Surprised by Glory

While on vacation in Williamsburg, VA in December 2019, we went to Bush Gardens’ Christmas Towne. Rides. Food. Shows. Lights. And all at the “World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park.” (Look it up. They’ve gotten the award for 29 years in a row.) A fun, family event at a truly beautiful place.

The first show we saw was a 1940’s story with traditional Christmas carols. The second show was an abbreviated version of “A Christmas Carol,” one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories. Both of these were shows you’d expect to see at a very popular, very public venue.

The third show had great singing like the other two shows. It told a traditional Christmas story like the other two as well. Yet, it was a complete surprise. “Glory” told the Gospel message. It didn’t skirt around declaring Jesus as Savior in any way. The Gospel message was clear and obvious.

Oh, and there was also an atmosphere of praise absent in far too many churches. Afterwords, I felt inspired. I was inspired hearing the Gospel message in such a vibrant and unique way. I was doubly inspired because it was proclaimed in a very public, very popular venue.

I love unexpected surprises like this. Really, though, should I be at all surprised that God made this happen?

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Always A Choice

A common theme in my favorite movies and books is the idea that there’s always a choice. Lord of the Rings. Avengers. Lightbringer (Brent Weeks).

  • For good or for evil, that’s the biggest choice. Even if you’ve always chosen good, the choice for evil is always before you.
  • Where to focus your thoughts. That’s another big one. You can focus them selfishly or for the greater good. You can focus on your own glory, or God’s.

No matter how many wrong choices you’ve made, making the right choice is still always in front of you. Likewise, the option to refocus on God’s will is always before you.

This idea of always having a choice encourages me. I’m encouraged because it tells me no one is ever too far gone. It encourages me because I know I can keep moving forward even after mistakes.

No matter how bleak a situation, and no matter how discouraged you feel, you always have a choice for healing and moving forward. Always.

Reflective Practice

Connections, Culture & Choice

Sometime during a week-long visit to Williamsburg, VA and many of its historical offerings, a pattern emerged that connected not only the places we visited but also propelled my thinking in some interesting ways.

Connections

The area presents colonial, Revolutionary War, and Civil War history. As we moved from one to another, I realized the connections – and there are many, many threads – linking them to one another.

Various threads make up my own life, and understanding their connections helps understand my own perspectives much like understanding these historical connections helps me understand the various perspectives involved in the history of our country’s beginnings.

Culture

Visiting various historical sites and museums also showed the interaction of culture, both in good and bad ways. African Americans, English, and Native Americans were the major groups, though many others were involved too.

My own culture is unclear to me. Only in a very broad sense do I understand personally what culture means. In other words, I am not sure how to define my culture.

Choice

African Americans fighting for their freedom. English settlers choosing to be Loyalists or Rebels or to remain neutral. A country choosing to war with itself.

Considering how my own choices affect not just me but those around me is important. Further, how does this idea of connections and attempts to define culture impact my choices?

Valuing Reflection

The value of understanding history became clearer to me during this visit. So did the value of self-reflection based on the concepts that stood out to me that week.

As a Christian, I want to make connections to God’s truths as explained in his word. I want to understand what being a Christian means for me culturally. I also want to develop cultural sensitivity in a way that shows love toward all people. Threaded through all of this is the idea of filtering my choices through God’s will in each of these areas.

My Point?

I’ve recently been considering how I reflect on the experiences of my life and how they shape who I am as a person. I’ve begun wondering more about my own culture and the history surrounding it. The above is simply a foray into reflection in these specific areas.

Discussion: Have you ever considered implementing reflective practices in this or other ways? Why or why not?

Shift Your Gaze

Understanding Gaze

In critical theory, sociology, and psychoanalysis, the gaze refers to the act of seeing and, in the philosophical and physical sense, how an individual perceives other individuals, groups, or oneself.

Gaze theory describes how viewers engage with visual media. Originating in film theory and criticism in the 1970s, the gaze refers to how we look at visual representation.

In literary theory, gaze is a particular perspective taken to embody certain aspects of the relationship between observer and observed.

(These definitions were borrowed from Wikipedia)

In short, gaze is how we perceive what we see.

Shifting Your Gaze

In a recent visit to the Revolutionary War Museum in Williamsburg, VA, an exhibit focused viewers on the importance of “shifting your gaze” to see the often forgotten and overlooked role of African Americans in the war.

African American slaves had to choose the side – Patriots (colonists) or British – they felt gave them the best chance for freedom after the war. For most, it did not work out the way they hoped. While the slave trade was suspended during the Revolutionary War, it increased again after the war ended. Thus, many African Americans from both sides were thrust back into slavery after the war even though they fought in it with the promised reward of freedom afterward.

In this exhibit, shifting your gaze allowed you to see the war from their perspective. This perspective is one many forget to consider, especially since slavery is such a focus later in the American Civil War.

Christian Gaze

How can we apply this idea of “shifting your gaze” as Christians? Our goal as Christians is to see people as God sees them. We also want to see ourselves as God sees us.

Though there are more, consider the following two Bible verses as you consider how to shift your gaze to be able to see people and yourself the way God does.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28-29)

These verses tell us that God sees us as being in transformation. He also saw us long ago and chose us to become like Jesus.

Reflection Questions

How do these truths change how you see other people? Yourself?

What other verses might help you shift your gaze and see people and circumstances through God’s perspective rather than your own?