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It’s the same every year while on holiday, and its timing is predictable. At some point during the time away I have a terrible dream, and it usually happens sometime around the half way point.

I’m not sure what this means, but I would imagine somebody out there knows the answer. My only guess is that when I reach the vacation’s midpoint, my body and mind both know that I’m not so much moving further into a much needed time of rest as I am passing through and out of it.

The days are numbered, and very soon everything will begin again.

Last night I dreamt that an unrecognizable couple showed up at the church on a Sunday morning right before worship expecting me to perform their marriage ceremony. I was vested and ready to begin the regular service when I came down the hallway from my office to the church’s entryway and discovered them with a large party of family and friends. They approached me and thanked me for scheduling the event, but also revealed a concern that so many people were already in the church but were not a part of their scheduled event.

I was at a loss. Of course the church was full. It was Sunday. And I didn’t know who these people were. I didn’t remember anything about the event—which means I couldn’t recall the typical pre-marital counseling sessions, the service planning, or any of the other detailed conversations that go into scheduling a wedding.

Our Sunday morning service begins at 9:30 AM. I looked at my watch. It was 9:20.

I apologized to them, doing what I could to offer that since I apparently scheduled the event, I would perform the wedding, but it would have to happen after the regular service and Bible study, which means they’d need to wait until about noon.

The situation grew heated. The bride began to cry. The groom tried to console her. The bride’s mother—who I didn’t recognize, but for some reason was the only one I sensed as familiar—stormed away. Her husband remained behind and worked to convince me that it was only right to tell the rest of the congregation that the church had been reserved and they needed to leave.

I apologized again and again for the mix up, but assured him that I was not going to tell the congregation members they had to leave their own church to accommodate a wedding ceremony for a couple that none of us knew, even if I had mistakenly scheduled it.

I looked at my watch again. It was still 9:20.

The bride’s father was furious, and in his rage, he belittled me, being creative with his disgust that a man like me could ever be a Christian pastor.

There was that moment when even though I knew that my opponents had somehow made a serious error or were simply at the wrong church, I felt like I was in the wrong and should do what I could to accommodate. Working over the shouts of the bride’s father, I even tried to suggest that it wouldn’t be entirely inappropriate for the ceremony to serve as the beginning of the service.

But he wouldn’t have it, and he assured me that if I didn’t ask the people of my congregation to leave in order that the wedding ceremony could take place, I would be hearing from his lawyer.

I looked back down to my watch. It was still 9:20.

I told him I couldn’t do it, that I was sorry, and that if he wanted to speak more at a later date, I’d be more than willing. The mother of the bride returned. I told her the same, even as she motioned and shouted to the whole group, “Let’s go folks. This ungodly reverend is kicking us out.”

With taunting scowls, the whole group filed through the church’s doors and into the parking lot. I looked at my watch. It was 9:20.

Feeling like I wanted to throw up, I gathered myself and then made my way into the narthex where I was greeted by the ushers and the Elders on duty.

“Hey, pastor!” they all said exuberantly. “How ya doing this morning?!”

Apparently, none knew what had just happened.

“Pretty good,” I replied. “Everything ready in here?”

“Oh, yeah,” they said. “The candles are lit and we have two youth assistants. We’re all set.”

“Great,” I said, proceeding to gather the group for pre-service prayer.

Just before we bowed our heads, I heard the prelude begin. I looked at my watch. It was 9:29.

I’m not sure what any of this means, but what I can say is that in order to break free from the trepidation it stirs, a kind word or a warm embrace from someone who doesn’t hate you—like a spouse, a child, or a good friend—will do the trick. Even better, life has a softer hammer when one of those folks reaches to you with a bottle of something they fought hell and high water to get to you, like the bottle of homemade Romanian whisky my good friend Paul delivered to me this past spring in a plastic bottle (which I hastily transferred to a glass one). In such moments, you know that you’re never truly trapped at 9:20, but rather are but a few seconds from 9:30.

Țuică, the whisky at hand, is the traditional spirit from the land of Dracula. It’s made from plums and usually runs at an octane of about 25% to 65% ABV. Again, the stuff I’m trying was crafted by someone in a village in the Carpathian Mountains. And from its initial nosing, I’m guessing this stuff is most certainly at the upper end of the ABV scale.

It’s rough to take it in at first—very chemical, very medicinal, with only a minor hinting to dark fruits—and almost certainly something its distiller sells as an all-purpose tonic in the village medicine shop. In fact, the whisky’s fumes were so potent, I had to tape the cork to the bottle lest it keep popping up. I get the sense that this stuff would be a standard potion for dealing with pneumonia-like symptoms in the midst of a frigid Carpathian night.

The palate of this beast was as bitter pine, scalding raisins, and acidic solvent. The plums were there, but in vampiric fashion, were more so dead than alive.

All of these things together made for a long and sour finish, one that tells me that while I’m incredibly grateful for this gift, it’s going to take me a long while to consume it. I’ll most likely only turn to it for the same reason the villagers from its birthplace do, and that’s to fight back any invading hordes of sickness-inducing germs that could ultimately snatch away life lest the bloodstream be preemptively teaming with tiny Romanian soldiers that can hold them back.

Or I’ll keep this incredibly potent cocktail at the ready in a hip flask so that when I’m confronted by crazy and compassionless people in the church’s entryway demanding things of me that I cannot provide, in a stealthy effort toward peace, I can offer them an almost instantaneously immobilizing gulp, put them on a cart, and roll them down the street to the neighboring church that I know will pretty much give them whatever they want. That’s probably the place the meant to visit anyway, and so when they wake up, they’ll be pleased.

Yeah, I think that sounds like a good idea.