Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Litttle Big Foot: Stained Glass

If you would like to start at the beginning of the "Little Big Foot" story, click on the link at the bottom of this post or the one in the sidebar. When you are redirected, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

If you would like to hear Keith Green's song "Stained Glass," click here.
















Dee Anna, wearing loafers, blue jeans and a green t-shirt, sat alone in the silent sanctuary of Eastside Methodist Church. She had finished packing the last box of books from her office, and she was tired. She had received several offers of help, but she had wanted to finish that particular packing job alone.
Splashes of color from a nearby window cascaded across the carpet and over the window sill, turning the rays of sun into a work of art all their own.

Dee Anna smiled, picturing the mosaic of color as tiny angels who had come to encourage and comfort her. She giggled aloud when she realized that the angels she was envisioning looked a lot like the three plump fairy godmothers in Walt Disney's classic film,"Sleeping Beauty."
Leaning against the hard back of the pew, she closed her eyes with a long sigh. The melody and words of a Keith Green song drifted through her thoughts.

We are like windows,
the bright colors of the rainbow...

She remembered how she used to listen to Keith Green as she studied in the little dorm room she shared with a preacher's daughter from San Antonio. It was her freshman year of college. Her roommate had been a very devout and outspoken girl who often talked about sin and the need for a national revival. Dee Anna hadn't liked that so much, because it had reminded her of her father. Still, she and her roommate had shared a love of music and of Keith's passionate longing for holiness and a spiritual awaking in the churches of America. In those days Dee Anna had been an idealistic fundamentalist, a young woman who thought she would change the world as soon as someone gave her a chance. She would share the love of Jesus with children, and she would have a lasting impact on young hearts and minds.

She had passionately believed that each person is a unique and beautiful creation of God. She still believed that, she acknowledged to herself. She had also believed that all that was necessary to flourish was to be saved, pray hard, and read the Bible every day.
It was a long time since she had believed that.

She had tried to take the good things from her childhood with her and leave the bad ones behind. The problem was, she thought sadly, the bad things just wouldn't stay put back in her home town. They drifted into her dorm room, her children's church classroom, the seminary library as she worked on her thesis. They followed her to Dallas as she attempted to forget all she had been taught. They floated with her as she prayed at midnight in a downtown Catholic church, and they had even managed to drift northward to Madison.

Like the colors from the stained glass, they tinted her life. But the tints were not lovely. They were gray and black and dark blue, and the shadows lurked, sometimes just out of sight, but always there.

We are like windows
Stained with colors of the rainbow
Set in a darkened room
Till the bridegroom comes to shine...
She opened her eyes and looked up towards the altar area with its stained glass portrayal of Jesus as the shepherd. No stained glass at North Woods Chapel, she thought, but there are sheep. People in need of peace, in need of encouragement, in need of God's amazing grace. She recalled the unusual stillness she had experienced as she sat on the bed in the parsonage and again as she had stood in the pulpit. She wondered about the awareness she has sensed of tired, weary people. Had that really been God? Did God really think she was the one to help them?
She spoke into the stillness, as a long-ago pastor's face swam into her memory, an elderly man who had loved the 23rd Psalm and had taken a kindly notice of the little girl with red hair.
"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He maketh me lie to lie down in green pastures,
he leadeth me beside still waters,
he restoreth my soul."
She would miss looking at the picture, she thought. She sang softly to herself and to the imaginary cluster of angels who frolicked on the windowsills and carpeting.
My colors grow so dim
When I start to fall away from Him
But up comes the strongest wind
That He sends to blow me back into his arms again
Ah, the wind, she mused. The ruach of God, the breath, the soft brush of air, or the mighty rushing wind. Thank you, Lord, for your sweet Spirit who never leaves me or forsakes me. I do not deserve your care over me, but I thank you for it. She stood and moved to the aisle.
We are His daughters and sons
We are the colorful ones
We are the kids of the King
Rejoice in everything...
And then the colors fall around my feet
Over those I meet
Changing all the gray that I see
Rainbow colors of the Risen Son
Reflect the One
The One who came to set us all free.
Are God's colors falling across those I meet? Have I really made an impact for the Kingdom of God in this place? Dee Anna wondered, thinking that it was certainly true that the spiritual hues of Eastside's people had fallen across her.
She moved to the steps that led to the altar area. Stopping, she gazed at her familiar surroundings. "I love this place, God" she said aloud, not sure if she was happy or unhappy that it was so. It just is, she thought. It just is.
She ran her palm along the altar rail, loving the soft sheen of it, the smooth surface, the memories of sharing the bread and cup as she stood at this spot. She went up to the pulpit and stood behind it, gazing without really seeing the empty sanctuary. Instead she saw her congregation--the "colorful ones" of this place. Closing her eyes once again, she saw the sanctuary as it had been yesterday.
The children were in the service because it was her last Sunday as Eastside's pastor. Some were restless, but some watched her intently. She sat on the steps and had the children gather around on the floor as she shared a last children's sermon and told them she was proud of them. Many of the children had hugged her before returning to their seats, and that had brought a lump to her throat.
She also remembered that her daughter Madeline's face had worn a sad expression. She had sat next to Melanie, her best friend. Melanie and Madeline, the two "M's." A smile passed over Dee Anna's face as she thought of Melanie's crop of braids, each with a pink bow, her shining smile, her smooth dark brown skin. The two girls had hugged each other and cried after church, and
Dee Anna had promised that Melanie could come up for a visit.
Melanie was the granddaughter of Leroy the gardener. Leroy was a life-long Southern Baptist and had told Dee Anna he would die a Baptist, but his daughter, Kendra, had come to Eastside as a pregnant single woman. She had sat across from Pastor Dee Anna in her office, twisting her hands nervously as she shared how far she had come from what her mama had taught her. She was involved with a man who was "no good for me," she had related, and she had said to Dee Anna, "I tried to talk to the pastor at Daddy's church, but it just didn't work. Daddy Leroy told me to come talk to the nice associate pastor at Eastside."
Michael and Dee Anna had reached out to the young woman, not sure how she would be received by the members of their all-white congregation. It was not an easy time, and leaving the boyfriend had been tumultuous, but the mother-to-be had stuck to her declaration to "turn things around for this baby that's coming." As it turned out, Kendra had quickly won the hearts of almost everyone with her quick smile and her willingness to pitch in and help wherever she was needed. After a few months, others of Leroy's family had drifted in, and Leroy had begun to attend Eastside about half the time. "I didn't know how I'd take to hearin' a woman preachin' the Word," he had admitted to Dee Anna, but I surely do like you, anyhow."
She was happy that the once all-Anglo congregation now had a sprinkling of others--a few Hispanics, Asians, a Hmong family, and a group of Nigerians, several of whom worked at the University of Wisconsin.
As she stood feeling a bittersweet kind of thankfulness, she continued to picture the individuals who made up the congregation of Eastside. Funny how church people always tend to sit in the same pew, she mused. Some had been challenging, to be sure. Some had left the congregation after Michael died and she had become the pastor. Others had loved her with an openness that had surprised her.
Not everyone had been overjoyed when their attractive young pastor had married a relative newcomer, but most had been glad to see he had found love again after the tragic deaths of his wife and parents. When he had been killed, the people had mourned with his wife and young daughter, bringing food, sometimes little gifts for Madeline, and volunteering to help however they could. They had, for the most part, been patient as Dee Anna put the pieces of her life back together, even as they, too, grieved the loss of their charismatic and and likable minister. She had been surprised and grateful when they had asked her to stay on as their pastor.
"Only Mrs. Herndon probably had a clue just how bad it was," Dee Anna thought, picturing her dear friend on the right hand side, about half way back. "God, bless that precious woman. How could I ever repay her many kind deeds?"
We are like windows
Stained with colors of the rainbow
No longer set in a darkened room
Cause the bridegroom wants to shine from you
No longer set in a darkened room
Cause the bridegroom wants to shine from you.
Dee Anna opened her eyes and wiped them with a tissue from the box she always stashed in the pulpit. She suddenly realized that the muscles of her legs were stiff and getting stiffer. "Too many boxes, too many books, too much squatting" she thought, reaching down to massage her calf. As she did, her gaze fell on Michael's Bible where it rested on a small inner shelf of the pulpit. It was a warm brown leather with gilt-edged pages. She had given it to him for his birthday the first year they were married. After he had died she left it in the pulpit, somehow feeling that a part of him remained at Eastside--with her-- at the pulpit. She bent and removed it from the shelf, caressing the gold letters of the name that she had requested be embossed on the cover.
Michael David Hanson
"How could I have not packed this?" she chided herself. She suddenly, and quite unexpectedly felt a shrp stab of something like panic, and then a wave of sorrow that seemed to flow like hot liquid from her feet up to her chest.
Shocking her, tears began to flow and a quiet sob soon turned to gasps that turned to groans. "Oh, Michael. I miss you. How can I not stand in your church, your pulpit, how can I not open the pages of your Bible to share the sermon with your congregation? How can I leave this place where you helped me find God, find hope, once again?"
She knelt behind the pulpit, grasping the Bible to her chest and sobbing. She remained on the floor, splatters of light falling around her until slowly the torrent of tears lessened and her sobs grew softer. It had been a long time since her grief had felt so raw, so fresh. A bit shakily, she grasped the sides of the pulpit as she stood to her feet and took a long breath.
The colorful "angels" were gone. It was getting darker in the church, and she knew Mrs Herndon and Madeline would be waiting with supper at Mrs. Herndon's little home. She would spend the night there and then they would begin the trip north.
She turned to the stained glass portrayal of Jesus the Good Shepherd. "I will see you in Little Big Foot, okay, Lord?" She gulped back the last of her tears as a chuckle escaped her lips.
Walking to the door that led to the hallway she glanced back for the final time at the pulpit, awash in the dimly waning light of a late-summer sunset.
"Good bye, dear Eastside. Good bye, Michael, my love. It really is time for me to move on."

3 comments:

Betsy said...

Will we get to hear about her new life, or is this the end? Please say there will be more!

SingingOwl said...

This is the end of part one. :-) Part two still ahead.

Lauriej. said...

Singing Owl,
OK now I am teary.The goodbye in the church got me. It was so bittersweet and brought up other goodbyes in my own life.
Part two will have alot to live up to and I bet this story just keeps getting better and better.Also I agree with Betsy and thought there had to be a part two...and part three, four... .