Saturday, June 14, 2008

Preach the Gospel continually...

and, if necessary, use words.
— St. Francis of Assisi

I'm reading Here if You Need Me by Kate Braestrup. It's the story of a woman (mother of four, writer) whose husband was killed while on duty as a state trooper. He'd intended to go to seminary upon retiring from the force, in order to become a UU minister and law enforcement chaplain. She did so in his place, and found work she loves.

Holy cats, read this book. She's earthy and wise and funny; in the last half-hour with the book, I've wept and I've laughed out loud more than once.

Anyway, she tells a story of the day her husband died that perfectly illumines that quote at the beginning of the post, long a favorite of mine:

Perhaps forty minutes after I had heard the news of Drew's death, I was sitting in the living room with my friend Monica when the doorbell rang. The sergeant was on the telephone, so Monica sprang to answer it.

A young man stood on the front steps, clad in a spiffy dark suit, his hair neatly combed, exuding a scent of soap and virtue. Holding out a pamphlet, he beamed at Monica. "Have you heard the Good News?"

For a long second, Monica glared at him, not sure whether to punch him or laugh hysterically. She compromised by slamming the door.

A few minutes later, the doorbell rang again. This time, I answered it. It was my neighbor, an elderly woman I had exchanged no more than a dozen words with in the ten years I'd lived in Thomaston. She had pot holders on her hands, which held a pan of brownies still hot from the oven, and tears were rolling down her cheeks. "I just heard," she said.

That pan of brownies was, it later turned out, the leading edge of a tsunami of food that came to my children and me, a wave that did not recede for many months after Drew's death. I didn't know that my family and I would be fed three meals a day for weeks and weeks. I did not anticipate that neighborhood men would come to drywall the playroom, build bookshelves, mow the lawn, get the oil changed in my car. I did not know that my house would be cleaned and the laundry done, that I would have embraces and listening ears, that I would not be abandoned to do the labor of mourning alone. All I knew was that my neighbor was standing on the front stoop with her brownies and her tears: she was the Good News.

We mainliners aren't usually doorknockers. I'm not. There's something about it that just doesn't quite sit right with me. But I am very verbal (stop laughing, Friends of Mine), and I do love to discuss that old, old story when the right moment presents itself. It's just that...well, it seems to me that Big Truth rests much more comfortably in the passenger seat of a vehicle that looks a lot like Love. And that Grace shows up in hands and eyes of God's children in a much more compelling way than any abstract discussion can manifest.

Don't misunderstand me; I'm a Lutheran, and a good sermon is right up there on my list of favorite (and, for me, most necessary) things. But the Church Basement Ladies in my life (of all ages, arenas and genders) live out some serious wisdom: preach continually, and lead with your hands.


Jan said...


Songbird said...

Ah. And Amen.

This is on our book discussion list for RevGals, I think for September. Might you be interested in leading the discussion? Let me know if that interests you.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Sometimes, there is nothing not quite practical love.

P.S. So you're Scandinavian too, huh?

FranIAm said...

Oh Choralgirl - wow. I will read the book. I will not forget this post.

Big Truth. I like that.

Marie said...

"Lead with your hands." I love that line.

Counselor in Process said...

I'm going book shopping today (to my favorite 1/2 price Strand) and I'll put that on my list. Sounds like it's right up my alley. BTW, check out my blog for your answer to "who are the McGarrigle sisters?)

Diane said...

oh, a friend of mine has promised to lend me her copy of this book, I'm so looking forward to reading it!

Cecilia said...

Yes. YES! Isn't the book the best? Beloved gave it to me last summer, and I read it in a long afternoon at my dad's house. So, so beautiful and true.

Pax, C.