A Pardox: Seeing Eyes Blind, Blind Eyes See

6974974_sWhen you flip open your eyelids in the morning and take stock of your environment, you have actually completed an exceptional feat; one which most of us take for granted. The body is a marvelous instrument.  The process by which light is projected into the eye and reflected back through a complex interaction between the brain, nerve impulses and the various chambers of the eye is truly amazing.

It is also unique to each individual.  While all of us may be looking at the same scene, we do not all see things in the same way.  The interpretation which occurs in each of us gives us a peculiar vantage point.  Our communication reflects this reality when we say things like, “I see that differently than you do.”

The ability to see is not limited to the physical realm.  We are in our essence spiritual beings.  We can also see with the eyes of our spirit, an ability which is sometimes referred to as our intuition.  We have all experienced to varying degrees an instinctive reaction to an individual when we first meet them that has nothing to do with our personal interactions.  Mothers know when something is wrong with a child even when the baby cannot speak.

This morning, my meditation was from one of the books which chronicled the exploits of various ancient Israeli kings and the prophets who operated during their reigns.  I was reading about a military assault against Israel by the army from Aram.  As the campaign gained traction, the King of Aram soon became uncomfortably aware that his plans and movements seemed to be closely monitored and communicated with the King of Israel.  Convinced that there was a traitor in his camp, he confronted his leaders.  They told him that Elisha, a prophet literally had ‘eyes on the inside’ and this was the reason why the King of Aram’s plans were continually revealed in advance to the King of Israel.

Elisha was not physically present, yet he could see realities that were unseen.  The King and his army thought they saw. They were convinced that Israel was in a pitiful state and would easily succumb to the vastness of their military might.  In a fascinating twist, the tables are turned in a most improbable way.  As the army of Aram begins to march towards Israel, Elisha’s servant cries out in dismay because his physical eyes see the destruction which is about to be visited on them.

But Elisha asks God to open his servants eyes.  Eyes that seemed to be open, but were actually blind.  When the servants eyes were opened, he was stunned to see that the army coming against Israel was nothing in comparison to the spiritual army that was guarding Israel.  The story ends with the army being struck with blindness and led by Elisha right into the presence of the King they thought they had come to capture!

The experience of both the army and the servant of Elisha are symbolic of situations which we experience.  We are prone to being blinded by arrogance and pride like the soldiers and by fear like Elisha’s servant.  Both types of blindness are rooted in ignorance of who God is and how he operates.  The Bible tells us that the ‘Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom’.  When blind eyes are opened, we become aware of how truly helpless our situation is without God and how powerful God is within our midst.  He is truly able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond what we could even think of, see or imagine.

Right seeing operates through different filters.  These are the filters of wisdom, love, compassion and grace.  Right seeing enables us to have the courage and boldness to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives with confidence that He is able to see us through.

In the final scene from the story as the King of Israel finds himself faced with an entire army that has effectively surrendered to him, Elisha helps him to see that the right response is not vengeance, but to bless those who are enemies of Israel with kindness and a meal, sending them home unharmed.

During a time in which our nation is inflamed by the hurt of racism and perceived injustice, and many are viewing  through lenses clouded by hurt and hate, let us pray that we be given the grace to see aright. That we have the courage and boldness to  enact that which brings wholeness and healing rather than division and strife.

To Read the entire story of the Elisha and the army from Aram, click here. (2 Kings 6: 8-22)

 

The Way…

19406120_sEveryday, we are faced with decisions.  Most of us want to make good decisions.  Sometimes, poor decisions are made willfully, but at other times they are the product of our ignorance and immaturity.  One of the most powerful passages of scripture is Psalm 25 which begins with a plea to God to show us His ways.  Here are some thoughts about the Ways of the Lord which were a part of my morning meditation today.

The Ways of the Lord

The Way of Truth

Psalm 25:4-5  “Show me your ways, O Lord.  Teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long”

Meditation:  I need the Father to show me the way.  My human frailty often fails to discern what is right and best.  God promises to be with me.  His presence with me throughout the days is there to guide and sustain my hope and trust in him.

The Way of Mercy and Love

Psalm 25:6-7 ” Remember O Lord your great mercy and love for they are from of old.  Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways.  According to your love remember me for you are good O Lord.”

Meditation:  In contrast to God’s way, my ways which are often rooted in rebellion and immaturity, are laced with trauma and tragedy.  Father, thank you for your mercy and love for me.  Please deliver me from the treachery of my ways.

The Way of Humility

Psalm 25: 8-10 “Good and upright is the Lord, therefore he instructs sinners in his way.  He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”

Meditation:  God’s path for me is good and upworthy.  It is available at all times, but especially when I miss the mark due to sin.  In fact, the consequence of sin is part of the instruction that God uses to help us understand and desire a better way.  The way of God is most readily accessed through humility.  Through humility, we are in a posture that enables us to gain a better understanding of what is right and true.  Help me Father to desire and to walk in humility.

The Way of Faithfulness

Psalm 25:10  “All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant.”

Meditation:  God’s way is full of love and faithfulness.  God is trustworthy and will always keep his end of the bargain.  When I am led in his way, I can rest – assured of the knowledge the he always honors the demands of his covenant.  I can relax in the knowledge of being confident that he ‘has my back’.

The Way of Wisdom

Psalm 25:11-14  ” Who then is the person that fears the Lord?  He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.  He will spend his days in prosperity and his descendents will inherit the land.  The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.”

Meditation:  The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  (Proverbs 9:10) When we approach and depend on God with reverential awe and respect, we are promised the grace of Godly, individualized instruction concerning the way God has designed and designated in particular for us.  This way, created by a loving Heavenly Father, leads to true prosperity and blessing in our lives and the lives of our families.  This is a very powerful and precious promise.

Prayer:  Father, please keep me focused on you and your way today.  It is only you who can release my feet from the snares and entanglements that have imprisoned me due to taking the wrong paths.  Amen.

 

On Abundance…

2893279673_58518aa808_zOn Savoring Abundance – God is a God of Abundance. Abundant goodness, Abundant mercy, Abundant kindness, Abundant power, Abundant wisdom, Abundant creativity, Abundant intelligence, Abundant compassion, Abundant provision, Abundant love, Abundant LIFE.

Abundance like the air we breath. No matter how much we huff and puff, we simply can’t use it all up. The air around us surrounds us generously and effortlessly.

Today, let’s embrace the challenge to take some time to savor the abundance of God. Let us move intentionally out of a mentality of scarcity towards an attitude which more closely resembles that of our Creator who delights in and cares about the well being of His creation

Firewalking…

Love NoteFirewalking is the act of walking over a bed of hot embers or stones. It is a practice that has existed for thousands of years. It was certainly a part of the broader ancient culture in Biblical times.

In Isaiah 43:2 the prophet gave the people of Israel some pointed words of encouragement. He said: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”

Most of us don’t relish the prospect of putting the soles of our feet on the top of smoldering red embers, but there is a certain fascination of observing someone walk through fire and emerge apparently unscathed. We wonder…how?

The expectation from the passage above is that we will pass through circumstances which threaten to make us feel as though we are being drowned and walk through situations in life which have the capacity to consume us with the fire of affliction.

But, there is a way of passing through these intrepid dangers which guarantees that the perceived assault will purify and cleanse rather than create unparalled destruction. This is the powerful promise from God which Isaiah references. God promises to be with us. God’s presence with us is the difference because it embodies all that God is. God’s wisdom, God’s protection, God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s kindness, God’s grace, God’s courage, God’s patience, God’s goodness…

However, this is an experienced reality, not simply a matter of mental acquiescence. This does up the ante a little. But when we have walked through stuff, and can look back on God’s grace, it creates in me an overwhelming sense of gratitude and humility about what it means to walk through fire and floods; knowing that there is no way that I can make it. I am simply not strong enough. But with God, all things are possible. And that is enough.

When Love Lets go…

2882672159_97609e4a20_oWhen you love someone enough to let them go, it does not mean that you ignore the pain & suffering that has occurred in the relationship or that you somehow develop amnesia about why it was necessary to part company.

The greatest service we can perform on behalf of someone who has wounded us to to let them ‘go’ and place them in God’s hands. It is not only the safest place to be, but it is the only space in the universe which deals through the hands of justice and mercy exactly what is necessary within the situation.

Even when the process may seem to take years, always remember – God knows, God cares and He will do right by you. Eventually. Always.

Why Giving Up is Not an Option…

The strength of a flower which perfumes the hand which crushes itTwo champions, each a heavy weight legend in their own right faced off in the ring again.  It seemed like a lifetime ago that the world watched the intense spectacle of one man being so enraged at his eminent defeat that he bit into not one, but two ears of his opponent.

The stage this week, was the Oprah Winfrey show where Mike Tyson had bared his soul in an earlier interview about the mistakes and triumphs of his life & explained as best he could, what was going on in his mind during that fight.  His honesty was profoundly captivating.

As Evander Holyfield walked onto the stage, it seemed that the intervening years had been somewhat kinder to him than the tortured existence that Mike Tyson had experienced.  We all held our breath just a little…what would they do.  Afterall, it’s not everyday that one meets on a public forum, the person who undermines the integrity of a harsh and violent sport by literally sinking his teeth into your skin.

It’s easy to watch a show by merely skimming the surface.  But, in some ways, the experience of these fighters is almost impossible for most of us to begin to comprehend.

However,  we can all understand what it means to get up and keep on fighting even after you’re down for the count.  And that’s why on a primal level, many can relate to the sport of boxing.  All of us have experienced a knock-down in life.   Some of us may be there right now.  It’s not easy and never pretty.

But it’s what you do next that matters.  When Tyson recognized that he was not going to win, he struck out and bit his opponent.  His rage blinded him and demeaned his prior accomplishments and then spiraled out of control on a journey that descended into the hell of drugs and prison.

But that crazed individual was not the one on the stage of the show.  Tyson demonstrated that none of us has to stay down, we can choose to get up, own our mistakes, apologize and strive to do better.  Several times during the interview, he choked up with emotion and Oprah captured the intensity of his yearning with a question…”Can you feel the love directed towards you right now?”

It was obviously hard for Tyson to really acknowledge how powerful and affecting this new round in his life is proving to be.  And his journey has lessons for all of us.  None of us gets to exit life without failure.  We will all participate in things we are not proud of.  That’s simply the essential nature of sin.

However, we can choose to get up and keep on going.  And we may be surprised like Tyson was to find out that support may come to us from unexpected places as we humble ourselves and admit to a cry for assistance.

*

Love Lessons @ The School of Hard Knocks…

“Love is Not Proud

Resumés are interesting.  I’m not a HR professional, but I’ve had the experience of sifting through resumes trying to find an appropriate hire.  Sometimes, it feels like cracking a mystery code.

Looking at the nicely typed sheet of paper (or more commonly these days, e-mail),  it’s a challenge to discern what really motivates an individual.  Why did they apply for the job?  What sort of contribution will they be able to make?  Are they telling the truth?

Sometimes, it’s what a resume doesn’t say which is most valuable.  For instance, if there are gaps in the job history or sketchy details, examining these items more closely can yield valuable insight.

One of the most famous resumes in the world is found in the ancient book of Philippians 3: 1-9.  It’s the resume of Paul the Apostle.  Here Paul describes some of his proudest life accomplishments…circumcised on the 8th day, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee, as for zeal, persecuting the church.  Whoa…How does one start as a Hebrew of Hebrews and then end up actively pursuing innocent people to put them in prison or kill them in the name of God?

Our weekly study on 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter focuses our attention on the nature of Pride & Arrogance.  Here’s a question.  Is Pride always ugly? Can we instantly recognize the hazard for what it is?  And when we become depraved, when does the slide down towards hellish elements of our human nature start?

Can this downward descent within our moral/spiritual sensibility occur even while we are completely unaware…thinking that things are actually doing pretty good,  patting ourselves on the back for our accomplishments, pedigree, education, talents etc; not recognizing how indebted we are to the grace of God and to the contributions of others.  Becoming numbly blind to the remarkable coincidences and opportunities that we have been given?  And, perhaps more importantly, now knowing how close we stand on the precipice of a certain type of destruction?

Paul ( who was previously known as Saul)  had to be knocked of his high horse (literally) and blinded for 3 days before he became fully aware of far his heart had strayed and how craven his base instincts had become.  (Acts 9:3-17)

At the end of this experience with a revelation of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostle now enlightened by the presence of the Holy Spirit has a very different view of his lofty resume…he counts all the “stuff” as dung.

But gaining that perspective was a process aided by humility; one of the greatest lessons learned in the School of Hard Knocks.  And as Paul describes it in Philippians, these lessons changed how he judged the process of accomplishment.

Instead of aiming for glory, Paul emerged wanting to understand what is was to suffer the process of refinement to such a degree that it resulted in a Resurrection.  A new life freed from the petty boundaries which hinder so much of what God truly desires for us to become.

The Grey Life in Fast Forward…

Isn’t the principle inhibitor on our effectiveness, the fact that we’re dealing with a fiction?  George Will on the ABC News Program, ‘This Week’ April 5, 2009.

 

Have you ever seen a person without the artfully applied layer of make-up that so many have become so skilled in applying and not recognized them without the mask?  Some celebrities are known to use the unlikely cover of no make-up to appear incognito in public.

Interesting thought…especially within the context of a discussion about love.  When love is artificial, does it count as love?  Can we divorce love from the reality of truth?

This is the question we wrestled with in group discussion this morning. Aided by a revealing section on love from the book, ‘The Spirit of Truth’ by Arthur Katz and Paul Volk; we had a discussion about how Christian communication often obscures the truth about who we are and what we really feel.  The authors have this to say about the resultant emptiness in life…

“We give each other bear hugs and say “God bless you” to one another, calling that love, and then go on pretending that all is well when all is not well.  The gnawing hunger in our hearts persists.  We begin by insulating ourselves from truth in order to protect ourselves.  But we end by insulating ourselves from love.

Wow, pretty potent stuff.   In our search for true acceptance,  the denial of truth costs us what we so desperately crave and long for.  Love cannot be divorced from truth, nor will it flourish in an atmosphere which celebrates unreality, whether that fiction exits on a movie screen, within a relationship or in a house of worship.

Peter was very clear about the implications of being deluded by the lie that true love can exist apart from truth.  Afterall, he experienced the limitation of his love and commitment to the Savior first hand and was challenged by Jesus about what was really in his heart when Jesus asked him several times about if he loved him.  (John 21: 16-18)

When you think of what Peter went through and how that loving confrontation must have deeply impacted his heart, you see this instruction in one of his letters to the early church in a new light…

1 Peter 1:22 KJV  “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.”

Jesus is clear about the life he intends to give us.  It is abundant life, free and deeply grounded in truth.  In our search for love without the truth, we condemn ourselves to a grey life; one which is in fast forward but devoid of the rich vitality which we long for.

Love…When Patience Shows Up with A Dirty Face.

Patience is a virtue…Virtue is a grace…Grace is the little girl who didn’t wash her face.

That little ditty is childish, but I remember it because of its incongruity.  The high minded elements of virtue somehow seem at odds with the picture of a little kid with a face covered by dirty smudge marks.

I‘ll be the first to admit, that Patience has not been a virtue which I’ve eagerly sought.  And to be frank, there’s precious little in my modern world which actively supports a drive to learn more about this character trait.

My world, as is your, is fueled in large degree by human impatience.  Food is nuked in the microwave to speed up the cooking process.  Dial-up service has been replaced by DSL for computers.  Cooking is something that many no longer do simply because it takes time.

But, what are we using this extra time to actually do?   Studies show that the average person spends at least 5 hours a day in leisure including approximately 2.7 hours watching images racing across a TV screen.  This was in contrast to the amount of time (1.1 hours) spent reading a book and 46 minutes per day spent on providing primary care to children between the ages of 6 – 17.  (Primary care was defined as primary activity done with children such as reading to them or taking physical care of them)

So, why is it that patience is something we struggle with so much?  Perhaps because we instinctively know that it’s hard…really hard work to develop this character trait.  It’s certainly not ingrained in our human nature.  Witness the loud wails of a newborn when mom delays a meal for a minute.

Yet, 1 Corinthians 13 starts off it’s description of Love by telling us that this is precisely what Love is.   Love is Patient! In fact you could group the first two descriptive traits about love together in a fashion.  Like two sides of the same coin…patience is the passive component of love while  kindness might be thought of as love in action.

Patience is the inner resilience which does not strike back in the face of antagonistic behavior.  It’s the unique ability within love to wait through the discomfort that is an on-going part of human interaction and support the other individual with grace and dignity even when their actions offend.

It is indeed a virtue which is developed in us through the ongoing grace of God’s work in our lives precisely through circumstances which tempt us to be impatient.  I think where the ditty goes awry is in the descriptive of grace…but perhaps not as awfully as one might first suspect.

Because it is God’s grace in our lives, despite our uncleanliness, ugliness and selfishness which most exemplifies His love and patience towards us.  In many ways, we are like ‘Grace’…the little girl with an unwashed face whom the Father loves unconditionally.  Not because she’s perfect and all cleaned up…but precisely because she isn’t.  And for that…I remain grateful.

 

Picture courtesy of Mexikids on Flickr w/Creative Commons