Friday, July 29, 2016

Behind the Eyes

The eyes.

We've often heard them called "windows to the soul".  How often have we found this to be true?  Do we regularly evaluate the condition of one's inner being by their ocular orbs?  Doubtful.  I find that I regularly miss this tell in most people, either through my own lack of attention to detail or through their proficiency in the construction of the facade.  I wish I could read people better, but there are those who simply do not wish to be read.  Flip the coin.

How often have we worked to hide the inner churning, mask the building agitations, or simply quell the internal pain by painting on the smile, putting on 'the face', praying all the while that our eyes do not belie the tempest beneath?  Do we lack trust in those around that we should expose our weaknesses safely?  Perhaps we seek to avert confrontation, preferring a boiling emotional state over an honest confrontational discourse. 

Perhaps we simply do not value the other person enough to desire to know what their motives, thoughts, ideas, or opinions are.  After all, to be armed with this knowledge is to then be required to potentially yield our own in difference in the name of loving others and this is difficult.  Worse, perhaps we do not wish to participate in another's trials, sufferings, or cares or even share our own.  We become content with "How are you?" and "I'm fine, you?" answered by "Doing great!" when one or more of the participants have no intention of laying open truths or realities.  To do so is to expose soul and fiber of being, sensitive and raw existence.  This is living where no one goes...

Except He did.

Very recently some dear friends had a visitor from another nation stay with them.  This visitor was a child, an orphan participating in a visitation program to partner prospective interested adoptive families with children who have either never known family or have lost every resemblance of it.  This child was loved on, cherished, and blessed in every way that our friends could think of while staying with them.  This child was beautiful and amazing and we were so happy to have gotten to spend a small amount of time with them simply because our friends were hosting.

As part of the program, there are several opportunities for the children to come into contact with prospective families during their time in the U.S.  This child had those opportunities, but the few families that showed potential interest quickly retracted their inquiries once they either met the child or found out about the medical issues this child is currently dealing with.  Some of them are visible.  Some are general cognitive delays common to children who have spent extensive time in orphanage or foster systems.  In short, when confronted with this child's appearance and potential challenges, most turned from the opportunity before them denying this child a home and potentially a future.

This saddened me greatly.  It saddened me as a father who has adopted a child from an abuse and trauma background, knowing how life altering and life-saving this opportunity was.  It saddened me as I recognized some of the issues at hand as being significant, but manageable in our country's health care systems - some of which we had actually overcome in our own adoptive son's health and well being.  It saddened me for the families who missed out on the most rewarding experience they will ever know this side of heaven because adoption is as close to the model of heaven as anything I've witnessed on this earth. 

It saddened me because fear won out against love.  It saddened me because if these people could just look past this child's immediate problems, look past their immediate challenges - if they could just look intently past this child's eyes they would see the value and beauty of the person beneath.  And then it saddened me because I knew I was guilty of the very same thing on a regular basis.  Many of us are.

We are each of us beautiful and amazing souls, "fearfully and wonderfully made".  This dermis, these fabrics, the metal wheeled containers we transport ourselves in, the brick and wooden cubes we inhabit - none of these place additional or detract value from the created beauty of each and every one of us. 

Some of us are regularly depositing earnings into checking accounts.  Some of us are raising children.  Some of us are reaching for our brothers and sisters, some of us are homeless, some of us are alone.  None of us are worthless or deemed too great a cost to pursue, for He pursued each of us to the ultimate cost to self.  He calls us to do likewise. 

But this cannot be done at distance.  This cannot be done impersonally, safely, or remotely.  It cannot be done without involvement in another human's life, love, and pain.  I am fortunate to know several who are half a world away at the time of this writing, who (along with their families) have undergone sacrifice and cost to do just that; touch another human heart to show love - His love.  They are currently experiencing the greatest of joys staring deeply into brown eyes, sharing heartaches, laughter, songs, and prayers with many who we in this nation would call destitute, but who are far more wealthy than can be calculated by the temporal.  I wish I were with them. 

But I don't have to be.

Opportunities surround each of us daily.  They are in the co-worker who continually walks under a raincloud.  They are in the foul-mouthed man you try to avoid.  They are in the needy and the homeless crowding the local relief shelters.  They are even in the church seat next to you. 

The paradigm shift is yours to make.  Will you remain safe, comfortable, and distant?  Or will you engage and find out who is behind the eyes?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Just a Second

"Just a second..."

I utter this phrase frequently.  Usually I am engaged in something that has my full attention and one of my children is standing nearby saying something like "dad, dad, dad, daddy, daddy, dad...".  My youngest son is particularly fond of doing this to both my bride and I.  We've even teased him that if he doesn't stop we're going to start calling him Stewie.  "Just a second, Austin!"

We all realize that when we say this we're not asking for, literally, one more second but however much time is needed to complete the task we are engaged in be it tens of seconds, minutes, or more.  In fact, "just a second" seems a bit of a misleading and untruthful phrase because who can accomplish or finish anything in a second?  Try it.  Without reading past this sentence, think of things you can do in one second's span of time.  I'm guessing your list, like mine, is short.

Here are a few I came up with:

take a breath
turn my head
snap my fingers
count to one

Not enough time to do much more, at least not in my perception.  But perception is everything isn't it.  What if I told you insects and snails have more than enough time in one second.  Follow me down the rabbit hole...

A second is all it takes for a bullet to travel 900 meters (over 1/2 mile) and penetrate its target.
In a second, a snail will dance to the side or forward one centimeter to avoid a rain drop.
A honeybee flaps its wings 200+ times in that same second.
Every second, 79 stars vanish from space.  Implosion, explosion?
Our sun floods this earth with 48.6 billion kilowatts of energy every second.
Every second, the populace of this planet consumes 1500 gallons of carbonated drinks.
418 Kit-Kat fingers (4 fingers to a bar) are consumed around the world every second. 

Suddenly a second seems quite active, doesn't it?  I find humor in our drink and Kit-Kat consumption rates, but I am astounded at the raw quantities of energy our star is continually roaring through 90+ million miles towards our world with.  In an instant dozens of suns the size of ours, some smaller, some hundreds of times larger, regularly vanish from our sight and instrumentation.  In a moment, a projectile hurtles towards its target over 2600 feet away.  My mind has trouble wrapping around these numbers.  Not even included is the millions of times elemental atoms vibrate per second.

In scripture you won't find the word "second" as a frame of reference for the passage of time.  The idea of breaking days and hours into smaller components existed but our refinements of clocks, weights, and measures did not.  Rather you will find phrases like "moment", "at that hour (meaning instantly)", and "in the twinkling of an eye (also meaning near instantly)".  God exists outside the linear time that we are bound by.  Yet he still operates within it though he is not limited by it. 

Some examples:  listen to God speaking of the nation of Israel after they have been in rebellion and come in repentance back to him.

For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you."   Exodus 33:5

God would have obliterated millions of people in their sinful state in just a second - simply by the nature of who he is and what sin is in his presence.  Our God is a holy, holy God.

In Matthew we learn of a woman who had exhausted all of her resources over many years going from one physician to the next with a blood illness that was gradually wasting her away.  With amazing faith she reaches out.

She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”  Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

Matthew 9:21-22

The word for "moment" here denotes an instant changing of state from what was to what currently is.  It took just a second.

Again in Matthew, we learn of another woman of faith convinced that her daughter would be healed.  So much so that she wouldn't leave Jesus alone.

Then Jesus said to her, "Woman, you have great faith!  Your request is granted."  And her daughter was healed at that moment.
Matthew 15:28

In a similar timeframe history was upended, the earth upheaved and all of creation breathed a sigh of sorrow.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.   At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.
Matthew 27:50-52

Our relationship with our Heavenly Father was forever altered in just a second.


But what if Jesus had said "Just a second"?  What if Jesus, busy as he usually was, told the woman with the daughter, "Just give me a minute"?  This is a guy who typically had a throng of people around him, all clamoring for his attention; all looking for him to meet their needs.  Wouldn't it be within his right to say "Just wait a sec" once and awhile"?  We don't read that do we?  We read of a man who was fully engaged, fully available, fully compassionate.


I fail at this regularly and I'm not even talking about at work or on the street.  I can become so engrossed in the inconsequential that I easily shoo off my own child who simply wants to tell me that they put the toilet paper on the roller when they were finished in the bathroom like they were supposed to.  Life changing knowledge? Not really.  An opportunity to build up my child and strengthen my relationship with them?  Golden - I should be so lucky to have these so often.  The infusion of worth and value is the one of the most precious gifts we can give another.


Too often we take for granted and miss these opportunities in our homes, in our places of work, in the world around us because we are honed in on the tasks and priorities that we feel are most important, all the while losing out on the highest of priorities that Jesus boiled down to two little statements.  Love God with everything in you.  Love neighbor as self.  To walk these out will change the world in which you walk and God will open door after door for you to be his light in darkness.


It is his desire for us to become the means by which lives are changed.  But it requires a willingness to become uncomfortable.  It is not always comfortable to rub shoulders with the homeless.  It is not always comfortable to take in the orphan or the foster child.  It is not always comfortable to listen to the co-worker lamenting over their problems.  Love is not always comfortable.  My bride came up with the phrase "messy love" and it is an accurate depiction of what we are called to walk out.  Rarely is it convenient, and rarely is it along the same path we were planning on traveling.

But often, it starts with giving just a second...

Monday, July 11, 2016

Time Is Not On Our Side

Time is not on our side.

This is not a comfortable notion for most.  Many, myself included, often view our time on this planet as continual, ongoing, and prolonged.  The sun rises and sets every day.  The weeks blend into months.  Seasons pass.  I'm engaged in the rhythm of life; waking, sleeping, family, working.  It can seem a continuum.  But it isn't. 

Everyday we are each marching towards our last breath, our last heartbeat.  This is a morbid and disconcerting thought for many, one which we choose not to think about or dwell on.  But our days are given to us, numbered.  The brevity of our time is mentioned numerous times in scripture.

David has much to say on the matter as he often pondered death's approach while being hunted for his life by a power mad king and even his own flesh.

In Psalms 78 we are called a passing breeze.

Our lives are referred to as a grass that fades in the wind in Psalms 103:15-16.

David calls our days like a fleeting shadow in Psalm 144:4.

James states we nothing more than a vapor, a mist that quickly evaporates in James 4:14.

And Job, during his extensive trials and ordeals, states that life is a breath in Job 7:6-7.

Digress with me for a moment.  The average person takes 16 breaths a minute.  This equates to 960 breaths an hour, which totals 23,040 breaths per day.  This in turn equates to 8,409,600 breaths per year.  The average person living 80 years then takes approximately 672,768,000 breaths in a lifetime.  Job states that lifetime is equivalent to just one of those breaths in the total and this is just the beginning.

Watch the following video.  Many have seen this.  I saw it some years ago and I remember being moved by the simple logic of it.  Yet I find that I still have difficulty with the truths found within.  I struggle with the truth that I too, find myself living for portions of the red, planning only for segments further down on the red, all the while ignoring or only being minimally cognizant of the fact that there is an eternity of white beyond.   If we would truly take this to heart, it would radically alter the way in which we not only live our lives, but the urgency in which we sought to love others as well.

OK, so why all of the number games, why the ropes and elaborate illustrations?  Simply to point out this - you are an eternal being of incalculable worth to the one who created it all.  And so is every single human being who traverses this sphere from the bomb strapped terrorist to the five year old in kindergarten.  A small percentage among the 7+ billion on this planet have connected with the one who set it all in motion, have turned over spirit and soul in love and surrender and will now know an eternity in his presence. 

But that same small percentage has been tasked with living the same love and grace that a Savior walked out when he stepped into our sphere two millennium past.  He didn't model it from inside a building but in the streets and among those in need of it.  We are called to do likewise, at our work, in our neighborhoods, in our homes, and even globally.  But your days in the red are short.  The sun will rise and set tomorrow, and the next day, and days after that and odds are you will see those days unless...

This isn't a call to fear.  It is a call to faith, for it takes faith to daily walk as he walked, in his footsteps.  It requires laying down of self.  Cost is involved.  But the rewards far outweigh any price paid.  In this, we can then begin to celebrate instead of mourn the notion that time is not on our side.  Because we know that when the red ends, real life begins.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


He is jealous for me...

These words have been ricocheting in my mind for some weeks now; especially the weight of this word "jealous".

I have always viewed this word negatively; always associated it with anger, regret, even contempt.  Jealous of others, jealous of good fortune, even jealous of opportunities.  Certainly envy has been synonymous.  All emotions that I tell my own children to bury, to release.  You can't love others and be jealous of them, right? 

"Austin, when Lydia gets an ice-cream on a date with daddy, don't cry - be happy for her.  You had one last week."

"Lydia, when Caleb gets to go out with his friends after a soccer win, don't be angry because you have to go home with mom and dad, be happy for him"

Yet even still I find I struggle with others getting new toys.  To my shame I recently felt that twinge of jealousy towards another for something that should have been trivial.  It was something that my family isn't even ready for at this point in our lives nor could we accommodate.  Realizing my emotion for what it was, I had to repent, but it was there none-the-less.  I wanted what they had and was not, in that moment, happy for them but sad for myself.  I thought I was beyond this.  I thought I had "put away childish things".  Why would I stoop so low?  Jealous.

But is all jealousy bad?  Many will recognize the lyrics of the David Crowder "How He Loves" opening this post.  A husband's jealous affection for their bride certainly wouldn't be considered amiss.  But turn this on its head.  Instead of a perfect happily-ever-after,  picture a bride willfully unfaithful.  Jealousy is the natural expectation, along with betrayal, rage, and possibly even hatred.  But picture a man dedicated beyond all reason to this woman. Repeatedly she violates the marriage vows and repeatedly he takes her back.  His overwhelming love for her, his compassion is unfathomable.  In fact, at times it is the only thing that draws her to his arms.  Certainly she regrets her actions after they occur, but that doesn't seem to stop her from sliding back into new faults, inflicting new pains upon her betrothed.  It's as if she can't help herself...

Sounds abusive and dysfunctional.  Yet we are that bride; our Savior that groom.  And he is jealous for us.  But jealousy brings with it anger and intolerance.  An anger and intolerance rages against that which would steal his most cherished loved one from him.  For the individual there is grace.  But against that which would steal the life and created purpose from those he holds most dear there is no grace, no tolerance, no acceptance.  Jealousy burns hot. 

Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
Exodus 34:14

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
Deuteronomy 4:24

This is damning statement.  It crushes all excuses for comfort, lack of obedience, and tepid lack-luster discipleship.  It demands removal of everything we would place as gods before total surrender and devotion to him and in our times these lists are long.  He paid the highest of prices to be content with anything less than all of us.  Suddenly the opening lines of a moving worship song bear the weight of one who has moved heaven and earth to be reunited with his bride.

He is jealous for me...

The call is clear.  Stop playing in the filth, let go of the weights, the pursuits that have no eternal consequence or beauty.  Quit prostituting yourself to passions that ultimately leave you emptier, more desolate, and more alone.  Stop desperately grasping for the sand of this world that only runs through the fingers of empty hands.  Only he fills.  Only he sustains.  Only he purifies.

He is jealous for you.

Become jealous for him.