It was a Sunday morning, the beginning of football season. I was wearing my Dallas Cowboys jersey, ready to root for them. I was visiting my parents who lived in Las Vegas. I looked forward to spending more time with them after the game. They were heading off to church, and I was heading to the casino to watch the game.
That is, until Mom and Dad asked me to go with them to church that morning. They wanted me to meet some of their new friends and to meet the pastor and his wife.
I had nothing against going to church, mind you. It was just that the game would be starting at 10:00, and, well, I preferred watching football to attending church. In the back of my mind was also the fact that their church is one that believes homosexuality is a sin. My thinking was that it would be easier on everyone if their lesbian daughter just took herself to the casino to watch some football.
But I ended up going to church that day. Even though I was almost 35 years old, I was still my parents' daughter, I was visiting their home, and I knew they had their hearts set on my going with them. Little did I know how significant visiting their church was going to be for me.
Mom and Dad introduced me to each of their friends at church that morning. I was impressed with how friendly everyone was. Toward me and toward each other as well. As the service started, the church had a "welcoming time," and folks were out of their seats and literally walking clear across the church to say hello to someone they did not know or had not seen in awhile.
Many came my way, sporting huge smiles and bright eyes. They spoke words of welcome. Some gave me huge hugs. A couple of them told me they were not Cowboy fans, so not to tell anyone they hugged me!
Never had I felt so welcomed, so accepted. I felt as though this was where I belonged. It was as if they were family I had never met.
The last time I had gone to church was, well, I couldn't remember. Maybe a Christmas Eve Mass years ago? I wasn't sure. My parents did not bring me up in the church.
When Mom and Dad moved to Las Vegas, Dad was invited to attend a men's Bible study at College Park Baptist Church. Shortly after that, Dad, at age 60, was born again. A bit later, at age 65, my mom also was born again. My parents were both excited to share their newfound experience with me.
I enjoyed the rest of the church service. The music was great. A full choir, their faces aglow, led the worship. It seemed everyone was full of smiles that day.
Throughout most of the sermon, Pastor Bob's face held a smile. Sometimes he would catch my eye, and it felt like he was speaking straight to me. He spoke that morning on the armor of God. He had my attention through the whole sermon.
As the service ended, several members of the choir, still in their robes, flocked toward me. I looked around to see where they might be going. They were all coming to greet my parents and me. Little did I know that Dad often sang in the choir, and they all wanted to meet me, his daughter. I thought they looked like a group of heavenly angels as their arms opened to hug me.
Finally, it was time to go home. Or so I thought. The next game started at 1:00. If we hurried, we could grab something to eat and head back to my parents' house to watch football. No such luck. Mom and Dad wanted me to go to their Bible study with them. Aargh. They would not let me take the car, go to the house, watch the game with my kid brother and then come back to get them at halftime. So, off I went to afternoon Bible study.