This itty-bitty ornament (1") is just right to tuck into the mantel or a little nook somewhere this month. Sally's smile and persistence remind us to keep going, and not take the drawbacks we encounter too seriously. After all, Christmas is coming!
A Day at the Beach
artist: Debra Nielsen
I have just returned home from the beach, so I really understand the meaning of those words "The beach is calling..."
One night while at the beach, my sister and I took a moonlight stroll along the sand. We wandered for a while, taking in the endless expanse of sea and stars, looking at the paths of silver light the moon cast over the water, as the dogs roamed and her young son explored. My sister stopped and stood with her toes in the surf.
"Being at the beach makes me feel so, so..." she said.
"Rested?" I asked. "Refreshed?"
"No. Normal," she finally replied.
I nodded. I knew what she meant.
The beach is one of those archetypal places in nature where you can interact with what it means, with the symbolism. The beach brings you back to the beginning. The endless repetition of the waves, the in and out of the tide, the screaming sea gulls. The fresh wildness of it all.
What is it that the beach calls us to? To go back, to rediscover, to re-find ourselves at the beginning and re-set. Ultimately, this beginning that we seek at the beach is the same beginning that the Gospel of John opens with: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." We search for that same wind that moved over the formless void in the beginning, and drew new mountains and lands into being. We seek not just to be renewed, but to be re-created by that same Holy Spirit. The One who never grows tired, or weary, or just bored of re-creating but instead delights in bringing about the "freshest, deep down things," the continual "greening" of creation as St. Hildegarde put it.
I know that was what my sister was seeking. More than just a few days of vacation, she was searching for a return to her beginning, back to who she really is, who she was created to be. She was looking for that specific, certain wind that would revive and refresh her, and give her the strength to continue with her life in a few days' time. She was searching for the God who walks on water, that untamed freshness Himself. That's why we all go to the beach, in the end, and stare out over the water, and that's why we can always hear the beach calling....
artist: Joanne Eschrich
material: porcelain and metal
I love, love, love this exquisite ornament. It is a favorite ornament on my prayer table on many of the days connected to the Holy Spirit. I love the "whiteness of the dove "(ala "the whiteness of the whale" in Melville's masterpiece Moby Dick) combined with the graceful etchings of silver and the filagree look of the metal olive branch. It reminds me of the delicate metal work popular in Cordoba, Spain.
I had just finished a presentation on Noah's Ark and the dove to a family faith formation group the Sunday before going into to my part-time job at the Hallmark store, where they were just unpacking this little guy. I felt a special affinity to it, as I had just been talking all about the Spirit of God that moved across the waters of the flood, recreating the world once more, re-establishing peace between God and his people. This dove could also wonderfully represent the Holy Spirit later seen at the Baptism of Jesus. With its white porcelain body and elegant, elaborate etched metal swirls, it is easy to imagine the Holy Spirit bringing peace in on his wings.
We are familiar with the Holy Spirit being represented in Scripture as a dove, but I am also acquainted with another version of a dove that exists in the world, and also brings peace and healing. This dove is a foundation - the D.O.V.E. foundation, to be exact. D.O.V.E. stands for Development of Vietnam Endeavors and was started by Vietnam Veterans who sought to help the poor in Vietnam, despite the harsh memories and treatment they may have received there. I learned about D.O.V.E. during a summer service project when our Middle Schoolers were taught to knit by some volunteers in our congregation. The girls were asked to learn to knit so that they could create bandages for leprosy victims in Vietnam. We saw photos of how devastating this disease still is to so many in Vietnam who are unable to receive proper medical attention and are banished to the mountainous regions of the country. The D.O.V.E. foundation recruits volunteer knitters, collects these bandages, them hand delivers them to those suffering from this disease in Vietnam. Those bandages are made not from wool, but from crochet thread, so that they don't stick to the wounds, can allow the diseased areas to breathe, and most importantly, the bandages can be washed and reused. These people have very few medical supplies and a constant supply of fresh bandages is simply beyond their reach. These simple white bandages are so basic, yet so important to a whole group of people that still live in conditions so similar to the lepers of the Gospels.
I can't think of a better example of the Holy Spirit in action, so aptly symbolized by the beautiful dove above. One of the most striking things about the D.O.V.E. foundation is that it is not just the external wounds of the lepers in Vietnam that are being cared for. The hidden, internal wounds of the Vietnam Vets who help them are just as painful, in need of just as much attention. In this unique partnership, both wounds are being healed and peace is finding its home - not on Noah's mountain but deep in the heart of a poverty-stricken country and in the hearts of the volunteers who care for them . Truly, the paradox St. Francis preached is seen here - "It is in giving that we receive; it is in dying that we are born." For more information about the D.O.V.E. foundation and it's many projects, visit www.dovefund.org. To learn more about the "Bandage Brigade," click here: http://leprosybandages.blogspot.com