Thursday, May 19, 2011

Where I Have Seen Jesus Lately?

Some day you’ll come, darkness will cease.

True light will dawn, everyone will then see.

Everything new, we’ll finally see you.

Awaiting that day, searching for more.

While all along you are

found with the poor.

Help me to see that you’re all around me…

Our praises arise.

As we come to recognize.

Jesus is near.

Glory is here.

Glory is Here”, Michael Gungor Band

I ask myself in light of what I wrote in my previous post on the Ascension and "seeing" in new ways: Where have I seen Jesus lately? Recently I took some time to search for thin places where the veil between heaven and earth thins and God seems close to me. I came up with a few.

Holy Moments With My Wife. It was an extremely busy week for my family. A longtime member of one of our churches passed away, which meant that on top of all the normal activities, Laurie had a funeral to plan and participate in this week. But despite our business Laurie and I managed to get some good time together this week. Sometimes I think I see Jesus most clearly when I see him through my wife’s beautiful eyes.

Entering Into My Children’s Worlds. I’ve enjoyed playing baseball with my son Brady—who is playing T-ball this year. My getting down and entering into his world means a lot to him and—here’s the surprise—it means a lot to me too. I can tend to get caught up in all the tasks that have to get done around the house and disconnect from the people that actually live in the house. Growing up, this was what my parents tended to do; I won’t say they never entered my world, but it was less frequent then I would have liked. So I didn’t have a particularly good model of how to enter in to my children’s lives and my natural tendency is to do what comes natural: i.e., stay aloof. But I hope and pray that God my Heavenly Parent will supply what I lack and help me to enter in. Perhaps, in some strange way, there is healing for me in being able to supply for my son and daughter what I was not given.

And the effort must be working on some level and having a positive impact on my son. At practice the other night some of the adults were hitting balls to the kids. Brady was out in the field but when it came time for me to hit he said to his friends, “You better watch it. My dad can hit it very far!” While his sense of my athletic prowess is quite distorted, it’s nevertheless good affirmation for me, and it shows that the effort to enter his world is bearing fruit.

Simple Joys of Parenting. After T-ball practice last Wednesday I had what you might call a God-moment. Brady and Becca were playing at a playground with two other girls. At one point they were running through across one of the baseball fields and making piles of the freshly mown grass. They ran ahead of me enjoying the lovely May evening. As I watched them play without a trace of fear or concern, it felt really good—a little sliver of heaven making itself visible in this moment for my enjoyment. As the Sun set over that field, I found myself aware of the presence of God and thankful for the opportunity to be a parent. I think moments of clarity like the one I experienced that night help sustain me throughout the long stretches of mundane day-to-day parenting—and in life in general—that don’t seem particularly “holy” at all. Parenting is a very large responsibility; I won’t deny it tires me out and stretches me out of my comfort zone an sometimes I don’t respond all that well to being stretched. But then there are the moments when I am reminded of the incredible privilege God has given me to help him co-create two young lives.

In the Garden. One of our churches has a nice flower garden outside. Some people at the church offer their service to keep it maintained throughout the year. It is a true labor of love and a great gift for our church; the beauty of the place is a true blessing to me each time I walk past it. Beginning with the hardiest perennials popping through as soon as the snow melts (if not before), progressing through the summer, and lasting to the first killing frost, the garden offers up a place of ever-changing natural beauty. For the past couple of months I have made a practice of spending some time outside in the garden between Sunday School and worship. I sit on one of the marble benches and enjoy the natural beauty of the place and reflect, pray, journal, etc. I think it has been good discipline just to have some quiet time to reflect and prepare for worship. I think it makes my experience during “formal” worship more impactful when I have spent time ahead of it. Perhaps it “creates space” for God to enter my conscience when I go into the sanctuary inside. God is always there, but like a radio improperly tuned to receive the broadcast, I can miss the Presence if I am not tuned in.

At an Outdoor Chapel. We live in a parsonage—but not one owned by our two churches; we rent from a Lutheran church in our community. There is what I would describe as a small “open air chapel” at the rear of the church property. There is a little brick patio with two benches positioned facing a simple wooden altar and three stone statues showing different depictions of Jesus. If I stand at the altar I literally look into the eyes of Jesus on the cross adorned in flowing robes. Though the road is only a few hundred feet away, the chapel faces the woods and it feels somehow secluded—and sacred. You can see and hear the natural beauty of creation as you pray—the trees, the birds, etc. In the stillness this place I find that I connect with God. Here in this simple sanctuary, I can come and quiet the “noise” of my life long enough to at least give myself a chance to hear God’s “still small voice” when God tries to get my attention during the remainder of my day.

How about you? Where have you seen Jesus lately? Where are the thin places in your life?

I'm sure that some of us can answer this question more easily than others. If you find it easy to "see" Jesus now, be thankful for the gift of intimacy with God. If you are struggling to "see" right now, take heart. Scripture gives us the calm assurance that God is always near and promises us that if we seek him we will find him; God is eager to have fellowship with us. If we still ourselves, and train ourselves to listen, and look, we might realize that Jesus was in the places, faces, and spaces of our lives all along; we just didn't have eyes to see; we didn't expect to see him in those places. I hope that as we become increasingly aware of the presence of God permeating all of our lives and our world it will impact the way we live our lives. May "our praises rise, as we come to recognize: Jesus is near... and glory is here!"

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