Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jesus: Home at last!

There He is - in a place of prominence on one of the end tables in my office.

You'll notice a few personal flourishes: The rosary bead necklace. A frog figurine with peppermint candy, in case He needs to freshen His breath. A small Jesus birthday candle for His birthday cake which we'll give Him on December 25.

There's a picture of one of the baptisms I've done so he'll know I'm working in His name and a clock to know what earth time it is. There are also a few votive candles so He won't have to be alone in the dark.

There's a prayer book (He only knew one prayer, after all, and the disciples named it after him which I'll bet gets embarrassing, after a while, to have to say a prayer with your name on it. Sort of like being Lou Gehrig and dying of your own disease. What's the likelihood of that?) and a little meditation abacus of the Sorrowful and Joyful mysteries (it's quite a little gem - given to me years ago by a nun who told me it would be helpful at the Dentist Office, saying, "Think about all He suffered for you and any dental pain or discomfort you might have will not be so bad.")

Oh, and a little clay storage pot for any guilt He may still be carrying around.

I know. He still doesn't look very happy, but really, I think He's settling right in. Things will be much better when I finally (if I ever) get my mother's statue of St. Teresa, which, of course, will go right next to Him.

One of my parishioners came by the office after yesterday's Confirmation Class and, after we giggled wickedly, asked, "So, what's up with you and all this?"

Well, I had to think about it for a minute.

You know, one part of it is a nostalgia for my beloved Grandmother who had little shrines in almost every corner of the house. Her bedroom bureau was an altar to her favorite saints, and she kept a Votive Prayer light in front of each one of them.

Above her kitchen table hung two portraits, one of what I call "Jesus' High School Graduation Picture" - you know the one - the 3/4 profile to accentuate his long, flowing hair and the back lighting halo. Right next to it was a picture of John F. Kennedy. Before she ate her breakfast, she would always bless herself by making the sign of the cross with the crucifix of her rosary beads, which she always kept at the ready in the pocket of her apron. Because, you never know when you might have to break out the beads and say a round of prayer.

I never knew to which portrait she was addressing her prayers: Jesus or JFK. I don't think it made much difference to her. She loved them both and saw them both as martyrs to their faith.

So, one part of me is clearly nostalgic for the simplicity of my Grandmother's faith.

I will admit, however, that another part of me is just flat-out uncomfortable with that kind of piety. The Jesus I imagine bears absolutely no resemblance to that bust. I'm not knocking anyone who does think of Jesus in that way, but I just don't understand that kind of spiritual devotion which, in my estimation, comes pretty darn close to idolatry.

That's not an accusation. It's a personal observation. What works for me in my relationship with God is not to spend hours in prayer in front of religious schlock - which, I hasten to add, is very, very different from Religious Icons or stained glass windows or other visual expressions of faith.

Rather, it is important to me to spend time in my own creative religious imagination with God, and then to put any insights I've gained into the work of ministry.

So, I suppose part of why I keep statues around is the same dynamic inherent in the observation of Halloween. Frankly, there's a part of me that's horrified by religious schlock, and the best way I've found to work out one's horror - on any level - is to keep my sense of humor.

I'm laughing at my own discomfort when I giggle at a schlocky religious statue. It reminds me not to take my own religion too seriously, lest I miss the whole point of spiritual devotion and adoration - which is not to become frozen solid in one part of my walk with Jesus, but to embrace the entirety of His Life.

So, there you have it - two reasons why I collect all this stuff. Well, let me amend that statement. Jesus is staying with me for the year - until the next Clergy Retreat when I'll bring him back to be auctioned off again. The bidding will begin at $35 and I hope it will go up - WAY up - from there and make LOTS of money for the Episcopal Relief and Development's participation in the MDGs.

That will not change the permanently pained look on the bust of Jesus, but I'm thinking that Jesus is smiling broadly, even now, at the thought.


suzanne said...

Well then, we'll get you a bobble head Jesus to add to the collection!

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Hey, no dissin' from this end. In my pocket is a set of beads I made in the model of an Irish Penal rosary--purple cat eye beads, with a little four-way cross at one end and a prayer box with the word "Shema" in it. Who am I to judge?

ROBERTA said...

my mother's home sounds very similar to your grandmother's - except mine had a trinity of photos on the wall - Jesus (the high school years), JFK, and the Pope....she leaned heavily towards the pope photos as they were everywhere in the house and let me tell you - peeing in front of the pope was never a pleasant experience. :)

altar ego said...

I have to say that I truly admire that you can offer hospitality to, let's just say, an expression of piety different from what typically works for you. To help keep me giggling I have a small piece of statuary in crime that I found in, of all places, a baptist bookstore. It's a three-inch high monk clothed in purple attire, head tipped back with his eyes obscured beneath his hood, and his hands covering a mouth that is clearly about to burst with laughter.
Thanks for sharing the antics and other activities from your retreat. I've sent a link to this blog to my bishop in the hopes that he might be inspired to offer something different from what we've done.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Suz - I already have a bobble-head Jesus. Two, actually. And a bobble-head nun.

Atta girl, Kirke. Drop a bead for me, will ya?

Roberta - I was once privileged to visit with retired PB Ed Browning. His guest bathroom is filled with pictures of him with various dignitaries: Ronald Regan as Gov and POTUS, several African bishops, including Tutu. The one of him shaking hands with Lord Carey is right over the hopper.

GREAT sense of humor.

AE - You'll have to send me a picture of that Baptist monk. What silly, silly fun. I hope you can convince your bishop to do something like this, but the clergy have to be primed for it. Good luck.

PseudoPiskie said...

Where is the tall pink Jesus? That's my favorite so far.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

That would be the Neon Pink "Ask Jesus" (Hmmm . . . or is it "Answer me Jesus"???). Anyway, he's on my desk, ever at the ready to answer my most difficult question. He's not alone, as he stands with the Bobble Head Jesus and Bobble Head Nun, the Healing Hands and the SKateboard Jesus, the wind-up, fire-breathing "Nunzilla" and the Gold Lame Cross with the "Scenes of the Life of Jesus" in little nitches up and down the cross.

They are next to my Talking George Bush (with optional buttons for 'funny' and 'spiritual' sayings, the wood carving of Pinocchio, and the "Nesting Eggs" of Bill Clinton that a friend brought back from Ukraine for me.

This is in between my Seven Dwarfs Desk set (Grumpy holds a barrell for my business cards, Sneezy and Dopey guard the pad for my Post it Notes, Sleepy is snoozing on my stapler . . . like that).

Yes, I have a Very Large desk.

Bill said...

I think you forgot your "Buddy Jesus".

suzanne said...

A bobble-head Nun..OMG the pictures that stirs up. My husband has a friend who's head bobbs and weaves when he talks. (there's no health problem) Honest to God, and I must continuely bite the inside of my mouth when I'm with him. Maybe I can find a bobble-head Neil sometime.
BTW I'm not the least bit suprised you have an extensive collection. that's way too cool.

JCF said...

Sort of like being Lou Gehrig and dying of your own disease. What's the likelihood of that?


I got no problems w/ the yuk-yuks, where Our Lord is concerned.

But, as my mom died of ALS a year ago, I'm a bit humor-challenged in that area, I' afraid. :-/

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - No harm intended; even so, my profound apologies. And my condolences on the loss of your mom.

JCF said...

No problema.

It's just that, for some reason, there's something about "Lou Gehrig's Disease" (the name) that people seem to find funny.

John Oliver of The Daily Show, whom I love, made a crack about it around early '07 (IIRC, as the end of a "Worst Thing that Could Happen" list). I know that my mom had begun watching TDS sometime the past few years: I REALLY hope she (bed-bound by then) didn't see it that night!

Trust me: ALS isn't a funny way to go. Not at all.

Here endeth the kvetch.

MadPriest said...

That's a very butch clock. Shouldn't you have a nice pink one or something.

Bill said...

I'll be out in the Shawnee area over the weekend. I'll be sure to look for something appropriate at the flea market to add to your collection. Maybe I can find the "dunking John the Baptist" action figure complete with miniature Jordan river.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Well, if I can ever get anyone to paint me that copy of "The Ascension of Elvis" that I was too cheap to buy 20some years ago (see the post over on my blog), I would be glad to will it to you in case of my unexpected demise...