“What Do You See?”

We’ve probably all heard of ink blot tests (Rorshack tests) that psychiatrists use in diagnoses. The way I understand it these inkblots test your perceptions. Doctors show you the sample and then ask, “What do you see?” Psychiatrists aren’t the only ones who ask this question, God frequently asks this as well. However, He asks it not to diagnose us, but to get us to see the world through His eyes.

Years ago my husband’s company went through an improvement campaign as they tend to do once every few years. This campaign focused on having a paradigm shift and being able to see from another’s perspective – a good thing to be able to do. My Sweetie came home with the tag line of the training: “Things are not as they are, but as they are perceived.” There is truth in this statement. We humans tend to see what we want to see. (That is obvious from the recent American political campaigning and election.) We look at the world through our own individual, mental lens which is just as distinct and varied as our individual eye glass prescriptions.

We each have our own world view. We can generalize and call it a Christian world view or a secular world view, but those are broad categories. Getting more specific within a Christian world view you find many differences of opinion in how an individual views life, God, people, and the society around him. But if even Christian world views vary, which one is correct?

I have an answer?

The one that looks to Jesus for all answers and is open to being corrected if we misinterpret.

As I was reading through the Bible last year something caught my attention. Jehovah God frequently asked His earthly prophets that question I mentioned: What do you see?

God understood the human paradigm didn’t always see things clearly or accurately. Of course, He does! He made us! He knows how we see the world only from our own point of view. I think that may be why He asked Isaiah and Amos and Zechariah those questions. And why He asks us, if we listen, What do you see?

Isaiah 55:8 states, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” As Creator to the universe, God sees our world in total truth and accuracy. Therefore, His thoughts are always correct. He understands and knows all the intricacies of any situation. We, on the other hand, are not always correct; our thoughts and ways are not His. We see things from a skewed perspective through the lens of sin and selfishness. Mentally I’ve always equated it with those “drunk” glasses – you know, the ones that simulate the effects of alcohol impairment with lenses that cause visual distortion. Our perceptions are just that, distorted perceptions, not truth. Scripture tells us this, it says that we don’t see clearly. Hidden away in the love chapter is this verse: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. ” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

We see in a mirror dimly. … We only know in part. … Do we realize this? In any given situation, humanly we can only see dimly as though looking in a foggy bathroom mirror and we can only know a partial truth. I tend to think I know the answer. (If you don’t believe me ask my husband!) And he thinks the same thing about His answer even when our answers are polar opposites. It’s not possible for us both to be right, but we are both convinced we are. My husband’s favorite line to say about himself is, “Not always right, but never in doubt.” Is that not a true statement about most of us? So if we see dimly, and if we are not right when we think we are, yet we confidently assert ourselves, would it not be best to listen to THE ONE who does know? The One who is right? When His still, small voice asks us “What do you see?” we need to look and listen.

God has so much wisdom and knowledge and understanding to reveal to us, yet we go on our merry, prideful way thinking we know it all. Let’s stop. Let’s look to Jesus for answers. Let us try to see through His eyes. Let us humble ourselves before Him and seek His ways and thoughts. Let us listen when He whispers – What do you see? and then open our spiritual eyes and ask Him to show us truth.

Evidence of Grace

I’m not much of a crime show, podcast, law and order kind of gal. I am fairly sure I might be the exception in that regard though. I do like a documentary and recently I ran across a crime docu-series slash drama-mentary, or two and the same word occurred in both and caught my attention.

One, because I had never heard the word before and I like a new word. I will typically make a note, I have a running list of new words.

Two, because I had no idea what the new word meant and thought I might like to know. Perhaps it would add to my overall understanding of the documentaries I’d been watching.

And three, something told me I’d want to come back to that word and ponder on it a bit. 

The word, exculpatory, in the context of the show, was in relation to evidence. Back in the day if I’d’ve wanted to know what that word meant I’d’ve had to wait until I could find myself a World Book Encyclopedia, or an Encyclopedia Britannica. The latter was my least favorite of the two as it seemed antiquated, with yellowed thin pages, fewer illustrations, and it was generally bulkier and heavier. The World Book was sleek and streamlined with gold lettering, a snazzy index, colorful illustrations and photographs. I tended to prefer it’s overall organization. Also, it seemed to weigh just slightly less despite its thick and substantial page quality. Yet now we are living the Age of Information and have volumes more information at the end of our fingertips. So courtesy of my backlit handheld device which incidentally has more computer capabilities than it took to take man to the moon, I set to searching. 

A quick internet search revealed that exculpatory evidence is evidence favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial that exonerates or tends to exonerate the defendant of guilt. It is the opposite of inculpatory evidence, which tends to present guilt.

In the cases that I had watched, in both instances, the exculpatory evidence had been withheld presumably resulting in unmerited incarceration. 

As I pondered not on the guilt or innocence of the documentary subject matter, the perhaps wrongly convicted persons languishing in the penal system, my mind meandered to my own guilt. 

The guilt of sin, the very thing that separates us from God, condemns me to death. There is nothing I can do to exonerate myself, to declare I am innocent for that would be a lie, an untruth, and would condemn me further. Yet because of my King and the salvation He has provided, He became Exculpatory Evidence on my behalf. He has absolved my sin and annihilated the sentence of death. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, His death on a cross, He has become my sin and I have taken on His righteousness. In the cases I was watching, the Prosecution allegedly withheld the exculpatory evidence, and it struck me how freely Jesus gave of Himself to set this captive free and to exonerate this guilty party of her sin and pending death, evidence of the grace and mercy that are the very definition of Christ Himself and Salvation He offers.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love is not what our society says it is. Love is not sex. Love is not romance. Love is not just a feeling. Love is not celebrating Valentine’s Day with candlelight or getting flowers or chocolates or gifts.

Love is a person. God is love. And we know that we are His and that we truly know how to love when we can treat those around us with with tender, loving care and offer them our unconditional love and acceptance. Not a love that is earned. Not a love based on keeping accounts. Not a love based on what they deserve. But a love that dies to self to do what is right for those we truly love. Not a love that gives in with weakness when it should hold the bar high. And not a love that has unreasonable expectations, nor one that badgers and degrades either.

We have a lot to learn about love. Let’s go to the source.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

1 John 4

20/20 Vision: Detached Retina

It was a normal day, maybe a bit more strenuous, with hours of heavy house cleaning followed by a hot shower before planning to run errands and prepare supper. Then suddenly there were arcs of light flashing in my eyes, and that normal day became anything but normal.

I immediately started blinking hoping it would go away. But I knew instinctively it wouldn’t. Somewhere in the back of my mind I heard the words “flashes of light before the eyes” and “blood pressure” in the same sentence. Where did I know that from? The thought then made me question, Do I call the eye doctor or my physician? Is this a medical or eye issue?

I sat down to cool off and rest to see if it would go away, but to no avail. So I made the decision to call the eye doctor first. Maybe they could refer me to who I needed to see if it was not them. Trying to look up a number when you’re having eye issues is challenging. I finally got through to my ophthalmologist, and my inquiries to the receptionist were followed by an immediate, “Come on. We’ll work you in.”

After a short drive, several bright lights, and drops in the eye, the verdict came. A possible detached retina which would send me immediately to the retina specialist across town. By the time I got there the flashes of lights had stopped, but lack of a symptom did not mean I hadn’t experienced a problem.

The retina specialist was young, but exceptionally kind and knowledgable. He did more thorough testing as I emotionally held my breath and prayed that this would not end in eye surgery or loss of vision. A good hour after the normal close of business for most medical professionals, my new friend and retina doctor gave me good news and sent me on my way home with instructions to return if I experienced the symptoms again. Much to my relief, it was not a detached retina, but a condition of aging which cause the vitreous fluid of the eye to dry up a bit, shrink, and pull on the retina causing symptoms similar to a detaching retina.

I learned several things that day.

  1. When something weird happens with your eyes, get to a doctor quickly.
  2. Dryness in the eye can be dangerous.
  3. Not all things are what they appear to be. Consult one who is an expert and follow His instructions.
  4. Our vision is very important. We should do whatever is in our power to keep it healthy.

Scripture tells us that spiritual vision is very important as well. Proverbs 29:19 (KJV) says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” Spiritual sight is as crucial as physical sight.

When our spiritual vision is not functioning correctly, we see ourselves, other people, and situations in a skewed fashion. What causes an impairment of spiritual vision? Anything that does not line up with God’s Holy Word and the example set by His son, Jesus.

  • Pride. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:3-5 ESV) These verses instruct us to have the mind of Christ, a mind of humility.
  • Selfishness & Judgment. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5 NIV) Let’s spend less time pointing fingers at others and deal with our own sinful, selfish hearts first.
  • Lack of the Spirit of wisdom/enlightenment. “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.” (Ephesians 1:16-19 ESV) If we lack spiritual wisdom, how do we get it? – First, as Paul demonstrated here, we ask God for it, for ourselves and for others that we pray for. – Second, we seek to know God, the source of all wisdom. Job 12:13 ESV says “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding.” – And finally, we stand in a healthy awe and fear of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.” (Psalm 11:10 ESV)
  • Sin. Any sin. Sin separates us from God and obscures our spiritual vision.

So when you find your spiritual vision flashing and failing on you, remember these things.

  1. Get to the Great Physician quickly!
  2. Realize that your spiritual dryness can damage your ability to see with God’s eyes. Make your relationship with Him a priority. A vibrant, healthy relationship.
  3. Things aren’t always what they appear to us to be. Stay in God’s Word daily for wisdom. Follow His instructions from His Word.
  4. Do whatever is in your power to keep your spiritual vision healthy. Repent. Pray. Memorize the Word. Journal. Study the Word. Gather with believers. Apply God’s Word. Teach. Disciple. Learn. Obey.

No detached retinas or eye diseases for us. Let us seek clear spiritual vision. Blindness is dangerous spiritually, but impaired vision that we become satisfied living with can be just as dangerous. “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” (Isaiah 35:5 ESV) Let us seek spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear.

I Have Called You By Name

The parking lot to the barbecue joint was crammed full of work trucks and sedans with triple A stickers on them. A law enforcement vehicle or two dotted the premises. I made note of those indicators at midday. 

Those are the hallmarks of a good food purveyor’s parking lot. Working men, law enforcers, and the elder generation always know where to find the good food and always seem to know just where to get a good midday meal. 

Ours was the only minivan in the lot and my skeptical teenagers were protesting that this place was looking “all sketchy and stuff.” I laughed at their inaccurate assessments. I started to remain silent and let the old as Moses BBQ place stuck somewhere in the past speak for itself, but I didn’t. 

“Y’all have no idea! I used to eat here every week when I was a kid, and if it’s half as good as I remember it, y’all are gonna be asking me to come back here in no time!” 

They remained skeptical as we crossed the threshold and made our way into the place.

The aroma of barbecue smoked meat met us like a warm, old friend and engulfed us like a warm welcoming hug. I looked around, just as I had remembered it. The decor was dated, the menu unchanged and basic at best, a TV or two silently flashing sports in one corner and news in the other. A buzz of chatter filled the place peppered with the sound of cleavers clop, clop, clopping on a chopping board turning pork roasts into chopped culinary meat mixed with magic. My mouth watered at the sensation of it all. Every sense bombarded and intertwined with one another making me think for a minute I could see the smells and taste the sounds. 

We made our way to the table where we were greeted by a boisterous server. She passed out copy paper menus, told us she was happy we were there, asked for our drink orders, and introduced herself all in a matter of seconds.

“I’m Tilly. That’s T-I double L-Y. Tilly.” 

Tilly had a party of twenty who each called her by name as they shouted and said their goodbyes as she was taking our orders. I thought for sure she’d lost track of our water to tea ratios in the midst of that, but knew I was wrong when she said,  “That’s two teas and  three H-two-ohs comin’ up!” She never missed a beat. 

Tilly made her way around the room delivering food items and filling drinks. She handed out extra napkins with the proficiency of a Vegas Card Dealer. She said “My Pleasure” when she’d been thanked, and she joked with an obvious regular who commented on her good as always service. Laughter rolled out as she said he best put his tip money where his mouth is. He laughed in response and assured her he had indeed. He waved as he left and said, “See ya next time Tilly!” 

Everyone knew her name. Everyone seemed to  remember her name. 

T-I-double L-Y




As we left and I was recalling her name immediately, the skeptical teenagers had thanked us for bringing them there for lunch. It was amazing and I actually had been right. They were already asking when we’d be back. As I pondered her name I was reminded of one of my favorites. 

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;  and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior, I have called you by name. Isaiah 43:1-3

There is something poetic and beautiful about being called by name, and to think, if one server who introduces herself in a memorable way is remembered as special, how much more must I be precious to the God of the Universe who remembers and calls me, and you by name. 

Shoveling Snow

My younger brother lives in Wisconsin. He recently sent me pictures of his snow shoveling efforts – a clean sidewalk after almost 3 feet of snow! His photos showed banks of snow lining clear paths which would only stay clear for a short time since forecasters were predicting another 6 inches or more in the next 24 hours. Here in the sunny South, that sounds like fiction to us, but it is part of everyday life in winter for him and his neighbors.

I love snow. I would love hanging out with my brother right now for about a week to just enjoy walking and playing in the snow with him. The light amounts we get here in Alabama never quite satisfy me. My snowmen always have leaves and twigs mixed in. That happens when you’re working with a couple of inches rather than a couple of feet. I’m sure I would burn out on the fun of snow if I lived for a winter in Wisconsin. Think of the hours of shoveling and the cold, hard work every day. That does not sound fun. So I’ll content myself with living in Alabama and longing for the random snow day where everything closes down when we get 2 inches.

As you can see, I’ve been thinking about snow a lot lately, and of course, I saw a couple spiritual applications from my brother’s snow event.

First, the purity and brilliant whiteness of his new-fallen snow pictures really is astounding. Every picture looks clean and crisp and fresh, whether it’s snow covering the dead, unraked winter leaves, the dirty streets, or his trash can! Scripture tells us that the forgiveness we have in Christ is like that, it can make the filthiest clean. Isaiah 1:18 states, ““Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” We see our past sin, our mistakes, our baggage. With the nudging of the enemy of our souls, we judge ourselves to be unforgivable. We internally, if not aloud, tell ourselves that we are too bad and no one could ever forgive us. But that is simply not true. Romans 5:6 says, “Christ died for the ungodly.” And Mark 2:17 reminds us of Jesus words, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” God’s grace is for each of us no matter how horrible or dirty we feel. He came for you! To redeem you and cleanse you from sin and make you as pure as snow.

The second thought that came to me is that just like snow, the “stuff” of life tends to pile up on us if we aren’t vigilant. That is why it is so crucial for me to stay in the Word and prayer each morning. It’s a cleaning out of the cobwebs of my heart. All those little, and big, irritations, fears, worries, concerns, sins, hurts, and anger pile up like snow from a blizzard in the front yard of my mind. The enemy uses them to distract me from focusing on God’s purposes for me that day and to keep me bound up in sin and useless to the Lord because I am preoccupied with the cares of life. Just as Matthew 13:32 describes – “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful,” – I too can get caught up in worries and thoughts from the deceiver and become a fruitless vine. If I’m not going to the Father daily to confess sin and air out my inner closets, I find myself snowed in and alone, overwhelmed by life and at the end of my own strength. More snow falls into our life each day – whether personal sins or wounds from others or simply difficult life situations, so we must be vigilant to go to the Father every day and let Him help us shovel the sidewalks of our minds before the next snowstorm arrives.

So, wherever you live, be it tropical jungle or frozen tundra or anywhere in between, get alone with your Father. Listen to His Word. Express your heart to Him in prayer. Allow Him to clean out the piles and drifts and cobwebs so that you may be a useful tool in His hand today. And no matter what condemnation the enemy throws at you, remember Isaiah 1:18 – “They shall be as white as snow.”

God’s Special Spot for You

Each week as I travel to my daughter’s house, I pass through a very large intersection. It is a Crossroad of two 4-lane roads with turn lanes. The intersection is bustling with cars no matter what time of day I drive through. As I approach the intersection, I can hear horns blowing from many directions. They are not blowing at other cars but at the man on the corner. The man with the cowboy hat. The man who doesn’t care if the weather is hot or cold or if it is sunshine or rain. He bundles up in the cold weather and dresses lightly in the summer.

No matter what the temperature is, he always has on his cowboy jacket and his cowboy hat. He is there with his signs that say Jesus loves you and Jesus Saves both in English and Spanish. He waves at all the people from both directions. He acknowledges the horns that are blown to encourage him accompanied by a wave back in his direction. This is his spot of service. He has been there for years.  I look for him every time I drive through. He walks back and forth in his spot sharing a smile and a wave with his sign declaring Jesus’ love and salvation. 

God does not call all of us to stand on a corner day after day, but He does call us all to ministry. What is that special spot that God has called you to serve? 

Lue 2:36-37 (ESV) tells about Anna – “And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.”

Matthew 5:16 (ESV) – “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) – Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

What spot on this earth has God placed you on to do service to him? Are you covering that spot with ministry? Are you sharing the love of Jesus with those who cross your path? Do people who see you as they pass your way see Jesus?

Matthew 25:40 (NIV) – “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us”.

Serve wherever God has planted you! “Serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13