Chapter Twelve

In which Claire makes her own list
Reasons to stay at St. Rahab’s                                  Reasons to leave St. Rahab’s
I just bought a house                                                     There is a spy ring in the church
My kid is happy                                                              My best friend lied to me
I like this city                                                                    The Church Lady lied to me
It’s a job                                                                            The sexton lied to me
I don’t want to look for another job                         The copier repairman lied to me
Bill Hill has cancer                                                          I can’t lie to the congregation
Gladys                                                                                   I can’t fix this

Claire had tried to fall asleep, to no avail.  She tried praying without any success or spiritual comfort.  So she decided to make a list, and by the time she finished, it was 2:00am and she thought she could probably sleep again. Her dreams were disjointed and unpleasant, but not scary. She woke up when she heard Emma in the kitchen.

“Mom, are you okay?”

“It’s just a little stressful at church, but I’ll be fine. Are you off?”

“Yeah, and don’t forget I have practice after school and won’t be home till 5 or so.”

“Thanks for the reminder. I promise I’ll make a good dinner tonight, okay? And I don’t have any meetings so we can just settle in.”

“Love you.”

“Love you, too.”





After Emma left, Claire sat down at the kitchen table and stared out the window for a long time. Rex sat on the floor, looking up at her expectantly. It was past time for his morning constitutional. Claire threw on her yoga pants and a sweatshirt, slipped on her flip flops, and headed out with the dog. She was grateful she ran into no one she knew.

When they got home she knew she could no longer delay the inevitable. She made coffee, showered and dressed, and turned her phone back on. One voicemail from Martha. She’d listen to it some other time, or never.

She arrived at church a little later than usual. Trystene looked up from her desk. “Good morning, Pastor Claire.”

Claire smiled. Trystene was so reliable. Trystene was so normal. Trystene didn’t know anything about the spy ring. “Good morning, Trystene. How was your weekend?”

“Oh good, I suppose. Robbie helped me clean out the garage and I took a bunch of stuff to Goodwill. We’ll have to have you and Emma over one of these days. How was your weekend?”

If you only knew, Claire thought. “It was fine, thanks.”

“Um, you probably already know this and I’m real sorry but somehow the bulletins were messed up again on Sunday. I swear I don’t know how it happened.”

“That’s okay, Trystene. I believe you. We will get to the bottom of this. For now, just keep doing the great work you do and I will figure out the mystery of the bulletin bloopers. I’m going to go in – could you hold my calls this morning?”

“Sure thing.”

Claire went into her office, closed the door, sat down at the desk, started up the computer, and stared at the screen. Her mind wouldn’t work – at least not on what she wanted it to work on. She needed to talk to someone and it couldn’t be Emma. She buzzed Trystene on the intercom.

“Trystene, do you have Pastor Jakki Smith-Hastings’ phone number?”

“Sure thing. Got a pencil?”

Claire took a deep breath and dialed the number.


“Hi, Jakki? This is Claire Grayson over at St. Rahab’s.”

“Claire! It’s good to hear your honeyed tones! I have been meaning to call to see how you’re doing.”

“Thanks, I appreciate that. I’m wondering if I might take you to coffee or lunch this week.”

“That would be great. Have you ever been to the Steel Horse Diner? It’s in a funky part of town, but the wait staff is just terrific and almost as good as the burgers.”

“Actually, I have been there. Is there somewhere else you’d recommend?”

They made a date for lunch on Wednesday. Just knowing she had a colleague to talk to loosened the knot in Claire’s stomach, though the knots in her shoulders were as tight as ever.

She stared at the computer screen again, sighed, and checked to see what the readings for the next Sunday were. Great. The first part of Matthew 5.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted….

‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.’

Claire looked up at the ceiling so as to give said Father In Heaven a piece of her mind. Really? You want me to preach on this, after everything I have been through in the last two days? The freaking Beatitudes? She laid her head on the desk, mumbled a prayer for help, and got out her commentaries on Matthew.

After getting an idea for the direction of the sermon, she started to write the prayers for the bulletin. When she started on the prayer of confession, the knots in her shoulders started to loosen up.

Holy and wise God, we are your imperfect people. Forgive us when we keep secrets from each other. Forgive us when we lie to one another. Forgive us when we think we are more special than others. Make us humble in your sight, and help us to repent of our false ways. This we pray in the name of Jesus, the light of the world who exposed all the dark corners and tunnels. Amen.

Okay, she thought, I can’t use that but it sure felt good to write it. Claire gave it another try.

Gracious God, we need your help, for often we get it wrong rather than right. We hide our light; we hide the good that we do; we do not give you credit for the blessings in our lives. We conceal the truth from those we love, and we do not admit the fullness of who we are. Help us. Help us turn away from what is false toward you, the One who is true. This we pray in the name of the One who forgives us, again and again, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Claire finished up the first draft of the bulletin, and then called Bill and Gladys.

“Gladys? It’s Claire Grayson. Is this a good time?”

“Oh, Claire, it’s good to hear your voice.”

“I missed you in church yesterday and I thought I’d check to see if everything is okay, not that it’s not okay to miss church.”

“Actually, Bill was feeling pretty low yesterday, and he’s never much of one for those choir presentations. He prefers a sermon.”

“Well, it’s been a while since we caught up. Could I come by for a visit some time this week?”

“Are you free this afternoon?”

They agreed Claire would stop by around 2:00.

Claire went home to get some lunch and let Rex out, and as she sat down to her peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she congratulated herself for getting through the morning. One step at a time, she thought: one step at a time.