Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cracked and Useful

I can choose to focus on the crack.

I can choose to focus on the rough edges and the chalky texture and the incompleteness.

I can choose to focus all my energies on the crack and the unfinishedness of this life that I forget all about the incredible almost ethereal beauty…

Or I can receive the bowl from the hands of the owner in its entirety… in the strange bittersweet wholeness it represents, allowing each side to speak its own message … allowing each side to mold my heart as I am faced with the cracks in my own life and in the lives of people around me… as I am faced with the unfinishedness of the process in my own life… and in the lives of the people around me… Reminded that there is glory and there is beauty in each…

Recognizing the glory and the beauty in each.

I am quite lost in my thoughts when I hear the owner’s voice bringing me back to the  pottery studio’s dusty floor.

Of course..., he adds almost as an afterthought, Of course we offer 100% guarantee for all the pieces made in our studio…

I look up not really understanding what he means by this, what he is talking about.  My expression must demand an explanation because he offers it, as simply as he pointed the crack.

Everything we make here is fully functional and oven, microwave and dishwasher safe.

I am so surprised I burst into laughter. The thought of  practicality,  the usefulness, the functionality  of the bowl never even crossed my mind.

You are telling me that this bowl is actually functional… it’s actually USEFUL…?!!!... I want to say but feel rather foolish so I suppress my laughter and keep my mouth shut. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cracked Glory

I don’t know how the crack was created.  Part of me wants to know… feels that I need to know...  But, part of me realizes the irrelevance of the information to the fact that there is a crack.

And now I must reconcile myself to this fact that my beautiful bowl is not only unfinished but it also has a crack… at the foundation nonetheless.




It’s funny that I call it ‘my’… even though I haven’t paid the price for it yet.  But, deep down, I know I can not… will not leave the pottery studio without her.  It’s almost as if the bowl picked me… chose me and whispered,

I am going home with you today.

The owner waits patiently, as if feeling the agony of my insides being shred to pieces. He knows that there is nothing trifle about cracks… one must calculate the cost… and such transactions require time…

For it takes time to let go of disappointment of the marred perfection…

It takes time to reconcile oneself to the incompleteness, and the process and the unfinishedness of this life…

And most of all, it takes time… and humility… and wisdom… and surrender to the gentle breathing of the Spirit of God... to embrace the bowl with it’s crack… buried deep in its foundation…

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Crack at the Foundation

The owner holds my upside-down prize, it's unfinished behind exposed, looks me in the eye and says,

What’s wrong with this piece is… that it has a crack.

A crack? I exclaim, trying to cover up my shock.

Yes, a crack.  Right here, at the base. He points the place with his clay-dusted fingers.

A crack… at the base….I feel my insides sinking.  I am not sure I can handle a crack… at the base…

Unfinished...? Yes.

Crack… the size of the Grand Canyon… at the base…? Of all places???

I might be able to handle a tiny cosmetic crack… or even a little ding on top… but this…

It’s… it’s just too risky… too… dangerous…?

I look at the owner.  He reads my dismay like an open book. Even though he holds the bowl, we both know it’s really in my court.

I sense absolutely no pressure from him.  No coercion. His eyes, clear as the cloudless sky outside hide nothing. No cover-up. No thinly veiled greed. No sugarcoating the truth.

I can’t help but feel deep sense of respect for this man.  His simple truth, his patient waiting on me to decide… to choose…

Will I still want it… 

...will I still take it… 

...will I still... relish in it… 

...even though it has… 

...a crack…?

The little demons of perfectionism are in an uproar… 

Don’t be a fool. Just leave it… it’s damaged goods… as good as broken… Nobody else wanted it… that’s why it was on the table in the first place… 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Daily Calculus


Count on good only and you will be blindsided by evil, and perhaps miss out on some surprising good.

Count on some evil and you will be surprised by how much good there still is in this world...

Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Unfinished Glory

I feel like a child in a candy store… except the candy is in the shape of vases, plates, mugs and bird houses.  I am a bit overwhelmed, but only until I see it.  The moment my eyes were laid on it, I saw nothing else.

I can’t believe it is on the sale table.

I can’t believe nobody has claimed it.

I look at the price, and I am convinced that it must be incorrect.

THIS piece, at THAT price?!!!!??? Impossible!

I pick it up, admiring its simple beauty. The swirling grace. 

I walk up to the owner, with the prize in my hand.

Oooh.  He says.  I see you found yourself a beauty.

And at this price?!! I am still tentative, waiting for him to laugh at the sticker, confirming that it indeed it was a mistake.

He smiles, takes it from my hands and flips it over.

What’s wrong with this piece is..., he says…

There is something wrong with it?!!! I think, rather shocked, for I can’t imagine what could possibly be wrong with something as beautiful as that. 

But, the moment he flips the bowl over, I am stumped:

It’s UNFINISHED, I exclaim inside my head. Now I see in plain sight the unglazed bottom, the slightly rough clay, and feel rather stupid.  I can’t believe I didn’t even notice!

The beautiful bowl is unfinished on one side…

I savor the thought like a sour gummy worm.


On one side, smooth and shiny, glorious and gorgeous, on the other, just rough and chalky unfinished plain clay...

It’s… it’s… just like us!

It finally dawns on me. 

I like it. I decide.  Now, that I know the truth about it, I like it even more. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Being Clayful

We went to a pottery studio last weekend.  It was a long-standing item on my bucket list. When the opportunity finally presented itself, I jumped at it, despite the fact that my family wasn’t nearly as keen on the idea of spending the afternoon getting dirty as I was.

I love clay.  I love the mess. I love the process and I wish I could immerse myself in it not just for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.

I want to know, and see, and touch everything that birthed the piece in my hand, that led up to its formation during our visit there and everything that followed after we left.

And, of course, I can’t wait to see the end result! I feel like a mother with her baby in the ICU (I know what I am talking about because I was a mother with a preemie who spent first 9 days of her life in ICU). And even though I can rest in the knowledge that my baby is in good hands, yet I can't help but wanting to just bring her home and hold her!

I was so giddy with excitement that I almost missed it… 

The piece. 

On the sales table.  

In fact, I was so giddy with the creative adrenaline rush that I almost missed the entire sales table altogether! I walked by it several times but it wasn’t until I was on my way out at the end of our visit that I noticed  the little price stickers.

These are for sale? I asked a young helper standing nearby.

I think so… pretty sure. Priced as marked.

Sale seems to be the key word which has a strange power to slow me down even on the most hectic day!

Ooooh… I gasped to a screeching halt. Let me see what you got…. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Saving the Best for Last

It must have seemed like a terrible waste of time and energy, going back and forth, back and forth emptying the buckets into the pots.

Hey, guys, what are you doing?!!! Don’t you know that  the ceremonial cleansing happens BEFORE and not AFTER  the wedding???

Nevertheless, the servants kept doing what Jesus asked them to do, nonsensical as it may have appeared to those who observed them.

Nonsensical as it may have appeared to them!

There is an incredible simplicity in the busyness of these Galilean servants.  They didn’t stop until the waterpots were filled – not half way, not even two-thirds of the way, but to the brim.

And with their simple, faithful work, the often despised and neglected manual labor, they spelled one of the best sermons on the Kingdom of God.

When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have saved the best til now.” John 2:8-10

The ‘important’ people at the wedding didn’t know it.  The headwaiter.  The rabi who conducted the ceremony. The bride.  The groom. Not even the mother-of-the-bride was in the known!

But these invisible, behind-the-scene helpers knew.  They became the privileged insiders to the one of the secrets of God’s own heart. 

Because, you see, God always, always saves the best for last.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Simply Complicated?

There is no record that the wedding helpers got entangled in any of the countless questions that might have popped in their minds. I am thinking, That must have popped inside their heads!

There is no record that they got distracted, and walked off, doing other things. It would have been understandable - there is always so much to do, especially in a wedding, and our age certainly didn't invent business and distractions (it just made them digital!)

They were ordinary people, just like us.  Just like you and me!

But all that was recorded about them was this: Jesus told them to fill the waterpots with water.

So they filled them up to the brim.

This is the part we play in becoming accomplices in the miracles God effects in our world.

Simple as that.

Simple containers.

Simple H2O.

Simple trust.

Simple deeds of obedience. The Just-Do-It.

To the brim.

But, this might be the most difficult part for us, because we are not simple enough. I know I am not.  I always question, and argue, negotiate and opinionate, advise and suggest. I whine.  I complain. I strategize and plan, dream and talk – a lot! It’s really, really hard for me to quiet myself and simply listen.  And, then, simply obey.
There is this slow, painful process of weaning I must undergo to free me from my complications. Sometimes it feels like the very skin is being peeled off my flesh because this is my life-support system I am hanging onto... which I fear if I loose, I’ll die! Or at least a part of me will die... and there would be less of me left.

I know it sounds dramatic.  But, this letting-go does feel a bit like dying…. And most of us, if we are honest, will admit that we resent it or resist it, or both! 

Friday, May 09, 2014

Just Do It!

The beloved apostle John informs us that six stone waterpots were set there for the Jewish custom of purification. Each pot could hold about twenty or thirty gallons of liquid.

They just happen to be there.

One can call this a coincidence. 

Or, one can say that God uses random objects that 'just happen' to be handy to accomplish His purposes.  Even ‘religious ritual’ objects.

I like that a lot.  Because we too often turn what used to be meaningful expression of our relationship with God into an almost meaningless religious ritual.

God, however, can use even that and transform it into something extraordinary… something definitely ‘outside the religious box’.

But, enough about the pots for now and back to Mary’s word:

Whatever He tells you to do, do it.

This is what Jesus tells the servants to do:

Fill the waterpots with water.

This sounds simple.  In fact too simple.  I'd rather have a 5-10 step convoluted list of instructions. That sounds more impressive. More professional and expert-like. 

On some days, I might prefer to be asked to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and jump off the cliff.  That certainly would catch the eye of the world. 

But, when I am asked to do something simple, instead of doing it, I start asking questions:

What does He mean by ‘fill’? Is it half-full, or two-thirds? 

Is he planning to move the pots or leave them there? 

What does He intend to do with all that water?  I don't want to waste all this energy doing something for no apparent purpose! 

Does He realize these are sacred objects used for sacred religious purposes? 

Should we use tap water? Or filtered water? Or Avian?  Or Nestle Pure Life? Or Zephyrhills?

And so on and so forth.

But, Mary said,

Whatever He tells you to do, do it.

Even if it’s simple.  Especially if it's simple! 

Even if it doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. 

Even if it is counter-intuitive. 

Even if it might be counter-cultural. Especially if it's going against the flow of the existing religious culture of the day. 

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Better Than Winning Lottery

Some think that it would be a notable miracle if one jumped off a cliff without a parachute or a wingsuit and landed safely.

Or turned stones into cinnamon rolls. (I can do this miracle in reverse any day!)

Or engage in a similar kind of spiritual acrobatics that would prove to the world that miracles do exist and God is who He says He is:  The Almighty who can bend the rules of His own universe any way He wishes.

A relative of mine told me once that he would believe in God if He helped him win lottery.

I don’t want to pick on my relative as if every one of us haven’t said something similar at one point or another,

God, if You would do just this one thing, I will believe in you forever.

I remember praying that prayer to avoid impending spanking when I was in elementary school. My parents got distracted as parents often do and forgot all about it (or at least acted as if they forgot). I avoided the well-deserved spanking and dismissed the whole 'answered prayer' thing as pure coincidence.

There are a lot of prayers in this world that get answered and then dismissed as pure coincidence.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

What I want to talk about is how to be an accomplice to a real miracle by doing what Jesus’ mother tells us to do. 

Mothers generally have some solid advice and we should do what they tell us to do. At least, most of the time. 

But, here's something that one special mom said and I think her advice is worth heeding even more than all the words the rest of us prodigiously pile up on our offspring under the pretext of being helpful.  

This is what Mary, Jesus' mom says:

Whatever He tells you to do, do it. 

Simple as that. 



Tells you...

To do...

Do it. 

Monday, May 05, 2014

The "O" Word

When Mary whispers,

They ran out of wine,

into her son’s ears, it’s not because she is itching to share an embarrassing piece of gossip.

It’s not a finger-pointing prayer request that gloats over the dismal incompetence of their about-to-be-humiliated hosts.

Mary knows first-hand what it feels like to be a juicy morsel inside a mouth of a gossip.

Mary knows first-hand that sometimes even 'the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley'

But, with her Son around, she also learned that sometimes, the worst thing might be the best thing… The wrench in our plan might be an unfolding of a bigger plan... better plan... God's plan. And the most embarrassing piece of news might be the most glorious way of salvation and celebration.

Jesus hears her words.

He thinks of another wedding, of another wine that will be poured out for many.

He looks at her. He glances at His watch and says,

Not My time.

We will hear Jesus say this phrase on several different occasions. .

My time has not fully come.  Not My time. Not My time.

Until the clock ticks midnight, and His hour arrives.

But that’s for a different story. The story of God's timing and our timing.

In this one, even though the time is not right, Jesus seems to bend His own rules … 

I wonder why?

For His mother? For the sake of the other wedding of which this one is an earthly picture? 

For whatever reason, His mom knows He is going to do something remarkable because she tells them,

Whatever He tells you to do, do it. 

Friday, May 02, 2014

Who's Restocking Your Wine Cellar?

Most of us find the beginning of the matter easier than the end.  We love the fresh start. Clean slate. The excitement of novelty.

But when the novelty wears off, the fresh becomes a bit …old, a bit stale… when the slate gets spills and splatters, dings and dents… what do you do?

What do you do when you find out that the wine has run out on your wedding day?

Some of us redouble our effort.  

I am determined to save myself from the embarrassment and swear I'll never run out of anything ever again.  I want to hire the best wedding planner the money can buy to ensure my storage rooms are well-stocked with surplus to last us into the retirement age. And my life begins to revolve around managing the embarrassment-saving supplies for every eventuality life may throw at me… and my loved ones… and their loved ones… all the way to God.

I carry this huge sense of responsibility to guard, to manage God’s reputation just in case He falls short of my own or your expectations of what He should and shouldn’t be doing, of what He should and shouldn’t be allowing. I am determined that if His wine stock supplies run out I will swoop in and save the day…   But in this exhausting not to mention futile process, I barely notice that someway… somehow… the life itself has imperceptibly leaked out of my soul… and one day, I find myself with my stockyard full of everything but life… of everything but simple… joy… of living… truly living… And I start to wonder…

Is there a way to bring fresh wind under the old sails?  

Can God … 

...will God 

...restock the wine supplies of my life 

when my old barrels

run dry?