There’s just no beating around the bush about this. The events of these days have been hard to manage.
The news, more often than not, leaves me sad, sorry, or simply confounded. How have we found our way here? For surely we have all wandered into a movie no one would pay good money to see. Someone shut off the lights and forgot to illuminate the aisle.
And yet… there are glimmers that sparkle all around me. People who hold onto hope. People who keep doing the good. People who, against all odds, keep bearing the torch so others can see by its light. I see ’em and I wonder how they stand the barrage of the daily news and don’t wither under its fire.
Some just seem really good at keeping their focus. They’ve got their eye on that prize and nothing distracts.
Some are on fire with a passion — for kids, for family, for their art or their dream. A heart aflame compels them and nothing can quench that fire.
Some, it appears, are duty bound. Disciplined to the max, obedient to a fault, or perhaps afraid to veer left or right.
Some, however, seem unfazed by it all. (And here, I am not referring to the few that, by privileged means and with an apparently hollow soul, can turn a cold shoulder to the circumstances of others and go on about their business as if nothing is happening.) I am referring here to those who stand in the midst of the fray, absorb the blows and yet respond with patience and understanding, kindness and positive intention.
While I in these circumstances often feel inclined to reflect the world back to itself to show it just how awful it looks, these “unfazed” folks don’t stoop to this. Instead of knee-jerk reflection, they engage in Light of the World refraction.
“Refraction is the change in direction of a wave passing from one medium to another or from a gradual change in the medium. Refraction of light is the most commonly observed phenomenon, but other waves such as sound waves and water waves also experience refraction.”Wikipedia
By God’s grace, these remarkable people receive the earthly things that demand our attention but reflect them at a different angle. A Kingdom angle. Instead of holding a mirror to the world, they offer a different and better way.
I pray that we who claim the Spirit of God in our hearts and souls might choose to refract earthly things this way. To pass them through this medium of a different density and reflect them at a new angle to offer a Kingdom reflection.
To the uninitiated, it may look like magic, but we know it’s not sleight of hand. It’s just the same kind of refraction designed by the Great Optometrist who gave us eyes not only to see but to focus clearly on what God sees. And to be witnesses to it all, to the ends of the earth …
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”Acts 1:8
After three long days of sitting in scientific meetings telling me Americans don’t get enough exercise, I skip out the front door of the convention center and into a city I don’t know and turn right. Weaving my way around pedestrians, past store fronts, around tree stumps, over uneven cobblestones, I swing wide to navigate past a woman walking her dog.
Smitten, of course, it’s a sweet old dog, I pause to greet the lumbering black and white beast and smile at his owner who is gamely trying to pull her charge along. He’s being a bit contrary, ambling begrudgingly despite his master’s prodding.
The woman looks at me and back at the dog. “See?” the woman says nodding in my direction,”She’s sporty. We all need our exercise.”
I’m sporty, apparently, because I go for a brisk walk in sneakers and track pants. I speak exercise to those I pass, not in a ‘you should be’ way but a ‘don’t you wanna?’ way. This woman and I have never met, but one look tells her a lot and speaks even more.
Oh, the irony, as there are thousands of sport science experts just around the corner at the convention center, presenting their findings, debating the details, and lamenting the sad state of the health and fitness of the people in their communities. Ah, progress marches on and science with it. Knowledge is powerful, but what about the power of practice?
If we walk the walk, words are optional.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and rich. He sought to see who Jesus was, but could not on account of the crowd. ~ Luke 19:1-3
“The thing that Zacchaeus wanted to do more than anything else that day was to see Jesus. He failed, partly because he was small of stature but mainly because the people around Jesus prevented his coming near.” (JWRilling)
I am walking through the darkening streets of Williamsburg, VA which is swimming with thousands of people who’ve come to celebrate the season’s Grand Illumination. The periphery of the street is punctuated by torches set ablaze, and each has people gathered around to warm their hands and faces as the temperatures drop. A friend and I make our way down the middle of DOG (Duke of Gloucester) street. We are strolling down memory lane, having been roommates here at the college some years back, and have agreed to watch for horse droppings that were liberally distributed earlier in the day which are becoming increasingly hard to avoid in the dim light.
But one thing people do avoid are the “street preachers.” These, as did those in colonial days, stand elevated above the crowd by stools or steps, proclaiming scripture verses and Bible teaching. Not offensive. Not, you’re gonna rot in hell. Not, repent or die. Compared to John the Baptist at the Jordan, these guys are tame! They just speak words of the truth as they know it. And all the people give them wide berth.
Who, on this festive night, amid the splendid decorations and colonial costumes and fabulous fireworks, wants to listen to all that?!
My companion and I take note of this. In a sea of people crowding the street, there is a broad empty space left for these voices to have their say without ringing in the ears. She and I, both of short stature, did not have any difficulty seeing or hearing. We sped on by.
Full of hot cider and good cheer and with the booms of fireworks ringing in our ears, we retrace our steps along DOG street, retreating to the car parked several blocks away. Most of the other visitors are doing the same, some pushing wheelchairs, some holding the hands, some wheeling wagons, some are very, very merry. Many, it seems to me, are likely students at the college, taking a break from their studies before final exams.
As the crowd starts to thin we see a lone figure ahead, clad in long sleeve t-shirt and loose fitting, lightweight pants. “He looks cold,” says my friend. And that does make us both take notice. A very tall, lean, young man is standing, still and silent in the center of the road at the barricade to street traffic. He stares straight ahead. Is he looking for someone? waiting to meet a companion? Is he stationed there as security? None of these guesses seems quite right.
We draw closer, but his expression doesn’t change. The look on his face is neither bored nor amused. He doesn’t smile or frown. He does not pull out a cell phone. That, in itself, distinguishes him from nearly every other pedestrian. When I get close enough, I see that his t-shirt has handwritten letters across the front.
is scrawled in all caps on the front of his plain white t-shirt. He, as a silent sentry has drawn my attention and piqued my curiosity. How, on a very cold nearly winter’s night, could he be standing there like that? Stock still. Expressionless. I can’t help glancing back in mute amazement at the figure as we pass. On the back, in the same handwriting, the shirt reads:
What do we do, in the name of Jesus, that prevents others’ coming near?
What might we do, in His name, to draw them near so they might truly live?
Grand Illumination, indeed.