I’ve been reviewing abstracts for an upcoming conference, and this puts me fully back into nerd mode. I love science, learning, math and statistics, and evidence-based research. This, along with another interesting finding, have precipitated my thinking about outliers a lot lately. One definition of an outlier is “a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set.”
In statistics, an outlier is an observation point that is distant from other observations. An outlier may be due to variability in the measurement, or it may indicate an error in the process, or – it’s just an unusual finding. When utilizing scientific methods like biostatics, you’re taught to throw out, or discount, the data that are outliers – the ones that do not fit the norm. You are looking for results that are constant – that can be repeated with a high percentage of probability that you will get the same result.
Well – I hope I haven’t lost you yet – but I think what is most fascinating about studies, research, data collection, and observations are the outliers. You cannot anticipate the outliers – they just occur. Are they anomalies? Are they mistakes? Are they real? When I consider the outlier, I look to the limits of the study. Setting limits can be a very good thing at the right time and right situation, but today I am challenging myself – and you – to remain limitless and open to other possibilities.
I have been guilty of limiting. I am preparing to go on my third mission trip. I have never asked anyone to partner with me financially for my mission trips, until this third trip. One of our goals for fund raising is to give other people the chance to be involved in God’s work from home by supporting those that are on a GO Team. I was challenged to reach out to others with the prospect of partnering with me. Extending this opportunity to others is new for me --- I felt like I was asking for a hand-out to get there. What if I asked, and no one responded? Does that mean they don’t like me – or that I did not ask in the right way? Or any other hot button issue that would come to mind.
I had limited what I was willing to do to get there; I limited my expectations of what others were willing to do to serve along with me financially, and had limited God’s abundance, love, and opportunities for me.
We are told repeatedly (in the Bible) that God can do things that we cannot comprehend or even fathom. Job 11:7 says, “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?” Job 5:9 says, “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” In Psalm 145:3 it says, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.” I just didn’t understand how limited my thinking had been previously.
Back to my nerdy stuff. We know that most people have three cones (color receptors) in their eyes, who are referred to as trichromats—meaning they see colors in the RGB (Red, Green, purple/Blue) color range. Those with only two cones are dichromats, and are known as being “color blind.” There are a small number of people who have four cones, tetrachromats, who possess color receptors for the red, green, purple/blue, + yellow frequencies. It is referred to as “super human vision,” allowing those with 4 cones and a trained eye to see 100 million colors (100 times more colors than most people). While the estimation is that anywhere from 2-12% of the female population are tetrachromats, very few can actually see the additional colors. There are millions of color spectrums to behold, though most of us are limited in our ability to see them. However, the myriad of color wavelengths exists. There’s not a time that I see a rainbow that I do not marvel at the intensity of the colors. I love knowing there are even more colors that are beaming toward me beyond my own limits of vision and comprehension. In Ecclesiastes 8:17, it says, “then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.” And in Job 26:14, “And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” The NIV version says “outer fringe”; another version uses the word “outskirts.” The outliers. Our God is a big God who can do things we cannot imagine or understand.
Isaiah 55:8–9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. In Romans 11:33–34, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" Job 15:8 says, "Do you hear the secret counsel of God, And limit wisdom to yourself?” At church we’ve been challenged to not accept the status quo – being content with how things are, limiting ourselves to only what we can see, and hear, and currently understand.
God wants good things for us; to be connected and in community with one another. His supernatural gifts for us can aid in living a more robust and full life. I love to go on mission trips to serve, but I have been limiting opportunities for myself and for others to serve alongside me. I have been severely short-sighted. Romans 12:5-8 speaks to the importance of being in community, and in sharing our collective “gifts” in serving. “so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
And so, for this mission trip to Kijabe, Kenya, on the continent of Africa, I asked for financial partnership and prayers. I reached out to friends and family. I sent emails, attached letters, I posted on facebook, I talked about it with friends, patrons, and wine reps at the wine shop (where I work/volunteer), and in other social gatherings. It takes me completely out of my comfort zone to do this. Yes, at times it has been flat out uncomfortable, but mostly it has been rewarding in a way that prompted me to want to share this with you. People have responded, most generously. Not all, and not some that I would have anticipated to do so – and that’s ok. But there are others who had donated money for my trip expenses, and/or for the building materials for the house we will be building while there. I haven’t reached my fundraising goal yet, but I’m getting close. Every single donation has made my heart full in a way that I had not known in a very long time. I had been thinking that others cannot know the impact their financial partnership with me has made for me, in me– but then again, it made me smile to think that I was, once again, limiting the effect it may have for others and/or their estimation of what it means for me.
I realize that I have used a LOT of bible verses in this writing; it’s not typical of me. But that’s a pretty cool irony, I think. So – I’ll end with this one, and I’ll keep looking for and expecting the outer limits, ‘cause they’re out there. Maybe someday they will no longer be outliers for me – but rather, a part of my norm. My supernatural norm.
Luke 11:8-19 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”