He ate alone.

A friend and I were in a café eating Tater-Tots (really). Cold Tater-Tots actually. The food's not great but the people who work there are, so we go often. And sit at the same table.

One day a guy who looked like an acquaintance of mine walked in. And sat nearby. I thought it might even be the guy I sort of knew. So I was staring. But he looked bad, not enough like himself for me to be sure.

He spoke to me, because it was the guy. And we bantered back and forth a minute. He told us that it was his birthday and he was treating himself to a birthday breakfast.

We wished him a "happy birthday" and went back to our Tater-Tots and conversation. 

I thought about asking the acquaintance to join us but when I looked over to do it he had his eyes closed in what looked like deep prayer, so I left him alone.

Later in the day I went on his Facebook page to say that I'd wished I'd asked him to join us. And there I saw the notice that his son had died, the day before. Unexpectedly. At age 23.

And I'd missed the chance to sit with a grieving father who ate alone on his birthday, the day after his namesake died.

And that's not okay. 

New policy: err on the side of asking someone to join me. And let them, not me, decide.

May we never eat alone when we don't want to.

Foot Washing, Cell Phones and The Pull of Another World

"Couldn't you stay awake with me one hour?" Jesus asked his disciples in his final hours of life.

Last week as I celebrated Maundy Thursday,  the commemoration of Jesus' last supper, the passover meal, with my church community, we left the church sanctuary to wash one another's feet in an adjoining room.

As we began trickling back into the sanctuary for the rest of the service, I instinctively picked up my phone and started to check it for... what? 

I was taken aback as I heard Jesus' words, applicable to me, "Couldn't you stay awake with me one hour?" "Can't you focus on me for one hour?" "Can't you leave behind lesser things for the important thing?"

Jesus told Martha, who was stressing over meal preparation and tasks, that her sister Mary had chosen the more important thing -- to sit at his feet. 

I want that single-minded focus. I want to journey through Holy Week, from solemnity and betrayal through death and waiting to, finally, the raucous remembrance and relief that Easter always comes, that death has no sting. None. No, not really. No, not ultimately.

On Easter Sunday, I went to download a song that a friend shared. It's called simply Easter Song. And iTunes suggested instead, "Bitch Better Have My Money." I'm not sure what algorithm got me there. Maybe it's a perfectly good song; I've got nothing against Rihanna. But I was looking for Jesus. And a reminder of how he triumphs over everything. And it was a little hard to find him.

So much conspires to destroy a single-minded focus on Jesus. It's hard to stay awake even one hour. 

But it's the important thing. And as Jesus said about Mary, "it won't be taken away." 

I Ate A Homeless Man's Cookies

Lord, have mercy. I'm an inconsistent little creature. 

I came up with a brilliant solution to the street-corner dilemma I often have -- whether to give money to someone who is begging or to offer to take them to a restaurant and buy a meal, or to say, "No; sorry!" with a big smile. None feels quite right.

So I came up with another not-quite-right solution -- carry around homemade cookies in baggies, offer a bag to someone who asks for money, and tell them that I made them with them in mind. Which I more or less would be doing, since I'm praying that I'd have eyes to see the people on the streets as God sees them, even if I don't (yet) know their names.

I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone and make the cookies with my toddler granddaughters while babysitting -- and there'd thus be extra love in the batch for sure.

The double batch was made, and I bagged up the cookies, put them in my freezer, and planned to take a few with me each time I went downtown to areas where I'm often asked for handouts.

I delivered one bag. Uno.

And then I started going to the freezer when I was hungry, taking just one cookie from a bag (because the recipients would never know that there were supposed to be four cookies in the bag instead of three), and eating it.

Like I said, "Lord, have mercy. I'm an inconsistent little creature."