Experience: The Touch, the Feel, the Fabric of Our Lives


Several years ago, the cotton industry came up with a slogan that promoted anything made from their product:  Cotton, the touch, the feel, the fabric of our lives.  The advertisers knew they had to do more than tell people about the benefits of cotton; to increase sales, they had to let people experience the benefits of cotton.  The goal was to have people think of how cotton felt rather than recite why it was beneficial.  It was a good marketing strategy, but at its roots we find it has a Biblical truth as well.

Experience.  It’s the crucial link that transforms information into comprehension; the abstract into the concrete.  Without it, we are left with a lot of head knowledge that never matures and, therefore, never manifests.  This is evident in life as we are exposed to information but, without internalizing it through experience, we fail to apply what we have learned.  We have engaged on a mental level but we have not experienced on a physical level.  In essence, we lack the threads of touch and feel and therefore are left without the fabric of understanding.

We know this to be true not only from our personal experiences, or lack thereof, but also through God’s portrayal of this truth through His Son.  How did God make Himself known to mankind?  How did a spiritually abstract God allow Himself to become physically concrete so that simple minded man could experience who He was?   He did it through His Son, Jesus Christ; the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  God knew that mankind would never be able to show humility, love, forgiveness, or mercy if they didn’t first experience it for themselves.  And so, an invisible God wrapped Himself in visible flesh so that His children could experience, and thereby learn, His attributes.

When we read the gospels, we see the Master Teacher at work, continually using experience to transform head knowledge into heart-felt understanding.  He showed forgiveness when He told Peter to tend His flock, even after he had denied Him three times. He showed humility when He washed not just eleven pairs of feet but twelve (yes, Judas experienced a foot washing as well). He showed love for a family when He brought Lazarus back to life and He showed love for all mankind when He hung on a cross.  He showed mercy when He told the thief on the cross that he would be with Him in paradise.  In every encounter, Jesus infused experience…He included the touch, the feel…so that even now we can have a deeper understanding of our Heavenly Father not just because of what Jesus said, but because of what Jesus did.

And so we must ask ourselves if we have an understanding of God that is based upon experience.  Have we felt His love, have we known His mercy, have we put on His humility, have we worn His forgiveness?  If so, have we in turn shown these to others?  Have we allowed others the opportunity to experience the touch and the feel of these characteristics or did we just give them verbal threads that could not be woven into a life-giving fabric?  If we do not incorporate the use of experience in our relationships with others, then we are not following God’s example and we are not manifesting our understanding of God to them.  If this occurs, either we have simply overlooked the importance of experience or we have never truly learned through experience.

Experience:  the touch, the feel, the fabric of our lives.  As we strive to follow Jesus’ example and rely upon the Holy Spirit to make us more Christ-like, let’s not overlook the importance of experience.  Let’s do more than say we love, or forgive, or accept; let’s show others how it feels to be loved, to be forgiven, and to be accepted.  Let’s follow Jesus’ example and, perhaps, His slogan:  Christianity, the touch, the feel, the fabric of our lives.

Snowflakes of Grace

A few years ago as I was driving into town, I noticed a section of land that had been clear cut. The scene was bleak and depressing; man’s impact on nature isn’t always a positive one.  But, when I returned home, snow had fallen and this formerly forlorn area was now glistening and beautiful.  I knew what lay underneath the snow, but the formerly rugged edges of fallen trees had been transformed into soft snow drifts.  It was amazing.  I wondered at how something so ugly could become so beautiful.  And then it hit me. What I was seeing was a depiction of my heart before and after the covering of grace.  Just as snow transforms a landscape, grace transforms a heart.  I went home and wrote this poem to reflect this truth.  I hope you find it rings true for you, too.

Snowflakes of Grace

I took a walk one wintry day and had a look around;

A landscape that once hailed her God was nowhere to be found.

The trees once standing tall and straight, lay scattered on the ground;

The creatures that once sang and chirped no longer made a sound.

 On past the trees a patch of thorns had overcome a fence;

It too had fallen, worn from age, with weeds that were immense.

The thorns and thistles blocked my path, their branches were so dense;

I wondered at such lack of care and overt negligence. 

Then as my footsteps found their way around this grove of pain;

The bleakness of this landscape grew as it began to rain.

My heart felt heavy, even sad, this walk had been in vain;

Instead of beauty, all I saw was nature’s great disdain.

Then suddenly, to my surprise, the rain turned into snow;

And as it fell, it blanketed a land of waste and woe.

Snow covered every broken limb; the land began to glow;

As softness covered brokenness, and beauty status-quo. 

I stood awhile and watched the scene, in wonder and in awe;

Amazed at how a landscape changed, once touched by nature’s law.

Amazed at how the snow transformed a landscape that was raw;

Amazed at how my soul did leap to see all that I saw. 

And then I knew this scene without did mirror one within;

As God revealed how flakes of grace had blanketed my sin.

My life had been a land of waste, till God’s light filtered in;

Once covered by His grace and love, my new life did begin.

Where thorny pride and weeds of doubt had tried to gain control;

 God’s mercy came and firmly claimed my life, my heart, my soul.

Then grace fell fresh where sin had been, my life at last was whole;

And serving God, my Savior, Friend, became my pressing goal. 

I took a walk one wintry day, and had a look within;

I marveled at the bleakness of my heart impaired by sin.

But then those flakes of grace came down and made a different scene;

A heart once desolate and scarred was now all white and clean.

The Marks of Humanity

The Marks of Humanity

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees;[a] for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  I Samuel 16:7

 So many lessons can be extracted from God’s creation.  It’s as if God has left devotionals all around for those who prefer pictures to pages, nature to notebooks.   So, when I noticed the burnt marks on the beech tree close to where I was sitting, I took a little time to see what lesson God had written there; surely there was a natural truth that, once uncovered, would be found to have spiritual roots as well. 

 I first thought how evident this mark was; clearly anyone who saw this tree would know that it had once been way too close to a fire.  (Or, since trees can’t move, perhaps it’s more accurate to say the fire was too close to the tree!)  Since the tree was on our property, I remembered the fire that had broken out years ago which, no doubt, had brushed up against this tree.  Truth be told, I had forgotten about the fire.  It had occurred at least ten years ago.  I had been burning leaves on the hillside, giving in to my compulsively cleanly nature to, well, clean up nature, when the fire reminded me that it too has a compulsive nature.  Before I knew it, the fire had jumped my well laid out (though unsecured) perimeter and the whole hillside was lit up.  We did get the fire out and, until the day I saw the scarred tree, I thought no damage had been done.   But there stood that tree.  That blackened tree. That, “Do You Remember What You Did To Me?” tree.   And yes, I did remember.

As I looked at this tree, I felt a kinship to it.  I too felt marked; I too felt that what was most evident about me was what was outwardly seen.  The verse God brought to mind was I Samuel 16:7 which says, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  I immediately thanked God for His ability, and willingness, to look beyond the outward appearance and into the heart.  I wondered how often I looked at others the way in which I looked at this tree, too quick to see what was marred yet failing to look deeper, failing to realize that the marks were not simply signs of past struggles but also reminders of continued healing.  Of all the trees in the woods, the one that caught my eye was the one with the scarred trunk.  Scars, by their blemished nature, attract attention.  And, unfortunately, it’s not the kind of attention we desire.  We don’t like the imperfect.  We like the pretty; we like the undamaged; we like the unmarked.  We want to see it in others, but even more we want to see it in ourselves.  And, when wounds occur and scars emerge, we do our best to cover them up.  But that’s not what Jesus did. 

Jesus had scars.  I don’t know about the pre-risen Jesus, but the post-risen Savior had scars.  I know because John records it in his gospel.  In John 20:24-29, we read about Thomas’ encounter with his risen Lord.  Thomas missed Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples and, upon hearing his friends speak of Jesus’ resurrection, he just couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  He needed to see, no…he needed to touch.  For Thomas to truly believe that this “person” his friends had seen was truly Jesus, he needed to see and to touch Jesus’ scars.  No one could have those scars but Jesus.  Thomas needed to look at the outward appearance; for him, the scars were necessary; for him, they were the identifying marks of his Lord; for him, they were proof of life everlasting.  And so it was that Jesus appeared again and, to Thomas’ amazement, He presented the scars that could be seen and the marks that could be touched.

Just think about the presence of these scars.  Jesus, who had just overcome death, defeated Satan, and ascended to His Father returned again to earth in a body that was completely new.  Now glorified, He appeared to His disciples and to many others in flesh that could pass through walls, in flesh that was unrecognizable until He provided the insight, yet in flesh that bore scars.  Surely He could have returned to earth in an unblemished body.  Surely the spotless Lamb of God could have donned flesh that was as outwardly perfect as the One it contained.  But He didn’t, and for Thomas it was the difference between beseeching and believing, between paralysis and purpose, between the earthly and the eternal.  For Thomas, Jesus allowed the outward scars to be visible so that the inward healing could be seen, “for man looks at the outward appearance but the LORD looks at the heart”.  For Thomas, Jesus allowed His scars to become a testimony of His humanity, a validation that He was the One who became flesh and walked beside him.  It wasn’t a dream, it was real; the lessons weren’t over, they had just begun.

If we truly want to be more like Christ, which is the purpose of each new day, then we too need to learn the value of scars.  We too need to allow our scars to be visible just as Jesus’ were because the truth, in nature and in man, is that scars draw others to us.  Scars show our humanity, our encounters with struggles and our susceptibility to sin; scars show that we too can get too close to a flame.  But, because of grace, God’s spiritual Neosporin, our wounds can heal and, if we’re willing, can become marks God uses to draw others to Himself.  We are all like Thomas, wanting to see the humanity along with the holiness.  So let’s be careful when looking at the outward appearance of others; let’s take time to look more closely, more deeply, more Jesus-ly, but let’s also be careful to not falsely present ourselves to others by covering up our scars.  In nature scars are evident, on the Son of Man they were plainly seen; we would be wise to allow ours to show as well.    

Ignorance, Irony, and Isaiah

As I begin my first post on my first day of my first blog, I must first make a confession. I am not a blog reader, writer, nor navigator.  I have lived quite contentedly in my technological safe room, neither worrying nor caring about the ever increasing winds of change howling around me.  But, as God is prone to do, He huffed and He puffed and He blew down that “safe” door!

My first response to the suggestion of starting a blog was to laugh incredulously.  It was an ugly, “you’ve got to be kidding” sort of laugh.  Then, when it was mentioned again, I left off the attitude and simply chuckled.  The third time someone made this statement, I felt a yank and thought, “Oh, no…is this You, Lord? Have I been laughing in Your face?”  And so, with only a slight smile, I have decided to give this a go.  I come in ignorance, I acknowledge the divine irony, and I respond somewhat similarly to Isaiah and say, “Here I am Lord; blog me.”