Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Second Cup of Coffee

Happy International Coffee Day!  It’s a wonderful wide-eyed day when all coffee drinkers all around the world – tall and short, black and white, purists and add-on-ists unite over their common affection, attraction and, let’s be honest, addiction to the java juice. 

We know who we are and are proud of it. 

Since my blog is called Second Cup of Coffee, it occurred to me that this might be a good day to reflect a bit on the origin of the blog’s name. 

In order to do that, we have to do some detective work. 

There is an interesting story in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 8:22-26) which describes Jesus healing a blind man. 

They came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man to Jesus and implored Him to touch him. Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around.” Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. 

I don’t know about you, but I find this a rather unusual miracle.

Not only Jesus seems to go through a lot of trouble with this guy, implementing some unorthodox healing techniques, but the healing itself actually takes place in two installments!

For years I wrecked my brain over this ‘botched’ miracle.  I am not an eye specialist, but I couldn’t help but wonder whether this man was just a bit too much for Jesus to handle?  A particularly difficult case that required extra effort even for the Son of God?

But in other places we see Jesus saying a word – or even without a word – doing these amazing faith-feats, not just with blind, sick, deaf, mute, demon-possessed and crazy people but also with DEAD people.

So, why did He ‘fail’ to deliver a flawless miracle in one fell swoop this time around? 

Why did this man require the second touch of Jesus?

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Game of Mau

The house is so quiet, it’s hard to imagine there are a half a dozen teenagers sprawled all over our living room furniture. I can hear the buzzing of the air-conditioner outside. The long swish-swashes of my paint brush following along the wood grain of the kitchen cabinet. Our guinea pig nibbling his hay.

A silent game of Mau is in progress.  Cards have been passed around, seemingly simple rules -  twos go on twos, fives on fives, reds on reds, matching numbers, matching colors. How difficult can it be??

Then, somebody clears his throat.

Slap! The fist hits the coffee table, with the extra card sliding off the edge.

Penalty for coughing!


Penalty for talking!

Another slap, another card flies across the table.


Penalty for protesting!!

Yet another card flies accompanied with another slap of the fist on the table.

Everyone bursts into laughter.

Cards fly across the table.

Penalty for laughing. Penalty for laughing…. And penalty for laughing.

The grim-faced Enforcer doles out the penalty cards to everyone, and silence settles again on the room.

I don’t know who invented this game. Mau. 

At the beginning of the game, the only person who knows all the rules is the king Mau. 

It’s a tremendously powerful position to occupy. The king Mau is the ultimate insider. There are few experienced others but king Mau possesses all the key knowledge and sole power to execute punishment. The king Mau is the one (perhaps the only one) having fun.

The rest of the players have to learn the rules by either being penalized for unknowingly breaking them or careful observation of other people’s moves and them being penalized for violating the rules.

Match the number. No talking. Match the color. No coughing. No laughing. No protesting.  Am I allowed to breathe? Is it O.K. to shift my weight, my leg is getting numb?

I marvel at who would invent such a preposterous, even cruel game. And, even more baffling,  
why it is being played at all?!!!  Except, perhaps, that these wild teenagers under my roof must be gluttons for punishment.

My husband says that the game has probably originated from someone who lived in a cross-cultural setting, because that’s how it feels to be an outsider. A misfit. A forever out-of-step newbie speaking with an extraterrestrial accent.

Even if you are fluent in language, you are bound do break some of the billion unspoken rules. Every day. Forced to learn them by being penalized for breaking them. Perhaps not slapped with a penalty card or a fist... but words sting as much, as do the looks.

It takes some time for his comment to sink in. But, slowly, ever so slowly, the game of Mau is beginning to make more sense.  A lot more sense.

Just then there is an uproar in the living room as Collin shoves the coffee table, cards cascading all over the floor.

I quit! I don’t care anymore! This is insane…

The rest of the group burst into laughter, perhaps relieved that the torture is finally over, but I can't help but feel for the boy. Can’t blame him at all. For, once you’ve been a player, you finally begin to understand why some people are tempted to rage-quit a game like that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Supervisor

The brilliant idea works better than I expected.  I start out tentatively,

Well, thanks - I sure can use some help.  How about if you supervise this project? You can be my supervisor…

His eyes grow big and his entire face lights up at the sound of the word. The silly title appears to have a magical power over him.

Suddenly, he is important. 

Suddenly, he is significant.

He has discovered his mission in life!

You can sit here, I swing a barstool around the counter, and watch me do all the work. When I mess up, you just point it out. That, in essence, is what supervisors do – sit around doing nothing but watching other people do all the work and then pointing out their mistakes. Would you like to be my supervisor?

He walks to the barstool as if in trance, I don’t think he really hears me.  He is on Cloud Nine of his new-found purpose and I know I won’t have to worry about him for a while as long as he remains seated.


I read somewhere that the Greek word for baptism is related to the process of dyeing a garment.  The process where the garment is changed, truly transformed, from one into another by frequent dipping into the new color. It’s a painstaking process that requires tenacity and patience. 

Painting the kitchen cabinets makes me appreciate the process.  

I realize that there is more to baptism than being dunked once and you are done. Voila! Instant Christlikeness!
I am ‘baptizing’ my kitchen one brushstroke at a time. Each brushstroke reminds me that the transformation is slow, painstaking process. One steady brushstroke after brushstroke after brushstroke at a time. I have to keep them light and feathery, careful not to slather too much too soon, or I make even bigger mess.  

This project is bigger than it can be accomplished in a day.  I have to wait between layers, learn to live with a mess, live with incompleteness, learn to rest even in the midst of all the chaos.  

For somebody who likes closure and order, that is very very hard.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Junior Helper


I am up to my eyeballs in paint, it takes me a few seconds to process what he just said.

I pause and look around, our entire kitchen a proper disaster area. 

All the doors are off their hinges, strewn randomly over the entire surface of the kitchen floor.  All the shelves are uncovered, exposing their messy mismatched contents to anyone who cares to examine them.  There are drop cloths and brushes, rollers and Phillips screwdrivers of various sizes, open paint cans and plastic containers of different shapes to fit every painting need.  I am wearing an old pair of pants and a T-shirt with smears and splatters covering the fabric and the exposed parts of the rest of my body.

It is an indescribable creative mess apparently screaming for help from every corner. 

But, despite the reign of seemingly unbridled chaos, there is a careful methodology behind my creative madness.

He is waiting, patiently for a fourteen year old, his eyes resting on me.

As much as I could use some help, and as much as I want to make him feel useful, even wanted and needed, I know this particular job exceeds his capacities.

I know that. He doesn’t.

I wreck my brain to think of ways to keep him occupied and feeling useful while limiting the damage incurred in the process. Our shared history works against him. At this moment I feel an acute sense that I have no margin left for additional remediation of avoidable man-made disasters.

Should I just chalk off the rest of the day as wasted and announce with a smile,

Thanks for your offer, dear, but I am all done for today. Great timing, though. Now we can all sit down and have ice-cream to celebrate. We can wash the brushes later?

If I wanted to be brutally honest, I would say something like,  

 I appreciate the offer but your help isn’t helpfull.

I don’t mean this in an unkind way. Still, the weight of the words could forever crush him and sabotage any future initiative, misguided and misinformed as it may be. Only a fool would want such millstone of responsibility tied around her neck.

Of course,  there is always my personal favorite,

The best way you can help me right now is …

This gives me a great idea.  A perfect idea that just might work…

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The Misfit

When he comes to our house, he doesn’t stay long with the rest of the kids. 

They tried.  They all tried to make space for him, to fit him in. He tried to fit in too. Mostly he would sit and watch them play, sometimes he would ask to join in.

But it just isn’t working.

Mom, we want to include him but, when he is with us, we ALL die! 

I guess I am supposed to empathize with the drama of these virtual deaths.  They add,  

Or he rage-quits on us.  The burden of a misfit’s outburst, of course, lies solely with him. They all are just a bunch of innocent angels. 

But, I can't really fault them either. I know it's not easy - for him or for them.  

The games the rest of the kids play these days have become too sophisticated for him to keep up with. He is a liability of every team, a doomsday boy that nobody wants around.

In his own way, he understands it.

Still, he comes, relentlessly comes, and after a few minutes of watching them have fun, he turns away and joins me in the kitchen.

It really doesn't matter what time of day it is.  For him, it's always food time. He likes spicy Japanese noodles so I get a box from the pantry. He’s been here often enough to cook them himself. When the noodles are done, he opens the refrigerator door, reaches in and gets a jug of milk.  He already knows where the glasses are, grabs one and carefully pours out some, making sure he doesn’t spill.  Then he sits down, eats and drinks. When he is done, he throws away the empty container, sits back down with his elbows propped against the counter and watches me work.

Can I help?