on another note…

We, at the little church at the edge of the city, are using themes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s new book, An Altar in the World—A Geography of Faith, this Lenten season. It has been a bit of a challenge to come up with visual art that communicates the breadth of content in this work in a simple, non-literal manner. The bulletin covers,  altar arrangements and lectern will be our main focal points, since the full sanctuary installation will be done by our host-church congregation. Ours would appear to be a fairly self-contained project, but not so, since we will not be relying on traditional purple, but instead, variations of warm sepia.

Once I had all the art finished for the bulletin covers, I turned my attention to the lectern, which will be consistently visible throughout the whole Lenten season. For the last two days the lectern has been running through my consciousness, like a steady hum from some outside electrical source one wishes to high heaven would stop. It has not stopped and is niggling around in my brain, because next week I will have cataract surgery and don’t know when I will have again reliable vision for artful details. Yesterday, ideas came and vanished as I visited several shops looking for something, but not sure what. I was getting discouraged. My God conversations went like this: “Hey, this is your thing! Help me out…give me an idea…bring it forth…please!”

Then I went home and waited. I was discouraged and began thinking again. Suddenly an idea popped into the camera of my brain: Jewish prayer shawl…homespun…something simple and naturally colored that I could enhance somehow with sacred purple. It was a cold evening and I was not going out again, so I looked through my boxes of fabrics and found a length of burlap. It was a little rough and a rather unpleasant ochre color, but I am resourceful. First thing I did was to soak the whole thing in bleach water. Ninety nine percent of the color remained and so did the smell. What next? Keep the cats out of the laundry room and ponder the situation.

While pondering, I served a rather unsatisfying dinner to my dear partner and myself, then returned to the unsolved problem in the laundry room. The burlap was hanging over the tub looking very unpromising. I decided to wash it with soap in the machine. Not to be wasteful of water, soap and energy, I added all the dark clothes in the laundry hamper as well, and looked ahead to a virtuous conclusion.

While waiting for the washer to finish, a recollection came to me that I’d done this before with a bad outcome, but I pushed it to the side of my head. The sight that greeted me upon opening the washer brought the recollection back again, somewhat more forcefully: the burlap was a tangled mass and the dark clothes were covered with its furry mess. Now what?

Like a mother quickly pulling her babies out of harm’s way, I dumped the whole thing into the dryer along with an anti-static cloth that I was sure (!!) would cause all the mess to leap from the fabrics and into the lint trap. I waited, opening the door a number of times to empty the trap, and saying a little breathy prayer as the recollection loomed larger and larger. I knew I had done this before and I was beginning to realize that the price for dumbness was my road ahead for the rest of the evening. I trimmed and ironed what was left of the burlap, hung it up and prayed that it might turn into something useful by morning. Then I began the laborious task of de-furring socks, T-shirts and pants inside and out with strips of silver tape. I was penitent for not waiting faithfully for God’s inspiring thought—for zooming ahead with me-power. Then I went to bed just a little bit doleful.

This morning I surveyed the scene. All the clothes are hanging nicely in the closet with nary a sign of misdeed and stupidity, but the socks called to me and I had to give them a third silver tape massage. Now everything is out of sight and out of mind, except for that drat burlap still hanging mockingly in the laundry room.

I’ve re-learned my laundry lesson, but there are still a couple more fabric ideas to try. Will wait for noon warmth and maybe try a few other retail sources on my way to the grocery. God knows my every need. It will happen and it will be glorious when it does. In the meantime, I have to confess that artful problem solving is a lovely bit of fun and I do enjoy the hunt. So, God be with me—show me what to pick up and what to put down.

Let not my heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

8 Responses to “on another note…”

  1. 1 judy
    February 10, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    What about the woven jacket with hood hanging in the front closet?

  2. 2 Janie
    February 10, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    And a lovely bit of reading!

  3. 3 Naomi
    February 10, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Clever idea and pretty much where I started out. Will use on altar. Too big for lectern.

  4. 4 Anne
    February 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    As soon as I read that you put the dark clothes in with the burlap I though, “Uh Oh!” I actually expected a worse outcome. Reminded me of a time MANY years ago when I hauled my clothes to the laundrimat and, trying to conserve usage and quarters, I washed some of our clothes in with some drapes. Turned out the drapes were made of some kind of scratchy fiber that got into the clothes and made them impossible to wear until they were washed again….maybe even several times. So much for conservation. Anyway, hope you found what you were looking for.

  5. 6 Meg
    February 10, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Dear Sister,
    There must be a very good reason why our loving Lord didn’t include a “STOP” button in His people creation. For the life of me, though, I have no idea what that would be. Our parents would tell us to “Stop, don’t touch that. It’s hot.” But very often we’d go ahead and touch it anyway. Ouch! Then through our tears would come the balm of kisses and hugs and soon all would be right again. Sometimes the lesson would stick to inform us again and sometimes not. Then oh, to revisit the pain…what were we thinking? Washing dark clothes with light; adding flour to a hot liquid; being careless with bleach. Every summer I seem to forget that swimming pool chlorine reacts just like Clorox when it comes in contact with the clothes I’m wearing. And still every summer I tell myself that I will be oh so careful not to pour it in too fast so it won’t splash…and every summer I am reminded that good intentions don’t remove the tell tale stains that I created because I was oh, so careful. Then I wait for the hugs and kisses. Where are they? All I get is my inner parent saying, “You did that once before and you failed. Will you ever listen to me? 🙂 In your case, though, I believe the hugs and kisses will come in the form of divine inspiration. So get ready for the balm.
    Love you,

  6. 7 Naomi
    February 10, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    I’m waiting. Have exhausted all my clever ideas and now will wait for the zing from God. “F is for faith, dear,” as mama would say.

  7. February 14, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Thanks Naomi..liked your writing. I am kind of surprised at the hype around V-Day this year. Or is it always that way and I have’t noticed. I am never sure if you are getting this comment. When I know for sure..I will write more. JK

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