Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sidewalk Artist

Once upon a time there was an artist who went out with his paintbrushes and a bottle of paint. He found a gray sidewalk, stooped down, and with one knee on the ground, opened the bottle and started to paint.

As he was painting, a car drove by. A passenger rolled down the window and yelled,

What a waste of time! See all these cars driving by too fast for anyone to see what you are doing! If you want to be seen, put your work on a billboard!

Then, he rolled up the window and they drove away.

But, the painter kept painting.

Then a bicyclist rode by, pausing for a moment to see what the man on his knees was up to.

It’s about to rain, he said to the artist, pointing at the dark clouds on the horizon, and all your hard work will be smeared and washed off, and nobody will ever see it… why bother at all?

And he pushed off and went away. But, the artist kept creating.

Then a jogger came, running in place as he watched the man with the brush.

Hey, dude, that’s cool! But, nobody will see it so small and against such gray background. It’s way too inconspicuous. You should have chosen brighter colors and bigger image so it would catch everyone’s attention.

And he ran off.

By now the artist was already done. The small black owl, with feathers unruffled, a tiny heart inside her chest, and a face aglow with joy seemed to wink at her creator. He smiled back at the owl, took the brushes and the paint and walked away.

What do you think…?

Why did the artist choose the owl as his subject?
Why did the artist choose a gray sidewalk for his background?
What made his work seem wasteful?
What made it meaningful?
Who do you relate best to the story? Why?
In what ways does the sidewalk artist resemble God?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Life is a Burrito

You want a burrito for lunch?

What do you mean, ‘burrito’?

What do you mean, ‘what do you mean, ‘burrito’?’
I am stumped. You know burrito… flour tortilla, refried beans, ground meat, shredded cheese… I wonder if the morning has started too early today.

Ah, yea, yea!! Don’t forget the sour cream!
She chimes as she trots off to brush her teeth.

So, I proceed to make a burrito – spreading the beans around, adding the meat in the middle, sprinkling the cheese and microwaving it for 36 seconds to a melted perfection. I put the sour cream and start wrapping it.

What’s THAT?!!??
She mumbles with the toothbrush inside her mouth.

A BURRITO – remember?
I vaguely recall having this very conversation just seconds ago.

But I don’t want it – like THAT…
She looks at my work-in-progress and rolls her eyes. That’s not the way I make my burritos – it’s too messy!

My eyes suddenly grow to the size of the large plate holding the offender. Part of me wants to reroute the final destination of the innocent culprit to the garbage disposal. Another part tells me that there is more to this story than meet the eye.

For I recall countless times of agreeing with Jesus on what’s on the lunch menu of my life… Loving like He loves, with a mound of joy, and a sprinkling of patience, adding growth and depth… And, I inject, Don’t forget the transformation of the boring and mundane… Then, excited about the yummy prospect, I jump into my day only to find that God’s way of wrapping the burrito of my life is slightly different from mine… and a lot more messy!

For love comes easy to me when the other person is lovable, but I have a really hard time finding those around.

Love the unlovables,
He whispers, for that’s how I love…

I expect to magically ingest patience off a smooth platter of stress-free living, but He mixes up the unlikely ingredients of rejection, misunderstanding, disappointments and isolation and invites me to dine on the feast He Himself dines upon

I equate joy with fleeting emotion of happiness when the sky of circumstances is bright-blue and the light breeze is cooling my face. Instead, He sends the storm that obliterates the distinction between the up and the down, and invites me to hold His hand and find my true joy in Him and Him alone.

This is too messy! I cry out. This is NOT the way I prefer to wrap MY burrito. And He laughs, and replies,

But, hon, this is exactly what you asked for. For, this is the only way that the growth, and depth… and the transformation of the boring and mundane can take place…

…But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty…
I Corinthians 1:27

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Freedom of Speech - When a Blessing Becomes a Curse

Human race has been endowed with incredible God-like ability of expressing ourselves through language. Articulating his or her first word is primary developmental milestone in every child’s life. This represents only the beginning of a sacred journey intended to teach us to use words creatively, to speak well of our Maker and His creation, and to discover appropriate ways and context for expressing our innermost thoughts, desires, needs and boundaries.

Words can be incredibly powerful. They can inspire, impart life, meaning and direction to our existence. They can also start wars and revolutions and end marriages and friendships. Every day words are used to deceive and manipulate, to reveal what should remain hidden and hide what should be exposed.

Words also can be incredibly impotent. The unbelievable proliferation of words in our global culture of blogging, social networking and minute-by-minute news updates has created unprecedented word hyperinflation, a bulging, ever-increasing river of loud noise that says nothing or at least rarely anything worth hearing. E-technology has allowed us to create links, to cut and paste long quotes with just a few clicks of a mouse and dump them thoughtlessly into the churning river of verbiage flooding the banks of our lives. None of us knows quite how to deal with so much well-intentioned at best and mean-spirited at its worst linguistic pollution.

The problem with words is that they are easy to say and in the cut-and-paste world of Internet, even easier to write. Almost anyone can do that. But, engaging our mind, our moral person inside, understanding the context of our expression and our (already overloaded, I might add) audience before we do our dumping is altogether different story. In a moral universe, I am responsible for what I put out there. I am held accountable, justified and/or condemned by my own words. Perhaps what we need is a little (or a LOT) less of empty shells of sounds and letters, void of content and meaning, and more of ‘word becoming flesh and living among us’?

That, of course, is much easier said then done.

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
John 1:14

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Root Canal of the Soul

I love going to my dentist. The office is tastefully decorated, furnished with super-comfy chairs and it has a TV screen in each room where I can catch up on morning news. The staff is friendly and Nicole is the best dental hygienist in the world. She is just the right combination of gentleness and toughness – gentle on teeth and gums but hard on plaque. She is extremely conscientious and so sweet she poses a threat to good dental hygiene. By the time she is done with me, my teeth are so clean I don’t want to eat for a week lest I ruin her work. The feeling, unfortunately, goes away after a couple of hours. She never ever comments on the condition of my teeth, leaving the diagnosis to the Big Kahua, which, in my case, is Dr. M. The only thing I hate about her is that each visit she asks me the same question:

Do you floss… daily?

If only she left out that daily at the end, or replaced floss with brush, our relationship would be perfect.

Yesterday was my regular 6 month checkup.

We breeze through the cleaning and the usual one-way conversations since my mouth is temporarily disabled by all the instruments of torture and her two piano-player hands. As she attacks the plaque deposits with a pick and an axe, she complements me on my home care. I only grunt and mumble, her comment leaving me quite perplexed – if I am doing such a great job at home, how come there is still so much crud left in my mouth that she acts like a underground miner?

When she is done, she hands me a soft-bristled yellow brush and another package of floss and tells me the doctor will be in shortly.

He comes in, shakes my hand and turns to the computer screen behind me, his laser attention focused on the not too attractive display of my X-rays. After several minutes of pregnant silence, I can’t bear it any longer:

So, what’s the verdict, doc?
I am savoring my freshly cleaned mouth, and Nicole’s earlier compliment on good home care, expecting to pass the test with flying colors.

Still looking… responded Dr. M, with his back turned. He wasn’t being chatty for sure.

Looking where?!!! I am right here! I had hoped to impress him with my shiny smile, but he never gave me a chance.

The silence was now pregnant with twins… or triplets… or octuplets… Finally, he walks over to me and without a single glance inside my mouth, he declares,

It’s not good. That old filling continues to crack and crumble and you are now getting a decay behind it. We must do something about it…

Your home care is good, he adds but that doesn’t seem to matter so much anymore. The staff will help you with the rest. Good bye.

I feel something resembling pieces of gravel inside my mouth. I vaguely remember my last visit and a word about the old filling and cracks and the paper that spelled out the damages in multiple hundreds of dollars terms. I also vaguely remember the fog descending on my mind when I saw the aforementioned terms. Six months later the fog turned into a hammer.

Now fully awake, I realize that my problem is much bigger than a soft-bristled brush can solve. It reaches back into my past when the dentist visits took place only when the pain got to be more than I could bear. The old filling may have patched up my inconsistencies at the time, but its crumbling structure indicated it has outlived its usefulness. Further delays only compound the damage and put me at a risk of losing my tooth. It’s the kind of price I am not willing to pay, either with my teeth or with my life. For there is another Doctor who is more interested in what His x-ray vision detects than in the shiny veneer that can fool everyone else. And when He sees a crumbling foundation, He'll move heaven and earth to dig as deep as He needs until my foot is set firmly on the Rock.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4:12,13

Monday, August 08, 2011


MOM! Where are my P.J.’s?

Right there!


Right THERE… you just walked right past…
I make no attempt to hide the exasperation in my voice.

He continues walking towards me, away from his pajamas, in the exact opposite direction from where I was pointing. I stare dumbfounded at my ‘gifted’ child, the master of overlooking the obvious, as he steps up to me, pauses for a moment and turns around. He aligns his field of vision to mine, makes a clicking sound with his tongue having spotted the crumpled pile of clothing. He takes a couple of steps, grabs the P.J.’s and turns around with a rascally grin,

Perspective, Mom… perspective… is everything.

Come to Me…
Isaiah 55