When we are weighed down by distracting cares drawing our attention, we may not see the lovely gifts standing in plain view to cheer us. We may periodically need someone to point them out to us again; to awaken us to that which has become hidden from our sight: blessings camouflaged in field days of furtive glances and unfriendly lances; beauty choreographed in clear skies, or when grey clouds warn of coming fury.
How does this photo look? Empty? Bleak?
Or, does the deer grazing in a meadow after months of survival peeling bark from barren trees melt our hearts with compassion? The snow of a long cold winter pushed back to the edge of open fields by a warming spring sun fill our hearts with hope? Deciduous branches, lightly etched in pewtered brass across pale blue, rooted in life despite an outward appearance of dismal expectation for fluttering leaves to ever return, lift our hearts with praise?
The plain truth is we sometimes steer away from being mindfully present in each moment to integrate a balanced picture of the scene in which we stand, and veer in directions where we cannot see the forest for the trees or the trees for the forest, missing the whisper of the Spirit. No deep breaths. No second looks. No prayerful waiting for peace to present itself in the goodness all about. Fearing what may be around the next bend, we miss the boundless images of life-affirming grace right in front of us by staring straight beyond the consoling kindnesses of God and fixing our eyes on that which burdens us as though unintentionally wearing blinders to his love.
Our focus becomes obstructed with preconceived ideas of what ‘should’ be or ‘might’ be and we become unable to see what ‘is’ with the fullness of generous possibilities this presents. Goodness is obscured from our view. Gifts are hidden in plain sight.
We forfeit the chance to glean a new appreciation for the Spirit at work in the fields of our service if we do not acquire new lens to correct the myopia of ego defense when things go wrong, to fence off far-sighted plans of self protectionism when we don’t feel strong, to let the simple gifts of his holy beauty hidden in plain sight be our contact to his constant care as received from Christ with a song which plays in our hearts night and day.
We miss the quiet smile of encouragement. We miss the riotous laughter of not taking ourselves so seriously. We miss the breadth and length and height and depth of spiritual strength available to us in his love. We miss the healing power of gratitude for a steady diet of his abundant provision, the tally of a hundred, no a thousand different ways his blessings reach us in disguise.
A downy woodpecker hammering a hollow trunk in a monogrammed configuration of twigs and branches. Dappled clouds slipping by as curtains of an ever changing stage. A call to ‘laugh out loud’ as trees twist and turn to form the written script of texting shorthand.
Life is all around us. Yet soul destroying death so often grabs the headlines of our heart.
A friend told how he could not see the many white-tailed doe his neighbours talked about peering out of gentle woodland knolls just past roadside ditches when he first moved into his country home. Once in awhile, they would be out in the open nibbling his garden produce or gracefully moving towards the water’s edge along open paths. But it was not until a few weeks later that he learned to discern the subtle shifts of their camouflage and soon saw them with ease at every turn.
Life is all around us. Yet the toll of blindness to his gifts makes good news scarce and the sighting of his dear presence in the battle all too rare.
The pool of refreshment is sitting right there in front of us. His word, his Spirit, his invitation to commune with him in prayer. Come with a still heart, a waiting heart to discern the shapes of beauty in the shadows. Splash refreshing water on your furrowed fields of faith insistent ground to see the soul reviving gifts he is placing before you, uniquely yours.
Life drenching forms of wonder may be difficult to see at first should we happen to move into neighbourhoods of negativity, suburbs of secrecy, or inner cities of intensely gritty entitlement within our call to servant leadership at any level, but he sees, really sees, and sends, really sends help according to our needs. Let’s keep our eyes open.
“For the LORD comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.” (Isaiah 51:3)
Ann Voskamp, author of ‘One Thousand Gifts’ challenges us to pause throughout the day to notice the fingerprints of God in the beauty of small details, to fix our attitude on one of thanksgiving for concrete artistry accessible to our senses and for abstract intuition to observe the intangible which impresses our soul with a eucharistic lifestyle seeing his grace at every turn.
(She writes regularly at http://www.aholyexperience.com)
Will we live with eyes wide open to his gifts hidden in plain view?
‘Lord, to know your comfort in the careening concerns of congregational life is to see the hidden ‘you’ you see in each one of us and to learn to love one another to the end. To hear your loving heart for us in the hurt of burnt out relationships, the churning uneasiness of misunderstanding, the spurning of respect is to see the true shape of your mercy and justice hidden in plain view on the cross.
Help us see the blessing of your presence at every turn. Amen.’