Communion of the Saints

This is a creative writing piece I recently wrote:

I observe them chatting softly between the hardwood pews, passing the peace. They seem a friendly lot, smiling and nodding. I see the men shake hands, occasionally slapping a back or two, conversing over scores and strategies. The women appear more prone to hugs and whispered conversations about family and friends. From my end of the sanctuary my heart embraces the scene. But even in the warm embrace of Christian fellowship, I feel the slight draft of winter wind.

I hear the invitation of Jesus, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” I’m weary, Jesus, but where are you? Are you here in the sanctuary? Are you here in the midst of the singing and the chatter? If I laid down right here, would I be allowed to rest? Everyone seems so busy, maybe too busy. Are they too busy to hear my story, too busy to make eye contact? Do they see me? Do they care?
I hear another invitation, “Come to the table.” I’m hungry, Lord. I’m hungry for you, but I’m also hungry for communion. I come to the table to be fed, but I fear some want to shorten the invite list. I’m a sinful man. Am I really invited to the table? Lord, only you know my heart. Only you can prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. Are these my enemies, Lord, or my brothers and sisters? Sometimes I’m not certain. Perhaps an invitation to their table where we dined not only on the bread and cup, but meat and potatoes, would make me feel a part of the communion of the saints.
From my vantage point, I see the congregation of beautifully broken saints covered in their Sunday best and I wonder if I belong. Am I a part of this family of faith? Do they see me from where I’m standing?
I am here, right in front of them, hiding behind the pulpit.


What Our Rescue Dog Taught Me About Worship

Sally and I recently adopted a rescue dog, a little ragamuffin Benji-mutt named Trixie. She’s the perfect dog for us; low energy, already house broken, virtually shed-less, and great with grandkids. We couldn’t be happier. And because she’s been such a great dog so far, we’ve gone against all our dog-expert family members’ advise and allowed her free reign of our home. I realize we may pay for this later, but that’s okay, if she messes up in the future at least we’ll have stories to tell our friends.

One of the things I swore I would never do, NEVER EVER, was to let our dog on the couch. But when Trixie walked over to me and looked up at me with those fur-covered peepers, how could I resist? I know, I know, I’m weak and totally useless as an Alpha dog. I’ll leave that up to Sally.

Most evenings, Trixie sits at my feet and lets me pet her. While I pet her, she’ll reach up and lick my hand. I’ll turn and look at her and she’ll look up at me as if to say, “Thanks, master, for rescuing me from the death chamber. Thanks for giving me shelter and food. I love you.” Then she’ll lick my hand again and I’ll reach down and kiss her on her wet nose. It’s all very mushy and a bit undignified.

Did you know the Greek word for worship is Proskuneo, which literally means, “As a dog licking his master’s hand?” That’s right, Trixie worships me. She’s just a dog, but she totally gets it. She understands that I’m her master and she depends on me for everything. She realizes that if it weren’t for me, she could end up on death row with no hope. That’s proskuneo, that’s worship.

Would you be willing to act in such an undignified manner as to lick your Master’s hand? What would proskuneo look like for you?

Finding the Write Meaning

“Sometimes an event occurs in our lives through which we catch a glimpse of what our lives are all about and maybe even what life itself is all about and this glimpse of what “it’s all about” involves not just the present but the past and future too. Inhabitants of time that we are, we stand on such occasions with one foot in eternity.”                                 Frederick Buechner
Writing for me is about stopping the clock and putting one foot in eternity. It allows me to look at life, as it attempts to whiz past unnoticed, and absorb the beauty and meaning in it. Everything I write is, in reality, a thank you note to God. I am taking the time and the opportunity to appreciate the gift of the mundane and random things of life, like the way my wife nibbles on an m&m one at a time, or how my granddaughter sucks her thumb with her fingers open instead of making a fist. Writing takes me on a walk towards gratitude and humility, two things I desperately need in my life.

We are all in search of the meaning in life and it’s only when I write that I am able to focus long enough to discover it.

Seventh Grade Terror

When I was in seventh grade, terror for me was spelled P.E. I found very little use for being physically educated. But because of some ungodly school policy, all of us were required to take gym, which back in those days (early 70’s) meant The Trio of Terror - gang showers, jock straps and dodgeball.

For those of you who never experienced this maniacally sick and twisted rite of passage (or you have spent your life trying to erase it from your memory), let me enlighten you for a moment. If you know anything about seventh grade boys, you know they come in all shapes and sizes. They are just beginning to hit puberty with the exception of one or two guys on either end of the spectrum. There’s always some poor kid who looks like he just finished first grade, while his locker partner could be mistaken for a high school graduate. I was neither, although I would have certainly been more comfortable sharing a locker with the first grader than Mr. Jock with the armpit hair.

Boys measured each other up both in P.E. and in the locker room. There was a ranking system based on athletic ability and physical development. This did not bode well for yours truly. I was truly a fish out of water, yet forced to join in every humiliating activity.

Dodgeball was one of the worst. Getting your head, stomach, or lower regions whacked with a red rubber ball by the likes of Mr. Jock could ruin your entire day. The most merciful thing I knew to do was to throw myself in front of the first grader’s volley and take the hit like a man. This, of course, allowed me to sit out for the rest of the game.

But on one occasion, the universe shifted as planets aligned in one massive uber-eclipse and I found myself the last man standing on my side of the gym, while all my teammates watched and cheered from the sideline. On the other side of the gym was my nemesis and P.E. enemy, Mr. Jock.

I was filled with mixed emotions to say the least. As Goliath stood there staring at me under those Philistine eyebrows, tossing the red rubber ball in the air, just waiting for the right time to attack, I can remember thinking, “Wow, I actually made it this far! Yes, I’m about to die, but at least I outlasted my team mates for a few brief glorious moments.”

So now, I’m sure you’re waiting with baited breath, wondering what happened next. But to tell you the truth, I’m not quite sure. I really can’t remember. Maybe it’s because part of me was so ecstatic about making it that far, everything else is just a blur. It’s also possible that the trauma of getting my head pummeled by Mr. Jock’s signature move, the Exploder, gave me a bad case of selective memory. But I’m pretty sure what actually happened was rather anti-climatic. I believe I actually tried to catch his ball only to have it bounce free, leaving me with nothing but bright red marks on my forearms, which of course I wore like a badge of honor back in the locker room.

So here’s the moral of this story: When life hands you one brief moment of glory in the midst of your otherwise terrifying life, don’t miss it, don’t dismiss it, and by all means, don’t forget it. Celebrate it.