Tuesday, October 19, 2004

FROM A DISTANCE

I think the forest is often more beautiful than the trees. However, any journey through the woods requires an occasional encounter with a few trees. And itís those random encounters that really do put a fresh spin on reality.

A friend called last week to tell me their family is looking for another church to attend. The specific details need not be revealed, but they had become another refugee of the church our family once attended and the inquiry prompted a consensus that things arenít always what they appear to be.

Shelby and I extended our return trip home from the cabin to enjoy the autumnal colors of west Michigan on Saturday. From a distance, the landscapes appeared as a collage of random color. The picturesque beauty seemed unmatched, but this teacher knows it lingers only a few weeks in the environmental life cycle of an ecosystem. The next day, a wind-chilled bike ride under those same trees and over leaf-covered sidewalks rendered a much different impression.
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Jeff and I visited a local congregation last weekend for the sake of seeing several students participate in their worship. The homiletic dialogue that pursued that evening focused on sacred-secular issues relating to music in the church. My take was that it was an attempt to provide a liberal viewpoint of tolerance for all music. I presume their God is an idle observer, watching from a distance, unable to hear the lyrics of some very morally offensive music.

On those rare occasions when my classroom management techniques are flagging or both students and teacher are stressed beyond imagination, Iím forced to acknowledge that it is not going to be the right time to accomplish much together and that I need to step back to a comfortable distance and redesign my lesson plans. Removing the blinders really does improve my peripheral vision.

Next week I have two former students (now adults) visiting my classroom to represent the Republican and Democratic viewpoints of the upcoming presidential election. Mike and Jen will undoubtedly provide a close encounter with the candidates. As for me, if politics donít look better at a distance these days, I donít know what does.

Although VH1 considers it the thirty-seventh worst song ever written, Bette Midler said it long before I did: at a distance, things often look better than they do upon closer inspection. Personally, I liked the song musically; however, the theology of her chorus suggests that God, too, is a distant observerówrong. Fortunately the message of the incarnation is that God is WITH us. And with so much of my perspective at a macro level these days, Iím comforted that his is much more up close and personal.

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