April 09, 2006

Eight Folds, One Tuck

At the end of worship today, I grabbed one of the palm branches. I walked out of church, and carried it home with me. I don't know why. I just knew that I wanted to.

When I got home, I tossed the palm branch on the floor. There'd be time later to figure out why it was here, in my home. My plan for the afternoon was to work out, do some cleaning, and get a head start on preparation for Easter. But that darn palm branch kept grabbing my attention.

Finally I sat down and held the palm branch in my hand. It was over eight feet long, so I didn't realy hold it in my hand; rather, I let it lay across my lap. Then, slowly, I began stripping the leaves off the branch.

I looked at the leaves. I grabbed one, and tore it in half, lengthwise. When I was young, I learned how to fold a palm leaf into a cross. I thought I'd see if I could remember how.

I did, mostly. There's eight different folds, and one tuck. My first attempt was almost right.

I tried again. This time it was perfect. So I did another one... and another. As my fingers manipulated these leaves (eight folds, one tuck...), I began to reflect on today's worship, which left me feeling tense. The children's palm processional wasn't quite ready when it was time to begin; the musicians (me and the accompanist) weren't quite ready either, and the sermon was a bit of a downer, focusing on sin and the crucifixion. These kinds of sermons are hard on the preacher as well as the listeners. And then, during the children's moment, my son started acting up. I had to do a balancing act of "preacher" and "parent," especially since my wife was not present this morning.

Eight folds, one tuck. Eight folds, one tuck.

I began to think of the church member who took my son out of the sanctuary when it became clear that he wasn't calming down. I realized that when that particular church member is around, she really is like a third parent to my sons, and, with two boys of her own, she understands. She took my son out, which is exactly what he needed; and in another room of the church, she calmed him down. Turns out his blood sugar was low (he has type 1 diabetes), and steps were taken to bring it back up.

That woman is a saint and a blessing to me, my family, and the church.

Eight folds, one tuck. Eight folds, one tuck.

Well, maybe worship wasn't really that bad today. Sometimes I fall into the trap of believing that it's all about me, the preacher. When I'm feeling bad, then all of worship is bad, in the same way that feeling bad leads Willy Wonka to make bad candy that no one buys. But worship doesn't work that way, of course. The Spirit is at work, no matter how I'm feeling.

Eight folds, one tuck. Eight folds, one tuck.

And why was I feeling so bad about worship today, anyway? At this point, I couldn't even remember, because I was now starting to feel better. My mood was lifting.

I looked down. I now had a small pile of palm crosses, but still I kept going. Eight folds, one tuck....

I thought of the girl in Japan who got everyone to make all those paper cranes, but I couldn't remember the details. How many paper cranes are there supposed to be? 10,000? And what was supposed to happen when that number was achieved? World peace? Healing?

I guess I don't know much about the paper cranes. But by this point, I realized, I did know quite a bit about folding palm crosses. Suddenly I became aware that the whole time I'd been making the crosses, I'd been in a state of prayer. Prayer has a way of sneaking up on me like that. And because I'd been praying, I had gone from feeling bad to feeling glad. Gloom to joy; Depressed to blessed.

I had received both peace and healing.

I counted the crosses. I was a few short of 100. I made a few more, to make it an even 100, then stopped. I don't know what I'm going to do with them. If they don't dry out too much, maybe I'll give them away on Easter Sunday. If they do become too dry and brittle, well, no matter. I can still share the peace and the healing.

9,900 shy of 10,000

1 comment:

Anita said...

Sounds like making palm leaf crosses became your own "om mani padme hum" (which the internet kindly told me means 'Hail to the Jewel of the Lotus').

I also learned, "According to the Dalai Lama, the purpose of reciting this mantra is to 'transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha'. Also by reciting this mantra, the meditator seeks to take on the qualities of Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion."

Wow! A whole lot of good came out of that leaf ... and I enjoyed reading about your private time! Thanks for sharing, Danny!