Tag Archives: Church

Elbow Grease

Even though Mike and I have yet to experience unemployment in our marriage, I am still overly conservative and penny-pinching in our daily lives.  Call it my nature, but I wish I could sweep our funds into a nice little pile in the middle of the floor before stuffing it all in a pillowcase and hiding it where Mike can’t find it. 

I don’t do this without cause.  Mike’s spendthrift ways are thoroughly documented somewhere in a book called “There’s Always More Money Where That Came From,” a book I failed to read before signing the marriage certificate, by the way.  Similarly, my frugality is the stuff of legends, legends that felt like a myth to Michael before he married me and realized I would circle the block for days for a free parking space.

So it’s easy to picture the clash of ideals when one of us carries a homemade lunch to work every day and the other frequents the local Nordstrom for a refreshing cafe lunch and a shoe shine.

Mike has long argued that a shoe shine is a great decompressant, and he always tells me about his engaging conversations with his favorite shine artist, Kim.  To avoid any raised eyebrows, Kim is a man.

I have always lamented Mike’s shoe shines as a needless extravagance, and he has always defended them by pointing out that they cost a mere $2.50.  Well, $2.50 plus a $5 tip.  And, he points out, it’s helping out his main man Kim, and who can argue with that?

This is the point in the conversation when I roll my eyes.

Well, I used to roll my eyes.  All of that changed one Sunday when Mike invited me to get my boots shined after church.  I asked if we could really shoot the moon and get that cafe lunch, too.  Needless to say, he agreed.

After enjoying a bowl of crab bisque and too many slices of sourdough, we meandered downstairs to the shoe shine room near the entrance of Nordstrom.  I started to ask Mike just how often this little shoe shine date with Kim really takes place…is it once a month?  Every two weeks?

“Kim!” he hollers to the man furiously buffing a gentlemen’s shoes.

Kim turns around, leans in toward Mike until he’s inches from his face, and says, “My man!”

Must be every week.  At least.

“What do you want today?” he asks Mike.  He hasn’t noticed me standing with him yet, and that’s when I remember that Mike once told me that Kim is nearly blind.  All at once I’m realizing the implications of a blind man shining shoes all day, and I’m stunned silent.

“We’d both love a shine,” Mike replies, gesturing toward me.  “This is my wife, Abby.” 

We exchange hello’s and he invites us to sit while he finishes with his current customer.

“I been slammed today, man,” he says to Mike.  “It’s almost the holidays and people are coming in a mile a minute.  This one woman walked off in a huff when I said I was backed up five pairs.  People don’t get it.  I’m the only one working here today!” 

Mike sympathizes with him and assures him we’re in no hurry, so he can take his time with other things.  He asks if we’d like to change the TV station or choose from the reading materials.  A feeling begins to creep up on me, a feeling of being mortified that someone thirty years my elder is about to wait on me.  I feel a sweat-inducing class-consciousness, and I realize I’d rather run naked through the store than have him shine my shoes. 

It occurs to me that the feeling harks back longer than I can consciously recall.  My parents always raised me never to have others do for me what I could do for myself.  This includes things like housework, landscaping, washing the car, laundry, and apparently, shoeshining.  Part of it is about not spending money on those things, but the other part of it is the fact that what is my responsibility is my responsibility.  I made my shoes scuffy, therefore I should have to buff them myself.  Case closed.

“Ma’am are these boots black or brown?” he says, leaning over my feet.  It’s the worst reminder of his lack of sight.

“They’re black,” I reply, “and I’ve never had a shoe-shine in my life.  I haven’t taken good care of them,” I admit. 

“Well, you’ve got to come in here,” he says.  “You’ve got to get your shoes done, not just to make them shine but to treat the leather.  Especially in Seattle!  The water dries out the leather and you have to have them oiled.”

I feel both gently chastised and justified by what he’s said.  Yes, I need to take better care of them, and yes, it is my problem.  But it also occurs to me that he’s emphasizing that this is just part of owning shoes — you go get them shined.  It’s not about pretentiousness, it’s about caring for the things you purchased six feet away in the shoe department.  It’s the same as getting an oil change (which my dad has always done himself by the way…poor example, then).  My making this a class issue is really my issue — I’m uncomfortable; he’s not.  After all, the shoe shine costs $2.50 — it’s designed for every shoe owner to take care of their shoes.

I look over at Mike, who couldn’t be more at ease.  He’s telling Kim about church today, since he asked what we’ve been doing this morning.

Kim apparently agrees with our morning choice.

“So you’re paying attention, you’re tuned in,” he says.  “People I meet here always think that their days are not numbered, but let me tell you, they are.  You’ve got to get to know the Lord before you meet Him, am I right?!” 

Kim steps into the back room to gather different supplies, and I turn to Mike and tell him something about how utterly ungrateful I am for having an easy job sitting at a desk all day while Kim is on his feet, working his tail off for far less money.   I tell him about a teacher I had in seventh grade who used to tell us about her trip to India and ask us a haunting question:  if we were ever in India, would we pay to take a ride in a rickshaw?  Would we do what felt degrading to the driver in order to help them make money?  Or would we refuse to take a ride, on principle, but then know that we had just kept that person from making enough money for the day?  I’ve never forgotten that question, and I still don’t have an answer.

Mike looks at me and says, “Kim is working hard, yes, but there’s honor in that.  He’s here every day serving his clients, getting paid, making what we hope is a living wage.  Think about it: he’s blind — he has every excuse to be at home, and instead he’s here working his tail off.  I’m going to support him as much as I can because I admire him, and I want him to be the best paid shoeshiner in the freaking state.”

I don’t know what to say, but I suppose I agree.  I want to support Kim, and I also want to be socially responsible.  For today, that means swallowing my issues and letting him shine my shoes. 

Kim returns and finishes our shoes.  We tell him he did an incredible job, because he truly did.  I can’t believe how much better my boots look, and I tell him I’ll return.  He asks one favor of us before we go.

“Would you email the management and tell them that you liked your service today?  That woman I told you about earlier threatened to email management and complain that I couldn’t wait on her fast enough.”

We are both horrified and vow to send an email that will remove all doubt as to the nature of his service.  We pay him and begin to walk away.  Normally, I would have a hurricane of a heart attack if Mike tipped someone more than 30%, but in this case I just feel proud of him for the far higher than 30% tip he hands to Kim.

“And,” I add, “I’ll tell everyone I know with a pair of shoes to get over here.” 

Nordstrom, Bellevue Square: Open 9:30AM – 9:30PM Monday through Saturday, 11AM – 7PM Sundays.

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The Liturgy of Yoga

I think it would be fair to say that my experience with yoga has been somewhat of a stretch.  Pun most definitely intended.

It simply isn’t in my nature to submit myself to quiet focus, non-vigorous exercise, or anything that can be perceived as wishy-washy.  That’s the technical term, clearly.

As it turns out, yoga has been none of those things and sometimes all of those things.  I usually go through a range of emotion and physical exertion so broad that its like I’m standing on the stage at The Price is Right spinning the giant wheel to see how I’ll feel next.

One element of yoga that has remained slipperier than a wet fish has been its connection to God.  Initially I believed all of the stereotypes about this “Eastern practice” — that it was all Buddha, breathing and channeling my chi.  And it may be that for some people.  But largely the studio where I practice is void of any spirituality.  It’s much more focused on exercise, peace and doing whatever works for you.

On my first day in January, I walked across the hardwood floors of the serene room with my walls up, however.  I was determined not to let anything other than Christ be the focus of my practice.  I decided that I would do my breathing and my movements out of worship and discipline.

But it was hard.  I had a difficult time reminding myself to pray, to focus, to move in mindfulness.  It was easier to think about my day at work or an argument with a friend; or really, nothing at all.

Which is why when the studio offered a three-part series called “Practicing Yoga with Jesus” I nearly did a hand-spring across my mat.

It promised to teach how to incorporate Jesus into a practice that has traditionally left Him out of it.  I couldn’t wait.

Last Friday I walked across those same hardwood floors with my walls lowered, a bit.  I still felt apprehensive that the instructor might weaken the Lord into a nice “teacher” with flowers and sunshine and smiles for everyone; in technical terms, wishy-washy.

Imagine my surprise then, when the instructor announced that he was a very serious Catholic.

My jaw did a very limber stretch when he said that.   Then two of the four students said they were also Catholic, and I was elated.  Even though I am not Catholic, I honestly thought this class would be filled with people who had little regard for solid truth about Jesus, and here was a group from one of the most doctrine-focused churches on the planet.  Surely this wasn’t going to be wish-washy!

The instructor introduced himself and told a bit of his journey to incorporate Christian faith into a non-Christian practice.  He used the Psalms as an illustration to show that we are supposed to use our bodies, not just our lips, to worship God.  Sharing with us that his mother was dying, he pointed out that as her range of motion decreases, he is ever more aware that our ability to move is part of what makes us alive.  Not to use that ability is akin to rejecting the life He gave us.

This made perfect sense to me.  I honor God when I run.  I honor Him when I bike.  I show Him gratitude when I hike, or swim or walk a mile.  Yoga is another extension of that.

As we went through the motions of exalting God through yoga, I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that a Catholic Chinese man was teaching an Eastern practice to a group of Christians in the most atheistic city in the US.  I took this as further proof that only in the Kingdom do these gatherings have any chance of occurring.

About halfway through I hit a snag.  We were supposed to do 12 sets of a motion that reflected the Doxology (see?  Liturgy in yoga!) and while I loved the concept, I just couldn’t break through.

“How is this going for you, Abby?” the instructor asked me, in a thick Chinese accent.

“Um, I’m having a little perfectionist’s problem,” I replied.  “I know I’m supposed to be thinking about God but all I can think about is my posture.”

“Ah, yes, we all do that,” he replied reassuringly.  “What you need to remember is that ‘Always, we begin again.'”  His twinkling eyes smiled at me behind circular, wire-frame glasses.

I stared back at him with a small smile.  Of course.  The phrase meant as much to yoga as it does to anyone who knows God.  As far as I think I have moved toward Him, as close as I think I am to Him, every single day I have to begin again.  I have to choose Him again.  That is why it is so hard.  But the fact that He promises always to choose us is what makes it so easy.

Normally at the end of every class the instructor bows, hands palms-together and says, “namaste” which is a term of respect and gratitude for having practiced together.  I have always withheld this word out of the fear of tip-toeing into non-Biblical territory.  I usually whisper “thank you” which is directed at both God and my teacher for instructing me.  On this Jesus Yoga night, however, I was lead to recite the Lord’s Prayer, complete with movement to represent each petition in the prayer:

Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever.

Amen.

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Roasted or Dyed?

Last Saturday night the Rephs gathered around the table and dipped matzo into fresh horseradish to taste the spice that brings tears to our eyes.

We celebrated Passover with the Seder, as we do every year.  We join the Jewish community in their practice of remembering God’s provision for His people, and in our case, we recognize that God already honored His promises by bringing Christ to be our ultimate Savior.

We read the Messianic Haggadah, dip our parsley in salt water, hide the matzo from the children, and raise our glasses of red wine in love of the Lord.  It is a tangible, intentional ritual that leads its participants in worship filled with verses read aloud and the sharing of food and drink.

Passover is as solid as the lamb bone shank on the Seder plank; you can rely on it, count on it, because it’s never going to change.  I believe that is my favorite thing about Passover — in that way, it mirrors the character of God.

My mother-in-love (synonym for in-law in our family) enjoys inviting extended family and friends to share in the delicious food she’s made while following my father-in-love’s lead in the reading.

As I’ve mentioned before, Mike’s family believes (as now do I) that we should celebrate the same holidays that Christ did when He walked the Earth.   In fact, the Last Supper was a Seder, and that evening is crucial in the story of Christ’s death and resurrection (known today as Easter).

Ah, Easter.

On Sunday afternoon after the Bergers get back from church, we gather with 18 close friends for a day of elation, rejoicing…and wine tasting.

Be honest: you were expecting me to say egg hunting.  If so, you were right — there is also an egg hunt.

On the afternoon of Easter we run, adults all, through my parents house scouting for 36 hidden eggs, which have been carefully numbered and colored the night before by my younger sister.  It’s a mad dash that is taken incredibly seriously — if you end up with just one or two eggs, you may as well have one on your face.

Then comes the wine tasting contest.  Every guest (or couple) brings a bottle of wine that pairs best with the Easter ham.  Then we host a tasting, take notes, and vote on the finest wine.  One year, Phil and Rachel brought Manischewitz, a joke which was lost on those who don’t also celebrate Passover.

To my mom, and to all of us really, Easter is the perfect day to welcome people into our homes in warm hospitality and celebration as we recognize that we serve a most wonderful God.  Many people who attend our Easter don’t know much about Jesus at all, and we’re hoping they may see a glimpse of the freedom and joy we have from knowing Him.

We’ve had atheists, agnostics, even a Buddhist monk.

Come on in!  Find an egg, have some wine, and feel free to say “Cheers!” when one family member says, “He is risen!” and ten more holler, “He is risen, indeed!”

Our president started an unprecedented tradition of hosting the Seder in the White House, despite being a Christian.  Later in the week he also hosted the White House Easter egg roll and hunt.  I identify with this dichotomy.

Where Passover is reflective, reverent and focused, Easter is triumphant, explosively joyful and full of freedom.  Three years of celebrating the two together has, for me, begun to turn the key in a door that has always been locked.  As a follower of Christ, I’ve never been sure of which attitude to embody: should my face be down-turned in reverence or upward in thanksgiving?  Should I solemnly acknowledge the immaculate perfection of my Creator, or stomp my feet and clap because of His shocking insistence on loving us?  Should I hone my discipline out of honor to Him or embrace my freedom to live outside of rules?

Celebrating Passover and Easter have shown me that it’s both.  Both holidays are about humbled gratitude.  God is not about either/or.  His capacity to be worshiped isn’t restricted to a single method.  I’m excited to carry on the tradition of showing gratefulness in such complimentary ways.

“Next year in Jerusalem!”

“He is risen, indeed!”

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Dust to Dust

When I was about four or five, my older sister Erin was a cheerleader for her elementary school.  Like any little sister, I wanted nothing more than to be like her, so I made her teach me all of the cheers complete with hip thrusts and jumps involving legs pointing to opposing ends of the room.

One of my favorite cheers went like this:

“Ashes to ashes and dust to dust,
You’ve got to be (swing hips) a Blacknight (stomp),
To jam with us (jump).”

Totally fun, totally cute.  It’s only now that I read that and go, really?  Ashes to ashes and dust to dust?  Is this a funeral?  Do they realize they’re making a football cheer out of a Bible verse (“…for dust you are and to dust you will return”)?  Do they know “dust” doesn’t even rhyme with “us?”

I’m recalling all of this because last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, and mine was certainly dustier than most.  After hearing that a close relative may have cancer, I entered into a fragile state, the kind where the slightest offense threatened to call forth a hundred tears.

It was in this state that I realized we needed food for dinner, and I headed out to the grocery store.  Is there a worse place to be than Safeway at 6PM when you’re about as stable as Winona Ryder in “Girl, Interrupted?”

Usually I am in and out of the grocery store in 15 minutes.  This was not the case last Wednesday.  I wandered the aisles for no less than 90 minutes in a stupor, in a fog.  I couldn’t think of one single meal, much less the ingredients required to make one.  I stopped in the middle of the produce section, staring at rows of vegetables, wondering what I could make with them.  Thirty minutes later all I had was a frozen pizza and a bunch of bananas.

I think that’s what I should refer to last Wednesday as:  Frozen Pizza and Banana Day.  Illogical, and almost entirely unhealthy.

Somehow I made it home with a full cart of food, though if you asked me now I probably couldn’t tell you one item I bought.  That evening is like a blank chalkboard.

Thankfully, my church was holding a service for Ash Wednesday.  I’ve always been a little on-the-fence about services like Ash Wednesday, because they strike me as ritualistic with no obvious Biblical references.  Never-the-less, I decided a little meditation and getting outside of myself couldn’t hurt my mental state.

I entered the sanctuary five minutes late, and everyone was finishing a song.  I joined in, knowing the words by heart, and then took my seat.

The pastor read a short verse, and then my favorite pastor stood before us.  She has cerebral palsy, and she trembles as she holds the lecture in front of her.  There is something so brave about speaking to hundreds of people about something as personal as faith, and to do so with such an unmasked condition is remarkable.  She stuns me every time.

She didn’t just stun me this time, she shamed me.  She shared about her journey with her husband who is dying of cancer; his death is imminent.  She said she has been reduced to the very dust from whence she came, because nothing in her life is guaranteed except Christ’s love for her and her husband.  She didn’t use religious jargon, she didn’t read Bible verses, and she didn’t beam an unshakable smile to the masses.  She spoke as someone who is walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and she’s not out yet.

I couldn’t even begin to identify with her.  Here I was with a similar ailment in my family and I reacted ten different ways — anger, sadness, hopelessness, bitterness… but humility?  No.  The thought of human frailty never crossed my mind.  I was indignant and in denial about the loss of someone I love.  Here stood my pastor, about to lose the person closest to her, and she had come to a place of knowing that this was always our destiny.  We’re not immortal.

Her message wasn’t about powering through our obstacles with a mixture of ambition, blind hope and strength.  It was about remembering that we came from dust, and to dust we shall return.  It is the opposite of the message we are told every day:  You are important!  You are exceptional!  Your potential is limitless!

No, it’s not, not really.

In comparison to the Lord (and His immortality) I am a wisp of dust.

“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.  The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”  (Isaiah 40: 6-8)

Later that evening I went to my girls group, the ladies who gather together every other week to process life, laugh, cry, talk about faith, and just be there for each other.

I told them my pathetic Frozen Pizza and Banana story.  They told me the pastor probably had her own share of frozen pizza moments in the two years of her husband’s illness.  They told me this mindfulness of how small we are in comparison to God does not happen in one Ash Wednesday service.

So back in my seat at church, after listening to her offer a closing prayer, I approached the gentleman at the back of the sanctuary who was dipping his thumb into a bowl of ash and oil and marking each person with a cross on their forehead.   Each time he touched their foreheads he whispered, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

We exited the church silently, hundreds of people with tiny ash smudges on their faces, like muddy grass blades drying in the sun.

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House of Worship

I will be the first to admit that the Coldplay concert on July 11 was epic.  It was intense, beautiful and incredibly well done.  Best of all, it was the only concert I have ever experienced that filled me with an indescribable joy from start to finish.   The music was euphoric; even their more somber songs were played with an air of triumph.  I have never seen anything like it.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I was ecstatic the entire set – literally jumping up and down for hours.  From the moment they entered the stage, I started screaming and bouncing at the sight of my favorite band.  Seeing them at The Gorge was ideal – it’s been named the best outdoor concert venue in the US, and that’s no exaggeration.  It’s stunningly gorgeous (no pun intended).

What happened next gave me pause:  during the first and second songs, I had tears in my eyes.  Two times, without warning, I felt like I was about to cry.  This had never happened before and I stopped jumping around for a moment to take stock.

Why would this make me emotional?  Why on earth was I acting like a teenage girl at a Beatles concert in 1965?  Chris Martin is NOT that good-looking.

Suddenly it occurred to me that it wasn’t the band that was sending me over the top, it was the collective experience.  Here I was among 30,000 people all singing the same lyrics, all fans of the same music, all happy together for three hours.  Where else can this be found?

Certainly not in Seattle.

Statistically, Seattle is the least-churched city in the US.  Given that absence, it’s no wonder that people are drawn to gathering by the thousands for a common interest such as a concert.   Where else in Seattle can one experience the community and fellowship of coming together to adore a single entity?  Where else can one stand among strangers and feel like you all have something in common?  Even sporting events can’t compare – they always involve competition.  The person sitting next to you could HATE the team you are rooting for.  At a concert, you are all there because you love the same performer.

As I was thinking about this, I had a flashback.  Two years ago, my father-in-law attended a Dave Matthews Band concert at The Gorge with me, Mike and all of our siblings.  Afterward, we eagerly asked him what he thought of it.  He paused, and then said, “It was a worship service.  Idolatry, really.”

Not critical, not positive or negative, just fact.

At first I thought, you can’t be serious.  What, we’re bowing down to gods made of stone? But he explained that today’s idols are really anything you put before God.  That could be musicians, actors, comic books, even your own beauty.

Then it was obvious; what I was experiencing was akin to going to a massive worship service — of Coldplay.

For me, it’s not too much of a stretch to fall into idol worship…but that’s less because of the music than because of their celebrity.  When they entered a smaller stage inside the crowd, just thirty feet from us, what did I do?  I bolted straight for them to get as close as the burly security guard would let me.  Why?  Because I idolize their talent and success.  And because, hello, the lead singer is married to Gwyneth Paltrow.  Need I write more?

It is fantastic to recognize that the music Coldplay creates is brilliant, but I have to remember the ability to create that music is God-given.   To recognize it as anything less is idol worship.  So while I’m amazed by what I’m hearing, I’m also thinking how incredible it is that we are created to create.  And that was the difference, I believe: I was in awe of the talent the Lord gives people, rather than being emotionally in awe of Chris, Will, Guy and Jonny.  And who wouldn’t be, with lyrics like this that make you feel invincible?

“Oh love, don’t let me go/Won’t you take me where the street lights glow?/I can hear rain coming like a serenade of sound/Now my feet won’t touch the ground.”  (Life in Technicolor II)

After considering these thoughts as the band played on, I had one of those ridiculous Christian-panic moments where I was thinking, “Now am I supposed to interpret all the lyrics through this lens?  Do I have to analyze everything to see how God is involved?”  No, I don’t.  In fact, when I have those thoughts, God is probably looking at me thinking, LIGHTEN UP.

So I am free to enjoy the music.

“I can hear rain coming like a serenade of sound…now my feet won’t touch the ground.”

Summer 09 050

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Extreme Makeover: Divine Edition

It’s not every Saturday you catch me with a giant piece of drywall.  Or every Thursday.  Or any day ending in “y,” for that matter.  But last weekend I found myself in Rainier valley, on my hands and knees, slicing drywall like it was my job.

And it was, for a day.  Rainier Valley is one of the poorest areas of Seattle, known mostly for being south of anything worthwhile and north of escaping the city.  It’s trapped in that tight place of being both undesirable and overlooked, which is exactly why the Rainier Avenue Church was looking more than a little worse for wear.  Despite being a crucial community builder and well-loved house of worship for the Rainier residents, it had fallen into disrepair and needed a makeover.  Not a little mascara and brow wax – no, this called for a hand-me-the-scalpel-we’re-going-under-the-knife face lift.

And who better to approach for help with a makeover than a sister?  Lucky for this church, her big sister came in the form of a wealthy suburban church armed with people and product.  Thus, First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue entered Rainier Valley (along with a dozen other churches they recruited along the way) and I, a member of FPCB, ended up cutting drywall.

To be perfectly honest, I signed up for painting.  Innocent, clean, straightforward painting.  Besides, I married an expert painter, and if I played my cards right (read:  coaxed and bribed) I could end up simply visually scanning walls saying, “Oooh, go over that part one more time.  Don’t let it touch the window sill!”  Alas, it was not to be.

Contractor:  “Okay, looks like you signed up for painting.”  (Looks around at ongoing construction)

Me:  “Yes, we’re excellent painters.  I’m even wearing ugly pants in case of a spill.”

Contractor:  “Well…” (looks around again) “…it doesn’t look like we’re ready to paint yet, so how are you with drywall?”

Me: (blank stare)

But really, how hard could it be?  Measure, cut, drill it into the wall.  This is for amateurs.  And, um, I’m an amateur.  Besides, I’ve got Mike right there to measure, cut and drill it into the wall, so this is a piece of cake.

An hour goes by.

Contractor:  “Well…looks like we need someone over in roofing.”

Mike:  “Sweet!  I’ll go!”

Me:  (Desperate look of helplessness as he walks away)

Two minutes later I’m paired with a woman who looks less than thrilled to be spending a Saturday dry walling.  We spend the remainder of the day either silent or passively aggressively fighting over who gets to drill, avoiding measuring and cutting.  Drilling is the only fun part of the entire process, the heavenly satisfaction of seeing a wall where there used to be wood framing.  I grit my teeth and remind myself this is for charity, for crying out loud.  Pull it together, Abby!

After lunch (I’ve never BEEN so hungry) we go back to the room we were working on before, and realize that whoever erected the walls neglected to use a little thing called a level.  So the process that used to be measure, cut, drill is now tear down wall, find wood to make level, measure with level thirty times, discover the oldest, most decrepit wallpaper man has ever known, remove decrepit wallpaper, measure, cut and drill.

Somewhere in the process, I hit my stride.  My buddy makes a joke about what a lark painting would be compared to this gutting-of-everything, and I laugh.  We both realize that, bottom line, work has to be done.  It doesn’t matter what part we get to do, it’s just that we’re doing our part.   And it’s peaceful, as Anne Lamott once wrote, “it’s monk’s work.”

After all the walls are complete, and Mike and I have gotten ready to leave, I say hello to a young man who says he’s a member of the church.  Mike asks  him a few questions and discovers he’s from Kenya.

“You came to my church today, and I’m going to your church tonight.  Maybe I’ll see you there?” he asks.

Yes, we tell him, and smile as we got in the car to head home.

On the drive home, we marvel at the people crossing Lake Washington today; the members of the Bellevue church going to Rainier to work, and the members of the Rainier church going to Bellevue to worship.

A divine makeover, indeed.

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