Friday, April 27, 2012

No Name Calling, Please

Yesterday, on the way to my children's school, just as I stepped onto the crosswalk, hardly being able to make a couple of steps, a huge silver SUV swung around the corner bearing down towards me at approximately 20 miles over the speed limit inside the school zone.

It must have been the mother bear instinct in me that stopped me in the middle of the street, planting my feet like boulders on one of the stripes painted on the asphalt. I glared at the driver and pointed at the stripes of the crosswalk quite emphatically. At that moment a thought what could have happened to me didn't even cross my mind. I was thinking of all the elementary age children, some quite small, daily crossing the street in that spot, because, unimaginable as it may seem to some, they don't have an alternative to getting to school except by the power of their own two little feet.

The person inside the SUV, however, would have none of it! He swung around me, his tires screeching, and then slammed on the breaks, rolled down the window and screamed, wh...! I turned and looked at him, quite shocked, I must say, for even though I don't think I live under a glass bell, I have never in my entire life being called such names in my face. As if reading the confusion clearly spelled out all over me, he screamed that much more loudly, I guess wanting to make sure I didn't miss a word:

You, F.... WH...!!! And drove off.

I finally crossed the street, giving two-thumbs up to the patient driver who actually stopped to let me walk to the other side of the street.

I was thinking...

Well, he is wrong. I am not f%#@?& w@?&. I am a faithful wife to the love of my life. I am a mom to two wildly amazing children. I am a child of the God who created the entire Universe.  I have been washed and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. I am holy and beloved, chosen by Christ to walk in good works which God has prepared for me beforehand that I should walk in them.  Actually, even this very moment, I am on my way to do what He is calling me to do - to help those who are the most disadvantaged in my daughter's classroom!

The question inside my head, however, still remained,

But, why does he see me as a F..... W....?!!!

I don't know what business he was about but I could tell that he was in a great rush. I didn't see it, but he might have had a woman in labor with a child on the back seat. I still clearly remember my husband driving like a maniac in the middle of one August night almost eleven years ago with his wife screaming into his ear to slow down... and hurry up.... and SLOW DOWN.... and HURRY UP!! Now, that would drive any driver insane!

What's your problem, crazy woman?!!! Make up your mind, and then tell me what to do!

I also saw that he was driving an armored vehicle. If that SUV had hit me at the speed he was going, I would have been a smear of a bug on the pavement. He was much, much bigger and stronger than me. Outside of a miracle, I stood no chance of survival, while the worst thing that could have happened to him would be just a dent on a bumper and a splatter of my blood and guts on his windshield.

Finally, I suspect most importantly, I was the wrong person at the wrong place at the wrong time, interfering with his agenda. I was a slow pedestrian crawling across the crosswalk at a human pace. And, in this man's universe, that's just not acceptable. And so in his eyes, I became a f..... w.... A piece of moral trash polluting his moral stratosphere.

So, I prayed to God that He slows the guy down before he crashes and destroys another human life, forever altering history of an entire family...and, in some limited sense, the entire world... I pray that He slows down all the out-of-control drivers sitting behind the armored vehicles bearing down the many roads of our lives before they wreak havoc in our families and communities and in the most profound sense, ruin their own lives. I pray that He slows all of us down so we can see other human beings the same way He does. Not as moral trash, an aggravating annoyance interfering with the 'important' mission I am on, but as beloved wives and moms, husbands and dads, children of God commissioned by Him to do good works which God has prepared beforehand so that we should walk in them.
 "Tank Man" stops the advance of a column of tanks on June 5, 1989, in Beijing. This photograph, taken by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press, became one of the most famous images of the 20th century, and an international symbol at the end of the Cold War era.

Metamorphosis From Whining Fast to Spiritual Formation 101 to Intergalactic Communication back to where we left off...

Back in February this year I embarked on the most peculiar journey.  It all actually started last year during Lent, with a seemingly innocuous idea to participate in one of those forgotten Christian practices accompanied with prayer ( prayer as a two-way conversation with God rather than a highly repetative, boring monologue - for those who haven't read the introduction to the Intergallactic Communication aka prayer - ) to most people known as Lental fast. 

Now, I like to eat and I don't particularly care to to deprive myself of food just to interact with the Almighty, so I sought His advice on the alternative.  He suggested Facebook fast.  I flatly refused, for such is my natural reaction whenever I hear God's outrageous propositions, especially when they infringe on my well-established habits.  But then, I changed my mind because I am still waiting to meet a person who can win an argument with God and I wasn't trying to attempt to be the first one... although I admit, I have tried in the past...

So, I am totally embarrassed to admit it, but last year I completed my first ever fast - Facebook fast, and it was... amazing!  I got so hooked (only after being unhooked from Facebook!) on the fast that I wanted to keep going way past Easter.  It's like a marathon runner finally reaches the finish line and wants to keep going and going...

Slowly but surely, however, I re-entered my world of addictions and by the time this year's Lent season approached, I knew I was due for another detox.  I assumed God wanted me to fast from Facebook again, but with all my years of interacting with the Creator I also learned it's very dangerous to assume anything about Him, especially that He repeats Himself in a cookie-cutter kind of way... So I decided to check with Him before I do the actual plunge.  I am glad I did, because I was wrong - again!  This time instead of fasting from Facebook, He wanted me to fast from whining!  What's up with that?!!! The beginning of this Whining Fast is captured in the following blog entry:

The Whining Fast 101 took a life of its own and morphed into Spiritual Formation 101 half-way through the journey. The last entry of the Whining Fast, is named Auditory detox ( and it ushers the Spiritual Formation 101, which is just a continuation of Whining Fast but with a more revealing title about what's really going on here (some of us have stopped using imaginaton wheb we graduated from the 2nd grade).

Spiritual Formation 101 chapters of the larger Whining Fast story begin with the post Sir, We Got a Problem  As life has a way of developing several storylines simultaneously, I have pushed a pause button on the Spiritual Formation story on April 1 when Intergalacti Communication series has been introduced to public.  The last entry of Spiritual Formation 101 before the pause is called The Spitting Image in which the Dummy (who is in the story referred to using first person singular) is asking the Gardener from Outer Space why his Dad seems so 'stuck up' on this resting business  As I already mentioned, the Intergalactic communication series was introduced on April 1, but right now I sense it's time to push the 'pause' button here and go back to the Whining Fast/Spiritual Formation story and hear more from the Gardener from Outer Space. 

I know that some of you will be disappointed since I am leaving you hooked on a cliffhanger, but fear not, sooner or later, we'll return to it... For, ultimately the many stories we live and the many stories we write have both their origin and their completion in the Grand Author and Writer Himself.  To Him and Him only belongs all the glory and credit for the marvelous work He accomplishes in and through the dummies of the likes of you and I.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Masochists of the World Unite!

Having queasiness in my gut from that What kind of idiot am I? question join the bells ringing in my head from Crazy in love God hammer makes me wonder if somewhere somehow I took a wrong turn and consequently got myself into this colossal mess. I've been known to do that sometimes. Then, I remember!

I am a world-class masochist – that’s what I am!

The fact that I don’t really remember ever calling myself a masochist, and the fact that all who know me are very much aware that I hate pain, doesn’t seem to phase me. The memory of the time when I almost ripped the chin off the face of the doctor who helped catch my baby girl when she hurried her arrival into this world just because of three little stitches doesn’t even cross the threshold of my consciousness. The fact that the Doc was simply doing his job and being helpful, even saving my life so I don’t bleed to death didn’t put my reaction to the needle-inflicted pain into perspective. Not at all.

All my life I lived by a very simple rule:

I love pleasure much more than I love pain. Consequently, my only addendum to this rule has been:

Therefore, avoid pain at all cost.

Right now, I feel a lot of pain, but for some reason I am a glutton for more.

What’s wrong with me?!!?? I wonder as I think about...

Who God is…

And about what He is after…

And then I think about me and my response to all that…

Turning my nose on it...

Being too busy for it...

Being too distracted by gazillion of other things that vie for a little bit or a lot bit of my heart’s real-estate to pay attention to it

Being, well, kind of indifferent towards it, for, to be honest, I don’t really care that much about things that are impractical and irrelevant to my daily life and I don’t see how God (no offense to my Creator) plays a part in it…

And, really, being much more interested in other kind of lovers than this invisible, quiet, so unnervingly slooooooowwww God I can't quite understand much less... control... and manipulate...and use... for my own ends...

And I start wondering if perhaps, absolutely unbelievable as it might sound… if I might be… could be… … But, I dismiss the thought.

No way. Impossible.

And the implausable tiny little thought is decisevly shoved aside by sheer strength of my will power. Having taken care of this, I return to my bon-bons and catching up on the episodes of Criminal Minds I have missed by spending too much time writing this blog.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Help! Somebody's Turning Tables on Me! More Intergallacting Rewiring of the Screwed up Motherboard

As the church bells ring inside my head, the complements of the aforementioned hammer, another teensy little thought, perhaps just the ‘ught’ part of the word ‘thought’ rises above the subsiding noise still bouncing against the walls of my battered brain…

If God wants me to love Him, choose Him, want Him far more and above anything and anyone else, and He is
NOT a psychopath, a bureaucrat and a tyrant…

In fact, He is
the smartest,
most brilliant,
most powerful dude in the universe of which He is the sole title holder/owner…
He is outrageously creative,
hilariously funny,
He also has superpowers like
walking on water,
raising the dead
in addition to being
the surgeon general specializing in fixing broken hearts….
Plus so so much more...

If all this is true, then…


Suddenly I can feel this queasy sensation rising inside the pit of my stomach, telling me that I am not going to like the answer to this question… not one bit!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Could The Old-Fashioned Be The New Cool? Rewiring of the Intergalactic Communication Motherboard

We left off with a question:

If God is NOT a self-absorbed psychopath, or the communist-era birocrat, or hard-hearted tyrant enjoying a vacation somewhere far away, then WHY the heck is He doing or not doing all this stuff that makes us think that He is (even if we might never put it quite into those words or publicly acknowledge those thoughts)?!!! What in the world is He after with this strange, unconventional, outside-the-box, even crazy approach to His straying humanity?

Here's a little thought... perhaps just a 'tho' from the word 'thought'...Could it be that just like any human lover, He, too, wants us to… love Him… as He is… ?

Not because of how smart and brilliant and impressive He is…

Not because He is the richest guy in the world…

Not because He is the most powerful dude in the universe…

Not because of what He can do for me…

…Or the lavish gifts that He gives me…

But because… of who… He is... just loving Him because there is so much to love… in Him…

No bribes, favors, prenuptial agreements, haggling, manipulating… NO prostituting???

Just simple, old-fashioned, unadulterated, unstained, uncorrupted, no strings attached, no envelope under the table… love…

Could it be… is it … is it possible… that God… wants… us… to come to Him … and… love…Him…just because… He IS?!!!! Because, perhaps, He could be… because He IS… worthy… even deserving… of our love… because of who He is…?

Could it be that He wants us to choose Him, decidedly and unequivocally choose Him and Him alone, over and far above every other lover vying for our heart, energies and attention, including our own deluded self?

I don’t know about you, but this little thought scares the spit out of me… Crazy as all this may sound, I wonder if we might have just about hit that nail right on the head. Except that the head that is ringing is the one attached to my own neck.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Special Thank-You from Your Intergallactic Communication Center Team

After last posting, if you are still reading this blog, I thought you deserve a special recognition and a personal thank you from the Intergallactic Communications Command Center.

If this is the first time you are reading this blog, you can stop now. What follows will not make any sense to you, since it is kind of an insider joke.

First of all, thank you, you two Russians who have stuck out with me. Do hold onto that bottle of vodka (and perhaps send one my way!), for we might be needing it in the pages to come - as a disinfectant, of course... what else?? In story-telling, just as in life, sometimes it has to get worse, before it gets better. Our Slavic soul strings must recognize and resonate with each other...

To the outside-the-box German reading this blog - I salute you swimming against the flow up this narrow stream. You are in the great company of some other amazing Germans who have also resisted the pull and the pressure of culture around them and followed Jesus when everybody else turned around and went down the easy path. Too bad the 'other' German got all the attention... at least in this world.

To the lonely Indian, I so empathize with you, my dear friend, and I love your warped sense of humor... Thank you for hanging in with me.

To the three Americans (my good friend Susan who I can always count on, being one of the three) - you, my dears, might be living in a wrong country... or perhaps on a wrong planet. You are my true crazy heros! You are a daily reminder to me that, despite all the propaganda stating the contrary, our God is as involved, and active and mightily working in the USA as in all those other places we only hear about...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Self-Absorbed Psychopath, Communist-Era Birocrat, Hard-Hearted Tyrant or …? Crossing the Intergallactic Communication Wires...

Of course, some of us, who like arguments for arguments’ sake would object,

What kind of self-absorbed psychopath would expect me to shelf everything, put my cell phone on vibrate – or even turn it off altogether, God forbid! - and twiddle my thumbs for eternity waiting for him to shed his pearls of wisdom?!!! Get a life! Which planet do you live on?!!!

Fair enough. Either God is a self-absorbed psychopath, or, as we have already ascertained regarding His ways, there might be a method to His madness. Which also might explain

His often inexplicable silences (for I don’t think He is deaf, and He certainly couldn’t be snoozing with all the clamor in His front yard);

His callous disregard for the shopping list I most respectfully submit to His desk on semi-regular basis (this, in particular, reminds me of dealing with communist-era birocrats!);

His seemingly hard-hearted refusal to answer our earnest, even desperate prayers when it is clearly in His power to do something;

His strangely hands-offish approach to governing the world He created that is precariously spinning out of control while He is taking vacation in some perfect galaxy far, far away…

I could go on and on and on… but, I won’t because I know that the Complaint Line in front of God’s main gate is already too long, and I hate waiting in lines.

So, if we try again… I know I am pushing the envelope here asking some of you twice in two days, but please bear with me just this one last time…

What if we are to give God the benefit of the doubt and say that He is...

NOT a self-absorbed psychopath satisfying some sick need within Himself for the dried out crumbs of our approval and attention;

NOT some cosmic communist-era birocrat making us jump through millions of hoops in an impossible quest for satisfying some mindless, anal standard of perfection;

NOT a callous-hearted tyrant enjoying His vacation while the rest of us go to hell...

I know this is a mental yoga stretching exercise for some of us that might pull a muscle or two, so be careful and try it at your own risk (this is probably the only warning/ disclaimer I am going to give you - if this is too much for you, take courage, it was never meant to be for you! Go back and enjoy your Pinterest).

The rest of us may take deep breath and resume now...

But, if God is NOT that, then WHY the heck is He doing it?!!! What in the world is He after with this strange, unconventional, outside-the-box, even crazy approach to His straying humanity?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Method to the Divine Madness? Even more thoughts on the Intergalactic Communication

With my proven track record, I know I am not qualified to assess anybody’s mental health, especially not the mental capacities of the Lord God Almighty. My psychiatrist would attest to that. But I admit that sometimes I do get a little worried about God’s reputation. If He doesn’t keep His blog and FB status regularly updated, how many 'likes', or 'followers' does He think He is going to get?!!! Not to mention all the crap He allows and tolerates in this world! If I were God, I wouldn't let that kind of stuff happen in my house!

So, it seems that this is where God and I part our ways - again! For unlike me, He doesn’t appear a bit concerned about His reputation. Or the numbers – whatever the numbers are – approval ratings, ‘likes’ or 'followers' on His Pinterest account. When God does algebra, greater numbers don’t add anything to Him, nor the lesser numbers take anything away. In fact, sometimes one can conclude that in God's economy less is actually more! Now, I think that is really weird. Weird but cool. I wish I could be more like that! Especially when I look at 10,000 books sagging my bookshelves.

So, having established that He is quite different, utterly unrepeatably DIFFERENT from anybody or anything you and I know, we can't be definitive about His mental state, namely we can't say that He is crazy just because His ways differ from ours. Considering all that He has given and continue to give to us, I think we owe it to Him to at least give Him the benefit of the doubt.

I know that this is extremely difficult for us who are the sceptical types, and it might take a little baby step… or perhaps a giant flea leap of faith for others (By the way, did you know that fleas can jump 200 times their body length – and that without wings?!!! I think it would be fun if humans could do that, although it may represent dangerous highway hazard, especially if jumping is not strictly regulated ... just a thought...)… Anyway, where were we? Ah, giving God the benefit of the doubt… That’s right…

So, let’s just dream together… What if… what if God turned down the volume so sooooo incredibly low, down to almost – just almost – an inaudible whisper, to ensure that only those who really, I mean, really really want to hear Him would lean in, and take pains at tuning out all other distractions and noises and on top of that be willing to wait as long as it takes to hear His voice?

And the rest of us can still have all the excuses we want to keep on ignoring Him?

Now, that might be a thought worth a consideration... perhaps even serious consideration…

The Glow-in-the-Dark Bibles - More Thoughts on Intergalactic Communication

In addition to our screwed up conditioning that trained us to expect God to always come to us yelling like a madman armed with a baseball bat (if you are confused, you need to check out the blog entry The Bible and the Bathroom Scale - The Forgotten Art of Reverence), another problem we have in hearing Him could be the packaging.

I look at the many Bibles neatly arranged like sardines in a can on the bookshelf behind my back. Then, I look at the rest of my library. There is an estimated 10,000 other types of sardines, equally neatly (or NOT!) stacked next to and on top of each other on the bookshelves all around me. Looking from the outside, one can distinguish absolutely no difference between GOD's word and an average human blabber (some quite impressive blabber,I must say!). If I evaluated exclusively the attractiveness of the binding and cover, I would have to cast my vote for Encyclopedia Britannica or even The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (please, don’t ask any questions, I can see you shaking your head!). I probably have at least a dozen cheap (I apologize, God, for nothing about You is 'cheap' unless we make it so!) flimsy paperback Bibles with the coverpage graphics that don’t come even close to commanding the kind of respect God’s Word deserves! Not a single copy of the Bible I own glows in the dark! What’s up with that?!!! If I were God, I would make sure I catch people’s attention any way I can… I think it would be really cool if all the Bibles in the world had glow-in-the-dark covers. That would certainly ensure that people won’t get confused and pick Oprah or Dr. Phil as their main or even only source of soul food (nothing against Oprah or Dr. Phil!), right?

But, since I am not God, and my ways are not His ways, I have to scratch my head a little as to why He chooses such unpretentious ways of speaking to us. He is THE Almighty (capital A!), all the resources of heaven and earth stand at His beckon and call. He has the most important message in the universe to deliver to His doomed humanity. He has the RIGHT and the MIGHT to do whatever He wants. And He restrains Himself to an old, dusty, silverfish eaten pages of an ancient book?!!! That can be... BURNED! Using the words that can be twisted, misunderstood, taken out of context and worst of all – IGNORED! He might be God, but He must be crazy!

Unless, of course, unless… there is a method to His madness...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Who's Your Tuner?

A couple of days ago we acquired a used but well taken care of Korg tuner. It was a step up (or so we thought) from the ancient pitch-pipe I’ve been using to tune my son’s violin for the past four years. It was also a more simple solution to our everyday tuning needs relative to the DaTuner app on my tablet, since it eliminated all the distractions that numerous other apps expose us to during the violin practice hour. God knows that more distractions is something we definitely do not need in our household, especially during the practice time!

The first morning of tuning with the help of this new tool I relished the simple and clear feedback I was receiving from Korg as to the sharps, flats and naturals. Pleased with myself, I handed the perfectly tuned violin to our son and when he started playing, he sounded exceptionally horrible. He might not be a pro, but I knew he was not that bad. I (unsuccessfully) tried fine-tuning the violin but other obligations of the day crammed the violin tuning and playing out and I wasn’t able to troubleshoot the problem further. The afternoon didn’t yield better results – we were all tired and grumpy from the long week anyway, and tuning and playing the persnickety instrument when you are tired and grumpy is simply a very bad idea.

Today we had plenty of time for tuning and practice, so I was at it again. And again. And AGAIN. The more he played, the more horrific he sounded. We checked the tuner again and again, and the little green light kept smiling at us, but Beethoven had to be turning in his grave listening to his cannibalized piece. The longer I listened, the more I could feel my internal temperature rising. First I blamed it on the ‘stupid’ violin. Then I blamed it on the careless way my son handled the instrument, causing it to get un-tuned as it got transferred from my hands into his. On the verge of throwing the violin through the closed window, I decided to try one last thing. I fired up the tablet, pulled up DaTuner and started playing. I was shocked to discover that although two strings were right on target, the other two were completely off! I looked at the Korg and noticed it says Guitar and Bass Tuner - not violin! We were trying to tune the violin with the wrong kind of tuner! No wonder the music sounded so jumbled and screechy! We laughed and laughed (and I cried a little) as I tuned the violin back to the correct pitch.

As I reflected on this, I thought how often I try to ‘tune’ my heart and mind to other people – what they say, think and do; what's in or cool; or, what I think others think and say about me or what is important to me. Every once in a while, this may strike the right cord, but when I use others as my personal pitch pipe, the overall music of my life sounds more like jumbled screeching than a beautiful melody. Regardless of how impressive their resume might be, other people’s experiences are not meant to be a standard I should strive toward. When I do, in the heart of my heart I know the music I am playing, the stories I am telling don’t resonate properly. They are a waste of time at best and terrible, irritating noisy distraction for those who are trying to listen.

There is only one pitch pipe given to mankind to tune our hearts to – His name is Jesus Christ. When our hearts are tuned to His life-giving Word and His life-giving Spirit, He will produce heavenly music through each of our lives no matter what instrument we are playing. And His music, and His alone can truly refresh and restore the souls and spirits of all the weary ones who have ears to hear His song.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fighting the Imaginary Stay-at-Home vs. Working Moms Dichotomy War

The most recent war between stay-at-home moms and working moms proves yet again that we seem to be enamored with fighting needless battles and fueling false dichotomies. Regardless of what Hillary Rosen and Ann Romney say or tweet and the media, blog and FB frenzy that generates, we all know that there are both stay-at-home mothers and working moms who have either made that choice or that choice was made for them for all the right, courageous and noble reasons.

Likewise, there is plenty of insecure, cowardly or hurting women who have chosen the insulation of their homes from so-called evil and ungodly world we live in for all the... well... not so noble and right reasons. There is probably equal number of insecure, cowardly or hurting women who have chosen the reprieve and escape the workforce world offers from the, at times, unbearable strain and pressure of parenthood for all the... well... not so noble and right reasons.

Implying that a choice – one or the other – is intrinsically right or wrong, is, if I dare say, wrong. We can’t justify or condemn either in its own merit. And since we don’t know what is in the heart of another human being nor are we equipped to discern their internal motivation, we need to refrain from judging, justifying or condemning altogether, and if possible, from meddling in other people’s affairs.

What we can and perhaps, should do, however, is examining our own hearts and making sure that what we choose to do is done with courage, humility and nobility of heart before God who sees and knows each of us, and entrust all judgment we want to pass on to others into His loving, faithful and just hands.

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:1-5

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Bible and the Bathroom Scale - The Forgotten Art of Reverence

Even though we live in an age that worships and idolizes so many things, it’s really hard to find something that comes even close to giving us an appropriate definition and understanding of the word reverence. The word and its synonyms have been so thoroughly contaminated in wildly irreverent world we live in (which, BTW, I don’t mind at all, because most comedians are not laughing at the REAL thing but at our warped perceptions of it and accompanying screwed up idiosyncrasies). Because of this, I won’t even try going to a on-line dictionary in search of the definition.

The closest I could come to a better understanding of the meaning of reverence in our every day use is the way we approach bathroom scale each morning. There is hope. There is a little (or a lot) bit of trepidation. There is a realization that no matter what we may want it to say, it will reveal the truth. The scale doesn’t lie. However, how we hear and interpret a simple digit, 62, for example will largely hinge on the frame our minds and hearts are in, on the way we have been conditioned to listen to feedback messages in our families, peer groups, educational institutions and our societies at large. (BTW, number 62 stands for 62 kilograms, if you are living in a metric world like I do. For those of you who prefer to be pounded, here’s the link to a converter

Back to the conversation with the bathroom scale. So, the scale may say 62 kg, but what I hear might be,

You big, fat ugly pig! I knew you have no self-control. I have given you warnings time and time again, but you, you weak-willed, wretched glutton….
And so on, and so forth… If this is how your scale talks to you, I wouldn’t be surprised if you have already thrown it across the room… several times. And if you haven't, maybe you should. It might do a little bit of good to your soul.

Now, if you’d like to know, the way my bathroom scale talks to me is more like this:

Good morning, precious. Aaaah, you are absolutely gorgeous, my darling….
At this, I usually look around the bathroom to see if there is anybody else there, for not even my husband talks to me like this every morning. Once I ascertain that I am all alone, and that the scale is indeed talking to me, I bend my ear a little bit closer to make sure I don’t miss a word of what else this lovely scale has to reveal about how she sees me.

I love the shape of your body. I love those dimples you have. But, if you care to hear what I have to say, that second helping of the blueberry pie with extra serving of ice-cream on top you enjoyed so much last night is carrying some consequences this morning, if you know what I mean.
… My eyes pop out at this, as I remember the pie and the ice-cream. And do remember that that second helping the scale is talking about wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the first… So, I look back at my friend and respond,

Well, thank you so much! I do appreciate your honest feedback... and everything else you said, even though I find very hard to believe. Next time our neighbor Bob brings that awesome blueberry pie I’ll certainly take everything you said to me this morning into consideration. See you tomorrow!

Of course, I am always free to forget or ignore the loving feedback of my wonderful scale. But, I am never free from experiencing the consequences of rejecting the truth and believing a lie.

Sadly enough, most of us have been bludgered silly by clueless people acting ‘in the name of God’ who use the Bible (or rather their personal pet interpretation of it) as an assault weapon - to judge and condemn, to criticize and point out all that is so horribly wrong with this world. In fact, if I want to be completely honest with you, I’ve done that myself many times over. If you've ever experienced this side of me, I am sorry! I mean it. Please, don’t count it against God. Count it against me and my own cluelessness and ignorance! However, improper use of God’s Word doesn’t invalidate the Word of God. It only shows that there have been, there are, and there will always be a lot of ignorant, clueless people around wielding it stupid like some cosmic baseball bat.

The Bible and the Baggage… Just admit it, we all have it…

Not to make any excuses for my lackadaisical treatment of God’s Word, but I must give myself some credit for entering into a rather complex family history with tons of skeletons in the closet, cultural fall-outs and associated baggage.

Numero Uno: When I entered into this intergalactic communication deal, the movie has already been well under way. It’s like starting at chapter 27. I have no clue what had happened before I jumped in, I have no clue who is the main guy, how it all started, the lovers and the traitors, the adulterers and the murderers - the whole nine yards. I have a ton of catching up to do! And, as if this is not already enough homework, I need to find out how do I fit in this unfolding, living, breathing, tragic, comic, out of this world, deeply personal love story. We could stop here but there is more….

Numero Due: Throughout history, some people have seen the Bible for what it is, God’s self-disclosure statement to His straying humanity, and were smitten by the sacredness of it. So, they treated the Word with such extreme reverence (now, some of you, like me, need a dictionary to find out what this word means, but I’ll come back to that in a sec) – namely, they sealed it like you seal a bottle of extremely rare and expensive perfume and tucked it away in a museum (or a bookshelf, or a nightstand). Now, the bottle itself is beautiful, and everybody knows that the perfume inside it very expensive and rare. But, God didn’t send His word for us to seal it away and stick it in a Museum of Rare and Expensive things to collect dust and silverfish. His desire is for us to crack the seal open and splash it all around, making our lives fragrant with it, so people can sniff it out and want to know where in the world we got it?!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bible - Important, Boring and Irrelevant - More Thoughts on Intergalactic Communication

Having worked on my Masters Degree in Ignoring the Obvious most of my life, it shouldn’t surprise me that my shotgun approach to prayer, e.g. me having prolonged, repetitive monologues launched in the general God-direction, spilled over into my ‘listening’ to God through His Word.

Judging by the number of copies of the Bible I have in different translations, including some that showcase the languages I don’t even know or recognize, one would think I am quite an expert on the subject of listening to God. But, my 'expertise' has been largely focused on ferreting out a single verse, ripped out of its context that ‘speaks’ fireworks into my darkness. The same God who spoke Light into darkness, I gather, aims this little laser at me, fires it, and, Ka-boom! - the light switch is suddenly turned on, my ears tingle and I am mildly dizzy from the intensity of the revelation.

Wow! Cool! Do it again, God!

Now, I am not saying that God can’t or doesn't speak and encourage us through this laser gun approach in communicating with His children. In fact, sad as well as embarrassed to admit it, but most of my Christian life has been sustained through such fireworks display. The array of verses has grown over the years, of course, but they read more like a Webster dictionary rather than a compelling, intriguing, heart-wrenching and sometimes hilarious true love story. If watching 24 doesn't seem like a lullaby in comparison, and Jack Bauer's life doesn't illicit an occasional yawn, could it be that there is something terribly wrong with the way I approach God's Word? Could there be a better way to listening to God speaking instead of playing this celestial laser-tag?

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Need a Doc?

It took us only less than five minutes drive from our house to get to experience a total cross-cultural immersion. It pounced on us unsuspectingly out of the one of those birthday party invitations. The parties I drag my feet to, bracing myself for the impact of the mind-numbing conversations, the obscene level of materialism shoved down our children’s throats, hurrying them to grow up faster and faster (as if that's what they need!) and the decibel assault on my ears that leaves me partially deaf, immobilized by a splitting headache for the next several days.

We were greeted in three languages spoken from three different continents, at least six different types of beer (I did ask for a dictionary to assist me in navigating these unfamiliar alcohol laden waters but they assured me of their personal expert guidance), a table sagging with unbelievable, indescribable amounts of food… with more and more coming by the minute. The ceiling was caving in on us from all the stomping and jumping and dancing going on upstairs.

The guests swapped their arrest stories while the host’s brother, a policemen off duty working for OPD kept shaking his head, each shake punctured by uproarious laughter of the rest of us. I confessed my only run-in with the law so far – the infamous speeding violation – which immediately spun into a spontaneous contest, Who Paid the Biggest Speeding Fine punctured by more and more laughter. Nobody was surprised that in this competion I was left in the dust.

I don’t think it is humanly possible to pack in more fun, food and racket in one short afternoon with complete strangers. As I reflect on it, I realize that after today I understand a little better why Jesus was called a friend of credit-card debt collectors and sinners. I can totally see Him having a great time with a bunch of misfits and lawbreakers like these friends of mine coming from four corners of the world. I can hear His laughter. I can imagine Him having the second and the third helping of that awesome lamb, and another stuffed grape leaves roll, and another serving of that heavenly layered cake. And a refill or two of the sweet wine.

But, He would also see beneath the makeup and the tattoos, beyond their rambunctious behavior into their pain and loneliness and fear. He would read between the lines of the book on child’s out-of-control behavior a deep sense of powerlessness and hopelessness to deal with life and all that life throws at you. He would hear amidst the loud noise makers celebrating children’s birthdays a desperate cry of a beautiful woman for love and permanence, even as a wedding dress and a walk down the aisle keeps slipping through her fingers with each child she conceives and births out of wedlock. And His heart would ache because of all their roadside choices, and yearn for the day when they will return home. For the day when they would finally recognize His coming and see that all their hungers and thirsts are fully and completely satisfied in Him and Him alone.

The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
Luke 5:30-32

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Entering into Rest...

When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… (Hebrews 1:3)

“It is finished!”
. (John 19:30)

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11)

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28, 29)

Friday, April 06, 2012

Safe? No... Good? YES!

"Safe?... Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But, he's GOOD. He's the King, I tell you." The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

The ultimate risk-taking God stepped out of His royal, heavenly safety into the royal mess of human existence. From the day He was born, they sought to kill Him (Matthew 2:7-18). On Good Friday the evil seemingly triumphed... at least for a short while. The White Witch and all her cronies had a field day.

But, the greater mystery, kept hidden in the heart of God before the foundation of the world was set in motion that day. And no evil to this day can conquer this unfolding mystery. One day the whole world will know, truly know that He is good. That Jesus is THE King, to the glory of God the Father.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Speeding Ticket that Yields Eternal Dividends

So, how many times do I need to slam into a wall before I start slowing down?

Calculations based on my daily average would predict more times than you can count.

But, eventually, even the undersigned recognizes that this is not working so well for her and her family.

It may also take one outraged policeman, flailing frantically in the middle of the road and $150 slap on my wallet to notice those SPEED LIMIT signs along the side of the road. Funny how I always thought that they were posted there just as suggestions observed mostly by partially incapacitated and/or elderly drivers. For it’s really up to me to determine the most appropriate driving speed for my vehicle based on how late I am running for my next appointment.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit here that I had considered disputing my speeding ticket even though I had announced many times that I would never do that since I have been speeding so much all my life without ever getting caught.

Of course, the moment I get caught my human nature kicks in and wants to argue, dispute and protest the consequences and summon every lawyer who would help me find more excuses to prove my ‘innocence’. I am a mother of two young children - I am good at telling people what they should do! I am certainly not a reckless driver. Didn't you see that inconsiderate jerks yakety-yak-yaking on their cell phones while driving - they are the real road hazard!

Now, even though such ‘interferences’ with my running my own life can be quite painful, I think the lesson is worth every penny of those $150 speeding fine. Perhaps what I really need to do is write a ‘thank you’ note to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. And while we are at it, maybe God won't need to use the megaphone as much in His attempts to get my attention.

Could we turn down the volume please?

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

“Can I put You on Hold for a Sec?” Plowing Over God while Busying to Do His Will

I know it sounds weird, but God is easily shoved aside because He chooses such unassuming ways in how He deals with us. I’ve done it countless times without even realizing. And many more times, knowing full well that God is trying to get my attention, but I choose to ignore Him… or rather, postpone Him. I have things to do. Stuff to accomplish. Check off my ever-growing TO-DO list. I’ve done it today at least half a dozen times! So, I bulldoze over the Holy Spirit with only a faint suspicion that I might be missing something… But, before that suspicion settles into anything concrete, I quickly reassure myself that whatever it is I am missing, it can’t be terribly important, since it is so easily bulldozed over.

I am so driven to accomplish God’s will that His presence in my life sometimes feels like, well, imposition. It is much easier for me to do what I think I’m supposed to do without needing to collaborate with God about it. What if He has an opinion that differs from what I have already determined to be my agenda? So, nine times out of ten, I skip the collaboration part, put the pedal to the metal, and… usually crash into a wall on the first turn. When that happens, I expect Him to come alongside, pick up the shattered pieces and tell me, “I told you so.” Well, He doesn’t. At least not that last, rubbing-it-all-in part. Even though He sure has the right to do it.

As I dust off my sore bottom, I ascribe the wall-crashing to a freak accident and move on with my life, as deaf as a post to the voice behind the thunder... the voice behind the megaphone…

Concerning Him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. Hebrews 5:11

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

God's Prefered Mode of Communication - Intergalactic Communication 101

So, what’s the problem? Why aren’t we hearing from God?

Part of it might go back to God’s aforementioned preferred mode of communication.

If I were God (which thankfully I am not), and if I wanted to get my message across, I would be on every network and cable channel, I would interrupt all the regular programming and saturate Facebook and blogosphere with THE LINK. I would use thunderous clouds to spell my messages in the sky to ensure total coverage.

All this to say, my ways are NOT God’s way.

Instead of all this, He chooses a gentle whisper, a soft breeze (I Kings 19:12) to convey His important message. He chooses to refrain from all that is at His omnipotent fingertips and allow us to choose to listen to Him. Wow! Now, that’ s different. So easily overlooked. So easily ignored. So easily misunderstood and misinterpreted.

Monday, April 02, 2012

A Brief History of Intergalactic Communication - Those who don’t learn from history are bound to make its mistakes

Now, I really can’t blame God for failure to communicate with us. He spoke to Abraham. He spoke to Moses. He spoke to kings. He spoke to and through the prophets. But, throughout human history to this very day, most of us, most of the time have managed to either ignore or misunderstand His message.

So, God gives us this one last shot – He puts all His eggs in one single Easter basket – He becomes a human! I know I am mixing metaphors here combining Easter and Christmas. But, in reality, without Christmas there would be no Easter. And without Easter there would be no purpose to Christmas. Christmas would be just a brief alien visit similar to Santa's that happened long time ago with no relevance to you and me today or any other day of the year. Anyway, back to communication. In Jesus, God becomes human, flesh and bones, hungry and tired, mocked and misunderstood, beaten and crucified human. Everything we ever need to know about God is presented to us in this one package – fully God, fully Man, perfect Interpreter.

You would think now we have it all figured out – the intergalactic wires that got crossed back in the Garden of Eden finally repaired and we are ON. Well, not so fast, my friend. No matter what anybody else says, Jesus already said everything we need to hear and know about God. Jesus did everything that needed to be done to repair the broken wire. Jesus also promised the Power Cord that would keep us charged and tuned up to the right channel. Jesus sent the Power Cord aka the Holy Spirit 50 days after the first Easter, so now we have this built-in two-way HAM radio with direct line to God the Father. How cool is that?!! But that’s not all! He also made some people back then write all this stuff to make sure the message doesn’t get screwed up and compile it in a book. Now, I am on my turf and can relate to these poor writers trying to keep up with God and scrambling to do everything they can to stay out of His way and not screw up the message with their own little spins.

So, what’s the problem? Why aren’t we still hearing from God?

Intergalactic Communication - Help, I Need an Interpreter

As you can imagine, intergalactic communication has its own unique challenges. If God speaks thunder for example ten out of ten of us would be left speechless shaking stupid in our suede boots. Without an interpreter who is fluent in both languages, it’s really hard to translate lightening or tornado into human language without inducing hair-raising fear (John 12:28,29).

The presence of fear is not conducive to communication, intergalacting or human. But, if I know that the person behind the voice of thunder is my Dad, who is crazy about me, who loves me to pieces and would never ever do anything to harm me, I can actually relax, knowing that He is in charge, no matter how bad the storm might be.

Thunder, or lightening, or earthquake is not , I am repeating, is NOT God’s preferred mode of communication (I Kings 19:11,12). He has to use it sometimes to wake us up, because if we remain asleep, He knows that something much worse than a hurricane, or tsunami, or earthquake, or cancer is coming and unless we hear His voice and take the cover He provided, we will be swept away by it. It is His love that is trying to wake up the sleeping world.

But, for some people, that’s all they hear – a thunder, a tsunami, a tornado (John 12:29a).

Few, more discerning will recognize it as a voice of an angel (John 12:29b), carrying a special message to some specially initiated insiders. Personally, I would interpret the angel's message as calling people back to their Creator and Redeemer, because that’s what the worshiping angels are supposed to do for us humans, but what do I know?

And then there is a child of God, who knows the Father, who in the hour of fear and confusion, when the world is caving in on him, recognizes is Dad's reassuring voice and clear message (John 12:28)…

It’s O.K., My child… just as I have been with you all these years, I am certainly not going to leave you now… I am with you… I will manifest My presence through you… I will put the fulness of My character on display through you for all the world to see...Do not fear…

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Important, Boring and Irrelevant... thoughts on Prayer

Important… boring… irrelevant, would have been my answer if you’d asked me what I honestly thought about prayer several years ago. I might have added that it was good for older ladies (no offense) who have the time for it and no energy for anything else. Definitely not me (at least not back then when I was young, busy and had tons of energy to waste)

I’ve bumbled through most of my Christian life with a shot-gun approach to prayer. When the crisis hits, I aim at God and shoot at Him a bunch of rat-tat-tats that can be summarized with three simple words: yelp for help. He helps, I get my adrenaline fix – Cool, God, You are so awesome! - enough to keep me going until the next crisis. And, so my prayer life trotted along my ‘regular’ life going from emergency to emergency, from crisis to crisis, from disaster to disaster… C.S. Lewis did say that pain is God’s megaphone to awaken the sleepy world (or something along those lines). Well, I admit I am a deep sleeper difficult to wake up. So, the megaphone strategy definitely worked very well in my life… but I started wondering if there might be a better way….

So, instead of thinking of prayer as an emergency alert system, I begun to see it more as a conversation. A two-way conversation, to be more precise. Most of my prayer-ing consisted of presenting my shopping list to God and pretty much telling Him what to do. Since I didn’t really expect Him to have much to say, I kept going through my shopping list again, and again, and again… And, even though it was my shopping list, eventually it got boring… For monologue is not a conversation. And no matter how good the monologue is, even Shakespeare gets boring if you keep repeating ‘to be or not to be’ ten million times.

I clearly remember the day when I told somebody ‘I’ll pray about it’ in my usual platitudinous way, and when I actually did, I told God I don’t need to really pray about it since I already know what He is thinking. … … Well, I didn’t put it quite that bluntly, but that day God got His point across. And the point is,

I don’t know what He is thinking, and if I really want to know what He is thinking, I’d better ask. And when I ask, I need to prepare to listen to what His answer is.

I think that was a turning point. Suddenly my prayer life went from a monologue, to a dialogue, to a full-fledged drama with many players and many parts and many episodes. Boring suddenly became something I wish I had more in my relationship with God.

That also took care of the irrelevant. In fact, talking to God and listening to Him became the most relevant aspect of every detail of life. I admit it’s a little freaky to be known to the level of detail that God knows me. And then to think that He desires to speak to me and offer feedback relevant to those details feels like something coming out of the Sci-Fi movies. That He would bother to listen to me and actually pick up the phone when it rings with my name on His caller ID?!!! Who does that any more?!!! Maybe only our moms and dads!

And so I learned that God, in fact, has a lot to say to everyone who cares to listen to Him – to me personally, to us as a family, to us as a community. It seems to me that it is important that when God speaks I/we take time to listen to every word He has to say. Once we engage in an ongoing dialogue with this living, active, engaged God, there is one thing for sure… actually two… it’s not going to be boring. And it’s not going to be irrelevant.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12