This one happened to my niece, Kathleen. Her husband, Jonathan, recently became pastor of his first church.
She told me the story on the phone between my bursts of laughter.
“Aunt Kathy, it began as a typical Sunday morning. After service I was standing at the back of the church with Jonathan waiting to shake hands with our members and visitors. There is one couple who attends named Ralph and Mickey. He has been sick for a long time and is only able to come occasionally on Sunday mornings. As they approached me, I shook his wife’s hand and told her how glad I was to see her. She continued on into the foyer.
As I saw Ralph coming with his cane in hand, I reached out to greet him with a handshake. As our hands met, I looked down to see what was moving below him. His loose fitting pants plunged to the floor with no warning.
It felt like he was playing a trick on me. Hands shake! Pants drop! But he didn’t seem to realize what had happened so we just kept shaking hands. No trick. He’s oblivious. There he was…all I could see was blue boxers and two white, skinny legs that didn’t seem to match his round tummy.
Still in utter shock that this just happened, at church with a line of people wondering what the hold up was, all I could manage to express was, ‘Been losing some weight, Ralph?’
After he admitted that he needed to go up a notch on his buckle, his wife returned from the foyer to see what was taking him so long. She saw his embarrassing state but turned right back around, ignoring his helpless plea for sympathy! I can’t say that I blame her.”
I hear Ralph shows up every once in a while, snaps his suspenders and winks at Kathleen, assuring her everything’s intact!
I was the sole witness to another funny incident that almost took place one Sunday morning during service. Benny, a mentally challenged man, often came to the altar to get saved over and over at the invitation after the sermon. One of our deacons would come pray with him then gently lead him back to his pew. Folks smiled kindly, understanding this strange ritual.
However, this day Benny got slightly out of sync. Ushers came to the altar, I prepared the offertory at the piano and all heads were bowed in prayer. Except mine and Benny’s. He apparently thought it was the altar call at the end of service, so he left his pew and stood quietly right behind one of the ushers. I knew a startled collision was about to take place at the prayer’s end when the usher would pivot and come nose to nose with Benny, who is easily spooked.
I tried to get an usher’s attention. ANY usher. “Psst...psssst...”
Finally one looked up and I caught his eye. I signaled for him to look, pointing to my eyes then back to him. He went from puzzled to gasping. He looked down at his fly. Closed fly. Then back to me, puzzled again.
The long prayer continued, “And dear Lord, today we thank You for...”
“…long winded pray-ers!” I silently prayed myself.
Like a third base coach I continued signaling the usher to look over his shoulder. When he finally did, it was the classic, comedic double-take but mirrored by Benny. They both jumped away from each other, somewhat confused by the presence of the other bug-eyed face.
“And so, Lord, as we ask Your blessings on this offering we are about to receive...”
The usher ushered Benny back to his pew. He then hustled back to his position in the reverent semi-circle, just at the moment of “...in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”
One more verifiable story comes from my own demented mind. I was substituting in our church school for about a month. During the third graders’ prayer request time, one boy raised his hand. I knew his parents, Danny and Lisa, well. He was the oldest of four boys, his newest brother just born.
“Mrs. Henderson, pray for my daddy ‘cause he’s having the operation.”
“The operation?” I innocently asked, knowing his dad was not sick.
“Yeah. He and Mama had a deal. If it was a girl, she’d get the operation. But it was a boy so he gets the operation.”
Expert on the obvious, I suddenly became enlightened. But the blank, little faces filling the room were still...blank, unenlightened. And I intended to keep it that way. We prayed.
Then my idea took wings. “Doug, when you print the church bulletins for this Sunday, I need 2 pulled out and printed up special. On the back can you please print this?” I handed him my version prepared for Danny and Lisa:
SPECIAL CHURCH PRAYER REQUEST
Dan Jr. became a big brother again this week and asked his 3rd grade class to pray for his father, Danny. According to him, Dad agreed to have the operation if it was a boy. We all know it was a boy. So please pray with this class for Danny as he recuperates.
I recruited the usher at the door nearest their usual pew. “Just hand them the two special bulletins from the bottom of your stack when they come in.” A big cohort-in-crime smile spread across his face.
Carefully guarding his bulletin batch until they arrived, he beamed, “Good morning!” to them, as he dealt from the bottom of the deck.
As I played the prelude I kept one eye on the scene unfolding. They settled the boys into the pew, spoke to a few friends nearby then Lisa picked up her bulletin to read it and Danny followed suit soon after.
I waited until she finally turned to the back and began to read. Her eyes grew bigger and her posture more and more erect until I thought she might stand straight up. Instead she leaned over to her husband, frantically pointing to her bulletin. As he read, they both turned pale and in near panic, began to scan the very full sanctuary of other bulletin-readers. Their heads boinged as if they were watching a tennis match!
Right on cue the usher slipped beside them, pointed to me and explained that no one else had a special bulletin.
Danny laughed but her scowling eyes fell on mine. I realized I had the gift of lip-reading when she silently mouthed, “I’m gonna kill you.”
She didn’t. But she never forgot me either.
Live so that you make indelible marks on the lives of others.
Living fully and laughing hard,
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