IMG_0032Last Sunday we watched the video clip called, “Test Your Awareness. Do the Test.” The video had us count the number of times the folks in white jerseys passed the basketball. We were all busy watching the ball and the white shirts. There were people in darker jerseys mixing around as well. We could see them as we concentrated on the white jerseys and the ball. The passing stopped and the announcer gave the total number of passes. There were 13. Most everyone in church raised their hand that they got 13. Then the announcer asked, “did you see the moon walking bear?” Then the video was played again and lo and behold, there was a man in a bear costume moon walking through the middle of all the passing of the ball, right in the middle. We all had a good laugh because we did not see the bear.

The lesson was that while we concentrate on one thing, there are other things going on. As powerful as our observations may be, we miss things right in front of us.

It always amazes me that when an accident takes place and there are witnesses; how many different accounts there are of the same accident. Some of the accounts actually clash as if they did not see the same event. I have been in court as a witness and was surprised by the varying stories of the same thing I saw. Was my observation correct? Well, from my vantage point it was, but another person had a slightly different account. Often our perceptions of truth are viewed from where we sit. In law, the Bible as well, there has to be corroborating testimonies in order for there to be a conviction or a judgment.

When I was a kid my grandmother Lewis took me to the county fair. We found a drinking fountain that would come on with a surge that would spray the face of the person looking for a cool drink of water. She said, “Let’s sit over here on the bench and watch, this could be fun.” So, we sat there and observed person after person deal with the surge of water. It was fun. We laughed and talked about the various reactions. Observation is an important part of life. Jesus was sitting watching the treasury at the temple as people came and gave their gifts. He had observed people praying in public. He sat at the well in Samaria. Stopping to observe helps build our awareness.

Life’s pace has certainly picked up. We barely allow ourselves to have a moment of quiet. We have at our fingertips so many devices of communication and programs that pressing us for attention. It is hard for us to imagine a time, not that long ago, that books and reading were the family entertainment. Or, families listening to the radio for evening programs of entertainment. But, with all the conveniences, we have lost some of the connectivity of humanity.

The challenge for the people of faith is to once again become aware of our surroundings. Some people may aggravate us, but do we know their situation? Have we stopped long enough to notice things around us? Driving a car along the road at 60 MPH is much different from walking along the road. Driving we often just see the distant view because we cannot  focus on the things near because of speed. Walking we notice everything along the road, the flowers, the weeds, the junk that has been thrown, every pebble, crack in the road, everything comes into sharp focus.

Likewise, as we work on our strategic vision, things will come into sharp focus. The valley becomes a town, the town becomes people, people become a person, a person becomes an acquaintance, and maybe that person becomes a friend, and hopefully that friend becomes a follower of Jesus. Even if they do not, the kindness of the Lord can be extended to them. At the least, we can plant seeds and see if God does something with the seed.

I pray we become much more aware. Maybe we can see the moon walking bear.

New Glasses coming

New Glasses

New Glasses coming

There are great visions and small visions. There are clear visions and hazy ones.

I go to the ophthalmologist once a year. There is a general eye test, but he is extremely thorough putting me through a series of exams that are nearly blinding as he exams the eye intently for any abnormality or disease. My prescription has changed through the years. When I was young, I was near sighted needing glasses for distance. Now, I can see well at a distance, but need glasses for reading.

Vision changes with age and circumstances. I have learned that stress can play havoc with our health, our immune system, and our mental health. I remember being told that my grandfather Lewis when white haired over  night when he learned of his sister’s death. Stress, emotion has a lot to do with our well being.

Vision for individuals, for businesses, for nations, and for churches can change rapidly with the changing tides of life. What works in a time of peace may not work in a time of war. The sensitivities of peace time may give way to harsher circumstances in times of distress. The victims of hurricanes and tornadoes have their lives and goals change in a matter of minutes. Where once they were thinking of how to beautify the garden, they are now forced into new goals and vision which is more survival in nature and recovery from devastation.

A recession will change the vision and goal of a business rapidly. The sales and vision are adjusted. Goals are shortened up and projections are far more conservative. Unemployment, cut in pay, unforeseen financial set back, health issues change an individual’s vision of life and look into the future.

Likewise the vision of a church regularly needs a check up. As you sit in the chair at the doctor, you go through a series of questions. “Better or Worse?” “A…..B?” “Now, is this better?” All the time you are making judgement calls for your own sight. As the test gets closer to what you need, the choices become harder and the differences ever so slight. Sometimes in your mind, you just go with one because it is so close the same that the distinction is negligible.

So, while we are starting with our Strategic Vision Statement we are sitting down knowing that we need glasses. Our vision is poor. The prescription has to change in order for us to be able to see and navigate life. We know that we will see better soon. We are looking deep into the eye to not only correct vision, but to see if there is some lurking disease or abnormality that needs addresses. We also know that the closer we get to the correction, the more difficult it will be to make the distinctions as to what is better or best.

In our situation we have diagnosed the poor vision as a lack of outreach. The correction of vision begins, but we also have a problem in the eye. Our vision is distorted from years of tradition, old ways, and some calcification. It is always fearful when they start messing with the eyes. We are very protective of our eyes. So, outreach has to have a new prescription. We need fitted with a fresh vision, corrective lenses. We need to see the world for the first time. No longer men as trees walking, but men and women clearly seen, no distortions. Can we with new lenses serve simply and love deeply?

-Pastor Bill