The Down Elevator

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALeaving the hospital with my father-in-law just now, we shared an elevator down with an evangelical/Bible Church preacher. I’ve done enough hospital visits over twenty years to be able to pick them out.

He was a short man. A foot shorter than me. Stocky. Built like an NFL linebacker.

How did I know he was an evangelical/Bible Church preacher?

The uniform.

Cheap suit, but impeccable tie and shirt.
Slicked back hair. Incredibly good looking shoes.
But most of all, his Bible.

A huge, thick, immense Bible. Gold-leaf pages. Imitation leather cover.

He was carrying it like Robert Newhouse carried the football; tucked firmly under his forearm, like at any moment he would take off down the halls, stiff-arming opposition in his way.
Or…like it was a weapon.

Which, I sensed in those few seconds, he believes it to be.

Like I said, I immediately picked him out. And on another day, I might have nodded or acknowledged him from my uniform. (Usually jeans and often a golf shirt with the church logo)

But today, I was in the uniform of a hospital patient son-in-law.
Jeans, hat, sweatshirt. Unshaven.

So I didn’t acknowledge him. I just watched.

He didn’t acknowledge us either, so tense and tightly wound was he; so impervious to the sick and wounded all around him, so ready for the elevator door to open so that he could parade down that hall toward the parking lot.

As my father-in-law slowly shuffled down the hall, I watched his figure disappear in front of us, and a paraphrase of one line of scripture popped into my mind:

“Lord, I thank thee that I am not like that evangelical preacher…”

Which, if you know the original story means, of course, that actually I am.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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