"A child looked at the sea.
' I want to be like you,' the child said.
' You can't do much more than play with the stones on
the shore,' the sea said.
' I am so little,' the child said sadly.
'Happiness is the art of being little,' the sea replied."

This is one of the parables in this soul-stirring volume by Juris Rubenis, the pastor of Martin Luther Church in Riga, Latvia, who achieved prominence in 1986 when he took a leading role in Helenski-86, the first above-ground human rights organization in Soviet Latvia. This collection has sold hundreds of thousands of copies in the country. The witty quips and tales by Rubenis are accompanied by the clever drawings of Maris Subacs, a Roman Catholic artist.

This work has been translated by Paul Valliere who notes that these two Christians are immensely interested in the manifold ways in which God's grace works through little people, places, and happenings. They also love the mystery, paradox, and exhilarating freedom of Jesus. There are chapters on Eden, the Bible, Jesus. Thinking, God and the World, Religion, Ethics and Politics, Culture, Spiritual Life, Love, The Mystery of Good and Evil, and The World to Come. Here is a small sampler of the material:

• "Adam said to God, 'There is some sort of mystery here in Eden.'
'I made it like this so that you can think about Eden
forever,' God said with a smile."

• "The idea that a human being is God amounts to the issue of whether an image of God can be found in the world. It is not about a miracle-child."

• "Everything is beautiful when you find traces of God in it."

• "God creates diversity so that everyone has something to talk about with everyone else."

• "One day the sun was shining, the snow was melting,
and a breath of spring was in the air. God decided
to take a walk. He came down from heaven and in
a relaxed mood made a loop through a suburban neighborhood.
'Why are you doing this?' the angels asked.
'I just like it around here,' God replied."

• "In Eden an angel said, 'Ridicule is the opposite of love.'
'What do you mean by that?' the others asked.
'Love loves what ridicule makes fun of,' the angel

• "There was a wise monk who liked sweets.
'You are not worthy of God,' said the abbot.
'I am God's sweet,' the monk replied with a smile."

• "When you let God steer your life, you become freer than
when you steer it by yourself. The control of the living
God does not in any way limit a person. When you let
God live through you, you do not know how much of your activity comes from yourself and how much
comes from God: you only know that there is something
of God there. You are not interested in knowing how
much, for you do not pretend to be God."