When Christmas comes, children are filled with anticipation. They are enthralled with the mystery of the season and the wonder of all that it brings. Christmas works the same way for me at work church. After being here 5 years, I have come to anticipate Easter and Christmas in ways you might not expect. My boss, creative genius flowing briskly through his veins, has a knack for last minute artistic revelations. I call it the “Hey, can you find me a picture of prayer that doesn’t have hands in it?” syndrome.
When the spell comes alive, his feet stay about ¾” off the ground and his sense of reality is replaced with lightbulb ideas.
I’m talking the kind of lightbulb that doesn’t break or flicker- Strong bulb ideas. He will speak in strange tongues, sling phrases and questions out as if I can understand him, which, usually, I can’t. The whole of it is fun to watch and be a part of. I find that I look forward to the idea -spring every spring and early winter. The energy around it is all good. All. Good.
I expected the spell to hit late on the afternoon of the 23rd, but this year it came on lightening fast on the 22nd. I first questioned whether this was, indeed the “Hey, can you find….” moment, but then decided it probably was and it probably came early so there could be a REALLY last last last minute change. I figured right.
So, on an unassuming Dec. 22, my boss casually walks into my office and then right out. He continued this in/outness for a few minutes. I was working away at the usual- baptisms, calendaring and trying to see how many people I could cram into his Bible study which is another story I hope I’ll write.
Finally, he stepped in and stayed. He stood in front of my desk in wait, wringing his hands. – This is a sure sign something is cooking, so I put the top back on my pen and gently set it down. I scootched back into my chair and looked up at him; I was at the ready.
“Do you have time…. Uh, No really, do you have time to ……?”
Without losing my gaze into his now glazed -over -with -artistic -imagery –energy- eyes, I pushed the papers I was working on off to the side.
“Well, Do you have a feed bag?”
My lips pressed themselves together in an effort to keep me from smiling.
“You mean a burlap bag that has feed in it like horses eat?”
He brightened at my understanding of his request.
Unable to keep my composure, I reached for a tissue and pretended to blow my nose. Inside, my thoughts were screaming-
“Why in the heck do you think that your secretary would have a 48” burlap feed bag at her fingertips? And Why do you ask that question as if you are asking me if I have a blue pen, or a paperclip?”
I tried to remain casual, but I could tell my composure was twisting about some. I feared my facial expressions would soon take over.
I pulled a note pad over to me and grabbed a pen. I started a list.
1. Feed bag
Holding that writing pose I looked up and said, “Okay. What’s next?”
He let his hands drop and stepped back through the doorway as if he was in a hurry to get back to his office for more ideas.
“Can you google manger?”
“Do you want me to find out what it is? Or what?” I tried not to sound facetious.
“No No, see what you can find out about its meaning. Liturgically.”
“Okay. Got it. Anything else?”
He headed across the hall to his “cave” then spun around on his heel and popped his head in.
“Can you pick up some Manna while you’re out? We only need a few pounds.”
“Manna? Okay, so if you give me the bible verse I’ll look it up . I didn’t know we really knew what it looked like. Maybe it’s on special at the Teeter. Or do you have a coupon?”
He smiled because he knew I would try very hard to do these things for him and because he knew that I trusted his ideas. “Something grainy that we can run our hands through.”
“Okay.” I scribbled down grainy manna on my list. I was relieved that he did not request spongy manna because I was pretty sure most of the stores had sold out of that type. Whew.
He stood in the doorway of my office and spoke low and fast. “There’s one more thing.”
“We need a 3 foot spoon.”
4. Ginormous spoon
I sighed, picked up my list and gave it a good look before letting it fall back onto the unassuming desktop.
I looked up. I looked under my desk. I stood up and looked out tothe alley.
No candid camera in site.
I googled for a while and finally came up with a couple of definitions and some liturgical jargon around “manger”. Slimpickins, but at least it was something.
I went downstairs and opened up the box of flower bulbs I had wintering over. The burlap bag that held the sleeping bulbs looked like it knew I was coming for it. In fact, now that I think about it, I believe the whole box had a slight glow about it. Not as bright as the North star, but still…
I had spent the last few months looking for a suitable storage bag for bulbs and a friend found this in the mountains and brought it back for us to house our bulbs on their off seasons. Wow, I thought it was serendipitous but maybe it was more….. hmmmm…….I headed upstairs.
So, I tiptoed into his office and said, “You know those days when you wonder why you hired me? I have those often enough. Well, THIS is WHY!” and I presented the bag and miniscule info on mangers to him. He looked relieved.
I hit the road and searched most of the morning for manna and giant spoons. Thrift shops, novelty stores, Tuesday Morning stores, Big Lots, Mexican restaurants, and finally, I just couldn’t do it anymore, so I took a break and went to the whole foods market and checked out the manna assortment. Finding a grain that seemed like it might enjoy being manna for a one night stand, I headed to the check out. When I passed the restaurant section I felt a chill. I asked one of the bakers if they sold soup and when he said yes, an idea tapped into my brain.
“So do you make it in big pots?”
“and what do you stir it with?”
I could tell he thought he may be talking to an overzealous and organically grown veganatrian. Yes, veganatarian. That’s a vegetarian and a vegan and every other type of 'v' person rolled into one.
“We use a paddle. BUT it is made of all natural wood with no additives and most of our soup paddles have come from trees found in the hidden jungles of organic continents that have given their tree lives up- voluntarily- so that other baby trees and vegetation may thrive, thus helping end global warming.”
I tilted my head to the side and took a good long look at this young baking man. He was really trying hard. I decided if I had the power to, I would have patted him on the back and given him the day off and I also would have hit him with a $5 bill and told him to go get a Happy Meal at McDonalds so that he could have a reality check. I figured he’d been pesticide free wayyyyyy too long.
I headed to the nearest restaurant equipment store and lo! Wooden paddles sat in wait. I bought one, took it back to work, stuck a sticky note on it that said, “I CAN be a spoon!” and waited for my out of body boss to return.
The manna passed snuf, but the spoon made it all worthwhile.He said, “It’s a paddle. No spoons?”
I said, “This spoon was forced into being a paddle. It wants to be a spoon and it can be if you’ll call Clay and ask him to perform a conversion on it.” Boss was excited. SOOOO excited. Made me feel really good inside to see him in his Christmas best.
So, my thinking that this “Hey” day came early for a reason was right.
The next day, he came in and said, “We’ve decided manna should be mashed potatoes.”
Of course you did. But let’s be truthful about this, boss. It wasn’t quite that human, was it? I bet sometime in the night, an angel came to you in your dreams and sang on high, “ Mashed potatoes” and you woke with that understanding.
At any rate, I hit up the Kroger and bought the last of their super sized manna mashed potato flakes. When I got back to work, I typed labels that said Manna and I stuck them all over the boxes.
When he returned, he grabbed the boxes, glanced at them and said on his way out, “ Oh good, they had some”
I called to him.
“You know what this means, don’t you?”
“It means that Kroger is old as dirt. Which is a little different than the history books say.”
He flashed me a smile and hit the sanctuary running.
Just as I locked up to go home, I heard his footsteps on the slate floor of the sanctuary. He was running and I flattened myself against the wall in preparation.
“The baby Jesus is too small!!!!” he cried. So, is this what the season has come to? The baby Jesus is too small? I made a few calls to families that I knew had children and then I shopped downstairs in the preschool area and came up with a bigger baby Jesus.
When I carried it into the sanctuary I stood in shock and wonder. I was quickly and delightfully reminded of my boss’s gifts and talents, his wisdom and spirit. The sanctuary held all of the elements I had purchased, but he had transformed the simple items into something Godly.
He carries a spirit inside him that is good and strong and fullof love and creativity. This church is so lucky to have him lead them.
Take a closer look at the picture and .....
Just remember: grain, mashed potatoes, plastic babydoll, wooden paddle and burlap.