23
Nov
20

The Eye of God

Beneath his mask of anger, bluff, and bluster, God sees…

  • God sees the fearful, insecure child hiding inside.

Beneath the surface of the spreader of careless gossip, God sees…

  • God sees the fragile, wounded heart, yearning to belong.

Beneath the exterior of the wild, risk-taking daredevil, God sees…

  • God sees the calloused heart aching to revive a sense of the wonder of life.

Beneath the veneer of the driven, polished, professional high achiever, God sees…

  • God sees the yawning deficit of love and self-regard.

Beneath the façade of cool indifference, God sees…

  • God sees the ocean of anxiety and insecurity.

Beneath the symptoms of depression and despair, God sees…

  • God sees a tender, hopeful heart, eager to connect.

Behind towering walls of debilitating addiction, God sees…

  • God sees the beautiful, flawless mirror of the soul, created to reflect its Source.

God sees what is.

God sees what was.

God sees what could be.

God sees it all.

God invites each of us to open the eyes of our hearts and see… REALLY see. 

… to see as God sees.

… to weep as God weeps.

… to love as God loves.

And then, having seen, to give thanks.

Abundant blessings;

20
Nov
20

“I Surrender!”

Like many men of my age, I was quite the little warmonger as a child.

My friends and I loved to do nothing more after school than get together in the big field behind Jeff and David’s houses and play ARMY. As soon as we got home, we would drop our books, say hello to our parents, grab our toy guns, and head out.

Please understand; these guns didn’t actually shoot anything. Not BBs, not pellets, not even air. We “killed” members of the opposing army by aiming our rifle at them and making some kind of “POW!” noise with our mouths. 

Each soldier was on the honor system to die fair and square when shot by someone from the other side.

One of the hardest things to do in the game of Army, however, was to surrender. 

Surrendering only became necessary when someone from the opposing army stealthfully crept up on your hiding place, pointed his gun at you and said, “OK, Rusty! (my childhood nickname). I see you there behind the garage. Put down your gun and come out with your hands up!”

To be captured was humiliating and embarrassing. Each of us would have preferred to be shot dead, complete with a well-rehearsed death swoon, over being captured by the other side.

Today, even though my last backyard Army battle took place more than 50 years ago, I look around and see that many of us still have the same problem that gripped my boyhood friends and me. 

That is to say, it seems that a lot of us today would rather die than surrender

The health crisis that grips our country is a prime example. The scientists and epidemiologists who have spent their lives studying these things tell us that we are all going to have to – at least temporarily – surrender some of our customary practices to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

They say, for example, that…

  • … we are going to have to surrender our plans for large family Thanksgiving gatherings.
  • … we are going to have to surrender our desire to walk around maskless in public places.
  • … we are going to have to surrender our plans to go to restaurants, sporting events, worship gatherings, and concerts. 
  • … we are going to have to surrender our habit of walking around with dirty hands.

But mostly, the doctors and scientists say, we are going to have to surrender our belief that we are each the masters (or mistresses) of our own domains, free from ANY need to constrain ANY of our behaviors.

We become incensed. We stand up proudly and say – with raised voices – “THAT’S not the America I believe in! No SIR! I live in the land of the FREE! I’m not surrendering my freedom to ANYONE!”

Which is kind of funny, considering all the “surrendering” we each do on a routine, daily basis. 

  • If you are married, you know exactly what I am talking about. Healthy marriages are based on the art of compromise…  in other words, the art of surrendering MY agenda to OUR agenda. 
  • When we get into a car, we surrender to the authority of our local traffic laws.
  • When we get onto a plane (which some people still do, I hear), we completely surrender our lives to the skill of our pilot and the integrity of the air traffic control system. 

And would you believe it? Jesus actually went so far as to teach his disciples that surrender was the key to eternal life! He is recorded in each of the gospels saying something similar, but here are his words from the Gospel of Mark: “He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?’” (Mark 8:34-35, NRSV). 

For many of us, the idea of surrender can still be frightening. It can suggest a loss of control over the circumstances of our lives. 

But what if, instead of seeing it as a matter of LOSING control, we instead saw surrender as TURNING OVERcontrol… 

… that is, turning over control to the One who designed the whole crazy thing in the first place?

Abundant blessings;

18
Nov
20

Let There Be Lights!

I have something of a love/hate relationship with Christmas lights.

I LOVE seeing them up, sparkling and twinkling their good tidings to the world. But honestly… I really HATE the work of getting them up there.

In the interest of safety, I have been forbidden to use anything higher than a stepladder to hang Christmas lights… which is probably a good thing. Lacking that constraint, I might be tempted to climb out to the tippiest, toppiest point on our roofline to fasten that ONE LAST light – only to become yet one more sad senior statistic.

This Christmas season – almost one year exactly since our move to Fort Collins, Colorado – was going to be a blessed respite from the luminous pressures of our previous neighborhood in Kansas City. 

For the past 10 years, Joan and I lived in a compact little 23-house neighborhood in Overland Park, Kansas called Terrace Place. However, between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day Terrace Place magically morphed into CHRISTMAS PLACE and became a must-see destination for people from all over the city. 

I am not exaggerating a bit when I say that lines of cars and tourist buses backed up for blocks, waiting for the chance to cruise slowly through Christmas Place, admiring the creativity and radiant revelry of the CP neighbors. Those visitors also always contributed generously to the Salvation Army kettle at the end of one of our cul-de-sacs.

We always LOVED seeing the joy on visitor’s faces. But we also DREADED the approach of those days of ladders and lights and extension cords and staple guns and Ben Gay ointment. 

And so, the plan – coming here into our new neighborhood – was to free ourselves completely from the pressures of The Show. Joan and I were going to be content putting up our homemade manger scene in the front yard, sticking a wreath on the front door, and calling it good.

But then came 2020.

Then came the time of the global pandemic… the time of unprecedented national discord and division… the age of overworked doctors and nurses, overstressed parents, terrified essential workers and people barely hanging on and people who lost their jobs… then came the time of fear and uncertainty and tension and trauma and – let’s just say it – DARKNESS

And so, we decided – with maybe a little hesitation at first – that 2020 was NOT the right year to take a Christmas lighting hiatus. If anything, this year seems to demand something like a defiant YES! to the deafening NO! that we seem to be hearing from every corner. 

Admittedly, the writer of John’s gospel did not have C9, multicolored, LED Christmas lights in mind when writing these words, but the point could not have been clearer in John’s prologue: “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5, NRSV).

JESUS – the true light of the world – came to earth expressly for the purpose of overcoming darkness with light.

I know it is a bit trivial and naïve to believe that stringing up a few strands of lights – stepladder height! – amounts to any kind of prophetic resistance to the powers of darkness and despair in the world. 

The REAL resistance for any of us, of course, comes in the form of the lives we lead and the burdens we lift in the process. 

But maybe, just maybe, those silly strands will pierce through someone’s cloud for a quick moment and they will look up and smile… and give thanks. 

Abundant blessings;

16
Nov
20

Longing for Results

Folks, I am so tickled with myself I can hardly stand it!

This past weekend I decided to take on a daunting auto maintenance task… and I DID IT! With all fingers and toes still accounted for, no less!

Actually, “daunting” might be a teeny bit of an overstatement. However, it is not an overstatement to say that I performed an auto maintenance task that was necessary and long overdue and that made a HUGEdifference. 

You see, Joan and I drive cars that are nine and 11 years old, respectively. Despite their advanced age, our cars are both reliable, paid for, and smooth running. But we have found that, over time, the headlights on each car were starting to look a little “frosted” and dull. Recently, while driving at night, we saw that they don’t light up the road as well as they once did.

And so … TA DAH! Enter the magical 3M Headlight Restoration Kit and Master Mechanic RUSSELL! [No… today’s blog post is not sponsored or paid for by the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company… Even though it really should be!]

After spending about 40 minutes on each car, working with my drill/power sander and the KIT, Joan and I are each now the proud owners of cars with clean, crystal clear headlights… just like the day they rolled out the factory door.

Ah! RESULTS

“Big deal,” I hear you saying, somewhat dismissively. “You cleaned up your car’s headlights! What will you do for an encore… vacuum the living room?”

In the first place, buster, it IS a big deal.

But besides the finished product itself, the thing that really caught me by surprise was how deeply SATISFYING it was to see a tangible OUTCOME from my efforts. All of which made me realize just how rarethat experience was for me. 

You see, my work – prior to my retirement last year – was in professional, ordained ministry. I found the work to be challenging, rewarding, frustrating, satisfying, uplifting, and soul-crushing… sometimes all in the same week. No two days were ever the same and The Unexpected was a regular visitor to my office door.

But as much as I felt a fit, a divine calling, and deep GRATITUDE for the work of ministry, I can’t really say I ever saw much in the way of tangible RESULTS from my work. 

I mean, sure, there were plenty of those “thin places” that Marcus Borg talks about… the times when you suddenly see that there is very little standing between you and God’s overwhelming glory and grace… the times that drive you to your knees in praise and awe. 

I experienced many, many “holy moments” with families at the bedside of a loved one, or in fervent prayer during a crisis, or while exploring the scriptures in a small group. I witnessed an abundance of transcendent moments of praise and worship that took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. 

Nevertheless, it was a rare moment indeed to see a person in whom I could see the same kind of dramatic “before” and “after” profile I saw in my Altima’s headlight lenses. There were times in my work when – I will confess – I looked up from my relentless buffing and polishing and shining and said, “God… is my work EVERgoing to make a difference here?”

And inevitably God looked down with that gentle forbearance God is so famous for, smiled, and said, “Oh, Russell, my poor, misguided servant. How is it that you so consistently miss the point of the work I have called you to? How many times do I have to remind you that, 1.) results are in MY hands, not YOURS, and 2.) as a flawed, finite human being, you are not even equipped to see the eternal impact you might be making here?”

God then continued in that same gentle voice and said, “I guess this is the time when I need to remind you – YET AGAIN – that you were called to faithfulness, not to attaining any sort of earthly measures of success.”  

And then, as if to drive the point home, God gave one of those cosmic chuckles and said, “If you really want to see some results your work, may I suggest planting a garden? Or better yet, working on your CAR?”

All I could say in response was, “Touché, God. I’ll go get the ‘3M Headlight restoration kit’ right now.”

Abundant blessings;

13
Nov
20

Sorry… it’s my fault

Dear blogosphere friends; 

You may officially call off the search. I have decided it is time to come forward and confess.

            I know most of you have been searching high and low in a relentless effort to figure out who to blame for the hot, steaming mess that 2020 has been so far. 

            Well, search no further because it is ME.

            At least I’m pretty sure I’m to blame.

            You see, at the beginning of this year I was given an assignment; an assignment I failed to fulfill. And so, as a result, here we are… crumpled up and flaming at the end of the tarmac, just like an airplane that tried to take off and tragically failed to gain any lift.

            That assignment?

            It’s spelled out right there in black and white. Right there in John’s gospel, chapter 15, verse 12 I was told, in no uncertain terms, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” 

            And I blew it.

            This year I have been angry. I have been petty. I have blamed others for the shortcomings in my life and in the world around me. I have held grudges. I have failed to reach out to sisters and brothers in need. I have looked for excuses instead of opportunities. I have judged. I have pouted. I have fostered discord. I have withheld forgiveness.

            I have told God I am sorry, but I wanted to tell you, too. 

            I don’t know if there is enough time left in this year to turn things around, but what the heck…

            … I once read somewhere that, “… with God, all things are possible.”  (Matthew 19:26, NRSV).

            I sure hope so!

Abundant blessings;

12
Nov
20

No Strings Attached

Joan thinks of me as a hard-working guy.

  • The truth is, I am lazy to the core.

My doctor and various family members say they are impressed by my health and vitality.

  • The truth is, I hate to exercise and LOVE stuffing my face with “bad” food.

Some folks have described me as mellow and laid-back.

  • The truth is, I often have a hard time controlling my temper.

People have told me they like the way I write.

  • The truth is my writing has more rough edges and blatant errors than it should… especially considering my education and all these years of practice.

I have been complimented for my theological insight and apparent dedication to spiritual disciplines.

  • The truth is, I am much shallower and more spiritually immature than a person who calls himself a Christian really should be.

To some, I appear to be compassionate and actively invested in helping secure the well-being of other people.

  • The truth is, I am mostly concerned about myself and what is best for me.

Reading through this list, you might be tempted to believe I am brutally honest when it comes to self-assessment.

  • The truth is, I dwell mostly in the land of delusion and self-deception.

Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32, NRSV). 

  • The truth is, facing hard realities about oneself is usually the last thing most people want to do.

Why is that do you suppose? I mean, if we take Jesus at his word (and I do), it means most of us regularly choose imprisonment over freedom… illusion over reality… enslavement over liberation.  

I suspect it has to do with the fact that it is a lot more comfortable to live inside our own, carefully constructed “house of mirrors” than it is to face up to the sharp edges of reality. 

  • It reminds me of my friend who refused to see a doctor about his periodic bouts of “heartburn” … right up until he died in his living room recliner of a massive heart attack. 
  • … or the character “Red” Redding (played by Morgan Freeman) in the movie Shawshank Redemption. After spending most of his life behind bars, Red is finally released from prison, but finds that he ultimately can’t handle the freedom of life on the outside. 

Yes, living in the truth is hard. But it is even harder if we neglect to factor God’s amazing, redeeming, life-changing, future-altering GRACE into the picture. 

We can’t ever forget that God SEES exactly who each of us is. God KNOWS us better than we know ourselves. God REMEMBERS every sin, error, and injury from our past. God ANTICIPATES every major and minor slip-up we will commit in the future.

AND YET… God says, “I forgive you. I love you. Because of my infinite, unconditional love for you, I put on flesh and died for you. In that same love, I offer you this new day as a blank slate, here for you to create upon. Yes, I know you will probably find a way to mess it up somehow, but I still give it freely to you… no strings attached.”

To which I can only say, “Hallelujah and AMEN!”

And THAT is the truth.

Abundant blessings;

10
Nov
20

Renew Your Strength

“Just wait. It will happen.”

Don’t you just love it when you hear those words… almost always spoken with a slight, knowing smile.

Today, if I heard that phrase from someone, I might seriously think about renouncing my personal pledge of non-violence. I might just haul off and pop somebody.

WAITING is about all I seem to be doing these days. 

Last week we had to wait longer than I can ever remember to finally know the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

  • Some say that they are STILL waiting…

Joan and I waited two months longer than originally estimated for our kitchen remodeling project to begin. Now that it is finally underway, we are waiting less-than-patiently for it to be DONE

  • In the meantime, though, we are discovering an amazingly wide variety of things one can cook using only a microwave or a toaster oven. 

On the national level, most of us are still waiting (again, not terribly patiently) for some kind of “dialing down” of the state of emergency around the COVID-19 pandemic… whether through the distribution of a vaccine or a decrease in infection levels or some other solution. 

Most of the time, waiting does not sit well with me. I am impatient. I squirm uncomfortably at the idea of sitting or standing in the same place for multiple minutes. I am that guy at the grocery store who carefully scans each cash register line to see which one is moving the fastest before I pick the one to enter. And yes… I have also been known to switch check-out lines even after initially committing to one.

To be clear… I am not at all proud of this character flaw of mine. But I suspect I am not the only one afflicted with this particular defect…

Am I?

So – assuming I am not talking to the four winds here – why do we find it so hard to WAIT? Why don’t we trust the wise guidance of our elders who told us things like, “Good things come to those who wait,” or, “Patience is a virtue”? Why do we seem to be incapable of learning from the biblical example of the children of Israel who had to endure not one… not two… not three… but FOUR periods of exile from their homeland… waiting for God’s deliverance?

We might blame our impatience on the surrounding culture. It is hardly news that we live today in a time of instant gratification on nearly every front; Instant cooking, instant information, instant entertainment, and instant relationships are all available to us… at the click of a button. Or mouse. Or computer key.

Or we might blame our elevated standard of living, thanks to easily available consumer credit. Christmas club savings accounts are now a thing of the past thanks to the MAGIC PLASTIC CREDIT CARD! You say you want it? No problem… go get it and CHARGE it… but be sure you ignore that 22% annual interest rate spelled out in microscopic type on the statement. 

But as tempting as those two scapegoats are, I suspect the real answer lies a lot closer to our inside jacket pocket. That is to say, the real underlying cause behind our epic inability to wait comes from right HERE (… points to chest). 

I have decided that my impatience – maybe yours, too – stems from the absurd and often outsizedsignificance we give to that thing out there waiting on the horizon. Here is what I mean; when we allow ourselves to believe that the thing we are waiting for… whether it is the election results, the completed kitchen, the end of quarantine, the vacation, the diploma, the new car, the new job, the new spouse, the concert, the football game, the WHATEVER… is the thing that will finally make all things right in our life, we have a VERY hard time waiting for it to arrive.

Once again, we have been “caught out,” believing that our ultimate fulfillment in life comes from lining up the right set of CIRCUMSTANCES, forgetting that God calls us instead to cultivate the right RELATIONSHIP to our circumstances, whatever they might be. 

Why do we have such a hard time remembering that, “… the grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8, NRSV). 

Or why can’t our thick skulls remember and appreciate the truth that tells us, “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31, NRSV). 

Come. Sit here with me and wait. 

It will happen. Just like God said it would.

Abundant blessings;

09
Nov
20

The Power to Change

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43, NRSV).

I never did like Donnie Avery much. 

He was one of those kids who lived on “that” side of my hometown… the side the rest of us tried to avoid. He was regularly sent to the principal’s office for disrupting class in one way or another. He regularly got into fights. 

One time I saw Donnie and two of his friends standing in a tight circle behind the drug store. When I got a little closer to see what they were laughing about, I saw that they had a frog they were torturing in some pretty sad and sadistic ways. 

The real breaking point for me though, was that day in study hall when we were both sophomores in high school. As I was walking up the aisle on my way to the pencil sharpener, I passed Donnie’s desk. Naturally, Donnie stuck his foot out and tripped me as I walked by. I stumbled forward, caught myself, and in one motion turned around and swung my fist at him.

Donnie clearly anticipated my reaction because as I turned, he was holding his own, freshly sharpened pencil out in front of himself… like a spear. The point of that pencil went straight into my right thumb and snapped off. To this day – more than 50 years later – I can still show you that graphite-colored spot on my right thumb where Donnie Avery’s pencil jabbed me. 

As much of a nuisance as Donnie Avery was growing up, I don’t think I ever considered him my enemy

Mostly I just thought of him as a guy to steer clear of, if at all possible. 

But LOVING Donnie Avery? Are you serious, Jesus?

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “enemy” as: “One that is antagonistic to another especiallyone seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent.”

Try wrapping your mind around that for a moment; imagine that standing there, right in front of you is a person who is yes… annoying, bothersome, and irritating. But then, on top of all of that, this person is also actively seeking to, “injure, overthrow, or confound” you. 

And then you hear the voice of Jesus sounding in your ear saying, “See that person? Yes… THAT one. The one who is out to get you? I want you to love them.”

On the one hand it is the most ridiculous idea you and I have ever heard.

On the other hand, it is also the most radical, revolutionary, and world-changing idea we have ever or WILLever hear.

It tests us.

It puts us on the spot.

When we hear Jesus speak that command, we are instantly required to give an honest answer to the question, “Do you want things to change? Or do you just want to keep hanging on to all of your feeble excuses for why they never will?”

Joan and I watched a special on PBS the other night about the Freedom Riders. These were the folks who fought to integrate the buses that traveled from state-to-state in the deep south in the early 60s. 

In their quest, they were insulted, screamed at, beaten, burned, shot, jailed, and denied due legal process by people who genuinely sought to “injure, overthrow, or confound” them. 

In other words, by genuine ENEMIES

And yet, guided by the words of Jesus and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they chose to not fight back. They did not resist. They determined to love those very real, very hate-filled enemies.

In the end, of course, they prevailed.

Today I wonder; if it was possible for Jesus to love those who sought to injure, overthrow, or confound him, and if it was possible for many of his followers throughout the ages to do the same, should you and I strive to do anything less? 

Hmmm. I wonder what Donnie Avery is up to these days?

Abundant blessings;

05
Nov
20

Listening to the Dogs, Part III – Take a Break

As I might have mentioned here before, our dogs – Patrick and Rosie – are Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers.

Like most dogs of the Terrier class, they are VERY energetic extroverts. Here is a quick little blurb from the American Kennel Club website on the history of the breed: “As versatile farm dogs, Wheatens were expected to do any number of rustic chores, like ratting, guarding the chicken coop, and even herding or bird-dogging. When day was done, they were engaging fireside companions, a role they still relish—even if the hearth has been replaced by a TV.”

We do love our doggies, but for Joan and I, it is a daily challenge to find new ways to burn off some of that seemingly boundless “ratting” energy. 

One day a couple of years ago, I had a chance meeting with a neighbor on a walking trail near our home. As usual, I was being dragged along the trail by Rosie and Patrick as they lunged forward in search of new adventures. I knew that Dave – the neighbor I met on the trail – had a 14-year-old Wheaten, so I asked him, “So Dave… how many more years of this wild vigor do we have to look forward to?” 

Dave just smiled and said, “Oh, you probably only have another nine or ten years before they calm down a little.”

Thanks for that wonderful reassurance, Dave.

And yet, despite that seemingly bottomless well of energy, Rosie and Patrick also both know how to relax… as you can see from this picture. 

  • They do not seem to feel the need to continually check things off their “To Do” lists. 
  • They are not frantic about checking and re-checking their social media feeds every 20 seconds.
  • They do not suffer even the slightest case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, for the uninitiated). 
  • They do not tie their self-worth to their daily productivity. 

When their bodies tell them it is time to just lay down and relax, they readily obey. 

Sounds like something I could stand to learn a little more about. 

All of us know – probably because we have all been told this at our annual physicals – that good health demands adequate rest. The standard prescription of eight hours of sleep per night still stands… despite the fact that it is rarely observed. 

Curiously enough, God also believes in the principle of rest. So strongly, in fact, that the notion of rest – also known as sabbath – made it onto God’s Top Ten List: “But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.” (Exodus 20:10, NRSV). 

A little later in the book of Exodus, the Israelites decide to really, REALLY emphasize the importance of sabbath rest with this slight variation on the seventh commandment, “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death.” (Exodus 31:15, NRSV).

YIKES! 

Yes, our bodies – finite and limited as they are – need some down time. They need to repair themselves and recharge. 

But interestingly enough, God – not confined to the same limited, tiring sack of muscle and bone we are – also decided to take a day off. I am sure He did it as a way of helping us understand the importance of rest. 

But maybe it was also His way of saying, “Stop. Smell the flowers. EXPERIENCE the world I’ve made. Take a breath. Cease from striving and celebrate the wonder and the gift of this amazing, unrepeatable life.” 

And sometimes, when we can’t remember to do that on our own, God sends a couple of cute dogs our way to remind us.

Abundant blessings;

04
Nov
20

Listening to the Dogs, Part II: Paying Attention

This is our dog, Patrick.

Patrick is a four-and-a-half-year-old Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier. He is the father of our other Wheaten, Rosie girl. 

Our nickname for Patrick is “Ever Vigilant.” We gave him that name because nothing… NOTHING… escapes Patrick’s notice. Here you see Patrick making a close inspection of a sewer we have walked by at least a hundred times… checking to make sure there are no threats or critters to be tended to.

Joan and I learned long ago not to expect brisk, breezy walks with Patrick. That’s because everything Patrick passes has to be carefully sniffed, inspected, and checked out. 

You know… just in case. 

Of course, Patrick’s vigilance can sometimes be taken a bit too far. His inability to let his guard down – even for a moment – must get a little wearying. He often jumps at the slightest noise or visual distraction.

But you know what? Sometimes I wish I were a little more like Patrick.

I wish I noticed more of what is happening in the world around me. 

Sometimes I catch myself wondering if I have lost that child-like ability to gaze in wonder at the seemingly mundane pieces of God’s astonishing creation that surround me every day.  

Even though I’ve seen them a zillion times, I feel as if I should still possess the capacity to be fascinated by the green of the grass, the puffiness of the clouds, the sound of the breeze blowing past me, and the smell of an approaching thunderstorm. 

Too often, I am sad to confess, I go through the world with my head down, ears closed, mind absorbed with something or someone that waits for me somewhere down the road… ignoring the splendor of the path I walk. 

Sometimes – in those distracted moments – I am jarred awake. And when that happens… when I find myself with eyes and ears suddenly wide open, I remember. 

I remember that I am blessed (we ALL are blessed) to live in a world that is DRENCHED in wonder… dripping with miraculousness… alive with mystery and splendor.

In that moment, if I tune in very carefully, I also remember that the God who created every one of us is also paying exquisite attention. 

I remember that nothing escapes God’s notice. As vigilant as Patrick is, God is a thousand times more vigilant. As the old church hymn says, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” 

But then sometimes, in the midst of a personal struggle, or when confronting any kind of widespread social injustice, I catch myself saying, “Well, God must be asleep at the switch. Surely, if God had been aware of that, it wouldn’t have happened.” 

But then I remember the words of the Psalmist who said, “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep,” (Psalm 121:3-4, NRSV) and I am humbled.

God sees.

God knows.

Nothing is insignificant in God’s eyes. Jesus reminded us of that when he said, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26, NRSV). 

God also cares more about the fine details of our daily lives than you and I can possibly imagine.

So today, be at peace. Notice the glory of the world right in front of you. [Actually, these words are much more intended to be spoken into the bathroom mirror to myself than to you. But if they speak to you too, please feel free to use them.]

Take comfort from the fact that you live under the eye of the “Ever Vigilant” Creator of the Universe. 

Abundant blessings;




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~ A Divine Unraveling ~

Poetry ~ Musings ~ Christian Ethos ~ Storiettes

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Pondering my way through God's beloved world

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Shreya Vikram

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