Images and Imaginings

Cruz Ultrasound ii

I have become an ultrasound nerd.

I realized this last week when some friends announced their pregnancy on Facebook by posting this early ultrasound picture. Yep, there’s the yolk sac, I thought to myself. I was actually kind of obsessed with it.

Official nerd status = confirmed.

At the local pregnancy center where I work we provide free ultrasounds to help determine a viable pregnancy or estimate the gestational age. As the Client Advocate, one of my responsibilities/ privileges is to chaperon these ultrasounds. It never gets old, peering through this window into God’s workshop, the womb.

With the advent of modern ultrasound technology, we’ve been granted unprecedented access to the heretofore hidden world of the unborn. As early as four weeks post-conception, we can visualize and measure a miniature beating heart! And I’ll never forget the time I witnessed a tiny six-week-old embryo move. MOVE. I had no idea.

But as amazing as this technology is, it has its limitations. Sometimes the image is fuzzy and undefined. Our eyes strain to identify the structures on the screen, in varying shades of gray. It’s an inexact science, an imperfect medium.

Much like our Christian life. Jesus has come and opened our eyes to an unseen spiritual realm we never knew existed. We now have some understanding of His activity. We get glimpses of His glory. But they are limited and incomplete. Like hazy pewter images pixelating on a distant screen.

The apostle Paul, despite the glorious revelations he received,* experienced this obscurity in his own spiritual journey. Listen to how he described the struggle in these different translations of 1 Corinthians 13:12:

…we see only an indistinct image in a mirror…what I know is incomplete…(ISV)

…we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror..all that I know now is partial and incomplete…(NLT)

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. (MSG)

Life on this side of heaven is like that. We strain to bring focus to our spiritual vision. We long for a clear and unobstructed view.

This past month, two clients graciously returned to our center to introduce us to their newborn babies. I had “met” these babies on the ultrasound screen some months ago, as they waved and kicked in grainy gray. But to see the color and definition of their perfect features, and to feel their warm bodies breathing on my chest was to know them in another realm entirely.

A day is coming when we will see Jesus face to face. Now we trace His image in black and white on the pages of His Word; some day we will touch the Living Word Himself. Now we “squint in a fog”; soon we will behold the Son in vibrant color, in all of His radiant glory. Now we sense His Spirit moving mysteriously in our midst; then we will feel the very breath of God on our faces as we melt into His enveloping embrace.

YES.

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul also shared the certainty of this hope:

Now we see only an indistinct image in a mirror, but then we will be face to face. Now what I know is incomplete, but then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (ISV)

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (NLT)

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! (MSG)

One day our faith will be made sight. The mist will clear and clarity will reign. This earthly womb we call “home” will give birth to a heavenly reality so beautiful we cannot even conceive of it.

That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9, NLT)

So squint if you must. Imagine if you can. But hope always.

And remember, anything good in this life is just a faint echo, an imperfect image of unimaginably wonderful things to come.

*See 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 for more of Paul’s story.

**This song by Hillsong Worship, “Transfiguration,” has resonated with me lately along these lines:

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Hidden Treasure

image

I strolled right past this simple pencil drawing at the silent auction last month. I honestly don’t remember ever seeing it.

My co-worker’s husband purchased it for our pregnancy center. He proudly showed it to my husband and me as we exited the banquet. Still, I didn’t think much of it.

Until the following Monday morning at work, when I took the time to read the artist’s description of the story behind it:

Mother Teresa herself asked me to create this special drawing of a little child carved in the Palm of God’s Hand. She wanted me to include this beautiful passage from the Old Testament in which God says to each one of us, through the Prophet Isaiah, “See! I will not forget you…I love you.” I created this image for Mother Teresa in 1986, while I was with her in Calcutta, India. –Susan Conroy”

Wow. This was an original piece of artwork, conceived and commissioned by Mother Teresa herself! I realized that the drawing–that I had disregarded–was instead something very special.

But there’s even more to this story. If you look carefully, you will see a word written in pencil on each of the fingers in the drawing. The artist explains:

Mother Teresa wrote on each of the fingers of God’s Hand: “You did it to Me” to remind us of the Words that Jesus said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto Me.”

“You. Did. It. To. Me.”

Jesus’ own words, written in her own handwriting.

Those who knew this precious servant of Christ recall how she sometimes held up the fingers of her hand to explain this. The whole Gospel, she said, could be counted on five fingers.*

I call this the Gospel on five fingers—five words: You did it to me. In your five fingers you have your love for Jesus. Look at your fingers often and remind yourself of this love.” –Mother Teresa

What a treasure! The drawing now hangs in a place of honor in our center. I pass it in the hallway each day as I head up the stairs to my office. It reminds me of the evening of the silent auction. How I missed it, then dismissed it.

Just like I do with people.

How many have I just passed by, too busy or preoccupied to notice? How many have I glanced at with my eyes, but then rejected with my mind? Sized up based upon their outward appearance? Judged in a split second, before taking a few moments to learn their history?

My job at the center has been good for me. I’ve interacted with people I never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. They are sometimes uneducated, unemployed, unkempt.

The least of these.

But then they share their stories. My eyes are opened. My heart is moved. I can appreciate their uniqueness. I understand their worth.

I am learning to care for them.

Teresa of Calcutta did.

I am beginning to treasure them.

Jesus of Nazareth does.

I am preaching His Gospel to myself.

The one in five little words.

The one that changes everything.

“You did it to Me.”

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40, ESV) 

 

*Monsignor Leo Maasburg

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Mom Marathon

exhausted-runnerI am a mom.

I am tired.

Anyone who’s had kids knows those two sentences often go hand in hand.

I guess I’ve earned the right to be weary.  I’ve been at this mothering thing for nearly 22 years now.  And with a newly-minted teenager under our roof, it appears I’ll be at it for a few more.

Sometimes it feels like I’m running a marathon.

In fact, if I add up the time from when our first child entered the world to when our youngest child will exit high school, the span is a little over 26 years.  A marathon = 26.2 miles.  Hmmm.  That must mean I’m in Mile 22 of the Mom Marathon.

No wonder I’m tired.

Believe it or not, I actually completed a couple of 10ks back in the day.  (Never mind the fact that I passed out after one of them.)  But I’ve never run a marathon.  Nor do I wish to.  I can only imagine the challenges of a race that long.

“The marathon is half over at 20 miles.” quipped distance runner Frank Shorter.  Apparently around miles 20 to 21 there comes a point where runners have used up their glycogen stores, and the race becomes even more difficult.  Exhausted runners are literally “running on empty,” and have hit the proverbial “Wall.”  It’s a phenomenon also known as “The Marathon Bonk.”

Could there also be a “Motherhood Bonk?”

It sure might help explain some things.

Like how my reserves seem to be depleted.  How my reactions aren’t always stellar.  How I sometimes wonder if I’ll make it through one more round of teenage drama.

(So while I may be going “bonkers,” it’s a relief to consider that it might even be “normal” and expected at this stage in the race!)

How do marathoners beat the bonk?  I turned to the Internet in search of some tips that might help me conquer my maternal marathon mountain.  The collective wisdom they had to offer could be summarized in just two words:

Don’t.  Quit.

Really?  Is that the best you’ve got?  Cause I was kind of hoping for a little bit more.

One marathoner put it this way:  “What do you do?  Keep going!  Your body will make the transition and you will push through “the wall” to the finish line.”*

Maybe those marathon veterans are wiser than one might think.  It sounds an awful lot like something the apostle Paul once said:

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing:  Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:13-14, NLT)
 

Life is hard.  So is parenting.

We’re all going to hit those inevitable “walls,” those times when we’re running on empty.  When we don’t know how we can possibly take another step.

Press on.  Push through.

God will give us the strength to put one front in front of the other.  And then do it again.  And again.  And again.

Because that’s how it’s done.

Along the way, He will refresh and refuel us.  He’ll supply everything we need to finish the race.  And finish well.

And so we keep on running…

 

(In church yesterday we sang the Hillsong United song “Running.”  It was timely encouragement!  Perhaps it will encourage you too!  Check it out here:  http://youtu.be/UOq5vmsTDWY )

*Source:  www.marathonrookie.com

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The View

It’s all about the view.

It’s what made us fall in love with this house on the hill.  The view out back is pastoral, with rolling hills and valleys dotted with pine trees, houses and horses.  The view out front features spectacular sunsets over distant mountain peaks.  The house was even built to maximize the views, angled to the southwest, with long, tall windows and without interfering fences or trees.

Because, it’s all about the view.

As we settled into our new home, however, my gaze shifted to other things.  Little things like cracked bathroom tiles and stained carpet.  Bigger things like a cold basement and drafty windows.  And these things began to obstruct my view and cloud my perspective.  I grumbled and second-guessed our decision to purchase this house.  I even questioned God and His leading.

You see, it’s all about the view.

And I was in desperate need of a vision check.  My focus on what was wrong with this picture eclipsed all that was right.  My perspective needed to change.

The Lord brought this verse to mind:  “…in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NAS)

In response to His prompting, I decided that whenever I was tempted to dwell on a negative thought about the house, I would choose instead to thank Him…

Lord, thank you for this house.

Thank You that we could afford to buy a house. 

Thank You for helping us with this move. 

Thank You…

Thank You…

Thank You…

As I practiced a discipline of thankfulness and cultivated an attitude of gratitude, my viewpoint began to change.  God and His goodness filled the horizon and the brightness of His presence dispersed the shadows of negativity in my heart.

It really is all about the view.

And I can see clearly now.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1, NLT)

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