I wish I could say I remember the whole sermon, even more of the point that Pastor Chris wanted us to walk away with. I know he was telling us about sheep hearing their shepherd’s voice, about the Good Shepherd and I love those feel good sermons, especially with videos like he added. Something from Youtube with international students trying to call sheep, sheep ignoring them, the shepherd calls, the sheep come running. (Much like when I call chef to help with chores. Nothing. Then my Plum hollers for Grandpa to play legos, squirt guns, baseball. Chef knows the little shepherd’s voice.) I woke at 3:30, unable to go back to sleep, I wandered down stairs to the couch and was soon joined by the two huge dogs. Just as I was drifting off, Plum joined me, blankets were shuffled, pillows, rearranged. He dozed, I was pushed off. Coffee was started. In my defense, my mind was hazy by the time I made it to church. Still, I sit in the first row so I was giving it my all.
Somewhere about the halfway mark, he began to talk about a ministry in L.A. that works with gang members. He told a story that broke my heart about a young man who found a father in the pastor who leads HomeBoy Ministry, a pastor who opened his life to a son. Feeling the gratitude that there are those in the world who shepherd these lost men mix with envy, even anger that no one had yet reached my son, right there in God’s front row, I accepted that a mother’s soul can hold both emotions and I was probably where I needed to be. But Pastor Chris and the Holy Spirit weren’t done with me yet. Just warming up, it seems.
I remember the first time I heard a James Taylor song. I was with my oldest brother, he told me I had to hear this, he was sure I would like it. He was right. “Up on theRoof” has always reminded me of this brother, who died in November 1997, just 4 months after I came home from prison. He began using drugs at age 14, didn’t stop until he took his life at age 37. When I was in college, my roommate loved JT, as did my best friend. I fell asleep each night listening to his sweet cronings. The songs held such significance for me that my son’s middle name is Taylor. I took my daughter to see him, a lawn concert, under the stars, shortly after I returned home again. Thus when Pastor Chris announced that we were going to sing “You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor, the tears that had evaded me for two weeks came rushing out. Seriously, I get that my appreciation of JT verges on the religious but c’mon. My Chef’s shirt was soaked, I didn’t sing along but I left the sanctuary feeling like I heard the voice of the Good Shepherd. That He sounded like JT is just wool on the sheep.
When you’re down and troubled,
And you need some love and care,
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me,
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night.
You’ve Got A Friend