I lift up my eyes to the hills–
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip–
he who watches over you will not slumber; (Psalm 121:1-3)
As we move about this world, it becomes all too easy to let our gaze be set on what we see out in front or down below. The mind interprets our interactions with our surrounding territory. Most of the time, we walk on level ground. Therefore, our perspective is shaped by what we feel, hear, see, and touch within that area.
However, as followers of Christ, we must remember that there is another Kingdom being built upon the one which we see only at eye level. The new one is infinite and transforms what our mind and body senses. It is ruled by Jesus, who, came down from the “hills” to point us to it.
It’s easy to allow fear to dictate our perceptions of circumstances here. Changes in health, job status, loss, and looming life-changing decisions tempt us to gravitate to Earthly self-satisfying answers. When we do that, we see ourselves through the eyes of the Israelites. Despite the marvels of God’s hand displayed in front of them, they longed for security in what the Earth can offer.
But we are called to lift our heads and change our view. The answer we need may not be found from the perspective from which we are looking. We don’t need to fear. Our God is aware of the struggles we face. The answer we need will come. We just need to look up.
Dear God: Thank you for extending yourself down from the Heavenly realms to this Earth where you have placed us. We acknowledge that seeking answers purely from our eye-level becomes very tempting. Waiting is hard. Suffering is hard. Please grant us peace as we fix our gaze on the hills and look into your face, and wait.
His presence in the doorway, caught me off guard. Normally, I observed him shuffling up and down the hallway with his walker. ” During my visits to my grandmother’s room in this assisted living facility, this elderly man and I routinely passed each other. Often, his facial expression spoke of anger and his sharp outbursts to others to “Move out of my way!” convinced me that avoidance might be best. In fact, he was known in my head as “cranky man.”
So on this particular day, I was startled when I spied him pausing in the doorway of my grandmother’s room. The door had been left open to the main hallway because my mother, sister, and I were cleaning out her room. A few hours earlier, we had laid her to rest. Her death brought an end to a deterioration of her health; culminating in a recent diagnosis of bone cancer. It was a day full of emotion, pondering and celebration. As we focused on going through the items during what was already a long day, “cranky man” wandered in to ask how things were going. I must admit that two thoughts came into my mind upon his greeting: 1) “It’s the cranky man who tells us to be quiet” 2) “I just want to finish”.
Ironically (and I’m convinced divinely appointed), my young son came running in the room which caused the conversation to turn to the energy of a 10 year old. Being polite, I asked our visitor where he grew up. To my surprise, he answered, “Chicago.” Well, of course, that drew me in. On top of that, he had been a pastor. Who knew that we shared two common elements in our stories? For the next hour, I was engaged in conversation with this man who I merely knew as my grandma’s neighbor.
I listened as Bob (no longer the “cranky man”) shared the most amazing story of his childhood. Placed in an orphanage as an infant, he was later adopted by a couple. His parents, both followers of Christ, added two more sons through adoption. As Bob told his story, his eyes conveyed the love he had for his father; a man whose life radiated Jesus.
Bob’s father was a physician and felt a tug to leave a potentially comfortable place in life to a small town in Illinois. The size of the town wasn’t an issue of adjustment. However, it didn’t believe in medicine! Despite the very real possibility of being ostracized from their new neighbors, moving plans proceeded. As a young boy, Bob wondered how the family would be treated. Would people befriend them?
Perhaps church would provide a place of welcome and refuge for this family of five. Boldly, they made their way to worship one Sunday. What would happen if anyone knew of his father’s occupation? Bob fearfully waited for reaction…..A man suddenly stood up; pointing at Bob’s father. News travels fast in small towns. The rumors of a physician coming to the town had been realized. The man; recognized. A demand to leave followed. Apparently, the perception of medicine was correlated to evil. Firmly, and bravely, this physician responded that his family was staying.
To three young boys, one had to wonder if they perceived that action as a blessing or a curse.
However, in telling me the story, his eyes lit up as he shared the courage his father showed in choosing to stay despite the church praying for him to leave. What would give his parents the courage to make such a choice? Where are they finding peace in this tension?
What Bob so powerfully witnessed was the hand of God moving beneath the scenes. This physician brought healing to wounds of the flesh but also restoration to wounds of the soul. The knees of three young boys ached from their nightly prayer routine. Patients names were added to other list. Sometimes, the prayers lasted an hour. Despite the admonition to keep the information confidential, the manifestation of the hand of God appeared before their eyes.
The transformation that took place in that town as a result of his father’s legacy continues to reap fruit. In fact, with tears in his eyes, Bob recounted the day his father died suddenly. The entire town shut down for the funeral.
The conversation morphed into lighter substance. We laughed about his rebellious antics which resulted in being kicked out of a prominent Christian college. We agreed that we would meet up again. How could I not? I longed to be blessed more from his gleanings!
In one hour, Bob let me into his soul.
How many other times have I tuned out such an encounter? What more of God’s character and works would I know if I learned to open my eyes and my ears to the nudges of the Holy Spirit? What blessings do we miss when we don’t tread in the places resided by the “least of these?”
I would have never imagined that the most profound moment of that day would come after my Grandma’s funeral. God is Good.
Have you ever dreamed up big plans concerning how you can be used by God to change the world? Sometimes God puts big plans in our hearts. Plans so big and so overwhelming that the immediate reaction is to run; or at least find excuses. (Let’s not forget that Moses, Jeremiah, Saul, Peter…. encountered those fears). Without a doubt, God is in the business of using us, imperfect as we are, to accomplish great things.
Yet, we easily can get so caught up in those big dreams that we lose sight of the many opportunities we have everyday to bring the face of Christ to others. Many of those opportunities happen in the mundane, moments of our lives. Jesus regularly spent moments with those who he encountered….while traveling, stopping at a well, eating with friends. We get so accustomed to the tasks in our routines; so distracted by the images on our electronic devices, the agendas that fill up our days, that we don’t see others the way Jesus saw them.
I am reminded of a few scenarios in which I, unexpectedly, encountered what I call “Divine” moments.
- Finding myself lost in a lonely hospital hallway while looking for the meeting room of a support group I attended, I encountered a man. After helping me out, he shared with me that his wife just underwent a double mastectomy earlier in the day. He was on his way to her room.
- While we were cleaning out my grandmother’s space following her funeral, I engaged in a conversation with a man who poked his head in to my grandmother’s room . It was an encounter that, at first, seemed inconvenient with a man, who seemed “grumpy.” I left blessed. (For the full story:http://stephaniejthompson.blogspot.com/2013/04/divine-interruption.html
- Helping a woman at a party learn to use her smartphone to see pictures of her grandkids, led to her sharing about a predicament in her life and an opportunity to pray for her.
What if you listened (really listened-you know what I mean) to your kids/spouse tell about their day?