#quiet · #seeingclearly · #shelterathome · #ShelterunderHiswing · Christmas · Eastern bluebirds · Moravian Love Feast · Spirituality · Wake Forest Lovefeast · Wake Forest University

Glimpses of Blue

Suddenly I am seeing flashes of brilliant blue all around.

If you read my last blog, Seeing Clearly, you know that I recently went through cataract surgery and had PanOptix implants. After a lifetime of blurry vision, the world is brighter! And one of my joys has been seeing bluebirds flitting through the air in our yard, swooping down to pick juicy bugs from the grass, then coming to rest on a tree limb or fence. They seem to be everywhere!

Chuck Porter, Flickr.com

Years ago we put up a bluebird house on the pole of our clothesline and each spring I gently pull down the front door and view the bright blue eggs nestled in their bed of pine straw and grass. We usually have at least two clutches each year and I feel like they are part of the family.

I thought that our bluebirds went south for the winter, but I read an article that said many Georgia bluebirds stay in their breeding grounds and are even joined by Canadian and Northeastern ones looking for warmer temperatures. I love the idea that our bluebirds want to stay near home and welcome their Northern friends!

I never knew so many were living in our trees and bushes until my eyes were opened. What else has gone unnoticed by me?

This Christmas season, despite the inconveniences of Covid, I don’t want to miss a thing.

I am resigned to the fact that my calendar is bare this December. I won’t be traveling to North Carolina to visit with family and friends or getting together here at home for social events. I am thankful that our son and his wife have been able to work from home and have been very careful about being exposed to the virus, so we will have them and our granddog Molly here for Christmas. But I know many who are forgoing seeing their children this year and others who have recently lost a loved one. Some are sick and/or quarantined. The risk of a “Blue Christmas” is high.

I am most despondent about not having the beautiful music programs this time of year. My church is doing a wonderful job of keeping as many traditions going as possible, but I will miss the excitement of a packed sanctuary with voices and instruments lifting to the heavens.

Online services fill in the gaps. Sunday night I sat by the Christmas tree and put in my earbuds to listen to the virtual Moravian Lovefeast from my alma mater, Wake Forest University. At first, I was put off by the empty chapel and the socially distanced musicians in masks. But as I listened in the quiet, I noticed that I heard the music much more precisely through my headphones. I could differentiate the sopranos and tenors and follow the musical lines. The strains of the brass band and majestic organ soared. Without the distraction of other people rustling around, the melodic strains came through in a way that touched my heart. Although the college has shared the service online for years, I never thought to join in until now.

Click here to watch the 2020 WFU Lovefeast on YouTube.

My prayer for this particularly still Christmas season is that I will take in the lights, sounds, and smells with a renewed intensity. When I read an Advent devotion, hear a carol, or bite into a sugar cookie, I want to feel that same spark of joy that excites me when I see the vivid azure feathers of the bluebirds. I want to bask in the warmth of the tree during my morning coffee time and glory in the cold air as I take my walks.  With more down time I want to listen for God’s voice to make this a time for spiritual growth and to be sensitive to ways I can reach out to others.

            How are you making Christmas 2020 special?

#seeingclearly · grace · Spirituality

Seeing clearly

Life is looking brighter for me these days—literally! I had a cataract removed two weeks ago and a new lens implanted into my left eye. The results have been amazing—and I still have the other eye to go!

Since I was a child I could barely see past my nose without glasses or contacs. With my ‘new’ eye, I currently only need readers. Colors are more vibrant, and everything has a crisp edge, like the sky after a storm has passed. Through my right eye the world has a yellow tint, like an old, faded photograph. I’m excited to get both eyes finished and really be able to see!

I feel like the blind man that Jesus healed in Mark 8:22-26. Jesus spits on the man’s eyes (Holy Spit!) and asks him if he can see anything. The man responds that he can see people walking around, but they look like trees— I can relate! Jesus places his hands on the man’s eyes again and when the man opens them, he can see clearly. My new eye feels as miraculous as the ones healed by Jesus.

Jesus had a lot to say about sight, usually in the figurative sense. In the verses right before Jesus heals the blind man, he has a conversation with his disciples about what it means to see.

The disciples were sometimes comically literal with Jesus’ teachings. In Mark 8:14, someone has forgotten to get bread for the group, which is ironic, considering Jesus just fed 4000 people on the hillside with only seven loaves of bread.

Jesus overhears them and warns, “Be careful. Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” The men scratch their heads and say to themselves, “Is he saying this because we forgot the bread?”

Really guys? At this point Jesus loses patience with his slow-witted disciples:

“Why are you talking about the fact that you don’t have any bread? Don’t you grasp what has happened? Don’t you understand? Are your hearts so resistant to what God is doing? Don’t you have eyes? Why can’t you see? Don’t you have ears? Why can’t you hear?” (Mark 8:17-18)

Have you ever had this exchange with your children? Don’t you have eyes? Can’t you see the dirty clothes lying everywhere? But Jesus always has a deeper meaning. Here he is talking about our perception of what we see. Just as my eyes have had a film over them caused by the cataracts, our spiritual vision can be distorted.

Years ago when I was studying to be a hospital chaplain, each week I had to write up a conversation that I had with a patient or family member and present it in front of my group of supervisors and fellow students. It was a harrowing experience because the supervisors were not looking for how accurately I could recount the exchange, but for how my stuff got in the way of ministering to the person. Did I let personal prejudice keep me from reaching out? Did anger and grief from my past get in the way of hearing what the patient was saying? How did my emotions interfere or enhance my ability to be present in the room?

Peeling away these layers of yellow film from my spiritual eyes was, and is, painful.  It is much easier to let my biases and assumptions about others keep me from seeing them clearly. But then I am missing out on seeing them through God’s eyes.

One of the lessons I learned through those difficult chaplaincy training years was that often when someone causes a strong negative reaction in me, it is more about me than them. Have you ever found yourself irritated by someone that everyone else seems to love? This happened to me recently and I had to pray about the situation and ask God what was going on with me —was I jealous? Feeling threatened? Or were there legitimate issues that needed to be addressed?

I’ve found that when I bring this type of problem to the Lord, I find clarity. God helps me see the other person through his eyes of love and the scales fall from my eyes. Sometimes I need additional prayer treatments since the film tends to grow back over my heart. Getting rid of my ingrained ways of viewing others can be a slow process.

My daily prayer is for discernment, so that I can see others through God’s eyes and understand his calling in my life. Like Paul’s prayer in Ephesians, I want clear and focused eyes that allow me to see what God’s desires are for me.