~ George W. Bush
~ George W. Bush
Yesterday I started reading Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I only read the first chapter, mulling and reflecting over her words, thinking about my call and whether it is different in any way from when I started, through the last five years in Northeastern BC, to now at a big city church on the edge of the urban reserve.
“In 1992, when I started hanging out with the “rowing team,” as I began to call them, I was working at a downtown club as a standup comic. I was broken and trying to become fixed and only a few months sober. I couldn’t afford therapy, so being paid to be caustic and cynical on stage seemed the next best thing. Plus, I’m funny when I’m miserable.”
“It isn’t exactly uncommon. If you were to gather up all the world’s comics and then remove all the alcoholics, cocaine addicts, and manic depressives you’d have left … well … Carrot Top, basically. There’s something about courting the darkness that makes people see the truth in raw, twisted ways, as though they were shining a black light on life to illuminate the absurdity of it all. Comics tell a truth you can see only from the underside of the psyche. At its best, comedy is prophesy and societal dream interpretation. At its worst it’s just dick jokes.”
“I am not the only one who sees the underside and God at the same time. There are lots of us, and we are at home in the biblical stories of antiheros and people who don’t get it; beloved prostitutes and rough fishermen. How different from that cast of characters could a manic-depressive alcoholic comic be? It was here in the midst of my own community of underside dwellers that I couldn’t help but begin to see the Gospel, the life-changing reality that God is not far off, but here among the brokenness of our lives. … “
The words lay heavy in my head. I reflected on mental illness, at least a couple within the family, even more in my congregations, countless in the community beyond the doors of this city church. I thought back to the time I glanced over the edge of it almost a year ago. I questioned how I, as a minister who pastors, could be the instrument of God’s light and peace in those moments of encountering those in despair. Bolz-Weber’s book/words hold the promise of hope and help for me as servant to others labouring along life’s paths.
25 Did I not weep for those whose day was hard?
Was not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 But when I looked for good, evil came;
and when I waited for light, darkness came. Job 30:25-26
PS – Coincidences can be a blessing and a curse. Not an hour after closing the pages of Pastrix on the first chapter, sitting down to a meal with family, comes the heartbreaking news of the suicide of Robin Williams. Heartbreakingly weird, I just read about comics, and addicts, and depression in a search to be a better servant to the people I am called to serve. It was a punctuation mark that drenched me in sadness. Robin Williams, no less and none greater – A genius dwelling in darkness who brought light and laughter to millions. A father who read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to his children. An actor who could be chaos and compassion in a shining super nova of brilliance.
“You know what music is? God’s little reminder that there’s something else besides us in this universe; harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even the stars.” – August Rush, 2007
“You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” – Good Will Hunting
“Death is nature’s way of say ‘Your table is ready.'”
What an eschatological thing to say Mr. Williams, welcome to the banquet. God’s love and peace bless and keep you now forever.
That thing which I understand by real art is the expression by man of pleasure in labour. William Morris
I’m a sucker for those value packages of fall planting bulbs, especially when they are sold by colour, being of course – purple. I bought two packages last fall. With those packages you never know what you are going to get, they are just a mix. A pleasant surprise this spring, beautiful two toned tulips in the front yard.
The introduction of the tulip to Europe in the late 1500’s created quite a stir and within a few decades the tulip became a coveted luxury item. At one point the price of certain tulip bulb in a much sought after variety cost 10 times the yearly wage of a skilled labourer. Developed mainly in the United Provinces (The Netherlands) it became a status symbol which resulted in Tulip Mania.
The Canadian Tulip Festival occurs every May in Ottawa, a display of millions of tulips blooming in brilliant colour. It was initiated in response to the birth of a baby girl during World War II. In 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude for Canadians having sheltered Princess Juliana and her daughters for the preceding three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, in the Second World War.
The most noteworthy event during their time in Canada was the birth in 1943 of Princess Margriet to Princess Juliana at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The maternity ward was declared to be officially a temporary part of international territory, so that she would be born in no country and would inherit only her Dutch citizenship from her mother. To commemorate the birth, the Canadian Parliament flew the Dutch flag over Peace Tower. This is the only time a foreign flag has flown over the Canadian Parliament Building. In 1946, Juliana sent another 20,500 bulbs requesting that a display be created for the hospital, and promised to send 10,000 more bulbs each year. While the Netherlands continues to send 20,000 bulbs to Canada each year (10,000 from the Royal Family and 10,000 from the Dutch Bulb Growers Association), by 1963 the festival featured more than 2 million, and today sees nearly 3 million tulips purchased from Dutch and Canadian distributors.
Tulips are the only flower that continues to grow in the vase after being cut. They can continue to grow up to another 3 inches. They also conform to the shape of the container, straight up if in a tall container, twisting to fit into a flat or irregular shaped vase.
The ancient Turks used to brew a love potion from tulips and many cultures consider tulips to be the symbol of perfect love.
In the early 1700s, A Turk by the name of Sultan Ahmed III was the first to begin importing bulbs from Holland. But it proved a fatal attraction. When Sultan Ahmed was brought to trial, his crimes included “having spent too much money on the traditional annual tulip festivals”. The sentence: He was beheaded.
In Japan, certain flour is made from tulips.
In times of famine the Dutch have eaten tulip bulbs when no other food was available.
Of course, a nod to my favourite arts and crafts artist, William Morris.
The tulip and the butterfly
Appear in gayer coats than I:
Let me be dressed fine as I will,
Flies, worms, and flowers exceed me still.
Lamott is an unstoppable storyteller, whether writing about church-going with a sullen adolescent or reconciling with her late mother. She rages against the Iraq war but takes comfort from her sage-like Presbyterian minister, who says faith is not about how we feel it is about how we live. … Rule 1 We are all family. Rule 2 You reap exactly what you sow, that is, you cannot grow tulips from zucchini seeds. Rule 3 Try to breathe every few minutes or so. Rule 4 It helps beyond words to plant bulbs in the dark of winter. Rule 5 It is immoral to hit first.
– Anne Lamott
… from an old-time (frontier?) quilter: “I make my quilts as fast as I can to keep my children warm, and as beautiful as I can to keep my heart from breaking.”
“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.” e. e. cummings*
Thankfully, there is blue sky today, and above freezing temperatures. Snow still blankets much of the ground. I am watching a robin rest in the branches of a tree in the neighbours’ yard beyond the window of my office. He seems confused, tail bobbing in irritated stabs. He is asking, “Where is spring? Where are the green, growing, gladdening things that coincide with my arrival?” Even his song is not the bubbling joy of being alive and announcing the glory of another season. Rather I hear protest and alarm, as if winter is an intruder into the space of his territory not unlike another male threatening the security of worms and bugs and nest and family.
I, another of God’s creatures, am asking the same questions. Winter has been soooooooooooooooooooo long this year, snow on the ground early October and here in almost mid April, it stubbornly reflects brightly the sun of lengthening days. Snow is forecast for the weekend. AGAIN!?? <sigh> Well, naturally, as I have to travel north for a meeting that I am not entirely prepared for. (The photo is LAST year’s spring!)
*Coincidentially I used this poem in the Easter Sermon