Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful Thursday - In life and in death

In August of 1997, we moved into our first "real house." Not an apartment. Not a townhouse. Our first stand alone house. In the Silvermine section of Norwalk, CT. (Hence, the URL of this blog - Our daughter was three and our son just under a year.

Before we even got out of the car, our new neighbors were on our driveway. A luminous, smiling, pregnant mom, Barbara, and her two young children, aged three and two or thereabouts, greeted us with hugs and introductions and the warmest welcome we could have imagined. More than we had imagined, to be truthful. Later that same day, we met her husband, Tom.

When she explained that she would be having her baby at home just as she had done with her first two children, I knew that beautiful woman and I were going to be good friends. We talked about home births and nursing. We shared recipes and baked Christmas cookies together. We talked about homeschooling (which she didn't do) and public schooling (which I didn't do). Not many days passed without someone from our house going to their house or somebody from their house coming to our house.

My husband and Tom cut a path through the woody brush between our houses so that our children could run back and forth to each other's homes without having to walk on the road. They came to swim in our pool. We sat at their kitchen table for painting projects. (I still have a child's wooden chair that my daughter and I painted at their house in my bedroom.) They played basketball on our driveway. Our children ran in the woods behind their house. Chalk drawing on driveways. Trick or treating as a clan. Sledding together at a nearby golf course on snowy days. Hot tea and snacks with Barbara at the kitchen table while the kids played in their family room or in the children's bedrooms. Sitting at their island while she cooked dinner. Sleepovers.

One winter afternoon, Barbara told me that a few days earlier, after spending some time outside playing, her children had come into the house soaking wet. In their winter clothing. Wet. She asked how they had gotten wet and they informed her that they had been "jumping on Kristiana's trampoline." We didn't have a trampoline... turns out they had been jumping on our pool cover! We were all tremendously grateful that the cover didn't break under the weight of their little winter-bundled bodies. Once the shock of thinking about what could have happened wore off, we laughed at their antics - and marveled at how comfortable they felt coming into our yard to play. Truly excellent neighbors, from the oldest to the youngest of the two families.

Tom and Barbara proved to be generous, kind, funny, loving, and enthusiastic neighbors until they moved from Connecticut to Florida. We were sad to see them leave the neighborhood, but we visited them twice in their new surroundings. Beautiful people in a beautiful home creating yet another beautiful community of friends around them. We have lived here in Charlotte for more than thirteen years. They have lived in Florida longer than that. For the past few years, our sole contact with them has been through Facebook. But still, somehow, it felt like they were still good neighbors. Beloved neighbors. We couldn't have asked for better neighbors or friends.

I found out this morning that Tom recently passed away.
I don't know how. I don't know when.
But he's gone.
One of the kindest, funniest, brightest, gentlest men I have ever known - gone.
He who loved his wife and children with a passion and depth that I have not often seen - gone.
The sky over The Sunshine State is not as bright these days.
It can't be.
Because Tom is gone.

In life, there is no time to waste on mean-spiritedness or emotional stinginess.
There is barely enough time to show our loved ones how much we do love them.

In life, Tom showed Barbara and their children that no one and nothing mattered more to him than they did.
In life, Tom showed me how to be present with and to those we love.
In life, he laughed, he ate, he talked, he lived with his whole body and spirit. No holding back.

In death, Tom's light still shines.
In death, Tom's smile radiates from the faces of the three wondrous and stunning children he left behind.
In death, Tom's spirit brought great memories to the minds of my family here in Charlotte, smiles to our faces, and tears to my eyes as we recalled his joyful merrymaking. I am heartbroken for them and for all of us who will have to live without his enormous heart beating in the world.

In life and in death, Tom belongs to God.
May his soul, spirit, and body rest in divine peace.
May he enjoy and glorify the God he loved - forever.

May Barbara, GM, B, and LJ know the comfort of God's loving presence.
Today, tomorrow, during the memorial service on Saturday, and forever.

Thanks be to God for his life.
For his example.
For the gift of his presence in my family's life.
For all that he meant to so many.
Rest in peace, dear Tom.
Rest in peace.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Mixed Feelings...

I am thankful that tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a day we've set aside for intentional gratitude.
But it's also a day when many will still be hungry.
Many will still be homeless.
Many will still be trying to flee war torn countries and cities, seeking safety.
Many will still be mourning the death of loved ones.
Many won't be invited to table with family or friends.
Many will be lonely.
Many will be hospitalized.
Many will be in prison.
Many will be unemployed.
Many will have to work in stores, selling people things we don't need.
Many will struggle to find reasons to be thankful.

I am grateful for the ability, the freedom, the finances, and the opportunity to go to the supermarket today to get food for my family.

I am grateful for the ability and the opportunity to donate money so that others can eat, not only tomorrow but also other days as well.

I am grateful for the bounty at the Loaves and Fishes pantry, a place where those who aren't able to provide for all of their needs can receive help.

I am grateful for the many people who are working to create systems and programs that will solve the problems that cause such disparity and poverty.

I am grateful that my daughter is home from college for the next few days.
I am grateful that my son will make time to hang out with us between visits with his friends this weekend.

I am grateful for the friend who sent me her sermon - with difficult but necessary words that put Thanksgiving in perspective. That the meal we will enjoy tomorrow harkens back to that first Thanksgiving, after which began the slaughter and the displacement of the native peoples that lived on this continent. That we ought to be aware of our history and that we ought to be working to repair broken relationships with the broken people around us, to allow ourselves to be broken for the sake of healing and reconciliation.

I am grateful for this piece by Tim Wise and how directly it speaks to the near impossibility of talking to some people about racism.

I am grateful that I got to hear TaNehisi Coates speak at Davidson College last week. His book, Between The World and Me, is one of the most important books I've read in the last five to ten years. His perspective on race and racism infuriated me; his perspective on the beauty and strength of African-American people encouraged me; and his reading of the history of slavery and injustice in this country enlightened me. It wasn't an easy read. It wasn't a fun read. It was a weighty read. A sobering read.

I am grateful for the challenges of seminary - the questioning of my ideas, the questioning of my integrity, the requests that I cannot grant, the requests that I will not even entertain.

I am grateful for the realization that in seminary, in my classes, in my small groups, in my exchanges with other students, fear, pain, sadness and woundedness are evident. Even though I hate having that fear and pain directed at me, I am grateful for their vulnerability. And for my own. I am grateful that our mutual transparency provides us with chances to move together towards healing, with the goal of becoming wounded healers.

I am grateful because these exchanges force me to see the humanity, the fragility, the brokenness, the lostness, the beauty, the strength, the humor, and the courage of the students around me and the professors in front of me - and also in myself.

I am grateful for the conversations that I have had with family, friends and pastors about the exchanges I have had at seminary. I am grateful for the wisdom and advice I have received on how to deal with those with whom I may disagree. If I am going to be a pastor, I need to learn to deal with those who don't believe as I do, who don't want to hear what I think, and who have no problem with telling me to keep my opinions to myself. In truth, I have to learn to deal with those issues and situations even if I never become a pastor. Perhaps I should have learned all this in the first forty-nine and a half years of my life - but I have to believe that it's better to figure it out now than five years from now or ten years from now.

I am grateful for the students in my class who are teaching me to think, speak, and act courageously, opposition and criticism notwithstanding.

I am grateful for the lessons I am learning beyond the classroom -
It's okay to say "no." No explanation necessary.
It's okay to speak my mind. No explanation necessary.
It's okay to ask questions. It's okay to answer questions.
It's okay to be wrong - as long as I am willing to be corrected.
It's more than okay - it is my right.
It is everyone's right to speak, to listen, to learn, and to be wrong.

I am grateful for these early lessons that have nothing to do with either class I'm taking,
but have everything to do with listening to the still, small voice that assures me that
all shall be well and all is already well.
The voice that reminds me to trust that all things, even difficult things, work together for good.
That none of this is a surprise to the God who called me into this next phase of my life journey.
That nothing and no one can separate me from the love of God.
That every lesson is a blessing.
That silence is no longer an option.
That I have nothing and no one to fear.

But I have mixed feelings.
I am grateful and sorrowful.
I am hopeful and discouraged.
I am frustrated and excited.
I am prayerful and skeptical.
I am feeling mixed up.
Feeling human.
Feeling grateful.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thankful Thursday - This is my story...

I went to The Well tonight. (I love the image that comes to mind when I ponder that statement - going to the well. To drink deeply. To quench my thirst. To receive the water of life. Living water.)
The Well is a new worshipping community here in Charlotte.
It meets at Selwyn Avenue Presbyterian Church every Thursday evening.
Dinner is from 5:15 until 6:15, with a time of worship, storytelling, and community starting at 6:30.
Come join us sometime...

Tonight was the third time that the participants of The Well have gathered.
We eat together.
We pray together.
Someone reads a passage from the Bible.
Sometimes we sing.
We listen to each other's stories.
We talk.
No sermon. Just someone telling a story.
Just us sharing. Listening. Reflecting.
It's a beautiful thing. A rare thing. A precious thing.

Tonight, Mark Yaconelli told the story of his friend and mentor, Morton Kelsey.
A story of love, redemption, trust, broken trust, music, restoration, and the creation of a new story.
What happens when the life story we've told ourselves for decades turns out to not be the whole story after all? What if we are loved beyond all our wildest dreams and expectations? What happens to our hearts and our lives? What happens to our souls?

Then he directed us to turn to one another and tell a story about a time in our lives when we were trusted, when someone counted us worthy of their trust. What did that feel like? What did that trust bring up in us and bring out of us?

Other questions followed: what happens to people who are never trusted?
What happens when someone breaks our trust?
What happens inside of us when our trust is broken?
What happens when we interact with the person who has broken our trust?

I was reminded of one time (one of the many times, for certain) when I broke someone else's trust.
In one of the worst ways a person's trust can be broken.
I spoke about the moment of being forgiven, being welcomed back into relationship with the one whose life I had shattered.
Someone responded by saying, "I'm sure your remorse helped her along in her forgiveness."
I had to disagree - "No, she came to me first and forgave me before I asked."

Hers was life-transforming forgiveness. Love. Radical reconciliation.
Undeserved. Grace. Favor. Mercy.

Now, that is good news. The best kind of good news.
I'm not sure that better news has ever been shared.
"You don't deserve this. You haven't earned this. You haven't even asked.
But I forgive you. I love you.
Please come and be a part of my life.
Come back home. Be my friend. Be part of my family."

This is my story - selfishness, foolish choices, broken trust.
Confession. Tears. Sorrow. Forgiveness.
I was the prodigal friend welcomed back into the fold of friendship even though I knew I was unworthy. She was the prodigal friend, excessive and extravagant (that's what prodigal means) in her compassion and mercy towards me.

Tomorrow I will spend most of the day listening to Mark teach about storytelling, about giving testimony of not only the blessings, but also the brokenness in our lives.

Here's the text from the brochure about the workshop.

A Leadership Conference with Mark Yaconelli Building Community. 
Building Trust: The Power and Practice of Personal Storytelling 
Where? Union Presbyterian Seminary Charlotte 
5141 Sharon Road, Charlotte, NC 28210 
When? Friday, November 20th 
Session One 9:00am-12:00pm 
Session Two 1:30pm-4:30pm 
Participants are encouraged to attend both workshops, but may attend only one. 

What? This one-day training will be an exploration of personal storytelling in ministry. Through presentation, contemplative exercises, theological reflection, and a variety of narrative practices, participants will encounter the power of personal storytelling for spiritual formation, outreach, social justice, and other ministries. The workshop will give participants practical skills for telling stories, creating narrative events, and assisting others as they "give testimony" to the work of the Spirit in their lives.

All of which has me wondering...

What would be the impact on our families, on our friendships, on work, on service, on ministry, on our entire lives if we learned to both tell and listen to one another's stories with grace, with attention, with intention, and with love?

What if we trusted one another enough to be vulnerable, to be transparent, to tell the truth, to give testimony of what we have seen and heard and felt and tasted and how we are being transformed by the stories around us and with us?

What if God's story really is embedded in our own stories and by not telling our stories, we are depriving each other of some chapters of God's Great Story of love and inclusion and hospitality and trust and forgiveness?

What if preaching and teaching and leading are really about telling stories?
Wait... that's exactly how Jesus preached and taught - through stories and parables.
What if we learned from the example of The Greatest Storyteller?

I am grateful for all that Mark brought to The Well tonight.
I am grateful for the stories we shared with each other and the lessons we all learned from those stories and experiences.
I am excited about tomorrow's sessions.
I am excited about learning how to craft my life story and how to tell my story.
I am grateful in advance for all that tomorrow will bring.

Grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

So much sorrow

The attacks in Paris. At sporting events. In a concert. In restaurants.
Senseless killings. Shooting. Horror. Terror.

So much sorrow.

Refugees flooding across borders.
Dying in transit. Losing one another on the way.
Former neighbors, colleagues, and friends joining in on the brutality.
No place to return to even if the violence stops.

So much sorrow.

A friend who is a flight attendant, to whom I had wished a safe trip,
responded correctly: "We aren't safe anywhere anymore, are we?"
She's right.

So much sorrow.

But -

Even though I know I won't be able to stop such attacks from happening,
even though I know I won't be able to stop people from hating each other,
or disrespecting each other,
or silencing each other,
or wanting to kill each other,
I will never let go of hope.
I will never let go of grace.
I will never let go of prayer
I will never stop praying for peace.
I will never stop praying for forgiveness.
I will never stop praying for change.
I will never stop finding ways to do something, to say something,
to speak and act and live in such a way that peace prevails in my immediate surroundings.

So much sorrow.

But I will never give up.

After telling his disciples about the love and presence and Spirit of God that would come to them, guide them, and keep them connected to himself, Jesus said this -
I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace.
In the world, you face persecution; 
But take courage - I have conquered the world.

There is persecution in this world - sometimes simply for being human and being alive.
There is trouble. There is so much sorrow.
But I refuse to bow down to despair, to fear, and to hatred.
Because my hope is in the Lord. Always will be.

In the meantime, my heart breaks.
I shake my head.
I am rendered nearly speechless. Nearly.
I am left with this:
"Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
And help us to have mercy on each other."

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for the gift of new life.
My nephew, Matthew, and his wife, Monisha, had their first baby yesterday.
This is one of the rare moments when I wish I still lived up north.
I miss holding babies in my arms, that baby smell.
I miss seeing the look on the parents' faces as they admire the miracle that their love produced.
I am thankful today for baby, Myles.

I am thankful that Matthew's brother and sister are also expecting their first babies in the next few months. Three siblings and their spouses all "in the family way." There is so much to celebrate in the Henderson family these days.

I am thankful for the gift of safe travel.
Back and forth to church
back and forth to the supermarket
back and forth to meet up with friends
to teach classes
to take classes
to the post office.

I am thankful every time I see our garage door open in front of my car.
Thankful that I returned home safely.
Thankful that my house is still standing.
Thankful for the electricity that lifts that heavy door.

A few weeks ago, I saw a horrible car accident. Someone in a minivan thought they could beat other cars through an intersection, sped past two lanes of stopped traffic in the right hand merging lane, and slammed into the back end of an ambulance that was crossing the intersection. (Hence the stopped traffic!) I almost pulled over to see if I could help in some way, but when I saw the attendants get out of it apparently unhurt, I realized that help was already on the scene. As we crept past the broken glass and car parts strewn on the street, I saw that all the airbags in the minivan had been activated. And I heard that awful sound of the car horn, you know the sound that happens in movies and television shows when someone has been hurt in a car and is leaning on the horn.

Every time I drive past that intersection now and every time I drive past the intersection where my daughter's car accident happened, I breathe a prayer for the people involved in both of those accidents - and I give thanks for all the thousands of trips and walks and flights and bus rides and train rides and bike rides that have ended safely.

I give thanks for all the ways in which rides that didn't end well often attract helpers and rescuers and support from among concerned citizens and bystanders. Here's one such story - when my daughter had her accident back in August, one of the men who pried open the door of her overturned minivan so she could crawl to safety called and texted me three times after the accident to check on her, to let us know he and his family and church were praying for her, and to invite us to visit his church. One of the times he texted was after she had gone back to college for the fall semester - during a phone call that she and I were having. She was on his mind at the same time that she was on my mind.

I am thankful for my seminary classmates and the ways in which we are bonding as friends, as students, as co-travelers on this journey. We share prayer requests. We share stories. We share Halloween make up and costume tips. We share study tips. We share laughter. We share meals. We share our questions.

I am thankful for the neighbor who takes long walks with me. She and her husband and daughter recently spent ten days in Spain, so you know I asked two or three dozen questions on our last walk together. She and I will head out for an early morning jaunt tomorrow.

I am thankful for the new friend (who feels like an old friend) with whom I write these days. She showed me a library book full of writing prompts - the book is aimed at middle schoolers but it's one of the best books of its kind that I have ever encountered. It's called Leap Write In! Adventures in Creative Writing, by Karen Benke. We have both borrowed copies from the library and have gotten together twice to write. And we have written responses to the same prompt on our own and then shared them when we have been together. Writing buddies rock. Especially when they are spontaneous, easy-going, honest, and funny. Especially when they brew up peppermint tea in cast iron pots. Especially when they slide their journals across the table and say, "Why don't you just read it for yourself?" Especially when we use the same Pilot Precise V5 pens. Little details like that make me even more thankful.

I am thankful for the movement, the protests, the unrest that are forcing change in this country. That are forcing deeper conversation. While I know that there is backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement, while I know that there are some who argue that people don't have the right to not be offended, I am thrilled to see more people standing up and dying in and marching and raising their fists in defiance of racism and classism and homophobia and racist voter laws (have you heard about Alabama closing DMVs in black counties so that it is harder for black people to get photo IDs?) and violence.

I am grateful for the college students and faculty at Yale and Duke and the University of Missouri and elsewhere who are wielding the power they have to force conversation and change. Those who condemn their use of emotional, athletic, academic, and financial power and influence sound a lot like those who condemned the protesters during the Civil Rights movement. "Be patient. Don't get angry. Be respectful. Don't yell. Wait your turn." Wait for what? For how long? For the powerful to decide to voluntarily share power? For the wealthy and the greedy to share their take? For the higher ups to care about the needs and desperation of those below them? For the influential to intercede for ignored?

TaNehisi Coates wrote about the comfort this country has with seeing black people hosed down and beaten, shot with rubber bullets and with real ones, tazed and taken into captivity - all while singing, "We shall overcome... someday." But when those battle-wounded and soul-weary people stand up and say, "Enough is enough," when they walk off football fields (as opposed to when they show up at the courthouse plead for justice for Tamir Rice's unjust killing in a community park), when they demand that presidents and professors, coaches and CEOs step down, then force and threat of force, then calls for resignations and impartial investigations and firings are condemned.

I am grateful for the attention that is being paid to this horrendous trial. Have you even heard about this white police officer charged with 36 counts of sexual assault and battery against black women? This Oklahoma officer is being tried now and will be judged by an all-white jury. There seems to be very little wide spread press coverage of the proceedings. I keep asking myself what the media coverage would be if the cop was black, the thirteen victims were white and the jury was all black.

I am grateful that I am learning how to express my thoughts and feelings about these difficult topics and also how to listen to other people's opinions without undue anger and resentment. I still have a whole lot to learn in terms of not wanting to throw something at my television or computer screen, but knowledge of the cost of replacement of either of those items has served as an adequate deterrent thus far.

I am grateful for my husband, my brother, Darryl, Kim, Rick, Indhira, Jen, Jena, Colman, Anthony, Steve, Rodney, and several other people in my life who push me to think more carefully and deeply about these tragedies and injustices and to stand up, speak up, and write about what I think and feel.

I am grateful for the power of prayer to bring about change and healing and peace and rest - and also unrest and disruption and upheaval and transformation. In me. And in the world.

I am grateful for hope and a future.
Even in the face of so much sorrow and suffering.
Even in the face of so much injustice and injury.
Even in the face of death and dying.
Even when so many say that hope is a waste of time and energy and effort.

Today, itty bitty baby Myles brings me an extra dose of hope.
I cannot wait to meet him and hold him in my (great) Auntie arms.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Thankful Thursday - Friday Edition

Cuz everyday can be Thankful Thursday, right???

Today is a special day of thanksgiving because it is the third anniversary of my kanswer diagnosis. Every time I flip through the pages of the journal I kept at the time,
every time I scroll back through the pages of my memory,
I shake my head in disbelief.

These three years have flown past.
So many doctors' visits and treatments and pills and supplements.
So many prayers and tears and cries out for mercy.
So much gratitude and laughter and joy and peace.
Good food. Kombucha. Green tea. Salads. Juices. Smoothies.
Hugs, kisses, snuggles, and smiles.
Hand holding, hand wringing, and hand raising.

I am grateful to be alive, to be healthy, to be here.

I am grateful to be in seminary.
Grateful to be in service at my church and in my community.
Grateful to be in relationship with people who are willing to love me and receive my love.

I am grateful for Kevin and Susan, Matthew and Monisha, and Raquel and Jay (the three names in bold are the children of my oldest brother) and how they managed to all get pregnant within months of each other. Triplet-cousins is what I have decided to call the three little ones who are being nurtured and loved in the bellies of their sweet and beautiful mamas.

I am grateful for my two children who continue to put up with my interference and questions and overt attempts to keep them from branching out as the (young) adults that they are. They make me laugh. They make me cry. And they make me pray. A LOT.

I am grateful for this sweet man of mine, the one who watches Project Runway with me and eats my randomly prepared meals while also determining that sometimes he would rather cook for himself than wait for me to make up my mind and who loves all my idiosyncrasies and weirdness.

I am grateful for honey and maple syrup and pistachios and cashews and dark chocolate covered almonds with sea salt and turbinado sugar and limes sliced and squeezed into glasses of ice water.

I am grateful for spaghetti squash, broccoli, brussels sprouts - and Pinterest, which provides recipes that combine these ingredients in various and delicious ways.

I am grateful for the ability, the privilege, the opportunity to go to the supermarket and choose such bounty for my family.

I am grateful for the chance to serve at the Loaves and Fishes pantry so that I can help those who aren't able to buy groceries for themselves to receive food that has been donated for their edification. Yesterday I met a mother of six sons who recently lost her job. Her two youngest sons were with her - and she expressed deep gratitude for the counselor at their school who gave her the referral to the pantry. Her love for her children, her desire to care for them and raise them well, and also their respect towards and honor for her were palpable. There was another woman who came to the pantry because she (and her husband) had recently gained custody of her three step-children and needed assistance to feed additional mouths. She works at a local market and spoke reverently about her boss' generosity in letter her take extra groceries home at no charge.

I am grateful that last night I had the chance to hear the story of a Mexican immigrant and his love for this country. He came here to earn money to pay for his last year of law school in Mexico but fell in love with this country and the life he found here. He fell in love with a woman from his hometown in Mexico and they got married and now have two children that were born here. Their love for each other as a family, their love for and pride in their lives here in Charlotte, and their yearning to become legal citizens of this country inspired everyone who listened to think differently about immigration and amnesty and grace and hope. Every person in that room was the descendant of someone who arrived in this nation without documentation and uninvited (or, in my case, against their will) - that dear man simply asks for the same chance, the same opportunity that others have misguidedly forgotten that they too benefit from. I am grateful for his courage, his honesty, and his tears.

I am grateful for sunshine and rain and fallen leaves and birdsong and scampering squirrels.

I am grateful for blenders and juicers and Nutribullets and refrigerators and ovens and sinks and dishwashers.

I am grateful for washing machines and dryers and hanging racks and detergent.

I am grateful for cameras and computers and paper and pens and books and backpacks.

I am grateful for the friend who gave me flowers in honor of my three year diagnosis anniversary and for the friend who sent me a journal in which to write down sermon ideas and other seminary-related inspiration.

I am grateful for the company of loved ones and time alone with The Alone.

I am grateful for safe travel, for safe arrivals, and for safe keeping.

I am grateful, grateful, grateful.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Why eating poorly is sometimes a good thing

Three years ago today, on November 2, 2012, I had the biopsy on my left breast, the one that tried to kill me. Four days later, I got the worst news of my life: kanswer.

Blah blah blah.
Hair lost.
Other body parts lost.

I find it hard to believe that nearly three years have passed since my diagnosis.

Anyway, I went to the doctor this morning - the oncologist. I go see him every six months to prove to him that it is possible to live well after kanswer. To be healthier than ever.

Because I hate getting weighed at the doctor's office (why are the scales at doctors' offices always meaner than the ones we have at home?!?), I didn't eat breakfast before my appointment in a foolhardy effort to weigh four ounces less than I would have weighed if I had eaten a bowl of oatmeal and had a cup of green tea.

As soon as I got the all clear from him and made an appointment go back in six months, I headed across the road for a bagel sandwich.

Dare I confess it fully? I ordered a rosemary olive oil bagel with butter, an egg, and turkey sausage. And I washed it down with a cup of dark roast coffee.

Eating poorly is sometimes a good thing - it certainly tasted good going down.

As I stood at the counter waiting for my bagel sandwich to be constructed, I looked over towards the cash register and saw a local television personality, a weatherman from one of the nearby affiliates. He also happened to be a former pastor at a former church of mine. I remembered his high energy and sense of humor and couldn't suppress the smile that floated across my face.

I got my food and sat down to eat and read about the Crusades (seminary reading at its finest). He sat a few tables away with his computer open, two notebooks open, a phone on the table, and pens nearby. He was lost in his work.

Every few moments, I felt an urge to speak to him. To thank him for his service at the church. But I kept resisting the impulse; after all, he left the church between eight and ten years ago. And he was clearly engaged in important work at the moment. Typing and writing. Writing and typing.

I got up from my table to dispose of my tray, and after doing so, I stopped at his table.

"Although I know you are on television now, and I appreciate the work you do there, I just wanted you to know that I still remember you as one of the most energetic pastors ever at _________ Church."

He threw his hands up in the air, literally both hands, as though as I had pulled a gun on him, and nearly shouted his response. "What? Oh my goodness. I can't believe you remember that. That was so long ago."

He pointed to the spiral notebook on the table and said, "I was just writing in my morning devotional journal about how discouraged and disheartened and stupid I feel. I had just asked God to encourage me in the eternal."

He read directly from the page his journal was open to.
Then he looked up at me and asked, "What is your name?"


He picked up his pen, wrote a few words, and then read them to me:
"Gail is the answer to my prayer."
Then he added, "This is such a God moment."
I clapped my hands and exclaimed, "I love God moments."

A few minutes later, after saying farewell to my new friend, when I got into my car to head up to church for a meeting, I chuckled to myself as I thought: "If I hadn't made the decision to hold off on breakfast at home, if I hadn't decided to eat that fatty, buttery, delicious bagel sandwich this morning and sip that hot sweet coffee, if I didn't have the three year follow up appointment to the worst news I ever received in my life, I would never have been the answer to that man's prayer this morning."

That, my friends, is why eating poorly is sometimes a good thing.