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Posts Tagged ‘open my eyes’

wake up 2I was so proud of myself a couple of months ago. I set myself a goal to wake up at 5:30 a.m. every day (even non-work days) and I did it. Someone asked me why I bothered with this exercise and I explained that I was trying to find another hour in my day. But the part I didn’t understand then (which I learned this week from Pastor Jess) was that I didn’t use that extra hour to wake up the second time.

The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. [Romans 13:11b-12, NIV]

Beginning today, we are entering a time of year called Advent, a time of waiting for the arrival of Christmas, the time the Church has designated to celebrate the birth of Christ, our long-awaited Messiah. Advent (and Christmas, for that matter) is a purely man-made time of year and yet, I’m glad of it. I need to direct some energy and preparation to my spiritual awakening. That is what the Christ was all about, that is why Jesus came into the world, to wake us all up.

But there is a challenge for believers to see past the tinsel and the commercialism and the anxious Martha-type shopping and planning. After all, families will gather and great amounts of food will be eaten and gifts will be collected and distributed (some well chosen and others not so much). It’s not that such things are inherently bad at all. It’s just that we need to balance these external activities with some inward contemplation. If we don’t . . . if I don’t, then I will make the same mistake I made two months ago and miss the point.

Sometimes it’s more than just busy-ness that overtakes us. For those who have little money, it’s a heartbreaking time in which blinders and dark glasses are a necessity to shut out the cacophony of the marketplace: “buy, buy, buy” or “lay-it-away” or “charge it.” Every sign and commercial is telling people what they want, whether they want it or not. And soon, everyone groans under the weight of wishes and wants they cannot have or cannot afford. Our eyes are not open; not the eyes that count.

Open your eyes 1It is for this second awakening that I want to engage our hearts and minds during this season. Pastor Jess talked about the ever-present armies of God surrounding us and our circumstances (see II Kings 6:15-17). Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened to see them, to actually see through and beyond the enemy soldiers camped nearby. So it must be with our Christmas season.

We must wake up and look beyond and through the difficulties, the depression, the expectations, the clamor, and the demands of others and focus on the coming (and present) Christ, whose birth we celebrate.

How often do mothers post their birthday wishes to their children and include a picture of the child when he or she was just a baby or toddler? Those were the innocent times, the days and weeks and months when the future was unknown and the child had a world to explore. Jesus came into the creation just so.

Come with me on this Advent journey. We will wait together and prepare and when we come to that day, we will see the light that broke through the darkness.

Just give a little time to your inner life. That’s all it takes to wake up again.

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Adam said it was the woman’s fault for giving him the fruit (and maybe a little bit God’s fault for giving the woman in the first place). Eve blamed the Serpent who deceived her. Interesting, though, the Serpent is silent.

Genesis 3:11b-13
Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

I’m assuming the Serpent knew what was up from the beginning. He expected retribution. He had counted the cost. So, however he might have looked in the garden, the Serpent was ever changed, and most interesting, for whatever reason, the relationship between the Serpent and woman would be one of enmity. I find that fascinating. The implication is that the relationship could have been something else had everything gone the other way. But what?

What was the Serpent’s true nature? In the same way that Jesus brought Judas Iscariot into his sphere of influence, so did God bring the Serpent into the garden. There was opportunity for them to choose differently, to want something else, to be reached.

We are quick in this culture to lay blame as well. This week is election week. All media outlets from news programs to Facebook are afire with political mumbo-jumbo. And usually, it’s one side finding fault with the other, somehow thinking if enough aspersions are thrown out there, their own missteps will be ignored.

In reality, we have all eaten the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil and as a result, we spend far too much time looking at “not-God” instead of looking for what is good and right. The ancient aphorism speaks well here: Know Thyself. It’s so important to remember that our eyes are corrupted.

Open my eyes to see like you, to understand with Godly wisdom, to bring grace into every situation and conversation, to clearly bring myself to the situation. As a follower of Christ, I bring God to every table, to every discussion, to every contemplation. That’s part of the covenant I made.

I must accept blame for the part I play in my world.

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Matrix


How long? Maybe forever without intervention. Am I living within a mirage? Am I seeing what I want to see instead of what is there? Am I in the simulated reality of some matrix that I cannot readily perceive? Have I allowed myself to believe in a lie? A delusion? How would I know?

Psalm 4:2
How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods [lies]? Selah.

I am not the only one. Living in denial is fairly common. And why? Because stepping out of that state denial may mean facing some difficult truths. I’m pretty sure this cannot be done alone. Why would someone in denial stop living that way by choice? No, something would have to happen, some kind of wake up call.

Some common forms of denial manifest in people who are entrenched in addictive lifestyles: everything from drinking to drugs, pornography to hoarding. These habits become the norm.

My daughter was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at 18 after we adopted her at almost 16. She was living in a constant state of fluctuating pain. She didn’t know that other people did not hurt when they got out of bed every morning or have aching hands, feet, knees, and back every day. She thought everyone lived with pain but she was merely less tolerant than most. How does one learn how to live without pain when that is all a person has known? Would she even recognize the absence of pain?

Some people live in a fog when it comes to relationships. As a result, they explain away physical, mental, and emotional abuse. The abuser is always sorry, after all; the abuser promises to never do that again; the abuser is a delusion.

Lord, forgive me if I have continued to love the delusion. Open my eyes. Reveal deception, my own and others. Shorten the time of my mistakes; restore to me the years that the locusts have eaten [Joel 2:25a]. Give me understanding and wisdom and courage to confront my demons, my deceptions, my false gods and idols. Selah.

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It’s a hard reminder that our lives are not our own, no matter how much we believe they are. Oh sure, there are responsibilities and choices that only I can make for myself, and yet, in the end, it is God and all that is infinite that chooses to give or take away, to end or begin.


James 4: 13-14
Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and spend a year there and carry on our business and make money. Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visible for a little while and then disappears [into thin air].
[Amplified]

Conceptually, it should be a joy: after all, isn’t God sovereign? Doesn’t God promise to do what is good for me, even better than the birds of the air [Matthew 6:26]? But I don’t walk each day in this confidence. I am still wary of the next moment. I still want to “control” it: after all, what is familiar, even painful seems better than the unknown.

But the future is the great unknown. We can create probabilities, but we cannot create absolutes.

And so, I ask, what will I experience for the rest of this day? Can I keep my hands open? Can I say “yes” to this day before it unfolds? Can I trust god with my time, my experiences, my journey?

When/what is the next moment anyway? Is it now? no now, no this other now. I can watch the clock or I can turn that invisible countdown outward.

When my elderly mother lived with us, up until her 91st year, she would get so frustrated because she felt so unproductive in those last years. In fact, one of her biggest concerns, “What should I do for the rest of my life?” She never considered the number of those days, just the fullness of them. She wanted to see her minutes and hours as valuable to others, useful.

Can I be more mindful of my day time? Can I hear the stray comment, the smallest encounter, the big mistakes as well as the great successes as opportunities to embrace the “rest of my day” in God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit?

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There must be a trick: how do I look at something intently that I cannot see? It must be the reverse then. In other words, it’s not so much that I am to fix my eyes on the unseen as much as I am NOT to fix my eyes on the seen. It’s a little like the old mantra, “it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.”

II Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

This is not an easy task. The “seen” is all around me. Everyday life is constantly presenting itself to me in one form or another Circumstances are doing their best to surround me.

Tasks, responsibilities, jobs, lists, chores, and duties assail me every day. And what about the people: children, significant others, parents, grandparents, extended family, neighbors, co-workers, supervisors, subordinates, church friends, non-church friends, enemies, club friends, organization friends, acquaintances, and strangers. They all require my attention. They are all part of my “seen” world. Oh, and what about the state of world: the wars, the tragedies, the killings, the weather, corporate crime, drug lords, benevolent dictators, not so benevolent dictators, congress, criminals, statesmen, presidents and their wives and their children, and on and on and on. Should I mention the inanimate objects? I don’t think I can bear it.

And yet, the message is clear: these things are temporary. Jobs will change, people will die, governments will collapse, technology will fail. Like the seed that must die to bear a fruit, all of these things will die to produce the next generation . . . whether it’s people, ideas, or gizmos.

My eyes need to look elsewhere. My “eyes” need to look within. More often than not, this actually requires me to close my eyes. This is why we usually pray for eyes closed, to block out the “seen” and to give ourselves a chance to glimpse the unseen. I must choose.

The seen world is the one that causes anxiety and fear. The unseen world of the Holy Spirit is a world of peace and order and love. Forgiveness happens in the unseen world. Freedom too.

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Acts 16:14b
… The Lord opened her [Lydia] heart to respond to Paul’s message.

Revelation… truth… understanding… none of these can happen without an open heart and it is God who makes this happen. It’s not that we can’t open our own hearts, we can. Unfortunately, we usually don’t realize how closed off we really are. We assume our hearts are open… after all, what does a closed heart even look like?

I imagine a closed heart like a fortress, like the keep of a castle, the last line of defense… it is the stronghold. The heart can be like an entire castle for our normal activities and relationships; we open and close the drawbridge, we let people and ideas come in and out. But the stronghold is not open to just anyone. And sometimes, no one is allowed inside at all. And if we have collected assumptions, secrets, memories, untruths, misconceptions, pain, and prejudices, they are stored in there to keep them “safe.” If the storage areas are full, some of this stuff will pour out through the window slits and cracks and affect our daily lives. But generally, we manage to keep all that stuff inside. It is, after all, way too dangerous to let anyone inside, just opening the door may let too much out.

When I hit forty, my stronghold was so full that it was not just leaking out, it was spewing out periodically like a volcano. I often felt like I would explode, literally. I would sob uncontrollably. I would walk outside in some lonely place and just scream and scream until my throat was raw. My thoughts were jumbled up. I was like a lone survivor in an ocean trying to hold on to a life boat, but with no clue how to get in. I really thought I was going crazy.

I am grateful for the counselors, pastors, and friends who held me up during this difficult time of my life. The very thing I feared the most was the very thing I needed to do: open the keep… open the stronghold. Finally, I asked Jesus to do this work. I could not. When the door finally opened, it was not pretty. Eventually, equilibrium was achieved.

And after awhile, I thought the work was done. The proof was in my fresh energy and sense of renewal. It was during these healing years that we adopted our children, moved into a different house, changed jobs, I got a second master’s degree, I met new people and allowed new ideas to filter in.

But what was considered new then has become somewhat entrenched in my stronghold again. It is not as full as before. It is not as volatile. But I am aware that the door of my heart/my stronghold has been swinging shut more than I would like. And so, I ask my God this day, to keep my heart open. Give me courage to embrace people… all different kinds of people… authentically. Give me faith that you will sift ideas for me. Give me revelation knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Give me trust that Jesus will always be my doorkeeper.

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John 4:44
Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.

Face it, sometimes we aren’t appreciated in our own backyard. It’s one of the reasons companies come up with little awards to recognize achievement. It’s not that people aren’t doing extraordinary things all the time, we stop noticing. It’s hard to step away and realize that our colleague, our neighbor, our friend, or even a family member has done something noteworthy. We expect everyone to behave the same way they always have. And, in the end, our expectations are unconsciously placing some pressure on others to never change.

How many times have people said about you (or you about someone else), “oh, she’s always late,” or “he’s clueless,” or “she never remembers …. whatever.” All of these ‘always’ and ‘never’ statements come out of expectations.

I think Jesus resorted to miracles initially to “get their attention.” He had to shake things up. Of course, then the miracles became the norm and everyone expected a miracle. For Jesus, it was a balancing act. I’m pretty sure this is one reason that Jesus never performed the same miracle twice in the same way. It would have become a “method” instead of an intent, a prayer, a gift.

I want to look at the people around me today with fresh eyes. I think there are lots of miracles happening around me already and I haven’t noticed. “Lord, open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things in your word.” [Psalm 119:18] … and the wonderful things that others do and achieve today. Help me to see the gifts of their presence in my life.

For myself, I ask the Lord to help me let go of “wanting or looking to be appreciated.” Let me, instead, bask in the light of Your love and hear your voice tell me, “well done, good and faithful servant.” [Matthew 25:23]

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