Saturday, January 29, 2011

Instructions for irresponsibility

What our phones were capable of and the trouble they could get us into used to be much simpler.
Like, as simple as whether or not I would let my brother have a turn playing with the toy phone at Grandma's house, or get in trouble for not being a good sharer.
Nowadays things are more complicated.

My current phone doesn't have wheels or a pull-string, what it does have is a recording feature.
There are instructions for it in the little user manual. They are not your typical instructions, though.
This section of the manual is titled: Make Fake Calls.
"Simulate an incoming call," it reads, "when you want to get out of meetings or unwanted conversations. You can make it appear as if you're talking on the phone..."
Instructions in how to be irresponsible and avoid dealing with uncomfortable or unwanted situations. Right there in the manual! This is an application setting already programed into my phone!

Maybe it's not just phone technology. Maybe the whole world is way more complicated than it used to be.
Dear me, we had no idea what we were asking for when we thought it was cool that a phone could follow you everywhere. Only now, it doesn't need the pull-string.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The search for a vase

I decided that flowers need to live in my house.
The flowers that will be living in my house will need a place to stay.

A vase was needed.

And I went looking for one.
I stood in the market looking at an assortment of vases, fish bowls and candle holders--nothing very striking.
"We have a shop," the man said, and pointed to a tiny hole of a window in the wall nearby.
"Where's the door?" I asked and one of the boys nearby led me to their small, dark room where hundreds of vases and candle holders were stacked on dusty, crowded shelves.
It wasn't really like a shop at all, but more like someones forgotten cellar storage.
I blinked and my eyes adjusted to the light. It was such a dusty, cave-like room, I wanted to walk back out and go look somewhere else for a vase. But instead I took a closer look at what was around me.

Sometimes it's a matter of finding the beauty amidst the unexpected, right? Sorting through the trash to find the treasure.
Shine up the old brass lamp and out pops a genie to grant your wishes.
Smile at the somber old woman on the street and watch the amazing transformation when her own return smile lights up her face.

So I had that boy pull vases out of the deep recesses of the shelves and dust them, and I held them up to the slim bit of light coming through the tiny window.

In the end, I found one to take home with me. It cleaned up even better than I thought it would. It surprised me even more once I had it home, cleaned and in the light.
For the seeker, hidden beauty once revealed is a treasure indeed.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Magic pots

These pots have magic in them.
Something goes in one color and comes out a brand new color.
They can make a scarf match anything.
They can make something old like new.

First, the man adds a spoonful of something.

He tosses in my light colored trousers, which--frankly--have never been a good color to wear here.
The story about that goes like this:
I went out one morning and there were puddles in the street. A car coming toward me hit one of the puddles just right so that it splashed up and covered me from head to toe in oily mud. I was already late and had to go to class that way. I was a mess. Mud in my hair, all over my shawl--everywhere.
The mud stains didn't come out of the trousers, and well, I must admit: they were not the first stains there. Because earlier I had washed that pair of trousers with something red and there were already a few unwanted pink stains.

But no matter, the magician with the pots was going to make it all better. And he doesn't need to hear my stories first.
He just stirs it all up.
Wrings it out.

And then my pair of trousers becomes...


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Delusion of victory

It was a long, exhausting day.
Crying babies.
Numbers on a board that never changed.
Frustrated people.
Waiting, waiting, waiting.

All of that.

So when the auto driver that took me home finally stopped at the end of the ride and said he had no change, it was not what I wanted to hear.
And I was feeling just ridiculous enough to fight over it.
My change was 8 rupees. I would have been satisfied with 5. But he didn't have a five.
"What? Are you sure? You don't have five? Just give me five. I have no change."
"I don't have it," he said, "Look." He showed me his bills.
But that was just the bills, not his coins. He must have something. "Give me two rupees, give me one. Give me something."
He was amused, and he pulled two rupees out of his shirt pocket.
"Madame, that's for my cigarette," he said, "You know, for smoking."

Ya, I know a cigarette is for smoking, and you can look at this two ways, buddy: either I'm helping your health by taking your designated smoking allowance or I'm giving you six rupees for three more cigarettes.
"Give it to me," I said.
He did.

One small victory.
Or some such delusion.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Holy awkwardness

My friend Vivie, told her friend David that she loved him.

At the time, it felt awkward to be standing there. But in hindsight, I think I was witness to a holy moment.

“I’m just singing,” David replied.
Which is sort of a strange reply. And somewhat exacerbated the awkwardness.
But when you consider that the odds are not high that you will receive a favorable response when you tell a teenage kid you love him, it’s a pretty good answer.

Vivie loves him because he’s David, and he’s being so.
“I know,” she smiled. “And that’s why I love you. It’s a good thing.”

They smiled at each other.

Awkward for the rest of us.

But that’s just it: we’re not used to being in the presence of holiness.

Vivie and David have a good and trusting relationship. They can share their affection and love for one another in a way that leaves out pretense or manipulation—even awkwardness, as far as they’re concerned.

When Vivie observed David singing along to a song in the background, fully disregarding the reaction of those around him, it made her love for him swell up within her—and she was compelled to express it, to make him aware of that affection.
Holiness: unfettered, unconditional love abounding toward someone who’d done nothing to earn it.
That generosity of expressed love expanded and affected the rest of us standing there. It was so unusual, so real, that it left us uncomfortable.
Because we were witnessing something we are all so hungry for: unconditional love. And the possibility that it might be real and maybe someone could love us that way, too, left us hopeful, hungry, a little bit desperate even…and ashamed.
Ashamed because we don’t just want to be David, the receiver of the gift of love—we could be Vivie! We could be the generous friend who unabashedly declares the truth of our affection for those we love.
When it’s genuine, love is rarely rejected, so why don’t we give it?
Because we’re sucked in by the fear that love is not all we hope it to be and that once expressed, it will steal something from us, make us vulnerable. So we hold it in and instead rob others of the gift of being loved.


So close. Sometimes we can be so close to knowing and experiencing love the way God intended it to be, freely given and received. But it stays just a little bit out of reach.

And that’s why during those rare moments when we do see it, give it, experience it, it’s all the more holy. Sacred.

Vivie, you can show me any day how to love like Jesus. And I will do my best to see and learn from it.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A hint of beauty

Isn't that pretty?

This orange has held a place of honor on my counter-top for the last week and a half. It was just too pretty to eat.
But even a pretty orange will succumb to the rottenness of unmet potential if it never gets to be eaten--the purpose for which it was created.

Sitting there on a plate, the full beauty and goodness inside are only hinted at.
An orange, to be fully enjoyed, must be eaten. It's outward beauty destroyed, it's insides consumed. If not, an orange is not an orange.

Ah the mystery of beauty.