Because my sleep has been so messed up, I usually have to force myself to get up Sunday mornings to go to church. I love church and don’t like missing but sometimes I’m just too tired because of lack of sleep. This past Sunday, however, I woke an hour before the alarm was supposed to ring. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t—good thing, because when I went to turn the alarm off, I realised I hadn’t turned it on. Thank you, God!
I’ve been trying to get into a healthy routine to try and break the hold that depression has had on me far too long and one of the components of that routine is sitting in front of what I call my Happy Lamp for 30 to 60 minutes. It’s a medical device used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and I’ve noticed that it makes a remarkable difference to my day. I hadn’t been using it because of the low point I’d been at for a while, but Sunday I started again and perhaps it’s one of the reasons I had an unusually good Sunday this week.
It seemed to be a beautiful day when I looked out the window so I opted to leave my winter coat at home and wore only a sweater with hat and mittens. My first clue that it was maybe colder than I thought was when I tried to pull out into the lane. The steering wheel was so stiff, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make the turn. Once in the lane, all was well, however, and so I continued. As I approached downtown it was evident that this was an unusually cold day—the moisture and heat rising out of the tall buildings was the give-away for that. Later, when I checked the temperatures, I learned that it had been -49F (with the wind chill) at 8:00 a.m. At 9:00, when I left home, it had risen to a balmy -45.
I think my favourite part of Sunday morning is the pre-service prayer time in the “Comfy Couch Room.” The enormous windows of the room allow for a lot of sunshine inside and there’s something very special about meeting with others to pray. After prayer time, I noticed a woman behind where I was sitting who doesn’t come to church often so I stopped and chatted with her for a while. I enjoyed our conversation tremendously and went on into the worship service with joy.
I noticed the man sitting directly in front of the chair I had chosen as my place to sit and greeted him. Gordie lives at a “flee-bitten” hotel, known as the largest crack house in the city—not a pleasant place to live but certainly better than under a bridge or in a cardboard box in the alley. I first met Gordie and his wife a couple weeks before Mikael died. My church was having a conference called “What Love Does,” and one of the components was for small groups of attendees to visit various homes in the neighbourhood for sharing circles—the idea being that both hosts and guests would share their stories and discover that there really is a lot we share in common despite the differences between suburbanites and the inner-city disenfranchised. Gordie and Beatrice hosted a group I was part of and our visit was a remarkable time of learning what life can be like in this gang, drug and homelessness-bound neighbourhood, finding that we had much in common and bonding with each other. Beatrice died about a year later and I happened to be sitting beside Gordie the Sunday that was announced, which gave me the opportunity to hug him and pray for him.
After I sat behind him two days ago, I leaned over to remark on how much weight he has lost. He hadn’t been a large man before and now he is gaunt. But he was pleased I had noticed and so we chatted for quite a while before joining the worship happening around us. I love connecting with people in that way.
When the service was over, my path took me past Larry. Larry is a youngish man in a wheelchair. Attached to the chair and on his lap are a multitude of items that I suppose he has need of throughout the day away from home. He can often be found panhandling at a busy intersection, offering to write a poem off-the-cuff for those who ask—for a fee, of course. He’s a wild-looking man with unkempt hair (probably helps with the panhandling), a face that is gentle but determined and a mind that is intelligent, active, thoughtful and very logical. He loves to read and to discuss issues.
As I asked him how he was, he shared with me about an upcoming court date. With a strong sense of justice, he has sued his landlord for claiming to have a wheelchair-accessible building when, in fact, it is not. Since legal aid won’t touch the case, Larry has been spending the last while pouring through law books so that he can represent himself. I admire his tenacity and courage and loved the conversation we had as we half-blocked a busy “thoroughfare” in the sanctuary. I gave him some tips on interlibrary loans (for instance, he could tell the public library that he wants a certain law book that they don't have and they'll borrow it from the law society or something) and after praying for him and the outcome of his case (first hearing is tomorrow if you want to join me in prayer for him), I headed out the building.
There I was approached by Raymond—present whenever the church is open and self-appointed guardian of the parking lot. “Do you have two dollars so I could buy some milk?” he asked.
“Sure!” and gave him the change I had in my backpack.
The steering wheel gave me more problems, as I left my parking place, than I’d had on my way to church. Not good. But, again, once I was moving, all was well.
Leaving the parking lot, I saw a man stick out his arm as though he was hitch-hiking. I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not so I stopped and rolled down the window. I didn’t know him but when he asked for a ride for him and his two friends, I agreed and they piled in. It was so bitterly cold that even short periods outside were uncomfortable without maximum winter wear. After introductions and my reminder to fasten seat belts, we drove off. Their destination wasn’t far away and now I have three new friends.
I’d brought my computer with me to church with the intention of finding a place where I could sit over a cup of tea and do some writing. There’s something about being away from home in a place with lots of large windows that makes writing flow easier. I expected Starbuck’s to be a little dead, given the weather, but the place was so busy there were a number of us looking for non-existent empty tables. Seeing a young man in the beginning stages of packing up his computer, I checked to see if he was leaving and when he so affirmed, I stood on guard, waiting and then settled myself in.
Before I had written more than a few sentences, I saw a senior I’ve known for a few years. She and her friend had come for a cup of coffee but, of course, there was no place to sit. Although my table was tiny, there were two other chairs pulled up to it so I told the ladies that I was busy writing but they were welcome to share my table if they liked. They did! So we had a little chat while they got themselves organised and they let me write while they carried on their own conversation. I enjoyed their company.
The day was full of encounters with God and interacting with those he cares about. By the time I got home, I was flying high with an inner bubbling of joy. I love days like this, sharing a bit of God’s love with those who may not experience a whole lot of it, but it ministered to me too and I finally felt able to gird up my loins, so to speak, and move out of the slump of the previous two weeks. That momentum has continued and I am grateful.