The table

I have a thing about tables – end tables, side table, telephone tables, coffee tables, dining room tables, drop leaf tables, round, square, triangular.  I have a thing about tables.  It might have to do something with an appreciation of horizontal surfaces on which to put stuff.

So when I had the opportunity to buy one of the communion tables built for the recent General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) I jumped at the chance.  I gave my best doe-eyed look to my husband, and told him we really could use it in the back.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the doe-eyes that won him over, but now it sits in our backyard.

The table was made out of our Pacific Northwest native wood, the Douglas Fir, the Pseudotsuga menziesii .  Its scientific name is derived from the pseudo prefix because the Doug Fir isn’t really a fir tree; the menziesii come from the name Archibald Menzies, who classified the tree before David Douglas, who named the tree after himself.  So you could say the table isn’t what it seems.

I wrote the communion liturgy that was used for one of the services at the table during GA.  The preacher/presider that day chose not to say all the words I wrote; I believe they did not suit, theologically-speaking.  I was a little miffed, to be honest.  But then I remembered it is a table of grace.

The table was transported from the Oregon Convention Center to our home a few miles away because of the strength of many and the generosity of a friend, who provided both muscle and pick up truck.  It is a table of friendship, too.

Its debut at our home was for a potluck dinner for all of us who were on the steering committee that provided hospitality for the General Assembly, and on that beautiful Thursday night, it was laden with wine and lemonade and iced tea and brats and chicken and pork and watermelon and crudites, and laughter, and stories, and gratitude.  It is a table of abundance.

Our child protested the arrival of the table in our small backyard – it takes up space she plays in.  It is a table of inconvenience.

But I love it.  I love where it has been, and who has stood behind it and broken bread and poured the cup.  I love who has gathered around it, and who will gather around it.  It is the holy in the ordinary, and I am reminded that the holy calls me to gracious, and generous, to be a friend.  I am also reminded that, like the table, the holy can be inconvenient at times, nudging us to let go of grudges, to rely on loaves and fishes, to find a way to squeeze one more person in.

It needs another coat of lacquer, according to its builder Michael.  A little care must be given for it to survive the long haul, not unlike all of us.

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Stuffed; or better, My Cup Runneth Over

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarly this morning I was on my way to the grocery store for eggs and Rainier beer, because it’s Thanksgiving, of course.  As I drove along the familiar route, I looked up to the steeple of the Methodist church, and noticed a bird on top.  It took me a moment, because I wasn’t sure if it was a real bird, perched atop the cross on top of the steeple, or some sort of weather vane thing. It was 7:15 on Thanksgiving morning and no one else was on the road, so I just watched for a few seconds until the bird moved its head, and the mystery was solved.  Because I was driving toward what was left of the sunrise the bird was silhouetted, and I couldn’t tell what it was, but I guessed it might be a seagull.  Interesting.

For the rest of the drive I thought about the bird on the cross on the steeple.  Maybe it’s keeping watch, or having its own little vigil for all of its bird-kin who gave their lives today that we might enjoy turkey and dressing and the works.

I got to the store and immediately went to Starbucks, because Momma hadn’t had her morning coffee yet and it would just be better if I did.  I got my eggs, and noted the Safeway does not sell Rainier beer, and picked up a few things to make a pumpkin cheesecake I hadn’t planned on baking.  I thanked everyone at the store profusely for working on Thanksgiving.  They were all quite gracious, and said no problem, that’s why we’re here.  Nice.

On the way home I thought about food.  I thought about my plan to eat so that I’m full but not stuffed, and my intention for exercise today.  Then I thought about all the people who will be getting their Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter or soup kitchen, if they get any Thanksgiving at all.  I thought about the cut in food stamps, and the food that flies off the shelves at our local food pantries, and maybe yours, too.  I thought about the woman at my parents’ church who died recently, about her personal ministry of collecting food from  local stores and driving it out to the fields to feed the migrant workers.

Last night at dinner our daughter asked about the Great Depression.  She’s reading the American Girl “Kit” books, and wanted to know what a depression is.  I told her that her grandparents remember the Depression, and how her great grandmothers would give food to anyone who came to the house who looked hungry.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but it does stir stuff up, stuff about the privilege of having a table of friends or family to eat with, the privilege of drinking good wine and eating an ethically-raised turkey.  It stirs up stuff about people who don’t have community or food; it stirs up stuff about the gloss of the first Thanksgiving story.

We’re joining friends whom we love for dinner today; I am grateful that they invited us.  They’re not particularly religious people, so I imagine there will be no grace said at the table, which is fine, because I can say many graces of my own today.  So here goes – and a happy Thanksgiving to you.

God of bounty, who calls us to see the scarcity;

may we be full today.

May we be full of your stuff, and not ours –

full of gratitude, of course;

full of mercy for the things that go wrong;

full of sorrow for those who hunger;

full of hospitality to those who are lonely;

May our cups runneth over.

God who loves the widows and orphans, who calls us to look far to the margins,

may we hunger today.

May we hunger for your graces, and not ours –

hunger for some justice;

hunger for some healing;

hunger for kindness, humility, and faith.

Hunger for our suffering kin who are so depleted they cannot even wail.

Our cups do run over, God, because you love us.

Let us fill each other’s cups today.

Amen.

100 Pillows and a Prius

The clown car is an object I often use as a metaphor.  A few months ago, my child had a horrific cold.  She blew her nose and blew her nose and blew her nose.  Empty boxes lay strewn about the house, victims of stealth sinusitis.  I said to my husband, “It’s like the clown car of mucus in there – how can so much snot lie beneath such a little face?”

Last Sunday, our choir processed up to the chancel during the opening hymn, as is their habit.  They kept coming and coming – basses, tenors, altos, mezzos, sopranos.  It’s very odd to hear a snippet of a part as each one would walk by – the bass line here, the descant there.  Our choir director brought up the rear, and as she passed, I commented, “It’s like the clown car of singers.”

But the last clown car really is much more like a clown car.  Some folks at church volunteer at a local warming center/shelter for families.  The shelter was in need of pillows, and this couple made dozens of calls to hotels and motels to see if they had any to donate.  No, no, no, no, no, till finally yes.  Someone – I think it was a Hampton Inn (to give credit where credit is due) – said they had pillows for the taking.  The couple drove their Prius over to get them. Indeed, the pillows were theirs for the taking – all one hundred of them.

I love the image.  I love the image of this generous, kind couple shoving pillows into their Prius.  I imagined pillows everywhere, sticking out of windows,  under the spare tire, tied to the top.  In reality, the couple made more than one trip to get all the pillows, but you get the idea.

As I think about it, maybe the clown car is not a bad metaphor for abundance.  After all, walking around with a theology or philosophy of abundance is a bit comical, if not ridiculous.  Just yesterday I had a coffee with a friend, and was reminded of things I really want to get done that aren’t done, and I heard my little inner Critic saying, “There’s not enough time.  There’s not enough money.  There’ s not enough sumatriptan for the headache all of this is bringing on.”  Believing we live in an abundant world is a choice.  Choosing to see clown cars everywhere is a choice.  A ridiculous choice at that, but a choice nonetheless.

But I’m trying.  It’s sort of like this blog’s title: Hold fast to what is good, because you never know what’s going to hit the fan.  I strain my eyes to see every bit of hope and beauty and goodness and abundance in the world, because every single day there is some crap coming our way that wants to prove all the good stuff is a lie.  But I don’t choose to fall for that.  I think abundance is the norm, and supply-and-demand is the lie.

And I’ve run out of time at this point.  I’m having lunch with my daughter today, to experience the abundant noise and hilarity of first graders in the school cafeteria.  And look – there’s another clown car – all of them wanting to sit next to me!  Tag, you’re it.  I guess I’m the clown car today.  I’ll hold fast to that.