My volunteers and I sit in the back pew, ready to run down to the fellowship hall and start another carafe of coffee if necessary. The organist plays "We Gather Together" and sights and sounds from my childhood invade my thoughts. The lump in my throat that remains for the rest of the service begins to build. Love INC of Tinley Park has offered to provide desserts for the Tinley Park All Church Thanksgiving Service and I am overcome by the simple beauty of it all. It's true, I come from what some call a mega-church, and I wouldn't trade my family of believers for all the tea in China. But all of the professional singing, videography and special lighting wouldn't have made this service any more effective. A simple table adorned with pumpkins and surrounded by food for the local food pantry is the only decoration in this small timber beamed chapel. And now the local Catholic priest begins the "Peace be with you," ritual. I am strengthened with each hand that grasps mine.
I am reminded of days gone by, when holidays were nothing more than an event created by grown ups for me to enjoy and to celebrate. A world filled with tradition, ritual and security. My eyes now brim with tears. I am grateful for my heritage of godly parents who served in a youth mission during the Chicago race riots, with toddler me in tow. I never felt anything but safe. I long for those days when danger can be all around and mommy and daddy make everything okay.
I remember where and who I am. After all, I have a duty to fulfill, a task to perform. Brushing away tears, I smile at my new friend next to me. We have labored together she and I, talking to people who are desperate in desperate times. Praying with them, and helping them carry their burden. Blessed Be the Ties that Bind. Though storms rage everywhere we look, we have an army together facing the future with God fighting for us. It's time to sneak out of service and put the finishing touches on the table.
Happy cheerful faces, coffee mug in hand, chat about community events. The room becomes a kaleidescope from those pesky tears again. I am grateful to serve. To sow. Grateful to have hands that can make homemade buttercream. Thankful to have all of the ingredients at home. Amazed at the opportunity that the present presents. Heart to God, hand to man.
I drive to my own church building to pick up my kids. Familiar feels good. I want to hug everyone. Son puts away camera, daughter gathers things and I glance at the table of coats for Aslan's Wardrobe. It's full to overflowing, as is my heart. The future is good when it includes those with whom I walk the walk. He is present in my future, past and present.