A Close Look

He’d been doing this job for forty years, and what he now saw was a first for him. That desert shrub was still afire. It should have been consumed. Why wasn’t it? Curiosity getting the better of him, the shepherd decided to take a close look.

“When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!'” (Exodus 3:4 NIV).

In their ensuing conversation God, for the first time, revealed his personal name. “Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.” This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation'” (Exodus 3:13-15 NIV).

In saying that His personal name is I am, God was disclosing He is the God Who is always present. Never absent. Forever involved with humankind to correct and to bless such as the time He sent poisonous snakes because people grumbled about their living circumstances. When they reached their tipping point and abjectly admitted to Moses they were in the wrong to speak against him and God, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived” (Numbers 21:8-9 NIV).

Anyone who wanted to be delivered from certain death by snake bite must look up at the bronze snake on that pole. Not a nod or a passing, casual glance, however, but a fixed, riveting gaze.  This was serious business. Whoever looked closely–intently–lived!

More than a millennium had passed when Jesus Christ raised the image higher. Predicting His inevitable crucifixion, He said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up” (John 3:14 NIV). Later the Savior promised:  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NIV). When, like a magnet, Jesus Christ pulls us, it is our decision whether or not to take a close look.

While praying one day, a girl asked,
“Who are You, Lord?”
He answered, “I Am.”

“But Who is I Am?” she said.

And He replied, “I Am Love, I Am Peace,
I Am Grace, I Am Joy,
I Am The Way, The Truth, and The Life,
I Am The Comforter,
I Am Strength, I Am Safety,
I Am Shelter, I Am Power, I Am The Creator,
I Am The Beginning and The End,
I Am The Most High.”

The girl with tears in her eyes looked
Toward heaven and said,
“Now I understand.
But Lord, Who Am I?”

Then God tenderly wiped the tears
From her eyes and whispered,
“You are Mine.”

9781490808949_COVER.indd

Facial Message

What’s in a look? Apparently, a lot less than we see. Or more. Has someone ever read your facial expression wrong? accused your look of meaning something that couldn’t have been further from the truth? Probably. I know I’ve both misunderstood that nonverbal cue and been misunderstood. Why the disconnect?

A person’s emotionless stare may be for no other reason than that the facial muscles are impaired. Or someone’s neurological disorder has pasted a permanent aloofness on the face. Maybe someone links anyone’s pursed lips with an embarrassing or degrading experience locked in the past, and the prefrontal cortex isn’t sorting out the distinctions. The subconscious can trick our brains to make judgments that are erroneous.

Dr. Luke, the New Testament physician, says that Jesus, early on the morning of his crucifixion, gave Peter a look:  “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter” (Luke 22:61 ESV). Suddenly face to face with Jesus after having denied knowing Him for the third time, what message did Peter decipher?

Was it disappointment? surprise?  No. For less than twelve hours earlier Jesus had predicted this outcome when “Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times'” (John 13:37-38 ESV).

Was it anger? Jesus sounded anything but angry when he had confided to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32 ESV).

Was Jesus’ look saddling Peter with guilt and shame? That attitude was never in His nature. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17 ESV). Also, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)” (John 10:10 AMP).

So was it a look of sympathy that melted a proud and boastful Peter to humbly weep in bitter repentance? No.

It was compassion, an attribute of His character that Peter had observed for three years as Jesus did more than feel sorry for people’s needs. Deeply moved with compassion, He restored, healed, preached, taught, fed, returned corpses alive to grieving families. Compassion is what Peter saw in Jesus’ face, compassion for a sinner for whom He was going to die on the cross, where He compassionately prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 ESV). 

For reflection:  “Be honest in your judgment and do not decide at a glance (superficially and by appearances); but judge fairly and righteously” (John 7:24 AMP).

DSC_0555

Trash Triage

Trash can 2He was sixty-one and at his job when he asked the morning newspaper boy to help him throw it in the dumpster (http://tampa.cbslocal.com/2014/04/03/housing-complex-clerk-mistakes-suicide-jumpers-body-for-april-fools-prank/). The ninety-six-year-old woman’s body hadn’t appeared human. To him she looked like a mannequin. A dummy.

The surgeon made a similar operating assessment when my friend’s father had been ambulanced from a nursing home with a fractured femur. Expecting a routine consult with the doctor prior to surgery, the daughter left the hospital at ten that night and returned at seven the next morning. The minutes ticked by. One by one the heavy hours stacked up. Where was he? Why didn’t he come?

At five-thirty the daughter was beside herself as orderlies wheeled her elderly father out of the room and she caught a glimpse of the doctor. Confronted with her consternation, he explained, “I did not come by because 90 percent of patients with dementia never have anyone with them.”

All too sadly his informed statistic mirrors society’s devaluation of the demented elderly. That 90 percent of them are presented to the medical community as throwaways is a result built family by family. Child by child. Son by son. Daughter by daughter.

What are we thinking? Father doesn’t know who I am? Mother doesn’t remember my name? They don’t know me; so what’s the point?

Why do we make love conditional? Did our parents make it conditional when we did not know their names? when we could not say words? In our helplessness didn’t we sense self-worth through the security of a swaddling blanket, the contentment of cuddling, the soothing sound of a lullaby? They imprinted personal value. We did not have to do anything or be anything except ourselves. Unadulterated.

My father, too, was diagnosed with dementia. His was mania manufactured by the misuse and overuse of antipsychotic drugs. (See http://www.amazon.com/Before-Door-Closes-Daughters-Alcoholic/dp/1490808949/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396716040&sr=1-1&keywords=judith+hall+simon.) My success in getting the mind-altering drugs eliminated did not restore the spark in my father’s voice that had belonged to him before he was made a zombie and cast off as nursing facility waste. I missed hearing that unique part of him the rest of his life.

The drugs, taking their toll, also left my father’s mental function vacillating between clear and unclear. On one of his hazy days, Daddy asked me, “Who are you?”

“Judy.”

“That’s what I thought. You’re the one who takes care of me.”

I’ll remember that the rest of my life.

9781490808949_COVER.indd