Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Some friends and I are doing a study. One of the days had us exploring verses that talked about peace. What follows the mish mash of pictures and analogies that streamed through my head while digging in to the proverbial scripture banquet:

It struck me that peace can only be all or nothing. Peace --> all the pieces --> wholeness. Some people feel the void left by pieces that have fallen out of their picture. No peace. Other people have compiled the pieces they have into the best picture they can but something is still not quite right. No peace. Then there’s the fortunate few that have everything all nice and orderly…but life is not a stagnant thing. The future is unpredictable. Who knows what piece might get introduced that will mess the picture all up?

And as much as we hate to admit it, we can all be spaghetti sometimes. One big jumbled mess, and what affects one strand affects the whole. We may try to be pick up sticks (you can isolate one without bringing the whole pile down) or waffles (nice little compartments), but really, we’re not. We all have spaghetti days.

How then can we have peace? Faith.

I know people who have just the simple faith that everything will fall together. They don’t attribute it to anything grand or extraordinary, but they still have the faith to accept the pieces they cannot see. So even when things seem less than perfect, or when the pieces they can see aren’t gelling, they have faith that the final picture is in the making.

I’m with them, but I also believe that there’s a someone who has all the pieces. So I just leave it up to him. I have peace because I know he’s the one who designed the puzzle in the first place. He knows were all the little bits go, and his hands are big enough to hold them. – them and my big spaghetti mess.

Whether I currently feel as pretty as a picture, or whether I feel like I’ve fallen to pieces…for me, peace comes from trusting those hands.

I remember putting puzzles together when I was younger. I would prop up the box so I could see the picture. And then I would get to work. I loved it -- the moments when I would find piece after piece that fit together, and the little moments of triumph when I had to search and search for that pesky piece that just didn’t want to be found. There was joy in the process.

I think He takes joy in the process too. He cares about the pieces that are interesting. (Like the ones with words that are easy to place.) But he cares about the boring pieces too (like all black pieces that make up a night sky in a Schimmel puzzle).

But since I’m having a bit of a spaghetti day today… beyond the caring, there’s honestly a peace that comes from knowing that someone has all the pieces accounted for. They’re not all in place yet. But they’re not lost. I may feel like a mess. I’m well aware that my hands aren’t big enough. But they don’t have to be.

All the pieces --> wholeness --> peace.

No food fights today. I am one peaceful plate of spaghetti. (At least...I'm trying to be. )

I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace. ~ Helen Keller

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rocky Road

I like learning the origins of idioms. For example: “mad as a hatter.” Back in the day, hatters would use mercury to separate and cure felting from fur. The felt would go on to be used in making hats. But inhaling mercury fumes over a long period often lead to mercury poisoning, complete with neurological damage evidenced by confused speech and distorted vision. Thus, mad as a hatter.

Or “make no bones about it.” The earliest version of this idiom was the reverse: people were “making bones about it” when they wanted to raise a fuss. The idiom is probably related to soup, with the idea being that soups with bones in them were difficult and unpleasant to swallow, while soups which had been strained to remove the bones could be smoothly consumed. When someone made bones about something, he or she was indicating a difficulty with accepting or swallowing it. (Yes, I know it's a Star Trek picture...but it's "Bones" McCoy. Run with it.)

Where am I going with this?

Some of the songs we sing in church include the phrase: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” A turn of phrase brought to us by Isaiah and Psalms. I’ve always envisioned a scene like a Hollywood movie premiere: Dress up. Send for the limo. Roll out the red carpet. Make sure you have the makings of a great after-party. Etc.

But I learned that’s not the right mental picture.

In the ancient Middle East, villages prepared for a visitation from their king weeks in advance. Workmen cleared a path and built a road that would provide the simplest accessibility for the king and his entourage. This process simply included clearing a roadway, smoothing, and leveling the surface. Of course, this process was no small feat. The terrain in that part of the world was very diverse with valleys suddenly rising up into mountains. Cracks form in the mountain rocks, often spilling dangerous boulders into the valley. If the king did not find the path adequately prepared, he would bypass the village and withhold his blessing. That reaction is suited for a movie star (where’s my red carpet?!), so maybe my mental picture wasn’t all that off….

Or maybe it was. Because Isaiah includes this passage: “And it will be said: ‘Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.’ For this is what the high and lofty One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” (55:14-15)

Here, the king isn’t commanding for the obstacles to be removed for himself…he wants road to be nice and neat so his people can get to him.

Don’t get me wrong, we should be doing upkeep on the preverbal roads in our hearts and lives. We should present our best and roll out the red carpet. But isn’t it reassuring to know that our King is just as committed to the process? He isn’t put off by rocky roads. He’s willing to invest in the time and effort it takes to clear the way from where we are to where he is.

And if our King is willing to do this for us, we should be willing to do this for others.

Sometimes the roads connecting different relationships in our lives can be pretty banged up: earthquakes, mudslides, boulders…or just new unfamiliar terrain. Let me encourage you to do all you can to clear those paths. You may have more resources at your disposal than the person living at the other end. Don’t withhold your blessing just because you didn’t get a red carpet. Be invested. Help to clear the road. It’s what the King would do for you.

And if you feel like you’re facing a huge roadblock in your life. Look around. Maybe there’s a detour you haven’t spotted yet. And don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Remember, removing obstacles was a decree from the top. God’s invested. He’ll work with you to clear the way.

The burden’s not just on us. We won’t miss out if we’ve done what we can and the road still isn’t smooth. Like so many things, both sides are engaged in the process. Clearing the rocky road is two-way street. (Ok, I admit it. Pun intended. No bones about it.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Don Pedro

Don Pedro is a unique character in Much Ado About Nothing. The other characters defer to him because of his social status, but he seems to have a genuine fondness for both Claudio and Benedick and he deeply engages in the shenanigans of the story.

When I first read the book, I was amused at Don Pedro’s insistence that he woo Hero on behalf of Claudio. It seemed like such a cocky statement. (Learning about the social dynamics of that particular time and place helped to give me understanding on that one.) Later, during the masquerade ball, I just skimmed over Don Pedro’s proposal to Beatrice. I thought he was just trying to be kind and lift her spirits. And at the end, I read Benedick’s comments as a joke, not as an actual commentary on Don Pedro’s countenance.

But then I watched the movie.

Maybe it was just Denzel Washington’s interpretation of the lines, but in his portrayal Don Pedro’s proposal is not a joke. He truly seems drawn to Beatrice. She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she’s from an influential family. She’s everything he could want. And on the flip side, Don Pedro is a man of tremendous wealth and influence…and he’s witty, kindhearted, and successful to boot. So why does Beatrice refuse him? I think in that moment, Don Pedro figured out her true feelings and decided to use his influence to bring Beatrice and Benedick together.

So then why is he sad at the end of the play? Both of this schemes turned out just they way he planned. Not without a few scandalous misunderstandings in the process, but regardless, two happy couples stand before him in the final scene. I think he’s sad because he wants his happy ending too. But unfortunately for Don Pedro (and perhaps in a wee little defense of Shakespeare) this just isn’t his story.

I slightly digress. Watching the movie made Don Pedro come alive to me in a whole new way. Mostly because it brought to mind a scripture passage that has long been near to my heart:

Joshua 3:14-17 “So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground”

The priests (worshipers) go first – blazing a path through the Jordan River at a time when the river is most dangerous. Then they stand in the gap (intercession), holding back the torrent of water, while all their brothers cross over into the promised land. They are perfectly content to wait for their promise until they see that their brothers have gotten to theirs safely.

This passage resonates so strongly with me because this is how I want to live my life: standing in the gap, doing what I can to hold back the flood, so that people can cross to the other side and find their promise.

A friend of mine told me there’s actually a name in Tibetan Buddhism for someone like that: bodhisattva. A Bodhisattva is anyone who is motivated by compassion and seeks enlightenment not only for him/herself but also for everyone. (Leave it to the Buddhists to come up with a fancy label.)

So I understand Don Pedro. I don’t want to elevate him too high, or read way to much into the fifth wheel of this love comedy. But I know what it’s like to drop into someone’s story, to use what influence and creativity I have to do what I can to help them cross their river, and then to quietly move on from their story to my next adventure.

Don Pedro as a river-holding bodhisattva. Betcha Shakespeare never saw that one coming!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thanks for calling!

I put out a fire yesterday, and all I did was pick up the phone.

The story:
A coworker sent me an IM and asked me to read over an email she was about to send. She was quite upset and the email was addressing an escalating situation. I helped her tone down her verbage and verify the contents, and told her that I had her back if she needed support. This situation had come up on our group call earlier that day, and I could tell that this was something grating a lot of people’s nerves. The next day, I got an email from the “villain” of this story. I initially played nice by email and gave him what I thought was a good answer. Shortly after, I got a reply and the phrase “give him an inch and he’ll take a mile” came to mind. I sort of freaked and my initial desire was to exclaim “Are you kidding me?” and wonder what possessed me to play the “helpful Regina” card. But then I took a deep breath and did something else. I called my coworker (the IM lady) just to make sure I had her side right. And then I decided that instead of another email, I would reach out through the phone.

Novel idea right? I decided to ask this cantankerous, demanding, frustrated, manager just what he wanted. And after I said hello and introduced myself, I was expecting to have my ears buzzing, and to be on the calm defensive.

But that wasn’t the case at all! This man who had given others so much trouble was quite pleasant. In fact, he admitted his worker was in the wrong. I admitted that our policies are quite extensive and that the portal to access them is user-unfriendly. And after a little discussion, we had a plan to fix things moving forward. To my surprise and relief, instead of an immediate deadline and lots of work, he told me to take my time. He said a good product would take time and effort, and we agreed to collaborate through the process. Now granted, I commited myself to a little bit of work. But if creating one presentation will keep a healthy working relationship between our two business groups, I think it's a small price to pay.

After all the emails and speculations, it just took was a phone call. All the manager needed was to hear an understanding voice and to know that someone cared.

Moral of the story:
We live in a super connected world, but our greatest connector is still the human touch…even if it’s just a voice.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mosaic About Me

After seeing Christine and Katie's creations, I'm caving and joining in the fun.

Here are my answers:

The Questions:
1. What is your first name?
2. Favorite food?
3. Favorite color?
4. Favorite drink?
5. Dream vacation?
6. Favorite hobby?
7. What you want to be when you grow up?
8. What do you love most in life?
9. One word to describe you?

The Rules: Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search ( Using ONLY the first page, pick an image to represent your answer.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Eating Elephants

When my “things to do” list starts stacking up, and life clumps more obligations than usual into the frame of my schedule….I try to keep things in perspective and calm myself by asking:

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

And it’s true. It takes a lot of bites. But if I can just keep chomping away, I can make it through.

Not long ago, I ran into one of my co-workers in the hallway. (I realize this may seem like an everyday occurrence, but it’s not. One of the interesting realities of working on the global team I do is that I often don’t see my co-workers face-to-face. Our team takes full advantage of being able to work remotely.) Anyway, I passed her in the hallway and said hi. Then, inadvertently opened up a floodgate by asking how she was doing. She started sharing all the things she’s juggling at work, and then some things she’s juggling at home too. Without thinking too much about it I asked her, “Well…you know the best way to eat an elephant right?” She just gave me a quizzical look. “One bite at a time.”

I could see the wheels in her head turning. Then a light brightened somewhere. And she said, “You know, you’re right. I’m going to have to remember that.” We talked for a few more minutes, and when she walked away, I could tell she wasn’t as weighed down as she had been when I had said hello. Take that, silly elephant!

Sometimes it’s just to remember that no matter how big your mouth is, and how much is on your plate, you can only deal with one bite at a time. So don’t be overwhelmed by the elephant. Just be focused on chewing and swallowing one bite at a time.

When I hear somebody sigh that life is hard, I am always tempted to ask, Compared to what? ~ Sydney J. Harris


Just for fun, and just because I can, and maybe just because it has an elephant in it…let me share a fantastic quiz with you. Ready?

The goal of this famous quiz game is to help you understand better your style of thinking. The questions are not difficult. Try to think for a while before reading the solutions.

* How do you put a giraffe in the fridge?
Correct answer: Open the fridge, put the giraffe inside, close the fridge. This question checks if you tend to make simple things complicated.

* How do you put an elephant in the fridge?
Wrong answer: Open the fridge, put the elephant inside, close the fridge. Correct answer: Open the fridge, remove the giraffe, put the elephant inside, close the fridge. This question checks your ability to consider implications from your previous actions.

* The Lion King organized a moot for the animals: all the animals are present but one. Which one?
Correct answer: The elephant. The elephant is in the fridge. This checks your memory.

Even if you did not answer the first three questions correctly, you'll get the next one for sure.

* You have to cross a river, but it is populated by alligators. What are you going to do?
Correct answer: You swim across the river because all the alligators are attending the moot. This question checks if you learn quickly from your mistakes.

According to Andersen Consulting Worldwide, 90% of the managers who undertook the test failed all the answers. On the contrary many children under 6 answered some questions correctly. Hmmm......

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Geek Moment

My immediate thought: Shouldn't it read, "I bet that never happens to Snape?" Just sayin'...

Either way, it made me giggle.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Why do beers get the best commercials? Remember these guys from Guinness? For a while, “Brilliant!” was a regular part of my celebratory vernacular. But Guinness is an Irish brew and this is Cinco de Mayo.

That brings me to my other favorite beer guy: the Dos Equis man. You’ve seen the commercials: “The police want to question him, just because they find him interesting. He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels. He lives vicariously through himself. He is the most interesting man in the world.”

On Sunday, some friends and I were watching the Red Wings game when his commercial came on. And one of my very wise comrades spoke up and said (something very close to): “Shouldn’t that be everyone’s goal? To live vicariously through themselves?”

To which I reply: BRILLIANT!

What are you passionate about? What have you been dreaming about? What have you been putting off? On this day that celebrates victory and freedom, I wish you freedom to look beyond all the reasons ‘why not’ and to be stronger than all the things that weigh you down... Live vicariously! Take that trip, pursue that career, reorganize that room, write that book, learn that language, call that person, eat that ice cream, master that song on rock band…. strike the balance of being responsible and carefree, of planning for the future and living in the moment, of being good to others and being good to yourself.

Don’t let anything quench your thirst for excellence, for adventure, for the joy of a memory made, for the feeling of a job well done and a mountain well climbed.

“Stay thirsty my friends.”