Nothing is certain these days, it seems. Or perhaps one might say, nothing is certain except uncertainty.
That feels especially true when I put my trust in things I can see, hear, touch, taste or smell. Yep, the evidence of my own senses seems to betray me these days. Even old familiar things are tempting to disbelieve. Especially when our collective perceptions are so divergent.
But it’s always been so. And actually I find that reassuring. Because in the midst of differing opinions and the drawing of different conclusions, each has its own validity… in a way. And that might, if you go along for the unexamined ride, convince you that there is nothing to trust and no one to believe in.
OR … it might send you searching for understanding by diving deeper. For me, the resource that never disappoints is the human body. I never cease to find something enlightening, explanatory and remarkable, yet so astoundingly simple that it sits me down and shuts me up.
I mean, just consider how you see, hear, touch, taste and smell!
For times when the darkness around you makes it hard to see, God designed a pupillary dilation mechanism to let just the right amount of light in.
For times when the sound of confusion surrounds you, God designed a cochlear hearing system which resonates uniquely to every pitch.
For times when gentle caress feels distant, God designed subdermal pressure receptors so sensitive they leave you giddy at the touch of a ladybug or the tickle of a feather but alert you to a creeping spider.
For times when life’s bitterness threatens to spoil your table fellowship, God designed other tastebuds activated by sweet, sour, salty and savory for balanced seasoning.
For times when the stench of evil and injustice suffocates, God designed olfactory epithelium to compel you to seek refreshment and renewal by the winds of the Spirit of hope.
It’s amazing to think, isn’t it, that the complexity that is each of us could possibly have begun with just two single cells and 26 sets of information. But it’s so. Quite a Designer that must have been… must be…. and is even now as we go through life adapting and responding to what comes.
Who in the world would ever have thought of all that?
Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.John 10:37-38
You can tell a lot about a culture by how it treats its children.
I don’t remember who first said that to me, but when I heard it I knew at once it was true. The children among us … Do we support them? Do we include them? Do we honor them? Do we fund their endeavors? Do we prioritize our work with them? Do we care for them and hold them close? Do we respect them, whether they are part of our family, of another family or of no family?
This question was foremost in my mind several years ago when I read an awful account of the inhumanity waged against a child in the name of religious warfare. Unconscionable, I thought, How can one who bears the image of God act in such a way toward another who also bears the image of God?
I could only conclude that the one didn’t recognize this image in himself and thus didn’t recognize it in the other. If he did, I supposed, he could never behave so.
And that, naively, was the initial impetus for my book whose working title was taken from this blog, the Kinesthetic Christian, and which was ultimately titled Made to Move: Knowing and Love God Through Our Bodies. If people knew what a miraculous masterpiece they were and all of humankind was, how could we hate? How could we kill? How could we do other than honor all those we met?
Yet, here we are. Killing the other who is different, who is defenseless, who is innocent. Each one, created as a masterpiece and gifted with a life over which to discover and display it, denied it. God help us.
And God has. Through Jesus, God issued instructions, to seek to “Love God with heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourself.” Our lives are our practical exam. Our place to chisel away all that is not loving in order to uncover the masterpiece within.
O Lord, we don't trust we are loveable. We don't believe we are a masterpiece. What we see in ourselves, we often don't like And too often we take it out on others. We say things we don't mean. We act in ways that are "not us." Confirming what we believe about ourselves, not the truth of who we are, at least who we are truly meant to be. O Lord, today I recommit to your life's work in me. I acknowledge and accept your assignment as my instructions, trusting that the world you created and the circumstances in which you placed me are designed to chisel away the ugly and leave the lovely. My charge: To seek to act in ways which show my love for you and the whole of your creation: with whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, and whole strength for the good of my neighbor because of Your Good in me.
If the life I am leading is the practical portion of my life’s exam, I pray there is still time for me to earn a passing grade. And I pray the same for you. Each of us are commissioned into the work of our lives. Surely, in our day, there is enough work to go well around.
Today, I took my first step in addressing the gun violence being perpetrated in my country. I learned that my church denomination passed a resolution to end gun violence at its 2016 Conference. I will be participating in a group pledged to respond and to act on these measures. Not only is it way past time to do this but our very lives may depend on it. So many lives have already been given for it…
Perhaps, the same Spirit is prompting me that inclined the rich young ruler of scripture to fall on his knees before Jesus and inquire, “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life? ~ Mark 10:17
It is probably no accident that in the moment just before the encounter above we’ve just read, People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. ~Mark 10:13-16
If you would like to join the group we are gathering to learn more about the gun violence issue and ways we can address it, please send me an email here or leave your contact info in the comments below.
The way ahead looks grim. All options, exhausted. All choices, expended. Looking for clear direction but there is none to be found. If this sounds like you looking at today’s news or today’s climate predictions or today’s culture wars or any other of today’s intractable issues, I’d like us to go back in time. Back to a teetering moment when the Prophet Samuel shows us a way through such times. (If you’re not familiar with Samuel, have a look at the story told in 1 Samuel 16: 1-13.)
Surely things were at an impasse. The prophet Samuel, sent by God to choose Saul’s successor as King of Israel, had come ready to select from among Jesse’s sons. Seven capable, good-looking young men presented themselves: seven times God told Samuel “No,” cautioning him against judging according to their stature or outward appearance. But after seven sons came and went with nary a positive selection, their father Jesse must’ve been peeved.
I can just imagine him fuming. “Aren’t any of these good enough for you, Man of God?!”
I’ll tell you what I would have done, had I been in Samuel’s sandals. I would have taken a second look at those seven fine sons and, calling upon my snippets of Biblical education regarding “7” — 7 sons of Abraham (from the children’s song), 7 days of Creation (from Genesis), 7 is the complete number (from some authoritative Biblical concordance or commentary) — I would have convinced myself that perhaps I had missed God’s yes. Then, of my own accord, I would have told Jesse, “On second thought, I think … this one.” And right there and then I would have toppled from grace.
But Samuel, give him credit, trusted the word of the Lord he’d become accustomed to obeying and proffered a new way. “Jesse,” he asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”
And that’s the kicker, isn’t it? When the answer is not plain and, especially, when all the possible answers seem to have exhausted themselves, we tend to rely on our own experiences and resources. We fill the nervous silence with emotional angst and/or knee-jerk responses.
But how often do we do as Samuel did and wonder if we’re missing something? Such a simple question: “Are these all the sons you have?”
Turns out there was another son, the youngest, David who was tending the sheep. (Spoiler alert: He was the one!) David was summoned, and wouldn’t you know, “he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome?” (Apparently God does notice outward appearance.) But, we’re reminded, “the Lord does not see as mortals see, … the Lord looks on the heart.”
Perhaps in this moment, it wasn’t just the heart of David the Lord was looking on. Perhaps the heart the Lord was counting on belonged to Samuel. He was the kind who, even when it appeared all options had been exhausted, didn’t just dig deeper into his own capability. He trusted his instructions and the One who had given them and discerned another way. A new way, as the Prophet Isaiah phrases it, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
So many things feel to me like wilderness and wasteland right now I’m tempted to shout, Lord, show me this new thing! But I don’t think it’s the sort of thing that comes by shouting. I expect, it will more likely come by listening.
And, in the way of a perfect ending to a well-crafted story, the way will be clear in a “why-didn’t-we-see-that-in-the-first-place?” sort of way.
What is the question?
Prayer: Lord, we come to you today, confessing our inability to resolve many of the difficulties we face. Hold us fast, we pray. Help us to look, listen and trust. Even when we don’t see a way in our wilderness, you have already made one. Show us the way that’s waiting to declare itself to us; that’s waiting to welcome us; that’s waiting for us to choose it. Then, Father, grant us the courage to walk into it. Amen