“God loves me,” Shirley greets Pastor. Her drool-stained coat has seen better days but she doesn’t care. She settles in her pew, second from the back
Anticipation spreads over her face as someone starts up the aisle.
“Hi, I know you! Guess what? It’s my birthday. In two weeks. I’m gonna be eighty-two. I’m havin’ a party. Wanna come? You can come. It’s at my place, 13 Sunnyvale Crescent. It’s upstairs. You can find it. We’re gonna have a birthday cake!”
Her news announced she sits back and smiles her gappy grin. “Are ya gonna come?”
A young mother makes her way to the front.
“Aw, look at the babies. I love babies. Can I see your babies?”
The mother pauses and shows Shirley the baby. “Look at her, she’s beautiful! Oh, look! She’s smiling at me. She likes me, don’t she. Aw, she’s beautiful!
“Ya sing don’t ya?” Her voice stops the next arrival. “Ya sing up there.” Shirley points to the front of the church. “I like hearin’ ya sing. Ya gonna sing today? I’m gonna sing too, down here. I’m a good singer, aren’t I?”
Interrupting the announcements Shirley’s loud, excited voice belies her diminutive stature. “I rode a motorcycle! Pastor! Guess what? I road a motorcycle. This week. I really did. I…”
“Shirley, that sounds very exciting. Can I talk with you after church about that? I’ll come back there and you can tell me all about it,” Pastor replies.
“Okay… I rode a motorcycle. It was lots o’ fun! I’m gonna tell ya all about it later.”
The congregation settles down for the remainder of the announcements, the singing and the sermon.
Folks reach for the hymn books in anticipation of the closing hymn, when the Pastor asks us to “please remain seated.” Shirley stands.
This morning Shirley wears a new dress and a necklace. In her short, quick, shuffle-step way Shirley walks to the front. “I’m gonna sing today,” she mutters.
“Shirley, you stand here right in front of the microphone. Ready?”
“I’m gonna sing now, Pastor, ain’t I.” Shirley states.
A note sounds. Shirley starts singing,
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Shirley sings right through the entire song. Every verse. She sings from memory. And it doesn’t matter that some of the words aren’t exact. She sings with conviction because she knows it to be true. She has experienced it.
We smile, some through tear-filled eyes. We all feel loved today. Jesus’ love, shining through Shirley—God’s beloved child.
Let’s journey together…