It’s amazing what happens at 2 a.m. when I can’t sleep. Since I frequently cross time zones multiple times each month, this happens more often than I’d like. Facebook and Pinterest are my companions during these lonely hours, which is how I came to read a phrase from one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Berg.
On her Facebook page, Ms. Berg was describing her early morning routine, complete with the aroma of coffee and the sounds of birds and nature coming to life. She wrote about the company of her dog who was imploring her to cook bacon and promptly drop some for him to consume. Before she moved onto other subjects, she noted that she was in the “chapel of everyday.”
Those words pierced me. For days, they have been my companion as I have criss-crossed the country and sat through endless meetings. That phrase has echoed in my mind as I’ve drifted into fitful sleep; whispered to me as I’ve regained consciousness in an attempt to meet another day.
The chapel of everyday is vital to my existence. It’s different than going to church. Let’s be truthful. No matter how much we insist otherwise, church is a place where we clean up, make-up, and shut up in order to fit in, find acceptance, and maybe just a little salvation. I still attend from time to time, but church seems less about experiencing God and more about fitting into an image or mold that makes those who bear His name more comfortable.
In the chapel of everyday, however, God comes looking for me; almost like my cat wandering over to rub against my legs and mewl at me to pick her up. It happens at unexpected times and places and usually comes without warning. In the chapel of everyday, God is familiar and comforting, inviting me to pour a cuppa and put my feet up while we chat.
A few years ago, those words would have seemed to me sacrilegious, bordering on heretical. Not these days. There have been too many miles between here and that lifetime ago. And the funny thing about this journey is that God has been there, every step of the way. The further I’ve moved away from the church, the more real He’s become, especially in the chapel of everyday.
In this chapel, the stained glass is the sunset seen from my back patio. The hues are rich with light streaming from heaven, causing my eyes to look up. The hymns are heard in the birds singing and my fountain gurgling; in the winds and rains that provide their own Gregorian-like chants.
Instead of altar flowers, there are hanging baskets and pots of flowers that I have planted – a labor of love and a gift of creation given back to the Creator. Vestments take on the form of an apron or work overalls, with the work of my hands serving as an extension of God’s hands to care for and serve those around me.
In the chapel of everyday, there are no soaring rafters or marbled aisles. There is not a single gilded candlestick or a bit of fair linen to be found. Instead, I am surrounded by what is broken. Mismatched. Ordinary. Cracked. Misfit. Makeshift. Marred. I am surrounded by – confronted with – me. And those like me. And our inability to be good enough, right enough, pure enough, loving enough, or fill-in-the-blank-enough.
That’s about the time the cat shows up. And God. And the smell of coffee brewing and my own dogs hoping, like Elizabeth Berg’s, that I’ll fry up bacon and drop some so they can feast. And, with all of us gathered together, the chapel of everyday turns my space into sacred space.
The broken pieces are suddenly transformed into a beautiful mosaic, with even the tiniest shards forming symmetry and beauty. In the chapel of everyday, what I have set aside as cracked or marred becomes rich with God’s patina and character. Somehow, He makes a place for everything and everyone in the chapel of everyday. And it all melds into something sumptuous, seamless, sacred, and safe.
In the chapel of everyday, my soul finds rest as God wanders in looking for me, inviting me to pour a cup of coffee and settle in for a chat while I’m frying bacon and tripping over the dogs. Thanks be to God!