Plum will be starting nursery at the end of next week. At the beginning of the summer, we received a welcome package from the school. There were photos of his teachers and photos of the classroom. There was also a well-written sheet of helpful hints to help us all prepare for his transition from home to nursery. His homework? Playdough. The teacher even included a recipe. I think he’s in for a fantastic year.
So far, he’s decided that forks make the most interesting marks but that it is most fun to roll the playdough into balls and then squash them.
If I was working with a congregation this week, we’d be talking about playdough. It’s perfect for Jeremiah’s potter, isn’t it? And it isn’t often that an Old Testament passage offers such a strong image that – thanks to playdough – works so beautifully across the generations. Jeremiah describes the potter makes pots, shapes them, changes them, completely remakes them as he sees fit. And so, too, with God. We are shaped and changed.
…just like clay in the potter’s hand.
In the context of the book of Jeremiah, this message meant to be read large as a national reminder. The people need to remember their collective calling. These days – for right or for wrong – we often read passages like this personally, teasing out the ways in which we are individually shaped and marked by God, and in big and little ways, our lives are changed.
You never quite know when you need a reminder.
This past week, we went camping and made friends at our campsite. Or rather, our kids made friends but they did it so well that we ended up spending a whole day with a family we’d never met before. We swung on rope swings, counted apples on the trees, explored some Welsh castles, picnicked and kibbitzed and generally rambling about together on holiday, all our kids one big happy and feral pack.
It was our last full day of camping and we’d planned a restaurant meal for supper, but our new friends – Srinivas and Mary – invited us to eat with them. We asked what we could contribute, thinking that it wouldn’t be hard to pick up some groceries on the way back to the campsite. But no, they didn’t want a thing. They said they had too much food and we’d be helping them out, which is hardly ever the case with camping meals, but who knows how other families pack, right?
It turns out that Srinivas is an amazing cook as well as being extraordinarily generous. He produced heaped plates – chicken curry, lentil dhal, vegetable rice and plain rice, too. On a camping stove. The kids’ portions were served first and Blue told me it was beautiful food. He looked so happy sitting cross-legged on the picnic blanket and tucking in. The adult-version came next, with more spice added and goodness, my kid was right. Absolutely beautiful.
Sitting there with my plate heavily laden felt like a gentle reminder that it is good to accept as well as to give. That it’s okay to be fed as well as to feed. Not everything needs to be planned and not all work needs to be shared. Sometimes, the best answer is yes.
I’m glad to be shaped by that reminder. It was a gentle reminder – nothing like my Plum’s squashing thumb – just a little prod to the other side of the table.