A Revealing Clue

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It can be so easy to look at either my small world or the broader world and have my mood and attitude impacted in one direction or another. My thoughts focus on something that pulls me along a path toward positive or negative views of the world, Christianity, so much more, and myself. My thoughts are highly influenced by what I take in through my eyes in the physical environment as well as what they pick up from the interior landscape of my innermost being.

In the physical dimension we rarely notice how wonderfully God has designed us. Each of our eyes has a different line of vision that allows us to see things in three dimensions. We are picking up vast amounts of knowing with little conscious thought about the bits of information bombarding our brain and our perception.

An Example of Figure-Ground Ambiguity

One whole field of psychology (Gestalt) is centered on the premise that the information we take in or observe is subjective and biased because it is experienced from the perspective of the individual person who is looking or taking in that information. I’m sure we have all been reminded of that when witnesses of an accident each report something slightly different or even a great deal different.


This area of science refers to this tendency as “figure-ground”. The concept relates to our tendency to perceive an image in the foreground first, while other images fade into the background. This discrimination in “figure ground” is the ability to perceive what your brain is telling you and determine what you believe is the most important image. It comes because we focus our attention on some aspect of something and it becomes “the figure” and the rest becomes the background.


Photographers love to keep that in mind as they are setting up the shots they want to take and what they want those who will view the photo to focus on. I’m not a professional photographer and I do that as well. I am actually seeking to guide the viewer to see something I see and see something differently I think they may miss.

Why is “figure-ground” important?

It can be a great tool to use to discover what is pulling our thoughts and attitudes in directions that either equip us to face the day’s challenges or defeat us before we leave our bedroom. Are we looking at things with a telephoto lens or a wide-angle lens? The lens we use will make all the difference.

Headlines scream at us and often alarm us. They can become “the figure” and soon we can be drawn into fear, anger, and even hate. A disappointment, wound, or loss can result in the same thing. If we focus on “the figure” long enough, it soon becomes all that we see. We cannot help but see our home, street, block, town, etc. as a central focus. It is where we live. But in doing so have we, have I, forgotten that “ground” of the unseen world of the Kingdom that surrounds us and is where our citizenship lays?

If we lose that, we can easily become discouraged or fearful. More than a few times, scripture reminds all of us about our focus. Here are just a few examples:

Colossians 3:2 (ESV)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

The revealing clue is that what has become “the figure” in our lives, will influence our perception, thought, attitude, mood, choices, and actions.

Each day we need to align our life, perception, thoughts, attitudes, mood, choices, and actions with His lens, His words.

He is “the figure” that must guide each day. Our challenge is not to allow Him to become “the ground” we fail to see.

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A Habit That Haunts Us

I watched as two little boys stood back to back in the gym measuring to try to prove who was the taller of the two. Not too many feet away, two little girls were comparing the colors and number of styles of rubber band bracelets they had.

Is there a standard for rubber band bracelets? I thought this was supposed to simply be a fun activity. Is there really a good, better, best?

It seems as if we are all caught up in measuring something, someone, or ourselves.

It starts early in life as children. It comes down to biggest, best, or most sorts of things. It might look harmless enough, but it begins to set a grid in place, a filter, that lingers well into adulthood and causes us to continue to measure.

To measure means to compare, to determine a better or best, a worse or worst.

I am not suggesting it is all bad. When I go to the grocery store, I hand select the apples, bananas, grapes, and other produce to assure I get the “best” of what is offered for the “best” price.

I confess that beyond the color or style of a chair or couch, I am asking about the “best” fabric that will stand up under wear or repel stains when I am buying a piece of furniture. I want it to last and I want my money to go as far as possible.

Other comparisons become more problematic. It can be easy to look at who has the newest car or house, who has the nicest office, who gets the most exotic vacations, and on and on.

Those sorts of comparisons provide fertile ground for jealousy, envy, and aggressive zealousness that sets aside solid values for people, practices, and principles. It divides families, friends, neighbors, and nations.

A great deal of energy can go into all of these pursuits, but what impact does it have on our soul?

Sadly, these sorts of comparisons can creep into our spiritual lives and organizations as well.

What impact does it have on eternity?

I think we really know that Jesus measures differently.

Jesus looks at the content of our heart, not the size of our bank account. Jesus looks at the quality of our character, not the titles or positions we hold.

Jesus’s choices are a paradox to us. He chooses those that others skip over or reject. He honors small people and small things. He recognizes those who are humble and don’t speak of their achievements if they have them versus those who give Him lists of what they have done hoping to impress Him.

Each day I have a choice to make. What will I do with the time that has been allotted to me? The challenge for me is to put on His lenses to determine that.

Yesterday I had no grand plans, no appointments to keep, and no errands to run. Even as a retiree those days are not as common as you might think. Was I going to measure my day by some level of what is considered productivity? (That is always a big temptation if you have been raised with a strong work ethic as I was.)

The truth is there were many things I could do and perhaps should do and some of those did get tackled. I still deal with the question in my head at the end of the day that asks, “what did you accomplish today”.

The best thing the Lord showed me through His lenses was that it was simply a day I was available, available for His use as needed.

When my schedule is full for the day, I am not so available for anything else that might come up. I can’t be on standby for anyone or anything very easily. I also cannot “bank” resources to replenish my own heart and soul that I may need later or that He might want to use later.

On this “standby” day I received several emails about significant prayer needs and I had time to not only pray, but also to send a handwritten note to encourage the persons. I also had time to listen to a friend without needing to interrupt her to go running off somewhere. My heart and soul were filled up with an extended quiet time and finishing a book that enriched my reflections.

The measure that matters is what matters to Him. That is what will impact eternity.

Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN

What Audacity!



Have you ever considered how audacious Jesus was?


He broke every aspect of the religious culture of His day. He hung out with all the wrong people. He even seemed to enjoy doing so, not because He was showing the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the day. He actually loved them. He never saw them as less than.


I love how Leslie Leyland Fields describes this:


“Jesus seems to collect them, the ones every other leader ignores, the kind of followers no one else wants: the sick and weeping, lame and palsied.”


And it was really a shock when He started choosing His disciples. They were just common fisherman by and large. There was even a tax collector and some were known to have quite a temper. They never studied the Torah. What made them so special?


I heard He even hung out with that weird guy who was baptizing by the river whose name was John and He let John baptize Him. If God sent Him, why would He consider that? No one was sure of whether John was really legit or not.


There was a big stir when He went to the wedding with His mother. I guess the host’s wine ran out and He asked for the water pots to be brought and then somehow turned that water into wine. The wine was supposed to be the best wine served that whole night. Talk about a bold move!


Then there were women.


He actually hung out with women. How scandalous that was! Some of the women were IMG_3047known to be loose and free with favors. There was even a harlot. And then that madman who went around half naked much of the time. They say He cast out demons and sent them into a herd of pigs that ran over a cliff.




None of it made sense. If He were the Messiah, He would never have been born to Mary and Joseph, the carpenter. Besides He didn’t look or act like a king and He didn’t crush the Romans who were making life so difficult or deal with the priests who were robbing people blind sometimes.


I think we miss seeing this Jesus many of us profess with all His glory displayed for us to see. He loved no matter who you were, where you were born, how you had messed up, what disease you had, who your parents were. How audacious!


It can be easy to forget that the word “nice” doesn’t seem to show up as a character trait or a fruit of the spirit. It can be easy for us to be misled, as we desire to be like Him. We try to be “nice” and end up being inauthentic instead of loving boldly and audaciously as He did. He didn’t limit His circle to the approved group…quite the opposite. He held nothing back, not just on the cross but every time He interacted with anyone.


I wonder if we have ever considered how dangerous life could be if we really became more like Him. People wouldn’t “get” us. The crowd we usually hang with would be confused and maybe a little irritated if we brought “one of those people” to our meeting.


The truth is that He came to shake things up because no one was really getting in touch with the truth about His Father, our Father. He was clear on His mission and purpose, but He wasn’t out to start a revolution.


He was the revolution.


Whether you accepted Him or not, whether you do today, the world has never been the same because He came and with a holy audacity that turned the world on its ear.


“The audacity of Jesus! To love people like me, like them, and to move us toward faith in him! To sweep so many undeserving into heaven!”

Leslie Leyland Fields