During a recent Sunday worship service, I was hugged by every one of the children as they made their way back to their seats from being on stage for the children’s sermon.

This movement to hug Pastor Cory was spearheaded by a young girl named Gracie. Gracie is the granddaughter of the chair of our Elders. She was adopted from Russia and is quite possibly the sweetest little girl I’ve ever met (besides my own, of course). Somehow, early on, I was able to get my bluff in with her. Every time she sees me, there is a hug soon to follow.

Although Gracie had hugged me already, she told the woman leading the children’s sermon that she wanted to come give me a hug…so she did. Right there in the middle of everything. It was very sweet, but part of my brain could not refrain from fixating on the recent scandals that have rocked the Catholic church and the fear that someone might misinterpret the innocence of a rogue hug.

After the children’s sermon, she came back for a THIRD hug…along with all the other children!

A few moments later, it was time for me to lead our prayer time. When I opened up the floor for prayer requests, I heard the familiar words of yet another Gracie. This Gracie is a middle-aged special needs woman. For this Gracie, life is an exchange of goods. She expresses her love by offering you just about everything that she has. She once handed me a used Norbit DVD simply because it was Easter and she wanted to give me something. She also asks me if she can have my tie just about every Sunday. She wants to give it to her daddy, or so she says. One day, I might actually let her have it…

Every time this Gracie is in church, she mentions the same person at prayer time: her Auntie. And every time, I cannot help but smile.

Both Gracies give us a chance to see the innocence and compassion of the kingdom of God on full display. Yet, we usually care more that our service goes on smoothly and no one steps too far out of line.

God, give us the eyes to see as Gracie does. 

Either one…

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