8 Miles Refocusing on Jesus

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Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Setting aside every encumbrance and fixing our eyes on Jesus.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of accompanying university students to Italy. One of our optional opportunities was an 8-mile bike ride into the hills outside of Florence, with We Like Tuscany. To get to the country, we rode our bikes through the traffic. Our guide, Bill, told us to “go with the flow” and not worry about the cars coming within inches of us.

Each time a car got close to me, my front tire wobbled, and I had to stop and try to start again. The students were also excited and came within inches of me. Once, I crashed into a stone wall.

Four miles up the hills at more than a 60 degree angle. Front tire wobbling, crashing, restarting, walking, and retrying. Continue reading 8 Miles Refocusing on Jesus

Music in Rome Airport

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In 2007, the world-class violinist Joshua Bell, played for tips in a Washington, D.C. subway during the rush hour. He was curious if anyone would notice the quality of his performance. People walked by him, rushing off to their destinations.

In 2014, he showed up at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station with young musicians, this time, to a packed crowd awaiting the performance. No rushing this time.

History, art, religion, and music permeate the Italian atmosphere–ready to delight those who will stop to notice. Recently, Keith and I were waiting at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy to return home.

I noticed a beautiful grand piano roped off on three sides in the middle of the terminal. A young man was sitting close by focused on his cell phone.

A woman noticed the piano and sat down. She began playing a classical piece from memory. For about 20 minutes, I watched the man focused on his cell phone. I watched travelers talk, look around, and rush past the pianist. I watched the group I was with continue to talk, laugh, and text.

I watched this young woman completely absorbed in her music.

I listened. I shared her creation with her. I enjoyed.

She ended elegantly. I walked over to her and clapped. I thought someone else would join me in clapping. No one joined me. She looked up, smiled, stood, fingers still on the piano keys, and smiled again. I clapped again. She took a few steps, turned and smiled again. I continued to clap.

In the to-and-fro of this busy international airport, the two of us shared the joy of her music and the exchange of smiles that summed up the delight of shared moments.

Ears to hear

Repeatedly, Jesus urged His followers to hear Him, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” Vine’s Dictionary indicates that the word for “ear,” οὖς, means the “faculty of perceiving with the mind … understanding and knowing.”

His followers were listening to Him. But Jesus was asking them to stop and really listen to Him, to absorb His truth, and to follow His instruction.

T.S. Eliot wrote about experiencing a moment but missing the meaning. He wrote about the music hanging silently in the air.

God has instructed His children to meditate upon His Word, His precepts, His works. That takes time.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8

I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds. Psalm 77:12

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands. Psalm 143:5

What if we were to stop when we see the heavens declaring the glory of God and meditate on God’s artistry?

What if we were to stop and meditate on one verse of Scripture throughout the day?

What if we were to stop and admire a painting or a melody, and really ponder its meaning, absorb its beauty?

What if we were to stop and really listen to another person?

What if …

My prayer

Father, make me sensitive to the moments when I need to stop rushing and absorb the meaning of a moment. Creator of the Universe, You have created a world filled with beauty, and it all points to Your magnificent glory. Stop me in my tracks and show me Your glory. I love You, LORD!

What’s your prayer?

43 Love-Kissed Years

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From the hippies to the colonels,
From the Midwest to the Pacific Islands,
From the East Coast to the West Coast,
From Italy to California,

From military life to academic life,
From sickness to health,
From travelers to tour guides,
From side-by-side to hand-in-hand.
Forty-three years tasting life.

From traipsing across the globe to home,
From him as student to her as student,
From his career to both careers,
From his study abroad to our study abroad,
Forty-three years living for each other.

Forty-three years laughing.

Forty-three years dancing.

Forty-three years adventuring.

Forty-three years uniting.

Forty-three years kissing love.

I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.
Song of Solomon 6:3

My prayer for you

Father, draw us near to You. Heal marriages. Heal relationships. Bring us into a deeper intimacy with each other and with You. Thank You for the gift of marriage. Bless marriages and show us You in our marriages. We love You, Lord.

Pieta, a sculpture of love, disappointment. Waiting for sculpture of joy of Risen Lord

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“… Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, ‘Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.’” Luke 2:34-35

We lived in Italy about 25 years ago. Keith was in the Air Force, and we were privileged to be stationed at Aviano AB, a 1-hour train ride northeast of Venice. We lived in a 700-year-old town named Dardago.

We toured Vatican City 25 years ago, before the Pieta was vandalized, and it was not protected. I returned three times just to stand before the funeral memorial and weep.

This July, we returned to Rome. The Sistine Chapel paintings were more vivid and beautiful than we had ever seen them, since they have been restored and cleaned. But I was anxious to move through the Chapel to get to St. Peter’s Basilica to stand before the Pieta.

Before the Pieta, I wept.

The window reflection near the head of Mary made me think of the many people standing there taking photographs and then moving on to the next beautiful piece of art. Many did not understand the story. Others knew the story but did not stop to see the window of opportunity to understand more about Jesus, more about Mary, and to experience the pain of the moment.

“Pieta” in Italian means “pity.” Michelangelo was 25 when he released the Pieta from its marble. He believed that the sculpture already existed in the marble, and he just released it.

“Pity” is not the word I would have used to name this sculpture. From a mother’s eyes, I saw a woman who had experienced everything miraculous about this Son, her Savior, her Lord … from his birth, to the turning of water into wine, from raising the dead, to healing the lepers, restoring sight to the blind and song to the deaf. This was the Man who was going to save Israel. Here was all her hope, all her love, all her dreams. Beaten beyond recognition. Dead.

I wonder what sculpture is waiting to be released that shows Mary’s joy when she saw her Son, her Savior, risen.

My prayer for you:

Lord, You took on the beating, the scourging, the sins, the diseases, for us. You hung on the cross to take on sin and pay the price that we should have paid. AND You rose from the dead! You conquered death, and You are at the right hand of God making intercession for us. Fill us with the Holy Spirit and with Your wisdom, so that we can understand the power and joy that only You can bestow upon us as we contemplate our risen Savior.

May the Lord richly bless you as you contemplate Mary’s pity and Mary’s joy.