Monday, October 12, 2009

Little Ones to Him Belong...

Last week I got to do chapel for the "School for Early Childhood Education" (translation: preschool) that is part of the church where I work. Before I get into this, I have to tell you that I have never been great with kids. I can handle them in small numbers, but working with children is not one of my best gifts, and in large numbers I find them very intimidating. So, I was a bit nervous when I looked out at the fifty-ish children assembled in the sanctuary on Tuesday morning.

But then I started making eye contact with them. Most of them smiled when our eyes met. One little boy started grinning hugely whenever I glanced in his direction; he didn't just smile with his mouth, or even his face, he scrunched up his shoulders and wiggled, and it was as though his smile ran from his hair to his toes. I taught them "Rise and Shine", with very simple hand motions, and they followed along. At the point in the song where I clapped once, my clap was immediately followed by thirty seconds of each child repeating that motion in his or her own time. When I started to tell them the story of Noah, one of the older boys called out, "That's from the Bible!" When I replied that yes, the story was from the Bible, half of the kids felt the need to inform me that they, too, had Bibles, and to describe what those books looked like. After a few minutes, I found myself enjoying working with the kids. I was challenged and entertained rather than intimidated or overwhelmed.

After leading chapel on Tuesday and Wednesday, I got a call in the wee hours of Thursday morning from my sister to tell me that she was heading to the hospital: the baby was on its way. I was on pins an needles for twelve hours, jumping every time my phone rang, and finally, finally, my brother-in-law called to tell me that I have a healthy new niece.

The very next day, I made my way up to the hospital to see how my sister was faring and to meet my new niece. So, less than 24-hours after she entered the world, I got to hold the precious little one in my arms. I couldn't tear my eyes away: I marveled at her copious, dark hair and at the deep blue of her eyes. I was fascinated by her puffy cheeks and mesmerized by the faces she made in her sleep.

Since then, I've gotten to spend more time with her. I've gotten to hold her and feel the unevenness of her breathing. I've gotten to hear her strange little squeaks and tiny hiccups. She's amazing.

As I looked at the preschool children, and as I held my niece, I became even more convinced that God is love. Only a loving being could create something so tiny and precious. And how could any creator not fall in love when faced with the fragile beauty and wondrous creativity of children?

Praise the Creator God, in whose eyes we are all precious, fragile, amazing, beloved children. Praise God who cradles us in the eternal hands, swaddles us with divine presence, and sings us lullabies of comfort and peace. Amen.

Monday, October 05, 2009

"My Bubbles!"

I practice blowing bubbles as a meditative act. I know it's a strange habit for an adult, but I love it. It allows me to connect with beautiful memories of childhood. It takes me back to getting gradually soaked in sticky bubble solution as I spun around with my wand arm out so that I was surrounded in floating rainbows. It reminds me of stealing pans and dish detergent from the kitchen and bending wire hangers into giant loops in hopes of making giant bubbles. There's an innocence and carelessness about it: you simply can't be too serious while blowing bubbles.

At the same time, it gives me an action and a focal point to keep my lower consciousness occupied so that my mind can focus on deeper things. In that way, it's a bit like a rosary. Moving the beads and saying the simple prayers of the rosary occupies one's motor functions and allows for praying about other things. For me, bubbles serve the same function. It keeps my hands busy and prevents me from seeking greater mental distractions. And bubbles can be a metaphor for almost anything, which gets me started on inner reflections.

I've tried for years to write poetry about bubbles because I love their beauty and simplicity. I love their connection to people's childhood memories. I don't know of anyone who dislikes bubbles or has bad associations with them. But I can never seem to capture that in a poem because it always seems cheesy. Even the metaphors that stir my mind sound schmaltzy when written down and don't express what I see. I suppose I should just leave it to meditation, since trying to grasp or capture bubbles almost never works.