The Wolf in sheep’s clothing

If you don’t know this, my dog is a war veteran. My oldest son adopted her from the mountains of Afghanistan.  Part Shepherd and part wolf, she was Marine-trained to keep watch.

Suffice it to say, she has a reputation as a bad ass. Every morning, at the break of dawn, she goes on patrol from my screened in porch.  She barks at strangers whom she does not recognize. She intimidates dogs who have not been properly introduced. She is prepared to go through the screen if she feels a significant threat.  She is my protector, my warrior, one of my best friends.

That being said, she has a story. Doesn’t everybody?  She was born in a war zone.  She learned to be overly alert and protective.  Frankly, she has post traumatic stress disorder.  Have you ever heard of that?

So do my two oldest sons who are also war veterans.  As a matter of fact, the whole family has it to some degree.  That’s what violence, intrusion, and the sudden death of loved ones leave behind.  Believe me. There are many military families like mine. Don’t get me started.

Some of you know from my recent facebook posts that my condo has become a haven for nesting animals. At the end of March, a robin built a nest on top of my front door. I adapted, using the garage or the back door as much as possible. I watched the eggs hatch, and eventually, the young birds flew the coop.

Then, a duck made a nest by the same front door and deposited 8 eggs.  I named the Mama duck “Ethel” and talked to her every day as if she belonged here.  I did the same for “Robin”.  Let me say, I used to live on a tiny farm.

My daughter raised ducks for a 4-H project.  We built a pen in a grove of pine trees to keep them as safe as possible.  We let out the ducks at least twice a day.  They would immediately take flight, circling our property three times.  Then they would land and expect us to chase them back to their pen. Heidi, our watchdog, loved their game.

Back then, Heidi would swim with them in our pond. To the ducks, she was not a bad ass, but part of the family. So, it didn’t surprise me at all that Heidi welcomed Ethel to our home.  Heidi was accustomed to ducks. In some odd way, she knew them as our kin. Then Mia, the golden retriever, showed up.

Mia is the darling dog of the community.   Because of her breed, everyone admires her.  Yet, she’s the off-leash blond bombshell who wants to take over the world.

Heidi, on the other hand,  is greeted with on-going suspicion. Because of her aggressive bark, she is labelled as a nuisance, one to be feared.  People have no idea what she’s been through. Neighbors have no idea that her bark is her cry for help. She is broken and overly-stressed. She is anxious and afraid. Like other war veterans, she longs to be accepted and loved. Could that also be true for other neighbors as well?

The other night, Mia was out and about.  As usual, she was the gentle and flirtatious  politician making the rounds, until she smelled the duck.  She charged the nest. Frantically, Ethel took off. I had to intervene.

In the meantime, Heidi was on lock down in the back yard. Because of her reputation, she was on the patio.  She was anchored by the gas grill, even as she lazily nested in the mulch nearby.

Mia is a sweet dog. There’s no doubt about it.  Perhaps, she just isn’t trained to be kind and welcoming to ducks. Perhaps she is so accustomed to being the center of attention, she doesn’t realize that there are other creatures in the universe who don’t want to be bothered.

Here’s my point. Beware of the “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” They can cause much anxiety and stress.  Here’s another point. Listen to the stories of others. Be gentle with strangers.  Give thanks for those who made sacrifices for us through service to their country.  Advocate for our veterans.  They deserve our kindness and respect, regardless of their species.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bedazzled Silver Lining

I am a cup half-full kind of gal.  I not only look for the “silver lining”, I bedazzle it. I bedazzle it with shimmering sequins and light-reflecting Swarovski crystals.  Don’t be a hater.  It just is.

I took a week’s vacation, starting Saturday morning.  My village of friends knows, for a variety of reasons, that I have the blessing of travel.  Yet, this time, I took vacation to visit with my extended family in North Carolina.  The visit was past due. There was my nephew’s college graduation.  There were doctors’ visits with my father, and a bank appointment with my mother.  So, why did I boohoo for almost two hours in the car, as I drove from one town to another?

I’ve been thinking about that.  I’m not sad.  Yet, I AM humbled.  Okay, I admit it. I am a sap.  I don’t cry often. For instance, I don’t cry at weddings or funerals.  I’m sure that is a professional hazard from being the one often in charge. Instead, my tears flow in unusual circumstances.

I cry when hard work is completed and well done.  I cry when people let down their guards and choose to be unusually vulnerable. I cry when I hear “Pomp and Circumstance”.  Of course, like so many others, I cry when I am sleep deprived and world weary.

Crying is a gift.  Though it gets a bad rap, it is the raw fruit cleanse for the soul.   Sure, crying lubricates our eyeballs.  It kills bacteria and removes toxins caused by stress.  It also points out the obvious.

We are human.  I don’t care if you call it, “leaky tear ducts, rain on your face, or salty discharge”.  Crying reminds us that we are not always in control.  It suggests that there may be more vibes in the universe for which we cannot take credit or blame.  Our tears are a message to which we need to pay attention.

So, I took a day away by myself and drove to the beach.  I wanted to pay attention. Unfortunately, a two-hour drive from my sister’s house became a five-hour drive after a wrong turn.  Don’t laugh.  I was lost in my thoughts as well.  Oh, the trials and trails on which I find myself!  Suffice it to say, I couldn’t get there fast enough. Yet, I had a lot of time to clarify the moans and groans spilling out from within.

Now what is it about the beach that brings us such comfort and calm?  Is it the chronic white noise of tumbling waves? Is it the long walk? Is it the extra dose of Vitamin D?  For those of us who grew up near the East Coast, is it the flood of good memories of family vacations, high school rites of passage, being with friends in a spirit of freedom and relaxation?  For people of faith, is it the soggy baptismal pull, like gravity, that draws us back to the tide of Divine approval and love?

The answer to the question is all of the above.  There is one more thing.

Do me a favor.  Look at the picture below and use your imagination.  Tell me what you see.  I see a silver lining, bedazzled with shimmering sequins and light-reflecting Swarovski crystals. How about you?

Even if that time apart took longer than expected to get there, it was worth it.   I listened to my tears. I gave thanks for them, and for everyone else around me who humbles me.  Looking at that water brought me back to my true self.

So, the next time tears well up and start dripping down your face, pay attention.  Accept your humanity.  Listen to the moans and groans from within.  Receive the gift of the cleanse.  Then, in your imagination, take those tears and bedazzle them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

When did This Mother Superior Pass Away?

Because I am a mother and a pastor, my children used to call me, “Mother Superior”.  As a matter of fact, that is how my youngest son would address my birthday and Mother’s Day cards.  Who was I to correct him? By the way, did you know that my middle name is Pope.  That is a fact.

For a Mom, so often torn between parenting and pastoring, that name “Mother Superior” was my favorite gift.  It was a dozen orange roses. It was breakfast in bed and a foot massage.  It was a home cooked meal prepared, served and cleaned up by somebody else.

In fact, Chris’ construction-paper cards addressed that way were his wink with a kiss.  I felt like it was his way of saying, “You’re no Mother Theresa, but your love for me is superior”.  I didn’t need anything else.  Then he grew up.

When Chris turned seventeen, things changed.  He began to separate from me.  He barely spoke.  He forgot to share his calendar. No longer did he have time for a shared meal.  I get it.  Self-differentiation is the work of adolescence.  Yet to say it wasn’t a struggle for me would be like saying that the Rock of Gibraltar is just another pebble.  Am I the only mother who went through this?

At some point, this Mother Superior passed away.  I don’t remember the exact date.  All I know was that I wasn’t even invited to the Memorial Service.

Before that, Chris and I would go out many Sunday nights.  It was just the two of us.   He would finish his homework, as he ate.  I would simply eat and offer my assistance if required.  I would take deep breaths after a long week.  Basically, we would re-connect after too many over-scheduled days.

However, during his senior year of high school, he did his thing; I did mine.  We barely spoke.  I don’t remember heated arguments.  I just remember silence, blank stares and the question quota.

That’s right. He thought I asked too many questions.  Can you imagine a mother doing that? Well, he thought I did. So, he imposed the question quota. I was only to ask so many questions before he shut down.

In my defense, I was still interested in his comings and goings. I wanted to know with whom he rode.  I wanted to know what he was thinking.

I didn’t ask questions out of suspicion, most of the time. I was genuinely interested. Looking back, I realize I was still craving the long talks. I craved his need for my help. I missed the invitation to scratch his back. Yet, he was growing up and growing away.

Chris is now 21.  He is a stellar son.  He is in college, figuring out his core values and passions.  Though I wish he called more, he participates in required family gatherings. For instance, this past Easter Sunday, he came to church for worship and the annual family photo. He didn’t growl or grumble. He was on time!

Yet, under his breath during Easter lunch, he muttered something about going to Europe in a few weeks. “whhaat”? I wanted to shout? Instead, I chose to be thrilled.  I refrained from asking ANY questions. I simply said with great joy, “tell me more”!

I said, “Wow! Clearly, you’ve been resourceful. It sounds like you’re pursuing one of your dreams”. I expressed pride in his initiative. Then, he showed me pictures and shared more details.

Yesterday, while I was at church, Chris called me from Barcelona, Spain.  With great animation in his voice, he shared some of the highlights from his travels.  He called ME.  He didn’t ask for money.  He simply wanted to share some of his comings and goings.

Maybe this Mother Superior had to die for a new relationship to rise. I hate to admit that. It was a slow death. The good news, however, is that the pressure has been lifted. These days I’m satisfied to be Mom.

What does partnership really look like?

I am sad to say that my partner in ministry for the last nine years, Pastor Tom, is retiring at the end of June.  We have been a great team: yin and yang, extravert and introvert, female and male. To say “it has been a great ride” is an understatement. At times, he has been my calm in the storm. At times, I have been the match that lit his feet on fire.  Tom has been my colleague, my pastor and he will forever be my friend.

A few weeks ago, Tom sent a letter to the congregation announcing his retirement.  It was well received. We are now busy trying to create a celebration worthy of his impact, yet subtle enough for his approval.

Shortly after his letter went out, I got an email from a church member.  He was sad to receive the news of Tom’s retirement, but ready to join the celebration for his ministry.  It was a supportive email and I appreciated receiving it.  It was the P.S. that made me chuckle.

He wrote, “P.S. after Tom retires, maybe you’ll get to be the Big Cheese”.

On paper, I am the Lead Pastor.  At first, I wanted to chalk up the confusion to sexism or age-ism.  Tom is older than I and has accumulated more years of service.  Still, I wanted to huff and puff, then burn my bra!  I immediately heard Helen Reddy’s song in my head, “I am woman, hear me roar”. It was followed by the chorus of “We shall overcome”.

Then I took a deep breath and decided to look at the comment from a different perspective.  Once I did that, all I could do was be grateful.  The truth is, I aspire to be a team player, NOT the Big Cheese. Let me explain.

I am an identical twin.  We are hilariously competitive and the very best of friends.  Growing up, she was the short stop when I played second base.  There was nothing sweeter than making a double play.  It was about knowing each other so intuitively that we had a rhythm that was successful most of the time.  Of course, there was the occasional over-throw and the dropped ball.  Let’s tell the truth. No partnership is perfect. Yet, isn’t that the kind of relationship for which we’re all striving?

Years ago, I was on Match.com.  Yes, I admit it.  I wouldn’t say that from the pulpit, but this blog is different. I intend to get real.

On my profile, I wrote, “I am looking for a short stop to my second base and a lifetime of double plays”.  It was pretty descriptive. Don’t you think?

You see, from the very beginning, I was created as a partner.

All of this is to say, I am sad to see my colleague retire from our partnership though I promise to love him forward.  It is also to say that I am proud that the lines of our titles were blurred.  It doesn’t matter who did what.  It doesn’t matter who got credit, or who specifically got the rare blame.  What matters is the partnership of symbiosis.  What matters is the mutual respect and the appreciation of each other’s unique strengths. What matters is nine years of double plays.

Do me a favor.  Look at the partnerships in which you are involved.  Do you have symbiosis?  Are the lines of leadership sometimes blurred?  Are you equally satisfied to lead and to follow?  Do you have mutual respect and the ability to forgive the occasional over-throw or dropped ball?

It’s time to look at partnership in a new way.

The Scabs of Humanity

Years ago, I ran into some friends at a local Wal-Mart. After catching up about kids and work, Lynn shared the strangest thing about her youngest son.  Earlier in the year, he had chicken pox and decided to save the scabs.  That’s right. He kept them in a medicine container on a shelf in his room.  It was his father’s idea.

When his son was whining about how he itched and couldn’t sleep, the idea was planted in the young boy’s mind. The dad said something about the scabs being “battle scars”, which would make a great visual for show and tell.  Kids love gross things.

Let me tell you.  After I quit laughing and gagging at the thought of chicken pox scabs, I remembered that I used to keep old plastered casts that had been cut off my arm or leg after it had healed.  I kept those casts on the shelf in the closet of my childhood home and had no problem bringing them out for my own show and tell.

I am sure I’m not the only one.  Have you ever known someone who kept his gall stones?  How about one who kept the braces from her teeth or the x-rays of broken bones.

As strange as it seems, here’s the truth.  We can only be fully known by our wounds. Scabs and scars are signs of our humanity. Think about it.  It’s hard to find a connection with someone who appears to have it all together. Frankly, I only feel some common ground with someone who has also been broken. Need I also say? Not all scars are physical or apparent to the eye?

Now, I’m not suggesting that we “let it all hang out”.  However, in my profession (ministry), we need to shift from being holier-than-thou to being more real. Granted, I wasn’t brought up that way.  Though it wasn’t spoken, we somehow learned not to share our “dirty laundry” in public. Subliminally, I grew up in an era when “image was everything”.

That’s changed. Maybe it’s not just my profession that is evolving.  These days, it appears that authority comes from authenticity, not title or expertise.  Have you noticed that?

We don’t have to share everything.  In fact, I would discourage it for bosses and leaders. However, instead of riding  high horses, let’s ride donkeys. Even better, let’s just walk or roll alongside those for whom we work and serve.

Let’s take a  look at leadership from a different view.

 

 

Confessions of a Southern Has-been

As a Southerner, I acknowledge some regional indulgences for which I make no apologies.  I confess; for years, I have had a fist fight with big hair.  One of my favorite colors is Carolina blue.  Even though I gave up sweet tea years ago, I refuse to give up hammocks, gardenias and tomato sandwiches

However, since this blog is called “gratefulgrits”, I was hoping to develop a signature dish that I could endorse.  So, I doctored a Bobby Flay recipe.  Who doesn’t love Bobby Flay?  Yet I wanted to add my own flair. 

Please note that I cut down on Flay’s recommendation of butter and cheese.  I added red peppers, spinach and cilantro which are things that I like.  I was trying to make it healthy.

Get this.  I loved the shrimp, spinach, peppers, onions, garlic lathered in bacon grease and lemon juice.  Okay. I could have used less bacon grease for a similar effect. The cilantro was a nice addition.

I hated the grits.  Does that make me a flunky? 

Southerners need to come up with new indulgences.  No longer can our bodies afford fried okra, chicken, catfish or anything else fried. Corn bread, biscuits,  hush puppies are horrible for anyone who is trying to live gluten-free.  Peach cobbler is addicting.  Grits are just bland without all the butter, salt and pepper, etc.  

Frankly, we Southerners need to surrender those things along with Confederate flags, Bible thumping, red and white barber poles.  You don’t understand the barber pole symbol?  Look it up. 

I don’t have time to explain.  I’ve got to figure out what to do with my leftover grits.

Ingredients:
Old fashioned grits
2 tbl. Butter
Salt and pepper
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 tbl. Minced garlic
Fresh lemon juice
1 cup chopped green onions
2 cups fresh spinach
3 chopped sweet red peppers
2 tbl. Fresh cilantro.

Make grits according to package. Prepare for 4 servings.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  (I use Sea salt).  While the grits are cooking, rinse shrimp.  Pat dry.

Fry bacon I a large skillet until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towel.  Leave grease in pan.  Saute red peppers in grease until tender, Add half of the green onions, garlic and Spinach.  Add Shrimp until it turns pink.  (2-3 minutes).  Add lots of fresh lemon juice.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

To the cooked grits, added butter and cheese.

Then spoon grits into a serving bowl.  Place vegetables on top of grits, Add Shrimp.  Add bacon, the rest of the uncooked green onions and cilantro.

Serves 4.

Enjoy.

Easter dirt

 

I am so thankful that Spring is here; aren’t you? Granted, here in Ohio, we have not had a brutal winter, Yet, I am itching to get my hands back into the dirt. I’m not a Master Gardener, by any means, but I have become a determined composter.

 

Because I live in a condo, I can only do composting on a small scale.  I have a few pots on my patio into which I collect dry leaves, food scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, shredded newspaper, grass clippings and banana peels.

 

I even get excited about big, fat, juicy worms trying to survive a big rain. Squeamishly, I collect them. I drop them in a bag and say, “I’m gonna make your day”.  Then I take them home, depositing them in one of my compost pots to feast on scraps.

 

There’s a reason I want to talk about dirt this time of year. Did you notice, in the reading of the Easter story from the Gospel of John, that Mary didn’t recognize the Risen Christ?  She thought he was the gardener.

 

Why is that? Did he have dirt under his fingernails?  Could he have smelled like compost and worms?  Jesus couldn’t have looked like a holy ghost, if Mary mistook him for OLD McDonald.

 

You know, one of the things that this story tells me Is that new life is messy. Mary Magdalene didn’t encounter some glowing spiritual Jesus.  He didn’t appear with a halo, wings or a Spring Break tan. He didn’t appear in Khakis and a melon-colored polo shirt.  Neither did he look like some Superhero with a cape. Mary mistook him for Mr. Green Jeans.

 

I don’t know why that should surprise us.  The Gospel wasn’t meant to be cleaned up. Think about it.   Jesus was born around farm animals.  And, from the beginning, Jesus chose unimpressive characters to follow him: fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes.  These days, that would be like recruiting veterans with PTSD, recovering addicts, food pantry regulars and teenagers with bad attitudes for his army of love.

 

The Gospel is messy; Why would we assume Resurrection is any different? I get it.  The Garden of Resurrection is the new Garden of Eden.  Jesus is the new Adam.  It’s a whole new beginning.  All of creation is being restored. I understand the garden theme.

 

However, for me, Easter gets personal. Between us, my life has been messy.  I have lots of dirt: guilt, fear, regret and shame. I know claiming the new life God offers will take some gardening.  Some regrets need to be dug up and composted.  Some relationships need to be pruned.  My fear about things I cannot control needs to be dead-headed. My compassion for others needs to be fertilized.

 

Easter, for me, is the faith that the Master Gardener is still working with me and with the whole earth.  Put on your garden gloves and join us.

 

 

 

 

 

Not Everybody wants to be touched

 

I forgot that on Sunday morning. During the final hymn, I left the chancel to make my way to the back of the church. That’s my weekly routine. Personally, I want to connect with as many folks as possible before they leave.

As I made my way down a side aisle, I gave a high-five to a UNC alum. I winked at some ornery friends. I touched the shoulder of an older man who is recovering from surgery.  I introduced myself to a visiting young couple. 

Then, I made my way to the head usher, at the central back door. Each week, during these quick minutes, she silently points out any other guests she wants me to meet.  If she got their names, she gives me that information as well. 

As I stood there, I noticed someone sitting in the back of another section of the sanctuary. A niece of one of our unpaid office staff visits several times a year.  I wanted to say hello.  Because the niece was sitting in the middle of the back pew, I went up behind her and touched her shoulder.  I didn’t want to scare her, but I wanted her to know I noticed her.  She looked over her shoulder, grinned and nodded.  The older woman sitting next to her, noticed my intrusion.  She is a long-time member, but I don’t know her very well.  She rarely speaks to anyone.  She and her husband sneak in and out of the sanctuary without drawing any attention to themselves.  They are loners.

I touched the older woman on the shoulder and smiled. I wanted to apologize for breaking in.  She turned around and slapped me. It wasn’t a love pat; it was more of a slug.  It startled me, for sure. I had never been hit in church.

I quickly exited out another side door. I didn’t want to cause any commotion.  I wanted to greet others.  I whispered into the head usher’s ear, and she simply mouthed, “must not be taking her meds”. That made sense. This older saint has schizophrenia.  I had forgotten that.  The ushers know about it. 

The incident wasn’t over. As I was standing at the central door, my nemesis made a bee-line toward me, shoving others out of the way.  Fury had possessed her.   Thankfully, her husband held her by the elbows and was escorting her out.  She was swinging.

My heart sunk as the husband pushed past me and out the back door.  I’m grateful that at our church, we have open doors. Everybody is welcome. This incident was a reminder that we need to develop appropriate responses.  I’m going to research mental health first aid.  I just wanted to put this in writing again.  Not everybody wants to be touched.

 

What Is Your Why?

 

Do you know someone is fixated on that question?  Why do I have to eat my vegetables? Why do I have to practice the piano? Why do I have to work so hard? Why can’t I sleep late?

When my kids were younger, they were fascinated with the question of why.  Frankly, I didn’t always have a good answer.

“Why did my hamster die”, one would ask.                                                              

“Why do dinosaur bones smell  bad?”                                                     

 “Why is the sky Carolina blue?”

Okay, I do have an answer.  I’m a Carolina Tarheel.  So is God.  I’ll confess like a lot of parents who don’t have the answers to all the why’s, my go-to response was “because I said so”.  Yet, why is such an important question. It might be the MOST important one.

By the way, the answer to the question “Why do dinosaur bones smell bad?”  It’s because they’re ex-stinked.

Our response to the question of why can answer the more over-arching questions of our lives. It can explain why we get up every morning, why we what we do. Let’s face it, we live in a day and age with more hows than whys. As my 21 year old son likes to tell me, one can learn how to do just about anything on youtube these days. Did you know from youtube videos, among other things, you can learn how to make a fire with a lemon, how to survive being buried alive, how to butcher a massive alligator, how to lose that wiggly arm fat?  Again, we live in a culture of hows.

Yet, I believe that what we long to claim is not our how; Rather, it’s our why. A long time ago, a wise person once said, “The one who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”.  A number of years ago, I developed a spiritual practice. Instead of going through my list of must-dos, have-tos, should dos and want tos, I remember my why. My why is to love God and love others.  For me, it is really that simple. 

In the course of any day, along with all my tasks and duties, I am open.  If I receive an unexpected phone call, or an interrupted visit, I frame it in a spirit of openness.  I shift my thinking from another have to, to a possible follow through to my why.  If it addresses my why, I take it.  If it doesn’t, I set it aside.

What is your why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God bless the broken roads

You may remember from my last post, “Wedding Woes”,  that there were some detail challenges at the rehearsal the previous evening. For instance, I mentioned that there were a couple of bridesmaid no-shows.  I knew the Matron of Honor was among the missing.  I realized later that Lori was the bride’s identical twin sister. She and the bride had exchanged some stinging insults months before. Apparently, they historically had competed for their parents’ financial support.  Not showing up at rehearsal was Lori’s “nana nana boo boo”. To end the argument once and for all, the bride was paying for this wedding herself. Lori didn’t know that until the morning of the ceremony. I guess, in Lori’s mind, she had won. I’m not so sure.

When I arrived at the barn, I was caught off guard by the ambiance. Unlike other rustic venues, this place was smaller.  It had been decorated with simple strings of white lights.  Had I seen something similar on Pinterest? I immediately checked in with the bride.  I wanted to gauge her pre-wedding vibe. In the over-sized pantry converted into dressing room, she was fanning herself, trying not to melt. Let me just say; Rose was stunning.  She looked as if she had stepped out of a bridal magazine.  Standing there, she was in full bloom, a “Great Maiden’s Blush”. If you don’t know, that is a very old rose, a European antique, an old soul, one that blooms best on the darkest pathways of the pine grove.

Even under the circumstances, Rose was calm and collected. Unfortunately, her mother kept smothering her, begging for one more hug. Her tears were leaving make up smudges on the bride’s white gown. So, after taking one more picture, the photographer found something for the mother of the bride to do.

Meanwhile, I found a bridesmaid who was willing to be the ceremony’s detail manager.  She would signal me from the back of the room, as the wedding party lined up.  We worked out hand gestures for different scenarios.   I felt like a catcher for the Cincinnati Reds. Thumbs up meant that everyone was ready.  A cutting throat to me and the DJ was “Stop the music. We need more time”.  Praying hands meant, “danger, danger, everybody take cover. Something is about to blow”.

At the last minute, two more children under the age of 7 were added to the processional.  Remember the baby who would be pulled in a wagon down the aisle by a flower girl?  She was screaming. Thankfully, the DJ had plenty of elevator music to play as he stalled.  With everyone else seated, we had to wait for grandmothers on both sides of the new family to arrive.

Forty-five minutes late, the music started. I got a “thumbs up” from the back. All bridesmaids, including the matron of honor, processed down the aisle.  Then, the ring bearer walked, holding the hand of one of the flower girls.  Next, another flower girl started pulling the well-decorated wagon.  Someone had built a small throne for the wagon, covered with a soft white blanket.  She was strapped in with a seat belt, and she cooed from her chariot. Two other children came down the aisle and stood like mannequins in place.

Then the music shifted.  Before the bride turned to walk down the aisle, she paused.  I couldn’t judge her father’s sobriety from my point of view. He was quiet, yet upright. That pause caused us all to focus on the first few bars of the music she had chosen for her entrance.  Remember my last post?  “God Bless the Broken Road” was playing. Could that song have been any more fitting?

Now, as a seasoned wedding officiant, I smile widely, projecting calm. Through winks and nods, I assure the wedding party that I’ve got this.  They can relax.  I am there for them.

When the music started, I looked at the bridesmaids and groomsmen, nodding.  I winked at the mother of the bride.  I acknowledged the groom’s family.  I looked at the groom.  When he saw his bride for the first time, he sobbed.  Ugly crying is not something any bride or groom intends. Yet, he couldn’t contain himself. When he walked to the first row to shake hands with her father, he pulled it together.  He offered his left arm to his bride with strength and respect.  His father stepped back. When he did that, the bride lost it.  The groom started crying again.

I couldn’t read their blubbering. I didn’t want to embarrass them, nor quiet them.  So, I waited for a minute.  I handed them tissues I kept up my sleeve.  In my heart of hearts, I just kept praying, “God bless the broken road that leads them back to you”.

The bride and groom are now married.  They received gifts, greeted family members, and ate wedding cake.  I signed the marriage certificate and hugged my new friends. Someday I will tell those two again what a privilege it was to officiate their wedding.  That day, they gave me a gift. They reminded me what an honor it is to bless broken roads.  Ultimately, that’s a huge part of what I am called to do as a pastor. I am grateful for such an intimate vocation and those who ask me to be there. I am being church in a different way.