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The mountaintop and the valley, all in a day’s work……. Yesterday’s work ‘high’? Receiving an an annual evaluation from my supervisor that could not have been better. Yesterday’s work ‘low’? Receiving a very sincere and serious complaint from someone that her coffee mug was “stolen” from the break room, causing her to ask “Can’t we DO something ABOUT this?” , in the same tone that most people would reserve for oh, let’s see – maybe for conversations about starving children or homelessness. In my work, I often encounter the flip side of some very good people. And sometimes the contrast is a bit much to take.

I used to have this little saying stuck to my fridge: A woman with many children was asked which one she loved the most. Her reply? “Whoever needs me most at the moment”. It’s a struggle for me to think of the person behaving selfishly as a child of God who is most in need of Him at that moment, but I know it’s true.

Then to make the connection that I am the conduit He has chosen for His love to THAT person who I only want to get away from………well, it’s startling when I realize that responsibility, and it doesn’t surprise me any less no matter how many times it hits me. Because I don’t have that kind of grace to extend. But He does. And so I accept and extend it from Him to that other person. Because in the end, the evaluation I want is “well done, good and faithful servant”.

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I couldn’t have brought myself here today. I’m so depressed.  It can’t be a good time to try a new church. But my husband is ready and has been so good to me while I’ve been down….and this may help me focus outside myself. So I try to sink down into the bright red pew chair in the small chapel. Ahh, small churches – I’m hiding in plain sight.

A woman asks “Have you ever participated in this kind of service before? Let me show you……here’s what you do…”  She has one of those smiles that make you think she didn’t wait until she got here this morning to start worshipping. Looking into  her eyes is like getting a sneak preview of what’s coming.

A processional with lots of little and big children. An ironic thing often happens when I am really broken; beauty becomes much more visible. These children – they are glowing. The priest is praying for them, touching their heads, smiling at them like he is the father of them all and he truly loves each one.  Hmmm. This high church thing…..maybe I understand a bit. He represents The Father. I think about how these children will have this impression and carry it into adulthood.  He looks like this is the best time he’s had all week, loving on these children.  Well. Am I the best part of God’s week?

Liturgy, kneeling benches, a sweet quick little chime. This is good. I am too weak to participate on my own motivation and energy, but I can read responsively, I can listen, I can kneel. This structured service helps me redirect. It is a relief to say more to Him than “God, help me”, and to remember how big He is.

A sermon, and a surprise. The priest interjects something into the flow of this highly structured service.  God has told him someone is depressed and needs prayer. I want to shout “It’s me! It’s me! Everyone else can go home now because this is for me!” My husband has obviously been listening to the sermon  – he whips out his hanky and shoves it at me as fast as he can. He knows how I needed to hear this.

God has my attention. The priest rebukes this depression. He rebukes? I didn’t know a priest would rebuke.  His words are startling in the personal intimacy they convey from God. I can’t even hear much of the rest of the sermon because in my head I am bowing in worship of a God who brought me to a strange place to hear a stranger give me words from His lips. The hanky is wet with comfort.

Communion time. People seem eager to get to the altar. There are things going on behind there….these priests, they have a lot of steps to remember, and it fascinates me. I thought it would feel like ceremony, but instead I am caught up in their actions. 

I kneel to receive communion, at home on my knees in a place I’ve never been. Mystery. I almost don’t want to leave.  Some sit in the front and receive prayer from the priests and a few women whose compassion is tangible. There is no hurry.  I know I could go up there, though a stranger, and receive healing. But I’m afraid; I don’t know if I can handle so much powerful love directed at me in a place that I don’t know. Even so, witnessing something so genuine gives me hope.

A recessional, and I leave. It is hard to talk on the walk home.  I didn’t expect this experience. The following Sunday, I feel well enough to return all alone. God is love; so are His people. Amen.

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GREAT QUOTES THOUGHT STREAM

"A biography of any literary person ought to deal at length with what he read and when, for in some sense, 'we are what we read.'" --Joseph Epstein, quoted in Proust and the Squid, by Maryanne Wolf ******************************************
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