I woke up early on the morning I was scheduled to preach and drove to the spacious, wooded park a few
blocks from our house.  In preparation for speaking on the
story of Elijah’s widow, I wanted to gather enough sticks to
spread across a make-shift altar space, creating a tableau of sorts with
a children’s book I planned to read
and a small tree.  

I was planning to speak about hope, but not the kind that


I wanted to talk about the kind of hope that shows
up among the sticks and stones of our lives, the few drops of oil and crumbs of
flour; the kind of hope that dwells in the dried out, broken places and is only
found in the looking.  

Pulling up and parking, though, I noticed a peculiar absence
of branches, even in the most likely places, under the old stately trees at one
end of the park.  But I got out anyway
and started wandering around, my head bowed, scanning the ground for useable

Once I really started looking, I saw sticks everywhere and
dressed in my Sunday best, I bent and gathered a good armful.  Arriving at church, I
spread a table cloth on a long folding table and laid out my wares.  The
Carrot Seed
, by Ruth Krauss stood on a small wooden stand and behind it the
avocado tree planted from a seed my husband salvaged from the compost bin.  

Taking the sticks out slowly I dropped them gently onto the
table, making a good old mess and letting more than a few tumble to the
ground.  Bits of bark scattered and
clinging leaves drifted gently to the floor.  

There wasn’t anything beautiful about those sticks, not in a
conventional sense.  

But there was a strange beauty in their brokenness, a beauty
in the way they captured the way so many of us feel in hopeless times – dried
up, broken and emptied of life. 

I imagined that for some in my congregation that day, hope
was like a seed, small and expectant, and for others perhaps it was like a
tree, sprouting and green.  But for
others yet, I imagined that hope felt brittle and barren like it must have for
Elijah’s widow who hunted and pecked along the ground, gathering just enough
sticks to cook one last meal.  

I’m not sure if those sticks spoke to anyone that day, but
they spoke to me.  

They reminded me that when words fail, beauty speaks, even
the strange, stark beauty of broken, barren things.  Proclamation occurs, not just in the form of words and
ideas, but also in images and icons, tangible expressions of our flesh and blood,
bread and wine existence.  

So when I speak, I bring along my box of props.  I hand out colored play-doh and
stones for writing on with permanent ink, I press a packet of wildflower seeds
into every hand that reaches and leave piles of sleeping flower bulbs as images
of resurrection on Easter morning.  

this way I practice what I’ve learned and remind myself as well, that the word
indeed was Word among us, but it also came in flesh and when words fail to find
entry through fallow ears, then maybe some bit of truth wrapped in the form of beauty may still break in
through hands and eyes and hearts.  

 This post is a reflection on the topic of “Creating Beauty at Work.”  Interested in reading more?  Check out Shelly Miller’s post An Apologetic on Beauty @ Redemption’s Beauty.

Or visit The High Calling website to visit other posts on the topic: Other High Calling Posts on Creating Beauty at Work.

Also linking with Playdates With God.

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