Just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, Jesus throws a curve. A man came to Jesus, nearly convinced that he was on the right track to glory. But wanting to settle that nagging doubt that maybe there was something more, he ask Jesus, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matt 19:16) Jesus encourages him to reflect on what he was doing, which commandments he was keeping. The man replied that he had kept them all, but wonders if there was something that he still lacked. Jesus said, “Yeah, there is. You need to get rid of the one thing that’s more important than following Me—your wealth.”

The past week has been a little overwhelming, and I find myself without a newsletter article for you this week. Hopefully you’ll forgive me if I dip into the archives for a reflection that may have some bearing on our current lives—particularly if we’re getting a little frustrated with each other. This article was originally posted in December of 2017, as I was wrapping up my preaching class…

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

Ambiguous images are single visual forms that can resolve into more than one distinct image.  In 1892, the German humor magazine Fliegende Blätter published one of the earliest and probably most familiar of these ambiguous images—the famous “rabbit-duck” image.  The simple line illustration, depending on how you look at it, can either be perceived as a duck looking toward the left, or a rabbit facing the right.  Ambiguous images can induce the phenomenon of “multi-stable perception,” in which a single image can lead to multiple, stable interpretations.  The image is both a rabbit and a duck, or in the case of the Rubin’s vase, it is both a vase, and two elderly gentlemen facing each other, or in the “My Wife and My Mother-in-Law” drawing from a 1888 German postcard, the image is both a young woman facing away, and an older lady facing toward the viewer.

Back in the mid-1950s, Dwight Crandell was assigned to prepare a geologic map of the Puget Sound lowlands southeast of Seattle. The region is characterized by broad, level river valleys separated by forested ridges. Conventional wisdom interpreted these valleys as glacial in origin, deposited during colder periods from glaciers that had since retreated to the heights of Mount Rainier. What Crandell began to find, though, was a different story, one that was much more violent and disturbing.

Gratitude is a primary theme in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Paul repeatedly encourages the little church there to express thanksgiving, and he’s clear in his example: “In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Paul certainly had a clear idea that gratitude was important, but he’s not alone in this assessment. In 54 BC, the Roman orator and author Cicero said: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” Ralph Waldo Emerson encouraged us to “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” Meister Eckhart, the 13th century theologian and mystic, famously said, “If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.