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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

On Picasso And Priorities

May 1st, 2002

Immediately after graduating from college in 1985 I lived with four of my friends on Central Ave in Orange City, IA. Occupying a corner lot, the gray two-story affectionately known as “The House” was over the years a home to some, temporary quarters for others and even a half-way house for one foreign national on a student Visa.

It was a typical guy place with Sports Illustrated’s on the coffee table, basketballs, footballs, and baseball gloves laying about the porch, and cable TV for watching Cubs games on WGN. The decor was eclectic in a “my parents remodeled and said I could have their old couch” theme. The interior color scheme had a predominant green tone, shades of which were often matched with orange shag carpet popular in the 1970’s.

In the living room on the wall above one of the green couches hung a framed print of Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist”. We liked it. It was this bachelor pad’s token piece of sophistication. The dude looked a bit uncomfortable, all twisted around his six-string like a grapevine on a trellis. But you won’t find many of Picasso’s subjects striking a button-down Sears catalog pose.

Years later, January of 1991 to be exact, I spent a day at the Chicago Art Institute. Surrounded by the works of the Old Masters, I walked through the museum in awe. Monet’s over here, Rembrandt’s along the wall, Van Gogh’s across the way. Around every corner priceless canvas squares enjoyed soft spotlights, illuminating the genius combinations of pigments and brush strokes.

Nodding a polite greeting to the security guard in the doorway, I looked up at the wall behind him and there it was; Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist”. Feeling almost reverent to be in the presence of the original masterpiece, I stood in front of it, absorbing every detail. The subdued blue colors. The old man with his eyes closed, his long fingers curled over the frets. His ragged shirt. Then it occurred to me. Something was askew. “Hey, wait a second. This painting…they have it hanging the wrong way.”

After spending a brief, yet significant moment alone with my profound ignorance of classic art, I realized that my friend at The House had, as a joke, hung his print horizontally instead of vertically. It just took me six years to get the punch line.

In the midst of our busy and frantic schedules, I wonder how often we stop to check the frame of our life to see if it’s hanging straight? I dare say that many of us have become so accustomed to looking at the picture of horizontal frenzy painted in our DayTimer’s that we’re unaware when our priorities cease being vertical. It took me six years to realize that Picasso’s Old Guitarist played his music sitting up instead of laying down. For six years his position looked right to me, even though it was 90 degrees off.

What does it mean to be vertical in our priorities? Being vertical means learning what God’s priorities are for us and and making those priorities our own. What happens when you adjust the sides of a picture frame? The the other two sides of the frame adjust along with it. In the process of adjusting the sides, you also level out the top and bottom. As our vertical priorities adjust, the horizontal priorities naturally follow.

Being vertical in our priorities doesn’t mean ignoring everything horizontal. Certainly there are daily duties in our routine of living we must all perform. Many of them are boring and mundane. It’s hard to make dish washing, lawn mowing or diaper changing motivational experiences, though the latter does offer it’s share of surprises. When our priorities are vertical, we begin to understand there is no such thing as an insignificant task. Because in some form or fashion, every mundane task is an opportunity to serve another person. In serving others, we serve God. In that light, when our heart is set to serve, everything we do is significant.

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” – Colossians 3:17