If I ever get sick, I hope Bonnie will pray for me. She is in prayer as she is in life–blunt and a touch bossy. There’s a smackdown quality to Bonnie’s spiritual life. She is not afraid to let the Almighty know what He or She ought to be doing. Bonnie prays the same way she directs traffic, a skill described by Sy Montgomery in The Good, Good Pig. (Note to friends in other parts of the country who may not have read Sy’s book—do. You’ll love it. And to preaching friends, great stuff in there on the surprising ways we become neighbors. End of plug.)
I don’t know Bonnie’s whole story. My years in ministry began just as de-institutionalization from state facilities started to ramp up, so I can probably guess. It’s enough to say that Bonnie once lived somewhere else, and now she lives among us. Which is our gain on many levels.
Bonnie is our lead-off batter on Sundays. After the sermon and heading into the pastoral prayer, when I ask if there are any concerns or celebrations before us as a congregation, Bonnie is the first to speak. Her prayer requests are mostly about things you can see—broken arms, car accidents, incidents involving flashing lights and ambulances. Sometimes she struggles to find the right word. On those days, she’ll pull at my sleeve before church.
“We’re gonna pray for my nayba who’s havin a hahd time breathin, whatda ya call that?”
“Emphysema? Asthma?” I’ll suggest.
“That’s it, that last one. We’re gonna pray ‘bout that thingy,” she’ll say with a royal wave of her hand, dismissing me to get on with my job.
One of the things on my “To Do” list is to order another batch of cards with Bonnie’s artwork on them. Even when the note I write is short and dashed off too quickly, I don’t worry so much about it when it goes out on one of those cards. Because if I can send someone a little bit of Bonnie, there’s more in that than any words I may scribble. I may be Bonnie’s pastor, but she is the my teacher, one who keeps teaching me how to pray.
P.S. Just added an album to FCC Hancock’s Facebook page where you can see six of Bonnie’s paintings.