Deborah and Barak

As many of you know, my wife Deborah died a week ago.  We had a wonderful time of remembrance on Monday.  A lot of good things about her life were brought to our thoughts.  But there were a few stories that were not told. I would like to share a little insight with you this week.

Several of the speakers used the words brave, courageous, even fierce, in describing her.  Those are accurate adjectives.  There were also several references to her magnum opus, her fairy tale “The Princess without a Kingdom” which was an allegory for her spiritual journey.  In that fairy tale the heroine was known as Princess Freedom and the man she eventually finds is called Prince Barak.  The characters are loosely connected to the story in Judges 4-5 of Deborah, the judge of Israel, and Barak, the leader of the Hebrew forces.

Deborah felt a deep connection to the ancient judge of Israel.  In many ways, she inherited the mantle of her namesake.  The modern-day Deborah was a woman of wisdom, insight, strength, leadership and determination.  She was able to get community leaders and law enforcement officers do what she wanted them to do.

But about 39 years ago, this Deborah was also looking for her Barak, her companion for the battle.  When we met, she believed I was that person.  Our wedding invitation makes that plain.  I don’t know if I ever felt that I was up to the image of the superhero she envisioned, but I did what I could.  And I must have done okay, because we made it over 38 years together.

In the biblical story, Deborah goes to Barak and commissions him to lead the army of Israel into battle against Sisera, the Canaanite general at Mount Tabor.  Barak’s response was not an unqualified “Yes, ma’am.”  Instead, he said, “If you go with me I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” (Judges 4:8)

That always troubled the modern-day Deborah, because she thought it sounded a little hesitant and she just knew he was a brave and dashing hero.  I am not sure she ever resolved that issue in her mind, but I understand it.  Having fought alongside Deborah for 38 years, I know that when she is behind it, it will be successful.  And when she is not behind it, it will fall flat.  And what convinces her to get behind something or not is not just intuition, although she was blessed with great intuition.  It was her conviction that this was what God was directing her to do.  The Judge Deborah got her marching orders from God and the modern-day Deborah did as well.  She did nothing without prayer and meditation and if she were not convinced it was God’s will, she would not attempt it.

I learned very early to trust that inspiration.  I knew that I too could not be successful in any endeavor unless she was in agreement.  In almost every aspect of our lives, we were a team.  I might be in the background or she might be sitting in the last pew, but if we were not together, it would not be successful.

And now I begin a new chapter in my life where she is not physically present with me.  It is a daunting task.  But I know that she is still with me in spirit.  My motto will still be, “If you go with me I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

(The image accompanying this blog is the small frame of a mighty woman as she walks into one of the churches that we served together.)

 

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What About Natural Disasters?

2017 has had its share of troubles, especially in the Southeast United States, with disastrous hurricanes.  And the islands of the Caribbean have been devastated as well.  These may have prompted people to have real questions about God.  Several years ago, I wrote two articles which dealt with natural disasters and personal evil that appeared in the Huntsville Times.  Last week I reprinted the article on personal evil.  This week I give you my take on natural disasters.

WHAT IS GOD TRYING TO SAY?

I’ve heard it several times over the years, “Floods, droughts, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, what is God trying to tell us?”  Why do we assume that every time some natural disaster occurs, God is trying to say something by it?  Even though such events used to be referred to as “acts of God”, why are they any more acts of God than bright, sunshiny days?  Why do we not wonder what God is trying to say to us when everything goes well and life is in balance?

I believe in a God who has the power to create this vast universe.  But I also believe that God set in motion certain natural cause and effect processes.  For the most part those things work out for the best for the greatest number of people. Unfortunately, sometimes those events conflict with our human agendas and cause what we see as tragedy.

Most of us would assume floods to be bad.  When floods happen, there can be great destruction and at the very least great disruption in our lives.  Yet in ancient Egypt, the flooding Nile River enabled early civilization to rise to great heights.  In that time, the lack of flooding was a negative thing.

Most of us see gravity as a positive thing.  It keeps us from flying off into space and holds our atmosphere in place around us.  Yet sometimes gravity can be hurtful. In the late 1960’s, a teenager named Joni Eareckson (now Tada) dove into shallow water in Maryland and was paralyzed from the neck down. In trying to make sense of it, Joni asked her minister why God allowed it to happen.  His answer has stayed with me for fifty years. “God does not suspend the law of gravity for one person’s benefit.”

The folly of thinking that God will do as we desire is seen when prayers come into direct conflict.  A family heading out for a picnic prays for a sunny day.  At the same time, a farmer whose crop is about to die prays for rain.  God cannot answer both prayers at the same time.  So most of the time, we see the laws of science (which really are God’s laws) prevail.  The Bible says, “[God] sends the rain upon the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)  Whether that is good or bad is in the perspective of the person.

On most mornings, rain or shine, I am out walking my dog around sunrise.  It certainly is nicer for us when it is dry.  Many times I see glorious displays of color as the sun comes up over Keel Mountain.  But sometimes we walk in the rain and I give thanks for that as well, because it keeps our world green and fertile.  Most of the time, I just try to thank God for life and the enjoyment of it.

What is God trying to say to us?  I am not sure God is saying anything special in many events that make news.  But I know that when I am out in the beauty of God’s creation, I feel God’s presence and love.  Why not try to see God more in the everyday events of life, rather than worry about some great epiphany of judgment or cataclysm?  God’s greatest message to us comes in nature, in the Bible, and in relationships with those we love.  That message is that life is precious, each of us is valuable and a loving Creator is willing to pay any price to make us God’s own.

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Why Does God Allow Evil?

My computer is dead and I have ordered a new one, so I am having to rely on the kindness of friends for this.  After the awful events of Sunday in Las Vegas, we are forced to once more confront the questions about evil in this world.  I dealt with the questions of personal evil and natural disasters in previous blogs, so I will be revisiting them this week and next.  Here is the blog from several years ago about personal evil. It originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Huntsville Times.

WHY DOES EVIL HAPPEN?

On a warm spring evening in 1972, in the small west central Wisconsin town where I was a youth pastor, trouble seemed a world away, or at least an hour away in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.  When 16 year old “Patty Hanson” went to bed, the world seemed so safe.  A few hours later, that changed.  She awakened sometime during the night to find a stranger in her bedroom. He held a knife to her throat and told her to be quiet or he would kill her and her parents down the hall.  Then he took her outside in the warm night and raped her.  All the while she was praying and telling him he did not have to do this and that God would forgive him.  Fortunately, when he was done, he let her go back to her home. But her life was forever changed.

In the youth group we had discussed where evil came from, but all of a sudden it became real.  It was no longer abstract.  “Why does God allow things like this to happen?” “If God is all powerful, couldn’t He have prevented this?”  “Why do bad things happen to good people?”   “Is there really a God after all?”

This scene is played out every time something horrific happens.  This is evil perpetrated by human beings.  Sometimes it is in the form of a Hitler or a Pol Pot, and sometimes it is in the form of a married father who lives nearby and has become obsessed with the innocent, vivacious teenager who gets out of the bus while he waits behind it for a chance to pass.

For me, the answer to why God allows such things comes from logic, but that is not much comfort to someone in the depths of suffering.  Theology talks about God’s perfect will, which is that all live in happiness and fulfillment, and God’s permissive will, which allows human beings the freedom to fail.  To have a real victory, there has to be the possibility of failure.  In order for us to follow God voluntarily, the possibility also has to exist to reject God’s will as well.

Tommy loves chocolate chip cookies and knows the cookie jar is full of them.  Mommy tells him not to eat any because it is too close to meal time.  Then she goes to do something in another part of the house.  But before she leaves, she puts the cookie jar in the cupboard and chains the doors with a heavy chain and padlock.  Then she leaves the room and returns sometime later, removes the chain and sees the cookies have not been touched.  “Tommy what a good boy you are.  You did not eat a single cookie.”  But all the time she was gone he was trying to figure a way to get at the cookies, but was unable.  It is not a victory when there was never an opportunity to fail.

So, God, in perfect love, allows us the chance to do the right thing or the wrong thing.  Just giving us the opportunity, does not mean God creates evil.  But God allows the possibility of evil.  And some choose to follow the wrong path.  As a result, others sometimes suffer.

The rapist was arrested and “Patty” had to face him in court, but he was convicted and imprisoned. Unfortunately, “Patty” was never the same again.  Some of the choices she made in the years to come were unwise.  I am sure that some of that was a result of unresolved feelings that resulted from her assault.

The good news is that God goes through it all with us.  We are not left alone to struggle and fail in our own strength.  Psalm 23 promises that even when we go through “the valley of the shadow of death,” God is with us.  Sometimes we fail to recognize God’s presence and feel we are there all alone.  But if we allow God to be there, we can rest in the promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

That doesn’t take away the evil, but gives us the power to go through the evil experiences and even overcome.

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World Communion, 2017

Sunday, October 1, is World Communion Sunday on many church calendars.  It is a reminder that the Body of Christ (the Church) is much bigger than our local assemblies, our denominations, our nationalities.  The Church is everyone who believes in Christ as Lord and Savior, wherever they may live and however they may express that relationship.  There is no nation on earth, even those where it is illegal to gather in Jesus’ name, where the Church does not exist.

I grew up as the son of a Baptist minister, so most of my early days were spent in Baptist churches.  I naturally assumed that we must be the “right” church and all the others were the “wrong” churches.  I knew my mother had grown up in another brand of Christianity and so, one day, when I was a teenager, I asked her, “When did you realize that the Baptist church was the right church?” Her answer shocked me.

“I never did, I just married a Baptist minister, so I became a Baptist,”  she replied.

That popped my balloon of preconceived ideas.  You mean there could be others out there, who worship differently, who are also “right”?  That rocked my world.  Since then, I have been officially identified with Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist churches.  I have also been a pastor of a non-denominational church, and have worked in an ecumenical organization.  I am currently helping out preaching in a Cumberland Presbyterian church.  Some of the closest relationships I have had have been as part of the Kairos ministry in the prisons with Episcopalians, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, and many more.  In several communities I have had closer contact with pastors of other labels than with fellow United Methodists.

I have come to see that different churches are like different personalities.  Some are extroverted and some are introverted.  Some are loud and some are quiet.  Some are active and some are passive.  But all are children of God.  All express their faith in accordance with their basic temperaments.  One is not right while the other is wrong.  One is not superior while the other is inferior.  We are a big family and big families have their struggles and their difficulties, but they are still family.

So this Sunday, when you gather with others to worship, remember that the elements of communion are ties that bind us together, not walls that separate us.  Whether your faith community celebrates communion every Sunday, once a month, or quarterly, this Sunday it will be happening in places all over our world.  Some will be in cathedrals and mega-churches, while some will be in storefronts, small rural buildings, even houses.  While we slept, people in east Asia, Australia and the Pacific islands met to break the bread and drink the cup.  As the sunlight moved across the globe others in central Asia met together.   Then it was the folks in Europe and Africa.  Finally believers in North and South America joined in.  And after we have gone home, there will be others in later time zones who are still at worship.  We are all one bread, one body.  We are all children of the Heavenly Father.  And that is something to celebrate.

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Shots

It is kind of interesting how one word can mean different things in different circumstances.  In a recent Facebook post I used the word “shots” while talking about pictures.  But one friend who saw it thought immediately about gunshots.  And that is not the end of the variety of meaning of this simple word.

To a photographer, shot means snapshot or taking a picture.

To a marksman, shot means gunshot or taking aim and pulling the trigger, or sometimes the ammunition used in a shotgun.

To a basketball player, shot means throwing the ball at the basket, either accurately or not (also hockey, golf and other sports).

To a bartender, shot means a single serving of alcohol.

To a healthcare provider, shot means a medication delivered by a hypodermic needle.

To a mechanic, it means that a machine is no longer able to work and must be repaired or replaced.

To someone trying something new, it means giving it a try.

There is some connection between a few of these, but interestingly, many have no overlap at all.  The four letter word “shot” is the same word in all cases, but the meaning is radically different, depending on the context of the word.

Now, can you imagine what confusion someone whose first language is not English might go through?  A photographer shoots his model and they imagine murder.  Two gangs shoot at each other and they imagine a bank of cameras flashing.

And, from time to time, we in the church use language that we understand, but someone who is not familiar with church traditions has no idea what is going on.  Years ago I heard a well-known TV preacher talk about how he came to use language more understandable to non-churched people.  He had invited a woman who did not even know the Bible had an Old Testament and a New Testament to church.  She showed up the next Sunday and he realized that his Bible verse heavy sermon would mean nothing to her.

I had a similar experience when a woman who had started attending brought her husband who I knew had not been exposed to much faith in his life.  I shuddered when we came to “the Lord’s prayer” and it was not printed in the bulletin.  I knew he would not have the slightest idea what was going on.  It was like we had our own secret language.

We need to be careful when we speak of faith that it not be confusing to those who need to understand it the most.  I know I don’t always do it, but I hope that anyone reading this blog, whatever their religious background, will understand what I am saying and be able to make an educated decision about its value to them.

I can imagine that someone in a line for a “shot” might be disappointed to end up with an inoculation instead of a small glass of alcohol.

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Not Such Boy Scouts

I was a Cub Scout, then a Boy Scout when I got older.  I had been in troops in Spokane and Vaughn, Washington, so when we moved to Winnebago, Minnesota, just before my freshman year in high school, my brother Don and I joined the local troop in this little community.  Most people think of Boy Scouts as exemplary citizens, and to some extent they are.  They attempt to build character and make a positive difference in the boys and the community.

But sometimes, Boy Scouts don’t act like the stereotypical boy scout.  It seems that kids always want to find out what the new kids are made out of.   So after the first meeting, as we walked outside to go home, I was jumped by two boys who wanted to fight.  I have never been much of a fighter.  I can’t remember ever punching anyone in my life.  But when two kids jump you in the dark, even if they are a year younger than you, your adrenaline kicks in.

Somehow, I was able to get both of them pinned on the ground.  At this point, they both gave up and the “fight” was over.  From then on, my place in the troop was secure and no one ever gave me any problems from then on.

The funny thing about this experience was, several months later when we were camping at a cabin on Bass Lake, we got into a wrestling tournament.  I was unable to beat either of the two on their own.  I was surprised by this almost as much as I was surprised by the outcome of the earlier event.  I guess when you know it all in fun, you don’t have motivation you have if you perceive a threat of bodily harm.

Now, you might be asking yourself, where is the spiritual message in this story?  Glad you asked.  There may be several, but one got my attention.  We never know how strong we are until our strength is tested.  Likewise, we never know how strong our faith is until it is tested.

I have to admit, I have led a pretty uneventful life.  I have not had my faith seriously tested.  I know there are people who face persecution, torture and death simply for believing in Christ.  I don’t know if I could do that.  About the extent most Americans deal with is maybe being laughed at or losing prestige with our peers if we really stand up for our faith.

A former minister of mine was doing a study on the martyrs of the early Christian church.  They had to face extreme danger and even death because of their faith.  I told him, “I don’t know if I could do that.”  His response to me was, “God will give you the strength when the time comes.”

I hope he was right.  I know I fail daily to live up to what I know I should be.  I can identify with Paul in Romans 7.  But if we know it really is serious, if we know we must stand or fail, I pray that we will be able to stand up for what we believe in.  I hope that, like that night after the Boy Scout meeting, when we are attacked by surprise, that we will have the strength and courage to overcome the test and be victorious.

We may find out that we are stronger than we thought we were.

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Be the Gospel

When ideas for this blog come to me, I write them down on a pad.  I use those words or phrases to help me put together my souletosoul blog.  Sometimes I write down phrases, and later have little to no idea what they mean. For about six months now, the words “Be the Gospel” have been at the top of the list, but for the life of me, I cannot remember why I wrote down that phrase.  However, knowing that it once was important to me, I kept it at the top of the list.

So, even though I cannot remember why I originally wrote this down, I think it is an important idea.  In Christian thought, the Gospel, the Good News of the New Testament, was the primary reason for the existence of the faith. “Preach the Gospel” is the task of many preachers and would be preachers.  Now, how that was interpreted differed vastly from group to group.  But the idea was that the text (that is, the Bible) was the primary means of sharing God’s love.  So traveling preachers on the frontier and evangelists traveling the “sawdust trail” across the nation had one task:  to preach the Gospel.  This idea reached its greatest expression in the mass crusades of the 1950s and 1960s.

But the value of such efforts gradually waned.  It has never died, and probably never will, but it is no longer the primary means of sharing the love of God.  Whether that is good or bad is really not important.  The reality is that preaching and teaching the Bible is important for people who are already believers, but it is of limited value in reaching those who are not already part of the family.

So the phrase, “Be the Gospel” starts to become more relevant.  It has been said, “You may be the only Bible someone reads, you may be the only Jesus someone sees.”  That means that the important thing is not that someone knows the “chapter and verse” where an idea may be found, but that their lives demonstrate what it means to them.  This is not something new.  It has been true as long as the church has been in existence.  But now it moves into the central position.

This week, I came across a great “preacher story”.  (A “preacher story” is one that may or may not be true, but its message is true and it teaches in a way that is effective.)  In this story, a well-heeled congregation was located near a college campus.  One day a college student visited the church.  The service was already started as “Bill” walked in.  He was dressed as a typical college student, with unkempt hair, a ragged tee-shirt, holes in his jeans and barefoot.  Needless to say, he stood out from the rest of the worshipers.

This particular morning, the church was filled and as Bill moved down the aisle there seemed to be nowhere to sit, so he went to the front of the sanctuary and plopped down on the carpeted floor.  The congregation became silent as they watched this unlikely visitor make his way in.  Then they heard another sound.  It was the sound of the cane of an 80-year-old deacon who was making his way across the auditorium toward this young man.  Then, in front of everyone, he dropped his cane and plopped himself onto the floor to worship with Bill.

The preacher, watching all this unfold, was overcome.  When he got his voice he said,  “You will probably not remember my sermon this morning very long.  But you will remember forever what Deacon Smith did today.”

Another old saying is, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.”  This week, we are all living sermons.  Will we be the gospel to someone else or will we not?

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Little Acts of Kindness

Out of the horror of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey in Texas, the good that has emerged has been the little (and some large) acts of kindness that have brought people help and hope and strength.  Hearing them has renewed my faith in the basic goodness of humanity.

One of the things that happens when Churchill and I walk through the neighborhood each morning is little vignettes of life that we stumble upon.  Sometimes it is a simple as a wife kissing her husband good-by as he leaves for work before she gets in her car and heads for her job. At other times we see scraps of family drama.

One morning as we were approaching a house with several vehicles in the driveway I heard a man addressing his teenage son about a license tag on the son’s car.  (For those of you who are not from Alabama, we only have one license plate in the back, so in the front people can put all sorts of  alternatives.  Also, in Alabama, we call them license tags instead of license plates.)  I did not see what it said, but the father disagreed with the sentiment expressed.  He said the son had to take it off before he left for school, then he handed him the screwdriver and stood back to make sure he actually removed the offensive item.

As I watched that unfold, I thought there must be some other issues at work also.  What I did see was quite informative, neverthless.

On the other end of the spectrum was something I saw one Sunday morning.  There was a rather old gentleman that lived down the street from us.  I had seen him out in his driveway before and it seemed like it took him forever to shuffle down the short driveway to get his newspaper or mail.  One Sunday morning, as I approached the man’s house, I saw his next door neighbor, a young man in his twenties, walk out to pick up his paper.  Then he went to his neighbor’s driveway and picked up his paper.  He walked up to the door and placed the paper right on the welcome mat at the door.  He then returned to his own home and went in.

No one saw it but me.  This young neighbor was not doing it for show or for any personal benefit.  All he did was to see a little act of kindness that he could do and did it.  It took less than five minutes and very little extra effort.  Yet to the man who benefited from it, it made a great deal of difference.  I do not know whether the recipient had any idea who had done the kindness.  He may have thought the paper carrier had tossed the paper farther than usual.

For me, though, it was extremely meaningful.  I appreciated the act, even though it did not benefit me at all.  It helped restore my faith in humanity.  It happened years ago, and I still recall it clearly.

Just think how wonderful it would be if more people took the time to demonstrate kindness to others.  I get moved to tears easily, and recently, it happened again.  There was a physical education teacher in an elementary school who was leading the kids in “rhythmic movement” (dancing).  And strapped to the legs of the teacher is a little girl who has a physical disability which prevents her from moving without a wheelchair.  Her feet are connected to his feet and the rest of her body is supported in front of the big man.  She is thrilled to be able to dance with her classmates. She moves her hands in the choreography and is smiling so broadly.  It is such a small thing, but its value is priceless.

So what can you and I do in the coming week to show a little kindness?  What little thing can we do to show love?  As Jesus said, “Whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done unto me.”

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We Never Did It Like That Before

Sometimes, the way we have always done things is not the way we should do things now.  There is a story by Harry Emerson Fosdick, about a cultural crisis caused by new practices.  In the New Hebrides Islands, now known as the Republic of Vanuatu, the indigenous people always relied on rain for water.  For thousands of years the waters had come down from the skies with regularity.

Then one year, there was a drought.  The rains stopped and streams dried up and there was no more water.  As Rev. Fosdick tells the story in The Meaning of Prayer, “John C. Paton, the missionary, awakened the derision of the natives by digging for water.  They said water always came down from heaven, not up through the earth.  But Paton revealed a larger truth than they had seen before by discovering to them that heaven could give them water through their own land.”

Can you imagine the culture shock?  Can you imagine how mind-blowing this discovery was?  For thousands of years, water had always come through the atmosphere as rain.  Then this crazy missionary starts digging in the ground and up springs water.  Unheard of!  Yet there is was, in front of their eyes.  Their whole world was turned upside down.

My title has been labeled by some as “the seven last words of the church”.  We have always done it this way before. What do you mean we have to change?

Yet we are familiar with a couple of modern axioms:  “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.”  And the supposed definition of insanity,  “doing the same thing but expecting different results”.  And while these are not hard and fast rules, but more like general guidelines, they basically tell us that what we have been doing in the church (or sometimes in our personal lives) got us where we are today.  If things are going well, there is little need to change.  But if things are not going so well, we have to examine what we have been doing and see if we need to make some changes.  Sometimes it calls for just a few tweaks here and there.  But sometimes it calls for a wholesale re-imagining of what we do.

In the book, Who Stole My Church, by Gordon MacDonald, a group of old guard church members are led through a discovery process of new ideas by the pastor.  In this fictionalized story of what happens, the old faithful begin by being upset by what they perceive as someone stealing their church from them.  In the end, they come to realize that it is not their church, it is God’s church.  And if God is leading in a new direction, they need to get on board or be left behind.  They decide to embrace the changes.  Again this is a work of fiction, I am not sure how realistic it is.

But the point is true.  We can do things the way we have always done them and slowly die.  Or we can embrace new concepts and ways of doing things and see new life.  We can wait for the rain, or we can start digging a well.  The choice is ours.

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Eyes Like Jesus, 2017

In thinking about the events of recent days in Charlottesville, I found a souletosoul blog from a few years ago that addresses some of the basic issues.  What is needed is not confrontation but love.  The nonviolent movement of the 60s did not work overnight, but it did eventually result in a better, more just country.  Until hearts and minds are reached, nothing will change.

Having worn glasses since I was in second grade, I often wish I had better eyesight.  Recently, while on vacation, I put my glasses beside the bed before going to sleep.  In the early morning dark, I started feeling around for them but to no avail.  I could not find them anywhere.   Not wishing to disturb my sleeping wife, I did not turn on the light or open the curtains.  So I found my cell phone and used the light from the screen to illuminate the area.  Sure enough, they were there on the very edge of the night stand.  I had my eyes back.

But that is not the kind of eyesight I am referring to here.  It is not physical sight as much as spiritual sight. In several passages in the Gospels, Jesus looks at the crowd of people who would not give him time to rest and renew, not with frustration or anger, but “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:14)  The disciples, in contrast, saw them as a problem:  they were hungry; there was no food; they did not have the resources to meet the need; etc.  Jesus did not see the problem, he saw the solution. He saw that their greatest need was to know that God loved them.  His eyes were eyes of compassion and love.

Many years ago, I was the pastor of a church with a food pantry ministry.  At the time, it was not well-organized with volunteers to help, so it became my responsibility when people came asking for food.  One day, as I was deep in my sermon preparation, a family came needing food.  I had to stop what I was doing and attend to their request.  As I headed down the hall to gather the food, God spoke to me.  No, I didn’t hear an audible voice, but I heard it in my spirit, loud and clear.  I had been thinking that this was a great interruption in my important work.  Then I heard, “Wait a minute.  This is not an interruption in your ministry.  This is your ministry.  This may be the most important thing you do today.”

It changed my whole outlook on what I was doing.  I changed from looking at the situation like the disciples, to looking at it like Jesus.  I would like to say it transformed my life from then on, but that would not be true.  But for a significant time afterward, it did change the way I perceived what was more important and what was less.

Thomas G. Pettepeace, in his book Visions of a World Hungry, shares a prayer that illuminates this need.  “I need the vision that Jesus gives, that sees no difference between sacred and secular, sexual identity and personhood, ethnic group and worth, economic position and dignity, education and value…..Because of the sensitivity of sight you give, enable me to stand in awe and wonder at life and its possibilities.  Help me kneel in humility to worship you and not myself.  Lord, hear me as I say, ‘Let my eyes be opened.'”

Another way of saying this is:  give me eyes like Jesus.

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