Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Rudy, our sixteen-week-old Golden Retriever, chewed up my eyeglasses the other day. He normally goes after shoes left out, four pair down and counting, or a particular hairbrush he’s taken a liking to, making quick work of them all with his needle-pointy, razor-sharp puppy teeth.

By the time I found my glasses on the floor the other day, Rudy had left the ear pieces rough as cobs. Worse than that, he’d twisted the frames, leaving one lens pointing a full twenty or thirty degrees off of the direction of the other. I didn’t realize it until I went to put on my glasses and looked out onto a very distorted view of the world around me.

None of us sees the world with pure, perfect vision. Reality is one thing but the way we see it, and others, is often altogether another. We see the world in which we live through the lenses we inherited or we have trained ourselves to use or have simply accepted without question. All of our lenses are twisted to some extent, twisted into distortion by painful, unresolved experiences from the past, by unchecked passions for the material, by the sin of prejudices yet unresolved or even by the unfinished business of forgiveness of self and others.

Now and then, with Rudy around, I have to check the way my view of the world is framed. It’s just part of choosing to live with a puppy in my world, no matter how tedious it becomes. To adjust the way our vision is framed so that we see the world as God sees it and to seek greater understanding of why others see the world the way they do is one of the most difficult of all Christian disciplines.

A passage from Jan Karon’s Patches of Godlight has proven to be a good spiritual optometrist for me as we approach Thanksgiving. She writes, We are not here to prove God answers prayer; we are here to be living monuments of God’s grace.

My vision is more clearly framed when I realize that being thankful doesn’t just mean listing out all of the things God has provided. Sometimes, our material blessings can actually discourage others whose prayers they feel God has ignored. To be a monument to God’s grace, however, means to let others see in us and through us our gratitude for how God has chosen to see us, through the purest of all vision, God’s holy eyes, the eyes of pure grace, framed in mercy and love.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


About the time Jesus was born, just one little baby in a manger in a remote village in the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles away a snowflake fell. It fell in a place so remote that no human has ever set foot there. It was just one snowflake, but, it was one of billions falling that night, in a place so far north it never gets warm enough for snow to melt, only to freeze even harder as it becomes part of a magnificent ice field, dozens of miles wide, even many miles longer.

As the snowflake fell, unnoticed by anyone but God, it floated gently into a place where other snowflakes had been falling for many thousands of years. All together, the frozen snowflakes became a river of ice, a glacier so deep and so wide and so cold that, even over hundreds of years, it had moved only a few miles. As it coursed its way downhill toward the sea, the river’s sheer weight carved out microscopic pieces of dirt and boulders the size of multi-story office buildings, slowing shaping out valleys where there had once been great mountains. It was just one snowflake. But, frozen together with all of the other snowflakes, it became part of something incredible, the very hand of God carving out God’s never-ending creation.

In 2004, twenty centuries later, Nancy and I stood with some friends in the place where that one snowflake now rests, atop Mendenhall Glacier, just outside of Juneau, Alaska. Our guide told us that the ice on which we were standing had fallen as snow about the time of Christ. Looking back up the valley it had taken that snowflake 2,000 years to travel, I stood in sacred awe of the patient hand of God and of the value of just one.

History is not so much the story of the great brushstrokes of powerful, brilliant or lucky people as much as it is the combined stories of the power of billions who make their contribution, unique from all others, one small stroke at a time on the canvass of God’s never-ending creation. One smile. One kiss. One word of encouragement. One prayer. One vote. One simple word of witness. One dollar for one hungry child. One line in one letter. One teacher’s influence in one classroom. One song. One life connecting with one other life, one at a time.

It was just one snowflake. But, it helped reshape the surface of the earth forever. Ours may be just one life. Only God knows, and God does know, the uniqueness of our lives and the power they are having, one simple act of love and mercy at a time, to reshape the course of the world we were given the privilege of touching, for this one brief moment in time.