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  • Rev. Barbara Ballenger

Rector’s Note: The love of found things- 5.25.23

I grew up in a pretty crafty family. My mom sewed in the dining room. My dad had a wood shop in the basement. It seems like I was always making something out of things that I found lying around: drawings on an endless supply of pink scrap paper, instruments made from old wood blocks, doll houses made from boxes with gift wrap for wallpaper.

This love of making things out of found items followed me into adulthood. I went through a period of making felted hats and quilts when I realized that a wool sweater washed and dried on hot turned into a fabric that wouldn’t unravel when cut apart. I entered a phase of making mosaics out of broken ceramics when a shelf in a cabinet broke, smashing several of my dinner plates.

A cat statue found on the side of the road got a new life with a corsage and tuxedo. Paper bags became origami. A broken runner sled hung on the wall became a hat rack. I’m not sure how I developed this love of junk as artistic medium. I wonder at times if watching Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street as a young child had something to do with it. I can still sing all the verses to I Love Trash.

It seems to be an urge that comes and goes. I make things with a single-minded focus for a period of time. Then years might go by with my materials untouched.

Which was the case until a few weeks ago, when I suddenly got the desire to make junk journals, collaging magazine images, old photos, ticket stubs and the liking to old discarded books. I was prompted by the thought that I might collect and collage some items that reminded me of my dad, who would have turned 100 years old this June. That meant I had to learn the craft and try out the techniques, prepping the pages of old books with gesso, cutting niches for embellishments, gluing in magazine headlines and photos. And before I knew it, another period of furious art making had begun.

I share all this because as Pentecost nears, I think there is a bit of the Holy Spirit behind this drive to make beauty out of things found or broken or discarded. It resonates with the times that I have felt that way. And it has provided a gentle way of exploring what it has meant for me to be found, valued, restored and considered beautiful despite some foundational experiences to the contrary.

It reminds me that God is the master crafter when it comes to making broken things beautiful. That in the incarnation God became findable in the person of Jesus, in bread and wine, in the communion of people, in a broken and beautified body of Christ. I think it’s one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, maybe the eighth one that they never taught in religion class – the gift of being findable and transformable, the gift of seeing beauty in just about anything. That’s a gift to embrace whenever it comes your way.

Happy Pentecost,

Rev. Barb

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