life in the suture zone...

In the earthquake faults between tectonic plates, the suture zone is the in between place where they meet. I find in that a metaphor for the times in which we live... and invite your conversation in the suture zone.

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Location: Bakersfield, CA, United States

... a struggling, but mostly joyful, apprentice of Jesus.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

holy moments...

It was a particularly vulnerable moment in my life. My Grandma Rubye (actually step-grandmother, but she was just like the real thing and a very precious soul who deserves her own blog post) had just died. My mom and dad planned to drive back to Texas nearly straight through in order to get there in time for the funeral. I decided to help them drive. And I thought that since there was bad blood between my mother’s family and Rubye’s sister, who had been charged with her care in later years, I had better go in order to run interference. It’s amazing how much tension one can find at funerals. Some of the best and worst of human behavior sneaks out of the closet at times like that.

So there was the long drive back to Texas, the stress of the funeral, the eggshells one walks on when around family one hasn’t been around for awhile. Oh, and one more thing. My cousin and her friend from Austin were recruited to drive me from Hillsboro right after the funeral meal to the airport so I could catch my flight back to Bakersfield that evening. I had to be in Sacramento the next day for meetings. That was a very wild ride down I-35.

I got to the airport and checked in (I think it was the spring just before 9/11 but there was still security, of course). Had some time. Ate some barbeque and waited at the gate for my flight. When I checked in, something about the tiredness in my eyes, or maybe it was just a God thing, they slated me to sit in the window seat of the mid-plane exit row. This was a flight where the seat in front of me was removed for safety reasons. Oh, was I happy! Thank you, Jesus! If there is one thing that is difficult for me when flying, it’s the lack of room to stretch out my legs. My knees ache for days after long flights because I can’t flex them.

Anyway, I boarded the flight home, settled myself in the chosen seat, shoved my perpetually present briefcase up under the seat two rows in front of me and sat staring out the window with a book in my hands as the plane began to fill.

A few minutes later, this tall guy with a long black pony tail set a backpack in the middle seat between me and my aisle neighbor and headed to the back of the plane. And he didn’t come back for awhile. The lady sitting on the aisle and I began to exchange glances, looking from the backpack to each other and back again. I was about to call an attendant when the young man returned.

His name was Sasha. He was a student doing graduate work at UCLA, Jewish in ethnicity, he was trying to find his religious roots in Judaism on that Westwood campus. Growing up as a secular Jew, Sasha had a lot to discover and sort through. To make matters worse, he had just graduated not long before from a conservative Baptist school in Texas where he had met a wonderful Baptist girl. Please don’t stone me. I don’t have anything against the Baptists, but Sasha was confused. He didn’t get this “Christian” thing, even after four years at a fundamentalist school.

Now, remember, I was tired. Bone tired by this point. I could see where this conversation was leading. I’m one that questions the effectiveness of airplane conversations about religion. I just wanted a moment to rest and recover from all the stress that had come before. But, as I said, I could see where this was heading. I spoke a silent, somewhat reluctant prayer to God at that moment. “Lord, if this is something you want to happen, you are going to have to do it because I am totally spent.” Or something along that line.

The conversation lasted from take-off at Austin until we landed in Phoenix. I listened, I counseled, I challenged his assumptions, I left plenty of room for him to keep on his journey of discovery. We talked about mikvot and how one who follows Christ can be a mikvot keeper as well, about how Paul was a practicing Jew as well, about the fact that Jesus was Jewish, too. About the nature of God, how he defies all boxes that we attempt to put him in. Whatever comfortable thought we have of him, he is what he is despite what we think.

And that he loves us.

It was a long and intense conversation, too long and too detailed to go into here. And that’s not the point of what I’m trying to say anyway.

Up in front of me, to the left since there was no seat directly in front of me, was a young couple. As happens with such conversations, I was concerned that we might be disturbing those around us. I noticed her glancing back toward the carpet at my feet several times and tried to quiet my voice. Understand, I wasn’t shouting or anything. I was just wanting not to disturb anyone.

Sasha got off the plane at Phoenix and headed for the restroom after I wished him well. I left him with my email address. He has never emailed me. Anyway, I was even more wiped out and looking for my gate to Bakersfield, when I noticed the young lady who had been sitting in the seat in front of Sasha. She established eye contact with me, walked up and said...

“I want you to know that I heard everything you said to him. You said everything he needed to hear. And I want you to know that my husband and I were praying for you the entire time you were talking.”

Then she walked away.

I was stunned!

It was a holy moment. Even now I get chills thinking about it, about God’s faithfulness to my silent prayer, about his tap on my shoulder through this young woman’s words, about his use of empty and cracked vessels. About how we are not alone. Even when it feels like it.

You might see coincidence in this event. If so, it is a fault of my telling of the story. I cannot communicate it adequately enough. God was there in a way I couldn’t comprehend and I didn’t even realize it.

He is there for you, too. May God open you up to holy moments.

All glory to him!

Grace and peace!



Blogger Malia said...

Hello. I found your blog by following the link on a comment you left on Judy Thomas' blog. I was quite pleasantly surprised to see it that you are in Bakersfield at Central Church. My father, Tony Ramsey, grew up at Central, my grandfather, Homer Ramsey, was a long-time elder there. I have such fond memories of visiting them and going to church with them at Central. I haven't been back since Grampie passed away in 1991 and most likely will not return until the time comes that we return my grandmother to her rightful place beside him. The Savages and the Elmores are long-time family friends.

Anyway, I just wanted to say hello, I liked your comment on Miss Judy's blog (about imagination) and I really enjoyed this post about the airplane trip. I've heard so many stories about ministers and their conversations with people on airplanes, it must be the vulnerability we feel being thousands of feet in the air, with no control over our transportation and safety that makes people so willing to talk about matters of faith and spirituality.

I'll be back to read your blog and I'll be praying for your health issues as well. In Him, Malia Ramsey Carden, Nashville, TN

5:26 AM  
Blogger Owen B. said...

Hi, Malia --

Your grandparents are very highly thought of at Central.

I don't know if you knew this, but the Elmores moved to Abilene last fall. The Savages are still here, working harder than they should.

How is your grandmother doing? With the Elmores gone, I have lost touch. I see Bruce every so often when he's here from the coast, but I forget to ask.

Thanks for your comments and the visit. I plan to blog here more on my thoughts about imagination posted to Judy's site. I think she has identified a key element in where we need to go.



1:44 PM  
Blogger Malia said...

Grammie is exsisting, which is about all that can be said. She still recognizes Dad, Mom, my sister and I, but she can not remember anything about our current lives, like where we live, what we do, that she has two gorgeous great-children, etc. The only ADL she still possesses is the ability to feed herself, but only when she is not sick. She doesn't know what day it is, she doesn't know that she lives in Florida or that her husband and mother are long gone from this world. I'm rambling, probably because I just came back from a visit to FL and visiting my parents and seeing her again. Thank you for asking, though, I appreciate it.

12:19 PM  

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