They delivered their door-hanger to home all over their community and were very pleased with themselves. It might have been a good idea to have an outsider proofread it but they saved time by skipping that step. They knew what they were doing. They probably never understood why that campaign didn’t go so well.
It’s hard not to notice the new cult movie – The Hunger Games. Like it or not, it’s here! Reading the initial reviews, this movie will inevitably work its way onto our “must see” lists Read the rest of this entry
Watching folks puzzle over the struggle and sad end of Whitney Houston’s life brings us all closer to the realization that it is really hard to find and hold onto the meaning of life. Read the rest of this entry
Since you can see you will have to imagine what it would be like to live in a world you have never seen. Folks have tried to describe things to you and you have Read the rest of this entry
Prejudice is a strange thing. It locks our minds into a pre-set response and it requires little thought.
Can you imagine Nathaniel walking off with Philip to see this Jesus he has found? Picture him striding along with an air of self-confidence as he sets out to prove that nothing good ever did come out of Nazareth; no one great had ever come from there and never would! That town was a tiny backwater and the people who lived there simply weren’t smart enough to produce leaders of any caliber. Imagine him sighing as he reflects on how stupid this whole thing is, “The energy I have to waste to pacify my ignorant friends! Let’s get this over with so I can finally get some peace again.”
Recently a magician agreed to be studied by scientists. They were puzzled as to how he could fool people with one of those “3 sliding cups, guess which one the object is under” routines. What had the scientists particularly puzzled was his ability to consistently confuse his audience and fool them into making wrong choices. His success rate was significantly higher than they predicted it should be and so they asked if he would cooperate with them in trying to determine how he did so well. As a rule magicians don’t like this sort of attention and perhaps he had apprehensions about performing in front of rational, analytical beings such as scientists. As it turned out he had nothing to fear; the scientists were also easily fooled. Applying all their logic and even using cameras didn’t help them grasp why his trick was so successful. Being scientists they knew it couldn’t be “magic” so they really needed an alternative explanation.
Hours of study and piles of observations left them confused until someone had the bright idea of tracking the eye movements of the audience. Sure enough, they soon realized that they had been studying the wrong thing! Attempting to intently follow the magicians hand movements was what they intended to do. Tracking their own eye movements revealed that despite their best intentions, they were not fully focused on his hands at all. Their attention was actually being broken because their eyes were being drawn to look at the magician’s face. They intended to look at one thing but the distraction was just enough to ensure that they missed seeing what they were looking for. Apparently intentions and realities don’t always match. Besides knowing what to look for, they also needed to ignore what they were not looking for. But they were up against an inbuilt, strongly reinforced default. Humans learn early in life to look at faces as part of assessing people and situations. We find it hard to break that default even when we realize it’s a hindrance to what we want to do.
We do the same in life. Experience teaches us some hard lessons and we learn to be on our guard. We are so busy looking for dangers and humiliations to avoid, seeking out the reassurance we feel we need, that we miss what is actually happening around us. We find it difficult to accept some of the things we see and find ourselves explaining away or even dismissing outright things that are actually happening. Worse still, we may bring a world-view of faith to a reality we don’t quite grasp and the outcome is confusion and misunderstanding. Not at all what we had in mind!
Taking things a little further, not everything we think we see is actually there (as the magician’s audience discovered.) There’s well documented accounts of eye-witnesses who will positively state what they saw even though their brains have “made up” missing pieces. Scientists have shown folks movies of an event, skipped the critical action and smoothly transitioned to the conclusion of the event. The “witnesses” are able to explain “exactly what happened” even though in reality they did not see it at all. Some of the statements of what they saw can be wild but the witnesses are not deliberately lying. Their brains have helped them by extrapolating a series of events and supplying an explanation for what happened. They think they saw it all. World-view can be like that. We see what we want to see and supply the pieces we are missing. It can get confusing when people with strongly differing world-views observe the same series of events. We are not aware of the pieces we have supplied. We have no intention to distort reality and firmly believe we “saw what we say we saw.”
So this presents us with two challenges: knowing what to look for, and filtering out what we did not in fact “see.” When we know what to look for we also know what we are not looking for and what are pointless distractions. Confronting these twin challenges will focus our grip on reality and so our ability to influence and shape our world. Ignoring and underestimating them leaves us confused, out of touch with reality and largely irrelevant to those who are around us.
John the Baptist had a big impact on his community. People were sick of the struggle of life and they were fed up with being continually oppressed and ripped off in the name of government. Their views and needs were being ignored and the political and social leaders were so busy lining their own pockets they didn’t have time or interest to devote to community needs. Life was tough and most people were living from day to day, inches above the poverty line. They knew things weren’t right but what could they do? Their world-view included the understanding that God would send them a ruler who would lead them back to prosperity and restore their good fortunes. They didn’t know exactly how this would happen but they did know they needed it to happen real soon. Some insurrectionists played to the expectation and found they had a ready following but the oppressors succeeded in putting them down. John turned up and began saying things like, “Get ready, he’s coming!” and folks got real excited. They were looking for something but weren’t sure what it was. They were willing to join his insurrection as soon as it came. They wanted answers. John talked to them about being ready and they went along with that in large numbers.
One day John was standing with two of his followers when he saw Jesus walking by. He said, “Look, it’s the lamb of God.” The two followers picked up on John’s comment and decided to follow Jesus to see if they could understand what John meant. When Jesus realized they were following him he forced them to focus their thoughts by asking them, “What do you want?’ To us their answer may seem a bit contrived, “Teacher, we want to see where you live.” Let’s give them credit; you can tell only so much from what a person says, but you can tell much more if you can see how they live. They’d been following John and although they knew he was genuine, they also knew that he wasn’t the solution they had been waiting for. Jesus made them an offer they just couldn’t refuse, “Come and you will see.” They did just that. They spent that day with him. They watched his interactions with people, they focused on how he operated and they saw him in action as he interacted with people and situations throughout that day. What they saw convinced them that they had found the special person they had been looking for and they decided then and there to become his followers. They didn’t know everything about this Jesus but they did like what they saw. They did not see some of the things they might have expected but they knew they were looking in the right place. The rest would become obvious as they learned more. They had the first important steps in place – they knew what to focus on and they knew the importance of matching their perceptions to the events they saw. What they saw would transform them.
The competition was for $10,000 and all the competitors had to do was some simple little stuff like cut their way out of a tank full of water while they held their breath and used little hand tools they’d made, escape by digging under or scaling over a series of 10 foot fences, and the easiest one of all was to hang upside down for an hour while they figured out how to open six safes which held parts of the gun they would assemble to shoot the rope holding their feet. So it was nothing very challenging or out of the ordinary. Life feels like this for some of us everyday. But one of the competitors had lost an eye years ago. He’d compensated by body- building so the kids who had made fun of him growing up were now very careful to be his friends and limit themselves to only saying nice things about him. It’s good to be surrounded by sensible people who give you respect. However, only having one eye produced interesting side-effects like finding it hard to judge distances and worst of all, when you get something in your eye there is no back-up. He got something in his eye and no matter how much energy he exerted from that point, he was unable to focus enough of it to complete the tasks. Kudos for competing and doing so well! He showed guts and real grit. But that vision thing really matters and there’s no substitute.
Ted Williams earned his place in the baseball hall of fame by hitting baseballs more than anyone else. He set the record at .406 and just to make the point, he was still hitting .388 sixteen years later. Unlike hanging upside down for an hour and then firing a gun you just assembled at your own feet, this super-hitting of baseballs is serious business. Everyone’s been puzzled about how he did it so well. I know the answer! It was on cable last week so
it must be authoritative and reliable. Apparently Ted’s problem was that he didn’t see things like other folks do. He had eyes and he used them the same way we do but he didn’t see what we see. The presenter claimed that Ted had 20/10 vision which must be an upgrade from 20/20 or 20/whatever it is that the rest of us suffer from. Cutting through the intricate scientific explanations, the argument goes that Ted could see stuff that was further away more clearly and this gave him more time to react. Combine more time with creative techniques and impressive eye/hand coordination, a carefully tuned and balanced bat of the correct weight and voila, super-hitter. Did we mention long hours of practice, total focus, hours of training (they didn’t have the help of steroids back in those days so they had to do it the old-fashioned way), turning up at games, facing the scariest pitchers you can imagine (all bent on taking you out in the worst possible way) and . . . anyway, we have the idea. What he saw affected what he did and how well he did it. If he’d been blind he would have needed to make his name in some other activity.
We talk about having vision and making an impact in life on other people. We’re not sure exactly what that means but it sounds good so we talk about it. When some folks talk about their vision for life they string a lot of nice sounding words together but their lives look a lot like everyone else’s and they aren’t doing anything different. Perhaps they visited dilbert.com for some words and phrases that sound impressive but that’s not vision. When the blind lead the blind the outcome is inevitable. People with vision actually see what is around them and that affects what they do. It changes their lives. There’s a fascinating account of a guy who was born blind. Folks weren’t inclined to help him much so he was forced to beg to keep body and soul together. He got by but his life wasn’t going in a fantastic direction; it was hard work this begging. One day Jesus walked past him and noticed him. The yucky part is that he spat in the dirt and made some mud to put on the blind guy’s eyes, then told him to go wash it off. Maybe if you are blind you are not so fussy about how your mud is prepared but the guy went and washed it off. His problem was soon revealed when he realized he could do something he’d never done before – see. We think of this a being such a natural thing but we forget that this guy had never seen before. He was trained to count steps and feel walls, he was used to having to rely on others to point him in the right direction and help him find things. He’d never seen his mother before (imagine if he didn’t like what he saw!). Everything was new to him. The way he’d learned to “see” the world was now being challenged in every possible way. He was into mental overload. Old ways would have to be forgotten and he would have to learn new ways. Or he could shut his eyes and carry on life as before, avoiding the uncertainty and fear of too much information. Better the familiar than the unknown! No vision was a problem he’d learned to solve as best he could. No one would expect much from him because he was blind. Maybe it would be better to stay that way and keep dealing with low expectations. We know that the “right” answer is that you are supposed to be able to see and use your eyes but we’re also familiar with the saying, “There is none so blind as he who will not see.” There are some things we’d rather not see. There are things we’d rather not know. So the guy had a choice, he could take this gift of vision and run with it or he could try to lose it and return to “normal.” Running with it was going to irrevocably change his life. Nothing would ever be the same again. New responsibilities, new opportunities, new understanding and a whole new order were rushing his way. What to do? Old habits die hard and most of us do our level best to avoid change. Maybe if we are honest for a split second we might admit that there are things in our lives that we prefer to not see or see only a little. Suppose for a moment that we suddenly saw that we have been called and empowered to change the world into a better place; the ramifications are enormous! We would be immediately challenged to change radically the way we live and the things we do. Our priorities and habits would be forced to change. No more excuses for under-performance or for merely goofing off. When we can see, our world-view changes and our lifestyle is required to change with it. Everything we have learned is up for reinterpretation and reconsideration. Vision makes all the difference. No one who claims to have had a spiritual revelation wants to admit they have no vision – that would be one of those oxymoron things since to receive a revelation implies we have the ability to actually see it. But if there is no change in behavior the choices are simple: a) they did not see anything and are still blind; b) they did see something but prefer to avoid the change they are now capable of; or c) it’s all a bunch of pretty words designed to win social acceptance in the club. If they really saw something they would not be able to avoid being changed by it. The blind man saw and embraced the changes sight brought. What do we see?
Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary. Sir Cecil Beaton
You can read the account of the blind man in the Bible in the book of John chapter 9. There’s no doubt he could see and his life was irrevocably changed.