"Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

From a Church Pew

There's a reason I don't normally sit on the back row at church.  Unlike the popular expression, I'm more of a front-to-middle row Baptist.

I'm too distracted from the back.  There's so much activity in a church service - and not just from the pulpit!  Being a people watcher by nature, this does not help me pay attention to the message.

Today, I was saved by the fact that I attended both worship services.  We left for Sunday school this morning but after about two minutes I could tell from Tim's face he would not survive four hours.  He's such a trooper and would never complain, never ask to go home early; yet he did quickly take me up on my offer to go next door and sit through just the early service.  This allowed me to take him home, as the kids were coming out from their lessons, and get back to them in time for the second service.  Because they picked the pew - and the fact that we had a packed house - we were on the last row.

I let this excuse my lack of total attention, as I perused the crowd.  There were adorable babies I made silly faces and smiled at... a few elbows from wives keeping hubbies alert... stern looks from parents to keep children in line...inspired expressions from those touched by the message.  And one particular duo that brought me joy and a reminder of being a wooden pew as a small child.

Seeing a little girl sitting with her grandmother, notebook in hand, she would doodle and write, looking up with a smile and proudly showing her next masterpiece.  Each time her grandmother would nod in approval, smiling back with a hug or pat on the leg.  This transported me some thirty-odd years to a little church I grew up in, side by side with my Grandma, pearls and sweet perfume.

We actually were near the back row.  Right hand side, second row from the back, by the window was our seat.  I remember the feel of the dark brown pew, solid wood under my legs, as it stuck to whatever skin my cotton dress didn't cover.  Precious Moments Bible in my lap, I would mimic and copy Grandma's movement, as she turned to the passage from which Grandpa drew inspiration for his sermon.  If I needed a distraction, I knew Grandma's purse provided entertainment, as it always contained a good supply of gum or candy. 

Occasionally, she'd allow me to doodle on scratch paper, although it wasn't nearly as fun as when I'd venture to the other side of the church to sit with my Aunt Becky.  She had mini Snoopy colored pencils and itty bitty paper to match.  Plus, I got to watch her play the piano with a the close seating her spot allowed.  With all the activity, one might think I didn't soak up much of the sermon, but I always listened to my Grandpa.  I loved to watch him in the pulpit, his passion and compassion pouring from his kind face and loving smile.

So many memories, from a simple glance across the church today.  Blessed to have those moments, the faith foundation given from my grandparents, and the joy of remembering.

And yet somewhat distracted, thankful for the message of today's sermon...and the added blessing of hearing it twice!

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