August 17, 2016

Of Dahlias and Dogs

I've never grown dahlias until this year.  Friends would share blossoms with me, and I enjoyed them, but growing them myself seemed like too much trouble.  They are fussy flowers, needing to be planted just so when the soil is the right temperature, coddled along, staked, and tied.  And then at the end, the tubers need to be dug up, divided with an eye in each piece, sorted, stored in the right kind of material at the right temperature all winter, in order to be planted again.  I have been much more a daffodil person -- plant it and forget it!  But last summer, my dahlia-growing friend took me to a dahlia farm.  It was amazing!  I was caught up in the moment and ordered a few tubers for myself.  They arrived in the February or March, I dutifully planted them when the weather was warm, and now they are blooming!  They are beautiful, incredible in their variation.  One of my favorites (so far) is called "Wowie," and it is the perfect name!

Some years ago, I reflected on the Westminster DogShow.  The dahlias are like that, too.  They are the same genus, but the diversity is stunning. Like human beings -- all the same, all different, all beautiful in their own way.

Pictures from last summer's visit to the dahlia farm:

July 24, 2016

The Widow and the Unjust Judge

The scripture in church where I worshipped today was Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the widow and the unjust judge. Luke introduces the parable with the explanation that it was "about their need to pray always and not to lose heart."  In the story, the widow petitioned the judge who at first refused to hear her case.  She persisted, though, and finally he relented.  The usual interpretation is that we are the widow, and we are to persist in prayer as she did in pleading her case.  But where this is troubling for me is that it turns God into an unjust judge -- one who refuses to hear us, and only grants us relief because we are getting on his nerves. 

I have come to a different understanding of the parable, one born out in my own spiritual experience.  What if God is the widow, and I am the unjust judge?  What if God comes to me over and over again, pleading God's case, and I refuse to listen?  I am the judge, weighing God's request perhaps but without what the scripture calls "the fear of the Lord," which is, of course, the beginning of wisdom.  Instead, I judge for myself, by myself, lacking wisdom, and I turn away from the God's pleading.  But, in a full measure of grace, God refuses to give up, and eventually I am worn down, finally agreeing to do it God's way, which is ever and always the only true way. 

It has often been my experience that an offer or opportunity or idea or invitation comes in multiple ways or is repeated over and over.  When that happens, I realize that the widow is at my door and the best thing to do is open up and say yes.  

Because God is infinitely faithful and will never give up.

June 22, 2016

The Gift of a Gifted Teacher

When I was in the second grade, I had a very gifted teacher:  Mrs. Roscher.  She was from “away,” somewhere in New England, I think, and I am not sure how she ended up teaching in a small, poor, rural school.  Our school was grades one through twelve, the first six grades on the first floor and seven through high school upstairs.  There was one long corridor on each level with bathrooms at the end in an open air porch.  The cafeteria and the shop were separate buildings. 

The second grade classroom was the second (of course!) room on the right as you entered the north end of the building.  Like all the rooms on that floor it had what we called a cloak room – really a screen at the back with hooks for our coats.  Our desks were in neat rows, all lined up. We sat in alphabetical order, I think. Mrs. Roscher had shelves of things, interesting things, around the room.  And there were books, so many books.  Those of us who wanted to got to read to the class after lunch.  I remember once reading “Horton Hears a Who” in that drowsy, contented time after eating bologna sandwiches and chocolate pudding for lunch.

During that year, our teacher brought in a microscope and we looked at a drop of blood – at least this is how I remember it.  She asked us what we saw.  I thought I saw salt, but she said it was white blood cells.  I don’t know if it was possible that we actually saw the cells but because she said that, I was aware that there were whole universes we could not comprehend. 

One of the most amazing things we did that year was to build a pueblo village.  We made cardboard dwellings and painted them with a mixture of tempera paint and sand.  We studied what the people would have eaten, and we ate some of those foods.  And we got to choose a Native American name for ourselves and design an outfit with that name on it.  My name was “Singing-in-the-Clouds.”  And on a burlap bag with a hole cut for the neck and two for the arms, I sewed beads in an arrangement that had music notes (how did I know what they were?) floating up into two clouds.  All these years later, I remember sewing the beads on that burlap, and imagining myself living in that tiny village we had made with paper and paint. I was seven years old and it was a formative experience – being pulled out of our small close-knit community to envision other worlds, other seven-year-old girls, eating different food and having lovely names.  I somehow became Singing-in-the-Clouds and maybe some part of that long ago identity is with me still.

So here is to the all the gifted teachers I have known – my mother, my sister, my niece, my friends – and Mrs. Roscher.  Thank you!