Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Eyes Have It

As I taught the simple rhythm game, dozens of pairs of dark brown eyes danced with glee. Huge smiles covered the faces of the beautiful children sitting on the floor with me in this church in the poorest section of Matamoros, Mexico. In spite of the language barriers—the children spoke no English, and I spoke only a little Spanish—we communicated. As we clapped, snapped, sang, and did crafts together, their eyes sparkled. Later in the day, whenever I glanced up from my work preparing for the next day’s Bible school, one or more small brown faces peeked through the church windows. When I smiled and waved, their hands waved furiously, smiles broke out, and brown eyes danced with glee. Pure joy shone out of those huge, dark brown eyes.

Sophia often sat, watched, and listened. Sophia, who spoke no English, loved to be near us. Part of the day she stayed at her tiny home a block and a half away. There, she watched the men in our group saw boards, pound nails, and paint turquoise walls. Her eyes watched as the new edition to her home, a 10 foot by 20 foot room, doubled the size of her tiny house. Sophia, mother of ten, one deceased, watched her house grow. Sophia, quietly sitting in a folding chair at the church, watched the children laugh, play, and learn at Bible school. Sophia, active member of her church, sang praise songs at the top of her voice and knelt on the hard tile floor to silently pray. In her eyes I saw tremendous gratitude. In those big brown eyes I saw amazing peace.

Seventeen of us traveled to Matamoros, Mexico in two rented vans. For six days we worked in Mexico, joining God in the work he was already accomplishing there. I looked into the eyes of my 16 companions. Some eyes glowed the same dark brown as those of the residents of Matamoros. Others shone bright blue or green. At first glance what I saw in those eyes was fatigue. They worked all day in the heat—110 degrees plus heat index—and slept at night together on the roof, praying for a breeze, scattering when it rained. All this produced deep fatigue. Looking past the fatigue, however, I saw more. In those eyes was resolve: pound one more nail, paint one more board, help one more child, serve one more meal. In these eyes I saw true servanthood. In spite of the unbearable heat and the extreme tiredness, I saw the eyes of the eager servants wishing to do God’s will.

The eyes…the eyes are what I remember most. Whether the brown eyes of the locals or the multi-hued eyes of their guests, I saw something special shining in all those eyes. Through the eyes, as clear as a cloudless sky, I saw the love of Christ shining through.

Vacuuming the Carpet

As I vacuum the living room carpet, the hum of the vacuum and the back and forth motion of the machine soothes me. Hungrily, it picks up dirt and debris from the floor. The bits of torn paper, the little clumps of dirt, all are whisked away by its mighty wind. With nothing on my mind but the cleaning, I think about the hidden dirt the vacuum sucks up greedily. Deep within my carpet’s fibers lay tiny bits of dirt, unseen to human eyes. Even though I cannot see these specks, the vacuum pulls them out of my rug. By the time I finish, the carpet looks clean; it even looks newer through its transforming cleaning.

My mind wanders. Isn’t this the way God cleanses our souls? Sometimes we have surface dirt others can see—the pieces of paper, the garden soil tracked in on our shoes. But what about the tiny specks of dirt and soil deep within the soul? Fortunately, God is willing to cleanse all the dirt.

Now my rug is clean, the pile stands up, and the room looks beautiful. I’m glad I will never have to vacuum the rug again. What? You tell me that I will have to vacuum again?

The same is true with my soul. When I accept Christ and confess my sins, He cleanses my soul.

Oh God, there’s much dirt has been tracked in on my soul. Help me to plug in your spiritual vacuum for cleansing.

I John 1:9 NKJ “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Light of the World

Isaiah 60:1-3 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

Light—it’s available at the flip of a switch. Even in the darkness of night, we can light a room, an entire building, or the outdoors as brightly as daylight. We have lights in every room, on nearly every street corner, and even our highways. Businesses are brightly lit, even when closed; brightly colored neon lights beckon us to come in and shop, eat, repair, relax. You name it, we light it. With all of this technological ability to light up our world, do you think it strange that candles are so popular? Didn’t they, after all, become obsolete when Edison invented the electric light? A candle gives only a faint glow in a darkened room, not enough to clearly see someone across the room, not enough to easily read by. Curious, isn’t it? Today, when we can light the whole world with electric lights, candlelight is very popular.

God’s Holy Word is filled with imagery of light. When God first created the world, He said, “Let there be light” and there was light. In John 1:4&5, Jesus is referred to as light. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” There were, of course, no electric lights when Jesus walked on the earth, but the impact of His life was electric! People flocked from miles around just to see Him, hear Him speak, and to witness His miracles. The religious leaders of the day were so intimidated by Him that they conspired to put Him to death. Their intent was to extinguish Jesus’ light. For three days it appeared that His light had been extinguished.

Jesus Christ came to light the darkness: the darkness of evil, the darkness of the lack of knowledge of His saving power. He was able to do this by being born as a human, by dying at the hands of men, being raised from the dead and ascending to heaven. So, after He ascended to heaven, what happened to His light here on earth? His spirit came to kindle a light in each of us. Matthew wrote the following about the believers in Christ: You are the light of the world…. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (5:14a &16 NKJ).

Now I don’t know about your light, but I know for sure that my light is not electric! My light is feeble, and at times it barely flickers. My light is like one solitary candle, providing a little soft illumination. Picture a room with one small candle burning. It is difficult to see in this poorly illuminated room; there is more darkness and shadow than light. But what if a second candle is lit? What if your little light joins with mine? What if others, one by one, add their own little glow to our lights? Soon we can see one another across the room. Soon the shadows flee; soon the light overcomes the darkness. When, together, we let the light of Jesus shine in us, we can create light enough for all to see. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine”…won’t you shine with me?

Lord of light, help me to remember that my little light, shining in my little world, enables others to see your glory.

A Work of Art

Many admire the beauty of glass, its colors sparkling with the sun’s light. Stepping stones decorate gardens, the glass embedded in the stones. Stained-glass windows in churches inspire awe and reverence.

Anyone who works with glass knows the process of creating these works of art. After deciding on a pattern, the craftsman scores and breaks the glass, leaving tiny splinters and sharp edges. After cutting the glass, the artist grinds its edges smooth. During grinding, powder-fine pieces of glass fly off. When the pieces are shaped and smoothed, the artist arranges them into a stepping stone or solders them together for a stained-glass window. After the final project is completed, its beauty is far greater than the original pieces of uncut glass. With hard work, the glass is transformed into a work of art, matching the image in the artist’s mind long before she broke that first piece.

There is a parallel between the artist cutting and grinding the glass and God forming us into His image, creating our unique stained-glass. Before God begins crafting us, He sees how the finished product will look—more beautiful than we can ever imagine. Just as the artist cuts and breaks the glass into the correct shapes, so God shapes us. Whenever our lives are filled with difficulties, this may be God’s hand at work in us. Once the pieces of our lives are cut into proper shapes, God grinds them smooth. Cutting and grinding may not be pleasant, but God, our designer and artist, will complete the work He has begun. The longer He works in our lives, the more we resemble His image. The more we yield to His touch, the more His light shines through us. Someday all the jagged edges of our lives will be smoothed by God’s touch; someday He will shape us into His perfect work of art, allowing His love to softly glow through the colors of our lives.
Father, thank you for the work you are creating in me. Even though cutting and grinding may be unpleasant, the end result is well worth it. Thank you for forming me into your image.

Hebrews 13: 21b “May he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”