Meal Prayers

Rand: Dear Lord...
God: Yes?
Rand: Thank you for this day...
God: You were just saying that you wish you didn't have to get out of bed this morning.
Rand: Thank you for this food...
God: Are you thankful for the onions and cilantro that you just picked out and wiped on the table?
Rand: Thank you for the hands that have made it...
God: I thought you just complained that the service here was lousy.
Rand: Please be with our conversation during this meal...
God: Please explain how to 'be with' your conversation.
Rand: Let this food nourish our bodies...
God: Then you shouldn't have ordered the deep-fried twinkies.
Rand: In Jesus' name...
God: My Son obviously has nothing to do with this.
Rand: Amen.
God: Let there be food poisoning.


Fruit of Life in Paradise.

Rand:  God, I'm really really curious about something.
God:  I know.  You always are.
Rand:  But I'm serious this time.  It's been bugging me.
God:  Whenever you get curious, you start looking for answers, and usually come up with some strange theories.
Rand:  I know, and I end up saying the stupidest thing I've ever said.  But can you please just hear me out?
God:  Fine fine.  What's it about?
Rand:  Back in the time of the Garden of Eden--
God:  Yes, bellybuttons.
Rand:  No, that wasn't my question.  It was--wait, was that an answer like "Yes, they had bellybuttons"?  Or was it a deduction, like "Yes, you were going to ask about bellybuttons"?
God:  Now you'll never know, cuz that's not the question you were going to ask anyway.
Rand:  Wow.  You must enjoy the cryptic turnarounds.
God:  What can I say?  I move in mysterious ways.
Rand:  Okay, well, I was thinking about carnivores.  See, cuz I'm under the impression that you made the earth in six days, as in literal days, not millions of years.  Like you did it in less than a week and created every creature according to its kind.
God:  You've been doing your quiet times.
Rand:  Yes.  Well, the big question is this.  If death didn't enter the world until AFTER the incident with the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, then what about meat eaters?  If there was no death, there was no killing, so how could carnivores survive before the Fall of Man?
God:  Carnivores, eh?
Rand:  You know.  Lions, tigers, and bears.
God:  'Oh my.'
Rand:  Yes.  Wow.  You obviously are the inspiration behind pastoral humor.
God:  Not yours.  Your jokes are awful.
Rand:  ANYWAY, how did the carnivores eat?
God:  Have you thought of any possible solutions?
Rand:  Of course.  One possibility is that they were vegetarians with flat teeth to begin with, and when you cursed the earth for man's sin, one of the major repercussions was the installment of violent weaponry into animalkind to kill and feed off the death of another life.  Hence, meat-eaters.  These animals portrayed the idea that life could only be had if something died to let you live--a foreshadowing of Christ's atoning work.
God:  Artistic, but kind of a stretch.  But knowing you, you always state your less-favored opinion first to gauge my reaction, then you state your second and stronger opinion to further impress me with your insight.  So let's hear the second idea, which is obviously the one you like better.
Rand:  [Sigh]  You burst my bubble.
God:  I make the wise foolish.  I make the foolish wise.  Guess which boat you're in?
Rand:  I'd rather not. A second possibility is that they were meat eaters even before the Fall.
God:  And how would that be, since you asserted that nothing was killed and nothing died during that time?
Rand:  See, that's just it.  It's the hints you leave throughout Scripture.  First of all, I totally do NOT believe in evolution, so carnivores didn't evolve sharp teeth.  Second, there's nothing that says you changed the animals' physiology during the curse on the earth, so carnivores didn't miraculously adopt sharp teeth.  Third, Eden is called "Paradise", a place of perfection.
God:  And so?
Rand:  So the only possible explanation to meat-eaters thriving in a world without killing and death would be if meat grew on trees.  Prime rib was the fruit of life.  THAT's what I call "Paradise."
God:  Bingo.  That was it.
Rand:  What, really?!  I got it right?!
God:  No, that was the stupidest thing you ever said


Sinner Like Me

Rand:  Okay, seriously, how'd you start doing all of this?

Satan:  How did I start doing all of what?

Rand:  I saw Janet the other day at church.  She was with some of her friends that I don't know.

Satan:  Hm...oh yes, I remember.

Rand:  And she and I talked for a little bit, catching up.  Before I left, I gave her a hug and said, "You know I love you, right?"

Satan:  Okay, so?

Rand:  Well, her friends all looked shocked.  They said, "Dude, aren't you married?"  So I'm like, "Yeah, so?"  And they're like, "You can't say stuff like that!"

Satan:  Haha, yes, that was glorious.

Rand:  So how'd you do it?

Satan:  I don't follow.

Rand:  Every week I hear sermons that range from passage to passage, but you just can't sit through church and ignore the overarching theme behind all the commandments to love God and love our neighbors as deeply as we do ourselves.  Love is the basest, most fundamental, most important, most critical, most healthy thing we can do.

Satan:  So what's the problem, pastor?

Rand:  How did you convince the Church that it's a sin to say what we're supposed to do?

Satan:  Ah, yes, that one was a tricky one.

Rand:  Please explain.  I gotta hear this.

Satan:  Well, I basically made everyone think there were all sorts of distinctions between KINDS of love, like unconditional love, friendly love, erotic love, etc.  For the first one, I basically made people think it was a myth--that it wasn't possible.  I told them that you'll never be perfect like God (even though he says you're supposed to be) and so don't even try.  For the second one, I just made people scratch their heads and wonder what the heck it was.  I think they still don't know.  And for the third one I just flooded every billboard, television show, advertisement, and fashion image with it.  People are so exposed to erotica that whenever you say the word 'love', they're immediately suspicious that THAT's the one that you mean--you couldn't possibly mean the first one because it's just a myth, and you couldn't possibly mean the second one cuz no one knows what it is.

Rand:  Wow.  Seriously, you're crafty.

Satan:  Yeah, I've had thousands of years of training.

Rand:  Dude, if I had thousands of years to train, I'd apply that time and effort to studying worthwhile things. 

Satan:  Such as?

Rand:  Everything.  Mathematics, art, engineering.  Everything.  If I had all that time, I'd eventually learn it all, be like the smartest guy in the world.

Satan:  Why?

Rand:  Cuz then I could get whatever job I wanted, be able to do anything.

Satan:  Let me guess, you'd be the most powerful guy in the world.

Rand:  Knowledge is power, dude.  Can't help it.

Satan:  You'd be like God.

Rand:  Well, I don't know about that.  I'd just be smart and powerful.  Not omnipresent or anything like that.  I just wouldn't have to depend on anyone for anything I needed or wanted.

Satan:  HAHAHA, that's funny.

Rand:  What's funny?

Satan:  That's how I started doing all of this.


Conversations with Simon Peter (chapter 3)

Simon Peter decided to come over and help me cook, since Christine's off in Cambodia and heaven knows I can't cook for myself.  So we were at the supermarket picking up some stuff in the produce section when this conversation came up.
    Rand: Simon, God told me he thought I was avoiding him.
    Peter: Are you?
    Rand:  Well, I'm not trying to.  It's know, it's easy to forget to see God's presence on everything, in everyplace, at everytime. 
    Peter: Heh, tell me about it.  Not easy.
    Rand:  Yeah, see?  So like, it's not like I'm TRYING to avoid him.  It's just, sometimes I can't help it.
Well at that point Peter stopped where he was at, picked up a tomato, and tossed it to me.
    Peter:  Bite into that.
    Rand:  What?  Why?
    Peter:  Because I said so.
    Rand:  Dude, we didn't even pay for it.  What are you gonna do: go down and catch a fish and pull out 58 cents from its mouth to pay for this tomato?
    Peter:  Rand, as the first pastor on earth, let me just say that pastor jokes aren't funny.
    Rand:  You suck.
I took a bite out of the tomato.
    Rand:  Okay, are you happy?
    Peter:  Is it good?
    Rand:  What?  Yeah, dude, what's your point?
    Peter:  My point is, you're eating a ripe tomato in the middle of October.  Since when did tomatoes grow in October?
    Rand:  Oh, hm.  That's kinda weird.
    Peter:  The world you live in, Rand, is a supermarket world.  It's constructed of metal, concrete, genetically altered, corn-fed, greenhouse-grown, artificially induced, all-natural imitations.  You live in a world made by man, in the image of man, and so all you see is what reflects man's glory.  It makes it very hard to see God behind it all.
    Rand:  So are you telling me it's wrong to eat this tomato?
    Peter:  No.  But consider this.  Walk down to the farmer's market.  Buy a tomato from the vendor, and what you'll find is that you're buying it from the person who planted the seed in the ground, cultivated the land, harvested the fruit, and brought it to you.  Listen to that farmer tell you about what it took to get that tomato to you, and how that fruit was fully dependent on God's weather and worry over its proper harvest.  Then you'll know what it means to be connected to your neighbor, connected to your community, connected to the earth we were meant to subdue and oversee.  You'll see the hand of God present in even the fruit that you eat.
    Rand:  Simon, it's just a tomato.  I don't see the big deal in this small thing.
    Peter:  That's when you forget God's presence.
    Rand:  I doubt God's presence has much to do with a tomato in a supermarket.
    Peter:  On everything, in everyplace, at everytime.
    Rand:  (sigh) Not easy.
    Peter:  Heh, tell me about it.
As it is, my conversation with Simon Peter has directed me toward reinspecting my mealtime prayers.  Though I have been trained to give thanks for each meal, I have not once in fact been thankful for a single bite.
Dear Lord, thank you for this meal, which I have been blessed abundantly enough to receive, standing in a supermarket, hundreds of miles away from the nearest farm, purchasing a ripe tomato, here in the middle of October.  Whatever you have done to make this possible is beyond my understanding.  But truly, your lovingkindness knows no bounds.  Amen.


Avoiding God?

Rand:  God?
God:  Yes?
Rand:  I feel like You're avoiding me.
God:  Is that right?
Rand:  Yeah.  I know, it's kind of a weird thing to say.
God:  Do you want to talk about it?
Rand:  Well, I guess so.  I don't know.  It's just kinda this feeling I get, but it's hard to describe.
God:  Okay.  Let's start with the basic question: Why do you feel like I'm avoiding you?
Rand:  Hm.  Man.  Well, see, remember all those times that I was like ready to do anything for You and I was totally like diehard, crazy, on fire, passionate, zealous, and committed and stuff?
God: Mm-hm.
Rand:  I don't really have that right now.  I don't feel that way.
God:  Because?
Rand:  Cuz that's like real worship stuff, and it was always in reaction to who You are, and what You do.  And I think that's biblical, just like Paul said in Romans 12, you know, "in view of God's mercy, offer your bodies,...."  I feel like worship is a response, not a conjured up kind of thing.
God:  So what's the problem then?
Rand:  Well, it's like I lost view of you.  I don't get that sense of your presence or your protection or your guidance or even your provision.  I kinda feel like I'm really out here on my own, surviving from the grades and paychecks that I earn myself, enjoying the company of people that I choose to befriend, and making decisions for my family that I think are right, based on my upbringing.  But it's like You're not really a big factor in my thinking and stuff.  Like you just kinda disappeared.  And I know You're not really like that, so that's why I'm bringing it up.
God:  Yes, I appreciate it.  Would you mind if I asked you a few more questions?
Rand:  Sure, go ahead.
God:  Describe what you did today for me in detail, starting from very early this morning.  Did you get my wake up call at 7?
Rand:  Um, that was you?  I remember waking up at 7am thinking my alarm wasn't gonna go off for another 30 minutes, so I just went back to sleep.
God:  So you woke up 30 minutes later?
Rand:  Actually, no.  I accidentally set my alarm clock for 7:30 PM (not AM) last night, so I completely overslept and missed my first class.
God:  I see.  Did you go to your second?
Rand:  Yeah, the 11 o'clock one.
God:  Oh good, then you must have felt the morning breeze that I sent--you know, the nice cool one that hits your face while you're driving on a warm sunny day?  I remember you really liked those.
Rand:  Oh, hm, no.  Actually, I drove with my windows up cuz I didn't want to mess up my hair while I was driving. 
God:  Ah.  So you got to your second class.  Then what did you do?  Did you see the sky today?  I threw out two full blankets of clouds to your left, and then a nice big bright patch of blue to the right.  It was a perfect day to take a photo because there were no shadows.
Rand:  Oh man, yeah, I missed that.  I was sitting in the library cuz I didn't want to sweat outside in the heat.
God:  It wasn't hot.
Rand:  Oh, I thought it would be.
God:  Did you talk to the two people that I sent you?
Rand:  Two people?  Oh, Ed and Hannah?  Haha.  No, I'm not really close to either of them and it was kinda weird cuz they were already hangin' out together when I saw them, and I didn't want to jump in and be like a third wheel.
God:  Of course.  Well, then, maybe you heard me talking to you in the book of Romans--after all, you said we'd talk about that.
Rand:  I didn't have time.
God:  Weren't you in the library?
Rand:  Yeah, but they had wireless internet in there, so I was checkin' emails and stuff.
God:  I remember sending a small puppy to go greet you near your doorway.
Rand:  Oh yeah, that was the neighbor's cockerspaniel.  I was wondering how he got out.  But the last thing I need is slobber all over my hands and face before I come home to take a nap. 
God:  Hm.
Rand:  What?
God:  Rand, you said you're not passionate or zealous for me anymore.  You said you feel like I don't provide, protect, guide, or speak to you anymore.
Rand:  Yeah, that's why I'm talking to you.
God:  I send you cool, refreshing winds; but you block them with windows in your steel cage of a car.  I give you sun and clouds and sky, but you don't see them behind your four walls and low ceilings.  I give you warm or cold days that you undo with your air conditioning and heating.  I give you puppies and kittens, but you don't want to touch them.  I send you people that you need or people that need you, but you don't want to get to know them.  I speak to you in stories, proverbs, parables, and instructions; but your internet and cellular phone are more interesting.  I created you in my image--in God's image--to live in God's world to reflect God's glory.  But you dare not live in my world, lest it mess up your hair--your Man's image.  You live Man's world, reflecting Man's glory.  You spoke rightly when you said worship is a response--"in view of God's mercy".  But you have only been viewing you television, your monitor, and yourself.  You have not viewed me, and so you do not respond.
Rand: ...what am I supposed to say to that?
God:  Rand?
Rand:  Yes?
God:  I feel like you're avoiding me.


Conversations with Simon Peter (chapter 2)

Simon Peter and I watched "The Little Mermaid".  When I found out he never saw it before, I was stunned, so I rented it and got some snacks and we spent the evening in front of the television, just the two of us.
I guess storytelling has really changed in the past couple decades because I could definitely feel the staccato plot milestones that were, at times, a bit too forced into the story.  But I certainly did appreciate the soundtrack and characters all over again.  It was for me both a time of nostalgia and reminiscence.
When the credits began to roll, I turned to my friend and asked the normal post-movie question, "So, what'd you think?"
He was still watching the screen, but he had a look of concern on his face.  I started to feel bad, as though I just forced him to endure 90 minutes of boredom, so I said, "Didn't like it?"
He took a long breath with a furrowed brow and then responded, "Are all Disney movies like this?"
I said, "No, totally not."  Then I thought for a moment.  I added, "What do you mean?"
He said, "This girl, Ariel, is the hero?"
"Uh, well, she is know...the Little Mermaid."
He shook his head, "How awful."
Naturally I had to take the bait this little fisherman was laying out for me, so I asked, "Why?"
He said, "The whole movie is about how she rebels against, insults, and disobeys her father.  He is protecting her from 'fish-eating human barbarians', establishing rules and boundaries that preserve the value of his daughter's life and well-being, and enforcing a respectable level of discipline against unruly behavior in his own household--not just as a king, but as a father.  This Ariel girl goes against everything he says, and in the end gets her way.  She regards her father as unfair, tyrannical, domineering, invasive, a restrictive father who thinks himself her king--no love, no affection, no concern.  But really it is her father who was loving her from the beginning, excited to hear her sing, hoping she was not hurt by his protection, and willing to sacrifice himself and take her place when she was caught in the clutches of the evil sea witch, Ursula."
I sat there staring at my friend for some time and then rolled my eyes.  "Dude, it's just a movie.  Didn't you at least like the music?"
He said, "She didn't even do anything about that cook who tried to fry her crab friend.  He was the cook for her wedding.  She turned against all that she came from and tolerated those who tried to destroy them.  She didn't seem even a little outraged at all the seafood that her prince and his castlemates were eating."
At this point I was holding my head in my hands.  "Can't you just watch the stupid movie and not act like it's real for once?"
He ignored me, "The first clue of trouble was when she had a seagull as a friend.  Seagulls eat fish.  But that Flounder character didn't seem to view the bird as a murderer.  All three of them were wicked."
Now I was angry.  "Look, man, I can't believe I'm even talking to you about this, but seriously, you need to chill.  It was a story about romance."
"That was not romance, that was selfishness, lust, and betrayal against her people."
"What?!  Oh, come ON!"
He got up and started pacing.  "Would YOU ever do that?  Would you throw off your father's protection, insult his wisdom, disgrace his honor, and put him in mortal danger--all just to satisfy your petty, 3-day old romantic crush?  You would do that to your father?!"
I mumbled under my voice, "You don't know my father."
He steps toward me, "What does that mean?"
I look at him from the side of my eyes and say, "Dude, if you were a second-generation, Korean American kid growing up in a home with your parents' first-generation rules, you'd probably understand what it's like to think your dad's rules and boundaries just aren't fair, and don't suit the world you're trying to live in."
Simon Peter sits down next to me, "I don't understand this 'generation' thing.  Explain."
I say, "First-gen came from Korea to live in America, bringing their Korean cultural values and traditions and expectations and work ethics.  Second-gen were born and raised here in America, where American values clashed frequently and forcefully with Korean ones.  Our churches are STILL trying to find some way to bridge the generational, cultural gap between first- and second-gen congregations."
Simon Peter is looking at the ground while I'm talking, but he's nodding his head, absorbing everything I'm saying, trying to understand.  Finally he asks, "What about third-generation?"
I'm confused.  "Uh, what ABOUT third-generation?"
"What are they?"
"Well, obviously the THIRD gen would be the ones that are born from SECOND gen parents, don't you think?  It's not that hard to figure out, man."
He shakes his head, "No no, I'm talking about the bridge you mentioned."
"What about the bridge?  That has nothing to do with third generation.  They have it easy!  They have parents who speak English, who know what it's like to live and grow up in America."
Simon Peter takes that same long deep breath with the furrowed brow that he took before and this time looks me straight in the eyes and says, "Rand, has it ever occurred to you that the second generation of Koreans don't NEED a bridge with first generation.  They ARE the bridge."

I'm quiet.
He continues, "Your parents grew up knowing nothing American until they came here in their adulthood.  Your children will grow up knowing nothing Korean except when they visit their grandparents.  You are the one in your family that has walked in both worlds for all your life.  You are the one in your family that can tell the difference."
I blink, only because I did not blink for a long time.
He continues again, "If you speak English in your home, not Korean, your children will only learn English.  If your greeting is a handshake in your home, not a bow, your children will only learn handshakes.  If your meal is made of burgers and fries, not rice and kimchee, your children will only learn burgers and fries.  Every part of culture you adopt will be given to your children, and every part of culture you abandon will be kept from your children."
I begin to understand, but crush the lesson by trying to defend my dignity, "So what the heck does any of that have to do with the Little Mermaid?"
Simon Peter's eyes drop to the floor.  He nods his head a few times, making me think I won.  But then he raises his hand and puts it on my shoulder and says to me, "The manner in which you regard your father will also be passed on to your children, and it will teach them how they are to regard you.  If you throw off your father's protection, insult his wisdom, and disgrace his honor, how then will your children understand obedience, reverance, and most of all, worship?  What will be their understanding of humility, submission, and servanthood?  Would they not simply toss you aside like some pesky inconvenience the moment they find themselves a 3-day old romantic crush?"
And I find that as I struggle to form words to respond to his statement, my mind is flooded with exactly those images of how 'inconvenient' I found my parents on the days they did not let me stay out late, play with certain kids down the street, or watch television instead of doing extra homework.  I realized that my regard for my father had always been mixed with notions that his rules and boundaries were in my way, and that if I could stand up against them, then I could finally live in the world that I wanted; and history, in my mind, would record me as the hero, and him as an unfair, tyrannical, domineering, invasive, restrictive father who thought himself my king.
At last I simply confessed to my friend, "I have never understood my father's instruction.  I had only understood it as oppositional to my happiness."
Peter said to me, "If that is your regard for your earthly father, whom you can see, it is time you investigate your regard for your Heavenly Father, whom you cannot see.  Is his instruction opposed to your happiness?"
"The answer in my head is a 'No'.  I'm sure I'll find him to be infinitely more loving, more affectionate, and more concerned for me than I give him credit for."
The hand on my shoulder is strong.  Peter says to me, "What ought to amaze you about that everyday is that this father, in fact, IS your king."


Conversations with Simon Peter (chapter 1)

"Pretty slow day."
"Fishing sucks.  It's boring."
"It's your first time.  Have patience."
"Yeah, patience like a rock, right?"  I rolled my eyes as I said that.
"Patience like a rock?"
"Forget it.  You missed it."
Simon Peter turned to me and asked, "Why do you do that?"
"Why do I do what?"
He said, "You sometimes say things without meaning or caring what's been said."  There was both irritation and real curiosity in his tone.
"It's called sarcasm, dude.  I was trying making fun of your name."
Simon turned back to his side of the boat, thinking for a moment, and then said, "A man's word used to mean something where I come from."
I said, "You come from is two-thousand years ago, my friend.  Times have changed."
I sat listening to the water gurgling in the streams not too far away, and the occasional 'splunk' sound as a small ripple splashed up on the side of our little rowboat.  Whenever Simon got quiet it was always weird to me.  I grew up thinking all he ever did was talk too much, so I figured I probably hurt his feelings.  I said, "I didn't mean that.  I actually respect the fact that every word that comes out of your mouth actually counts.  I'm just so used to my own cynical culture.  And, besides, I really was just trying to poke fun at your name.  It cracks me up."
"Why?" he said.  He was kind of smiling; I could tell by the shape of his cheeks even though he had his back toward me.
"Cuz you're THE ROCK."
"Oh yes.  I was pretty shocked when He told me that."
"Haha, you're Rocky Bar-Jonah.  Simon 'The Rock' Johnson."
"Yeah, you know, cuz you're Simon, son of Jonah.  Jonah, John; same thing.  Simon Johnson."
"Simon 'The Rock' Johnson.  Stone Cold Simon."
"Please stop."
"Oh Je--oh geez.  Loosen up, man.  You're used to sitting here waiting for fish.  I'm not.  Maybe you could try entertaining me or something.  I know: get up and show me how to walk on water."
"I'd rather not."
"You're scared you'll sink again.  Admit it."
"I can swim, you know."
"Fine, you doubt you can do it.  Oooo, how about that one, o ye of little faith?"
"Rand, you speak as if you knew what it was like to be there, to hear the crash of deadly waves on your breaking vessel, to struggle to see land through thick fog, to wonder what apparition was appearing in the distance with the visage of a ghost of a man.  You talk like you have never known the fear of death, or embraced the chill in your veins that comes when all the world is not as you think it is."
"Okay, fine.  Sorry.  I just find it interesting that you're full of so many ups and downs.  You walk on water, you sink in the sea.  You're the leader of the pack, you're the black sheep of the flock.  At some point you're swearing you'd never deny your Lord and then later on you're denying your Lord with swearing.  You won't let him wash your feet, then you're asking him to give you a bath.  You get keys to the kingdom for making the greatest confession in history, then you get called 'Satan' for making the stupidest rebuke of all time.  You're like a big old riddle.  You shouldn't be Simon Peter.  You should be Simon Puzzle.  People gotta figure you out."

Simon just looked a little confused, and rubbed his nose.  "I don't really know how to react to that.  Is that more of your sarcasm?"
"No, I actually meant all of it."
"I see.  Obviously, I'm having just as much troubling figuring you out as you are with me."
I sigh a frustrated sigh.  If I could redo this whole conversation I would.  I think I'd start it by not saying anything at all.  That would have prevented all of this.  Of course, instead of keeping my mouth shut to make sure I don't dig myself into a bigger hole, I blab my mouth off again to fill in the uncomfortable silence.  "So seriously, why do they call you Rock?"
"Because He called me Rock."
"Okay, and why did He call you Rock?"
"I think it was to teach me to be stable."
"What do you mean?"
"It's like you said.  I did great things, and I did terrible things.  I was sometimes wise, sometimes foolish.  I was good and I was bad.  But I remember when He looked intently at me--I only saw that look twice in my life--I remember when He looked intently at me, He said, 'You are Simon, son of John.  You will be called Rock.'  That scared me from head to toe.  It was in that statement that I knew I had to be solid, I had to be firm, I had to be stable.  I have to be a Rock."
"Ah, so that was on your mind whenever you two talked?"
"Every time.  I was very aware of every failure, every mistake that I made.  I was so sure that each one would be my last, and yet there were always more.  It took years for me to really start understanding who I was and what I had to be."
I found myself staring into space, slightly nodding my head up and down.  I was kinda lost in thought.  Then I said, "Pete, you said he looked intently at you."
"Oh yes.  I'll never forget it."
"Right, you said that you only saw that look twice in your life."
"Yes, there was a depth to that expression that I cannot let go of."
"The first time was when he renamed you.  When was the second time?"
There was a long pause.  Simon sort of leaned back, almost as if he was considering whether or not to conjure up the memory.  Something was obviously troubling him.  I got no answer.
So I said, "You know what, never mind.  If you don't wanna talk about it, you don't have--"
"The house of the High Priest," he said.
"Huh?"  I didn't get it.
"The second time he looked at me like that was at the house of the High Priest; hours past the time he was arrested; miles past the point where my brother and the others deserted him; and seconds after I denied ever knowing him for the third time."
I heard a quiver in his voice--that little tremble that happens when you're trying not to cry and swearing to yourself for your dignity's sake that you'd rather shed blood than tears.  I tried to comfort him, "Hey, it's okay, man.  Don't be too hard on yourself."
"What makes you think it was okay?"
"No, not like that.  I mean, just like, chill."
"Those eyes; they saw everything.  He knew the day He called me that I had to be firm, I had to be solid, I had to be stable.  And without saying anything to me, when I denied Him, when I swore that I had nothing to do with that man, his eyes told me everything.  I was confronted with my calling, my purpose, my destiny, and I disowned it all, and He knew it."
Simon's mouth was speaking, but his mind was far deep in memory.  He was back in that moment all over again, and I felt like I was eavesdropping and intruding.
"Well," I said, "you're stable and solid today.  I mean, you're one of the founding fathers of the Church.  You should be proud."
"If it was ever based on me, I would have doomed us all."
"Well then how did you get to be where you're at?"
"It was He.  All of it was because of Him.  I abandoned Him.  He knew I'd do it, He told me I'd do it, He watched me do it.  And yet He never abandoned me, despite my weakness and my failings and my mistakes.  He never abandoned me.  He was the one who was firm.  He was the one who was stable.  He was the one who was solid.  And from the first day to the end, He was calling me to be like Him."
"I guess He knew it takes a long time for us to learn that stuff."
"It takes a lifetime."
"He must be very patient."
"Oh yes.  Patient like a rock."
(the above conversation was based on the Greek word emblepo, translated "looked" (looking intently, in the NLT) in John 1:42 and Luke 22:61.


M.C. Escher dream

So I woke from a dream when I began the day.  It was confusing.
I was having a conversation with M.C. Escher, an artist who has always interested me with his work.  So I asked him, "How do you come up with the stuff you do?"
He answered me with 4 statements:
     I like to make patterns.
     But they're very repetitive.
     So I make small changes.
     But the changes are very repetitive.
I asked "Why?"  He answered,
     I like to make patterns.
So in my dream I recall thinking this one thing: "This dude speaks crazy talk, and it comes from his crazy mind, and it goes around all over the place and ends up back where it started.  OH, THAT'S HOW HE COMES UP WITH THE STUFF HE DOES."