"Star Struck"
(By Nancy Zeider)

3-29-2013 Church Within SOW Seeds Service - Story #729
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Welcome
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Greetings my Dearest Sisters and Brothers, and welcome again to Church Within's Story of the Week ["SOW Seeds”].

This week's SOW Seeds Story, contributed by: Patije

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Story of the Week
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Star Struck
By Nancy Zeider

May God grant you always… A sunbeam to warm you, a moonbeam to charm you, a sheltering angel so nothing can harm you. Laughter to cheer you. Faithful friends near you. And whenever you pray, Heaven to hear you. ~Irish Blessing

Years ago, a group of friends and I decided to take a drive along Los Angeles's busy freeways to visit the Griffith Park Observatory. Located on the southern slope of Mt. Hollywood, we'd heard the view of the city was spectacular, and the structure itself, in 1930s Art Deco style, astounding. The walls, built of thick concrete just after the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, had survived many tremors since, and stand strong to this day.

We planned to enjoy all the springtime beauty the area offered, with cool mornings and sunny, warm afternoons. During those few months, the gray of winter fades to a memory and the scorch of summer is still a hazy dream. Flowers bloom. Life feels good.

We arrived mid-morning and spent time enjoying the Astronomers Monument, which was erected in honor of those scholars who dedicated their lives to furthering our understanding of the stars and planets. We read the list of names, a few familiar from our school days, most new to us.

Listening to my friends' carefree chatter, I felt like an imposter, my smile a thin mask.

Over the past few weeks, I had become more and more anxious about my health. Sometimes, a mild pain radiated up my neck ­ nothing terrible, but enough to concern me. As a registered nurse, I recognized the symptoms. My heart was failing. The thought of visiting a doctor and having my suspicions confirmed left me paralyzed with fear.

Today was worse. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. I was being watched; I sensed it. I hesitated. Crowds filled the observatory ­ maybe I was overreacting to the bustle. I scanned the faces, unable to see anyone I knew.

That's when I noticed him, just an ordinary-looking fellow, staring at me. Probably in his mid-thirties, he wore jeans and a chambray shirt. He looked like the photo you'd spot when checking the dictionary's definition for the word non-descript. His brown hair and face would fit right alongside.

We stopped to inspect the central rotunda, leaning over a half-wall to watch the 240-pound brass ball of the Foucault Pendulum swing in perpetual motion. The ceiling delighted us, a vast mural depicting Atlas, the Four Winds and other key characters of celestial mythology. I felt a soft nudge, and moved to excuse myself. There he stood again, the man from the observatory.

He nodded knowingly, sending a shiver up my spine. There was something about him, something I couldn't place. The air around him seemed to move, almost like heat waves at the beach. A glow. An aura, perhaps? I didn't know. I wasn't schooled in that sort of thing.

I smiled at him, nodding in acknowledgement. He didn't return my smile, didn't blink. He simply gazed at me.

At the gift shop, a few of us picked up a small trinket for a loved one, or a postcard to remind us of this special day. I chose a pair of earrings for my daughter, shimmery and bright.

He stood near the door, watching me.

Lunchtime rolled around, and we discovered the Café at the End of the Universe. One of our group wondered aloud as to whether the name referred to a location or a time yet to come.

A burst of laughter and speculative conversation followed, as we shared a taste of this or a sip of that. From the corner of my eye, I saw the shirt, the jeans. I didn't turn my head. I didn't want to know for certain it was him.

Our group visited the laser light show, an attraction mixing music and beams of bright colors as they formed constellations and abstract shapes. An awe-inspiring performance, but as it ended, I noticed the stranger, eyes still focused on me. I turned away quickly.

"Look ­ over by the door. There he is again." I gestured for my friend to sneak a peek in the direction of the man.

"Where?" She squinted, her head pointed straight at him. "I don't see him ­ maybe he left."

Frustration tinged my voice. "He's right there ­ hasn't moved an inch. He's almost smiling at me now. Please don't try to say I'm imagining him." Fear mounted in me. Was I being stalked? I tucked the thought away, determined to enjoy this time with my companions, to relax in the gentle warmth of the sun.

As our excursion neared its end, I glanced to the left, at the wall of a building, devoid of gates or doors of any sort. The man leaned against it, looking at me. This time I stared back, determined to show a bravery I didn't feel. Hidden in pockets, my hands trembled.

A calm smile and deep compassion shone on his face as we locked eyes for what felt like minutes, but probably lasted only seconds. Then ­ I don't know how to explain it ­ it was as though a burst of conversation swept from his mind to mine.

"Everything's going to be all right."

I felt an intense warmth head to toe, as though embraced in a spiritual hug from the inside out.

"There's work ahead."

I took a deep breath, maintaining the eye contact, listening.

He continued to smile with his eyes. "I'll be watching."

I nodded slowly, softly. I understood. And felt safe.

A friend tugged on my arm, pulling me toward another monument. I turned my head back for a glimpse of the man, but he was gone. I scanned the building once more, searching for openings he could have exited through. There were none.

I shook my head. I knew I'd seen him. And he'd seen me. I was certain he was real. I still felt his warmth.

We headed for home, my mind filled with questions about the man, and the message I'd somehow received. Reason fought against intuition. He was just an ordinary guy. Or was he?

In the months to come, I overcame my fears and visited the doctor. I underwent three cardiac catheterization operations, and a successful triple-bypass surgery. Through them all, I knew I'd be all right.

Years have passed since that day. But the peace he projected has remained with me. God sent me comfort in a way I needed, in a form I could understand and trust ­ an ordinary-looking man. He gave me the courage and the confidence to take care of my health problems.

My angel… And even though I can't see him, I know he's still watching. I know things are going to be all right.

How can I be so sure? Because there's still work for me to do. He told me so.

--Reprinted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC (c) 2013.

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Pastor's Quote of the Week
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Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.

(From: Robert F. Kennedy (1925 - 1968 )

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The Prayer
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Dear God,        
        May I have the personal strength to do those things that are your will for me to do.

You ALL are Within the Infinitely Loving Embrace of our Universal Parent,

The Creator's Eternal Love to all of You,
Pastor Daniel

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