For those of you keeping track of my absence from the blogosphere, the first “Abiding in the Pieces” post was written in order to write this one.
Abide with me: fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide: When other helpers fail, and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
We sang this hymn recently in church. It promised to be a normal Sunday morning service, as nothing out of the ordinary was printed in the bulletin. And out-of-the-ordinary things don’t really happen at my church. But when our pastor got up to offer the community prayer, he said that we had a special guest with us.
This special guest was a middle-aged man I didn’t know who was connected to our congregation through someone else I didn’t know. He had become suddenly ill with a complication from a procedure and ended up on the brink of death in the hospital. I am not intentionally being vague on these points; I just don’t remember the details. They aren’t important to the story.
What is important to the story is this: he had received a quilt from our church’s prayer ministry. While he was unconscious. In critical condition. A quilt.
Did I mention that this was the day after I’d spent the day sewing?
Lots of churches have quilt ministries, probably because lots of women–especially, let’s face it, older women–have a gift for quilting. This is one way for them to offer that gift back to the church. I Googled “prayer quilt ministry” just for the heck of it, and I got 920,000 results. I also learned that there’s even a how-to book about prayer quilt ministries. Who knew?
All I knew is that pretty frequently–say, at least once a month–there’s an easel set up at the front of our sanctuary with a quilt hanging on it. During our community prayer, our pastor reads a blurb about somebody who is in dire straights, typically dire medical straights. Sometimes these are elderly people. Sometimes these are little kids. But they all have something in common: they need prayer. We are encouraged to pray for these folks, and to tie a knot in the strings hanging from the quilt as a symbol of the prayers we have offered and will offer on behalf of their suffering.
Truth be told, most of the time I never hear a follow-up about these folks I’ve prayed for.
But not this week.
This week, we had him standing right in front of us, thanking us for a quilt that was “tangible proof that he was being lifted to the throne.” That’s what he said. Tangible proof.
I’ve been thinking about those two words for quite some time now, considering how long it’s taken me to write this post.
How often are we able to offer each other tangible proof that we are being community to one another?
Because that’s what these quilts are, you know.
Tangible proof of the distant reaches of our community.