Thursday, September 11, 2008

Friday Fiction for September 12th, 2008

This week’s Friday Fiction is an excerpt from “Marta’s Pod”, and features a minor character that I quickly learned to love. Hal Swenson is one of those “extras” that steals the scene, and is described earlier in the story as a retired dock worker who, even in his seventies, looked like he could easily throw any man in the congregation.

This scene takes place after a heated meeting wherein a faction has tried to remove Diego as pastor, and I’m sad to say that I’ve lived through a couple of meetings like that in my lifetime. They are not shining moments for many Christians, and prove all too well that we are as capable of petty vindictiveness as the world is.

What I have also seen, though, is that such times of stress are also when God may choose to tap someone to rise and shine for Him. I very much enjoyed writing such a part for Hal Swenson, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

What Needs Said
From the novel, Marta’s Pod
By Rick Higginson

Diego had prepared a lesson for the evening service while sitting in the Family Room the day before. The notes rested in his old Bible, folded neatly and waiting while the preliminary portions of the service transpired. He sat in his customary position on the dais while the opening worship songs were sung, the announcements read, and the offering taken. Following the offering, they allowed a few minutes during the evening service for testimonies from the Congregation, and Diego noted with some satisfaction that Hal Swenson was the first to stand and take the pulpit.

“Before I get started,” Hal began. His voice was an interesting blend of strength and gentleness. “I think we need to have someone else up here tonight. Sister Hyland, if you’d please join your husband up here?”

Sally sat in her normal place in one of the front pews and looked confused until Dan Cavelli stepped up to her and offered her his arm, ushering her up the steps to where Diego sat likewise confused.

Hal watched with a quirky smile as she took a seat next to Diego, and then turned back to the microphone. “I know some of you are expecting a message from Pastor Hyland, but we have something else planned for tonight.” He turned to look Diego in the eye. “I hope you don’t mind, Pastor?”

He gestured for Hal to continue.

“The lessons we learn in life that stick with us the most are the ones that were the hardest to learn,” Hal said. “One of those is the lesson I learned when I lost my wife a few years ago. I was never much for saying what I felt, and it wasn’t until Evelyn was gone that I realized how much I wanted to tell her. Now, if I think something needs to be said, I say it, because I may not have the chance to do so later.”

He turned back to look at them. “Reverend and Sister Hyland, you two are the reason I’m here today. When Evelyn was sick, it was you two who were at my house. You didn’t preach at me, you didn’t offer sugary words. You cleaned the house; you cooked meals; you even washed my clothes. Pastor, I watched as you read to Evelyn, and Sister, you bathed her when she needed it. But what surprised me most was that when I yelled at you because your God wasn’t helping Evelyn get better, you just let me. You didn’t argue, and more important, you didn’t run away.

“One of the last things Evelyn said to me was that God was going to make her better; just not in this world. I asked her that night what kind of God would put her through what she was going through, and she just answered, ‘the kind that sends folks like Diego and Sally to help me prepare for the trip. If you want to see God’s love, look at them’. Well, I did, and here I am today.

“The last time you two sat there, some folks got up and said some unkind things about you two. I waited for my chance to get up and say what I thought, and when you left I was afraid I’d done just like I’d done with my wife and waited too long to say what I felt I needed to say to you. I talked about it with the Elders, and they agreed that tonight, we’d open the floor to those in the flock who, like me, wanted to say what we felt before we lost the chance.

“Pastor; Sister; for years you two have been blessing us. Tonight we’d like the opportunity to return the favor, and to tell you both how much we thank God that He’s chosen to love us through you two.”

With an embrace for both Diego and Sally, Hal turned over the pulpit to the first of what would be many that would follow his lead that night.


Julie Arduini said...

I loved this because this is how it should be. I remember a church split because the elders just let the negativity spread to ridiculous proportions. You showed how the Body of Christ should respond.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I got a peek at this novel. I've been curious for a while.