Bobbleheads and the Meaning of Clutter

Bed, Bath, and Beyond overwhelms me.

Even sitting right here today in my office, where nearly every flat space is filled with papers, files, books, or something someone once gave me, thinking about walking into Bed, Bath, and Beyond overwhelms me. There really is no space not taken in that store – floor to ceiling, wall to wall, corner to corner, kiosks in the middle of aisles, shelf upon shelf upon shelf.

In Rob Bell’s latest book, How to Be Here, he says this:

The details matter. What you have hanging on the walls. What’s on your desk. The stuff you fill your life with. There is a difference between details and clutter. Clutter is the books on your shelf that you’re never going to read, the stacked-up papers that have been untouched for months, the endless flotsam and jetsam in your car, your closet, your garage, your kitchen, your bedroom and your office… Details are those pictures that remind you why you do what you do. Details are those books that are filled with underlining and notes. Or the books that you actually will read. Details are the few items of clothing that you actually do wear. Details are those objects you use regularly that help you do better whatever it is you do. Details are the tools of your craft. Details remind you who you are, where you’ve been, and what your path is.


picture of messy desk

So this is what it looks like where I do most of my writing for sermons, blogs, class prep., stewardship letters (hint), prayers and liturgy; it’s where I google stuff I don’t understand, stuff I want to find, stuff about sports and news and theological insights; it’s where I sometimes just sit and think, that’s it, just all quiet and still and nonverbal – I know, right? Who would’ve thought? It’s often where I pray, and not just that a sermon will come right when I need it to, but about troubling things and joyful things and complex things and for healing and strength and clarity for this congregation and our community and, well, all the people in all the nooks and crannies and corners of God’s earth.

This may surprise you, but I really didn’t put any planning into how this space looks. *snort* It’s like things came and needed to be put someplace and sorta somehow it ended up here. So the painting is from one of our trips to Liberia, the “grace” art came from a dear friend who knows my heart, the old-timey radio-casette player came with me from my teaching days in Medicine Lodge, America, and the latest prized possession is the John Wesley bobblehead standing proudly atop the planning calendars that I save that date back to 2012 – a bit random. I actually have them dating back to 1985, when I started in ministry as a student, but that’s a whole other blog. Yup, my John Wesley bobblehead I love with all my church geekiness on full display.

John Wesley bobblehead was a gift (Keith, you know who you are) when I let slip that I coveted his Charles Wesley bobblehead, I believe. I know there are things I say and do that if John Wesley, or probably Charles as well, were here, would probably make him roll his eyes, shake his head (might we say bobble) in disbelief, raise his blood pressure, and perhaps make him laugh I suppose. But I hope he would also rise up in celebration as he stands on my work station, in celebration at our focus on grace in this place. Prevenient (coming before our awareness), justifying (reconciling in right relationship), and sanctifying (growing more perfect in love of God and neighbor and more holy in heart and life). Such grace, such deep understanding of such abundant gift, such vision for a reality where all means all in acceptance, love and kindness. I remember how he worked in advocacy for education and healthcare for the poor, for those from childhood through old age working in coal mines from before the sun came up to well after it went down, and provided small groups for persons to gather in honest conversation about the challenges and accountability to their faith – I think perhaps he would champion our passionate if imperfect efforts at doing the same at this place called Grace.

Our world has been, well, bobbled in the last week or so, in a way that is both like and unlike how it gets shaken in every election, whether there is a continuation of leadership or a major change. This one is perhaps more unlike others in the no-longer-to-be-ignored vast differences we have in understanding, and what those differences mean to various segments of our society. The reverberations continue to echo off the walls of our differences, challenging us in new ways to hear one another, attend to deep and authentic feelings from every perspective, and live with each other over time into, we all hope, new understandings of fears and frustrations, hopes and doubts, and strength in standing together against hate of any kind toward anyone on any side of any issue – because hate simply doesn’t work.

Sometimes I like to bobble my own head – you might want to try it. It can make you see the world a bit differently, if you sing while you do it, it gives you a sort of vibrato that can make you sound a little like Katherine Hepburn, (ask me someday for my version of “My Way”), and it might just loosen the tightness in your neck and maybe in your spirit, soul, and heart.