The Artist and the Baby

baby & adult handsA young couple brought their new baby, a boy, home from the hospital. He was their second child; the other was a 4-year-old girl. After the new baby had been home for a couple of weeks, the 4-year-old told her parents that she wanted to see the baby alone.

“Okay,” said the mother, “I’ll take you to see him.”

“No,” said the little girl. “I want to see him alone.”

The parents looked at one another. They had been warned of this. The older child gets jealous of the attention being paid to the baby and finds a way to strike back.

“I’ll take you in to see him,” said the father.

“Nooo. I want to see him alone!”

“Well, maybe later,” the mother said.

The next day, the mother started to take her daughter to see the baby, but the child pulled back, refusing, saying she would only see the baby alone. This went on for two weeks. Finally one evening, the parents made the momentous decision. They did not tell their daughter, but they would listen closely on the intercom while she was in the room with the baby, and they would be ready to act immediately if necessary.

“Promise you won’t come in,” the daughter said.

“We promise,” said the parents.

The little girl stepped cautiously into the baby’s room, looking back at her parents, who watched attentively from the hall. They quietly shut the door and quickly retreated to their bedroom, where they fixed their ears on the intercom. They heard nothing for a few seconds. Then there was the soft noise of their daughter making her way toward the baby in the crib. Then silence. There was a small chair in the baby’s room, and the parents heard what they took to be the sound of their daughter moving the chair to the side of the crib. And then silence.

The parents didn’t see their daughter sit down in that chair next to the crib. But they did hear her say to the baby, “Tell me about God. I’m forgetting.”

The artist is like the baby.

(I heard Sean Penn tell this story to Charlie Rose on the “The Charlie Rose Show,” PBS-TV.)

Image permission via Creative Commons.

Swords into Plowshares

A couple years ago I ran across a stunning work of art about peace that hit me powerfully. It was inspired from Isaiah chapter 2, verse 4, and I offer it here as a visual aid to invite you into a meditation about the incarnation and ministry of Jesus Christ as Prince of Peace. The source and date of the art may also surprise and please. Here’s it is.

©2015 by Charles Strohmer

A personal note from Charles Strohmer: If you want more of the perspectives that seeks to present, I want to invite you to follow the blog. Simply click here, find the “Follow” button in the right margin, enter your email address just above that button, and then click “Follow.” You will then receive a very short email notice whenever I publish a new article. And, hey, if you really like it, tell some friends! Thank you.


thinking sculptureOkay. So I’m arguing that we should learn to use the Bible to gain wisdom for our “secular” lives. I admit that for many people such a claim can put stress on the system, and I get why others will feel a bit groggy and unclear about it. Others will, quite naturally, want to “search the Scriptures” to see whether it’s true.

Does the Bible address aspects of life that are not noticeably religious or moral? In other words, to use some common language of today, does the Bible concern itself with secular matters? Does it deal with socio-economic and geopolitical questions? What about issues surrounding art, law, business, science, linguistics, ecology, and communications? Or how about justice, racism, abortion, and marriage? In other words, does the Bible have any secular literature? The strange thing is, once you start looking for it, there is so much, and it is so obvious, it is a wonder we ever missed these present-day secular interests.

Take the Book of Deuteronomy, for instance. If our Lord could be said to have had a favorite biblical book it would be Deuteronomy. If put on the spot and asked to say what was in this book, many of us would typically know this as a book where one finds the Ten Commandments and the famous declaration of faith made by Jews everywhere in worship, the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (6:4).

We might also recall Deuteronomy as one of the great basic texts for the teaching of the prophets, and that chapters 10-11 carry a higher concentration of language specifically about love between God and people than possibly anywhere else in the Old Testament. And there is also some overt religious instruction,such as about sacrifices, festivals, and the priesthood. But then our knowledge of the book probably tails off.

And yet Deuteronomy includes provisions about everyday life – ranging from nesting birds to digging toilets. The text also addresses issues of war, finance, politics, eating habits, jurisprudence, and public health and safety, not to mention the treatment of criminals, children, wives, slaves, and the poor. We may have ignored such passages because they are not concerned with the overt religious, moral, or devotional areas of our lives.

But there is another reason, which I want us to spend some time with. We may have ignored such passages because the topics they address can seem non-germane to the complexities of our Western world. So what can we possibly learn from issues and interests that were the “secular” concerns of people who lived 3,000 years ago? Good question.

Our complex and specialized societies think and talk in terms of technical language, and we’re used to that: socio-economic indicators, climate change, socialized medicine, geopolitical structures, fiscal control of inflation, free market economy, multilateral diplomacy, common core state standards, particle physics, the Web, smart phones, iPads – you name it. I once heard someone describe the person who came to get rid of the mice and termites as a “certified pest control technician.” And I once had a job as a “petroleum transfer engineer” – I worked at a gas station! Well, you get the picture. Everything seems to be getting more complex.

nesting birdsWe have grown so accustomed to our culture’s highly technical language that we cannot see how it could possibly relate to the many secular matters dealt with in Deuteronomy. But we should not let today’s technical jargon confuse us. It is frequently about the same basic elements of everyday life as are dealt with in Deuteronomy. The Jubilee, for instance, was an institution whose significance was chiefly socio-economic. The laws against cutting down fruit trees in war (20:19), or taking a mother bird (22:6), or mixing seeds (22:9), as well as a reason given for the delay in conquering Palestine (7:22), are plainly ecological in nature. The laws about body fluids, quarantines, and sanitation (23:1–14) address practical health care concerns.

This brings us to what we could call the ABCs of Scripture, its basic ingredients. We can learn wisdom by understanding ways in which the ABCs of Scripture relate to our “secular” lives today. I want us to look at that in the next post.

©2014 by Charles Strohmer

The above article was adapted from Uncommon Sense: God’s Wisdom for Our Complex and Changing World, by John Peck and Charles Strohmer (SPCK, 2001).

Images by Davide Restivo & Victor Berzkov respectiviely (permissions via Creative Commons)