This morning my family gathered together to write my father’s obituary and order of service for his memorial. After a while, we took a break and I walked outside with my niece and spotted a huge Sycamore leaf. It was the biggest one at first we could see and then it became a competition on who could find the largest one of all. We searched a long time and when we were convinced we had discovered the most sizeable one we began looking for the smallest one. This was harder because we had to look under, beside and move other leaves to find the smallest. Finally, we believed we had the tiniest Sycamore leaf in the yard.
It was another busy day with people visiting, numerous phone calls, memorial service being organized, visiting the florist, and other errands. In the hustle and bustle of things, a family must do when one they love has passed it’s hard to find the peace one desires. The big things, the things which must get done are easy to find, it’s the small things; the glimpses of hope, the good memories, times when the good of a life well-lived shines in the darkness of a loved one parting.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Saint John, chapter 1
What do You See? –
Last night after watering our garden and plants I sat down in an Adirondack chair and waited for Beth to pick a few vegetables. It wasn’t too long before I heard her say; “Look at the size of this creature!” Of course I knew this meant getting up and walking back to the garden to have a look.
When I got to her she pointed in a general direction and exclaimed; “Look!” At first I didn’t see anything but the more focused I became the more a giant green grub/ Tomato Hornworm (http://www.almanac.com/pest/tomato-hornworms) came into view.
“I almost didn’t see it.” She said. I could see why. The creature blended in seamlessly and if you weren’t looking for it you’d missed it. In fact I did a few moments prior when I watered that section of the garden. We left it alone, finished up our “harvesting” and went inside leaving the green grub in peace.
There are hidden gems, life enhancing experiences, miracles of the natural and supernatural all around us. Unfortunately we’re often too busy doing chores, keep schedules, meeting deadlines to see them. In a world where everything seems to move at a faster rate daily we must be careful not to let speed blur our vision and distort our focus.
This morning my Daily Office Reading had two sections dealing with focus. One was from the Old Testament, one from the New;
“When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.” 4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho. 5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.” 6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on. 7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. 10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.” 11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two. 13 Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.” Book of Second Kings, Chapter 2
“Then the disciples gathered around Jesus and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 1
As I reflected upon these texts I thought about what we keep our eyes trained on also determines what slips by us as we watch other things. Knowing where not to look is just as important as knowing on what and where to keep our focus. Elisha was waiting, anticipating, looking for something predicted and present to happen. The disciples were staring at what once was and had now passed. To keep ourselves facing forward, living in trust that our purpose and passion are before us, never behind, we make sure what we’re looking for is worth seeing.
Beth and I went to breakfast this morning and then ran a couple of errands. We went to one store and parted ways to retrieve our items. As I was looking at a shelf a woman pushing a cart toward me caught my eye. I stepped back to allow her to pass and anticipated continuing to browse after she went by. However, she stopped right in front of me and began looking in the same place I had been. “Wow! Are you kidding?” was the first thought which flashed across my mind. Tempted to say; “Excuse me!” I instead, bit my lip, and waited for her to get what she needed and move on.
On this journey of life, as we look for purpose and meaning, there will be two kinds of people. The first are those who help us know where to look, teach us how to be focused, help us see and concentrate on the things which are most important. The second are those who distract us, block our view, attempt to take our vision off of where it needs to be and place it on them.
True wisdom teaches us the difference between those who helps us see and those who’d make us blind.
Last night I attended a local sheriff’s training event called; “Citizen’s Academy.” It is a ten week course that anyone in the community can sign up for to learn more about the law enforcement work being done in our community. The focus for last night’s session dealt with the county jail. I was invited because of our company’s work with the residents of the jail and the classes I teach to incarcerated fathers.
Before it was my turn to present the Chief Deputy spoke about the jail, the residents, how they cook the food, book and transport residents, the contraband they find, the amount of people they house in a given year. Following this, some of the correctional officers, their commanders and medical staff shared stories about what everyday life is like working with an incarcerated population. The stories were mostly negative, interesting and scary. Most people don’t like being locked up and can show it in some unseemly ways. I listened as they described their typical shift experiences and reflected on the different atmosphere and environment I’ve experienced in the dad classes.
Most of the men I’ve taught have been respectful and willing to learn. They’ve opened themselves up to a new way thinking, doing and being. The correctional officers see the worst and, to survive, are trained to expect difficulties and how to diffuse conflict. I on the other hand sit with guys for a couple of hours a week and mostly receive their best efforts. They don’t volunteer to go to jail but volunteer to take the class. They don’t want to be stuck in a cell all day but do want to come to a different setting whether for a new way to think or simply a new set of walls to stare at for an hour.
It’s amazing how two sets of people can look at the same place, people, circumstances and see things vastly different. Perspective is a fickled thing.
Yesterday evening, on my way to my incarcerated fathers’ class, a woman driving behind me decided I wasn’t going fast enough and decided to ride my bumper to make sure I knew her disapproval. My frustration was starting to grow when I glanced out the driver’s side window and noticed the beautiful sunset. In that moment my angst and anxiety disappeared. It was beautiful and I almost missed it because my focus was on what was bugging me instead of more wondrous things. I even said out loud to the woman whose concentration was still on me going faster or getting our her way; “Look to your left! See what you’re missing!”
Life is full of both grandeur and aggravations. Each fill our days and we decide which we’ll spend our lives searching for. Choose wisely for you’ll find that which you seek.
Yesterday my brain went away. I’m not sure where it went but it definitely left my body for a while.
I had retrieved the keys to the riding lawn mower and was going place them with it for my friend who was taking the mower to be serviced. I then headed out the front door when I realized I should put on a jacket. Accomplished; I was about to lock the front door when it dawned on me that I didn’t have the lawn mower keys. I looked on the table by the door, retraced my steps, checked my pants and jacket pockets, searched in places I hadn’t been… Still no keys! “Keys can’t disappear!” I told myself, “they have to be here somewhere!” Again and again, over and over, I looked, searched but nothing. Exasperated I happened to glance down at my shirt and noticed the keys were in my front shirt pocket. Shaking my head and laughing at myself, I humbly and embarassingly locked the front door and went on with my day.
The whole incident reminded me of great wisdom truth; “That which we seek, we already possess, we must simply understand and receive.”