Photo and Commentary ©2022 by Shelley Schurch
Sunday, June 26, 2022

Many years ago, during a Winter Olympics hosted by Canada, I remember hearing “Up Close and Personal” segments over and over again, introducing athletes with stories and interviews. That phrase stuck like glue to our vocabulary.

I’m sure I would be intimidated if I were to meet an Olympic athlete “up close and personal.” At least that’s what my history leads me to believe.

Years ago I stood in a long university bookstore line to meet Madeleine L’Engle and have her autograph some of her books. Waiting that long gave me time to realize I was much too shy to do this, so I slipped out of line and regretfully walked away.

A few years later I gathered my courage and started to join an autograph line for another favorite author, Karen Mains, but once again bailed out of line before reaching her table.

The third time was the charm, however, because when we attended a poetry reading by Luci Shaw, one of L’Engle’s dearest friends, my husband actually brought Luci to me, where I was standing shyly at the back of the room. I learned that he had just told her the story of my failed autograph attempts, and so she happily signed her book, Listen to the Green, and added this note: “To Shelley – Never chicken out again!”

With that encouragement ringing in my ears, I later stood in line to have multiple-award-winning artist and author Tomie dePaola autograph a book. We arrived early and I was second in line, so I had no time to “chicken out”! I managed to squeak out a timid “Thank you.”

And then a fifth opportunity came my way, and I not only stood in line to have Newbery Award winner Rebecca Stead sign my book – I even managed to have a small conversation with her.

I still find that people can be intimidating, unpredictable, and overwhelming when they’re up close and personal.

However, I am never shy when face-to-face with a flower. My motto when taking floral photos is: “the closer, the better.” I lean in and zoom in with my camera, and thoroughly enjoy the results. I hope you do, too, as I share four of my favorites with you.

During a pastors’ Christmas party a few years ago, the woman on my left mentioned in the course of the evening that when she got to heaven she was looking forward to looking into the eyes of Jesus as she met Him face-to-face.

Thinking about that as we drove home, I realized that most of my mental pictures of heaven involved lots of people, not just Jesus and me. I think the verses in Revelation about multitudes of people beyond counting soaked into my psyche. I’ve never been fond of crowds, but a multitude sounds better-behaved (especially in heaven). Still, it’s a lot of people.

I don’t know how Jesus will meet us individually, call us by name, and welcome us Home, but I’m sure it will happen. I often need to remind myself that just because my finite mind can’t understand and explain the ways of our all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God, that doesn’t mean it isn’t so.

And so I, too, look forward to meeting, face-to-face, up close and personal, the God who created and redeemed me, who longs for that day even more than I do.