A Beautiful Waste of Time

sistine chapel

I have recently discovered a link which lead me to the most perfect way to waste hours on the net. The link allows you to exlplore the digital corners of the Sistine chapel, inch by inch, and itseems to be exactly what the internet was created for.

For me, the link reintroduced me to a work of art whose story is equally as captivating as the color and images.   Consider with me the history of this painting;

When it came time to refresh the night sky that was originally painted on the Pope’s Chapel, the Pope turned to Michelangelo.   At first he wanted nothing to do with it.   He was a sculptor and was working on crafting this magnificent tomb for the pope.   He tried to convince the pope to go with his competition; a young painter named Raphael.

Eventually, the pope issued a pontifical edict, and Michelangelo had no other choice but realize that was the guy.   Not much wiggle room when it comes to pontifical edicts.

For five years in the early 1500s, the artist Michelangelo laid on his back and painted scenes depicting the fall and the flood on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.  They say the process was so strenuous he was left almost blind, and with permanently deformed spine.

The marvel of this undertaking was that the first time he saw the painting from the floor, was after it was done and the scaffolding was removed. That reality beautifully testifies to his artistic prowess. Experts argue that no one has ever had such a grasp of perspective in paint and art, since him.

It was instantly a treasure of the catholic church. Yett the magnificent art started to fade almost immediately as the scaffolds were down. Within a century of completing his greatest work, no one remembered what his original frescoes had actually looked like. An official artist in residence was quoted saying in 1936, “We see the colors of the Sistine ceiling as if through smoked glass.”

In 1981, a scaffold was erected to clean the frescoesl. With a special solution, two Art Historians and Preservationists began to gently wash one small corner of the painting. When finished, they then invited art experts to examine the work. The results were stunning. No one had imagined that beneath centuries of grime lay such vibrant colors.

Their success prompted the restoration of the entire ceiling. The task was completed in 1990. It took almost twice as much time to clean the ceiling as the artist utilized to paint it. But the result was breathtaking.

In the end, a Michelangelo was revealed that was unknown by art critics.

That artist was the master of form, and perspective, and his works always resembled more sculpture more than painting. Yet, this “new” Michelangelo was discovered to be one of the most profound masters of color—azure, green, rose, and lavender – to ever hold a paint brush.

And for the first time in nearly five hundred years, people viewed this masterpiece the way it was intended, in all of its color and beauty.

Why do I tell you this story?

To stress the importance of what we are called to do as a church for a new generation.

For too long, we have been citizens of a greater church that lost its way.   We have allowed demands for right thinking or right acting to drown out the true message of this place. We have allowed the loudest voices to own the biggest pulpits.   We have created a church that appears more like that of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Because of that reality, most of the souls outside of faith see faith, and see Jesus as if through smoked Glass. Embracing the commitment to be a new voice is akin to washing the grime off the masterpiece. We dull those voices, so that one by one, others can catch a glimpse of the masterpiece – or the blessings beneath.

In case you want to waste your time too: http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/index.html

Today, I Will Remember.


Today we remember D-Day.

I, like most of you, have listened to the speeches online, and have seen the pictures. As a history buff, I find myself drawn to the countless documentaries, movies, and reports that have come front and center as we move towards the anniversary. I get lost in them. I marvel, with respect, at the courage, the bravery, and the sacrifice men, half my age, made so long ago.   I think about those boys, and realize that many are no longer with us, and all have moved well beyond the point where anyone would call label them as such.

Today, as I reflect on this moment and the images that bounce around my television and my computer, my memory keeps turning to one veteran of WWII in particular;

Milton W. Halainen.

As a boy, he was just Uncle Milt, and he held an incredible place in my life, and the life of my family.   As a little boy, I remember his visits, and how me and my sisters would always be excited when he and his wife arrived at our home, or we his. When I was a boy, he was a bigger than life man.   I loved every part of the man he was.   I loved how he made us laugh.   I loved how he made our home when he was there.   I loved how he just seemed bigger than life. Uncle Milt passed on when I was in college, and I think about those memories, and I realize that even today, they mean so much to me.

As a boy, it was my Dad, my Uncle Eddie, and Uncle Milt who defined for me, what being a man was supposed to be. I am sure there is a bit of mythology packed into my recollection of each. Yet, as a boy, I wanted to be some combination of these three men.

I remember him today, for when he was a barely a man, he served in the 769th Ordinance of the 69th Infantry Division during WWII. I remember being younger than my youngest and sitting with him, as he showed me pictures from a scrapbook.  I saw, in black and white, snapshots of what was for him certainly life changing.   I recall seeing him on skis, at a concentration camp, and in boot camp. I saw pictures of what was left of Germany and his time there.  Although, I have no recollection whether he was there for Normandy, I know that he was there for the nightmare that followed.

Today, I both treasure and regret that moment I spent by his side.   I treasure the time spent with a man I truly loved and respected, but I also regret not having the knowledge to ask him the right questions.  Thinking back today, I have a great many.

I would love those answers today.   I would have loved to have talked with him about courage, fear, and bravery.   I would have loved to ask his advice. I would have loved to talk with him as a man, not a boy. I would have loved to share a scotch with him.

I was young. I didn’t understand the scope of what those pictures revealed or the pain that must have been behind those stories.   I missed that doorway he opened for me. Today, that missed opportunity ranks up there as one of my life’s regrets.

From time to time I find pictures and I remember Uncle Milt and how special he was for all of us.   Today, I remember.   Today I remember all the men like him who undertook a journey that I cannot even imagine, and who returned to be bigger than life to countless little boys like me.   Today I remember that moment 70 years ago, and think how it must have changed – perhaps even determined – the man I wanted (and want) to be.   Today, I think of the man who will be one third of how I always measure myself.

Today I remember the many men like him, some still here, many more gone.  As I remember Normandy, I will remember the men behind the stories.   Today, I will remember heroes, and thank them for being larger than life.



This past week, I had the opportunity to have a discussion with someone who had some challenges with some implications of a message I recently posted online.

It was a discussion about sin and the cross, and for that individual, my understanding of both, according to him, had strayed a wee bit too far. Although differing views on even the atonement is okay, he took the opportunity to try to convict me of the errors of my ways.

He tried to change my mind and my belief in as loving and respectful a way possible.   Or maybe I should say, as loving as possible when you believed the other person to be dead wrong and destroying your faith.

Anyways, let me try to summarize his position.

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