Another Saturday night. It's almost the end of the month, a busy time in the Lyons family. We have two birthdays in October, less than a week apart. I am not about to short change one of my girls on their birthdays just because there's two in one month! Christmas is right around the corner. I've surprised the girls by planning a trip to Florida. We will finally make that visit to Charlie and Samantha Lyon's house, and we'll finally make it out to Disney World. The girls are excited! Disney World should be fun at Christmas time and I’m sure Alden and Charlea can handle the chat room just fine without me for a few nights.
Alden and I arrive home from dinner together, a nice place in Pullman square called Max and Erma’s. They have great hamburgers and onion rings. Over dinner, I told him all about Cynthia in the grocery store and the girls, slowly starting to let me back in, and now we were sitting in front of the fireplace. The first fire of the season is blazing. There's a slight chill in the air. Here we sit with our laptops open and our wine poured, with Rowdy, wearing a black leather jacket with silver spikes decorating the collar and back, lying between us.
On the chat room tonight, Oldlady1 is there with another story:
"Well, I haven't told you the funniest thing Pastor ever did, have I? One week we got a new sound system, and Pastor was so proud! He had one of those little microphones that clip to your collar, and he thought he was all that! He was wearing a three piece baby blue polyester suit that was too tight. All his clothes were too tight! That Sunday, he gave the most hellfire filled sermon I've ever heard. Why, he was banging on the pulpit, yelling at us to keep ourselves out of the hellfire. He got so worked up his face turned beet red and he started sweating something awful. He looked like a big Oompa Loompa! I remember looking over at my friend and she was trying not to laugh. When he gave the alter call, the only one to go forward was one of our Elders who was a little off, a little crazy. This guy went forward almost every Sunday and no one could do nothing with him. "
She writes on....
"Well Pastor was mighty disappointed that no one except Elder Stevens had responded to his fiery sermon about hell and everything. All that sweat for nothing! He quick prayed for Elder Stevens and left the sanctuary. But he forgot he still had that microphone on. We were singing the closing hymn when we heard it. We heard Pastor going to the bathroom, plain as day, like we were in the room with him. He was mad at all of us, telling God how we didn't listen and how his talents were wasted here, all the time he's going to the bathroom."
"One person in the back started laughing and it caught, just like the hellfire Pastor had been talking about. Soon all of us started laughing. We can't stop laughing. I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes! The whole sanctuary roared with laughter, and Pastor just kept on going. Yep that's the funniest thing that old fool ever did!" she writes.
"I just have to tell you, oldlady1 that forgiven and I are in the same room tonight and we are laughing along with your congregation. Ah, what sweet fellowship!" I write.
"Yes, we are truly brothers and sisters now!" writes oldlady1.
"That was funny.” writes Lavender. "Thanks for your funny stories."
"Might as well laugh," she writes. "Better than crying, I always say."
"How are you tonight, Lavender?" I write.
"Things are okay. This new guy seems legit but I have a hard time trusting him."
"Why? Has he done anything that makes you suspicious?" asks forgiven.
"No, just having trouble trusting anyone behind that pulpit." she writes.
"I know what you mean." writes oldlady1.
"Just give him a chance," writes forgiven. I think from what you've told me, he's a good guy. And you guys really put him through it, answering all your questions! You did a great job making sure he's okay. I think he's going to work out just fine!"
"Yeah, probably," she writes. "Someone asked him a question this past Wednesday night and he answered I don't know. I think that was good, right?"
"Yes, because no one could possibly know all the answers." Forgiven is writing. "A genuine person says stuff like 'I don't know.'"
We visit with Wolfman. His wife is still frustrated, but still going to counseling.
"She still gets a little sick when she thinks about going in a church," writes Wolfman. "I don't think she'll ever want to be in a church again and that makes me a little sad."
“It makes us a little sad too." I write.
Birddog is typing....
"Everything is going great here. We have a new minister, and he is the genuine article! I feel like inviting people to church again. If you are ever in Dallas Texas, look us up."
"So glad to hear it, birddog." writes forgiven. "May there be many blessings to come."
There are two brand new people visiting tonight. People seem to take their dogs’ names so much of the time that I’m getting to where I expect it. A person called, “Scout” tells a story about a minister who instituted a dress code at the church, turning people away who weren’t dressed properly. I look over at Alden and roll my eyes.
“There are no dress codes in the New Testament,” writes forgiven. “Maybe someone should point that out.”
Another person, calling themselves “greychameleon”, original name I think, tells us that the pastor at his church took away half the music minister’s job. One week after church he just told him, “From now on, I’ll be picking out the sacred hymns to go with my message. There will be no need for you to pick them out anymore. I’ll call you with my selections every week.” I shake my head, write,
“Did he have permission from the church leadership to make this change?”
“No, but when they heard about it, they didn’t think it was such a big deal. About half of them just went along with it because he’s the pastor!”
I look up at Alden. “Typical.” He nods, writes,
“greychameleon, this is a red flag, but most people have their pastor on too tall of a pedestal to notice. As long as it’s just the hymns, no one is going to care, but I can practically guarantee other things will happen. In the meantime, keep us informed. We’ll be here for you.”
“Well, I’m the music minister, and I just want to quit!”
“No one would blame you, at least no one on here,” I say. “Maybe you should pray about it first.”
He promises to pray, and keep us informed.
Soon the chat room is over for the night and it's just the three administrators left in the room. Charlea is writing...
"So, you two are together tonight?" she asks.
"Well I think I better leave you two alone then. Nighty night. Just said a prayer for you two and Lord knows it might come true!"
"Goodnight Charlea." I write.
"One of the best things I ever did was tell Charlea Carter who I am. So glad I let her into my life." I say to Alden.
“Yes.” Alden is a man of few words tonight.
We sit, lingering over our second glass of wine. It's a two glass night, what can I say? The fire light plays across the silent room and I dare to look at Alden. He leans over and puts his arm around me. Rowdy doesn't like being disturbed when he's sleeping. He growls in his black leather bikers’ jacket. "Whoops, forgot that dog was there!" laughs Alden. He moves Rowdy and puts his arm around me again. I am letting him do it. We sit that way for a while, sipping our wine, listening to the fireplace hiss and crack, and enjoying the closeness of each other. Then he leans over with a question in his eyes. I answer by letting him kiss me. He smiles and turns on the TV. We watch a little of the news together, but he keeps that arm around me. It's enough for now. We are taking it slow, very slow.
So far we haven’t found out who was responsible for the spray paint. I'll probably never know the answer to that one. It didn't work. I didn't let it scare me enough to quit my blog or my chat room. I went to the meeting at church. I am proud of that.
But life goes on and if Ted wanted Rowdy to live, he’d want me to live and be happy too.
The next day is Sunday and I go to Mainard with Alden by my side. We sit with the girls in the second row. Hugh Mainard smiles at me. It's a genuine smile. He is once again in the pulpit. He forgets when it's time for prayer, and Ida has to remind him but other than that, the old man does OK.
This is communion Sunday. That's why I'm here. The piano plays a sweet hymn, “Surely the Presence.” I focus, not on Paul or the Bible, or Hugh, or Ted, or Ida, or even Alden. My focus is on Jesus and only Jesus. Something wants to come into my mind and I let it in. I am back there. I am sitting on the curb. I picture Jesus, dressed in brilliant white. He walks over to the car, puts His arms around that mangled mess that was Ted that day long ago. Jesus puts His arms around Ted and Ted is whole again. I am overcome! Ted looks over at me, gives me a smile full of love, then he slowly disappears. There's just Jesus and me now. He's still standing at the car, looking at me, sitting on the curb. Someone is handing me a communion cup but I barely look up. The car is gone. Jesus comes across that road, sits next to me and puts his arms around me as I sit on the curb, holding my communion cup. I am smiling because He is here. There's nothing now, except Jesus and me. Jesus looks at me with such love in His eyes…I've never felt such love. His eyes say, “You are mine and I love you and we are here in this moment together.”...Nothing else matters to me. The whole world is gone. I say, "I believe in You, Jesus, but I'm not sure about that guy, Paul. I hope that's okay."...and then He laughs! I laugh too. There's so much I don't understand and will never understand because I'm just a human here on earth. I drink my cup and eat my bread and laugh with Jesus. I don't want to open my eyes but it's gone now anyway so I look up. I notice Alden's eyes on me. "Was I laughing out loud?" I ask.
"Maybe a giggle or two. Are you OK?"
"Never better," I say.