Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Longing for lighthouses

Longing for lighthouses

As I wander around this small, tourist town, I just keep thinking, “Why lighthouses?”

This is Chincoteague, after all. Shouldn’t the predominant decorative embellishment be a horse? Something like this, which actually looks nothing like the famous wild ponies.

But the most common ornamental object in this town is a lighthouse. I see it block after block.  Like on this garage.


On a mock outhouse.


Leaning in the front yard.

On a mailbox.

Even on a gravestone.

Of course, there is an actual lighthouse. (Later, I’ll hike to see it up close.) It’s a striking vertical feature on a flat landscape, which may explain the fascination. Still operational, its light can be seen for miles.

This brings to mind something Jesus said to his followers. Allow me to adjust it slightly to fit our concept:

“You are the (lighthouse) of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the (area). In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:14-16)

And yet, in all honesty, I often struggle to see how this works in the churches I’ve attended. We Christians like to talk about how our love sets us apart. But is it all that unique? We take meals to people in crisis? So do secular friends. We give money to earthquake victims? So do they. We welcome strangers? They often do it better. At least in my experience.

If followers of Christ are going to be effective lighthouses, we need some illumination on the answers to this question: What makes our love distinctive?

One thought for now: the answer lies in both how we love and who we love. Jesus had much to say about both. And both require us to be more observant, as well as available.

May our beacon shine brightly!

Jesus, will you so fill us that we, your people, might shine your love undimmed by our shallowness, our smugness, or our smallness of heart. Inspire us to acts of kindness and self-sacrifice that will help to navigate others to your Heavenly Father.

Thoughts or comments on this column? I’d love to hear from you. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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