Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thoughts from the Blind Man

The following is a monologue narrative based upon the blind man found in John 9. 

I was born without sight.  I didn’t know that at the time, and in fact it took me many years to know that there was something that other people could do that I was not able to do.  People always ask me what it was like to be blind, and I don’t know how to answer that.  When you’ve never experienced sight, how can you describe what it’s like to be without it?  That’s like me asking you what it’s like to fly like the sparrow?  How would you know if you haven’t experienced it before.  To me, I knew the world around me through the gifts that God gave me.  I could tell you what time of day it was just from the feel of the sun on my skin, the sound of the birds and people around me, and even the smells of the food being cooked.  You don’t have to see to know there are people all around you – most of us make enough noise that even a person without hearing would know that there are people in the room. I didn’t know what sight was like because I never had it.  But what I did know was that people treated me differently because I couldn’t see.

Growing up, people always felt like they needed to help the “poor blind kid.”  “Here, let me guide you so that you don’t fall.”  Come on – I can make it on my own from my home to the city market just fine!  You think I can’t notice when I’ve got to step up or down?  You take for granted the information that your eyes give you – I never had that, so I learned to adapt. 

People would tell me all the time how they felt sorry for me that I couldn’t see.  I’d get so frustrated, because I’d try to tell them that there was almost nothing that they could do with vision that I could not do without.  They’d say, “but you can’t read!”  Hardly anyone except the priests, tax collectors or maybe the rich could read – so most people I knew couldn’t read either!  They’d say, “but you can’t see the beauty of God’s creation!”  I’d say, “but you can’t smell the beauty the way I do, or hear the beauty, or notice the gentle breeze as it blows across your skin.” They’d say, “but you can’t work – you can’t have a job to support yourself.”  I’d say, “I could if someone would give me a chance!” 
I wanted to be a tax collector – you don’t have to have eyes to tell when someone is short changing you and when they’re not.  But no one believed in me.  They just felt sorry for me.  I tried to be a carpenter, but no one trusted me with a hammer – eh, I guess I understand that part.  After I had tried so many things, I gave up and even tried to be a shepherd.  You may depend on your eyes to know when there is danger, but I can hear it.  The sheep will get real quiet – and I can tell something is wrong.  Or if one sheep strays and gets lost, I can hear that it's gone before someone could see it.  I was willing to take the lowest job around, and I was going to be the best shepherd that God would allow me to be, but everyone just wanted to feel sorry for me.  “I can’t believe that God let this happen to you,” they’d say.  They said it so many times that I eventually began to believe it.  Why would God make me like this?  You know – I would have been fine not ever having seen a thing if it wasn’t for all the people who felt sorry for me, or who wouldn’t even let me be what God had created me to be. 

Eventually, I settled into the lot of life that everyone kept expecting of me.  Day after day, I’d sit outside by the road, and I’d beg.  As people walked by, some would actually make faces at me – and they’d act like I didn’t know that they were mocking me.  I mean, when somebody says, “Hey – watch this,” and then they go silent, and then their buddy starts laughing, even a blind man could know what was going on.  Or they’d walk past with their hand over their money pouch, hoping that I wouldn’t hear the money jingling when they said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have any money today.”  I got so tired of it all that I even quit asking.  I’d just go out and sit – enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face; the morning breeze blowing across my brow; the aroma of bread baking; the sound of children’s playing and laughter. Everyone else had given up on me because of my lack of vision; I gave up on everyone else because of their lack of sight. 

One day I heard a group of voices that I was not familiar with approaching.  When you’ve been around this place as I have, you really do know everyone around – and everyone has their own unique way of walking and talking – and some particularly have their own smell.  But those who were coming my way, I did not know.  When someone is approaching that I don’t know, I go on high alert – because too many times those unfamiliar voices have led to someone stealing from me, or even striking me.  I remember one time a group of soldiers that were passing through that decided to take the liberty of making fun of me and even spitting on me.  So now, I take extreme caution when someone is approaching that I don’t recognize their voice, their walk, or even their smell. 

As they got closer, I heard one voice ask “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”  I was well acquainted with this sort of question.  People asked me all the time what I had done to go blind: did I stare at the sun too long, or did I eat something bad for me?  I had even heard people say that my mother must have done something wrong when I was in the womb, and that must surely be the cause of my inability to see as they do.  Again, I knew all the questions, and I also knew all the answers that they gave.  So now I was curious what this “rabbi” would say.  Yes, teacher, explain why I cannot experience the gift of sight!

And then I heard the voice of the one who I could only assume was the “Rabbi” that was spoken to.  It was a voice so kind and pure that I could just sit and listen to him read the census in the book of Numbers.  “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.  We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”  I wasn’t sure if I heard him correctly, but I was pretty sure that he said it was neither my fault, nor Mom and Dad’s!  I’ve heard a lot of other people’s reasons that they thought I was blind, but I’ve never heard one that didn’t place blame on one of us! 

It then began to sink in on me that he was saying that I was blind so that God’s work might appear.  And I start thinking, “Once again, something is going to happen and I won’t be able to see it!”  I was still trying to process what had been said, when I noticed something.  I could hear that this group of men had stopped walking, and I could tell that they were all looking at me.  I felt my pulse quicken and I heard one step towards me.  I heard him bending down near me, and I began to clutch at my belongings, thinking for sure that he was getting ready to rob me.  And then I heard the disgusting sound of this one that was near me spitting.  “Oh no, not again,” I thought to myself.  I reached up to my hair, because even though I had not felt the spit, and though it sounded like he spat on the ground, I fully expected to be disgusted when I found it in my hair.  I tried to ask “What are you doing?,” but nothing would come out.  More desperate to see at this moment than at any other point in my life, I began to hear him mixing the spit into the dirt.  In horror, I felt as he began to place this mud from his spit onto my eye – and I tried to stop him!  I grabbed at his hands, but he breathed “Peace” to me – and I suddenly felt a calm.  Soon he was placing more mud on my other eye.  I felt humiliated as this “Rabbi” made a mockery of me; I felt anger at his friends who let this happen; I felt so confused – what did I ever do to deserve this?

And then I felt his strong hands take hold of mine, and he began to pull me up.  He told me “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.”  And then he and his group continued down the road.  They just left me – standing there with mud on my face.  Did he really just tell a blind man to go and wash at the pool of Siloam?  And no one is even going to even offer to guide me there?  I can’t go anywhere without someone trying to “help” me.  “Let me give you hand,” or “here, take my hand.”  But not this man.  It was like he knew more about me than anyone else did.  He knew that I could make my own way there.  I didn’t need any help! 

As I began to walk to the pool, I was filled with such confusion that I didn’t know what to do.  I couldn’t believe what had happened – the spit, the mud, and then sending me on my own without anyone’s help.  On the one hand, I was humiliated and angry; on the other hand, someone actually believed in me that I was capable of making it there on my own!  Just as I got to the pool I started thinking that once I got cleaned off, I might just go back to the town square and try to find this man.  Maybe he has a job that he might offer me.  In fact, when he sees that a blind man can track him down based on smells and sounds, then maybe he or someone will offer me the job of a shepherd!

Several other people were at the pool, gathering their water for the day to take back to home.  I was so tempted to just jump in, and to feel the water cool my skin – and to wash away all the dirt and muck that had fallen upon my body as I sat by the road – but I knew that if I wanted to find the man again, I really just needed to wash the mud off of my face and get going.  I leaned over the side, and I dipped my hands in the water, and I brought the cool water to my face.  For some reason, just as the water was about to hit my face I was reminded of one of the sayings of Moses – “Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight.”  As I felt the mud washing down my face, I reached down for more water, I experienced something that I had never experienced before – I saw my own face looking down in the water!  Not understanding what was happening, I splashed more water on my face, and more water, and more water.  People began to stare – and I could see them staring!   I looked back into the water and stared at myself – and I overheard someone say, “Someone needs to help walk him back to his home.”  And I shouted, “Praise to the Lord God Almighty!  I can see!  I can see!”

I could hear them and I jumped and danced for joy, and I knew they were doubting that I could actually see.  As I sprinted back home, I heard some of my neighbors asking each other, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”  A couple of them even began arguing with each other, “This is the one that was blind!,” and another saying “No, but it looks like him.”  In a way, they were both right – because I am the one who was blind, but now I’m not that man any more!  I may look like him, but this man that put his spit and mud on my eyes has made me new!  He’s given me a new life!  I once was blind, but now I see! 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Puzzle

Once a great artist created a true work of beauty. He was ever so proud of his beautiful creation – the way the colors blended together, the way the images offered such perspective. One day this image was torn, through no fault of the artist. When he looked at how the image was torn, he thought to simply destroy the image and create a whole new one. Yet upon further reflection, he realized in a strange mysterious way, the torn piece could be put back together re-representing the original beauty. In fact, the tear even seemed to add character, so the artist proceeded to cut the original work into hundreds of different pieces of all shapes and sizes. He drew a simple image of the orignial so that someone else might be able to put all the pieces together – reassembling the original work of beauty. As he gazed upon the many different pieces, each one alone was a beautiful thing. Some of the pieces had a straight side, while others had many different contours and edges. Some were covered with the vibrant colors of the original image, others were covered with the dark shadows. Alone they were beautiful, but the image would never be complete until someone put all the pieces together again. So he placed the pieces all together in a box, and placed the copy of the original on top of the box, hoping that one day someone might recreate the original beauty.

Inside the box, the pieces became aware of themselves. Some began to notice that they had a nice, clean straight edge, while the others were just sloppy shapes. Those with the straight sides began to gather together, recognizing their own superiority to the other pieces. “This image would never be contained were it not for me!” proudly proclaimed one piece. Not to be outdone, a piece that consisted of curves and dips pronounced, “Yet without me, this image would have no heart!” Piece after piece exclaimed its own importance to the overall work of beauty, and day after day it became more and more obvious that the original work would never be recreated.

One day the artist’s son found the box. Seeing the beautiful image on the top of the box, the son opened it up – only to find all of the hundreds of pieces scattered about within the box. The son could see the work of beauty that his father intended, and so he set out to bring these broken, torn pieces back together. As he poured out the pieces upon the floor, he began sorting them so that he might begin to assemble the original creation. He first began to grab the pieces with the straight edges so that he might create the border. The straight edge pieces took such pride that they were chosen first. They linked together as he placed them, and they held together tightly, thinking to themselves, “I knew he would not want those sloppy pieces! He’s liked us best all along!” When the son had finished the border, he looked down at what he had put together. What he saw was the shape of what was originally intended: it held the basic form of the original, and the edges maintained the order of the original, but the beauty of the original was not found only in the border. Much to the horror of the straight edge pieces, the son began to take the “sloppy” pieces and he placed them with great care according to what he knew the original image was to look like. As the picture began to be recreated, each piece was able to maintain its own personal shape and size, but amazingly it became a part of something much more beautiful. The pieces with all of the curves and contours began to realize that while they held such beauty independently, together they formed the heart of the image. The straight edge pieces began to realize that while they maintained order and structure independently, together they completed something much, much greater. As the son placed the last piece, he realized that he had, in fact, recreated the very work of art that his father had first made.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Spreading Wings of Hope - Devotion for 5/11/09

Spreading Wings of Hope – Devotion for 5/11/09

I’m coming into the last week of the worship series “Hope in Troubled Times,” and without a doubt, sometimes I know I am preaching more to myself than anyone else. There are some Sundays that after the service I just say to God, “Ok, Big Guy – I know who I was preaching to today, and I sure I hope I was listening closely.” I think we all need hope, and it can become quite easy for any ray of hope to be covered up by the clouds of our troubles. But as we have been looking at the way God strengthened and directed Joshua, I have been reminded of how God strengthens and directs us. And I am reminded that many of the troubling things in our lives now will only later prove to be something miraculous.

You may have heard the ancient parable about the creation of birds. Its says that God laid at the feet of each bird a pair of wings and said, “Wear these.” The birds tried them on, but they felt heavy, cumbersome, and awkward. Why would God give them such burdens to carry? But then, in time, the wings became bearable and, with more time, the birds began to spread them in the wind. Eventually they realized that these burdens were in reality blessings that offered them the gift of flight.

As I was visiting just last week with a veteran of World War II, he was telling me about what it was like to storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Bullets whizzing, bombs blasting, and thousands of soldiers pressing onto the shore. He told about jumping into a foxhole with another soldier right behind him, and when it seemed safe he got out of the hole, but the other soldier had been killed. That night when he finally found a safe place, he found bullet marks on his helmet from the bullets that just missed. He found his rifle and radio on his back had been destroyed probably by shrapnel that could have hit him. And he found himself weary from the horrors of the day, so he lay himself down to sleep. As he laid there, he knew he was not the most comfortable, and it seemed that the ground he was laying on was both soft and hard at the same time, but he was so completely tired he didn’t move an inch. At morning light, as others were beginning to stir around him, he got himself up and looked down and saw what had made him so uncomfortable as he slept – an unexploded shell that he had slept on. As he relayed the story to me, he talked about how he still could not believe that he was not killed that night by the shell. He told me, “If I had tried in the night to move the thing that troubled me so, I probably would have triggered it and it would have killed me.” But instead, he endured the difficulty, the burden, and eventually was able to spread his wings of hope knowing and trusting that God would take care of him.

Sometimes the things that burden us and trouble us are the things that God has already taken care of. Sometimes those things that trouble are there to help produce something beautiful within us – hope, if you will, just like a pearl.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Where is God now? - Devotion for 5/7/09

Where is God now? – Devotion for 5/7/09

The week after Easter I was able to go with a mission work team from the church out to Beaumont, TX, where we were engaged in helping people recover from the damaging hurricanes Ike and Rita that hit last year. Though I’ve been a part of mission work teams for hurricane recover before, it has been several years, and I think that somehow as time goes by you seem to become anesthesitized to what you are seeing. Being there that week reminded me of how amazingly powerful nature can be. I think it all really hit home for me on our next to last day there when we had finished up the work that we had been assigned to do, and so we took a drive to Galveston to see the damage. Breathtaking is truly the best word I can think of to describe what I felt. For miles all you could see was pylons of where homes once stood. Half a mile or so from the road you could see cars that had been washed away and carried off. It simply looked like God had taken his arm and wiped the face of the earth in the same way that I may clean off the kitchen table after the boys have eaten. I can only begin to imagine how those people felt when they came back and saw what was left behind. It truly put my own troubles and difficulties into perspective.

I know that many times in those types of situations people will ask the question, “Where is God in all of this?” That being said, that very question is being asked right now by people near each and every one of us as we are facing such troubling times. Many people have attributed the suffering of so many in our country to what they deem as our country turning away from God. I’ve heard some remark that they think that God has abandoned the blessing of America because America has abandoned God. I really, really, really do not like that mode of thinking. Because I think that we can see God all around us in the middle of the difficult and trying times.

During the First World War, many of the battles were fought in muddy trenches, with soldiers looking through barbed-wire for their enemy, who was down in a muddy trench doing the same thing. Two particular soldiers were side by side, and as they surveyed the battlefield before them, they saw the barbed wire strewn about, they saw the mud holes, and the broken bodies of men. The younger soldier asked, “Captain, where is God in all of this?” At that moment, two non-combatant stretcher-bearers climbed over the top and moved out under enemy fire to pick up a wounded soldier. At that moment, the captain turned to the young soldier and said, “Look, Son, there God is. There goes God now.”

God is present throughout America. He is found in the people who are willing to serve Him. He is found in those who are His hands and feet – reaching out to the least, to the last, and to the lost.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Taking the hits - Devotion for 5/6/09

Taking the hits – Devotion for 5/6/09

I was talking with a friend the other day who was talking about these difficult and troubling times, and all you could hear was the despair and hopelessness in his voice as we talked. It seems like this friend has taken more hits in his life lately and you could tell that he was struggling, as we all would be. I think we all can relate to those times where it seems like one thing after another keeps coming at you, and you just feel like you want to crawl in a closet and hide. As I’ve been working on this worship series I’ve gone back through a lot of books that I’ve read and finding great reminders of hope, and I have truly been inspired.

I was reminded as I was preparing for this series “Hope in Troubling Times” of a story that I had read about an incident that took place during World War II. In the midst of all the battles on land, air, and sea, there was a plane flying on a dangerous mission. It was not long before the plane was hit by enemy fire, not just once, but nine times. The crew and everyone onboard thought they were goners, but somehow the plane was able to remain airborne, and we able to land safely back at base. What became even more astonishing about their survival was that they found that the all of the 9 hits that the plane took were from shells that are supposed to explode on impact – and any single one of those shells should have taken the plane down. The crew was so perplexed and confused about how 9 shells could misfire, so they called in the bomb squad to take them apart. None exploded. Inside each of the shells was a note written secretly in Czechoslovakian that read, “This is all we can do for you now.”

Sometimes it seems like we get hit not just by one thing that could take us out, but 8 more after that! The hope that we can cling to is that sometimes we can’t understand everything that is going on at the moment. I believe in a God that goes before us, that prepares us such that we can take the hits, and I believe in a God that directs us once we’ve gotten hit. Though we may not see clearly what He is doing now, just hold on, and maybe one day we will see what He is doing. Maybe, just maybe, these hits we’ve taken will only make us stronger – instead of bringing us down – when we see how God has already been working.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Not living in fear

Not living in fear – Devotion for 5/5/09

Like I mentioned yesterday, I’m in the middle of a worship series called “Hope in Troubling Times” (HiTT for short). As I’ve been preparing and going through this series, one word keeps coming up – “fear.” People fear what will happen with the market. People fear what’s going on with their retirement account, if they still have one left. People fear the swine flu. People fear the rising violence. People even fear the pirates – and no, I don’t mean ECU. We live in a state of fear and worry, and that causes us to miss out on so much.

Somewhere I was reminded recently about Cinderella. We all know the story of Cinderella, how she was able to go to the ball in spite of her stepmother and stepsisters. Through the help of her fairy godmother, she is able to attend the ball, but she is given the warning that the spell will wear off once the clock strikes midnight. Wonder what would have happened in the story if Cinderella had gone to the ball, only to be fully consumed by the warning that she must be home by midnight? If Cinderella had gone off to that royal ball focused on the fact that it would all be over when the clock struck midnight, she would never have been the kind of companion that so enchanted the prince.

God gave us the gift of life – not so that we should always prepare for the worse and live in fear, but that we should prepare for the best. In the gospel of John, Jesus states, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Though we have many things we could fear, instead of focusing on all of those things, let’s focus on what we do have – the life that is in front of us right now.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hope in troubling times - Devotion for 5/4/09

I'm in the middle of a worship series right now called "Hope in Troubling Times," and we're trying to give hope to people who pressing on the the midst of a troubled world. In my devotion time today, I was reminded of a story I once read about how we must always press on in the midst of difficult, trying times.

A high school basketball coach was trying to motivate his players as the end of a difficult season was approaching. Many players had become so disgruntled and frustrated that they had approached the coach with the possibility of quiting the team before the season even ended. So the coach decided to call all of the team together to try to inspire them to finish strong. As he gave his pep talk he was just starting to get fired up when he asked the players, "Did Michael Jordan ever quit?" The team reponded in unison, "No!" The coach yelled, "What about the Wright brothers? Did they ever quit?" "No!" shouted the team. "Did Abraham Lincoln ever quit?" Again, the team yelled "No!" The coach then asked, "Did Abner Plumbody ever quit?" There was a long silence. The players looked back and forth at each other, and a few started scratching their head as if that would help them remember the name Abner Plumbody. Finally one player mustered up the courage to ask, "Who's Abner Plumbody? We've never heard of him." The coach fired back: "Of course you never heard of him! He quit!"

We all face things that we become discouraged about. We all have things in our lives that may seem hopeless. But if we want to be a part of something truly special we know we must press on and not quit. Have hope.

About Me

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I am a minister in North Carolina.