Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pastor J

I did some driving today.  SK and I drove south through a November-like rain on this last day of August so she could hitch a ride across the state with one of her house-mates.  See, SK has what they affectionately call 'Camp Whitworth' for the next week.  The week when all the students return to their dorms and apartments and houses but do nothing but play until classes start.  SK and some of her friends actually sat down and made a list of required activities for Camp Whitworth.  'Picking peaches at Greenbluff' was on the list.  So was 'Finding fringed-coats to wear to the Stewart Lawn Dance.'  We took her to Good Will last night (because Beve had promised her he would) and she found a genuine Indian sari, which, she told me, 'won't end up in our costume trunk.'  "Your house has a costume trunk?" I asked.  "Of course," she answered.  Smiling.  Knowing they aren't the typical college seniors.  But that's what I love about her, about all her housemates.  They're wild and silly and love kids and ministry and the Lord.  Yep, I really love her life behind the Pine Cone curtain.  It suits her perfectly...for one more year.

After dropping her off, I turned around and drove north to the church where our close friend J is the senior pastor.  Early in the summer, when J and K were about to leave for their summer in Great Britain (which I didn't even ask about, and now I'm feeling VERY self-involved!), J asked about Mom.  Said he was worried that she might die while they were gone and he wouldn't be able to be here for us.  So when we were sitting around Mom's bedside with our feet up on various chairs, making ourselves at home (like you always do at your Mom's!), we talked a bit (OK, maybe more than a bit) about her service (s).  It had long been in my head that I'd like J to do Mom's service.  I mean, he's our closest friend.  Baptized our kids.  He and his wife sang at our Dad's service, sang at Glo's. Then my sister said that the minister at the church where Mom's been a member more than half her life hadn't even been to see her in the nursing home, didn't actually consider her a parishioner, since he "looked in on her once and she didn't seem to recognize [him]."  Are you kidding me?  She didn't recognize her own kids, her own face in the mirror, how in tarnation (as her Kansas mother would have said) was she to recognize a man she didn't know? So he never bothered to stop by again.  Needless to say, I asked my siblings about having J do the service.  J who certainly gets having a parent with Alzheimers, having lost his own father to it.  Who'd do just about anything we asked him to do, just because he loves us.  But to do what he's called to do, qualified to do?  This is ministry to us.  My siblings, of course, are not stupid people.  Not a one of them.  They got it first time out that it was not only right but good and just about perfect to have Pastor J be our family's pastor for a day.

So I stopped by to sit in Pastor J's office for a while.  Talk through a memorial service for my mother.  It was a strange thing to be so formal with him in one sense.  Usually we're sitting around a table with our spouses, climbing all over each other's voices to ask all the questions and tell all the stories.  We can fill up hours, the four of us can.  No, we can fill up weeks.  We have.  Many weeks.  Usually in swimsuits.  With books in one hand and cold drinks in the other.  Talking the entire time.  That's when it's J and K with Beve and me.  Just friends, as if 'just' should ever be the modifier for friendship such as ours.

But today I sat there like any old parishioner, asking my pastor to do my family proud.  Except that I have no doubts he will. No doubts at all.  I know him, trust his heart, believe in his ministry.   Still, it's an odd thing to be planning a parent's memorial service, knowing this may be one of the last things I ever do for her.   How to honor her best.  What to tell him--a friend who has listened to me say so many, many things about my mother over the long years of our friendship--that describes her, and honors her.  A task for a better person than me, I think, but I was there to do it.  And, by His grace, I think I told a bit of her story...though, on the way home I thought of other things.  I thought of her generous spirit, for example--she may have been the most generous person I have ever known.  If I told you all the ways she was generous, you'd think so too.  The gifts, the trips, the cars and, well, the gifts...it was quite a gift, that generous spirit of hers. 

But Pastor J has the bones of her story, and God will give him the flesh to put on those bones, to comfort those who need comfort, and encourage those who need encouragement.  That's how the Spirit works in one called to preach.  I've seen it worked out so before.  My expectations for my friend, J, aren't too high.  But my expectation for God are.  Sky high.  I believe God will be honored--just as Mom sought, with such sweat and tears, especially toward the end of her life,to honor Him--at her memorial service.  Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

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