And Yet I Turned

foggy imageWhile walking my dog not long after the official dawn, we didn’t cast any shadows. In Fresno, in the center of California, at the beginnings of January, a slurry of gray fog hugged the gray asphalt path on the gray day.

Cold.

Dreary.

Still.

A young man approached us, bundled in a jacket, moving quickly. On this early Sunday, he was the first person I’d seen since leaving home fifteen minutes before. As he spied my dog—off leash and happily trotting ahead of me—he sidestepped, and then hopped over the low bushes that created a border between the narrow path and the wide suburban street. He continued heading towards us. Continue reading →

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No One Belongs Here More Than You

Why, after a worship service concluded, when the few or many congregants had trooped through the exit door to “greet the pastor,” did I only remember that one?

That person did not like the sermon. And yet, all of the other encounters at the door were compliments or friendly chitchat. Nine of ten, or ninety-nine of the hundred, as they headed for the parking lot and home, paused for a handshake, a hug, or offered a smile with:

  • Good sermon, Larry.
  • It was what I needed to hear today, pastor!
  • You were speaking just to me.
  • I never thought about that verse in that way before.
  • Don’t forget the trustees meeting on Tuesday.
  • I like your tie.

I would mumble a thanks, likely nodded and grinned, and maybe asked about an ill family member or the recent birth of a grandchild. On every Sunday, I sought to be attentive to each departing person who had worshipped with me only moments before.

Then that one person arrived. And said, Continue reading →

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The Worst of the Worst News

Though trivial, I briefly wondered if the priest burned frankincense or myrrh for the incense.

I knew why I was there watching that priest. There being a place I did not want to be. There being a time of grief with unfathomable sorrow. There being an infant’s memorial service, occurring a mere two days after a years-ago Christmas. A parent experiencing the death of a child ranks among the worst of the worst news. All descriptions of their feelings—shocked, angry, bereft—are inadequate. Few can stand with them and say, “I understand what you are going through.”

The memorial service was held in the Roman Catholic Church where the child’s parents were members. I was not there to help lead the service, but to be supportive of the grieving family. The grandparents were friends and I couldn’t not be with them.

And so, I watched. And so, I also felt disoriented. Continue reading →

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