While on vacation there were many moments to pause. And even to stop.
One stop was in a used book shop which I always find fun. At this one, I walked in and introduced myself to the elderly, heavy-set, white-haired woman sitting behind the counter in her pink shirt topped by the pink knitted sweater. I said, “Hello you must be Mari, my name is Brian.”
She looked surprised and blessed to be greeted. “Yes, I am Mari,” she responded, “This is my shop.”
“It is good to meet you.” I said. “It looks like you finally said to yourself: ‘It is time to sell my books rather than carting them around!’”
“That’s exactly what I said,” she chuckled, “I’d moved them all for years, 10 moves, and then decided, ‘This is it! I need to part with them.’”
“Well, I always find used bookstores fascinating, and cannot avoid coming in to check out the treasures.”
“My kind of man,” she said.
I laughed and turned to look at the books she had on her shelf, and she was watching me and said, with this misty-eyed look in her eyes, “You know it really is good to see you again! Everyone has been missing you around here. Great to have you back.”
You know there are not many times in my life I find myself speechless. But, especially since it was the first time in my life I had been in that shop, I really didn’t know what to say. Clearly she was mistaking me for someone else, or, she was a bit loopy, or Jesus was using this as a moment to connect deeper. I looked at her and finally said, “Well, Mari. Thank you so much.” And someone else entered the shop, the moment passed and she chatted with them.
That encounter stayed with me. Did she mistake me for someone who looks like me?
The next day, on Sunday we attended the local Episcopal church. The female priest (Judith) and her husband (Brian) had just arrived this summer straight out of teaching college in Iowa for decades. She had taught NT and he had taught OT among other courses. It was this rich experience in worship. Much richer than I had anticipated. I didn’t know any of the music, but was surrounded by the words and melodies. The woman in front of us had this rich operatic voice which ministered to my soul. Jesus was there among that small group of people. Worship impacted my very being. It reminded me that worship is part of life for it gives me a “stop” in a week, a time to pause, to reflect, to be impacted by the Holy, by Jesus. This was such a gift.
Seeing Brian, the priest’s husband, I wondered if he had ever visited the bookshop in Yachats. He is tall, slender, has a grey beard, much like mine and is also losing his hair. Afterward, I had a chance to chat. He had been into that bookstore about three months back and had had a long chat with Mari about some book! I told him, “You need to get back there and visit with Mari!”
But, on top of that, this Brian was also born in the same small, California hometown of Turlock, two years before I was. He and I lived there for the first three years of my life, and then he moved to Merced with his family and had grown up there. What are the chances?
Jesus loves showing up in life, in little and big ways. He loves showing up. As we enter the lives of the folk who lived in the community of Colossae this week and encounter how they were challenged by Paul to experience Jesus, we are meeting people just like us. Like us, they struggled with all the things that distracted them in life and needed Paul’s word to help them stop, turn to worship, and check that they were truly rooted in Christ.
Rooted. That’s such a great word. I felt like the worship experience on Sunday rooted me in Jesus in a new way. Come be rooted this week as well. Come to worship.