I used to hate walking across the front of the sanctuary to receive Communion. Everything tripped me up, even if the uneven floors didn’t. My heart was in all the wrong places, wondering if people were seeing my poor outfit choice or my irritation with someone in my family. Or, on a different day, maybe the congregation was noticing the unhealthy pride I felt in my children, and the self-worth I was getting out of their calm parade to the front. Oh the challenges of Communion down front! For those of us who struggle with loving the approval of others, the “come get your Communion” is a sacred exercise all its own. One recent Sunday night, I completed this self-inflicted spiritual gauntlet and was back in my seat. As I watched everybody else walk by, I forgot about myself for a minute and started to think about them. Suddenly, a thought captivated me: God could have placed me in church with Rosaria Butterfield or Tony Dungy or the Kisses from Katie girl or Carrie Underwood. But He didn’t. God put me here. God might have put me with Queen Elizabeth, Ben Zobrist, Joanna Gaines, or Lecrae. But He didn’t. God put me here. With this little sliver of the Church. We are to walk this part of our journey here on earth together, never knowing if today might be our last, and ushering each other safely home. As people ambled by, receiving their Bread and their Wine, we sang the song, “By Faith.” You know it. It falls in the contemporary category for Presbyterians. By faith we see the hand of God… I saw Mike Warner serving the Bread. Don’t you want to be on that man’s prayer list? I remember how he asked about “Daisy Josephine,” my daughter, for months after she was born, reminding me each time that he was still praying for her. Daisy didn’t even know her own name at that point, but Mike sure knew it. When we all get to Heaven, I wonder what about Daisy’s life will be different because of Mike Warner’s prayers? Behind Mike was Sarah Gaye Sneed. Sarah Gaye sends me a verse at least once a week specific to what I’m going through. She tends to weave scripture in with her speech in such a way that you don’t know where Sarah Gaye ends and Jesus begins. Or where they overlap. Or where it’s just Jesus shining through the facet of Sarah Gaye. My attention broke for a second because my daughter bumped my leg while waving at Eleanor Fore. Eleanor’s mom, Mary Evelyn and I talk for fun, but she makes edifying talk fun, which is a gift I’m pretty sure Jesus himself has given her. Nobody has the power to do that on their own. When I leave our chats, I’m always so glad we’ve had them. That is not the case in every conversation, as we all know, and I’m glad for how she elevates my daily life. …in the light of Creation’s grand design… I noticed Steve and Donna Nash. I remember that time Donna and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on something. She walked me through how to walk through that. It was nuanced. It was delicate. It was beautiful. And I remember when I Steve, a very important man in our city, called Jim and left a lengthy voicemail about something good he noticed in Sunday school. He doesn’t seem to be too important in his own eyes for the little things. Then, Nathan and Emily Newman, with their three kiddos. Nathan is a police officer by trade. I remember when that police dog tore the stuffing out of his arm. But those same arms have rocked so many babies in our congregation to a place of comfort so their mamas could have a minute to worship undistracted. Emily is his quiet pillar of strength. You don’t know it until you get closer to them, and then knowing them, you realize, is a gift. More people pass humbly beneath that cross hanging up there, and I see Katie Harris, Matt Terhune, Carey Moore, and David Brown. After those came Courtney Humphreys and the Householders and Mr Sam and Avery Franklin. I remember when Avery was young, but now she babysits for me. What would I do without the humor of Mr. Sam holding our hands through the little years? I said to him this week, “Oh shoot! I’m late,” and he said, “I know.” …in the lives of those who prove his faithfulness… I remember Robert Tayloe. He was the father of his children, but really a father to all of us about that age. Once I saw him kiss his wife goodbye just because she was going to the bookstore and he was going to Sunday school. Remember how he taught us how to die well? I see Nina now, walking with Rob and Lindsey and the kids. She is one of the most beautiful women I know. You get the feeling she’s already a little piece of her in Heaven. Probably more. Griffin Brown is so tall now he’s passed me up. I remember when his mama prayed so hard for him to come. I prayed with her. And then he came. And how precious that boy was! Jim and I got to babysit him before we had kids. It’s an amazing thing to be able to hold a prayer in your arms. Yesterday, Dana Gieselmann gave me grace. I haven’t been a good friend to her. I’ve gone silent in her grief because I didn’t know what to say. She poured grace out on me and she taught me how to love the grieving. Gently. Oh so beautifully. How is she to live all these years here with so much of her heart somewhere else? I suppose I’m called to help her. Even in the tiniest of things. Oh Lord, show me how. …who walk by faith and not by sight. There isn’t time for me to talk about the impact of the Pattersons or the Hammonds or the Witherington (all 3 generations) or Alyssa Hogan. I can’t not mention the way I wish Blanche Tosh would read me a story every night or the way Way Jackson makes me smile just by being. How could I leave out the way I want Kim Willson to live on my street in Heaven forever or how that prophetic word Frank and Mimsie Crump spoke to me before Emmaus made my heart burn within me? I knew it was from the Lord. I’m so grateful they were brave enough to speak it. Susan Liddon, I’m so glad you’re willing to be an usher. It gives the rest of us the joy of seeing you each week and having a kind word spoken to us no matter what we had to go through to get there. And Frank Jemison, thank you for the years you helped the young adults stay true to the truth. Your presence was felt and we were grateful. This may seem like information. Or a biography. Or just stuff. But it’s actually gold. It’s more than gold. Gold can’t buy this and I know it because everywhere I look, I see people trying to make gold buy it. This is a thin slice of Heaven here on Earth and isn’t that really what everyone is after? When people are buying all these things to soften the blow of death and even of life, isn’t this what they’re actually after? This is what it is to live and to die, and even harder, to live while those you love die, with Jesus. These people God has put me beside as I walk through life, these are gifts. These are my fellow pilgrims, and I am theirs. We are meant to be binding up one another’s wounds, reminding each other of our home city, crying and lending a shoulder at all hours, and laughing hysterically when the joy comes. Together. At different points, we will each get tired. We may even decide we can’t go on. No strength. No joy. What are we all doing here anyway? And that’s just when we will gather around, put our friend on a mat, and carry him to Jesus, empowered by Jesus ourselves. He will take it from there, but we will stand quietly by, waiting and watching because we know there will be a time where our friend will have to carry us on the mat. Oh Lord, may I ever be grateful for the gift of my specific church family! When I find myself wanting to think about my outfit during Sunday night Communion, please, Oh God, point my mind and heart back to the outfit of folks you’ve put me in. May I be as faithful to them as they have been to me, some without even knowing it.
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