When the stone the builders rejected became the cornerstone

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Cornerstone of a movement
Catapulter of a cause,
Motivator of a people.

Launch point of a mission,
Rally cry of the populous,
Mainstay of the faithful.
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Product of his hometown;
Tethered to his past,
Kept from his future.

Where did he come from?
Who were his teachers?
Where was his father?
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
He was tall, they say,
Dark-skinned, bearded,
Active, even athletic.

Son to a loving mother
Friend to many
Known in his hometown.
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Read his Bible,
Found peace there.
One of the flock, but lost his way. 

Moved to a new town
Looking for a new start
Tether of the old life proved too strong.
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Remembered... mostly 
For the way he died:
How he suffered,
How he called out,
giving up his spirit, at the last.
Come to me, 
all you who are weary and burdened
And I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you
 and learn from me,
For I am gentle and humble in heart,
 and you will find rest for your souls.
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

More than a view: the spiritual practice of noticing

Looking out from our back porch, a visitor to our new home once lamented, “Too bad they left those trees to spoil your view.” She was referring to a stand of three pines left as remnants of the thick foliage that once covered our lot.

Now, this is the view.

Plenty to take in. It is marvelous, show-stopping, in fact. And by my account, it is not at all spoiled by the trees. Actually, it’s enhanced by the them. Yes, because they add color, texture and dimension, but also because they form a frame for my daily animation. They provide branches for the bluebirds to perch on and peck at, a stage from which the cardinals often sing, a scurrying course for the squirrels at play and even an occasional roost for a resting heron.

Yes, very far from spoiling our view, the trees enhance it. No, I don’t have an unobstructed view of the lake and its backdrop, but I do have a close-up look at the natural world that’s before me. As if I am part of it as it proceeds. Not just a viewer, but a participant.

I confess that I did wonder whether there would come a time when I would pass by the view of the lake with little thought, as if it were simply a painting hanging in my hallway, just a thing to be shown off to visitors when they came over.

Perhaps, if it were just a view. But its more than just a view; it’s a scene. And more than just a scene, it’s a setting for the characters which take the stage each day in my backyard. For goodness sake, it’s live theater! …with an unseen crew who regularly adjusts lighting and weather conditions, not to mention welcoming seasonal color changes in delightful hues.

My view is so much more than something to look at. It’s a marvel to appreciate. The shimmer of sun off the still water. Quivering reflections after the wind disturbs the surface. The overlapping V’s in the wake of happy mallards paddling smartly along and suddenly the startling splash of a diving osprey and then the wriggle of its prey as it carries it away.

Yes, animation calls to me. It insists I attend to it. Not just to see it, but to watch it unfold. The mind wanders and the imagination is piqued. What will happen next? It holds my interest in a way that no suspended moment ever has, however glorious. The view is constantly changing, and as I pay attention, so do I.

Isn’t it odd, this human tendency to seek the perfect, unobstructed view? To hurry past stragglers, shoving our way to the front to witness the spectacle everyone else says is worth seeing? And then to snap a photo in order to “capture the moment” forever.

But we can’t capture moments. We live them and, if we’re lucky, we live through them. As tempting as it may be to stay and enjoy the view, that’s not how the world works. Day follows day and we move with it.

We are not props on the day’s stage, but actors in the current scene in the performance of our lives. Our Creator is directing the play. This is such good news. In spite of our predilection for still life and snapshots, they don’t tell our whole story. They can’t as long as our view keeps changing.

How grateful I am for those pines that stand tall and proud and “in the way.” Instead of spoiling my view, they’ve expanded it.

What do you want me to do for you?

There was a blind beggar sitting by the roadside, or so the story goes, when Jesus and his disciples were passing by on their way out of Jericho. Of course, the blind man did not know who was passing by, only that there was a commotion. But when he heard that the stir was about Jesus of Nazareth he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Perhaps it was the plaintiveness of this man’s voice or the sincerity and desperation in his tone that got Jesus’ attention. Or maybe it was the man’s perseverance and increasing volume as he shouted to be heard that gave Jesus pause. Possibly it was simply the potential and possibility Jesus saw in the life of this man that inclined Jesus to ask that the man be called upon.

The story leaves no doubt about the delight that filled that moment. Throwing his cloak aside the man jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“I want to see.”

The circumstances in our world and particularly in our nation today, leave no doubt that I am that blind man. I’m that beggar. I am Bartimaeus, son of the unclean. Lord, have mercy on me.

Help me to see where my place of privilege has kept me in the dark. Show me where my teaching has been sparse and my learning was filtered and faulty. Hear my pleading, my sincerity and my determination to come face to face with the truth — a truth I have seen but not recognized, a truth I have heard but not responded to, a truth so ugly I have turned away from it in disgust and disbelief, even as it has been shared by trustworthy friends.

Today it is clear that the truth doesn’t disappear just because it remains unacknowledged. Truth stands its ground, waiting to speak. It waits for us to address and set aside the falsehoods, biases and preconceived notions which currently cloud our vision. It waits patiently for each of us to respond to the question Jesus asks: what do you want me to do for you?

I want to see.

Lord, heal these eyes and expand my vision. Grant me the courage to look at what’s hard to see and to listen to what’s hard to hear, so I can walk closely with you and with those who bear the weight of injustices leveled by me and by those like me.

Lord, have mercy, as we learn to walk by faith into new sight.

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