please handle with care

[this blog post is best paired with tom petty and the heartbreakers’ “handle with care”]

enjoy the search for

preferences of others

love specifically


a four year old’s prayer for syria—

[this blog post is best paired with josh garrels’ “a light came down”]

we had visited the venue for our gallery in the middle east a few times while we were traveling in september. we spent a lot our our time sharing the story of the good samaritan, and asking people to paint their neighbor. i was painting with a five year old girl, and it was her first time to hold a paintbrush. she was very timid and hardly touched her canvas at all.

i saw that girl at the gallery this week and she couldn’t get enough of the paints. she was smiling and laughing, showing her picture to anyone and everyone.

she says that these are her favorite colors, and this is her name in black. her name is in black because syria is a dark place, but she wants it to be a colorful place again.

three cups of prayer.

[this blog post is best paired with the paper kites’ “paint”]

after people walk through the gallery and talk about the art, they are invited to paint with us. the prompt for the canvas swatches is to paint a prayer or blessing for your neighbor.

i was standing in the painting room on our first night in the middle east, watching children go crazy for these paints. everyone was given one canvas square to paint. once these kids were done they moved on to plates, cups, and styrofoam bowls. any service that would have been deemed trash was repurposed with paint.

watching these children inspired me to paint a blessing for them—my neighbors.

i prayed that they would not lose their excitement. that they would create without feeling self conscious. that they would ask questions without embarrassment. that they would continue reach out to strangers without timidity. and that they would continue to seek the truth tirelessly.

while i was praying and painting, i looked up at the girl next to me and noticed that she had on her canvas three blue ovals on a grey background. i looked down at my canvas to see a grey background with three blue overlapping rectangles.

this girl did not know it, but she was painting in agreement with my prayer.

love responsibly

[this blog post is best paired with lucius’ “neighbors”]

for the past month or so i’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to love responsibly—to love someone as they would prefer, not what is easiest for me, and to make sure that my actions are proof of my affections.

during our first show in the middle east, i was escorting a small group through our gallery. one man was there with his wife and child, but did not see very interested in the art. for the first half of the show he stood behind his wife listening politely to our translator. but some of the later works began to interest him and soon he was closest to me and the most engaged.

as i was finishing the tour at toby’s piece, i said that the artist wanted us to consider neighbors we have overlooked—isn’t this man also your neighbor? while i was explaining how the bolt cutters draw the viewer’s attention to the man sleeping on the ground, but also seem to create a distance between him and the audience, and finally indicate how difficult it will be to remove the space between us, he nodded in agreement that it’s something worth doing.

through the translator, he told me, “yes, i will—my hands will talk about my love.”

we talked a little longer about loving people with our actions, in big ways and small ways.

we agreed that it is not enough to say you love someone if you hands won’t reflect the sentiment.

arm yourselves—a follow up

[this blog post is best paired with needtobreathe’s “brother”]

a poem of thoughts on 1 peter 4:1-11:

when i think about

my lineage and those who’ve

been given to me,

i see a system that is

more complex than those i chose.

there are strands braided

together with ease and knots

intricately tied,

webs intertwining

leaving ends floating.

“you can’t be friends with

everyone”—it is true that

not every person

will be easy to love—but

i was not easy to love

when jesus knew me,

and called me his beloved

—loving earnestly.

i wonder how i

should be allowing myself

to be affected.

what gifts am i lacking that

others are generous with?

will i ignore the

invitation to grow from

saints around me?

lines like “arm yourself”

and “iron sharpens iron”

show the weight of one’s


in a complex lineage.

it’s with diligent

love that our separate threads

are woven and clumped.

ferventness covers knots and

clumps, turning them to warm nests.

so no—not every

person is easy to love.

i’m learning to choose

better things. it’s not enough

to eliminate bad things

and expect to look

like jesus. even the good

in me will have to

be replaced for a better

good—i’m learning to do that.

choose to be better.

i choose to be stretched and grown

—i am durable.

arm yourselves

[this blog post is best paired with needtobreathe’s “brother”]

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:1-11