Friday, March 18, 2011

My Father's Eyes

When I was in college I sang in a small A Capella singing group called Autumn.  My senior year one of the songs that I got to sing lead on was an Amy Grant song called "Father's Eyes."  I loved singing that song.  I loved it because it was pretty.  I loved the arrangement, especially the part where my friend Kevin and I had a little duet.  Mostly, however, I loved singing it because it was meaningful to me.  The words of the song are this:

I may not be every mother's dream for her little girl
And my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world
But that's alright as long as I can have one wish I pray
When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say:

She's got her Father's eyes.  Her Father's eyes.
Eyes that find the good in things, when good is not around.
Eyes that find the source of help, when help just can't be found.
Eyes full of compassion, feeling every pain.
Knowing what your going through and feeling it the same.
Just like my Fathers eyes.

On that day when we will pay for all the deeds we have done.
Good and bad will all be had to be seen by everyone.
And when your called to stand and tell just what you saw in me
More than anything I know, I want your words to be

She had her Father's eyes.  Her Father's eyes.
Eyes that find the good in things, when good is not around.
Eyes that find the source of help, when help just can't be found.
Eyes full of compassion, feeling every pain.
Knowing what your going through and feeling it the same.
Just like my Fathers eyes.

The song really sums up the number one desire in my life.   I earned a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy because I love people and want to help.  I teach counseling classes for the same reason and  I work in the residence hall with college students because I hope, in some small way, I can show Jesus to those around me.

I fail often.   So many times I fill my world with "good" activities and commitments and then have no time left for people.  My family probably gets the worst end of the deal on this.  Recently I have become painfully aware of how often Daniel is trying to tell me something and I am too busy to listen.  Granted, what he is sharing with me may not be of earth shattering importance but it is important to him.  And, even when it is appropriate to redirect and set boundaries, do I do it in way that he can see my Father's eyes?  

My life has not taken the path that I anticipated.  Ten years of dealing with my husband's chronic illness has not always made marriage the joyride I had hoped and I suppose it would be easy to use that as an excuse for focusing inward instead of outward (heaven knows at times I do that plenty).  But to allow that to become my approach to life would just open the door for bitterness and anger to set in.  One huge advantage of seeing the world through my Father's eyes is that it is hard to feel to sorry for myself.   Pain, sadness, and difficult trials are all around.  Why should I be exempt?

I am grateful for the reminders that God gives me on a daily basis of His love and compassion.  I am grateful that He placed this song in my heart and that, even after all these years it continues to renew my spirit and focus my actions.    I am grateful that by seeing my life and trials through His eyes I can see beauty and blessings that, with my own eyes, I would probably miss.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Clearing Season

I grew up in the church of Christ and, in that context, we did not practice Lent -- in fact, I am not sure I even heard the term "Lent" until some time after college. The idea of a season for self sacrifice and reflection was never considered. Even today I have many friends, who I love and respect, who express frustration over the practice of Lent. I have heard more than once the question "Shouldn't we sacrifice and work to be closer to God all the time, not just during a certain time of year?"

While, in principle, I agree with that, in practice the intensity and focus that a clearing season like Lent can bring is not something that most people can maintain over a long period of time. It is certainly not something I can maintain and without out it I become buried in the day to day details and excess baggage in my world. Even Jesus withdrew for a clearing season of 40 days and 40 nights.

And so, though I fully respect and appreciate the right of believers to choose not to participate in a Lenten season, I choose to embrace it. My fervor for this clearing time has been growing and I first began practicing my own version of Lent about 4 years ago. I began simply -- I wanted to work up to a 40 day fast but knew that if I was ever going to get there I would need to start small. The first year I gave up my biggest time waster -- computer games -- and chose to fast one day a week. It was difficult, but very rewarding. I am far from a spiritual giant and cannot claim any great spiritual awakening but it ignited a spark of desire for more and, over the last few years, I have come to hunger for this time of year.

Last year I had high aspirations but just a week or two in Burt became gravely ill and my hope for a clearing season of spiritual growth became a fight for survival. I abandoned my efforts at spiritual discipline and just held on for dear life. God was ever faithful throughout this time and provided for our every need, even in my weakness.

This year Easter is really late and so, therefore, is Lent. Usually it sneaks up on me and I suddenly find it is Ash Wednesday and I have not thought about (much less prayerfully considered) how to best spend my clearing season. This year, I have been waiting with anxious anticipation -- praying and planning this time of reflection and focus. I am longing for a period of renewal and deepened focus in my relationship with God and with the people in my world.

If you are reading this, I ask for your prayers and encouragement as I enter into study and prayer. I fear we may encounter some rough waters in the next few weeks and I would really like to be able to keep my commitment, come what may. Lately I have seen rays of spiritual light that I have not glimpsed in many years. I feel a stirring deep in my soul of a part of myself that has been dormant for too long. I am excited and a little afraid of what may come in the next 40 days but I am ready to enter into my clearing season!