Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Manna Jar

Usually it's stuck up on the top shelf of the bookcase next to my desk, but lately, I have been keeping my "manna jar" close to my side.

Well, actually it is not a jar, but a Stainsbury's Assorted Biscuits tin from England. And instead of being filled with delicious treats (which are long gone!), it is filled with 'manna,' that bread of heaven, all those gifts from God to remind me that I am God's beloved child.

There are cards from families thanking me for funerals, weddings, or baptisms which I have done; there are crayoned notes from children who now have children of their own; there is a picture of my mother, taken when she was much younger; there are emails from friends and colleagues; there is a ribbon which wrapped chocolate that a dear friend brought back to me from France; there is a stone from Lindisfarne, some sand from Martyr's Bay at Iona, a rock from Omaha Beach, a pressed flower from Taize.

They are reminders of places where God has led me, people whom God has graced me, all the gifts God has poured out upon me over the years. They are, as the liturgy puts it, 'outward and visible signs' of that invisibly and spiritual bread of life God gives to us each and every day, if we only take notice.

When I am spinning and whirling from a life of stress, I open my manna jar and breathe the sweet aroma of the Spirit's healing presence, and it seems my hyperventilating soul begins to calm;

when the demands of ministry have stripped me bare, I touch the words, the paper, the stones - all those inanimate objects that put sinew and muscle back onto my dried bones;

when I hunger for a friend, an affirmation, a reminder that God loves me and cares for me, I feast upon these tender sweets, and my emptiness is filled to overflowing, my broken spirit is made whole.

And I put the lid back on my manna jar, and continue on through the wilderness.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

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