How You Look is Everything

“there is in all visible things … a hidden wholeness.” — thomas merton

“our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery” — annie dillard

“you can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” — mark twain

We see things differently. That’s the truth of it. To some, a gold ring is just a ring, a formal symbol of a commitment to fidelity and marriage. To another, it’s a symbol of abiding love and unity that holds all things together, an inheritance of a history of love.

To some this last week, a bitter cold and cloudy day slowed everything down — layering for warmth, de-icing the windshield while warming the car, slower traffic on the freeways, city services, and the mail getting backed up and delayed. To another, however, this unseasonable Arctic blast was an unexpected adventure and a sure reminder that life is all about change.

To one, the framed photograph on the wall is just a picture of a wooden barn with an old rusty car in a field of grass beside it. To the photographer of this picture, however, it speaks to the mystery of past and future, held together by how one sees it all in the present.

We see things differently. But the way we see the world really does determine how we live. Our vision of things often has much to do with the kind of relationships we seek, the job we take, and what we do with our spare time — and our spare change.

We may see certain people as just plain wrong (or worse, as enemies for whatever reason), we may also have our defenses up and our judgments loaded. And because of these mindsets, we may miss the redemptive possibilities of “those people” ever becoming an ally or, even better, a teacher about something we need to understand.

As long as we have a vision of our kids as being untrustworthy or failures or “challenged,” we treat them that way and even come to expect certain behaviors from them. So we may then miss the redemptive potential of their present (and their future).

As long as we have a vision of ourselves and nature as being separate realities, we will treat the earth (and ourselves) as less than sacred. The Jewish theologian and philosopher, Martin Buber, called this way of seeing as having an “I – It” relationship with the world — seeing nature, people, even ourselves, as objects rather than as reflections (or epiphanies) of what is holy in all of life.

As long as we have a vision of Jesus as a kind of a “nightclub bouncer” — all about letting some folks into heaven and keeping others out because they don’t have the right beliefs — we will continue in arrogance, lacking in forgiveness, and neglecting the most important aspect of all life — unconditional love.

How we see things affects everything. The famous “love” chapter in the Bible, I Corinthians 13, is most often associated with weddings, as if that were the best place to be reminded that love is patient and kind, not envious nor grudge-seeking. But the Apostle Paul wrote this to a community in Corinth struggling with its purpose in a world of disorder, violence, mistrust, authoritarianism, and divisiveness all around (not too dissimilar from our world today). He added, “There may be prognosticators, great speakers and leaders and teachers all around. But these all pale in importance or effect without the vision of love.”

Love seems to be the heart of the matter. Love, which sees the redemptive possibilities in all moments, is what seems to be the essence of God’s presence in the world. To look for that — and to have a vision for the redemptive — is to glimpse the bigger picture, I think. Heaven on earth. To touch the eternal at the heart of our most mundane, even tumultuous, moments.

This Sunday, November 17, at eleven:eleven I will conclude our stewardship series, Imagine That! with “It Makes a Difference.” How we see and how we imagine the world is really everything, I think — and we’re gonna have some fun with “how you look is everything.”

Brad Thompson and the band will join in with music from Kansas, John Entwistle, Bob Marley, and Susan Tedeschi.

Hope to see you then!

Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven

November 24 @ eleven:eleven

Open Mic – A Story Arc Sunday
Sharing your stories of thanksgiving, unexpected moments of wonder and awe, and
moving, as well as humorous, tales of redemption.

Our very own first-ever eleven:eleven Story Arc
(like “The Moth” or “Story Corps”)

With Special Music by singer/songwriter,
Elizabeth Wills!

If you’d like to tell a 3-4 minute story, email Tom McDermott at


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