Spillers and Pillars

Caught in time is how I feel today and I would rather transcend it. Caught between now and Narcie’s brain surgery on May 10; caught between this job and the knowledge that a year from now we will be somewhere else; caught between weekends; caught between trips to Mt. Mitchell or the New River; caught between earth and heaven, caught between here and now & there and then; caught between the seen and the unseen – feeling caught. Caught like Australian singer Lenka between “enjoying the show” or “I want my money back.” Have you ever felt caught?

I sense the lingering memories of yesteryear, go through the motions of today, and pray for better tomorrows. There’s always hope, and, frankly, the good motto of South Carolina doesn’t do hope enough justice, “While I breathe, I hope.” Nope, hope is a forever thing, not just a breathing living thing. The Audacity of Hope, by then Senator Barack Obama is about embracing hope over cynicism – lots of luck with that in Washington. Yep, Hope is an audacious thing.

How did I claim hope this past weekend? I planted flowers, not vegetables. I did that a lot as a youth, too, but vegetables are “useful.” I wanted something better than useful to put an end to this prolonged semi-winter weather we’ve been having. To embrace spring I called upon the memories of a great Mom and Dad who taught me the names of flowers, how to lay out a plan, and visualize a seed into perfect bloom. I planted 2 large flower beds and two containers. Now that takes hope even when you have a picture on the seed packet.

Mother said a profound thing about flower gardens and arrangements, “You’ve got to have spillers and pillars.” You need the flowers that spill over, know no boundaries, and give big splashes of color. You also need to layer the bed by height, texture, and spread in order to create visual interest. You can’t just have all short plants. You’ve got to have pillars, too.

So, I’m looking at my list of spillers and pillars with a hopeful eye today: pinkish purple Ganges Primrose, pink and white Pentas, lime green Marguerite Sweet Potato Vines, Diamond Frost white Euphorbia, purple Angelonia, colorful wave supertunias like Royal Magenta, Blue Denim, Bermuda Beach, Picasso in Pink, Pretty Much Picasso, and basic but classy red, white, and purple wave petunia plants. I also added mini-petunias called Superbells in Blackberry Punch, Cherry Star, and basic red and white. I finished things off with a garnet Vinca called Pacifica Cranberry.

Use your imagination and try to glimpse the cranberry, purple, lime, pink, red, magenta, and Baby’s Breath-like white Euphorbia dancing together. You’d have to see the Pretty Much Picasso and Picasso in Pink to believe their “pop.” They’re mostly a cross between pink and fuchsia with purple throats and edged with lime green. They are like, “Wow!” The whole assortment is spillers and pillars. They give me hope, and that’s more than useful!

On this rainy Monday caught between “enjoying the show” and “I want my money back,” I’m choosing to enjoy the show! Through the audacity of hope and the promise of color-to-come through my spillers and pillars, life is a faith journey that calls us to be like flowers: bloom where we’re planted, let our joy spill over, and stand tall as a pillar for the outrageous possibility of a life in faith.

Inauguration & Football

>Football and President Obama have a lot in common as I think of our motto, e pluribus unum, “Out of Many, One.” There are lots of players on the field and staff to coach those who dare to step on the gridiron. As a republic of citizenry we know all too well the country doesn’t fare well unless we pull together. The historic election of President Obama has taken a team effort to battle racism and naysayers. Tomorrow’s inauguration is a celebration of who we are as much as it who Obama is, but back to football as my main analogy-engine.

Now we know that the Steelers and the Cardinals will play in two weeks in the Super Bowl. George Will says that “Football combines the two worst things about America: It is violence punctuated by committee meetings.” Yeah, right, but I still love football. It has great analogies for life, especially those committee meetings. If we would all huddle up more often and get our heads together, wouldn’t the world be a better place? It takes teamwork to play successful football. Individual stars and goats are part of the action, but it’s ultimately a team sport.
So is life. I first heard my friend and fellow SC UM pastor, Dr. Ted Walter, use this story. A mule named “Jim” was being driven by his owner. It was just the one mule “Jim” who was hitched up to the wagon, when the driver yelled “Giddyup, Jim. Giddyup, Sue. Giddyup, Sam. Giddyup, John. Giddyup, Joe. As the wagon started to move, one of the passengers said: “When Jim is the only one there, why did you call all those other names?” The owner replied: “If Jim knew he was the only one pulling this wagon, he’d never budge an inch.” It takes teamwork, even when it just God and us. That’s a pretty good team, by the way! What is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity but an affirmation of teamwork: One in Three and Three in One.
Life is better when we have relationships with others, work together, all pitch in, and accomplish things. In family life or any other communal atmosphere everything is a “we” thing. I like the Walt Disney Company attitude. If you work at Disney you’re not an employee, but a “cast member.” Each one of us is that important.
I had to decide how important it was last week for me to attend the meeting of the Southeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Episcopacy in Jackson, Mississippi. After all, a lot of our churchy meetings are usually same-old-same-old from start to finish. It was a long way to drive even at today’s lower gas prices to just “meet and greet” your fellow heads of delegations, but the only way to build camaraderie and fellowship that will get us through a quadrennium of supporting our jurisdiction, annual conferences, local churches, and bishops is to be present with each other. We covenanted to pray for each other and two of us were assigned as partners with bishops to pray and support one another. Lynn Powell from North Georgia and I were assigned Bishop Tim Whitaker from Florida. We want to do what it takes to develop real community.
Dr. Scott Peck of Road Less Traveled fame talks about building community by saying it happens though stages. The first stage is called “pseudo-community.” Pseudo-community is when you get together and there are hugs all around, chit-chat, hail-fellow-well-met surface falderal. It’s not real community, however, if it stays only on the surface. The next stage that does get at the hidden agendas and real needs is “chaos.” Chaos happens when we’re really honest with each other and get things out in the open. After chaos comes “emptiness,” a stage in real community building where people lay aside their own personal wishes for the larger good. The result is real community. Teamwork is a no-brainer for football, republics, presidents, and life!