Repressing all strains of country music that want to occupy my head, I have to admit that there are days when I am all the more aware that Jesus is my co-pilot and I invite him to take the wheel! Today is one such a day. Traveling on the highway there are four separate spots where cars are in ditches and emergency vehicles are flashing their lights to warn us to keep our distance. On top of that, my car is behaving badly. It doesn’t want to accelerate when I push on the gas pedal. It was doing this a couple of weeks ago and I had an appointment with the mechanic. But then the polar vortex swept in and hung over us like a bad dream and I didn’t want to be without my vehicle. Besides that, the symptoms subsided so I decided that it must not be that urgent. Just like an ailment that prompts a call to a doctor, we cancel as soon as the symptoms disappear, wanting to believe that all is well. But my car malfunction has acted up again and I realize I’m heading out on a mission of mercy with a crippled automobile. In moments like these I have an active conversation with Jesus. In the privacy of my car, I talk out loud to him. I remind Him that I am working on his behalf as I head down to the hospital to pray with someone heading in for a delicate procedure. They deserve a pastoral presence even if it is a blustery day in Michigan. I’m not above bargaining with God, trying to curry favor for the ministry I offer in exchange for safety!
My next mission after the hospital is to check and see if our church still has power. Riding into town lifeless stop lights turn into all-way stops. Whether it’s politeness or an instinct for self-preservation, I don’t know. People make certain that they don’t move into intersections without some assurance of safety. I pass by Consumers Energy trucks with bundled up workers checking circuits for electricity. My weekend retreat at a Dominican Center has been canceled because they have no power. Ironic for a place of Godly reverence! Some people have been without electricity for two full days with no assurance that it’s coming back on any time soon. I have been singing God‘s praises for the generator my husband had installed two years ago. It’s keeping our whole house functioning normally. The only thing we lack is Wi-Fi which is irritating but hardly essential. We have two houseguests for the weekend who were struck, driving in last night, that our neighborhood was eerily dark. The sound of motors can be heard from different directions as generators provide a bare minimum of protection against the ice and the snow. There have been nine snow days in the last 10 school days. I don’t remember anything like this before.
The church has heat even though businesses two blocks down are dark. So we put out an all-points bulletin inviting people who can no longer stand the smell of their own bodies to come on down and step into our seldom-used shower at church! We assure folks whose homes have dipped into the 40’s that they can stay the night in the church facility until the power surges back into their homes. A key is placed in a super-secret spot to be revealed to those who call asking for our hospitality. Then I make my way back to my car that has been covered with snow in a very brief period of time.
As I climb in and strap on my seat belt, my phone chimes to indicate a new voicemail. I listen to it before sliding out of our parking lot. One of the blessed octogenarians in our congregation is slipping away from this world into the next. The hope is that I can make it over to her home in spite of the bad weather to offer the Protestant version of last rites. I text the woman’s son back to say that I’m leaving the church and will be there shortly. I pray aloud in my car again but this time it’s not for my own safety. I’m not talking to Jesus about my crippled automobile. I’m praying for a woman who is between two worlds and will soon pass from our frosty landscape into promised paradise. No Spirit Airline ticket required, she will travel on the wings of a God who claims her as a beloved daughter. When I arrive the family ushers me in to the room where our church member is struggling in her last earthly hours. Her family and I intone the Lord’s Prayer and assure her that she can relinquish her grasp on this side of heaven. With tears and hugs, I leave the intimacy of that setting for home.
The power is back on! The generator has served its purpose. Life can get back to normal. But what is normal? Is it only lived in the privacy of the homes that shelter us from the cold? Or do we find it in hospital bays where prayer calms nerves before surgery? Do we carve out a new normal in our churches when we use our building for revised purposes that serve Christ’s people? Is it normal to be in the presence of a loved one as they slip from this world into the next? We breathe more easily when it seems like we can resume our usual routine. But it is perhaps the ongoing conversation we have with Jesus that keeps us anchored and equipped for whatever comes our way. Whether it’s a plea for safety on a dangerous trek or offering the prayer that Jesus taught us for one who is truly on their way Home, it is the conversation of faith that weaves the pieces of each day together. Amen?