Friday, June 24, 2011


Being the late technological adapters that we are, in preparation for our big cross-country trip, we finally broke down and purchased our first GPS. Needless to say, we all are slowly adjusting to our new, quite chatty traveling companion. We noticed that sometimes she (well, I don’t really know whether it’s a he or a she) likes to play the role of the junior Holy Spirit – especially when our driving speed exceeds the posted speed limit. I admit it takes getting used to hearing God talk to you in an audible voice,

Warning! ...Warning! But, our kids have been doing that since the day they made a connection between the number signs on the side of the road and speedometer on our dashboard.

However, there is one thing I really, really like about the GPS. It happens every time we miss our exit or take a wrong turn. After a series of simple and clear directions which, in the chaos of driving experience I managed to miss or ignore, I would expect her to starts shouting,

You dumb idiot! Are you listening?!!!! What were you thinking?!!! Which planet issued YOU a driver’s license????

But, instead, she suddenly falls silent (my father-in-law’s GPS at this time announces, ‘Recalculating… recalculating’), takes a big deep breath, and resumes in its steady, calm voice giving direction towards the destination, incorporating the unwanted detour into the journey. No judgment, no condemnation – just a solid assurance,

You are not lost… you are not lost to me. I will bring you to our desired destination, wherever you may be …

Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.
Isaiah 30:21

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Complete Idiot's Guide to Loving your Enemies

As far as I am aware, nobody really knows about the existence of the book (although, some, I gather, might have a suspicion or two, but fortunately they are not the blabbering type). Even though in other areas I am not a detail kind of person, here I pride myself with impeccable accounting. The book is my masterpiece. It’s the most comprehensive panoramic record of numerous grievous wrongs inflicted on my poor soul through the years. I have worked very hard at it most of my life. The book was birthed on the same day I was. Its earliest record goes back to the hospital where I was born. Hardly had I pushed my way through the birth canal when the nurse who barely caught me on the way out, whacked me as hard as she could on my back.

If THIS is my welcome, I insist on being sent back!
I yelled as loud as I could, but everyone around me ignored it and cheered and applauded instead. I knew immediately it was going to be a rough ride.

The most recent entry tells of an incident that happened in the church this morning. But, I wont’ go into that.

Now, I know I am supposed to forgive – which, of course, I have done already, many times. But, guilty pleasure though it may be, I admit it is by far my favorite bedtime reading.

The Book of Grudges.

Some chapters I almost have memorized, Botox for Backstabbers, Murdering with a Smile for example.

The table of content also includes:

Gossip – the Secret Weapon of Mass Destruction
With Friends Like This, Who Needs Enemies?
Who Put YOU in Charge? The incompetent losers and places of authority
Thanks for Being Such an Ungrateful Pig!
Why Waste Time? (or, Bring Back the Guillotine!) Simplifying the justice system by becoming an all-in-one Prosecutor, Judge and Executioner

Last night, as I skimmed through the pages I noticed one particular name being repeated over and over again. The habitual offender.

I could feel my temperature rising. The more I pondered, the more furious I became. I spent most of the following day swinging from raging banshee plotting revenge to despondent, Woe-Is-Me, weeping inconsolably as the lake of self-pity around my feet grew to the size of Atlantic Ocean. I was just about to switch again when I got interrupted by a cheery,

Whatcha doin’, Big G?
The last person I was in the mood to talk to today.

Hi there, King of Oxy-MORONS, I answered morosely, hoping he’ll go away if I am rude enough.

That’s hilarious!
He burst into laughter. I like it! Guilty as charged! His eyes twinkled and I thought I caught a glimpse of a wink.

Although… the way you said it, he added, it sounded more like name-calling. So, whatcha been readin’, The Short History of the Universe? He was looking over my shoulder as if trying to see the book. I could tell it was a trick question. I knew that he already knew what I was reading.

Sort of…
I could feel a major case of grumpiness descending on me, but I wasn’t going to let it keep me from setting the record straight.

Alright, since you asked for it! I think that THIS,
I thumped my forefinger on the cover of the book now in plain view, This is just outright wrong!

I agree.
His voice mingled with mirth and something else, I couldn’t quite distinguish..

I am sick and tired it! I am tired of being criticized, gossiped about, back-stabbed, betrayed, thrown up on, misjudged and misunderstood. I am tired of friends who only remember me when they need me and of enemies who have made up their minds about me without even knowing me!

He was nodding as if he truly understood what I was talking about. I decided it was time to bring it up a notch.

Something needs to be done - and I mean, IMMEDIATELY!

Oh? Like what?

When opportunity knocks on my door I sure can hear it, and I was ready to give him my piece of mind.

Well, since you inquired… You know those repeat offenders from the book…?

I know them. He answered quite engaged, almost amused, at this point

Well, they got off the hook too easily! Not to name any names, but you know who I am thinking of. It’s just not fair.

I see..
. Buoyed by his apparent understanding, I continued.

I want him to FEEL what he’s done to ME! Alright, to put it bluntly, I want him to suffer. And this is where you come in … you could pull some strings… you could send a bunch of chinch bugs into his lawn, for example, or a virus into his computer. A red sock could just happen to fall in his white wash, and turn all his underpants bright-pink! I was already feeling much better.

So, you want to hire me as your hit man?

I wasn’t thinking quite in those terms, but if you wish to call it that… My voice trailed off, before I continued.

I admit I haven’t really considered the payment aspect of our agreement… Perhaps, I could finally return all those overdue books to the library…? Or, I could volunteer at school, even though those bickering brats are driving me crazy…That would be right up your alley, a real sacrifice, wouldn’t it?

A shadow passed over his face.

I mean... I didn’t mean to haggle with you over the price as if we are in the farmer’s market? I promise I will not disappoint you.
Somehow it felt as if I’ve just taken one foot out of my mouth only to put the other in.

So, do we have an agreement or not?
I sighed. I am sure we can figure out the details later.

Yes, we have the agreement.
He said, his voice firmer than usual. Now, give me the book.


Hand the book over to me. His voice was immovable like the base of Mt. Everest and soft like a seaside breeze

No way! Sorry, can’t do it!
I clutched the book tightly to my chest, as he stretched out his hand towards me. I noticed a purple scar pulsating in the afternoon sun.

I am not going to yank it out of your hand, hon. You need to give it to me.
His voice was barely audible whisper by now, riddled with pain. I paused.

Then what?
What happens when and if I give you the book? I wanted to keep all my options open.

Then, you love them…
He said simply, as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. You love your enemies…

Excuse me?!!

You love your enemies. He repeated patiently, as if deaf to the mockery sputtering out of my mouth.

Love them?!!!! Are you crazy?!!! Whacking them on the head with a rubber mallet was more along the lines of what I was thinking ….Where I come from, that’s how we deal with our enemies…

And where I come from, He paused briefly, where I come from, this is how we deal with our enemies. We love them. Just as I have loved you…

But… but, what about the repeat offenders? I stuttered weakly, my hands going limp.

The repeat offenders?
His eyes sunk deeply into mine, past the crusty blinders, past the festering wounds, past disappointments and shattered dreams, past losses and un-cried tears. The repeat offenders… , He enunciated every word, They are… to be loved… most of all.

I hardly noticed when the book slipped between my fingers and fell to the ground. I thought he would bend over and pick it up, but he didn’t move. His gaze was fixed on me, a category five hurricane of grace and conviction, cleansing and gentleness.

You must love the repeat offender… just as I have loved you.

Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. John 13:34

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. And yet, for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. I Timothy 1:15,16

Friday, June 03, 2011


Mom, look at the tree I made!

I was up to my ears in the pile of dirt and cow manure when my junior assistant gardener called my attention to what she’d been busily doing most of the morning.

Hon, you don’t MAKE trees, you PLANT them, I was about to correct her linguistic latitude, when I turned around and looked in her direction.

Well, perhaps I was wrong… I guess you COULD make trees… sort of! I thought.

For, inside our small vegetable plot there stood a tree - if one could call a tree what in actuality, was a medium size broken off and dried up branch, stuck as firmly as her tiny hands would allow into the sandy ground. I was taken aback. Nowhere in nature have I ever seen a tree quite like this one. It was impressive. It was glorious. Every square inch of its brittle branches was covered with every blooming flower found in our garden that day – there were day lilies, and passionflower, and impatience, and azaleas, and spider lilies, star jasmine, and four-o’clock,.. . I looked around the back yard. Except for the blazing tree, all the other plants and shrubs were stark naked, their every last bloom effectively picked clean, carefully transferred and attached to the dead branch.

Wow! What can I say, hon?!!! It’s… it’s gorgeous!

She admired her work for a while, then dusted her hands off and proudly trotted off into the house. Her work in the garden was finished for the day.

I stand next to the flaming bush wilting quickly under the blaze of Florida sun and reflect on my own daily work and ‘glorious achievements' in the garden of life. Part of me wonders whether the effect is much different from what my little apprentice has accomplished today. Having neither courage, nor skill nor patience required for authentic growth, I hop around life like a restless mountain goat, diligently picking clean the blooms from other bushes. Once satisfied with my exotic collection, I artificially try to attach it to the dried-up twig of my own life, in hope that the plagiarized blooms of others would cover up the impotence of my shriveled heart. For a short while my tree may look quite impressive - like a Disney cartoon on steroids! But soon enough the ruthless heat-waves of life wither it up, launching me on another quest after the phantom, now further and faster, in desperate search for other extraordinary blooms growing in other people’s yards. And all along, the grotesque irony of the vicarious blooming seem to escape my notice. By the end of the day, I have a feeling that something has just slipped through my fingers, but I am too exhausted from the chase to consider the insanity… All I can hear in the back of my tired soul is a distant echo…

…a copycat of a copycat, a shadow of a shadow…

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
John 15:4