Jordan was just a short distance across the Dead Sea, but I couldn’t see it. I could see an outline of the mountains, but details were blocked by the haze that hung thickly in the air. I had stood near the same spot a few years before and seen much more clearly. Nothing had moved. Jordan was no farther away. No huge skyscraper had been built in the middle of the Dead Sea to obstruct my view. All that got in the way of my sight was air.
The air was saturated. It obstructed my view.
What gets in the way of our vision?
How do we see other countries when we stand at a distance and look through the haze of our assumptions?
Perhaps we have looked through the haze for so long that we don’t even realize how poorly we see.
We might not be looking through the haze at all…but at it instead.
What area of the world do you ignore? What nation do you look at through a haze? What people do you miss out on knowing because you focus on the space between you and them? They might be far away, or they might be right across from you. You might have to get closer and take some risks to push aside the obstructions and find truth instead.
The land around the Dead Sea is fairly desolate, except for a few places nourished by fresh springs or irrigation. We stopped at one of the lush sites to float in the salt-soaked waters, but we could easily see the parched land around us. As we walked toward the Sea, we glanced back to see the makings of an excellent commercial:
A Coca-Cola truck making a delivery in the middle of the desert.
Of course, it wasn’t an actual commercial. Coca-Cola trucks make deliveries in many places, and since this particular area attracts tourists and locals, a truck likely makes daily or weekly deliveries. The truck was on its normal route, but I caught a snapshot that, in my mind, created a representative ad for the product it carried.
It made me wonder what other generalizations I make. What do I “snap” in others’ lives that become a generalization about them that may or may not be accurate?
What do others “snap” of my life, and how accurately do those snaps capture the reality of who I am?
If someone took a photo of you today, even right now, and created a commercial depicting your life, would it accurately reflect your life? If not, what do you need to change? People are watching your normal route. Make sure you pay attention to the impressions you are making along the way.
We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9b-10)
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139: 23-24)
Preparing for, traveling to, and journeying throughout Israel involves a lot of searching.
I search places.
I search and get to know people.
Most of all, I search for God.
I want to know Him better. I want to find who He is and invite however He wants to reveal Himself to me. But it’s not all about me assertively seeking Him. It’s essential, indeed, but when I make it all about what I do, I miss out on something equally, if not more, important.
Much of the effort I make isn’t about a push forward. It is a stillness, a vulnerability to let God search every aspect of me. It is my willingness to submit. And it’s uncomfortable. It means I give God permission to search the things that need to be change. I don’t pick and choose what He searches. He filters everything through His will, not my timing and preference. He affirms and encourages me but also convicts and challenges me. He comforts me and changes me.
I left behind most of the clothes I took to Israel. Many of us either planned ahead to give away most everything we took or, once there, decided someone else could use what we had more than we needed to keep it. (Then there were some who wouldn’t have been able to fit everything they bought in Israel without leaving something behind.) We had extra suitcases that had been filled with the items we took to give Bridges for Peace. Everyone brought their clothes and other items to my room, and on the last full day, I started to pack them.
I went through everyone else’s clothes first, then I started sorting my own. I easily folded and stacked most of them. But there was one shirt that I started to fold and set aside, then paused. I held it up and thought, “I like this shirt. I’d probably wear it again. Maybe I’ll keep it.”
Give it up.
Just because I like it doesn’t mean I need to keep it. In fact, sacrifice takes on more meaning when I like what I’m giving up. Is it actually sacrifice when I give away what I don’t care about anyway? How can I call it generosity when there’s no sacrifice involved? Sure, someone else might be blessed by what I give, but do I miss out on a blessing?
What do you need to sacrificially, generously give away today? Give it up.
The past couple days, I’ve written on experiences at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. It’s not an easy place to visit, but I wouldn’t take a trip to Israel without spending time there. I may not want to look, listen, or touch the experiences, but the Holocaust happened. People lived it. I need to know. The least I can do is respect people’s lives and honor their memories.
I read a letter by Abramek Krzepicki: “Tomorrow we will be heading toward the Great Unknown in full awareness and at peace. If we are meant to live, all the better; and if not…” I stood beside a railway car and read about how the last car of trains was often left empty. People would die along the way, so the last car could be filled with bodies.
The letter contained hope despite the threat of death.
The train snuffed out hope with expected death.
People faced the unknown with different perspectives. We do the same. We have hope in life. Our hope often focuses on (what we determine as) positive outcomes. Our hope is in the things we want most. When life involves something else, do we lose hope?
We don’t have to lose hope in life or death, because death can include life. Death is part of life. It’s inevitable. Life conquers death.
Where is your hope? With whom do you trust your life? How does it impact your death? How is it impacting your life, today?
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)
“You can’t take it with you” takes on a whole new meaning when it’s piled up in Yad Vashem, the memorial to honor the Holocaust victims of WWII. Piles of shoes, photos, books, dishes, clothes. Each thing is something taken from someone. Each thing represents a person’s life. Each thing is a reminder of the horror of disregard for human life, the lack of dignity and respect. Each thing is proof that we can’t hold on to the stuff of our lives. We can choose to give it away. It can be ripped away. We can leave it behind. But eventually, we will be separated from our stuff.
What does our stuff say about us? How tightly do we cling to it? How important is it to us?
What are you leaving behind? Stuff? Words? Teachings? Advice? Faith?
You are leaving something behind. Be intentional. It is not all under your control, but you can steward the time and resources God has given you. Trust Him. Choose well.
I want to live in a way that chronicles my life so that no one else has to chronicle it for me.
Yad Vashem was one of the most powerful experiences I had in Israel during my first visit. Although I knew what to expect on my return trip, one of those expectations was that I would be a bit rattled…again. Walking through the exhibits that represent a real journey for many is difficult and convicting. So many people were involved in the Holocaust, and I explored a couple perspectives in a past post. I stepped inside and watched the footage of everyday, pre-WWII Jewish life. The footage was different this time. The caption was the same:
“Hundreds of life fragments were woven to become a human tapestry, longing for a life and a landscape that no longer exists. The Jewish world that was lost.”
I turn away from the screen and began to walk through the exhibits. The design of the building is beautiful, haunting, and intentional. It is triangular, built with a slight upward slope. So, as I stood near the beginning, I stared ahead, knowing how the journey would end: a moving record of all the names of the Jewish Holocaust victims, statements of hope and promise, and a beautiful view of God’s creation. I had a lot of steps to take between where I was and where I was headed.
As I stood between two photos of bodies piled upon each other, I heard a muffled voice and footsteps and noticed a shadow cast on the floor. I looked up. Two people walked through the top of the memorial building. They were outside, but I could see them through the glass. They were talking and laughing in the sunshine as if they were oblivious to anything below them.
I wondered, “What am I passing by?”
Who can see my shadow and hear my laughter while they suffer? I need to consider the piles of people, or even just one, who might lie beneath me…under my feet and under my smile.
People all around us have needs. We might be tempted to assess some as more serious than others, but in the process, we likely ignore what needs attention. Our assessment isn’t as accurate as God’s. We need to trust Him to guide us, help us notice people, and know how we should respond.
Connections aren’t limited to face to face encounters. Sometimes, a shadow, laugh, smile, cry, or glimpse is all it takes for one person to affect another person’s life. Look around, notice, and respond.