Lily (Part twenty-one)

When class ended, Donald was standing in the corridor, near where Fred had been the week before. “How was Tim’s class this week, Ms. Lily?”

“Good once again. I appreciate Tim’s method. He reads the text but then he asks questions about what God teaches about himself, about us, and about how he shapes our ends,” Lily said.

“Tim’s like that. He is a student of the Word. He is slow, not slow the way I am as an old man, but careful. Methodical, you might say,” Donald said. When Donald said the word methodical he gesticulated, and Lily inhaled the Jergen scented air.

Walking the corridor with Donald, Lily heard the congregation already singing a song she remembered from last week:

So, remember your people

Remember your children

Remember your promise, oh God

 Tim’s class had gone long by a couple of minutes, and the majority of Beulah’s body had gathered in the sanctuary. As she walked with Donald and neared the sanctuary doors, a stab of pain shot through Lily’s hip and lower back, causing her to pause momentarily. She smiled to herself, thinking, I limp like Miss Havisham.

“Are you okay, Miss Lily?” Donald asked.

“Yessir. I’m fine, thank you. At times, I get these pains,” Lily said.

“Just wait, dear,” Donald said. “God has his ways, doesn’t he?”

“Yessir. He does.”

Donald looked up when he saw his wife sitting in their usual spot, and said goodbye to Lily.

Lily looked across the congregation, and spotted Mrs. Ellen Aims where she and Fred normally sat together. A crowd was gathered around her. Sarah, Aaron, and Nathanael were there, too. Beth was there, leaning over her mother, and talking to the group about how strong her mother was, and how grateful she was for everyone’s sympathy.

Lily looked for the young married couple who’d been on a pew a few rows behind Fred and Ellen last week, but they were not there, so she looked to the other side of the congregation, and found a pew a few rows behind Mr. Donald and his wife. She softly joined in the words of the chorus. But the specter of a restless night haunted her mind, and the board meeting was early tomorrow morning.

(To be continued)

Lily (Part twenty)

Tim turned and walked towards his chair and addressed the class.

“It is difficult to put a happy face on the events of the last week. But we rejoice in the arrival of the eldest Aims daughter Sarah, and of course, Aaron, and Nathanael,” Tim said.

Tim looked at Sarah and her family as he spoke. “You know we loved your father, just as we love you all, and we are here with you as you grieve your father’s death. But we celebrate your father’s life, too, his legacy he left through you, through his ministries at Beulah, and especially through Covenant.”

Sarah, Aaron, and Nathan nodded in appreciation, and remained quiet.

“Thank you so much for that, Tim,” Beth said. “Dad would not want us all to grieve his loss but to get back to the business at hand. But thank you all so much for your support. It is truly felt.”

Lily raised her eyes from looking at and listening to Tim, and glanced at Sarah to see what her face registered. Sarah, Aaron, and Nathanael sat in equipoise, listening. Tim nodded in Beth’s direction but did not speak to her comment.

“With that said, let’s turn our attention to the Scriptures again. Last week, we explored the passage from Genesis 32 where Jacob wrestles with God. I asked you to think about what God revealed about himself, what God taught Jacob about Jacob’s own nature, and what lessons we are to draw from that historical account,” Tim said.

“As I said last week, Tim, Jacob was blessed by God to do great things. The angel of the Lord was there as confirmation of God’s being with Jacob,” Beth said.

Lily did not look at Beth, but could still hear Beth’s bracelets slide up and down her forearms while she spoke.

“Does anyone else have other thoughts on Genesis 32, perhaps about God’s nature, or about what Jacob should have been learning?” Tim asked.

Lily did not say anything but felt her pulse increase as Beth sat satisfied in her metal folding chair. Lily glanced again towards Sarah and family, as they sat politely, seemingly untouched by Beth, and listened thoughtfully to Tim as he continued.

“Normally I would not do this but I want us to leave Genesis 32 without finishing the whole story, and turn to a New Covenant passage: Acts 1,” Tim said.

“As always with Scripture, context is key. When the passage under consideration opens, Luke recounts how Jesus was with his apostles—bodily–post-resurrection. And Jesus is promising them that the Father will send the Holy Spirit. Follow me in the text:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

“Just like last week, ask yourself what Jesus is teaching his people about himself, about themselves, and how this applies to our lives.

“Let’s be specific. How did the apostles feel in this passage as Jesus was speaking with them?” Tim asked.

“They were looking to him as their leader to restore order to Israel,” Nathanael said. “But they still did not understand God’s plans were not yet their plans. They felt nervous or anxious, we might say.”

“That’s right, Nathan. Excellent. What makes you say that?” Tim asked.

“Tim, I think the focus was on how God would entrust them to lead,” Beth interjected.

“That’s interesting,” Tim said. “And was the Lord teaching them about who their leader was to be?”

“They were looking for earthly power, still,” said Sarah. “They did not understand the New Covenant yet. They were looking to bolster political might, to capture the culture with godly talk but without God’s means.”

“I think you’re on to something, Sarah,” said Tim. “They called Jesus ‘Lord’, so it sounded good, if you will. But in verse seven, Jesus rebukes them: ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority’.

“Might humility be called for?” Tim asked.

“I think that God was simply telling them that they were going to be used mightily to change their culture. They were going to have God’s blessing and power,” Beth said.

Tim did not say anything. He surveyed the expressions of the class. Lily felt her right foot tapping up and down on the blue carpet. Sarah and Aaron sat like jurors, calm and smiling. When Lily looked at Nathanael, she was pleased to see him looking back at her, smiling.

(To be continued)

Lily (Part nineteen)

Lily anticipated Monday’s board meeting, as Donald looked at her and said, “Well, here’s Tim’s class, Ms. Lily. This is where you were last week, right?”

“Yessir. Thank you,” Lily said.

How will this end? Lily wondered. Does Beth know her sisters are in town? Mrs. Wilkins announced Friday that there was a peremptory faculty meeting at seven Monday morning. But what about between now and then? What happens when I enter Tim’s class?

Lily found herself looking down at her brown boots as she stepped forward on blue carpet and entered Tim’s class.

Tim sat on a silver swivel chair sipping coffee from a white Styrofoam cup, talking to class members.

“Hi Lily. Welcome back,” Tim said, rising from the chair, as Lily entered. “Some of us were just talking about the week we have had.”

“Hi, everyone,” Lily said. “Yes, it’s been rough, to be sure. How are you bearing up?”

“I have known the Aims family for years,” Tim said. “Though I grieve Fred’s death, I don’t grieve as one without hope. To the contrary.”

“I understand,” said Lily. “He was, I have learned, a wise and loved man.”

“Lily,” Tim said, “I would like to introduce you to one of the other Aims daughters, and Aaron, Fred and Ellen’s son-in-law. I think you already know Beth.”

Questions sounded in Lily’s skull about what her eyes would see when she looked up at Sarah, Aaron, and Nathanael. Will Sarah clang with gold bracelets and have fake fingernails? Will she talk endlessly about herself, Lily wondered.

“Ms. Rood. It is very nice to meet you. I’m Sarah and this is my husband Aaron. My father spoke very highly of you and your coming to Covenant.”

“It is nice to meet you, too,” said Lily. “I’m thankful to be at Covenant. But may I ask how you and your family are doing?”

Lily struggled with how to honor Mr. Aims without letting the questions degenerate into sentimentality.

“It’s been only a week, and you and your family have come in from out of town, and must have your sorrow to deal with, and…” Lily said.

“That’s true,” said Sarah, “but my family is with me. Speaking of whom, this is my husband Aaron, and our son Nathanael.”

Lily looked up at two of the handsomest men she’d ever seen. Aaron had on khaki slacks, a black blazer with a blue Oxford shirt underneath. He extended his right hand to Lily.

“As Sarah said, Ms. Rood, it is very nice to meet you. Welcome to Covenant, and we hope, to Beulah, too,” Aaron said.

As she shook his hand, Lily looked at his other hand. He wore only his wedding band. Lily noticed Sarah wore only her wedding ring, too, unlike Beth, who Lily heard approaching.

“Oh Lily, I see you’ve met some more of my family, Sarah and Aaron,” Beth interjected.

“Um yes, I’ve just met Sarah and Aaron. But I’ve not officially met their son yet,” Lily said, looking over at Nathanael where he stood next to Tim, who’d returned to his swivel chair.

“Hello, Ms. Rood. Pleasure,” said Nathanael, walking over. He is more handsome than his father Aaron, Lily thought. How can these people be related to Beth?

Nathanael shook Lily’s hand with the same gentlemanly demeanor as his father had. He smiled at Lily and welcomed her to Covenant, too, as if he knew Lily’s story. Lily liked him and his parents immediately.

“Well,” Beth interrupted, “it looks like we are ready to get started. Right, Tim?” Beth’s voice jangled across the blue carpeted floor and between the sheetrock walls of the classroom like a cymbal.

(To be continued)

 

 

“Lily” (Part five)

“Well,” Tim said, “your dad definitely led in creating Covenant in this community, Beth. I knowimgres few people, men or women, who are as humble as your dad, but who are resolute in their determination to follow through on such a noble plan. To plant a school like Covenant, with its emphasis on character, not just facts, he and the school are remarkable testimonies to God’s providence.”

“Oh, you are so right, Tim,” Beth went on. “We at Covenant teach our kids about how important it is to be humble. We teach them about how Jesus is the lamb and the servant prophesied in Isaiah 53. We even have the kids memorize the whole passage by sixth grade! Isn’t that great? Oh Tim, you’re so right; we are really being used by the Lord at Covenant. It’s a special blessing of God, I believe.”

Lily didn’t raise her eyes from her metal chair during Beth’s blather. She (Lily) feared her facial expression would betray her view of Miss Rusty-hair. Beth wouldn’t know God’s blessing were it wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger, Lily thought. Dear Lord, I feel sweat under my right armpit again.

 Riiinnnngggg! A bell sounded in the hallway just outside the door. Lily almost dissolved into her metal chair again. She was sure she was sweating now, but she rejoiced in the deliverance from the tower of air.

Fred, the kind man who had escorted her to Tim’s class, stood smiling against the wall where Lily could see him. After Miss Rusty-hair, Lily viewed Fred as her old faithful friend, though they’d met less than an hour ago, and he’d simply helped her to a class.

“How was that Sunday school class for you, Miss Lily? Did you enjoy Tim’s teaching?” Fred asked.

“I did enjoy Tim’s teaching very much,” Lily said, measuring her answer. She did not know, after all, Beth’s father’s name. Lily felt the sweat under her armpit again, and waited for Fred to ask another question on their way to the sanctuary.

(To be continued)

“Lily” (Part three)

Beth’s figure cast a shadow over Lily’s chair. Lily looked up reluctantly, fluorescence glittering off Beth’s hands and earlobes. “Thank you,” Lily responded. Beth’s feinted welcome rangimgres hollow to Lily.

“We’re a great class,” Beth said. “I’ve been here for years. I should promote up to the next age group, I suppose, but I just love Tim, and this class. Tim’s a great teacher, and we’re all such a close group. If you want, I could introduce you. I know everybody.” Lily’s stomach again turned.

“I work at Covenant, too” Beth said, “but I’m with administration. I’m a counselor. I help direct students in ways they ought to go.” For a moment, Lily felt she might vomit. “Oh,” said Lily. “I teach English—grammar and literature.” It didn’t appear to Lily that Beth had even heard her.

Behind Beth, Lily could see Tim making his way towards his lectern. “Guys, we’ll go ahead and get started this morning,” he said. “First, welcome to Lily. She teaches at Covenant. She moved from Rook last month. Please make her feel welcome. “

Tim and the others in class smiled at Lily. Beth, who had taken a seat opposite Lily, interjected: “Guys, this is Lily. Yes, she works with me at Covenant. But she just teaches English. We in administration are just so glad she came to Covenant and to our church, aren’t we?” Beth’s bracelets jangled. Lily felt acid in her throat.

Tim sat upon the stool, glanced down at the lectern, and addressed the class. “The passage this morning comes from Genesis. It’s the story of Jacob’s wrestling with God in chapter 32.

“Be thinking about what God is teaching about his own nature, and about Jacob’s nature. Then ask yourself how this episode in the life of the patriarch applies to us. Are we at all like Jacob? Then we’ll discuss these things, okay?” The class nodded. Tim read:

 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.

 Lily looked up from her Bible app, where she’d been following Tim’s reading. Tim looked out at the class. “Well,” he said, “did anyone notice the first sentence—and the crowd of people Jacob was with?”

Lily appreciated Tim’s method. Beth, unsurprisingly, spoke first. “Well, Tim, I know just how Jacob felt. I mean, when I’m with the Lord, I too want God to bless me, and I think it’s so important to listen to him like Jacob did.” Again, Lily felt her stomach turn.

Then Tim looked at Lily. “Lily,” he said, “you look like you wanted to say something.”

“Well,” Lily said, “Jacob was not with a crowd. He was alone when the Lord confronted him.”

“Oh,” Beth said, “well, I mean, of course, he was. We knew that. I was just saying how God blesses us.” Again, the feeling in Lily’s stomach.

“That’s right, Lily. Jacob was alone when he wrestled with the angel of the Lord,” Tim said. “Does anyone think that is significant?” Lily felt Beth’s glare.

“Well, Tim, we all know that Jacob was going to be used by God for something great,” Beth continued.

Then Beth looked down at her hands and began adjusting two of the rings on her right hand. Lily glanced at some of the faces in the semi-circled class to see if anyone’s thoughts were with hers. Several people nodded at her. Beth fondled her golden rings and avoided Lily’s eyes.

(To be continued)

 

 

 

“Lily” (Part Two)

Fred was the man’s name that walked Lily to class. “How long have you been in town?” he asked.imgres

“Just a few weeks,” Lily said. “I’m a teacher at Covenant. I moved from Rook just last month. I don’t really know a lot of people at work yet, and those I do know–well, I don’t know if they’re active in a local church.”

“I’m talking too much,” Lily thought to herself, but she liked Fred. He seemed trustworthy. His gentle spirit put her at ease. He wore khakis, brown loafers, an off-brand long-sleeve plaid shirt, and brown tie. His thin brown hair was combed over a sun-splotched scalp. And he didn’t have ear hair, Lily noticed. He wore a gold wedding band on his left hand.

“This class I’m taking you to is for married and singles your age,” Ms. Lily, “is that alright?” Fred asked.

“Yessir. Thank you so much,” Lily said.

Entering the class, Fred addressed the teacher. “Tim, we have a guest this morning. This is Lily. She teaches at Covenant. She’s new to town.” Lily smiled nervously, wondering how she appeared to Tim and the class.

“Welcome to our class, Lily,” Tim said. “Please sit wherever you like.”

Metal folding chairs were arranged in a horseshoe pattern on the blue carpet. Tim had a stool and a small metal lectern near the dry erase board.

Feeling eyes upon her, Lily longed to sit. She saw an open chair near the door. As she approached it, she felt examined. As she sat, she gathered her skirt under her, crossed her right leg over her left, and pulled out her iPhone for the Bible app. She felt someone staring at her. Looking up from her phone, a woman was in front of her, between her and the teacher Tim. Lily’s stomach knotted. “Where are Donald and Fred now?” she thought.

“Hey–welcome to our class. I’m Beth! We’re so glad you’re here this morning!” From her metal chair, Lily looked up at Beth. Beth approached six feet tall, had bleached hair that was not blonde so much as orange–rust-colored, in fact. She had large-knuckled hands and black polish on fake nails. She was not wearing a wedding band, but wore rings of every dimension on all her fingers. She had bracelets on both wrists, and had gold crosses hanging from both earlobes. She jangled like a tinker.

(To be continued)