Sunday, 24 March 2013

Easter On My Mind

Here's something I wrote with Easter on my mind . . .


He stopped amidst the swirling, stifling, suffocating crowd.
“Who touched me?”
The woman trembled, bloodied, afraid.
She knelt before the Lord of Ones and whispered her confession.
And He, who would one day Himself be bloodied
for Ones such as this said,
“Be healed.”

He slept through the storm as they crossed the Lake,
While the Madman waited in turmoil amongst the tombs.
Naked, too strong for chains and irons, yet hopelessly bound,
He ran and fell at the feet of the Lord of Ones.
And He who would one day be bound in the place
of Ones such as this said,
“Be free.”

He sat and watched the Rich and Powerful throw in their coins.
The Widow came, unnoticed, yet seen.
She gave out of her poverty two small coins of infinite value.
“She gave her all,” mused the Lord of Ones.
And He who left the wealth of Heaven in order to give His all
for Ones such as this said,
“Be blessed.”

He stood alone as the crowd hurriedly dispersed.
“Unclean!” they reviled, and hissed and cowered.
The Leper knelt before the Lord of Ones and pleaded, “If you are willing..”
And He who would soon be defiled by the sins
of Ones such as this,
Reached out and touched, and said,
“Be clean.”

I wait, speck in an ocean, grain of sand on a beach,
Bloodied, bound, impoverished, unclean.
Overcome by His Presence, overwhelmed by His Grace, “I come to worship,” I whisper.
And the Lord of Ones who died in my place embraces me,
And draws me in,
And in words that echo across time and eternity whispers back,
“We are one.”

Happy Easter everyone!

Cross = Heart
Image created by Ross Cochrane

Image created by Ross Cochrane

Image created by Ross Cochrane

Image created by Ross Cochrane

Image created by Ross Cochrane

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Unlived Life

             He shuffled up to our table, coffee in one hand, umbrella and newspaper in the other. I noticed his hands were trembling as he placed first the coffee, then the paper and umbrella down on the table. He slowly removed his backpack and put it on the ground. He sat down on the bench seat opposite us, bent over and pulled an aluminium ashtray from his backpack, then carefully positioned it on the table next to his coffee. Next, he reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a cigarette - the kind you roll yourself - and lit it up.
             I watched him hoping to make eye contact so I could say hello, but he kept his head down as if he was unaware we were there, or he just didn't care. He wore one of those caps that English gentlemen wear pulled down over his long unkempt hair, making it difficult to see his face.
             It was Friday morning and Ross and I had headed down to McDonalds for a late breakfast. We were staying in the city for a couple of days and planned to visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship down by Darling Harbour this morning. We proceeded to unwrap our breakfast meal while our mystery table guest unwrapped his newspaper and began reading.
             I watched as he puffed away on his cigarette and turned the pages of the paper. His hands were very dirty, his nails long. He wore a gold ring on his third finger.
             "Hello," I said, but there was no response. Maybe he didn't hear me.
             I tried again, louder. "Good morning.."
             He lifted his head, slowly turned and caught my eye, nodded, and then went back to scanning his newspaper. 
            The umbrella. I persisted.
             "Do you think it will rain today?"
             He looked back at me with bleary grey eyes and said something which I couldn't quite make out. He had a long beard with overgrown moustache which muffled his words. He turned the pages of his paper and pointed to the weather report. Rain was forecast, he said.
             And so a conversation of sorts began. We introduced ourselves, and he told us his name was Ron. He lived around the area, was born here in Sydney, at McMahon's Point.
            "You know where that is?" Ron asked. No, sorry we didn't.
            We respectfully asked if he would like to share our breakfast. He respectfully declined. At first.
             I felt incredibly sad for Ron. He looked as though he was probably our age, and I wondered what desperate circumstances had led to his living on the streets, of becoming another "homeless statistic". Had he lost a wife? Children? He had certainly lost direction, hope, and any sense of self-worth. 
             Finally it was time for us to leave, time for us to visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship. We said goodbye to Ron and walked away from one place of friendship to find another down by the harbour. We spent a long time wandering through the stunning gardens which had been established many years ago as a gesture of friendship between two cultures. The freshness, the beauty, and the peace of this incredibly beautiful place stood in stark contrast to the life of the man with whom we had recently shared a meal.
             And all the while, I found myself mulling over a statement I had heard someone make just the week before, a statement I had been pondering over ever since:
                       "We all have two lives - the one we are living now, 
                                        and the unlived life within us."
             It's a statement about life purpose, about potential.
             Over the past week I had been wondering how close the gap between my two lives was. 
             It's actually something I've wondered about many times throughout the years, always striving for greater clarity of my purpose, always challenged to close the gap between what is, and what can be.
              And now I was wondering how wide that gap was for Ron. It seems to me that gap has become a chasm so deep he probably does not think much beyond surviving today. I prayed  that he would begin to search for his purpose in life, and for the One who gave him life. I prayed that he would find the way back to believing in himself. I prayed that he would have the courage to step out into his unlived life.
              I know it's not too late for Ron.
              I know it's never too late - for any of us.

Thinking of you today,

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Picasso Pa

Picasso Pa  by Zion Brave Bennett

Every parent asks their child the same question when they pick them up after school.
"How was school today?"
And every child gives one of two answers. 
"Good" or "Boring". That's it. Nothing more. End of story.

Then every parent follows up with a subsequent question.
"What did you learn today?"
To which every child answers, "Nothing." Full stop. End of discussion.
Why we do this is, day after day after day, is something of a mystery. 
Yet we persist.

My daughter asks the same questions of her 6 year old son, and he answers with the same responses.
Until yesterday.
Yesterday was a day to go down in history.
No sooner had Rachel pulled the car in to the 'Kiss-and-Drop' zone (aka quick pickup lane) outside school, when Zion leapt into the car and blurted out,
"Guess what we learnt about today Mum!" She didn't even have to ask THE question.
"You know, the painter guy, Picasso."
Zion then proceeded to enlighten his mother about Picasso's 'Rose period' and his 'Blue period' and other interesting Picasso facts all the way home. He was totally excited about the whole thing, and had even done a Picasso painting himself which is now on display in his classroom.

Later, when Rachel and the boys came over for dinner, Zion presented Ross with a portrait of his Pa.
A Picasso Pa.
Ross being an artist himself knows all about Picasso, so dinner conversation tended to centre on the works of Picasso.
Rachel and I smiled at each other. Wow, maybe we have another artist in the family - yes!! Can never have too many creative types in one family I say!

This morning I taped Picasso Pa onto Pa's study door. 
Then I proceeded to check up on Picasso via the internet - thought I'd better keep up with my grandson's education. And as it turned out, I was grateful that I did.

Interesting man, unique artwork, can't say I agree too much with his religious or political beliefs, but I did appreciate some comments Picasso had made throughout his life.

Comments like,
                        "Every child is an artist. 
                        The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."
                        "It took me four years to paint like Raphael,
                         but a lifetime to paint like a child."

I love this revelation - a child has the ability to imagine, to wonder, to create, and to express life in such naive freedom. A child is spontaneous, open to new concepts, ready to try new things. 
I'm sure that's what Jesus was getting at when He said,
                          "Don't keep children away from me. Don't ever get between 
                          them and me. These children are at the very centre of life in
                          the Kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God's Kingdom
                          in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in." (Mark 10:14-16, MSG)

The simplicity of a child. Openness, receptivity.

 Picasso said a couple of other things which also struck a chord.
                           "Others have seen what is and asked why.
                            I have seen what could be and asked why not." 
And this,
                           "I am always doing that which I cannot do,
                            in order to learn how to do it."

I love this too - Picasso striving to go beyond the expected, to stretch beyond boundaries, to explore possibilities, to uncover more of the potential within himself.
It seems this belief in himself, and this challenge to climb ever higher was fostered in his childhood . . .
                           "When I was a child my mother said to me, 'If you become
                           a soldier, you'll be a general. If you become a monk, you'll
                           be the Pope.' Instead I became a painter, and wound up
                           as Picasso."

Parents, grandparents, teachers, leaders what amazing opportunities we have to water seeds of greatness in those entrusted to our care for a season. Great movers and shakers of the future, doing their best to make a positive difference in their generation.

So, I'm grateful to Picasso.
Grateful he fired up my grandson's imagination and inspired him to step outside the box and try something new.
Grateful he's encouraged me to keep "doing that which I cannot do in order to learn how to do it."
Grateful he's reminded me to keep on watering seeds of greatness into the upcoming generations.

It might also surprise Picasso to know that he reminded me too of the fact that God Himself has planted those seeds of greatness in all of us - and that He loves to help us discover them and use them to make a difference in this world.


Picasso Bird   by Zion Brave Bennett
presently on exhibition at 1JP classroom