Thursday, March 31, 2011

20/20 Blindness

    This week at the suggestion of several church leaders, I joined the Barnesville Kiwanis club.  I've attended as a guest before, have met several members and several others belong to our congregation.  At this week's meeting I met Donald Lynn.  Many people in Barnesville know Donald and most everyone has seen him around town with Bobby his guide dog.  Donald has impaired vision but he gets around pretty well and does most things that you and I do.  At the Kiwanis meeting on Monday, Donald was telling us about a recent experience that had bothered him.  It seems that a Chinese restaurant near Wal-Mart in Cambridge (Ohio) had refused him service and asked him to leave because of his guide dog.  Besides that fact that this is probably illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other legislation, most of us at the meeting found this action to be offensive.   

    In the Gospel of John (Chapter 9) Jesus heals a man who was blind since birth and the leaders of the synagogue cannot believe that the healing really happened.  They deny that this man, who can clearly see, is the same man that they had seen for years begging at the gates to the Temple.  When the man's own parents testify that this is the same man, the leaders then deny that it was Jesus who did the healing.  In John's story we are told that the church leaders are the ones who are truly blind.  It seems strange that in two thousand years we are still hearing the same story.  For all of our modernity and sophistication it seems that not much has changed.

    Donald Lynn may be a man with impaired vision, but it is pretty obvious that someone else suffers from a far worse sort of blindness.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Seeing God in the World Around You

Where have you seen God at work in your world this week?   

    I try to remember to ask this question each week during our worship service in order to help each of us (myself included) to be more aware and to really look for what God is doing all around us.  Our God is not a passive God who sits in heaven and watches events unfold here on earth.  Instead, he is a God who loves us and is constantly busy shaping people and events in order to accomplish his will.  I was reminded of that this past week.

    Recently, I was invited to speak and participate at a Walk to Emmaus weekend retreat.  While the retreat (this past weekend) lasted from Thursday until Sunday afternoon, I was unable to be there for all of it because of a funeral and other church and family obligations.  Even so, it was chillingly evident (chilling evident - in this case means that it made a shiver run up and down my spine) that God had a plan.  The Walk to Emmaus is a ministry with which Patti and I have been involved for many years.  Nearly every time that Patti and I have participated in these events, we have seen times when God has placed very specific people in specific places for a specific reason.    This weekend God was able to use me in this way.

    The Walk to Emmaus is a three day retreat where the “pilgrims” journey closer in their relationship to Christ (there isn’t much real walking – except to lunch).  On this journey they hear sixteen talks about a variety of basic Christian teachings.  This weekend, the talk that I gave was on Friday morning and as such was among the first few talks that the pilgrims heard.  Typically, this early in the weekend, the pilgrims don’t know each other very well, they don’t know the speakers very well, they are still unsure what to expect and as a result are still pretty cautious in their attitudes and reactions.  Still, God placed me at the right place at the right time. 

    In my talk, I told a part of my life story.  I told a bit about how God had led me from a career in engineering to serving in full-time ministry.  I told how God spoke to Patti and me and let us know that he had other plans for our lives.  After I was finished, I was approached by a man who was amazed at the things that I had said, not because my experience was unique or amazing but because, as he put it, “It sounded as if you were reading my life story.”  In their table discussion afterward, he had wept and asked the other men at his table how I had known so much about his life.   

Obviously, I didn’t.   

    This particular retreat was originally scheduled for last fall and the talk that I gave was supposed to be delivered by Rev. Ed Eberhart from the Barnesville First Christian Church.  Since there were not enough people registered, the entire event was postponed.  When the new dates were announced, Pastor Ed discovered that he had a conflict and so, at the last minute, the director of the weekend went looking for a replacement on short notice… and found me.

    This is how God works.  Months before I had any idea what I would be doing in March, God had a plan.  God shaped the events of last weekend so that two men, total strangers, would meet, and in the process an entire roomful of men would discover that God loves and cares for each of us with a love beyond measure.  What’s more, God shaped the events of last weekend so that one man could rediscover God’s love and find healing and hope.

    God is always at work in the world around us.  We will see Him if we will only take the time to look.

Where have you seen God at work in your world this week? 

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