What a gift!
Eight months ago I was just at the beginning of getting out to the churches of our presbytery in my attempt to listen for what God was doing and might be planning to do in coming years. I also had just started writing under the blog title of Holy Breadcrumbs as I was looking for an image to communicate how I believed that our emerging vision would emerge. I have described dozens of times my belief that the future of the presbytery is not going to show up in some well-thought out long range plan, but is going to appear more like bread crumbs in the wilderness guiding us one step and one day at a time.
Lisa, an especially astute, creative and kind church leader took me aside and asked, “Would you like me to see if I could come up with a pattern for a stole that would help you tell the story of following these holy breadcrumbs?” It didn’t take me long to blurt out a yes. “I would be thrilled,” I said and over the last few months she experimented with patterns and colors, consulted with me, and then went to work.
I am absolutely delighted with the stole. Besides it being stunningly beautiful against my white preaching robe, here is what I love about it.
- If one stands back a few feet from the stole one can see that there is perceptible path or pattern that weaves its way through the length of the stole. I imagine that this is the lens that God may have. If God is the author of our futures God may have a path already chosen for us. God may already know exactly where we will have to turn left, turn right and wind our way through the confusing and convoluted choices of life. If predestination is a solid doctrine then our destiny may already be established by God and God is the only one who knows exactly where this sacred path is taking us.
- But if God is standing back and has the full picture we are the ones who can see only one, maybe two breadcrumbs at a time. I love the way Lisa sewed together a long series of brown and tan-toned pieces to represent the breadcrumbs. But if one is actually on the path (not with God’s perspective) one can only see the square ahead, to the right and to the left. The task is not to have a final destination in mind, but to simply trust that following the breadcrumbs (the brownish pieces) is the most faithful approach to trusting God on this ecclesiastical pilgrimage. I love that it is not always completely obvious which square is the next step until you get right on top of it. Sort of like looking for the next breadcrumb around the next corner.
- Lisa chose bright colors to offset the more subdued brown and tan colors. I don’t know exactly what her symbolism was, but I do know for me that the diversity of bright colors represents the diversity of our presbytery, the diversity of people, the diversity of lifestyles and theological belief, and the diversity of regional differences. But I am also one of those Presbyterians who loves the word beautiful (a reference to A River Runs Through It) and the stole reminds me how much my spirituality is based on looking for beauty, enjoying beauty and creating beauty. I used to feel that my main Christian mission was to heal hurt and right wrongs. I continue to feel that way, but I also have felt called in recent years to do as much to create beauty as I do to heal wounds. This stole reminds me how much beauty is at the root of my Christian spirituality.
- Anyone who knows me knows that the back of the stole represents the place in my life where I receive some of the deepest joy in my life. I am a life-long cyclist. But more than just being a fun activity or good exercise the bike often serves as a sort of body prayer or moving meditation. It is tough to describe, but there are times when the rhythm of the pedaling, my lungs contracting and expanding, the connection to the road, and the beauty of the surroundings propels me into a place of prayer. I can only say that at those moments I feel like I am in rhythm with God and it is as close to a mystical experience as I ever come. The back of the stole is covered with bikes, but for me it is like looking at a prayer rug.
Thank you, Lisa.