Skookum, Santa and the Searching Eyes of God

An iconic sign in my hometown calls to mind more than childhood memories

Our family moved to Wenatchee, Washington on a hot July day in the summer of 1964. It was the very day that country music legend Jim Reeves was killed in a plane crash.

An iconic sign with moveable eyes welcomed us as we entered town. The Skookum Indian greeted us with a knowing gaze. As a twelve-year-old I was impressed by the searching eyes and the eventual wink of that motorized apple label image.

Although I moved away from the valley when I graduated from college, regular visits home to see my parents and my brother weren’t complete with exchanging glances with Skookum. After I married, family vacations inevitably included trips to Wenatchee for my three daughters to be spoiled by their grandparents.

As we drove into town, I would alert my girls to the fact that Skookum was looking for them. With excitement Kristin, Allison and Lauren would crane their necks to look for the searching eyes of that friendly face. When one of the those moving eyes winked, they laughed with glee. They were convinced that the young Indian brave had spotted them.

Although that familiar image no longer graces the skyline of our town, I picture Skookum each time I drive the Avenue. For me, that face was a tangible reminder that my Father in Heaven is continually aware of what is going on in my life. And that’s a comforting thought.

At Christmastime we refer to the omniscience of Santa while singing “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness’ sake…” The lyrics of that holiday classic are meant to motivate little ones to be on their best behavior throughout the year.

Looking back, however, my sense is that the never-sleeping eyes of Santa are viewed through the lens of guilt or threat. “You’d better watch out! I’m telling you why…”

The supernatural traits ascribed to that fictional Yuletide figure actually derive from One who truly is all-knowing and ever-present. The God we worship, as the old African American spiritual declares, “never sleeps. He never slumbers. He watches over you both night and day…”

Whereas some view that cosmic all-seeing eye with a sense of dread, I find a sense of comfort in knowing that nothing escapes the purview of Providence.  There is a passage in the Old Testament that references the searching eyes of God. It’s found in 2 Chronicles 16:9. “The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
Rather than thinking of God’s awareness of our attitudes, actions and reactions from a negative point of view, the aforementioned Scripture suggests that God’s focus on our lives is a good thing. It is intended to have beneficial results. In other words, God’s awareness of my desire to please Him has a promised payoff.

The all-knowing nature of God is nothing to be feared. It is a truth to take hold of with gratitude. When we feel like nobody knows the trouble we’ve seen, we can be assured of the fact that God knows and cares.

Several years ago our family was traveling in Greece visiting the village from which my paternal grandfather immigrated to America. My girls, now grown, were introduced to an icon of an eye sold by a street vendor. This blue and white glass ornament symbolized the eye of God. This beautiful keepsake conveyed a simple but profound truth.

Unlike the winking eye of a Wenatchee icon that had defined their childhood, this “God’s eye” didn’t wink. It is a constant reminder, to my children and to me, of God’s continual awareness and His constant care. I, for one, am glad He never sleeps.

The Three Amigos

David McKenna, Greg Asimakoupoulos and Don Argue communing at St. Arbucks

Much like the Holy Trinity,
we’re one in friendship, though we’re three.
We listen to each other’s hearts
and pray for those we love.

St. Arbucks is our chosen place.
It’s where we sip a cup of grace.
Such rich communion slakes our thirst
and nourishes our faith.

Our trust allows transparency.
We own our fears and victories.
Without the need to preen or boast,
we share our memories.

The Three Amigos! Such are we.
A brotherhood. A company.
A triune cadre with one aim:
to spur each other on.

* Dr. David McKenna is the past president of Seattle Pacific University and Asbury Theological Seminary. Dr. Don Argue is the past president of the National Association of Evangelicals and Northwest University. Both men have become mentors to me as we meet regularly to debrief lessons learned on our spiritual journeys.

Graduating from the School of Hard Knocks

Chalking up the lessons of life to the experiences of daily living

The School of Hard Knocks
some have called it.
It’s graduate school to be sure.
But to pass, there is no dissertation
or patenting some cancer cure.

There’s no quitting work to take classes.
And the homework is done all at home.
The alumni of Hard Knocks are famous
for how faith-in-action is grown.

You don’t have to write research papers.
There’s no need to go into debt.
What’s unique about this school of learning
is that life’s stormy waves get you wet.

At the end of some rope you’re left clinging
with nothing to do except trust.
And by trusting in One Who’s proved faithful,
your faith muscles bulge like they’ll bust.

70 Lessons

What I’ve learned in seventy years of living

This past weekend was not only Easter Sunday filled with a weekend of meaningful commitments, it included a milestone birthday. In addition to starting my tenth year as chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores, I began my eighth decade of life.

In the midst of a busy weekend I found an hour to reflect on lessons I’ve learned in seventy years of living. Some are quite obvious. Others are deeply personal. Some are borrowed from people I respect. All of them provide a peek into what I value.

1. George Bailey isn’t the only one who’s had a wonderful life.
2. Years go by faster the older you live.
3. Parents know more than we give them credit for.
4. Everybody has a story worth sharing.
5. Asking questions is the key that unlocks a person’s story.
6. The Creator desires a personal relationship with us.
7. Jesus is the means by which that relationship is made possible.
8. Change is hard.
9. Change is inevitable.
10. Beauty can be found everywhere.
11. Work that you love isn’t work.
12 Worry empties today of its strength.
13. Today is a gift.
14. Gifts are meant to be unwrapped and enjoyed.
15. Memories are a lasting treasure no one can steal.
16. Debt is a heartless seducer.
17. Living life in 24-hour capsules brings time-released joy.
18. Sunsets and ice cream make for cheap dates.
19. Stick trees silhouetted against a sunrise redeems winter blahs.
20. Working out helps our bodies work better.
21. Physically fit people die healthier.
22. Adversity makes us strong.
23. Love is a universal language.
24. Every memorial service we attend in one closer to our own.
25. Music is oxygen for the soul.
26. Children are a gift from the Lord.
27. Adult children keep you talking to God.
28. Grandchildren provides the joys of parenting without the responsibilities.
29. Poetry that rhymes is easier to understand.
30. Walking in the woods allows you to walk with God.
31. Pets provide a picture of God’s unconditional love.
32. The death of a pet is equivalent to losing a member of your family.
33. Grief is the price you pay for really loving someone.
34. Christmas doesn’t mean a thing without Easter.
35. Easter is not possible without Good Friday.
36. Eating humble pie requires swallowing pride.
37. It’s more blessed to give than to receive.
38. Receiving is harder than giving.
39. Bad things happen to good people.
40. Good things happen to bad people.
41. You can never tell someone you love them too often.
42. A shared joy is a doubled joy.
43. A shared sorrow is half a sorrow.
44. Spending time with older relatives is a priceless gift to them (and you).
45. Memorizing Scripture pays dividends now and later.
46. Taking the initiative to restore relationships takes courage.
47. Handwritten letters and notes are more valuable than e-mails and texts.
48. Mementoes on a desk or a shelf recall moments we dare never forget.
49. Forgetting God’s faithfulness is the most common kind of memory loss.
50. Those with the most money often have the most worries.
51. We begin our lives and end our lives wearing diapers and sleeping most the time.
52. Family traditions sustain values and perpetuate memories.
53. There is nothing more sad than watching alienated siblings at a parent’s funeral.
54. Learning the love language of your mate does not require a degree in linguistics.
55. When you get married, you marry a family as well as your mate.
56. You tend to sleep better with a window cracked open.
57. Making small talk with strangers can lead to big opportunities.
58. Shopping at a thrift store is like going to a museum.
59. Furnishing your home or wardrobe at a thrift store saves you money and benefits others.
60. Beginning your day with coffee and prayer makes you alert to life and the Lord.
61. Taking time to visit a relative’s grave gives cause to pause and reflect on the brevity of life.
62.  Taking pictures with a smartphone is an inexpensive way to express one’s creativity.
63. The church is a community of people not a building or a certain denomination.
64. There’s nothing like a pandemic to unmask what really matters in life.
65. When you lose your job unexpectedly you discover flavors of grace you didn’t know existed.
66. Unbelievable offers generally are.
67. Gratitude is the prelude to worship.
68. Mulligans aren’t just for golf.
69.  It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.
70. Birthdays are a necessary rest stop on the interstate of life.