September 10
10:45 a.m.

Martha just called. She said the doctors have news for Derek, but she wanted the church office to hear it from Derek himself.

“Natalie, I wanted to tell Mark, Tav, Kate, and you in person. Is it possible to have a short meeting?”

Derek’s in my office, clasping and unclasping his hands, wanting to have a brief meeting? Derek’s meetings have never been brief. As much as I am challenged by the man, okay, I pretty much don’t like him, I’m going to have to get this meeting together. Why is it that when one has a potentially life-threatening disease you don’t want to call them a jerk? Anyway, he seems really subdued, not his usual arrogant, superior self. Guess it might be bad news.

“Kate, Derek’s waiting in my office. He wants to have a brief meeting with Mark, Tav, you, and me.”

“Oh Lord! Hope it’s not bad news.”

“Not sure…”

“I’ll let Mark and Tav know. Just bring him into Mark’s office.”

We’re sitting in the office. Derek’s slowly rocking back and forth in his chair.

“Derek…brother…” Mark’s wanting to speed things along. “Heard you wanted to meet with us.” He’s trying to figure out the reason for the meeting. I’m bored. Tav’s surreptitiously glancing at his watch, catches me looking at him, and raises his stupid eyebrow. I’m not thinking about what he thinks I’m thinking about.

Oh, French word. I’m thinking about it and he knows it. I mean it’s only natural. It’s the first time I’ve seen him since…

“…and that’s about it.”

That’s about what? I missed the entire reason Derek brought us together. Thank you, Tav!

“Praise God, Derek! The best news ever. Let us pray and thank God. Dear Father in heaven, healer…” Mark’s praying.

He beat the disease! Derek doesn’t have cancer.

All round hugs for Derek after the prayer. He seems gentler. Kinder. Maybe that’s what it took to change him.

“I’m so grateful to God for his healing powers. What would I have done without him? Without you all? Natalie, could you please put a thank you note in the bulletin and let my brothers and sisters in Christ know of God’s great mercy and goodness to his humble servant. I feel such a changed man. A sinner saved by his grace.”

I’ve never seen Derek cry before.

We do have a winner, folks. A really changed man. I’m going to have to put aside my “challenges” of him.

____________

September 11
10:45 a.m.

And then again, maybe not.

“Natalie, I checked the bulletin. There’s no mention of my thanks in it.”

“Oh Derek! I’m so sorry. The bulletin was already done. I told Mark to mention it during the prayers and praises time. I’ll definitely have it in next Sunday’s bulletin.”

“But I want it in this Sunday’s. I want to encourage people not to give in—they can beat the odds. They just have to have take charge of their lives and not wait around for anyone to help them.”

“What a great idea, Derek, but…”

“Really, Natalie, you could have added another insert to the bulletin…gone the extra mile. I want the church members know how I was able to overcome the greatest trial…a life and death situation…how I…”

La di da! I hear words coming out of your mouth, but I ain’t listening.

Ah, the same Derek. Can’t change the old man! You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Not happening today!

Good ole, predictable Derek! What he at first acknowledged as God’s grace in his humble life, has now turned into self-congratulations on the great job he has done in ensuring that he wouldn’t succumb to the cancer. The Christian Uriah Heep!

Trying not to question God about why he took Wade and not Derek.

But that question is still out there.

______

September 13
11:45 a.m.

“I think Marc likes you.” Gwen is the proverbial matchmaker and she wants to see me happily married. Every woman who is happy in her marriage wants to marry off every single person she comes in contact with.

“I don’t like Marc…I mean not in that way.”

“What is “that way?”

“You know what I mean…don’t pretend…I know you so well.”

“It’s just that Marc’s so cute. And I want you to be happy.” We’re at Gwen’s church and she’s got her eyes fixed in Marc’s direction. “What did he say to you?”

“Oh…he just said that he had fallen madly in love with me at first sight and wanted to marry me immediately.”

“He did?” Gwen’s all animated now.

“No, he didn’t, Gwen. I’m joking.”

“I’m sorry. I just want you to get over…”

“Don’t worry. It wasn’t anything. I’m not even thinking about Tav.”

“Tav? Tav? I was talking about Frankie. What do you mean Tav?”

Oh great. Double great.

“I meant Frankie.”

“If you meant Frankie, why did you say Tav?” Now Gwen’s a dog who’s just found a bone and won’t let go.

“Slip of the tongue.”

“Freud would say…”

Here we go.

“Hi Natalie. Where did you go? Like the service?”

“Marc, hmmm…great service.” If I had paid attention to it that is…

“Liar. It was boring.” That’s what I like about Marc, he’s so direct. “I’m only here because my mom wants to show her friends that I’m not a complete failure to launch. ‘He’s at least a church go-er and loves Jesus.'” Marc’s making us giggle.

“Will finish the conversation later, Natalie.” Gwen’s leaving me to talk to Marc. I’m guessing she’s still hoping something might work out here. Not happening.

“Hope I didn’t interrupt anything.”

“We were just exchanging notes…sister style.”

“About all the designer fashions you see at church.”

I’m smirking as we watch a group of hipsters saunter by.

“Yes… I particularly like the hipster ‘Lock Up Your Daughters’ shoes. They must know you’re a member of the church.”

“Naughty girl!” And…I’m thinking about another man who calls me that.

Thankfully, Marc’s distracting me now by commenting on the shoes of everyone who goes by and I can’t control my laughter any more.

And we’re being watched by a group of ladies who appear to be members of the Women’s Pious Prayer Group. Gwen’s going to hear about me! “Your sister laughs too much…with the men.”

Whatever.