nu·ance   [noo-ahns, nyoo-, noo-ahns, nyoo-; Fr. ny-ahns]

Interesting word isn’t it? I even like the sound of it, noo-ahns! It means “a subtle difference or distinction in expression, meaning, response, etc. It could also mean a slight difference or variation in color or tone. I was introduced to the word many years ago in my Greek and Hebrew classes because it became quite crucial to pick up on the “nuances,” the subtle differences and tones of new words, new vocabulary, new and expanding contexts of Biblical writings, in order not to miss crucial and subtle distinctions.

For the last 25 plus years of serving the church I have hesitated to use “nuance” when trying to unpack a Biblical word or context. Folk hear it and it can leave an air of “snooty” hanging like a cloud. But in these recent days it is time to pull the word out, because it is crucial to pick up on the subtle differences and tones of what the aim of Christ’s teaching and living was and is. It’s also crucial to pick up on the subtle uses of words so often on our own lips, words that initially sound accurate but upon closer scrutiny defy the beliefs, truths, and what young Timothy heard written to him many years ago in regard to living a truly faithful life, there would be those who would “hold to the outward form of godliness but would deny its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) The power that the gospel of grace could and would change and transform our lives, if we would dare believe it. John Wesley understood this to be the power of sanctifying grace, the twin sister of justifying grace.

When you pay close attention, or nuance, the teachings of Jesus and Paul they exhort people to “repent-turn around” from certain kinds of behavior and live differently. Jesus said that he came that we might have abundant life. Jesus says over and over again that he is the new “way” he is a new kind of “life or living.” Most of the struggles we have with life and living have to do with the choices we make and the behaviors we act out of which impact and too often sour our relationship with others leading to the kinds of troubles we live with. The Apostle Paul exhorts and encourages to live “in” Christ and allow Christ to live “in” us.

Because we are socially and interpersonally made to connect from birth on we live out our lives taking with us, all the “meaningful” relationships we have. In my life I have come to understand this to be living “in” and allowing others to live “in” me. When I leave for work in the morning I take with me, my wife Lois, I take my children, I take my mom and dad, I take those friendships that inform me about who I am and what I am to “be” in the world as I interact in the world. Those relationships “in” me inform, instruct, enlighten, and remind me who I am and to whom I belong and all my decisions are gridded through those relationships. These relationships have a real impact on everything I do and say. Living out of those relationships I attempt to honor and be responsible because I recognize how important I am to them and they are to me.

And then of course there is Jesus, my friend, my Lord, my God. It is in and through this matrix of relationship that I live in Christ and Christ lives in me and through the impact of the Holy Spirit I am continually in dialogue about how I would act in any given situation. When Paul says we are to “pray without ceasing” he is aware that there is an ongoing dialogue within, that considers and aligns my life with not only Christ but all those alignments that keep me “set apart” uniquely for a meaningful and purposeful life. When I disregard the “realities of these relationships” I am most in danger of becoming only “self-ish” and run the greatest risk of “missing the mark,” the nuanced understanding of sin.

In other words I am now under the “influence” of these relationships throughout my life. Notice I did not say “control.” God does not control me, my wife does not control me, my friends do not control me, I “submit” my life to each one’s influence and act and behave accordingly. I call it a “nuanced” life in the Spirit. It’s powerful and it determines whether I will act in bad/unholy ways or good/holy ways. It is the stuff, or using an image Jesus used, it is the soil and vine system I am a part of and connected to. Jesus said it this way, “A good tree bears good fruit and a bad bears bad fruit, you will know them by their fruits.” Jesus loves to use “organic” living images unlike those who like to pound legislation and law at others.

Jesus understands we live “in” the “soil” of our choosing. And that soil, those relationships, are the nutrients out of which our lives flow and bear good or bad fruit. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Church at Ephesus said it this way, that we might not be “alienated from the life of God,” and that we should not “lose all sensitivity and abandon ourselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ!” – Ephesians 4:18-20. I think there is something to be said about the nuanced life, a life where we are sensitive to what we are producing as our life flows outward in the world.

Paul and Jesus concur. When we put our “faith and trust” in God’s power, seen and lived out in the life of Jesus, we need to stop doing and excusing bad behavior/fruit. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t read or hear a so called Christ follower announce to someone else that “none of us is perfect,” or “I’m only human.” Let’s nuance the Biblical word “perfect.” The greek word for perfect in the New Testament is “telios.” It means growing and maturing. The use of “perfect” in the Bible must be defined and “nuanced” by the greek usage of the term and not some glossy, warped, and doctored image from the cover of some airport magazine rack. I continue to hear Christ followers excuse bad behavior and worse by suggesting that they are not “perfect, no one is.” I have never read anything in the new testament that either Jesus said or Paul said such a thing.

The other term thrown out to excuse bad behavior is, “we’re only human.” Remember this, we were only intended to ever be humans. God said when he created human beings that they were not just good but very good. Our humanity is not the problem, it is our willful choice to behave and act in ways that are not in alignment with God’s purposes for us and for each other and for creation. With those two comments, “no one is perfect” and “we’re only human” all the exhortations and invitations of Jesus and Paul to a new and abundant kind of life are nullified. The very “power of godliness” is actually denied. Oh, here’s another one, “Pastor I’m trying, I’m trying.” Now I know life is hard. But don’t we who have been introduced to the One who said he was the Way and the Life, don’t we talk ourselves out of that more often than not? You cannot find those words, “just try,” (isn’t that a form of works righteousness?) on the mouth of Jesus or Paul. I am convinced that those three phrases have wrecked more lives than can be counted.

If Jesus and Paul extend to us a “power” that frees us and forgives us from a past of making choices that leave us broken and others broken in our wake, leave us hungry for another kind of life, abundant life, will we not embrace and submit our lives to the same Jesus who said he would send the “power to be his witnesses” not just in word but deed? That power most demonstrated in a life of humble service and love?

As a father who has raised three adult children, I continue to ask this question, “are my children maturing/telios/perfect?” Are they “growing up?” Are they living out of a real and powerful relationship with their parents, their friends, their colleagues, their Lord?” I am looking for certain attributes as they grow up. Some of you are still raising young one’s. It’s important not to expect from your 5 year old what you might anticipate from a 25 year old. Its also important not to send any messages to your 25 year old that it might be OK to live as if they are only 5 years old. Understanding those differences is to understand maturity. We anticipate certain things from folks at certain times in their lives. We don’t “hold” things against one another when we realize they are growing into maturity. I wonder, though, if we keep people immature in their faith because we don’t challenge them to grow up in their faith, and even when we continue to send messages that aren’t even half truths? As we live in and out of all of our relationships we need be sensitive to this “maturing” process as we live with each other and Christ.

Paul wrote to the Church of Corinth “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!” (2 Cor. 5:18) Life in Christ is permeated with the new and that includes you. Earlier in that same letter he says this, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:17-18) Have you lived out that freedom? Are you being changed, not from bad to good, but from good to better, and better to best? That’s Paul’s words. Or are you just making excuses?

As a pastor I look across my congregation and ask the same questions. Are they making excuses or are they maturing in their faith? I know the subtle differences. Nuance your life today, be honest, be sensitive, you know the subtle differences between making excuses and maturing in faith, hope, and love. You do and so do I.

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Password Protected, Not!

I grew up in a religious “network” that had me convinced that there was only “1” Provider, “1” dispenser of the things of God. And unless you were “connected” you could and would have no links to the good things of God. There were rituals & words that remained secret to all but a handful. Slowly I realized I was an outsider all the while believing I was an insider in such matters. Although I was smack dab in the midst of a “Hot Spot” I never seemed to get the password stuff right, never got full access. My personal journey in the religious life continues to be the same although the particular Hot Spot, religious tradition is different. Someone always decides it’s up to them to change the secret password to get access to the things of God. Mind you I’ve spent the better part of my life invested in the so called “(pass) words and numbers” related to the so called Holy things.

My life long companion and I have had a few days this Holy week to talk about such matters as we have prepared ourselves for worship around Good Friday and Easter. And so as I reflect on the matters of “Password Protected” faith experiences I continue to owe her a debt of gratitude for her keen insights into the disfigurement of how faith is currently practiced to a disheartening extent and in the name of Jesus, whom we love and trust.

As I reviewed how Matthew in his Gospel re-tells the story of Friday through Sunday that first Holy Week it was intriguing to notice how the civil and religious populations were literally beholden to the political powers of the day. Actually, it isn’t any different today is it? Faith, allegiance, loyalty goes only so far, then even those who appear to profess Jesus as “Lord” turn to the political parties of choice to really “get things done” as the premium “provider,” I’m using that in a loose way to refer to IP providers, “granters” of access to the desired things of life and living.

The Easter text says that “He (Joseph of Arimathea) went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; Pilate ordered it to be given to him.” – Matthew 27:58 Joseph needed “permission” by Pilate to have the beaten and ravished remains of Jesus. The Apostle Paul refers to this kind of permission giving “tyranny” as the “principalities and powers.” You see, Rome was in its day the despised Empire, through its brutal extension of power maintained control through force, threat, and death (crucifixion). Rome and its “network” was extended by the likes of Pilate, Herod, and ultimately Caesar, each operated as “network” administrators. The religious had another “network.” But it had no real legitimacy without the larger “network” of Rome (Matthew refers to the network provider(s) permission givers as the Kingdoms). Matthew underwrites this reality when the religious establishment of Jesus’ own day went to Pilate and “command(ed) the tomb be made secure until the third day.” – Matthew 27:64. Holy Scripture through narrative exposes such coercive and destructive power as wanting and willing the same thing, whether political, religious, or personal/interpersonal, “Command & control” underwritten with “security.” Interesting that each of those issues is woven into the Easter story. In marriage it sounds like this, “I’ll bring home the bacon IF you do as your told.”

“So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.” – Matthew 27:66 The Roman “seal” was for lack of a better term, the “password” that legitimized the Roman “network/system/Kingdom” in the known world at that time. On this day the “seal/password” confirmed that the Provider had sealed the deal. Death & threat were indeed the order of the day and would remain so.

Of course ALL that changed on Easter. God having had enough with “networks” that provide humanity with nothing but death threats and that “you better do it this way or else reasoning.” Religious “Networks” that insist on “secret codes” or “secret passwords” for access to God are put on notice as well. The things of the Risen Lord are free, just like all the other “Hot Spots” everywhere.

I don’t know about you but I am tired, yes tired of those who peddle the things of the Risen Lord the same way Rome kept its constituents and prospects under their control by the use of threat, fear, all under the guise and in the name of security, that is the world and your life will fall apart unless you tow our particular “party” line. You know what I’m talking about. That person who insists that you have to say the “three words, or the four laws, or the six notes standing on your head, in a bath tub, in front of me, and think the way I do about such things,” then you’re in.

There’s a movement out there in the world and it started Easter morning. It’s in the “air” as real as the Wi-Fi Hot Spots that connect you to someone on the other side of the planet. Why isn’t it about secret passwords? Because Easter is a seismic and cosmic event designed by the Lord who made Heaven and Earth, you and me. And the Easter event isn’t password protected no matter what anyone says. If you happen to run into the Risen One he’s not asking you for a password and He is out there. And what’s interesting is if you want what he has, and that’s important to note, all you’ve got to do is WANT it. What is IT? Life, Jesus called it abundant life. There are a lot things that prevent us from living life abundantly. Fear, regret, debt, guilt, sin [in the greek sin is “missing the mark” ever feel like you’re just not getting it right?] a bad attitude, just a whole lot of stuff. Easter says, “He Is Risen!” And if He is Risen, then all things are possible. The Kingdom/Network is at hand, grab it because it’s not password protected.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

WOW! Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is “at hand,” it’s “near,” and had the audacity to say it was “in us.” 2000 some years ago some Galilean carpenter said that Heaven was as close as your own hands, your own heart and all anyone had to do was reach out and touch it. I’m suspecting the non-parsing types (academics) got it. That we could indeed be in touch with a reality that is larger than any one of us, that it would connect us to our beginnings, to the present, and into the future, was the Galilean crazy?

He said it was to be based in love, love being the core reality that has the power to bind us to our best selves, to each other, and to the very One who gave us our being in the first place. It is (and I hate to use this term) trinitarian, that is the essence of God is deeply communal and interpersonal, and we are and can be drawn into that. But we also have the very capacity to resist it. Which is where non-parsing types live everyday. Jesus knew that. He knew that real people living in real places live resisting or embracing that love. Every Jesus encounter in the Gospels reveals that story. When we decide not to resist we experience Christ’s power which changes the trajectory of our living and Jesus called that abundant living.

When a person actually begins to participate in that, usually long before parsing greek theological terms, they get it, even long before they know the differences between Thomist and Augustinian thought, long before they understand the fine points of Calvinist or Armenian thought. Hopefully long before they begin to load up their iPhone with contacts with precise addresses in Hell and Heaven.

I didn’t want to weigh in on the current wave of controversy over a guy named Rob Bell’s recent book, “Love Wins.” But it has given me ample time to think through a few things, just a few. You see I’ve watched a lot of the NOOMA stuff by Bell. He is a “creative genius.” When I see what this guy churns out, well I just marvel and thank God. Now in my former days, I would “resist” what good this guy is churning out because my own feeble ego couldn’t take it.

Because of my exposure to his work I’ve always understood Rob Bell as a poet, musician, as well as a preacher and teacher who “cuts” theology with an interesting artistic and rhetorical edge (sorry Dr. Christa Beth). For those of us who are both blessed and cursed by such angles of perspective on the things of God, Bell is an angelion (that’s greek for “angel”), or messenger sent from God, like so many before him.

One of my favorite Old Testament Professors, Walter Brueggemann, wrote a book entitled, “Finally Comes the Poet.” He argues that most of Israel’s Prophets were Poets, and most were misunderstood. Hmmmmm? A Poets primary task is to assault the human imagination. Was there and is there room to imagine the things of God from another lens? Often times the Poet in the Hebrew Scriptures finds out that the typical religious type doesn’t have an imagination to assault or see the things of a voluptuous God, as a writer I recently ran across put it. I cut my teeth on another Brueggemann book, “Prophetic Imagination” dealing with the powerful ministry of Moses. The stir with Bell is that his Poetry is indeed assaulting the imagination of the masses and undercutting the dry bones of institutional Christendom grounded in a tired Reformation that is in dire need of Reform. The response to Bell from certain sectors of so called Christendom is almost as bad as going to Cuba and reading the signs along the road side about how the “revolution” continues. Are you kidding me?

Bell handles theological stuff from that same prophetic imagination bent and I think does more than an adequate job tapping into the core of the human Spirit, the human imagination linking it to the God of our Lord Jesus, who is well, enormously in love with us. My take is that Bell is wholly uninterested in the ivory towers of a failed Christendom, he is wholly uninterested in convincing those who have turned the Holy things of God into some kind of cul de sac religion. Bell’s focus is on all those who won’t hear it anymore, who will choose hell over heaven because of a tired and haughty pontification.

Those of us who have encountered Jesus in a life giving way and life transforming way should know by now that “the medium is the message.” That’s why the medium of the incarnation was crucial as a delivery system for Good News. Jesus, the true human encountering and loving other humans in Word and Deed the way God intended. Jesus’ harshest words were aimed at a stale institutional dry rot when it came to religious things. Bell is uninterested in making a case to those “mediators” who exhibit a kind of smirk and glee that goes along with announcing that many are perishing.

It really comes down to a note that a fellow named Greg offered on this “Hells Bells” discussion. “We’re talking about the process of translation and communication, and the question becomes whether Bell’s more poetic “intensity” is totally illegitimate as a way of commentating on the quality of kingdom life.” My answer to that is absolutely NOT. See Bell has a “Prophetic Imagination” and thank God, “Finally Comes the Poet.” It is very possible, yes more than possible that God is as much a “romantic,” as much a “poet” as much a “musician” as God is a law giver, equation solver, mathematician and physicist that our scientific world view demands that our imaginations be beholden to.

You see, the linear thinkers, the equation folks, the people who like propositional truths, folks who like nice and neat, a tidy and tight world have invaded not only the public school systems and academic centers of our day and time, but also the theological and spiritual centers of our day. We used to call it a Liberal Arts education didn’t we? The “Poets, Musicians, and Artists” and their WAY of seeing God and the world have been banished for a good long season. That season is coming to an end. The Bells, and he’s not alone, believe me he’s not alone, have got the Bells of Hell ringing as a WARNING. Like the siren that goes off in the city when a STORM is approaching, the high winds of the Spirit are indeed moving. The Spirit of Jesus is on the loose and the “gates of Hell” will not prevail.

In the final verses of the primary document these words are remembered and spoken . . . “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who is thirsty come. And let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.” – Revelation 22:16-17

OH MY! A PARTY! Dare we imagine the END as such an event? A Wedding Feast, maybe in Cana of Galilee, the wine running over the top, new wineskins to contain it? Is IT OK to imagine such things? IS IT OK TO IMAGINE LOVE WINS?

The Measure You Give

As the areas of leadership I am presently responsible take myself and our leadership team deeper into the Heart of the City of Akron I have been contemplating the question and reality of Forgiveness. Unavoidably as we encounter the suffering, the broken, the wayward and the lost all of us will have to call upon, if not fall upon grace. What I have been wondering about is this tension between judgement and mercy.

As I/we seek to enlarge the Kingdom of God by inviting others to participate and experience the graciousness of a gracious God, will I/we have to be forgiven more for judging or more for mercy? The theologically correct answer is obvious and safe, both. Since calling upon forgiveness will be inevitable I hope that a leaning toward the latter will be most evident. That God had better have a boatload of forgiveness for me because I will be tacking hard toward mercy.

I am haunted by Jesus’ words to his own religious establishment as he sought to establish a new day, a new rule for his Father’s Kingdom, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”- Matthew 7:1-2 Gulp! Jesus seems to be warning that we now hold in our own fragile hands the fabric of another Kingdom or the same old same old. The measure you give will be the measure you get. Gulp! Mercy means to act with compassion. And the greek word for compassion is σπλαγχνίζομαι/splagchnizomai, “to be moved as to one’s bowels.” Now imagine such a response, one from the “inside out.” One that turns me inside out. A response where we’re “sick” at our stomachs because of the burden’s that so many carry alone. I hope I need to be forgiven for being heart sick, bowel sick over a world in need of God’s mercy. Jesus has initiated such a response in the world. Now he leaves it up to us to get sick for the world.

Who Told You that You Were Naked?

It’s easy this time of year in the northeast places of Ohio to be depressed. We wonder if the Sun will ever show itself for any extended period of time again. We wonder if the warmth that our skin in select moments still remembers will ever return. There seems to be a blanket of grey that hovers and weighs in on even some of the most cheerfully gifted among us. In the recent months I have noticed, though, a despair, dare I say a much deeper side of depression. It could be that I have for the first time made a choice to pay closer attention to such matters because of an honest look at these matters in my own spiritual journey, depression demands its own attention.

First a disclaimer. I recognize that this matter is complicated and no two persons’ journey through despair and depression starts, continues, nor ends in neat ways easily explainable and too often these journeys are completely incomprehensible defying simple explanation. I am attempting to gain some degree of clarity about the journey I continue to work my way through using the filters and the present context of my vocation to assist myself and others to grapple with the darkness amidst the light.

I presently serve in a suburban context where I encounter folks who have in many ways arrived. That is many of these wonderful people have believed the “dream” and possess the better part of it. When you begin to accumulate all the data that surrounds their lives every indication is that they are highly competent achievers quite capable of almost anything. The statistics prove it. Degrees, high-test scores, soaring income levels, beautiful neighborhoods, beautiful homes, beautiful attire, just beautiful people. Yet, a closer look begins to reveal the blanket of grey. No one wants to talk much about it but I’ve noticed it’s almost everywhere in suburbia. I’ve begun to wonder if depression is peculiar to the context of the competent, the overachiever, and as one of my former Pastor’s David Seamonds called it, neurotic perfectionism. I’ve wondered if depression might be the final “dis-ease” of places where the “dreams” of competency and endless achievement are peddled and sown.

Depression, being the deepest of any form of sadness, is the awareness that such “dreams” are really a lie. And that lie is what set humanity up early for a fall. It happened in a garden, at a tree, life without limits, life with no boundaries at a tree called “knowledge.” A faithful God who had created human beings in His/Her image with boundaries & limits for an abundant life. “You can eat from every tree but one,” Death is only mentioned when I imagine I could cross into a land without limits and boundaries. I am convinced that the “grey” begins to blanket our lives when we come to realize that we can’t do anything and everything. The despair and depression overwhelms us precisely at the point where I am most keenly aware that I could be exposed as a fraud, as not nearly as competent, not nearly the overachiever I offer to the outside world with my glossy self-portrait.

In the Garden that condition of human beings living within the limits set for life was called “naked.” When the first two human beings encountered each other it says they were “naked and unashamed.” They were essentially OK with that, with each other, with such conditions and we have called that Paradise. Life would be more than ample within that context. The Genesis account frames those limits of life with both the tree [internal limits] and the rivers [external limits]. But there is that one that peddles another “dream” which would become a nightmare, “You can be as God,” and she/he/we take a huge bite out of that. Suddenly our “eyes” are opened and we taste the bittersweet lie. And the next question that God throws out to those hiding among the trees is, “Who said you were naked?” Exposed!

For me, much of the deep sadness, despair, and seasons of depression come in my community from carrying that tension around internally and externally. The facade of my own endless competencies and achievements, what I believe the writers in Holy Scripture refer to as the ugliest form of “self-righteousness.” We wake in the morning carrying the heaviness of that from our earliest days as others, even those who supposedly love us the most lay on our shoulders like the books we lug in our backpacks the weight of that. Some never even get out of their teenage years living under the shame of being exposed, it becomes too terrible to endure. No we can never be as God, we have limits, and the real burden is, when “they” find out will they still love me? Mom, dad, sister, brother, family, friends, my boss, my associates, my God? No amount of gloss, mascara, or impeccable CV can finally cover up that sadness when we face that for ourselves.

As the darkness of betrayal and death descended on Jesus in the garden Mark records these words in his gospel, “A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.” (Mark 14:51-52) Jesus’ death on a “tree” exposes how far we will go to cover this darkness up. Eventually someone pulls on that “thread” and that beautiful glossy outfit unravels and I/we enter the darkness and depression for a season, hiding there until we realize there is One who absolutely loves us for who we are with all the limitations we have and then some. That underneath it all, the glossy facade, underneath the achievements, underneath it all is a real person that God really loves. And then we realize, its OK to come out from the darkness and from behind the trees.

X-Ray Vision (part 2)

“When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” – Luke 19:5 There he goes again, ‘looking’ where others would refuse to look before him. You see pretending we don’t see another is not a Jesus thing. Every remembered story in Jesus’ lived life carries within it the subtle gestures of Kingdom existence. Looking, seeing, gazing are the mannerisms of the Kingdom even if we were taught it wasn’t polite to stare. Who told us that anyway?

You see, Zacchaeus had a stature problem like many of us. He was ignored for some good reasons and for some not so good reasons, you’ll have to read up on him to capture those details. He simply did not measure up no matter his job status, his economic status, or his foot and inches status. The more he tried to elevate himself the more he seemingly disappeared. He was ghost in a ghost town.

One day as the story goes, Jesus hit the “spot” in Zacchaeus’ life, and it says Jesus “looked up.” That alone is startling when almost everyone in this little man’s life looked down at him, that is, if they looked his way at all. The antithesis of kingdom living has too many looking down the slope of their noses at the other. Wouldn’t we inherit the Kingdom just a little more if our “sight lines” were like Jesus’?

Restored sight, sight to the blind, and even blinding those who thought they saw, well that was a large part of Jesus’ life. What’s funny is that very little of that had to do with 20-20 vision as we understand it physiologically. I don’t know about you but I want to continue to have Jesus’ eyes. Remember that great scene in the movie Avatar, “I see you!” Bless people this week by “seeing” them.

X-Ray Vision

Jesus did it all the time, he “looked, he saw, he gazed” at people. The comment made by one of my companions in Haiti the last week was, “When the Haitian people look at you they look right into your eyes.” Many Haitian people could not look or would not look at us. I have learned over numerous mission experiences outside of my native culture that my primary mission tool are my eyes. I think it was much the same way with Jesus. Luke remembers and then writes in his Gospel an incident that occurred in the synagogue, “And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over . . .”
– Luke 13:11-12

“Jesus saw her . . .” My daughter was recently telling me of her experience on a subway in New York city. A man who was talking to himself, walking up to people on the subway and pointing, and speaking to them. Each person doing their best to distance and pretend he wasn’t there, that he didn’t exist. As I walked through the streets and rubble of Haiti I tried not to close my eyes. I did as I often do, I looked into the faces, into the eyes of people the world would just as soon forget. A people who have been pushed aside, a people disregarded, a people who have gotten used to being ignored. That takes a toll on the humanity and dignity, it takes its toll, it cripples the Spirit of a creature made in the image of God.

The beginning of hope, the beginning of a raised Spirit, a raised human being happens when someone will look deep into their brokenness and SEE there a child of God. It can be hard to locate, hard to find in the midst of the rubble and ruin of a place like Haiti. I saw as I looked into the faces and eyes desperation, yes. I also saw a frustration and even anger. But I also saw hope. More than that I saw a people created in the Holy image of God. Healing begins with a look, with a gaze, with one human being finding in the eyes of another, the dignity and holiness that God intended for each of us to walk this earth with.

I think it important that you take seriously how you see another. I am convinced their lives depend on it, that their ability to stand straight before God might have everything to do with how you and I look at each other. Here’s lookin’ at you.