“Dilated”

A few days ago, I made my annual pilgrimage to my optometrist for my eye exam.  And like any other visit to my eye doctor, I experienced the initial small talk, general health questions, and eventual invitation to “the chair”.  Once seated, I felt my anxiety rise as my chin was placed on the chin pad and the eye apparatus brought up to my face, squeezing my nose in the process.

Next came the dreaded “can you read the bottom line?” question.  “No problem”, I thought as I started down the line…”Hhhhh”, “Pppp”, “Sssss”, “Kkkkkkk”, and finally the last character.  “Uh, ‘c’…no, no, ‘e’…oh, man!….’o’?”  The response of “good” did nothing to soothe my perfectionist tendencies.  At last came the questions that just torments the indecisive…”is it better with 3 or 4?”, “better with 1 or 2?”, “is it clearer at 4…or 5?”

And, as if withholding the best for last, out came the eye drops that would just change my life for the next several hours—I was about to get dilated!  Sitting there in the chair, waiting for the magic to happen and dabbing the amber tears from my eyes, I was wondering just how I was going to work from home the remainder of the day.  After subjecting both eyes to immense, blazing, and irritating light, it was over; a little too anticlimactic.  But here came the “But wait, there’s more” moment when they offered me the Cataract 100 sunglasses; you know the kind.  They are the disposable sunglasses that instantly make people think you’re in need of a seeing-eye dog.  Since it was a cloudy day, I enthusiastically declined and chose to squint my way home.

Once back at my home workspace, the kitchen bar, I sat in front of the IBM T510 laptop and stared, trying to focus.  I could read e-mails and do my work but not without difficulties.  At one point and time, between the dilation and bifocals, my head was bobbing up and down with rhythmic precision and I must have appeared as if an Albatross was in a mating ritual.

Sometimes in life, we inadvertently have our spiritual eyes dilated due to unconfessed sin in our lives.  Our spiritual lives become out of focus and a great sensitivity to God’s light begins to occur.  And instead of enjoying that beautiful light through God’s word, music or other spiritually motivated sources, our sense of guilt and shame provokes a painful response, many times driving us on to seek shelter in the shadows of our own regrets.  It is at those times when we need to seek out God’s “Foster Grants” so to speak of grace and forgiveness.  For only when we seek sincere forgiveness to God, and at times ourselves and/or others, can our spiritual eyes once again be completely restored so we can see fully what God’s path is for us to follow.

 

“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23

“Illuminate Us O Lord”

Have you ever looked around during a worship service and wondered how these individuals from all walks of life, this imperfect sampling of humanity ended up in one place with one purpose, to worship our Creator? I don’t believe it is a random act or a coincidence that God puts us in the right place at the right time to fulfill His plan for a season. I believe God has His plans or “patterns” so to speak laid out in a plan of perfection only God can orchestrate. God then looks for those “willing vessels” to fit in like puzzle pieces to complement His master plan.

pattern

I liken this to working with stained glass. You begin with a pattern that holds a special attraction or interest, something created for its’ deliberate and intended purpose; even if it’s only for pure pleasure. The pattern reflects a complete but monochromatic version of the completed piece.

stained glass

The next step is the selection of glass for the piece. Each of us is like the spectrum of glass available for use. We are all fashioned into our designated colors, textures, and yes, stress points based on our experiences, influences, emotions, and our willingness to be molded and shaped into God’s intended purpose. God wants to cut away the unnecessary and chip away the stubborn imperfections to transform us into exactly what we were intended; to be an object of His affection; a perfect fit!

And God knows where each of us are destined to “fit in”; to minister, to grow, to illuminate the love of Christ in us. It doesn’t matter whether we are a corner piece or center bevel; we are just as important in God’s eyes.

half cut cropped

The leadership of the church is the framework and joints, the zinc and lead of God’s special project to “hold” all of His precious pieces together in one place. The leadership ensures continuity and conformity; to encourage the body of Christ to fellowship, minister and to encourage one another; to keep us as one cohesive unit.
And finally, we have the solder that binds everything together; our love for God and His everlasting love for us. That is the beauty that illuminates through us like the sun shining through a stained glass masterpiece, overwhelming us with the brilliance of His perfection and inspiring us with the awesome knowledge that we are so much more as a collective ensemble than as individual shattered shards of broken humanity.

finished piece cropped
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light… 1 Peter 2:9  

“Feasting on the Unfamiliar”

Relationships are sometimes like peanut butter and tomato sandwiches. Sound crazy? Let me explain. Recently this wonderfully flavorful entree was presented to me quite unexpectedly. I LOVE tomatoes and have never really rejected the opportunity to devour peanut butter, but this combination was a little out of my league in becoming adventuresome. Having been placed in a position of possibly insulting the bearer of unique cuisine, I found I had no other choice but to try just a morsel. The first bite presented itself with a familiar sweet, smoothness of the peanut butter with the tanginess of the fresh, juicy, and very meaty tomato. Love at first taste!! Why didn’t I try this sooner? Probably because this just didn’t seem very familiar to me.

Sometimes we treat acquaintances and some relationships the same way. We always want to be around people that we are comfortable with and who make us feel good or important. In the process, we are cheating ourselves out of God ordained experiences that could possibly raise us to another level of wisdom and understanding.

We are often found in situations with people who are “different” than we are. Our natural tendency is to shy away from anything or anyone that doesn’t fit our definition of “normal”. “I’m talking about even other believers, some possibly in our own churches. Like the unfamiliar food item, our brain starts to categorize and match this new acquaintance with our mental preference lists or biases. Many times we reject others or find ourselves rejected due to some of the following reasons: She/He is too short/tall, fat/thin, good-looking/plain, white/black/red/yellow/etc., talks too much/little, is illiterate/educated, poor/wealthy, dirty/clean; the list goes on and on. It doesn’t take very long before our prejudice is justified and we leave that person standing, never realizing or caring that God may have used that moment for His glory and possibly may have used you to minister to another.

If Jesus had this same mind set, where would we be right now? The blind and crippled would have been passed by because of course they were damaged goods. Mary Magdalene would have also been rejected for being so vile and unclean. Even the twelve would have been over looked for being mere fishermen and tax collectors, except maybe Dr. Luke. Get the point?

We need to ask God for forgiveness for our ignorance, prejudice, and pride. And while we are on our faces, prostrate before Him, why don’t we ask Him for the strength to take risks in our relationships with others and to allow us to love others with His love not ours. For, we are all different and strange through our own eyes but we are all the same through His.

Now, are you ready to take a big bite out of humanities’ banquet table? You might be surprised how much you enjoy the variety of God’s human creations.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Ps. 34:8

“Heads up!”

How many times have you been walking along and almost had a close encounter with a “head downer”? That’s what I call those who walk around, mesmerized by their smart phones, oblivious to their surroundings and reduced to uttering grunts as they order their fast food at the counter or check out at the local market.  There have been times when I have desperately resisted the temptation to yell “BOO” to an incoming head downer to see if I could get a reaction, anything that would cause them to raise their head and for at least a split second, to be aware of their own surroundings.  Knowing my luck, I would receive another kind of reaction that would result in a “clean up on aisle two” as the citizen’s body would react before his/her brain engaged.

Don’t get me wrong; I have done my share of vertical surfing but I try to keep it to a minimum. I also try to squelch the “table texting” mostly because I envision having one nostril larger than the other from my wife so carefully planting my silicone, wood grained, techno Apple up my rather ample proboscis.  So why do I hesitate to join the multitudes that engage in constant, mindless, “in the cloud” conversations where we can see everything from a selfie that shouldn’t have been to someone’s dinner, both before AND after?

I’ve looked around…and I like what I see, and hear (which is sometimes a challenge being deaf in one ear), and feel!! I enjoy carrying on a conversation where I can search the eyes of the receiver and read their facial expressions (which don’t look anything like the emoticons) and give and/or receive a spontaneous hug.  I like to see the brilliant colors of the fall leaves and breathe in the crisp fall air and know I’m still alive and experiencing life to the full.  But most importantly, I need to abandon any distraction which will cause me to miss an opportunity to be available for whatever God has in store for me to participate; I need to be still and listen…

So take heart, head downer…there is a great big world and a great big God just waiting for you to look up and experience a life worth living; not a life being lived through a virtual world of others…you never know what you might be missing…

Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory. “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:27-28

“Getting Ready to Move Sale”–The Art of Letting Go

A few weeks ago, my wife and I had a garage sale; nothing special about that, right? Well, it was advertised as  “Getting Ready to Move Sale—Everything Must Go!!” …which was an accurate declaration since we have plans to move to North Carolina in the spring.

 

Part of the process was to go through thirty-five years of accumulated “stuff” and decide what must go to “lighten the load” so we wouldn’t be as burdened packing our other “treasures”. No problem…or so I thought.  As our lives lay prostrate across folding tables in our garage, I started to develop Irritable Growl Syndrome, snarling at our patrons as they rummaged through our “precious moments” with no more concern than if it was well….junk!  They just didn’t understand that the dusty pair of ice skates they were holding up with tattered strings hanging like overcooked spaghetti was actually a form of freedom for me thirty years ago.  How did they know the abandoned ice bucket was actually one of my wife’s last tangible memories of Christmases past with her family; the ice bucket was only used for that annual gathering.

 

“GET A GRIP”! We needed a new perspective, a reminder of why we were actually doing this, to see the bigger picture.  For in letting go of material things that had lost their value or purpose, we were in a better position to embrace the new adventures God has in store for us.  For you see, we have our first grandchild arriving in February.  And only God knows what else He has in store for my wife and me.

 

Hebrews 12:1 NIV states “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” which tells me it is okay to let go of whatever it is that gets in the way of my running the best race EVER!  In your life the letting go may not be junk; it may be bitterness or resentment toward a friend or loved one.  It may also be something that seems pretty innocent like taking a class or getting involved in a club or organization.  Whatever “IT” is, we all need to find and cultivate the art of letting go if “IT’ gets in the way of blocking us from what God would have us do.

 

By the end of our garage sale, my wife and I were literally giving away the remainder of our “treasures” as the more left our premises, the lighter and more animated we felt. The less “overhead” we have to consider, the more time we have to concentrate on running toward that finish line.  Now for letting go of that extra forty pounds…

Alpha Blog

The very idea of developing a blog, a means of communicating thoughts, ideals, and analogies for the world to see is like walking out, completely naked, on to humanities’ stage. For opinions are like belly buttons; everybody has one. I’m sure not all feedback will be positive, warm fuzzy-feeling comments. That being said I feel compelled to share with others what the Lord lays on my heart. So, here I go, shivering, nervous, and self-conscious…taking the big step forward but fighting the urge to run behind the red velvet curtain.

The title Life Simply Spoken came about from the yearning to share simple life stories presented in such a way that it would impact the life of another person. Most of these stories or “pieces” will have a spiritual slant as I strongly believe that in every life experience, there is a lesson, a nugget of God instilled, eternal truth just waiting to get out, becoming a salve for healing, a mini “aha” moment or perhaps a smile maker.

If you are looking for a grammatically refined piece of literary genius, you may be a tad bit disappointed. However, whether the topic is sit ups or spit ups, hanging on or letting go, I’m praying you will open your heart and mind to how God might be using yet another tool to get to us. I am not delusional in thinking every blog will have a divine impact on your life but perhaps some of the same things God is working to reveal in my life is similar to “under construction” areas in yours. I am glad you are going on this journey with me…

Observations on life and Spiritual Implications