Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Painting - A story

Once upon a time there was a Master Painter.  His artwork was beautiful, profound, every word an original, valuable and a masterpiece. His sense of color and detail was perfect, every work of art was special.

One day a family moved into a new home, one where the Master Painter had once lived and created his masterpieces.  Cleaning out the attic, the former art room, the new owner discovered a painting hidden back in a corner underneath a tarp.

The man lifted the painting out of the corner and set it out in the open against a wall.

"What do you have there?" asked his wife.

"It appears to be a painting of some sort," the man answered.

Now the man and his wife did not know that the home had been owned by the Master Painter so they were not aware of the great value that the painting held.  They noted it's beauty, and appreciated the colors and textures, but they just did not understand its value because they simply did not know much about paintings and masterpieces.

Busy in settling about their new home the new owners went back down into the main part of the house and simply forgot about the painting in the attic and just left it there in the attic, uncovered and collecting dust.

Over the next months they did much remodeling of their new home and dust and filth filled the air in their quaint little home. By the time they returned to the attic, the painting was covered in thick grim, the picture now obscured, the colors muted, the lighting had faded, and the masterpiece seemed like nothing special at all.

"What shall we do with this?" the husband asked his wife.

"I can't imagine anyone would want it. If you tried to clean it you would only likely damage it," she answered.  "We should probably just toss it away."

So the next time the trash man was to come the husband carried the masterpiece out to the curb and left it there for pick up.  When the trash man came along he saw it leaning there against the cans and thought he saw something in it that pleased him.  It was not particularly striking, it was covered in grime and filth after all, but he thought it at least deserved better than the dump where all the trash along the street was headed for.  So he picked up the painting and say it back in the back of his cab, and quickly forgot it was there.

It was for many months that the painting sat behind his seat in the cab of his trash truck.  It collected more filth and began to soak the scents of the trash he carried.

One day on his lunch break the trash man stopped by his home to have lunch with his wife and children.  As he was leaving to go back to work his wife and children walked him out to his truck.  His daughter climbed up into the cab to kiss him goodbye and as she grabbed hold of the headrest of his seat her hand brushed across the painting behind his seat.  With her little hands she tried to pull it up, tearing at the corners.

"What's this Daddy?" she asked.

"Oh my," her father laughed. "I completely forgot about that." And he pulled the picture up out from behind the seat.

"It's so dirty, Daddy," she cried. "And it doesn't smell good at all," she told him, wrinkling her little nose.

Her father nodded sadly, the time in the trash truck had done it's damage.  "Do you want it?" he asked.

"No, no," cried his wife from outside the cab. "You take it where it belongs and finally deliver it to that dump!" she told him.

"Don't you see a little beauty in it?" he asked his wife. "Come on, Mama, surely you can fix it up!" he told her handing it down out of his cab.

So Mama took the painting and carried it up into the garage and set it aside to be dealt with later.

Later came quite a long time after that day.  By the time mama had come back to consider the painting there was a little oil spill on it, and some water damage from when the washing machine had overflowed.  She took a damp rag and wiped at it, but it only seemed to make matters worse.

Then mama remembered the charity people were coming that day to pick up donations.  Rather than fuss with the painting Mama took it out by the curb and set it down between the backs of toys and clothes she was giving away. "Let them deal with it," she thought. "Clean it or toss it, someone else can decide."

So the painting sat all day in the hot sun until the man from the charity came with his truck and took it away.

"One man's trash is another man's treasure," was this charity's motto, so nothing was ever thrown away.  Everything went to one of their consignment shops, because even if something only earned a dollar, it could benefit those in need.  So when the painting arrived at the shop one of the workers there did the best he could to make it look better, a little damp cloth and a little dry wiping, he did what he could to make the painting presentable and put a sticker price of $3.00 on it and stuck it on the floor against a wall near the back of the store where it sat for a very long time collecting again more dust and grime.

One day the Master Painter was on holiday in his old hometown. Now the Master Painter's wife had a fondness for treasure hunting.  She too believed that one man's trash was another man's treasure and she liked to frequent little shops that sold secondhand things. And because the Master Painter loved to spend time with his wife doing things that made her happy, he was always willing to follow along on her adventures.

On this particular day Mr. and Mrs. Master Painter came upon the shop where the painting had landed after Mama had decided the work was too hard after her husband the trash man had left the painting in his truck to long after he found the painting outside by the trash cans where the new homeowners had placed it after finding it in the attic that had once been the art room of the Master Painter himself.

Now the wife looked through every little knickknack and thing and every little shelf in the store, so the Master Painter wandered about while he waited for his love. While he walked toward the back his foot caught on the painting and it fell flat on its face before him.  The Master Painter bent low and picked up the painting and lifted it before his own eyes.

He ran his hand down across the face of the painting tenderly. And his heart ached to see what had somehow become of his masterpiece. Despite the dust and grime, and the tattered edges, he immediately recognized it for what it was, his own.  He fingered the $3.00 price tag and just shook his head.  Here he held a treasure, and it had been completely misunderstood.

Suddenly the Master Painter felt a hand upon his shoulder. "It's yours," his wife said from behind him.

"Yes, it is," he told her.  "How did you know?"

She pointed in the corner and said, "I can see your signature there.  What a shame," she told him. "All the hands this must have passed through, and not one of them knew they beheld a treasure."

That day the Master Painter and his wife paid the $3.00 to buy back the painting, and the Master Painter took it back to his art room.  It took time, patience and effort, but the Master Painter slowly and faithfully restored the masterpiece. He cleaned away the grime, wiped away the soot.  He mended the tattered edges. With his turpentine he wiped away what was damaged, and with his paint brush he brought back color and light.  With one last stroke the Master Painter stepped back to admire the work of restoration he had done.

"It's beautiful. Perfect," his wife said, walking up behind him.

"Not yet," said the Master Painter. "One more thing is required." And then he placed his signature on the painting, darker and clearer than before, so that no one would ever again mistake this treasure for trash.

by Diana DePriest
©August 29, 2013

I think this is a perfect parable for what happens to too many today.  Created as masterpieces, people become redefined by the "elements" of life - neglect, filth, insignificance, assault or sorts from the world.  And before we know it, our value is redefined by a "$3.00 price tag" placed on us by someone who just doesn't understand where we came from, for what or by Whom we were created.

And the "damage" of life can only be undone by returning to the One who created us.  He alone can rebuild, re-beautify and restore.  Until we and others see ourselves the way He sees us, our value is missed, mistaken and seemingly lost. But when we sit and allow the Creator to do what He wills to bring redemption and restoration in our lives, His signature on us becomes so much clearer, so much easier to see.

I feel sorry for the Miley Cyrus' of the Lord who are desperately trying to find their value in the "pricing" of those who have no idea what they are truly worth.  We are masterpieces because of Who created us, that alone brings immeasurable value to our lives.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Anger comes at a cost

I remember when I was little having to ask my mom about words my dad used.  I remember one time that he called her a word that made her so mad I thought her head might explode. I remember one time when he threw a lamp and it shattered when it hit the wall. And I remember the time when I was about 18 that he threw the remote directly at me.

I grew up with a dad who had a temper. And although I didn't ever see my mother throw anything, she had a temper too.  I cannot count the times the two of them would stand toe to toe. Hostility and anger can fill a room, and a family.

For the most part, I'm not raising my children in a home like that. I thank God for that. Neal and I almost never fight, but we have had a few blowouts in the twenty-two years we've been married.  Neal broke his hand once, and totaled a set of keys another time (the $125 clicker was busted) but for the most part, we don't have conflict, and what we do have is typically peaceable.  But not always.

I remember one time I was so frustrated I chucked a bottle of baby Motrin across the kitchen. The pink stains on the ceiling stayed there mocking me for another decade until we remodeled the house. No babies were involved in that incident to be clear, and neither was my husband. But the baby medicine ended up on the ceiling just the same.

Anger is an ugly emotion. And sometimes it's outburst just sneaks up on you. And you end up with a broken lamp, or a busted hand, or a shattered phone.

Saturday last was my shattered phone day.  I didn't actually mean to throw my phone. I had something else in my hand I was trying to chuck down to the floor in a dramatic outburst.  But the phone was in my hand, and it didn't stay in it case when the force of my hand went forward.  Then there was that moment where time seemed to slow to almost stillness and all I heard was the thud as my phone slammed to the floor.  I looked down and it was not on the floor, it was all over the floor. I picked up the battery, then the back, then I walked over and picked up the face and turned it over slowly in my hand.  I immediately thought of the cell phone commercial with the guy with all the band-aids, but I didn't find it funny anymore.

I was heartbroken. Not because of my phone (though I wasn't at all happy about that) but because I had made an ass of myself and completely lost my cool over something relatively benign and stupid, and I did it in front of my kids. I went looking for Neal who was napping in the bedroom (who, by the way, if he had been awake would have probably prevented my temper tantrum by his sheer presence. I just act better when he's around.) That gives me pause to thought - as much as I say "I lost my temper," the fact is, I had a choice.

I think that's why the bible tells us "Be angry, but do not sin."  Because the reality is, the emotion of anger rises up sometimes, and it's not easy to stop. But it's what we DO with our anger that becomes the problem.  My problem that day wasn't even "the straw that broke the camel's phone's back. My problem was all that led up to that moment.  And I just snapped.

I took the picture of my shattered phone because I don't want to forget that anger comes at a cost.  In the simple manner this phone cost me $150 to replace (thankful for insurance) but I don't know what it cost me in my witness to my kids.  And I can only hope that it doesn't pass along to them (suddenly thinking about Ethan throwing a bag of chips violently into the backseat of my car at his friend who smacked him playing around.) It's a root that has planted. It cannot be allowed to grow.

I am a yeller at times, but a thrower is not my norm.  Pressures I've been battling for a while, some for months, some for years festered beneath the surface, and Saturday it's like the pressure blew the top off, but still I had a choice.  That day, and that moment have replayed in my mind a thousand times in the last few days.  I see myself chucking the phone and I want to hit the pause button.  I cringe, because I cannot go back. But I can think about what I might do differently in the future.  Walk away for starters, take a walk... a long walk.  Pray. Ask for prayer.  There are a thousand better choices to make. Next time I hope I'll make one.

My new phone is defective. It randomly reboots 15 some times a day.  And every time I want to kick myself because of what I did.  i hang my head in shame because I feel like a failure. But my sin does not define me - and like the enemy, my phone seems to accuse me.

When I posted the above pic on my Facebook wall and confessed my sin, a dear friend simply commented, "I still love you."  I think she was uttering the very heart of God, because He still loves me too.  And I am thankful for life lessons, but even more thankful for His mercies that are new every day.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


My thoughts they comprise.

The staccato
Of the
Enemy's lies.

It pounds in my brain.

No peace
No quiet
I long
For refrain

As offended
I'm offended
And again

Taking on
That offense
Is becoming
My sin.

I long to
Lash out
In frustration
And pain.

It pounds
And it grows
For my own thoughts

I long for the melody
Of Your priceless grace
To soften and slow
My rhythm and pace.

The song of Your heart
Is what I long to hear
Silence the cacophony
And just draw me near.

The battle is long
I can't run from myself
I need to hear Your song
I'm asking for Your help.

Silence this staccato assault
Of the enemy's lies toward me
Help me to rest in the freedom again
For which Christ set me free.

Can't care what "they" think
Or dwell on what's said
Just need peace in my heart
Your voice in my head.

My hope is in You
A fool for You I will be
Not defined by my "use"
Your love defines me.

Turn up the volume
Of Your song so true
My life has a purpose
Because I matter to You.

Louder I pray
Will You sing words of life
Calming my spirit
Subsiding my strife.

As the beating subsides
My spirit grows stronger
Help me now listen to You
And the enemy no longer.

Sing Father, sing
Your voice is so sweet
Into Your presence
I long to retreat.

Sing so that Your voice
Is all that I hear
Sing Father, sing
And just draw me near.

Peace You sing
And in harmony is love
The sweetest of songs
Comes down from above.

© Diana DePriest
August 25, 2013

The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17