Monday, October 24, 2011


I have a very old, very worn book called Bless My Growing.  It is a book of poems by a Lutheran pastor named Gerhard Frost.  It is long out of print.  It has tape on the edge.  The pages are loose.  I have used it many times since becoming a pastor.

But I lost track of the young woman who gave it to me, someone I attended college with.  I got to know her during my senior year.  She loved this little book, and gave me a copy, just because she loved it so much. 

Once, many many years ago, as a young woman just out of college and just working in an office, I was standing in line to eat in a downtown cafeteria.  I struck up a conversatsion with a woman standing in line next to me.  We were probably commiserating about the varieties of jellos and entrees, I can't really remember.  But in the end, she and her husband and I ended up sitting together and eating and talking. 

As it turned out, she and her husband owned a very small book publishing concern in Menomonie, Wisconsin.  Before we parted ways, she gave me three small hand-sewn booklets from their publishing company, called The Vagabond Press.  I still have them.

Of the many gifts I received when I was leaving Japan, perhaps the most prized was the porcelain doll I received from the 9th grade boys.  A number of them handed me the doll at the very last moment before my mother and I got on a train headed to Tokyo.  I remember them standing there in black school uniforms, and bowing  before one of them quickly handed me a bag with the doll inside.

The 9th grade boys were never my easiest class.  We tried everything to get them to pay attention in class, be more respectful, and learn English.  The gift of the doll was a great surprise, and somehow, humbling

She was a Hakata Ningyo, dressed in kimono, and it looked like she was kneeling in prayer. 

I carried her back with me on the plane, cradling her gently on my lap.  Then, several years later, while I was carelessly adjusting a shelf, she toppled and crashed to the floor.

When I arrived at my first parish in South Dakota, the whole congregation was there to welcome me.  Or so it seemed.  They helped me unpack the trucks, and left useful items like dishtowels, rugs, glasses and tableclothes.  Each church had a women's group; each of the women's groups also presented me with a hand-sewn quilt.

Today there came in the mail a package for me.  It was two skeins of yarn, hand-woven in another state.  It was sent to me by a friend I have never met, someone I only know through blogging.