Perspective

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“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”  Colossians 3:2 (NKJV)

Who would’ve ever thought the Lord would use a Snoopy bobblehead to teach me a thing or two?  Snoopy has now been on “my cover” twice in a row.  It’s safe to say I did not see that one coming!

At the beginning of each year, a specific word in tandem with just the right verse becomes my guidepost of sorts to help guide me through the coming year.   Last year my word was “grateful.”

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)

Time marches on, as they say, so this brings us to my word for 2022, of course.  Typically it comes to my prayerful attention through various means and ways sometime in the first week or two of the new year.  This time, however, in a first, it surprisingly appeared right before  2021 was officially over.  My 2022 word?  Yes, you’ve no doubt guessed it already from the title of today’s post:  “Perspective.”  And not just any kind of perspective, but godly perspective.

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”  Romans 12:3 (NKJV)

“The greatest tragedy for any human being is to go through their entire lives believing the only perspective that matters is their own.”  Doug Baldwin

“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.”  A. W. Tozer

It’s fair to say this is an area of my life in need of attention as the Lord wasted no time providing me with a teaching moment in the early goings of 2022.

On the very first Monday of this new year, I had no sooner settled down at my desk upstairs to begin my work than my phone started ringing.  Looking down, I saw my wife’s name on caller ID.  I had just finished lunch not 5 minutes earlier with her, mind you.  “What in the world?” I thought to myself, already feeling a bit of frustration swelling up in me since we had just spent an hour or so together.  Her voice sounded more urgent than usual when I picked up the call, though, exclaiming, “Come here!  Now!  I need to tell you something!” 

As I walked a bit begrudgingly down the stairs, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was that was so important for her to tell me now, yet wasn’t important enough during our lunch to tell me about it then.  “Doesn’t she know I have work to do?” I thought to myself with a tinge of self-proclaimed importance iced with a bit of dismissiveness as to the likelihood that whatever she has to say would turn out to be significant enough to justify the interruption.  Yes, embarrassingly, I know this is not a good look for me.

Arriving in the living room, she pointed to the opposite end of the couch with an outstretched finger.  “Sit!” she commanded.  As I sat down, my mind began to race.  “Oh boy,” I mused, “This doesn’t sound good.  What have I done?

Before I could even speak, she put her finger to her mouth and whispered, “Shhhhhh…listen!  Don’t say a word.  What do you hear?”  “OK,” I thought to myself, “I’ll play along, although I have no idea whatsoever where this is going.”  And then, within the quietness, a faint but steady and distinct “tap…tap…tap” sound came to my ears.  “Do you hear it?” she asked.  “Yes,” I replied.  “It’s that tap…tap…tap sound…right?”  Glancing in the direction of the sound, I immediately recognized its source.  “It’s coming from bobblehead Snoopy as his head is going up and down,”  I stated matter of factly.  And yes, at this point, you’d be right thinking my level of excitement was nonexistent compared to that of my wife’s, which seemed to be building by the minute.

Undaunted by my lack of enthusiasm, she excitedly replied, “Yes!  But I didn’t know that at first.  I thought it was the leaky kitchen faucet dripping again.”  She then went on to explain that she had just gotten all comfy on the couch with a blanket and a magazine for some much-needed quiet time winding down from her very early morning job when she became increasingly aware of the irritating sound.  She tried her best to ignore it, but that only made it louder in her mind. 

Unable to disregard the annoying sound any longer, she got up from the couch in somewhat of a frustrated huff and walked the few steps into the kitchen to turn off the faucet.  Only then did she discover the real reason for the noise was bobblehead Snoopy.  “And then something fantastic happened,” she exclaimed.  “I wasn’t annoyed anymore.  No, I felt just the opposite…I felt…soothed.  After all, you know how Snoopy’s constantly bobbing head always manages to brighten our mood, ” she announced as I nodded my head in agreement.  Then before I could even speak, she quickly added with a starry twinkle in her eyes and an octave higher voice, “My PERSPECTIVE changed once I realized it was Snoopy and not the faucet making that sound!  Isn’t that crazy amazing?!?!

Suddenly,  her reason for interrupting my work became crystal clear.  And just like that, I was no longer annoyed at having my work disturbed.  Instead, a soothing wave of encouragement and delight washed over me.  You see, like my wife, my perspective of the circumstances changed for the better, too.

“Sometimes the best thing to do is to take a step back and get a little bit of a different perspective and re-evaluate things.”  Austin Aries

And so, it would seem we’ve now reached the logical end of this post.  Surprisingly, however, that is not the case.  You see, this story is like a quilt the Lord is weaving, and as it turns out, the quilt is incomplete.  A vital part is missing that I haven’t previously considered until now.  What’s the missing piece?  “Prosperity,” which is my wife’s word for 2022.

As I sit here writing, I must confess that I am experiencing an abundance of prosperity in my life at this time.  How so?  As a husband, my heart is joyful because of my wife’s unbridled excitement to share her experience with my word for 2022.   As a writer, I can also tell you that telling stories like this always makes my heart smile, even dance.  And, last but certainly not least, as a child of God, I’m overwhelmed by His desire, kindness, and patience to teach me a still better way, His way.  In short, I feel incredibly blessed in terms of prosperity right now.

Upon reading that last observation, the world will likely say, “Hey!  What you’re describing is not prosperity because there’s no mention of wealth!”  To that, I reply, “But, I am wealthy in other ways that don’t involve money.  Can’t you see that?  Like so many other things in this life, grasping the true meaning of prosperity requires the proper perspective.  Where then can such truth be found?  There are our ways and viewpoints, but then there is the Lord’s perspective shining gloriously above all else.”

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)

Help us to accept our grief as pain that will empower us to live; our uncertainty as a difficult opportunity to discover unknown dreams and directions; our illnesses as a strong light which helps us see at last our health; our loneliness as the most authentic beginning of human love and solidarity.  Help us, not to be Pollyanna pieties but sincere seekers for wholeness of life.  Help us to open the door of the morning and say:  what happens, let all of it be a blessing.  Amen.”   (Singer of Seasons, Beverly Sawyer)

You see, my friend, it’s all a matter of perspective regarding how we perceive our circumstances and lives.  There are our limited, selfish, earthbound ways and viewpoints, and then there are those of the Lord’s that gloriously know no bounds.

“Never interpret God’s love by your circumstances, but always interpret your circumstances by His love.”  C.H. Mackintosh

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:5 (ESV)

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Blessings by Laura Story from the album “Blessings.

Under His (re)Construction

When it rains, it pours, as the old saying goes. Let’s reword that a bit for spiritual purposes. “When He reigns, He pours!” To be clear, however, please understand it’s not a question of whether or not He is reigning since He is sovereign all of the time and in all circumstances, of course. Instead, this intentional rewording proclaims He is capable of accomplishing more than we can ever begin to imagine all of the time.  The limitations imposed are ours and not His.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)

If one exclamation point is instructive, then certainly a second one is even better. Such is the framing of this latest post. The first exclamation point, “His Sound Affection,” is barely a few days old, and now comes this second one hot on the heals of the first and an even older post beyond that, as well.

Yes, the use of “heals” rather than “heels” is very much intentional in this well-known phrase because the Lord is white-hot when it comes to His commitment towards healing (building) His children.  Exchanging these identically pronounced words in this particular instance seems very right and thought-provoking to me.  Indeed, our Lord, Jesus, endured so much for our healing.

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV)

Let’s take a short detour down one more side street before diving fully into today’s post for just a moment. I can’t help but wonder what remarkable things we miss when we choose to bypass pathways that present themselves to us because they appear to be “out of our way.”   Yes, this is but another way of saying, “let’s stop and smell the roses.”

Given that we are discussing exclamation points, it’s fascinating to note the “!” physical location on a computer keyboard relative to another symbol’s location.   If you look at your keyboard, you’ll see the “!” and the “1” share the same key.  Coincidence?  Maybe so.  But maybe not. 

From my perspective, I find it extremely interesting that there is but the One (1) God, who, if we were to assign a punctuation mark to in an attempt to describe Him, must undoubtedly be an exclamation point (!) to my way of thinking.  After all, He is exceptional and worthy of nothing less!  Will you ever look at your keyboard in the same way again now that you’re aware of that shared association?  I can’t, and it’s my hope you won’t be able to either.

In my previous post, we discussed how we are an “ongoing project that is very much under His construction.” Today’s post is a continuation, an exclamation, if you will, of that thought.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve enjoyed watching the new two-story townhome construction that is ongoing less than a minute’s walk from our house. All of the ebbs and flows of building construction fascinate me.  Great strides are made at various times, followed by periods where things seem to stand still.  All in all, it’s an intriguing and compelling process to observe.

After what seemed like forever, it finally came time to install the windows into the roughed-in townhomes. However, the workers didn’t install all of the window units leaving a few holes glaringly unfinished. Much to my amazement, those holes stayed that way for a long time following the initial window installation. It was nothing but neglect as far as I was concerned.

I couldn’t figure out why the workers were seemingly ignoring this part of the job for the longest time.  The window units themselves were on site, yet the holes for the windows remained dark and unfinished for an uncomfortably long time as far as I was concerned.  Over the next few weeks, the roofers, electricians, and the heating and air conditioner workers all came and went.

Every day I’d walk by the building site and wonder, “What in the world were the builders thinking leaving these holes open like this?  There those few unplaced window units are stacked up in the garage; go ahead and install them for heaven’s sake!”

My lack of building construction understanding is showing here.  How little I truly understand about the entire process.  If you’re more familiar with construction than I am, then you’ve probably already figured out why those holes were left unfinished in the first place.  And it’s an excellent reason, by the way.

In 20-20 hindsight, I now understand the window openings were left undone so that large, heavy materials, such as sheetrock, in this case, could be delivered through them via a monstrous, telescoping loader to the upstairs portion of the townhomes.  Let me now state the obvious:  it turns out the builders knew so much more than I ever gave them credit for knowing by leaving the window openings undone.  In other words, they knew what they were doing all along.

There’s a simple but essential principle to take away from this lesson, spiritually speaking.  Aren’t we all guilty of that same sort of off-base thinking at one time or another when it comes to examining what God is doing in our lives as well?  I have to admit there are times when I think the Lord has gotten things out of order in the middle of the construction phase He has underway.  And that not just concerning His plans for me, but for other people and their circumstances as well. 

When I see unfinished openings, it concerns me.  “Put the window in, now.  The opening is ready, and the parts are here ready to go.” I say.  The Master Builder replies, “Be patient.  I have my excellent reasons to leave it incomplete at this moment.  I’m still working in this area, and there is much to be accomplished.  There is more to this unfinished hole than you realize.  The opening needs to remain as it is for now.”

“Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’? Isaiah 45:9 (NKJV)

A few years ago, I discussed pretty much this same issue in my post entitled, “the (s)Parking lot.” I’m a slow learner, it seems. Is that why I’m again revisiting that few-year-old post for that very same reason? Hmmmmm. Or, is there something more to this struggle beyond my being a slow learner, which I’ve thought to be primarily a patience issue? Is it possible there’s more to the unfinished spiritual window opening as I’ve previously understood it this entire time?

And suddenly, I now realize there is so much more to this hole beyond my battle with impatience.”   Yes, I see the issue behind the issue more clearly now.  My struggle with patience finds its beginning with a still more profound problem.   I also struggle with giving up control to Him. 

“There is more going on in your life than you can ever see.  I see the big picture while you can only focus on only a small portion of the (re)construction project I know as you. You’re going to have to trust me for all of it, both the big and the little picture.  When you do that, you’ll find you have a lot more patience along the way.”

Carrie Underwood, “Jesus Take the Wheel,” from the album, “Some Hearts.”

Lord, Help me remember that I am Your building project that is very much a work in progress.    I’ve got a considerable number of barnacles attached to me that You’re in the process of removing from me, as well.  In their place, You are creating within me beauty as only You can create, and doing that right requires Your perfect timing.  Forgive me for my impatience as You work to build me into the person You have called me to be.  Help me to let go of my ways so that I can more fully know Your ways, for the work of Your hands is good, Lord.   Mold me and shape me after Your will.  Your purposes, not mine, Your plans, not mine, Your way, not mine.  You are my Creator, and I am Your created.  In Jesus’ name, amen 1!1!1!1!1!1!1!1!1!

“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  Romans 8:29 (NKJV)

“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.  I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore.”  Psalm 86: 11-12 (NKJV)

Casting Crowns, “In The Hands Of The Potter” from the album, “Only Jesus.”

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