Communion for the Wounded

The farmers’ hands were scrubbed clean and yet still dirty.

The creases on their palms were like dark rivers flowing through callouses and scars. Black streaks of grit and grime were permanently etched around nails.

Fingers were missing. A pinkie gone, leaving three digits alongside the thumb. Or the upper part of a ring finger ended at the knuckle. I recall a few pointing, perhaps giving directions to a neighbor’s place, but there was no index finger to aim.

Is farming the most dangerous job in America? Oh sure, others could protest that distinction. Soldiers face bullets and bombs. Who wants to be a cop or firefighter rushing into a building ablaze with angry citizens or fires or both? Loggers with chainsaws always make the danger list. Don’t forget the construction workers atop half-built skyscrapers, a stumble from experiencing gravity in a bad, bad way. Continue reading →

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Saying the Right Things at the Right Time at the Right Funeral

In a chapel at a local mortuary . . .

I had never met the dearly departed.

In my first year of ordained ministry, interning at a church with three full-time clergy, I got the leftovers. Who preached on the Sunday after Easter or Christmas? Why not the kid? With a lone exception, none of the church members wanted the youngster for their weddings. I saw numerous baptisms, but had no hands-on, wet-and-wild-in-the-Spirit moments. They all preferred experience; a minister with gravitas. Being only a Christian witness does have its downsides.

However, there were those desperate calls from families, perhaps tangentially connected to the congregation, searching for a pastor’s help with a funeral.

They’d take anyone.

Grammy died. A favorite uncle died. The mother’s brother’s son’s girlfriend’s step-father died. The church secretary would answer the phone, gleaning enough of the family’s needs to pass them along to the senior pastor. The senior pastor, a fine fellow by the way, might quietly commiserate with the grieving caller. They beseeched him to preside over the graveside service or share kind thoughts at the funeral parlor. Alas, Rev. Senior Pastor was busy on that particular day. But good news! He had a young pastor that would be . . . perfect!

Would they want to talk to said young pastor?

You betcha! Continue reading →

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When the Chosen Become Vulnerable

Once, I confess, the Feds got me.

Did I end up in shackles, accused of poor writing or telling way too many half-truths? Nope. Was it for that little-bitty IRS sleight-of-hand a few years back? Wrong again (and please tell the IRS I’m only kidding). Alas, it’s mundane.

I was summoned for jury duty. Federal Court. The Eastern District in California. Whoa.

Federal Court is different from my local Superior Court. Instead of a citizen lassoed for one week or one trial, the Feds nab you for an entire month. If selected for duty, you’re done with the obligation. (Though who knows how long a trial could last!) If not selected, the Feds are like a bad habit—they keep coming back. Do they want me this week? Or the next? Or the next?

A month can seem a long time. I rarely like to be dismissed, but after a month, I was glad the Feds no longer cared about me!

Another lengthy experience was sitting in the jury room lounge, viewing the “Federal Jury Video” with forty or so other Eastern District denizens. Bring on the popcorn and Milk Duds, it was Hollywood at its worst. For the fifteen loooong minutes, I remained on the edge of my seat, mostly just trying to stay awake. The sacrifices we make to be, er, good citizens!

Jury duty can be like many events in life: wait. Then wait a little more. Continue reading →

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