has ushered in
a year of careful listening dedicated watching, actually seeing not, as the world would have me, superficial glances at everything at once. rather, a stopping a staring a studying to see for the very first time. Perhaps this is what the Divine means by knowing. I don't know but it seems so.
Recently, I caught myself smiling, albeit lamenting the message on the window sticker of the car in front of me. It read:
Whether meant to be political, personal or simply amusing, it struck a cord. It certainly has become popular, and honestly, understandably so, to berate the year that’s nearly complete, what with its plethora of hardship; death, destruction, division, sickness, sacrifice and sadness have all claimed the headlines. And that’s just scraping the surface.
It’s been a year, hasn’t it.
As I sit at the keyboard with hopes of penning this year’s Christmas letter, I feel a bit stymied. Gonna be hard to come up with “good things” to share this year. Even though the truly bad or worse has not befallen us, and by us I mean me, personally, the year wears a dimness and pallor that tinsel and sparkling lights have difficulty brightening.
Thus, I am particularly glad for a practice I began at Thanksgiving time, inspired by friends who introduced me to the prayer practice known as “I make an act of Thanksgiving.” I begin by first penning THANKS in the middle of my prayer card and then to pencil over and around it the many things for which I am thankful. Soon, what began as a daily expression of gratitude becomes an illegible cloud of thanks. A scribbled act of Thanksgiving.
And the funny thing was, once I could no longer read what I was writing, I wrote with more abandon: lists, phrases, descriptions… Who cares about penmanship and spelling? Repeats? why not? Whatever thoughts bubbled up got recorded, dashed here, dashed there, written one upon another, as wordy as I wanted. With no one else reading for clarity, completeness, depth or heaven-forbid, handwriting, I’m free to draft dreamily.
And this felt like prayer; not the kind offered to be seen or heard or deciphered by another, but rather the sort lifted without reservation, neither tested for correctness nor edited for proper grammar. More babble, less banter. More honest, less honorary. More admission, less admirable. More Publican, less Pharisee.
Oh, I see you there, trying to decipher what you can. Never you mind. It’s glad tidings all, with pets, of course, figuring prominently and loved ones a-plenty.
In making this act of thanksgiving I came to realize that 2020, in spite of itself, held many, many things for which I was deeply grateful. Though I can’t recite them all or even read them back to you, the evidence is there in the cloud. At first a legible light grey, it grew messy, darkening to shades of charcoal and ominous black. Were it a weather cloud, it would surely portend a storm. But on paper it has instead etched gratitude, happily rendering my penned THANKS enticingly illegible. To the human eye.
But Divine Sensibility is an audience that happens in real time. One by one. Toss…catch. Toss…catch. No addition or subtraction, no multiplication or division, no calculation at all. Yet, a relationship is fashioned which leaves no trace to the human eye. The human heart knows better.
Yes, as a sputtering 2020 forges ahead toward its welcome conclusion, I, instead of screwed, scammed or squashed actually feel supported. Something bids me to tarry here a while in what I might learn from this eventful year, given its unique perspective, challenging reflection and perpetually quaking scenery and tone.
Funny how, when we invite light to shine into the deepest darkness, it shows us what we would have never seen in the bright light of day.
For this, I make an act of Thanksgiving.
This pair of eagles was perched on the rooftop, amiably and companionably awaiting the rise of the new day, new month, new year, new decade. I wonder what they can see way up ahead, where their eagle eyes can pierce through the fog, the foliage and the distance.
My eyes, on the other hand, are such feeble instruments, requiring spectacles to read the tiny print and binoculars to bring distant things into focus. What meager vision I have by comparison to these two magnificent creatures. And yet, I perch before my day and pretend to see it clearly.
Vision, what a miraculous gift! But how confounding. Because my two eyes, set apart as they are, give me two versions of my world, one from the right and one from the left. Thus, I have two perspectives on every viewpoint, such that by holding them together I may compare them and judge their distance. This is how My Designer teaches me depth perception.
In order to compare what each side sees, some of the “image” from my right eye crosses over to the left side of my brain and some of the “image” from my left eye crosses over to the right. Thus, my brain shares visual input “across its aisle,” considering both sides before concluding what it sees. This is how my Designer teaches me deliberation.
Because of the unique properties of the lens in my eye, the image on my retina is projected upside down. The top is on the bottom and the bottom is on the top. Only as I use my body through my environment, touching, feeling, manipulating what’s before me can I convert the image to see it “right side up.” This is how my Designer teaches me mind-body connection.
Next, my eyes send this abstract collection of color, intensity and pattern on a journey to my visual cortex where the inputs are compared with patterns I have seen before and impressions made by previous experience. Along with other pertinent sensory input, all of this is “processed” in light of what I’ve learned and what I believe. This is how my Designer teaches me understanding.
Finally, I see.
Isn’t it miraculous how inside a problem lay its solution? How inside a question lay its answer? And if we pay close attention, how inside a human lay our solution for humanity? This is how my Designer teaches me about Himself.
Sitting together on a rooftop taking in the long view before the sunrise of a new decade, I pray we might see into the distance and be completely and utterly amazed. Now that would be 2020 VISION.
*For more like this check out Made to Move: Knowing and Loving God Through Our Bodies.