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Archive for June, 2010

Morning at the Frist

For some reason, I am convinced that the two exhibits at the Frist Museum are connected, even though they seem like they couldn’t be more opposite, In the downstairs main gallery, there is a display of couture clothing from the 1950s, featuring the elegant designs of Christian Dior. In the upstairs gallery, there is a display of huge blown glass artwork by the glassmaker Dale Chihuly. Fabric and glass, 50 year old dresses or 21st century glassblowing techniques–how much more different can two exhibits be?

Maybe I’m just trying to force a connection but two things that seem to connect the two exhibits is the eye for detail as well as amazing creativity. Dior’s evening dresses contained hundreds–HUNDREDS!– of tiny, tiny pearls and gold beads and jewels, all of which were sewn on by hand. And the first displayed glassblown piece by Chihuly had hundreds–hundreds!–of squiggly, twisted pieces of blue and green glass, all attached by hand onto the inner core. But when one steps back from either the embroidered evening gown or the glass sculpture, all the little bits of bead or glass join together to become one beautifully designed gown or one spectacular glass sculpture.

So there is a little bit of theology in these two radically different art exhibits, and it comes from I Corinthians 12: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body.”

Out of us all–bead or fabric, blown glass stems or base– our God has created something beautiful. Sometimes we humans couldn’t seem more opposite, but when we search for how the many are made one in Christ, our differences reveal a spectacular work of divine art.

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Being at Vacation Bible School this week reminded me of the one and only Vacation Bible School I ever attended during my childhood. Some in my family would claim that my adult zeal for Vacation Bible School can be traced to this tragic deprivation of VBS as a child. I’m not quite sure why I didn’t attend more than one Vacation Bible School during my grade school years. I’ve been told it’s because my mother didn’t drive but I’m pretty sure she drove herself to bridge club. . .hmmm. Whatever the reason, that one week of VBS remains one of my favorite memories.

The reason that I did get to attend my one-and-only Vacation Bible school at my church was due to the fact that Mrs. Stephenson was the craft teacher for that particular VBS, and she lived in my neighborhood and insisted on picking me up. Hooray! Such happy memories. . .except–what I don’t remember about Vacation Bible School is any of the Bible stories, what kind of food or snacks we ate, the games we played or songs we sang. That being said, one might wonder why, if I can’t remember any Bible stories or songs or food from VBS, why would it stick in my mind as a happy memory?

Because here’s what I do remember about that one week of VBS is the people. I liked being with those people, and by that I mean those adult leaders and helpers. There was one lady whose hair was a strange color of red and she wore really bright colored clothes and she had a big laugh. She was the music teacher who sang louder than all the children combined and seemed happy to be with us children. And Mrs. Stephenson, the craft teacher (and my chauffeur for the week), had that knack for fixing whatever one messed up craft-wise. With a smile she could solve the problem of too much glue, or a missed stitch or a less-than-symetrical popsicle stick structure. Somehow she could affirm the worst craft disaster while simultaneously improving it. There were many other adults, but I don’t remember their names so much as I remember their helping hands, happy voices, encouraging words, and loving hugs.

For years, I kept the two crafts that I made at Vacation Bible School that year: a church made out of popsicle sticks, and the little leather coin purse which I never completely finished. Neither craft jogged my memory as to a Bible story told or song sung during that one week, but just a glance at either clumsy craft brought back a feeling of being loved and welcomed.

So, I’m not sure if the children of HFPC will remember a Bible story or food or song that they learned at Vacation Bible School this week. But judging from the adults who led and helped, I am sure the children of HFPC will look back on their VBS experience and remember being loved and welcomed, helped and hugged. I hope it’s not their only week of Vacation Bible School, but I’m certain it will be one of their favorite memories, too.

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The Tree House

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood treehouse. Well, truthfully, it wasn’t my treehouse; the treehouse belonged to our next door neighbors, the Deans. Mr. Dean had started building a tree house for his daughters, but for some reason, never completed it. The youngest of his daughters, who was three years older than I was, was the only daughter who even played even a little in the tree house and when she reached her teenager years, she gave an open invitation for any one in our family to make use of it. That invitation was no doubt directed at the children, but really, one never knows what parents do while the children are off at school! For all I know, my mother sat up in the tree house all day long, until moments before our arrival home from school, when she raced in the house so that we could find her, as usual, folding laundry. Or maybe my dad sneaked up there on occasion–he was, after all, an Eagle scout.

Over the years, the only person who continued to enjoy the tree house was me. As I recall, it set back in the woods, built between three trees using 2 X 4s to make a connecting base and old plywood, which covered only half of the floor. There was always the danger of falling out of the tree house if one stepped where there was no floor–or no walls, for that matter, as there was only a railing of 2 X 4s. And there was no ladder to gain entrance to the tree house. One had to navigate a single, narrow board which stretched from the ground to the floored half of the tree house. That single, narrow board had a lot of give and swayed as one put one foot in front of the other. But once “inside” the tree house (a deceptive description since nothing was enclosed), I could see every house on the street, look down on the Dean’s patio, and if I was still and quiet, I could listen in on outside conversations that were taking place at either my house or the neighbor’s house. In the treehouse, I felt like I towered over everything and everyone; and even though it wasn’t MY treehouse, I felt at home there, comfortable and secure.

The treehouse is probably on my mind this week because school is out, summer has started and that treehouse was where when I spent a good bit of my summertime. I loved to read in the treehouse, and often ate my lunch and snacks. But because it took both of my hands to hold onto the narrow plank leading up to the treehouse, I had to devise ways to get my books and refreshments into it. I would spend almost as much time tying twine around books and lunchboxes and pulling them up the plank or through the half of the treehouse that was unfloored as I would reading and eating. And the very worst thing that could happen was being all set to read and eat, only to hear my mother call me. Sometimes I’d leave the book and supplies there and quickly exit, hoping that the interruption would be brief. Other times, I would laboriously remove the books and food, constantly shouting over my shoulder to assure my mother, “I’m coming!”

As far as I can tell, there’s no theological message in this summer remembrance. I suppose I could tie it to the odd little passage from Ecclesiastes that I read this week at our Tuesday prayer service: “sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it.” Well, respectfully, I would have to question whether Mr. Dean exercised a lot of wisdom and knowledge and skill (incomplete walls and floors, no ladder access, a rotted board or two) in his toil. But I’d gladly confirm while I did not toil for it, I certainly did enjoy that tree house!

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