Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Odd Encounters

I am on my third trip this year to New Hampshire to see my mom, the once-frequent commentator on this blog known as "Anonymous Peggins" (mom never quite got the hang of how to create an ID, but she was always good to sign her nickname.)   She is looking good, and definitely has all of her personality there, even if her speech has been reduced to a few repetitive words.

The first leg of my flight from Jacksonville to Baltimore was packed with people.  In some cases, it was folks who had missed their earlier flight due to an accident on one of the major highways.  As I listened to these women relating the details of their stressful travel from their home to the airport, and encountering this pile-up which turned I-95 into a parking lot, I reflected on how lucky I had been.   The problem was rain, very heavy rain, that had been pouring that morning in Jacksonville.  Most of my drive had been fine until that point.  And even I was getting a bit white-knuckled on I-295 (The Beltway, as they call it in Jacksonville)  as I followed behind a truck carrying a shipment of cars.  I kept breathing, slowly, and remembering that I was OK and the important thing was to get home safely.

On the airplane, I sat in the back next to a couple of young men from the Air Force.  There seemed to be a whole unit of these guys in their fatigues.  I asked my seat mate where they were headed.


He then shared that he had two more flights to catch before he'd be home.  Been there.  Done that.  Those are very long days.   For the most part, this young man was content listening to his music on his iPhone.  And that's fine with me, the massive introvert.   I had reading to do for next week's seminar of EfM.  I'd brought on board the book the Fourth Year group is reading called, "Theology for A Troubled Believer," by Diogenes Allen.  Having gone through this program with the red binders, and having served as a mentor for a couple of years, I am extremely grateful that the folks in the office at Sewanee have seen fit to chuck out the binders in favor of books such as this one.  I'm enjoying the Allen book, if not always agreeing with everything, because it takes what had been presented as a "philosopher of the week" style from the red binder, and actually looks at Christian faith through Scripture, and the reason brought to it by the philosophers, to examine and study God.  It's a much more cohesive approach to the material, and it prods the reader into thinking instead of sleeping.

I was into the chapter I was reading, when my seat mate got my attention.

"Excuse me," he said, "Do you mind if I ask you what you're reading?"  Apparently, between moments of conversation with his fellow airman and whatever was on his iPhone, he'd been glancing at my book, chalk full of references to "God."  In my part of this country, "God" is a big deal.  "God" isn't just for Sundays; "God" comes out on Wednesday nights... and especially weekends for the football games.  

But, given my flattop and that I was wearing a Mickee Faust Club sweatshirt, and I don't look like the typical "God" type, as seen in the South.  I showed him the cover, and did a quick explanation that I help lead a seminar group, and this is one of the books they're reading.

"It's a really good book," I said.  "It helps people of faith because they live in a world where having faith is called into question all the time, and where they have doubts, too."

From the look on his face, there seemed to be two things going on: 1. He was processing what I was saying and 2. he was processing that I was the one saying it.   

"That does sound like a good book," he said.  And then went back to his iPhone.  

This is one of the peculiar parts to me in my journey, this encountering other people and sharing just a sliver of my Christian self with them.  Because of my appearance, it seems to totally blow their minds.  Yes, if I were to have an iPhone, people might suspect me of jamming to The Ramones or The Sex Pistols.  And I would be.  But I also would have Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell and Sweet Honey in the Rock.  I am the perfect example of why you should never judge a person based on appearances.  And just because I am a lesbian and a member of Mickee Faust doesn't mean I don't have a deep and abiding faith in God and much love for Jesus Christ.

Last week, when the Eucharistic Minister failed to appear for the noon day service, the priest asked if I would kindly join her at the altar to help administer the chalice.   I was in my street clothes, which today included my Mickee Faust 25th anniversary shirt.  As I tipped the chalice toward the first communicant, I couldn't help but notice the reflection coming back at me of the Faust logo--a skull and crossbones of a mouse head with a chunk bitten out of the ear--as I was saying, "The Blood of Christ; the cup of Salvation."  It was priceless, and a reminder that all of me is known, loved and valued by God.  

I don't know what my brief encounter with this young airman might have done or not done.  I have no idea where he was on his own faith journey.  If nothing else, he knows the title of a book that might help him along his way.



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