Saturday, April 1, 2017

By All Appearances

I recently read a book where the author wrote about a time she was the keynote speaker at a meeting.  As she spoke, she looked over the faces in the crowd.  Things always look very different from the stage.  People may have been listening, people may have been changed or energized by what she was saying, but they certainly did not give any appearance of being engaged.  Blank faces and empty expressions seemed to be the common denominator.

Except for one woman ... whose countenance glowed, whose eyes were on her, who had a pen in hand and a notebook on her lap, taking notes, nodding occasionally, smiling as if in recognition of a truth expressed.  Her facial expression reflected an earnest heart.

In her book Pursuing the Intentional Life, author Jean Fleming notes the impact our countenance has on others:  "My body language and expression telegraph signals to those around me.  What message am I sending?"

What message am I sending?

Is the expression on my face being misunderstood as critical or uncaring or irritable?  Is that the feeling I intended to send?

Has my face caught up with my heart in this situation?  Yes, I am listening to you.  Yes, I am concerned.  Does that show visibly?

As Jean Fleming challenges her readers over and over again, an intentional life does not just happen.  Who do I want to be when I am older?  It takes effort.  My heart and my countenance at age thirty will not suddenly be changed when I am seventy, she writes.  The reality then is based on what I am doing towards it now. 

If things are going to be different, something has to change.

This morning I read, "And as He was praying, the appearance of His countenance was altered..."  Luke 9. 29

It is not that others can tell that I have been spending time with God by how I look, but that by spending time with God, He changes me.  And even in these situations and relationships that I lay before Him, God may (or may not) change the circumstances, but He always changes my heart, my attitudes, my actions, how I see Him, how I see others, how I see the situation, how I see myself.  Even my facial expressions.  And I don't even need a mirror to know that.  There is something different there... an alteration!  And that would be Him.

My time with God cannot help but change even the message my countenance is sending to others. God changes me.  Right down to the laugh lines on my face.

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.

                           Proverbs 31. 25

Through prayer, God drains the despair and fills me with His Spirit.  What is a burden or a heavy load -- and we all struggle with something -- is transformed not by weight but by His strength. seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God...

                           Psalm 73. 16-17

What message is my countenance sending today?
          or His Presence that gets all over everything?


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