Recently I am being more aware that it can be easy to fall into a rut and miss stuff. I pride myself as being pretty sharp. I keep an eye open for new experiences and I don’t miss too much. I let my guard down today.
Tom Cruise attends our church almost every Sunday. He’s cool. If you make a “Top Gun’ reference or ask him about his next impossible mission he will just smile. That’s an old, tired joke and hardly any of the regular congregation do that anymore. Whenever he is introduced to new people, Brother Cruise usually takes an ongoing friendly ribbing about his name, but he had a good comeback. “I am the ‘Real Tom Cruise’ because the actor who starred in Minority Report has the last name of Mapother ” besides, I older than him. The members at church have just become used to having celebrities in their midst.
Brenda and I usually sit in the fourth pew from the front, center section, left side. Brenda is on the outside, closest to the aisle. That’s not too near to the front, but close enough to feel involved in the service. We always sit there – it’s our seat. Some people call it getting into a rut, (Jim thinks it is OCD) I like to think of it as establishing a stable routine. A couple weeks ago some people from another branch sat in our places – In our seats. My first reaction was, “Hey, get out of there!” I looked around at the others already seated. Didn’t anyone else notice this? “Why didn’t you explain to these guys that this is our spot?” Of course, it doesn’t matter where we are in the church. It’s all about being there, in God’s presence, in the company of others. It’s about worshipping God and fellowship. But we could make it easier for God if we all just sat in the same places so he would know where to easily find us. We don’t want him to have to draw up a new seating plan every week. He has enough to do with solving world hunger, spreading peace and creating pretty little flowers and birds. We shouldn’t be adding this tedious chore to his plate. Remember, it’s all about God.
As we walked toward the church we notice two well-dressed men who went to the wrong door. That meant they were new to this church. The front door is always locked. Everyone knew that the side door was the front door and the front door is the fire escape. Everyone except the newbies. So we did what you do when you meet newbies, we welcomed them, showed them the side door and introduced ourselves. They introduced themselves as Brother Morton and Brother Elias. They had come from another ward and they were here to give talks in this service. Brother Elias was as intense and quiet as Brother Morton was vocal and outgoing. Brother Elias wore a light brown suit with a precisely knotted, matching tie. He had a strong, quiet demeanor and spoke softly with a catchy Spanish accent. Brother Morton was a tall, thin man wearing a dark suit with a tie that had the appearance of being adjusted frequently. He had an expressive face, an easy smile and a mountain of slicked back, pitch-black hair which seemed to require frequent finger combing. We showed them where they could find the President and went into the chapel to take our seats. Just before we got to the chapel door Elder Coffey came up, shook my hand and thanked me for sharing some of my red-hot chili with them. Brenda got distracted and went toward the front door and I went into the chapel to claim our seats.
I was talking about getting into ruts and missing things…
When you sit at the front the church always seems empty. We don’t usually notice if there are a lot of people in the congregation or if the place is next to empty. It is rare that people sit in the first three rows, except for Millie and she always sits in the third row, left section, close to the aisle. We’re practically ‘aisle buddies’. The only time the first three rows in front of us are occupied is when folks come from other branches. I think the reason these people sit here is because the ‘regulars have taken all the pews in the back. Why else would they sit that close to the front?
Today we indulged our ‘rutness’ and sat fourth row from the front, center section left side with Brenda near the aisle. Life is good. We were a little early, not in order to get ‘our spot,’ I’m over that. It just worked out that way. Later, a young family of Mom, Dad and three young boys sat in front of us. That meant that there must be more people at church, sitting in the back, than usual. See, I pick up on that kind of thing. I turned around casually and checked out how the folks at the back were doing.
Wow! The seats were very full. I scanned the faces of the people patiently waiting for the service to start. Have you ever noticed the look that people use when they are waiting? It is kind of a neutral, expressionless, vacant stare. Some people can do this very well but most let clues slip through. In poker you would call it a ‘Tell.’ I could see that the lady in the row second from back, right-hand side was upset about something but mostly keeping it under control. Her brows were a little scrunched together. The right corner of her mouth was slightly turned down. Two rows forward and toward the center, an older couple was sharing a private joke – they both had matching, muffled smiles. I suspected that the younger couple sitting in the pew directly behind them had something to do with it. Sure enough, the younger lady was not happy and the young man beside her was not happy, that she was not happy because she was not happy about him. This was easy to read – been there, done that. See, I don’t miss much. I looked at the faces of everyone, identifying the regulars and trying to guess the story that went with each of the new faces. After a careful, thorough and detailed investigation, I felt comfortable that I had a complete handle on the situation. I sat back in my seat and mentally adjusted to our usual seating experience which included Brenda, me, the third-row family and Millie. The church service could now proceed. Just before the President stood up Millie crossed the aisle with a somewhat embarrassed smile on her face. She put her hand on Brenda’s shoulder and, with a small laugh, whispered something in her ear. Brenda smiled at Millie and returned her laugh.
Brenda leaned toward me, pointed over her shoulder with her thumb and said, “Donny Osmond is here.”
At that moment the President stood up and started the service. I thought about Brenda’s comment and thought to myself, “She’s making a joke about Brother Morton looking like a movie star. After all Tom Cruise is sitting right over there.’ I was going to say, “And Bryan Cranston is sitting right here.” I had been mistaken for the star of ‘Breaking Bad’ on several occasions. The service started with prayers and hymns and soon Brother Elias gave a very heartfelt testimony about the impact of the Holy Spirit in his life. Hymns, prayers then Brother Morton delivered a dramatic, colourful and emotional affirmation of how the Holy Ghost shaped his family’s life.
Brenda had pegged him right. Brother Morton had the stage presence and delivery of a professional. Maybe we did have two celebrities in our local church. The service ended and I walked up to thank Brother Elias for his talk. On the way up the aisle, I passed Millie’s pew and overheard her telling Jean the same thing that she had whispered to Brenda. “… he came up to the front door. I knew right away he was new so I introduced myself and asked him his name. He shook my hand and said, ‘Donny Osmond.’ I was so embarrassed that I didn’t recognize him had asked him his name.”
I looked around and the chapel was quickly emptying. No Donny. I mentally replayed the careful and detailed visual investigation that I had done before the service; upset lady, laughing older couple, arguing young couple, some other new faces, regular attendees but no Donny. How had I missed Donny?
As we left the chapel and walked down the hall I overheard:
“Donny and Marie were performing at the casino and apparently he often attends a local local church when he is on the road.”
“Yes, I told him that I meet his Mother and Father in this church a while ago.”
“I sat right in front of him and he didn’t even open his mouth during the hymns.”
“He was here with his wife and a friend. The friend isn’t a member but it was nice that they came along.”
“We told him that we had seen both performances of him and his sister.”
I looked at Brenda, “Seriously, Donny Osmond was here?”
“Yes, I thought you were there with me. He was at the front door and it was locked so I let him in. We had a nice chat.”
Generally, I catch what’s going on.
How did I miss Donny?