Below is an excerpt from Helen's current book project that she has been gracious enough to share with us. Enjoy!
Most of us look at our reflections in mirrors all day long--even after that first sleepy morning look into the bathroom mirror. We look at mirrors that were given to us by our parents or our teachers, our bosses and siblings. We carry these mirrors into our relationships, our work places and our faith communities. Usually the first mirror that comes to mind is the one that shows off our flaws, our imperfections, even our habitual sins. The look of that mirror encourages us to mask everything that does not feel right; or begin on a self-improvement plan to find the perfect self; or simply to give up and accept that we are defined by the things that are not right about the way we look, or act, what we know or how we feel about ourselves or others.
However, each of us has been given another mirror. It is the mirror that we received from a loving grandmother or nurturing parent, a favorite teacher, a close friend, or a pastor. When my pastor sat down alongside my hospital bed when I was an angry twelve year old, he had every reason to resent having to visit me, or at the very least, pity me. But instead he offered another mirror that gave me a picture of myself I might have missed altogether. When he offered me that view of myself--he blessed me. What he saw was someone who was bright and intelligent. While others brought stuffed animals to comfort me, he brought me books to challenge me. What he saw was a glimpse of a woman that I had not yet met, the person God created me to become. Through his eyes of blessing, I caught a glimpse of her as well.
Just for a moment now to lay down the first view that shows each blemish, and pick up this mirror that sees another side of who you truly are. The look of blessing offers you a glimpse not only of what is but leans into what might be. It is clear-eyed enough to see what is wrong, but it always highlights the gift that you are, the image of God that might be tarnished but is right there in plain sight in your own life.
Looking at yourself in the lens of those who love you best—what do you see? Do you see your loving nature, your sense of humor, your bright intelligence, your generosity, your gift of healing or teaching or listening? Sometimes the look of blessing reveals the more hidden fruits of the spirit—a genuine affection for others, or an exuberance about life; a serenity of spirit or a willingness to stick with things; perhaps a sense of compassion, a conviction that a basic holiness permeates all things, loyalty to your commitments, or an ability to direct your energies wisely and not force your way in life. (Galatians 5:22-26 The Message)
The more we look through the mirror that magnifies our fears, our inadequacies, our unattractive features, and even our outright sin, the further we are from the look of blessing. Perhaps that mirror’s view began as an almost casual, seemingly innocent assumption that you were the silly one, or the less pretty, not as athletic, or as smart or as good as someone else. Comparison seems often to be bred into the bone of each of us until we find ourselves trapped by the way we look in relation to others and not who we were created to be in Christ. When we spend our time looking to the right or the left, it is ourselves that ends up in the center—and striving to be better than someone else, we become completely self-centered. And there is little opportunity for God to speak not only truth into our lives, but God’s own longing that we might live into all what he hoped for us all along.
Each of us has the same choice to receive the look of blessing from God—or not. And we also have the choice to offer the look of blessing. The choices come in our churches, in our homes, in our offices and in our schoolrooms. They happen every day with church members and family, with classmates and friends, with strangers and even with enemies. We can choose to bless—or not. Cursing or blessing—the choice is ours but let’s be clear that one leads us toward God’s love and peace and hope; the other choice leads us away from that same Presence.
Because my mother continued to live in the small Wisconsin community where I grew up, I continued to see my former pastor even after he had retired from the church of my childhood. Those meetings were always filled with the same look of love and blessing that he offered to me so many years ago. Toward the end of his life, he was having dinner with his wife at the restaurant where my mother and I were just being seated. By then I was a minister, a wife, and mother of three children. When he saw me my pastor friend came over to greet me. A tall man, he stood behind me, placed his hands on my shoulders, leaned his long frame over me, and asked, “How’s the Reverend Mother?”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
We hope we'll have many contributors from our congregation. I imagine we will have regular and occasional contributors. If you'd like to contribute a poem, a photo, a devotion or anything that you believe enhances our life together, please contact Pastor Criss to learn about posting.