copyright 2012, Curtis and Norma Beaird. All rights reserved.
Article By: Norma W. Beaird
Photography By: Curtis Beaird
A little over six years ago, I moved to a rural area in Georgia to work at the local college. I had never lived in a town this small, and for me, it was quite a culture shock. At first, it was a fascination because I drove to work down a long country road as opposed to a dangerous and traffic-laden interstate. Instead of stopping at traffic lights, I actually stopped for a family of turkeys to cross the road. At night, instead of being overwhelmed by city lights and sirens, I was overwhelmed by the number of deer attempting to leap in front of my car.
In the mornings, I would awake to a serene quietness that you never find in the city. Instead of horns and screeching brakes, I would hear chirping birds, whistling trees and the irritated geese that lived across the street. However, the fascination soon wore off and I realized that I was living in “the middle of nowhere”. Some people call it the “sticks” or the “boonies”, but I called it slow and uninspiring. My newfound world suddenly turned into something that seemed boring, backwards and remote. Thus, the complaining began. I thought I was surely missing out on something. Then, I thought I had lost something. Later on, I finally realized that I had lost nothing, but had gained something much more valuable called peace, quiet and renewed faith.
In the past, I was always considered a social butterfly who never met a stranger, and I always enjoyed having a lot of places to go and see. Having owned a travel business, I enjoyed being on the go. I appreciated options, and that meant having a wide variety of restaurants, gas stations, malls and discount outlets within a five-mile radius. Convenience and entertainment always meant a lot to me, until now.
Sometimes life steps in and changes things. After my husband recovered from cancer, a heart attack and then a serious retina surgery, the recovery time forced us both back into an appreciation for the simple and quiet things of life. Healing takes time and requires peace and quiet. Later on, after I went through a surgery and recovery time, I found myself yearning less for action and yearning more for tranquility. This slow way of life was now agreeing with me. Trust me; it’s easier to recuperate when you’re not living a fast-paced life under stress while listening to sirens and loud neighbors.
Unlike the modern culture of “bigger is better”, we live in a country cottage and we are approximately ninety minutes from the nearest mall. We’re about thirty minutes from a department store, but that’s okay. Not having immediate access to materialistic pleasures has taught me something about life that should be evident to most human beings, but as usual, we have to learn the valuable lessons the hard way. Life is best enjoyed when a person is not overwhelmed with noise and stuff. If I want or need something, I may have to drive a while to find it, or order it online. But again, that’s okay, because living in the country teaches a person to have patience while calming a restless spirit.
Constant stimulation with no rest leaves very little room for creativity, imagination and logical thought process. In the Old Testament, we read in the book of Genesis that the Lord rested on the seventh day. If the Lord found it important to rest, and we’re created in His image, then we need to rest as well. It’s okay to stay home sometimes and not attend every game, every meeting and every concert. It’s okay to take a vacation or sit on the front porch. Sometimes it’s okay to say “No”. It’s easier to heal when your calendar is not full.
My husband and I love to go to the city, but we’ve been in the country long enough that the city noise now drives us bonkers. Driving in city traffic feels like a punishment for something we didn’t do. Being pushed through large crowds reminds me of being herded like cattle. It’s amazing what living the simple life can do for you. Consequently, you don’t realize how much you enjoy simplicity until you’re thrust into the middle of chaos.
A life of simplicity has affected other areas as well. We don’t own a microwave oven. My husband and I have collected old-fashioned cast iron cookware. One of my greatest joys in the kitchen is frying an egg on a round cast iron skillet, and, I must admit that butter-coated wheat bread tastes the best when heated on the same skillet where you fried the egg. I love to fry an egg and make toast for him and take it out to the front porch. He eats breakfast while watching Henry, our front porch lizard, crawl in and out of the Boston Ferns. Yes, something has definitely happened to us. And no, we didn’t lose our minds; we reclaimed our sanity. We traded stress for peace. We have learned that being busy and being productive can reside at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Simplicity is completely underrated. Sometimes, life brings us to a place where we are forced to reckon with what is really important. We realize that more is not always satisfying or even better. Sometimes, we realize that less is more and that more stuff just means more debt and more responsibility. In the end, it all goes to a yard sale or a landfill. Sometimes, the best things in life are truly free and they don’t require a storage unit. God will never send us a bill for viewing a gorgeous sunset, a butterfly or a red-headed woodpecker. The Lord won’t charge us for peace and tranquility. Our Creator provided a world of beauty that can’t be bought with silver or gold. You can’t put a price on love, hope, family or nature. Learn to enjoy the priceless things in life without a price tag. Take back what the culture stole from you and learn to enjoy the simple life. Sometimes we need to wait for the turkeys to cross the road.
Copyright 2011, Norma W. Beaird. All rights reserved.
© 2006 - 2023 Curtis and Norma Beaird. All rights reserved.