Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Return of the Dummy and the Gardener from the Outer Space

Back in March I begun a series that started as a Whining Fast 101 which morphed into Spiritual Formation for Dummies (of which, of course, the undersigned is clearly the greatest). As life has its way of interrupting our creative routines, the series was put on temporary hold until now. I confess I missed writing about Gardener from Outer Space and am so pleased to refocus on these seemingly irrelevant and insignificant 'ramblings'. My prayer is that you would be twice as blessed reading as I've been and continue to be writing this story.

For the three of you who read every single word on a page of a book, feel free to go into archives and snoop around. For the rest of the world, here are the cliff notes to bring us up to speed so we can pick up where we left off.

Having successfully completed a 40 day marathon of Facebook fasting, Dummy decides to try her hand at the spiritual discipline again, but this time with a whining fast. This turns out to be waaay harder than she thought, for although she doesn't see herself as a whiner, especially when she compares herself to her kids, whining seems to run deep in the family. Very quickly it becomes clear that she can't do this on her own.

Surprisingly during that time a Gardener from Outer Space suddenly shows up in his white truck and offers her an incredible deal. His Dad owns the business and it just so happens that at the moment they are running an unbelievable special - an all-inclusive, unlimited, no-end contract - FREEF-R-E-E. The only catch is that Dummy's presence and participation is expected if not required to ensure the success - whose yard is it anyway?

Dummy maybe dumb, but she sure can recognize a deal when she sees it, and this one she wouldn't pass for anything. So an extraordinary intergalactic gardening adventure begins to unfold. The Gardener's unorthodox approach at first seems to create even more opportunities for incessant whining, but His Presence and His Way appear to make all the difference in Dummy's life.

Even, for example, when He delivers a truckload of manure to her driveway...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Somebody, Turn the Heat Down! What One Loaf of French Bread Taught Me About Life Part Four

The Oven

There are seasons in my life when I feel like I've already been through sooo much and nothing in my pitiful existence could possibly get worse, when something worse actually does happen!

The dough has already been through so much change. The unrelated ingredients that don't even like each other were forced into homogeneous glob that was pounded into oblivion and then left to sit idly for what seems like an eternity. When there was a clear sign of undeniable success, the dough got put back in its place by being punched down again until it collapsed in a heap to the bottom of the bowl. Then, it was pounded again, and again and again, ripped apart, rolled around and left alone to wait for another idle eternity! How would that make you feel?!!!

When the preheated oven door was open, the loaves should have taken their clue and run for their lives!

But, that would sabotage their very purpose of existence, make the entire process meaningless and all the effort would have been wasted! For, bread (or rather, dough) is not truly edible until it is baked.

Inside the oven, the temperature always feels too hot and time always feels too long. But, the dough has absolutely no say in determining the length of stay or the temperature inside the oven. The Baker does.

Oven is the battlefield of unconditional surrender. End of all words. End of all protests. End of all talk, blaming and excuses. It is the place of silence where we know that our sovereign, omnipotent God is fully capable to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire, and yet, even if He doesn't, the fact of His sovereignty, omnipotent rule and loving-kindness remains unaltered.

In the oven, I agree with God that He is God and I am not. He knows, I don't. Here my experiences, gifts, reputation - all that I know and have ever known about myself, this world and the God I serve are put to the test and I am asked to make a simple choice: His wisdom or mine? His timing or mine? His way or mine? His will or mine?

Inside this death chamber of hell, the miracle of transformation takes place. The gooey, flabby inedible dough at just the right time - not too soon, not too late - becomes a delicious loaf baked to perfection, crunchy crust on the outside, soft and melty on the inside.

The oven door opens, the loaves are taken out, spreading the tantalizing smell throughout the house. They are ready, at last, to be broken (more pain - but this pain is sweet!), buttered and enjoyed. For, the purpose of the bread is not so that we can put it on a counter, write about it, take the pictures and post them on a blog. The bread is baked to be broken, and shared, given away for the nourishment to all who wish to partake, giving thanks to the One who alone can transform the simple ingredients of our lives into food for the nations.

Lord Jesus, You are the true bread of life. You alone satisfy the deepest hunger of our hearts - every day. We try so hard to satisfy this glutton inside us by everything else and come away even more empty. Turn our hearts, Lord, away from the things that satisfy not and feed our souls with Your very self, for we have tasted and seen that You, indeed, are good. Amen.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

We Are Waiting! What One Loaf of French Bread Taught Me About Life Part 3

In life, just like in bread-making ingredients, measure/balance and order/priorities are not the only components. The life is as much about the howas it is about the what.


When I mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, I have to allow time for them to 'gel' together, for the dough to take a life of its own and grow and multiply. I can't either force or accelerate this process. Change takes time. I watch and I wait.

The waiting can either be an extremely frustrating process that is forced on me, or I can learn to embrace it as a conscious exercise of letting go, a practice of resting and trusting, a willing surrender to the fact that I am not in control. There are forces in life that are at work even when my own work is completed. The final result will depend on their favorable interaction.


Some steps in life as well as in bread-making process may appear counter-intuitive or non-sensical. Just as the dough doubled in size, I had to punch it down! Sometimes in life, after a long,long wait, I feel like I am finally getting somewhere, I am finally reaching a destination, and then I get kicked in the stomach and collapse on the bottom of the mixing bowl!

What was that all about?!!! I protest, my bubble deflated, my efforts wasted and I feel like I am back to square one.

Why is God allowing this pain, this disappointment, this rejection?

Pain is probably the most counter-intuitive ingredient in the making of life. But, it is the key ingredient in transforming shallow, ignorant, naive, immature, superficial, selfish life into the one of integrity, maturity and substance that can truly nourish the world riddled with confusion, pain, sin and suffering.

But, this is not where it ends.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Measuring Cup of Life What One Loaf of French Bread Taught Me About Life Part 2

In the world run on speed and efficiency, what could possibly justify exchanging a 5 second simple monetary transaction for a 5 hour convoluted process that cost you not only money but time, energy and focus which could be channeled into much more productive activity (like checking other people's Facebook status updates or playing Farmville)?!!!

I know for sure that not every loaf consumed in our house is going to be home-made for despite my glowing success, I am not a baker. Slowing down, however, in order to make bread helps me appreciate some truths not only about baking but also about life. The truths I tend to take for granted or completely miss when I inhale it (both food and life) at neck-breaking speed.


Bread is not an independent 'bread' substance. It is a creative product of several unrelated ingredients that sit dormant on the shelf in the pantry, like grounded and pulverized wheat, and salt, and a fermenting agent. Our life's ingredients are a creative, unique, unrepeatable mixture of people (family, friends, enemies, neighbors, co-workers), personal and global events (births, deaths, marriages, promotions, demotions), choices, responses, rest, responsibilities, dreams, failures, emotions, heritage, environment, times and places. Some things in our lives we have control over. Some we don't. The latter far outnumber the former. Every day, we wake up to a life's pantry full of known and unknown ingredients and we ask God and ask ourselves a question:

What are we going to bake today?


When baking bread, each ingredient has to be carefully measured, for bread is not made with 3 1/2 cups of salt and two teaspoons of flour. In life also, there is a sense of measure and proportion, a balance that produces a life that is well-rounded, nourished and nourishing to others. Too much or too little of anything disrupts that balance and creates a problem in our own as well as in other people's lives.


Just because I have all ingredients on the counter doesn't mean I throw them all together at the same time. There are steps that need to be followed in a prescribed order. In life, we call this priorities. As somebody said,

The main thing is to keep the main thing main thing.

My relationship with Jesus Christ is THE main thing. Every day my number one priority is to ensure that I join Him in baking what is on His menu for my life. This encompasses listening to Him, communicating with Him and doing His will in His way, empowered by His Spirit. Sometimes it means letting go of my own menu. Some days I must choose to either accept or decline an invitation to help somebody else cook in their kitchen.

My relationship with my family - my husband and my children - are of the same priority order, for this is where my relationship with Christ is being manifested and practiced on the most basic, fundamental level. If we can't make it work in our family, what right do I have to go out and mess up somebody else's kitchen?!! This is where love, grace, truth, forgiveness and growth take root in each of our lives. From here on, in ever increasing circles, our life expands and ripples out into the furthest corners of the world by the virtue of our relationships with other people and by the virtue of the work God has called us to do.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Lost Art of Home-made French Bread Part 1

Yesterday I baked my first ever loaf of French bread. Three loaves to be more precise. Due to my excessively distractable nature, all my baking efforts so far went up in flames. I decided it is to everyone's benefit and peace of mind if I simply stayed away from the oven. It doesn't seem terribly cost effective to have firefighters on call every time I want to feed my family something as exotic as French bread. Publix bakery comes in handy and it's far less dangerous.

But the non-quitter in me, after resting for a long, long time, decided to try it again. And, this time, it worked!!! At least, I think it worked, even though my kids, connoisseurs par excellence on all matters of breads and baked goods found fault -

No offense, Mom, but you put just a tad too much of seasoning and the bottom of the loaf is too dark... for my taste, he adds trying to soften the blow.

I dismiss their complaints for their inherited perfectionistic nature does not from me...

Here's what I find extremely weird in making French bread.

Four ingredients. Four. That's all.

You can make amazing French bread with four simple ingredients. Flour. Salt. Water. Yeast.

Now, even though it sounds simple, it really is a rocket science to turn those ingredients into something edible, for I tried it many times before without success. The key apparently is to follow non-sensical instructions, and I've never been good at following instructions. Especially when they don't make sense to me, like:

Wait for the dough to rise two hours.

Two hours?!!!?!!! I can't wait that long!

Then, punch it down and wait

...Another two hours?!!!

Now, why would I want to sabotage my own efforts of raising the dough, only to add another eternity to the process?

Place non-glazed ceramic tiles in the oven.

I don't know if this is voodoo or rocket science, for what does tiling your oven have anything to do with baking bread?!! But, this time I decided to actually follow instructions, so I tiled the oven before baking. Needless to say, every member of our family, including our guinea pig George gave me a look over this, and my husband couldn't keep himself from asking

What in the world are those tiles doing in the oven?!!

I just smiled back.

Preheat oven (with the tiles in) to 450 degrees.

450 degrees?!!! What do you mean 450 degrees??? It's the temperature of the surface of the Sun! It's waaay too hot! I prefer to keep my oven at comfortable 300 or 350 at the most...

But, as I said, this time I decided to actually follow the instructions to the 't' and do as I am told to do.

450 degrees.

Spray the walls of the preheated oven with water right before you put the loaves in.

By this time, I've already given up. So, I used the spray bottle and sprayed the walls of the oven, watch the water vaporize instantly.

Twenty (or so) minutes later - for again I forgot to turn the timer on! - what popped out of the oven were three amazing, gorgeous, dazzlingly tantalizing, lithe loaves of French bread! I know, I know, all newborns are slimy, wrinkled and ugly, but they are perfect in their mother's eyes.

I look at my perfect babies and consider the bizarre instructions I followed throughout the day, wondering whether I have just become a voodoo doctor or a rocket scientist... whether I could have skipped a step or two because they don't make sense to me... The waiting... the unbearable heat... the sprinkling of water??? But, decide, that in baking, just like in life, ingredients are simple, and some instructions God gives us in His Word, seem rather bizarre, but if I quit squabbling over every detail that doesn't make sense to me, at the end of the day, I and my family can actually enjoy the feast that only the Bread of Life, Himself can prepare.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Deep Sea Diving Locations - Genesis or When Nice Girls Say Bad Words

The next thirteen years, Mrs. Abraham's breakfast, lunch and dinner consisted of ample servings of what we may call consequence.


Mrs. Abraham watches and listens…

"GodHears" nursing. "GodHears" taking his first step. "GodHears" saying his first word. "GodHears" calling Abraham Papa. "GodHears" starting Kindergarten. "GodHears" scores his first goal during a soccer game. The undeniable love story between her Egyptian servant-girl and "GodHears" unfolding before Sarah's eyes.

The love story that should have been hers. The love story that God promised would be hers!

Damn it!

Mrs. Abraham slams the flap of their tent and storms out into the moonless night. She lifts her head and roars towards star-clustered sky. Like a mortally wounded lioness.

God! GOD! G-O-O-O-O-D?!!!! What ARE YOU DOING?!!!Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! There! I said it. I said the bad word! Kill me for it! I wish You would! I'd love You for it! Can't stand it anymore. I give up! I quit! I surrender! You win! I lose. Are You happy now???

The stars blink silently in t he velvety sky.

Just take me... I want to dieeeeeeeee......

Her sobs finally break the invisible wall inside her soul that has been built one brick at a time, one insult, one despised look, one whispered conversation which got interrupted when she showed up at a time, day after day after day of her almost ninety - NINETY! - year old life. The Niagara Falls damn gave in and the torrents of pain were unleashed.

God, God, God... I am done. ... I ... give... up! Take me... please... take me...

She throws herself on the ground and wails, the desert wind carrying the sound of her voice across the dunes. She wails and sobs, and sobs and wails until her throat is raw, until her lungs hurt, until the last drop of strength is used up and she passes out, exhausted. When she opens her eyes again,her face crusted with sand and dried-up snot, the same sky looks down on her silently. She blinks at the stars and stars blink back at her. She slowly rolls around and lays flat on her back savoring something she hasn't felt in a long, long time.

For every square inch of her aching body is filled... overwhelmed... even conquered by...



Peaceful rest?

Restful peace?

It feels so strange... so unfamiliar...

Is… this… what surrender... to God... feels like?

Lord Jesus, we clutch and we hang on. We stiffen our neck and our upper lip. We scratch and we claw and try sooo hard until we can't hold it any longer. Sometimes the first honest word You hear from our mouth is the roar of our wounded heart. Finally! For not only You can handle it, but You wait for us to do it! Quit trying to figure it out on our own. Thank You that we can be more brutally honest with You than any other person on this earth. Thank You that You want the straight talk from us. Not empty words embellished with pious nonsense but the honest cry of the broken heart. What a place of rest You prepare for all who surrender to You and Your ways in such a way! Help us, O Lord, help us to live a life of such surrender moment by moment each day of our lives until we see You face to face.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Deep Sea Diving Locations - Genesis or Can You Hear Me Now?

Some People God Hears And Some ... Not So Much

(or so it seems)

It all boils down to what kind of universe we live in - open system or closed. Most of our daily functioning appears to be in a closed system - cause and effect, sowing and reaping, pull-yourself-by-the-bootstraps, pay the ticket, get on the bus, no-money-no-music, no miracles, etc. In the words of William E. Henley,

I am the master of my fate;

I am the captain of my soul.

It works up to a point. But life, real life, is generally lived beyond that point of mere existence. And in that realm, mastering my fate and captaining my soul appears to exceed my skill-set. Been there, done that. Dependable results every time - one word, shipwreck. Just not cut out for that job.

Mrs. Abraham, after a brief excursion into an open universe, found herself living in a closed system again. God feels absent. It feels like He isn't listening anymore. All the enthusiastic, joyful, hopeful emotions have gone down the drain and the memory of them makes today feel even worse. Decades upon decades of waiting immersed in all the crud one human being can dish to another when they feel better, superior, more favored... multiplied countless times... smothered in self-condemnation, sense of guilt, and being such disappointment to all around, not measuring up... For waiting on God never happens in an emotional vacuum... The longer she looked at that cradle the more unbearable it became. It's like having a Garden of Eden rerun with slightly different actors. Eventually, just like Eve, Mrs. Abraham also experienced unintended consequences of her ingenious move to secure fulfillment of God's promise with her own hand.

Suddenly her servant girl became arrogant, became cocky, for she actually had what her mistress didn't and that gave her an advantage, which, in her eyes, gave her permission to despise this woman God chose to be His vessel of blessing to the nations. That didn't go to well with Mrs. Abraham. Being despised made her, hmmmm... how shall I put it?... understandably mean. So she kicked Hagar out.

Welcome to the joyful world of captaining our own ships, mastering our own souls. For, this is what happens when we live in a closed system. Cause and effect, choices and consequences. Arrogance and meanness.

However, we don't live in a closed system. We live in an open system, in the world that we must not forget that there is God.

There is God.

And He is God who hears. (Genesis 16:11) God who hears the oppressor and the oppressed. The perpetrator and the victim. The CEO and the grunt.

And He is God who sees (Genesis 16:13)

What a shocking unfolding of the story (or maybe not, for we still see it played out every day by those who call themselves by Christians).

God's chosen people forgot, chose to ignore, failed to remind themselves that their God is the God who hears. Why bother praying?

God's chosen people were so overwhelmed and swept by derision, the pain, the weariness, the harassment, the agony, the injustice, the unfairness of their emptiness that they forgot that their is the God who sees. Why bother living a life of honor, dignity. righteousness and justice?

God used an outsider, a banished slave GIRL, an outcast and a foreigner who had to return and remind them of these truths.

Indeed, Your God is the God who Hears.

Indeed, Your God is the God who Sees.

Lord Jesus, the burden of waiting for the fulfillment of Your promise sometimes feels unbearable. Just as You have revealed Yourself to a banished slave-girl, who recognized You as the God who Hears and the God who Sees, reveal Yourself to us. Thank You, thank You for Your Living word and the encouragement it brings us even this day to trust You and resist the pressure to 'help' You fulfill Your Word.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Deep Sea Diving Locations - Genesis or Nope, God doesn't Need Your Assistance

Mr. and Mrs. Abraham celebrated their ten year anniversary into their journey with God with a quiet candlelight dinner, the cradle in the corner of their tent screaming at them still empty. EMPTY! The only thing which could be heard in that room that night was the ticking of Mrs. Abraham's biological clock.


The pressure inside the cooker was reaching the boiling point. She MUST do something - anything - to help God out fulfill His promise. Speed up this incredibly slooooow process. Facilitate it by involving others who can supply what they are quickly running out. They must have misread God's will somehow. All along He's been probably expecting them to think outside the box, to take matter into their own hands and get this thing moving (Chapter 16).

Nine months later their Egyptian servant gives birth to a boy. Ishmael. Abraham's son.

It turns out that was not at all what the Lord wanted them to do. He wanted them to trust Him to accomplish His word without their ingenious assistance. It was a painful lesson. Today, we are still paying the dividends of Mr. and Mrs. Abraham's choice.

In fact, today, each of us has exactly the same choice to make - perhaps different circumstances and conditions, but essentially the same choice.

Am I going to force the fulfillment of God's Word with my own strength, power and brilliant strategies?

Or am I going to live a holy life - allowing this unbearable hole inside me to remain... empty - until the Holy Spirit comes and fills it with nothing less but Himself? Am I going to foolishly insist on my own way and my timing or trustfully, restfully surrender to His?

Will I live by the flesh, even the 'good looking' flesh, the logical. the religious, the safe, 'the-God-helps-those-who-help-themselves' flesh?

Or will I wait... and wait... and wait... watching for the wind from above, being on the look-out for the coming of His Spirit... until He comes... no matter how long it takes?

Lord Jesus, we are so impatient, so unacquainted with Your ways of carrying out Your will. In the world of speed and efficiency, strategies and control, You seem painfully slow for us. We want You to get on with our program. You wait for us to turn to You so that we can become the kind of people You need us to be in order to serve Your purposes in this broken world. Empower me, O Lord, to come and keep coming to You, and receive mercy and grace to live life of unshakable faith, unfailing courage and humble dignity which brings glory to Your Name.

Deep Sea Diving Locations - Genesis or When God Chooses an AARP Member

In the book of the Beginnings, God places a direct call to a guy named Abraham when he was 75 years old, gives him specific instructions to leave everything behind. However, other than a promise that through him He will start a nation which will become a blessing to the entire world, fails to provide details as to either the destination or the stops along the way (Genesis 12).

Curiously, this seemed to be quite enough for Abraham to follow through on God's simple instructions:

Get out of there!, or:

Leave!, or:


Seventy-five year old?!! No spring chicken by any, ancient or modern standard. Living in the society that worships youth and discards anything older than a year, I can't help but wonder what took God so long? Why did He choose to skip over and seemingly waste all those valuable years of youthful strength when Abraham could have been of such great service to Him? Why not start with an Eagle Scout instead of an AARP member?

We have no written record that Abraham argued, questioned, demanded explanation or anything of the sort you and I may hurl at the Almighty when presented with such unreasonable proposition. Nothing of that nature. We don't know if Mr. and Mrs. Abraham had a late night discussion over this either. All we know is that they did as they were told (and brought their nephew along with them?).

Mr. and Mrs. Abraham didn't have any children which was no small pain and embarrassment in the patriarchal culture they lived in. In today's world many couples chose to remain childless, either though contraception or abortion, in order to pursue their personal dreams and lifestyle of freedom and luxury not accessible to those who are raising a family. But, such was not Abraham's time at all. No children meant you are a dried up twig, ready to be cut off and burned. No hope. No future. No legacy. Life squandered. Wealth wasted. Dead end. Off the cliff.

Perhaps the very presence of this constant pain and the burden of shame helped them realize that, despite their roots and their wealth, there was really nothing of true value and significance holding them down. This might have made it just a tad easier to pack their Samsonites and say their good-byes to their friends and family at their send away party. There were raised eyebrows there, I am sure, and the questions, like,

What about your 401K?, and

Will you have life insurance?, and so on and so forth.

Everyone, of course, knew that Mr. and Mrs. Abraham have definitely lost their minds and gone off the deep and. And who could blame them, for they are without an heir, you know. Of course, the party guests didn't realize that attached to the word about leaving was also an invitation to a baby shower.

So, Mr. and Mrs. Abraham set out. Hope. Fear. Thrill of adventure. Battles to fight. Allegiances to refuse (Genesis 14). More one-on-one talks with the Almighty. More promises. More waiting.

Lord Jesus, how different is Your way and Your timing for our lives from the clock and the methods we employ. We are in such a rush, so eager to accomplish so much for You. But, You work from eternity for eternity, with purpose and leisure that escape our grasp. For, when something is as important as carrying out the will of the Almighty, we feel the sense of urgency, even panic to do it. And when we rest in Your sovereignty, we fall asleep and lose the sense of importance in walking in Your footsteps. Help us Lord to carry out Your will with the same purposefulness and leisure commanded by Your Spirit, resisting both the panic and the snooze button of our fleshly nature. For Your glory both now and forever, for the blessing of all around us, both far and near. Amen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Same Difference - or NOT (Change in Strategy - From Stick to Carrat Cake) Part 5

The rat, of course, was far, far from being stupid, and he could think fast on his ratty little feet. He looked away from the red-hot glare of the angry birds, stared into some imaginary distant hole in the playroom's ceiling, blinked several times, sighed deeply and turned his gaze back to the silent animals. You could hear a pin drop in that room. The front row of birds swore they saw his eyes glistening with teary mist.

Then the rat shook his head, as if trying to compose himself, or come back to reality from some very emotionally moving vision. Clearing his throat, he begun to speak with a deep, grieving voice.

I see... I see... he choked up, stopped for a moment and then continued again. I see a lot of pain and suffering in front of me... A lot of brokenness and incompleteness... I see some important parts of us missing.... And this... this... Suddenly his face contorted into a scowl and his voice thundered,

This makes me angry!

The listening animals' eyes popped wide open! What does he mean by this?!! The birds angry just seconds ago looked at each other utterly confounded. They have never experienced this kind of showmanship.

I am angry to see so much undeserved suffering! I am angry that parts are missing! I am angry at the pain! And I am telling you today - he paused, adding drama to his words, as if the poor animals needed more drama - I am going to do something about it! I, he pounded his little inflated chest with his front claws, I myself will fix it! I will help you. I will SAVE you all! I will make you... WHOLE - again!

He closed his eyes dreamily and lifted his head, as if already savoring the moment of their wholeness and well-deserved worship and adoration he will receive from all his grateful subjects.

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Same Difference - or NOT (Angry Birds) Part 4

One would think that the Owl's fate would forever silence any thought of opposition or rebellion against what turned into rat's dictatorship over the playroom. At first, all the evidence confirmed the dominance of fear. Deadly silence replaced the usual sounds of laughter, and singing and friendly bickering.

The birds huddled together in the closet moaning and crying softly in disbelief.

There must be something - anything - we can do... there must be...

Perhaps, we could set up a round-the-clock watch... Always have at least one of us awake and on guard to ensure that this... this .... The white heron's voice cracked...

Yes, absolutely! Why didn't we think of it sooner?

The other animals joined a 24-hour vigil, emboldened by the feathery compassion of the birds. The vigil apparently stopped the series of daily carnage which greatly encouraged the animals who have begun to see themselves more and more as powerless victims of cruel fate than lovingly adopted members of an amazing family.

The Owl's life, however, seemed to be hanging by a very thin thread. The attack turned out to be not only humiliating, but also life-threatening. The animals huddled, and prayed, and prayed and huddled, and watched each other's back.

As the day turned into the night which turned into another day, the real possibility of losing the wise Owl forever weighed heavily on everyone's heart. Their sorrow simmered and churned, settling deep down inside and slowly transforming itself into something they didn't realize they had in themselves.

As the rat took his usual spot in the center of the playroom, ready to dish out his daily dose of dread and intimidation, he was faced with a row of glaring angry birds, backed up with an entire army of crippled creatures.

The rat scanned the rows of suddenly proudly determined animals in various degrees of disfigurement, and realized that he had seriously miscalculated, for things were not working out according to his plan.

He needed a new strategy and he needed it fast.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
I Peter 5:8-9

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Same Difference - or NOT (Rat on Rampage) Part 3

The atmosphere of fear that paralyzed most animals seemed to only boost the rat's confidence. Each morning he stood taller and taller in the middle of the playroom - which now looked more like a hospital ward with all the animals nursing their injuries, shell-shocked by unexpected turn of their fortunes. Their idyllic world of song, frolicking, laughter and joyful banter looked more like a distant dream rather than lived-out reality.

The rat's daily sermons made them feel all the worse about their dismal situation, despite the fact that he used many of the same words from the familiar stories they all grew up listening to since the day each of them was brought into the family. The stories they remember were the noble stories of love, and dignity and sacrifice. However, coming from the rats mouth the words and the message seemed to be all jumbled up.

If somebody takes one of your eyes, you should give him the other also! He stared at the terrified rabbit who squinted with the one eye he had left.

And if you see your brother's fin causing him to stumble, the rat paused fixing his gaze on the already traumatized Dolphin, chop it off! For that is true love and courage.

When the Wise Owl tried to protest, the rat sternly cut her off.

Your reputation for wisdom has gone into your head, Owl! The rat growled. Then he glared at the rest of the animals and gave them a solemn warning,

Listen, all of you! For I don't want to repeat it more than once. Pride goes before destruction... He let the last word linger in the air of which suddenly there seems to be a dire scarcity inside the playroom.

The following morning, the Wise Owl woke up naked and exposed, a sea of tawny feathers that used to cover her body strewn all around the playroom. The rest of the birds spread their wings to cover their humiliated friend and help her to the corner of the closet where there was still some semblance of safety. They all knew that what happened to the Owl was only a warning of much worse fate that could overtake any one of them.

Some things he writes are difficult to understand. Irresponsible people who don't know what they are talking about twist them every which way. They do it to the rest of the Scriptures, too, destroying themselves as they do it.
2 Peter 3:16

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Same difference - or NOT Part 2

Nobody knows when and how the Rat arrived in our family. He might have been a leftover from some garage sale or some kid might have left him behind and we were never able to determine who the owner was. He was the only rodent in our large and very diverse crew of stuffed animals. When he first arrived, perhaps the rest of the animals didn't treat him quite as he expected. I am sure he felt lonely and marginalized. Especially by the puppies who always seem to get most affection and attention of humans and admiration of other animals. He was usually so very quiet, some animals assumed that he was either really stupid or he couldn't talk. They were very wrong about both.

The first time we saw him wearing a claw-made white 'coat' speckled with large black spots, sporting a bright red collar we were actually amused. He looked nothing like the Dalmatian puppies, for it was obvious that he was a rat! At least it was obvious to humans. The stuffed animals, however, are not humans and their brains are filled with, well, stuffing... they forget so easily and one can't really expect them to be display much intelligence or even common sense. They all humored the Rat's antics and let him play this strange game of charade.

Then, one day, the Rabbit woke up with one of his eyes missing. The next day the Dolphin's fin was gone! One by one, the animals were maimed and nobody knew how it happened or who's done it. Instead of songs and sounds of joyful playing, fear and suspicion descended on the animals. Nobody knew who they should trust. The rat, suddenly quite outspoken, turned out to be very smooth with words and exhibiting the type of intelligence that left most animals in dizzy daze. He insisted he should be appreciated and admired despite the fact that he was different. He was also very emphatic that everyone should trust and not question his loving motives and intentions since, as is the common knowledge, all animals belonged to the same owner. Some animals shook their head in agreement, for indeed the words were familiar and sounded right. But, nobody seemed to be able to escape the feeling that something was terribly wrong and not a single animal was able to put their paw on it.

The carnage continued night after night and soon there was hardly an animal left without a limb missing. Some, like the Old Horse were ripped open with his stuffing strewn around the room like out-of-season snow. As the time marched on, there remained only one question in the feeble stuffed animal's minds:

Who is going to be next?

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Acts 20:28-30

Friday, July 13, 2012

Same difference Part 1

Our daughter has two almost identical Dalmatian stuffed animal dogs. She goes through phases when she likes to carry them around on the family errands. I gave up trying to wrestle them out of her hands, not really minding extra passengers, especially since they don't bark and usually provide welcome distraction from ongoing bloody battles between her and her brother. As we rode on, I was informed that their names were Pocahontas and Hokey.

They are VERY different, you know,
she frowns.

How's so? I ask looking in the rear-view mirror.

Well, this one has white ears with black spots and this one has black ears.

Oh, wow! I never noticed that before.
Paying attention to details is definitely not my strong suit.

Oh, yes! she continues on. Also, this one has an American flag, which means that she comes from America, and this one doesn't. After a short break she concludes with a sigh,

They are very different, but they still love each other very much.

And why is that? I wonder what love's got to do with it.

Because they both have the same red collar,
she answers simply.

Now, that makes perfect sense to me,
I laugh to myself at the irrational logic of this unlikely cause of affection. And then it dawns on me,

Well, of course! Even though they are so different or, rather, may appear to be despite the fact that in reality they are very much alike, they have the same collar. Which means, they have the same Owner and Master. And having the same Owner and Master should make them love each other despite their differences.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
I John 4:7,8

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Complete Idiot's Guide to Life and Disappointments

Even though nobody in our family can be described as picky, it’s still hard to find a food everyone truly enjoys. We all eat pizza, but I am not nearly as big on it as my kids are, and we all eat Thai, but my kids are not nearly as big on it as my husband and I are. We all like Mexican, but each of us has a distinct preference as to both what we want in our burrito and how it’s rolled up.

But, there is one thing we all absolutely love – and that’s sourdough bread. In our house, heaven smells like toasted sourdough with butter on it. Our love affair with sourdough might have stemmed from my husband’s Northern California roots or from my Croatian aunt’s home-madepanja, and we just passed on this shared sourdough gene to our children. Call it nature or nurture, the fact remains that we can easily polish off an entire loaf in one sitting. Now, the grocery store price for a loaf of good sourdough runs approximately four times as much as regular white or even whole-wheat bread. This puts us in somewhat of a quandary and, no pun intended, feeds our passion for more.

So, several weeks ago when I stopped by our local library, it wasn’t a total surprise when with a corner of my eye I spotted Complete Idiot’s Guide to Artisian Breads, I heard it call my name.

Hey, you! You, YOU - I am talking to you - don’t act as if you can’t hear me!

I looked around to make sure nobody is disturbed and discreetly moved few steps away, towards the shelf with foreign movie DVDs.

Stop right there! Pick me! Pick ME!

Shhhh! Stop yelling!
I growled. This is a public library!

Few people looked in my direction. I waited until everyone was back to whatever they were doing before I continued, this time making sure nobody is overhearing the conversation.

You are talking to the wrong person, buddy.
I snarled under my breath. I am NOT a baker. I am a BURNER! I am the Killer of all yeast. I am the Destroyer of everything that crosses our oven’s door. It’s hopeless. I am sorry. Go home with somebody else.

No, no, no. You got it all wrong. You are EXACTLY my kind of a person. See, Complete IDIOT’S Guide…

I don’t appreciate being called an idiot in a public place,
I whispered through my teeth.

Oh, stop being so sensitive and just take me with you… I’ll…

I grabbed a bunch of DVDs in front of me and dropped them into the basket. Then I stepped back to the shelf with the rowdy impostor, picked him up like a used Kleenex and dropped him under the pile.

Alright. Just stop barking. If you insist, I’ll bring you with me.

I used self-checkout as fast as I could and virtually ran out of the library, leaving both librarians and customers equally baffled behind. We drove home in silence. I unloaded the library cargo into our reading basket where the Guide sat squeezed between Pirates Past Noon and The Gollywhopper Games untouched for several days. One late afternoon I heard a murmur…

I-am-waiting… I-am-waiting…. I am waaaaiiiitiiiing….. I-am-WAITING!

I sat down and pulled the Guide up.

Well, thank you! He said politely. I almost got suffocated there, at the bottom of the basket.

I wasn’t going to apologize.

What do you want from me? I asked.

What do I want?!! What do you think? I didn’t come all the way from the library to sit at the bottom of your book basket and smell stinky Pirate’s feet! Let’s get the kitchen dirty! Let’s bake some bread!

We already went through this.
I was tired. I am not a baker. End of story.

But all of you LOVE to eat, especially sourdough. C’mon, it’s really not that hard. Just try it.

As I opened the book and flipped through the pages in front of me a faint aroma of baked bread begun to tickle my nostrils. Sourdough dinner rolls, ciabattas, crusty sourdough boules, garlic-rosemary focaccias….

Fine! I’ll give it a try. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I know it’s not going to work, but I am willing to try. Where do I start?

Starter! You start with a starter.
The Guide said with a huge grin. Clever, isn’t it?

I could tell that he was in his element.

Ha, ha. Very funny. I said grimly and turned to the Sourdough Starter page. The instructions seemed simple enough – three ingredients in all.

I think I can handle that, I said as I headed towards the pantry.

And so we begun. I fed my little ‘pet’ every day, like a brand-new parent, all worried whether I am doing it right, whether it’s too cold, or too warm, if I should feed it more often or less. We gathered around it and peeked under the lid, whispering to each other as if it’s a sleeping baby tucked under a cozy blanket.

The romance went on for about three or four days and then things turned south. At first, I noticed a slight discoloration. Then the smell. Which got worse. And worse.

This isn’t working.
I told my husband. I think I should just pitch it.

Don’t pitch it! Use it.
Responded my always cautious, methodical, polar-opposite mate.

Use it?!!! Are you crazy? Use it for what – rat poison? It’s bound to ruin the dough!

It’s SOUR dough, remember. It’s SUPPOSED to be sour.

I understand ‘sour’… but, this… this is… UGH!

It’s just flour and yeast and water – no big loss … it’s worth giving it a try. Whatever you make, babe, I will eat.

I looked at my taste-testing superhero suspiciously, for ordinarily I am the one in our family encouraging craziness. I savored the spot like ill-fitting shoes.

This is what it feels like to be the other person in my off-the-wall adventures.
I pondered.

I got a mixing bowl out of the cupboard and looked up the Sourdough bread recipe. I mixed the flour, yeast, salt, butter and water, hesitating for a moment before I poured the gray, smelly goop in.

This is insanity! I am ruining a perfect batch...
before I could finish the sentence I heard the familiar voice taking my train of thoughts into an altogether different direction.

...of plain, boring, white bread, high on air and low on substance by giving it depth and texture and character and personality you all love so much. Hon, the making of sourdough is just like the making of life. You stick with common ingredients, you get common results. But, if you take risks, embrace the bitter and the sour, mix it all well in, you might very well get an exceptional result. You make the choice.

Are you now presuming to be The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Life and Disappointments

Oh, no. Not at all! A much more comprehensive edition of that volume has already been published long time ago. In fact, I’ve seen several copies on a bookshelf in your study – quite dusty, if I may add. And I am not referring to your housekeeping habits. Perhaps you can check it out some time… the same way you did with me…

With that, the Guide fell silent. I waited awhile, hoping with all my heart that he would say something more, challenge some other deeply rooted prejudice of mine with his grace and truth. But, he didn’t. It was as if with this his role in my life was fulfilled and adding anything else would betray his greater purpose.

I finally turned away and slowly walked towards the bookshelf.