The day God had a very good weekend

There are some who believe God winds up the world like a toy and then lets it run wild. I am not one of these people. I could easily be accused of seeing the Sovereign behind every wildflower and the Divine radiating, palpable, from the least, the least likely, and the left-behind. These are the places I look for Jesus—and inevitably, he shows up.

Last summer, my husband and I sat around a Sunday School class, all circle-like, a crew made up of our newly-believing Bible class combined with a class designed for those whom the world so often calls "special." They are special indeed.  Some of these times were so sweet that you wanted to eat them up with a spoon. This particular Sunday, it felt like we were given extra chocolate sprinkles, that there was even a cherry on top. 

One of the guys with deep brown beautiful skin offered to pray for all the class's requests—to take it all before the throne. Word on the street—or in the church—was that Ricky was an expert pray-er, though I had never personally observed this myself. Up to this point, I only knew that I called Ricky by the name Mark for months before someone corrected my mistake, though he never seemed to mind. I also knew he was partial to powdered doughnut holes, because I would occasionally glimpse telltale signs around his mouth. That is all. And then, he prayed.

It was the most beautiful of conversations. He was respectful and earnest and experienced and engaged. I don't believe he forgot a one of the requests that had been mentioned. The moment felt so holy, so stripped bare of pretense and pretending with God that it felt like it would be appropriate to take off our shoes.

But the thing that made the prayer so memorable, all these months later, was that as he prayed, Ricky would occasionally pause to say, "And I hope you have a good weekend, God.”

As if God and he were out for coffee or they were about to hang up the phone after a really great conversation, he would say, "I hope you have a good weekend."

Which in my feeble translation may mean, “It’s so nice to be talking with you, God. I hope you like this prayer, that all is well with you. And I want you to know I like talking with you.”

And when he was done I knew I didn’t want it to end. I wanted Ricky to pray all hour and we could forget the Sunday School lesson and all. But instead a lady stood in the center of the room holding a picture of a golden calf, and many of us danced around her like we were the Israelites, the wayward ones who forgot how to worship and to pray to the true God. It makes me think that we substitute things for real communion with our heavenly Father all the time, when really he wants us to be candid. He wants us to delight in him. He wants us to encourage him to have a good day or a good weekend; never mind that he is the master of time and timeless. That He himself created time. He wants to hear from us in our language, and when it is offered purely, I am convinced the prayers always get through.

Your turn: share a story where you felt God delighted in someone or some situation. Go!

Holy kisses and much "to-do"

Read God Stories to remember that God is alive and active, restoring, renewing, and bringing hope in the most unlikely places. You'll find them rotated with "barren Mondays" posts. The husband and I are in a church transition. Need I say more? Church transitions can be tricky, loaded actually, and walking into this big, beautiful, diverse new church made me feel a little like I was cheating on my old church. I knew God was clearly moving us on, but my heart felt frozen. Truth be told, it hurt to breathe.

Don't get me wrong. I liked what I saw at this gathering of believers, I felt like I could be accepted there, that anyone, anywhere, could actually be accepted there, but I didn't yet feel welcomed. Well, OK, I had just walked in the door, so what can you expect?

But I was not one of their people.

They didn't know my name.

And in a church of this size, how long would this take, if I passed on the Beth Moore Bible study and the Zumba class? I was feeling fragile, like a leaf that could easily blow away, unnoticed, unsure, unneeded. 

All of this happened on Palm Sunday.

A few greeter-people shook our hands at the door on the way in, but otherwise we were lost in the crowd. Until she sashayed down the aisle, waving her palm frond like a greeting, approaching us as if she were our long-lost aunt, an aunt with skin of a different color. We were sitting there, stunned; she was standing there, joyous, dressed snappily, ready to serenade us with her love. She hugged both of us on the spot, though we were still sitting down.

And then she did the totally unexpected. She told us someone over yonder had just taught her to kiss like the French. I kid you not. And then . . .

She leaned over and gave my husband the smoochie-smooch on his cheeks, back and forth, three times, acting as if he had just been christened.

She greeted my man with a holy kiss, I tell you, and I was next. I think she said "Blessings in the name of the Lord!" or something, I'm not sure, because I was thoroughly enjoying the look of shock on David's face. And then she turned and moved on down the aisle for her next greeting. After the shock wore off, I turned to my beloved and said, "She has just welcomed us when no one else did. Good for her!"

It so happens that this beautiful aunt-like woman also dances in the aisle when Jesus' name is being sung about, that she cries out "Hallelujah!" and other such exclamations of praise. This is not exactly a common occurrence in this new gathering, but she does it anyway. I am coming to love her for it, I'm determined that I will appreciate her sacrifice of praise, that I will soak up her heart bursting with gratitude like her Savior does. So this morning when she saddled up to me during the song, grabbing my hand, hugging my neck, I heard her say with deep sincerity, "We're chosen. He loves us," and other such beautiful utterances, and I returned the favor.

I planted a singular smooch on her cheek, in front of God and everyone.

She beamed. She sang, I sang, and then she moved on down the aisle, a cacophony of praise in her wake.

And I have just one more thing to say about that. I have observed the eye-rolls that sometimes follow her, the look of incredulity on the faces of some. And at one time I would have been one of the nay-sayers, I would have been in this crowd. But when sister-aunt begins to saunter down the aisle, you'll find me smiling now. I have a feeling that this type of unadulterated praise, this gesture that reminds me of King David unashamedly dancing in his underwear before God—no holds barred (2 Samuel 6:20-23), is what heaven will smack of, loud and long. I have a feeling that we will all be worshipping wholeheartedly, without a thought of holding back, even if we all do so uniquely.

I only hope that when I am in the presence of Jesus, sister-aunt and I get to hang out in the same neighborhood, that we are part of the same detail, if you will. Because frankly, I have something to learn from her. Perhaps she can teach me the art of perfecting the holy kiss—and perhaps, ever so much more.

Your Turn: How about you? What have you learned from someone who freely shares the love of Christ in unexpected ways?

(Note: Another "barren Mondays" will appear next week, where I discover the only woman in the Bible and what that might have to do with me: "Guilty by Barren Association." Stay tuned!)