Friday, December 15, 2006

This year's Christmas letter

The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.

Pastor Lewandoski stands on the raised dias of the sanctuary, the altar behind him. His arm is stretched high and he speaks the words of the benediction. With his palm facing us I feel warmth and comfort steal over my childhood self.

There are so many benedictions that we receive and we give. Perhaps my favorite is the good night rituals with the children. Henry’s top bunk puts me at eyelevel. He knows I am waiting and I think he likes to keep me hanging there for a moment. He finds a decent stopping point in whatever book he’s reading and then we hug. Jay requires a kiss to the forehead, to the chin, to each cheek, then an Eskimo kiss. I follow that with a moment of resting my head on his chest listening for his heartbeat. He giggles if I tease and say he needs to be quiet because I think his heart isn’t beating. Ana hides, buried under a mass of covers. I dig her out to find wide eyes no longer cloaked in glasses, her beautiful face framed by glossy curls. I lay beside her for a minute, our noses almost touching, staring into her eyes before placing a few kisses on her soft cheeks.
Good benedictions - to and from people we love and trust.

There was a Saturday this past spring when I was at an intersection in east central Denver - not a great part of town. If I was feeling lyrical I would label it ‘the crossroads of bad luck and bad decisions.’ I sat in my van waiting for the light to change. I considered rolling up the window but I didn’t want to shut myself up on such a nice day, so I left it open.

The street was cluttered. A tall man with a broad carefree smile, a meandering gait, and a brown paper sack attempted to follow the sidewalk. I watched him, making my own judgments. Then our eyes met. I hadn’t meant to do that and I glanced away.

“Hey!” he called. From the corner of my eye I saw him throw his arms wide, “Gimme that smile again.”

I was stuck and I struggled with it. I stared at the light which was still red. With cars in front of me, even if it changed right now I wasn’t going to escape. Not fast enough.

I could feel him watching me. He was going to stare at me until I either looked back at him, or drove off. Was I afraid? Was I embarrassed? If I ignored him did it mean I dismissed him? I thought of my earlier judgments. Drunk, lost soul, homeless, mentally ill…

He waited, arms outstretched and I found I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t ignore him. So I turned and forced a smile.

He smiled back, his more real than mine and raised his hand to me, outstretched, his palm facing me. He shouted across the street, “Grace go with yah baby.”
My breath, which I didn’t know I had been holding, huffed out of me. My smile became real. The light changed.

An unexpected benediction from an unlikely source.

Sometime this summer Pastor Michael posed a question. When do you feel the Holy Spirit move you? I’d have to say it’s during a benediction, when a small bit of one’s self is sent out for another to carry.

May Grace Go With You This Christmas

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