A Better View

No matter where I am, it seems I am always trying to get in position for a better view. Whether I’m at a movie, a sporting event, or even church, I often find myself in the exact spot . . . I cannot see.

Sometimes, a good location for observation just isn’t available. I am only 5’5″, after all. There are, evidently, some things that God didn’t want me to see.

Then there are those times that I have the perfect spot and someone bigger, taller, broader — or just naturally gifted at being in the wrong place — blocks my vantage point.

We learn to deal with that frustration. We know that this world is a place we share and that every one will not have the same opportunity to experience the same things. A natural part of life, this truth adds to the richness of our existence through diversity and can also build resentment when we desire what others have.

On a recent vacation, Nancy and I were driving the Road to Hana on the windward side of the island of Maui. We were first-timers to Hawaii, so we were relying heavily on a guidebook that pointed out literally hundreds of things that we likely would have missed on our own. That is the story of this picture.

In the guidebook, the writer talked glowingly of a spot in the long and winding road where we would see this scene. He couldn’t rate the beauty high enough. Yet, after a wonderful description, he pointed out that there was no legal place to park at that particular spot. And he warned that others would disregard that safety factor and try anyway. True to his word, that was what happened.

As we came around the corner, we saw half a dozen people out on the road, clamoring for a safe place to take pictures and enjoy the view. Had it not been for the cars coming by, they probably would have been successful. We pulled past the bend of the road and the scattering tourists slowly and Nancy announced that the book told of another spot where the same scene could be taken in if we were patient.

Moments later, we found a small turn-out and parked the car. We crossed the highway and found that spot. And as we watched the road for cars, we ventured to a place to take the perfect picture on a small overlook safely tucked behind the guardrail.

I don’t know if those people who stopped up the road were able to get their pictures. Sometimes people get by with breaking the rules and probably scoff at those of us who don’t. Yet, in the face of seeming inequity, we most often find a moment to grasp the opportunity we need.

Listening. Patience. Persistence. The perfect perspective on a beautiful possibility is often well within our grasp.

The Keyhole

This early post from Distinct Impressions is a bit more cryptic than most of my work. I remember writing it, but I can’t for the life of me remember why I wrote it. I hope The Keyhole  speaks to you.

Photo Credit: Megathy on StockImagine

I have stared through the keyhole of the door to hell.

And, just as a frightened traveler might gingerly touch his hotel door to determine if there was fire on the other side, I have reached out to test the temperature of the portal leading to Purgatory.

Perhaps it’s a reaction born of curiosity.  Or maybe it’s because my human nature requires that I find absolute boundaries.  I guess that’s why I’m the first person at the table to touch the plate at the Mexican food restaurant.  Yes, I did hear our server say that the plates are hot.

The fascination with the forbidden can be addicting.  Good sense and rational thinking tells me to move away from the door.  Yet, I am drawn there to peer through that keyhole.

Do I love God any less because of this attraction?  No, I really don’t.

Do I feel separated from him when I stand at the door?  Yes, I really do.

So then, really, why do I choose to bend down and eavesdrop on Satan?  Why do I risk being swept inside should the door swing open suddenly?

Because I have not chosen to do otherwise.

It is a matter of choice.

It is a matter of choosing between a view of the world that is narrow and dark and painted with pain and suffering and a view of the universe that is wide and clear and where good glows so warmly that the shadows of evil pale.

How can I move away from the keyhole, its limited outlook, and its immediate proximity to doom?

By blocking the opening with the key that God gave me.  Jesus is not only my mediator and high priest with God, He is my shield and rescuer from evil and temptation.

And once the key is in place, I must allow Him to lock the door.  All of this time, I thought that the door and the keyhole was provided by Satan as an entry to hell.  On closer examination, I find that the door was of God’s craftsmanship and the keyhole is my heart.  God has given me the means and the strength to bind that awful door forever.

With my life thus secured, I can turn away from the keyhole to enjoy the panorama of beauty God has given.  Still, I do have one fear — that I will return to the door tomorrow to test the heat on the other side and perhaps to jiggle the key.

Dear God, give me strength.  And thanks for the key.

Good Things Can Be Scary

Sometimes I forget that really good things can be scary to those who have even a slightly different perspective.

I had been wakened repeatedly through the night by mostly distant rumblings of thunder and meager flashes of lightning. In the middle of a drought, these sights and sounds have a way of  settling me and bringing that special feeling of hope. As I turned over, I was eased back into sleep by the reassuring sound of raindrops gently hitting the roof and the windows. Although the sensation was imperceptible, I could imagine hearing the much needed water soaking into parched ground. Without looking, I could see the runoff coursing down street gutters to the local creeks and, eventually, into the lakes that hold this precious resource for life.

Togo, our husky-wolf mix dog, has a contrasting viewpoint.

Last night, as the storms began to build thirty miles to our west, he became fidgety. By 5:00 p.m., his customary dinner time, he was tucked into his doggy igloo. Anxiously peering out, he refused to emerge. So, I went through the feeding ritual alone, retrieving his bone marrow retreat, scooping kibble into his dish, squeezing a capsule of fish oil into the mix.

Walking around to the front of his house, I tried to hand him the treat. Looking past me to the skies, he ignored it. I placed it just inside his door and then showed him his dog dish, supper prepared just like he likes it. Still no response. The dish went in its customary spot next to the igloo and protected from the elements by Togo’s over-sized travel crate. Togo stood inside, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

As I turned to go inside, I saw him look right at me and immediately sit down. Of course! I’d almost forgotten. This was the moment for prayer.

I knelt next to the igloo, reached in and put my hands on Togo’s shoulders. We went down the list of things that Togo is thankful for. Noting his anxious expression, I added a blessing of comfort and peace for his stormy night ahead.

As I shut the back door, his face was framed in his doorway. Even though there was no storm and no rain yet, he looked expectantly toward the heavens.

This morning at breakfast it was raining. When I stepped outside, he stayed in his house. Like last night, he remained in the igloo. There wasn’t much to do for breakfast — apparently he had never left his house and his dinner was untouched. I went to the cabinet, retrieved another treat, and left it between his paws. The expression on his face was priceless and I went inside for my camera.

I grabbed a couple of special treats as I went back outside. That seemed to energize him. As I was trying to get a picture of him hunkered down in his safe place, he emerged. Halfway. And he stood looking around his backyard, bewildered by all the water. Remembering the lightning and thunder. He shivered just a bit.

I don’t profess to know what goes in Togo’s head. But I supposed that no matter how hard I try to explain to him how welcome this rain is and how grateful we all need to be, he will continue to have a fear that can only be removed through experience. I am saddened just a bit knowing that he may not ever have enough good times with rain in West Texas to ever come to this place of celebrating this very good thing.

We’re all a little like Togo. New things happen — good things. Yet, they are so far out of our normal experience that they provoke anxiety and fear. At times like those, it’s nice to have someone come and sit beside us — and perhaps offer up a little prayer of thanks and comfort.

Prayer Does Nothing . . . Prayer Does Everything

I pray every day. I talk to people who pray every day. I talk to people who have trouble praying every day.

Photo Credit: Susan Noyes Anderson

Some ask, “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” Others exclaim, “Isn’t it wonderful how God steps in and meets my needs!?”

Not a single view is wrong. Not a single view is right.

Today is a day that I’m praying a little extra. A friend of a friend is in surgery. My friend is one who prays every day. She has no lack of faith or failure of moral fiber. At this moment, my friend is not questioning the need for prayer or its power. Yet, she has appropriate fears and concern for her ailing friend.

If we have any experience in this earth-bound life, we know that God’s answers to our prayers aren’t always fashioned to our exact specifications. As a result, we have some anxiety as we wait for those answers. And, honestly, we feel some disappointment if things don’t turn out like we wanted.

So, what are we to believe? That prayer does nothing? Or that prayer does everything?

I’ve never been particularly satisfied with the answers I’ve been offered. They range from the “you must not have asked with enough faith” to “God has a higher purpose and plan in mind.” Perhaps one or both of those is true. But neither is particularly satisfying in a time of need or despair.

Obviously, I’m no theologian. However, I choose to believe that prayer does everything.

In my thinking, prayer is a vital piece of my relationship with God. It is the moment that I am most aware that He is holding me close. Whether I am peaceful at that moment or railing against injustice, I know that God is there. He may be very quiet or he may be speaking in

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distinct dialect. But His arms are around me, no matter what will come.

So, today, while I pray for a friend of a friend — plus all of the other joys and burdens upon my heart — I am able to bear the anxiety and the unknown because He holds me close and because I know, at least for me, prayer does everything.

Unrequited

His words echoed with heavy tones and then just faded away. No answer.

The stillness of the night was unsettling. No crickets. No sounds of distant trains moving strongly through deserted intersections. Booming silence.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/PhotoCo.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/PhotoCo.

He was alone. With his thoughts. His prayers.

Then he remembered all that God had done. And it was enough.

His spirit, now lifted, fueled his rising . . . and the strength to pray, yet again.

Psalm 77.