Look Up!

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“Listen! What’s that?!” The child that was me craned her neck and shielded her eyes as she searched the sky for a passing airplane or helicopter… If conditions were right, I could follow the trails of high-flying jets or passenger planes as they painted a pattern through the air. I sometimes felt a little dizzy as I focused on the world above me.

There were so many things to discover while looking up, elusive songbirds in the trees, majestic mountain ranges as we traveled for a weekend of camping, and ever-changing cloud formations to catch the imagination. Church steeples all around rose above the surrounding buildings… proclaiming the hour, chiming music, or directing our eyes and thoughts to heaven above.

The Bible uses a lot of images about “looking up” and “going up.” That makes a lot of sense doesn’t it, as we think of God on high?! A favorite verse from the Book of Psalms, (a “Song of Ascents” that was sung as people went up to worship) says, I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.*  Jesus looked up when praying to his Father, when blessing the loaves and fish, and when giving thanks.

When I look up into the sky by day or night or up into a majestic old tree, there is a sense of being a part of a great thing. As I look out and up at rolling mountain ranges, I am a small speck in God’s vastness. Think back or imagine yourself as a small child looking up at your parents, teachers, or others. The whole world takes on a different perspective!

I think too of how I can be focused on my own thoughts or schedule and I fail to look up and see others around me, to be aware of their needs, struggles, or celebrations. Sometimes I have allowed my self-focus to block out my awareness of others. In the book of Luke there is a story about a short man named Zacchaeus who had difficulty seeing too.* I think his difficulty involved more than his height! When Jesus came into into the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw Zacchaeus in a tree craning his neck to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Jesus saw more than the outside of Zacchaeus perched in that tree, didn’t he?! When Jesus offered him fellowship, Zacchaeus’ life took a dramatic turn. After he came down from that tree, he looked up and found Jesus who showed him a better way and who saw him as a person of value and worth.

My prayer for us is that we will look up and see God ever before us. May he open our eyes and widen our view so that we can see the worth and value of others, just as Jesus looked up and saw Zacchaeus. In so doing, perhaps we will begin to hear, above the roofs and the clamor of the world, the chiming of music… and to give and receive the gift of fellowship. Look up!

Psalm 121:1, Luke 19 

Above, Beneath, and Upon

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When I was a girl, I loved climbing up into trees. Sometimes I’d take a book with me to read, but often I would just sit… swaying gently in the breeze. I would look quietly around me and up into the sky and imagine what it might be like to experience the world like a bird. Darting from tree to tree or soaring through the air… their perspective must be so different from mine!

From the walkway in front of our small-town house, steps led down to the street sidewalk with a nice place to sit on either side. Beneath them, chipmunks made their home. It was a safe place away from the neighborhood cats! I had learned to sit very still, up toward the house, to watch them scampering back and forth. I wondered what they saw as they looked about at the world towering over them!

We people upon this earth come from such rich and varied backgrounds! Like the birds and the chipmunks which I watched, we each have our own unique perspectives. I’m reminded of the story in Acts 2 about the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles. People from all nations and speaking many different languages were in Jerusalem during the celebration of the harvest festival, known as the Feast of Weeks (Shavout). Can you imagine the crowds gathered and the diversity of the people?! Hear the shouts and voices of people making their way about the city. See the variety of clothing. Smell the aroma of foods cooking…

Then a great roaring rush of wind drew the crowds to where the apostles and followers of Jesus stood. Can you sense their amazement and confusion as they heard, from these uneducated men, the “wonders of God” in their own languages? … And thousands became followers of Christ from this one encounter.

One thing that I had never really thought about was that these very people, from all nations, then came together. They lived, ate, and worked together in their shared humanity. Their very differences were their strengths… Isn’t that so true for us as well?

I try so hard to consider the perspective of others and what might be influencing or affecting them. Some days are just more challenging than others, aren’t they?! It’s my prayer for us today that God will help us to better consider the perspectives of others and to acknowledge our common humanity. Can you see the people? Can you hear the sounds of life? Can you smell the rich aroma?

 

Reflections on Ants

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Size does not determine wisdom
• Don’t disregard the value of hard work
• Never pausing to rest will soon burn you out
• Things which look enticing may also bring negative results
• Never consider things from only one small perspective
• Focusing on only what is right before us can blind us to everything else
• Regular communication is key to life
• Working together for a common purpose brings results

• Helping those who are hurting strengthens everyone
• There are seasons to draw together and seasons to venture forth

 

Free to Be

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The car’s packed and we’re heading down the road to new adventures! …I remember my anticipation as a teen going off to college. Along with some normal anxiety, I looked forward to having my own schedule and being able to make my own decisions. I was free to strike out on my own. Free to be me… Rather a scary thought as I look back on that, but my parents and others had prepared me well and my faith in God was real and strong. Growing and maturing is an important step in life.

Free to be. Free to make choices. Free to consider future and present actions… But isn’t it also easy during that pursuit to become too self-focused, missing out on the richness and satisfaction of reaching outward in service and in working with others? We’ve all heard the clamor of the world. “He said…” “She did…” “That’s a lie…” “You deserve…” Perhaps I am just more aware as I’ve gotten older, but selfishness often seems to be encouraged. Talking at once seems to be the norm. People loudly espouse their agenda, poisonous words tearing others apart, hurting and demeaning everyone.

As I discovered during my college days, along with freedom comes new responsibility, greater accountability and consideration of others. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” * In our freedom, I pray that we will remember the element of respect, building up and caring for others, rather than tearing down and destroying.

Of encouragement to me is the observation that when we face common challenges or tragedies, we begin to gain a sense of our shared humanity. When we take time to notice and acknowledge people as important and valued, then differing perspectives, needs, or goals no longer seem as significant. When we reconsider harsh words, there are fewer times to regret. When we choose positive actions, then growth and reconciliation are made possible. When we allow change in our own thinking and perspective, we discover room for compassion.

*1 Corinthians 10:23

 

Reflections on Mountains

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  • We hike along life’s steep trails.
  • Cliffs and crags can appear daunting
  • We find shelter and rest in quiet coves
  • Struggles and death come as dark valleys
  • We flee and hide within when there is danger
  • Understanding comes when light casts its rays over the peaks
  • Gazing over broad vistas improves our perspective
  • Improved perspective brings communion
  • One step at a time to achieve the goal
  • Rocks can assist our climb

Reflections on Reflections

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Sometimes we see things sharply and clearly
• On other occasions all is dark and clouded
• What we see is not always what others see
• What others see may be the opposite of our own observations
• Exaggerated reflections bring fun laughter
• Reflected images give us new perspectives
• Considering other perspectives is beneficial to all
• Our actions and words are a reflection of our character
• Struggles and joys are expressed in what we say and do
• Thoughtful reflection often yields positive outcomes

Reflections on Hairballs

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  • Sometimes we swallow things that shouldn’t be swallowed.
  • Those things we swallow, which we shouldn’t have, often come back up.
  • When they come back up, we wonder why they were so appealing in the first place.
  • Things often look much different when re-examined!
  • In an effort to make things better, our methods may cause indigestion.
  • Upheaval can be most uncomfortable; however, the end results can bring relief.
  • To avoid hairballs, attend to personal care.
  • When assisting others in their own personal care, be careful not to swallow things which are harmful.
  • We were all offered the gift of hairball removal.