A smiliar thing happened to me once. I was twelve and singing with a youth choir 'on tour' in a small church in Oklahoma, Stroud or somewhere... All I remembered was clapping along with the best of Andrae Crouch, smiling at my dad on the front row and then wow-eee, "Why am I sitting in a pew and all these people are praying for me??" Oh the joys! Nothing like being twelve or so and the center of attention when you least expect it!
Our son, JJ (we don't have any other sons, just Max), comes in tomorrow. Hopefully he will bring along the family's lone digital camera and then I'll be able to show you our camellias in bloom, the new bathroom DJ just finished, and our lovely sunshine on the patio. Until then, "I've gotta keep on singing. I've got to keep on shoutin' it out - and tell the whole world that Jesus saves!" You'll understand if you sang in youth choir in the 70s....
I saw this sentence yesterday and chuckled a bit inside. No, the book is not humorous in any manner and it's quite difficult to read at times, but this phrase may stay with me the rest of my life! Many years ago, our family was watching the movie, "The Blues Brothers." In the middle of the church scene, (you'll only get this if you've seen the movie) I commented, "Oh, sometimes I miss church from my childhood so much!" Both DJ and JJ turned and looked at me like I was from another planet! Now we know the movie has a light-hearted, perhaps a bit irreverent, portrayal of Pentecostal worship, but honestly, I've been in a few services that weren't too different! Can anyone relate???
I began to think of a few other ways that Pentecostal churches are not for the timid, and realized it may not only be churches of this kind that have these issues......Here we go.....
My friend mentioned her husband had an 'usher' incident on Sunday morning. "An usher incident?" Yes, he had an empty coffee cup with his Bible and the usher confronted him and wanted him to take it out to their car. "But it's empty!" he said. "Coffee cups are not allowed in the Sanctuary. You must take it outside." She said he wanted to tell the usher just where to put the coffee cup, but then bit his tongue.... What would a first-timer think??
Last Christmas I was privileged to be part of a lovely production at our church. I hadn't been too involved with the choral program in a while, so I was still wondering if anyone would sit next to me, would they be nice, would they want to be my friend - all that good stuff we ponder but don't tell anyone. Imagine my thoughts when I reached for the new choral book on the back counter and the music secretary stopped me, "These are only for the cast. You can't have any music!" "But I'd only like to take it home to learn the songs." (The church was repeating a musical they'd done several times.) "Well, here, you can have one of these old copies. The new books are only for the cast!" I shrugged my head as I picked up the well-worn tattered music and walked to my seat.
My friend, the one with the husband's usher incident, laughed when I mentioned this story. Her friend had just been through the same thing at a church a thousand miles away. Taking home music is forbidden, thank you. Jesus loves us and we want to sing His praises, but you cannot take home music. I think I'd happily pay the $6.95 if it would help cover the cost of a book. But then again, who learns how to read music these days - oh, there's a whole new post for a completely different day!!!!
So we shared stories right and left and it is amazing how people treat each other in churches at times. Now don't misunderstand, there are many saints around that far outweigh the nit-pickers, but the only way I think you can survive at times is to laugh at the absurdity! So Stella started telling me about the 'knitting calls' she's received lately.....
She joined a knitting group at her church to benefit from the wisdom of the older women who knit. Sounds like a good thing, eh! The problem arose when Stella realized that knitting was not her God-given gifting. The simple projects began to take far too long and she was not feeling competent. She took the project home to work on and has been struggling with it. Her husband was clearing out the message machine and commented, "We've got five calls from that knitting lady. She wants her yarn back. The church paid for it and if you're not going to use it, well, that's just stealing from God. So make the scarf or bring back the yarn!" Oh, my! Is this mentoring at its prime?!
Yes, John Grisham was speaking of something entirely different. He was referring to the lively music, expressive worship and perhaps even dance (or solely 'choreographed stage movement', thank you, in our circles). But I must agree; Pentecostal worship is not for the timid.
Shopping at the local Costco on a Friday is much preferred to shopping at a Costco on Saturday. This is one huge advantage to not having a full time job with traditional hours somewhere! The lines are do-able, people are friendlier, and the folk who seem to want to have just samples for lunch don't block the entire pathway of the aisles. It's all just a bit more relaxed.
I remembered to get the paper towels; is it 12 or 20 in a pack? So then my cart was more than half full. "I must shop wisely" I thought, as I do not want to have to get the orange truck for my purchases..... I wandered past the sodas (without DJ or JJ, I'm helpless lifting them) and entered the frozen section. "Ah - we do need some chicken this time," I said to no one in particular. We'd just finished a large bag of frozen chicken breasts that some nice person somewhere had wrapped up each one in its own little plastic package. I was happy to see that Costco had once again stocked the section with the non-individually wrapped chicken breasts, which are so much easier to use.
I wandered on, getting the eggs, milk, cheese (the real kind - DJ does not like the nacho kind in a can) and, of course, some treats for Max. Adding a bit of Lysol, my task was done. Oh boy, oh boy, a line with only one person ahead of me! Can you believe it? In the middle of the afternoon, no less. A nice gal started helping me unload my items and then she saw it - the package of chicken. "Ma'am, we can't sell you this." I looked around, wondering if I was in a 'No Chicken' line. "Why not?" "We don't sell this chicken any more. Would you like me to go get you the individually wrapped chicken breasts?" Hmmm... I thought. "I was so happy to see the un-wrapped chicken breasts. I really don't like the other kind, because when you open them up they drip chicken juice all over you and the counter. I'd really rather purchase this package." "Let me go ask the manager, Ma'am."
At this point the woman in line ahead of me chimed in, "I really don't like the individually wrapped kind either. It's not nearly as good. The chicken seems over-prepared by them jammin' it in those little wrappers." The checker was also most interested in this dilemma, and thankfully, no one was behind me in the line. Here she came, "Ma'am, this package is a half-pound less than the other style. Do you still want it?" "Sure." So she asked the checker to ring it up. Nope. It wouldn't ring up. "Ma'am, we can't sell you this chicken." "What will you do with the package of chicken that I'd far prefer?" "We can't sell you the chicken Ma'am." "O.K., well, I won't get chicken then."
JJ would be so proud, I thought. My blood pressure had not risen, the lady in line with me AND the checker agreed the situation was silly. I suggested they give the chicken to a homeless organization. The checker said, "No - they'll just throw it away."
So I guess I'll have to go fight the parking lot at Trader Joe's this afternoon. I'll have to choose between Chicken Gorgonzola, Tahiti Chicken Delight or Blue Mojito Chicken Cha Cha Cha. It's never just the bulk 'frozen chicken' there.
Today, this is where my heart is resting. This copy of Psalm 84 is from The Message by Eugene Peterson. (I hope that's enough credit to make it all right and legal.)
This was a favorite Psalm of our family as I was growing up and it has special meaning for me. I'm not quite sure about the last sentence on some days...but that's when we need to trust, eh! Maybe the psalmist was especially confident when he wrote that. One day - I'll ask him about it.
Blessings on this wintery day!
So to brighten your world, I thought I'd share a photo and introduce you to Gramma's new baby doll, Miss Lexus. She is a standard poodle and as gorgeous as ever. This picture was taken a couple of months ago and she's about double in size now. We took Mr. Max over on Saturday and the jumping and chasing rarely slowed. Gramma also has little Miss Mercedes (get it) in her home. Mercedes is a teeny tiny Maltese who wants to be sure everyone knows she is ultimately in charge. It can be quite a circus at times, especially when the entire gang of little ones in the family is over for a family birthday.
I'll try to get some good shots of them all on here soon. (Please refer to the Patience, Patience post for further explanation.) JJ has our digital camera, and I'm working with the antique one right now.... One of these days, I'll organize all those boxes of photos!
Getting back to Miss Lexus --- on Saturday I was able to see her fall to sleep for a few minutes. Talk about comical! She's just a rumbly tumbly ball of cuteness and loves to go to sleep on her back with her feet spread out far apart, some of them sticking straight up in the air, as if in hopes that someone will stop by to give her loves and rub her tummy! I'll see if Gramma can get a shot of that too! And furthermore - she tends to be half on/half off of the luxurious pet bed with the shiny red satin trim. In the mode of MasterCard, "Priceless."
So have you heard of Nubs the Iraqi dog? He's on his way to California from Iraq to wait for his new home with the Marine who is returning home soon. It's quite a sweet tale. Watch the news. It will be on when they're done talking about the election race, the stock market, recent robberies, the weather and the latest sports scandal. Out here they like to end the news with happy stories! I guess they figure you might forget some of the sad stuff if you hear of nice people doing good things and maybe you'll want to turn on the news back on again tomorrow night.
As you can tell, we love our pets in this family. There's just something special about having a puppy or kitten to sit with you on a rainy day. It's not the same as having toddlers or grandchildren around. But they still help you forget your troubles - and the rain.
Sundays are so wonderful, aren't they? There's the lazy breakfast (unless you are a Pastor or sound guy), reading the paper all the way through (unless you have to be there at 7:30 for orchestra or Sunday School class set-up) and deciding if you're going 'Dressy' or 'Casual' this week. We've come a long way with this whole Christian church adventure. Some days I'm not sure where we've come, but we've definitely come a long way....
Before we know it, there will probably be a 'Gaither Hero'. Will they use Because He Lives? Something Beautiful? Best of the Gaither Vocal Band? If these titles mean nothing to you -- forgive me. Those Southern Gospel greats were classics of another era. We'll have you over for fried chicken and gravy when the game premiers and fill you in on all the Gaither celebrities (one of my favorite ways to annoy JJ). "Mom, you shouldn't know so much about these people!"
Until then (pardon the pun) we'll wear 'Casual' when the worship teams are leading Hillsong style. As long as we're united in worship, I don't think our dress, style of music or liturgy matter too much. What does matter is that we are united - regardless.
Of course, I must admit, a personal pet peeve of mine is worship that is 'thrown together' without much thought, preparation or skill. Excellence should always be a goal, styles aside. Worship leaders should enable and encourage worship, but I am digressing and this subject could be an entire chapter in my next book....I'll save it for another time.
And today - every time I go to the fridge, I'll chuckle. You should see me playing Guitar Hero with JJ. He stays on 'expert' getting five stars per tune and I'm destined to remain on 'easy' - until it comes out for strings!.
Today's the day....we mustn't be tardy....this is the day to get our cards in the mail to our friends and family off in Whoville. E-mail greetings certainly are becoming the mode of choice these days due to the ever rising costs of postage stamps. Since Hallmark added music to so many of their selections, it seems we're paying royalties to all sorts of artists - just to say "Hope you have a Happy Birthday, Get Well Soon, or the obvious, Happy Valentine's Day." But once in a while, it sure is nice to get something in the mail.
DJ thinks I'm neurotic about the mail. He says I watch through the windows for the mail truck, just like his Granny did peeking through her curtains. I suppose he has a point. I do like to retrieve it promptly. In fact, he's probably right. I do worry about some identity thief taking our information and using our good names to buy a new refrigerator, sports car or send their Aunt Lulu on a cruise to the Mediterranean --- but in all honesty, I just hurry to the mailbox secretly hoping there will be a card from someone, somewhere, music or not, that will brighten my day. Or at least have a day with no new bills....
Lately, I've been thinking how difficult this time would be if you had a spouse far away, perhaps serving in the effort overseas somewhere. Additionally, how hard it must be for my friends who are Single Moms. Each one who is part of my life is doing an incredible job of being there for their kids. Their circumstances and geographic locations are all different, but the loads they carry are quite similar. They have to be the Nurturers, Tough-Love Givers, Disciplinarians, Fun Providers, Cooks, Dog-Walkers, Girl-Scout/Boy-Scout/Royal Ranger/Missionette Leaders, Team Moms, Costume Designers, Shoppers, House-Cleaners, etc., etc., etc. And they all have to answer "Why?" or "Why not?" far more often than I can imagine.
So this year I have a proposal.....when we're out buying cards for our kids to take to their classes, baking our espresso brownies and finding just that right gift for our husbands or wives, lets all do something nice for a Single Mom or Military Spouse we know. And this is one time I don't think it should be anonymous. Let's let our Heroes know we're proud of them! What do you think? Any ideas or suggestions?
I found Mack's journey quite eye-opening and hope that many will be inspired by it. But I do caution --- it is fiction (as far as we know). :) There are many beautiful phrases that capture your heart as you read it, but were they to be quoted out of context or with the intent of being a new look at God and a new revelation of Him, it might cause some conflict with Scripture. And no one would want that to happen! Discussion points - sure! Bring them on! Dreaming of time without end in the presence of God and our loved ones - priceless!
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.
Back to the story. This weekend's adventure was not purely Saturday and Sunday, but, can you believe it, Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday and Sunday nights and then....DJ stayed to ski on Monday too, so he kept Max waiting until almost midnight!
It's just hard to express the joy that Max exhibits when he sees one of us after a time apart. There's the jumping, kissing the earlobes, running around in circles, more jumping, more kisses wherever possible, more circles and then snuggling as close as humanly, I mean, doggily, possible for hours!
A good friend has said that he believes God has given us puppies to show us an example of worship. They give us unconditional love and joyous exuberance, we work and play together, and in our house - we provide him with safety from falling leaves with tons of snuggles thrown in to boot! My friend has a good point.
This post is in response to a question from a fellow blogger, Connie. Yes, I'm reading "The Shack." I tried to post a comment on your blog and couldn't quite get it on there (please refer to my Patience, Patience blog...). So here goes....
I am a bit more than halfway through this amazing little book. I don't know how the story resolves yet, but the journey as shared by the author, William P. Young, is painful, yet beautiful all the same.
Several times while reading this, I've had a memory come to mind that brings me comfort, peace and sweaty palms, all at the same time. As a child I had a copy of a famous painting of two children crossing a bridge which was about to collapse. They were unknowingly guided by the most beautiful Guardian Angel. (You can find it online, but I didn't feel right about copying it here.) Anyway....back to my childhood....I always knew the children would be all right, they would make it across, but it just plain made me nervous every time I looked at it. I didn't share that feeling with my mother until I was grown and that was with a flippant comment of some sort while we were discussing other matters of great importance, as I recall.
Regardless....I think this story brings out some very important truths related to this and I'm trying to finish the tale quickly. What important truths? Well.....that we can trust God, He does know where He's taking us, we'll get there in His time and He will be with us - always. Someday we'll understand why we had to make so many stops and there were so many bumps, shaky spots and detours along the way.
But until then, it's awfully hard not to get sweaty palms once in a while.