So, in the 24 + years since I consciously accepted Jesus Christ as my savior, I have heard, seen, read and attended a myriad of sermons, messages, bible studies, small community groups, conferences, workshops, church services and gatherings. I still experience some of these, as I feel it is important not to be stagnant in education. Plus, there is an allure to search out and find the next great thing or nugget of truth–that one piece of information that will make all that conflicts me, snap into place. The “a-HA!” moment. We ask God for a sign and to tell us what to do and we get frustrated when God replies, “You can’t DO anything.” Wha-? But. But. He says, “Be still.” And we very reverently respond with, “WTH?”
Last December I got into a habit of daily meditation during the Advent season. Click here to listen to the 10/23/2011 and 11/27/2011 messages that inspired me. At some point it dawned on me that I just might already have enough information to follow Christ. How do I access that 24 year accumulation? I certainly didn’t have it archived. I got quiet. I didn’t stop all my other practices of gathering with my church community, prayer, etc. (although some did get the axe). But there is something amazingly valuable about sitting still, shutting up and listening. In the quiet, our senses stir. The mundane and ordinary that were once eclipsed by noise and activity, become exceptional. We start to see God’s presence where it has always been. Everywhere. We can hear the still, small whisper. We can hear the Holy Spirit leading us into truth we have been learning for years but have not slowed enough to embrace.
I love Robert Fulghum’s book All I Really Need To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten–especially that particular essay. It reminds us there are basic principles that we forget over time. Things like playing fair, saying you’re sorry when you hurt somebody, cleaning up your own mess, not taking things that aren’t yours. These principles still apply in our adult lives. We’ve just made them complicated and sometimes near impossible to live out.
So, after hearing two or three thousand messages–some duplicates–I’m pretty sure I have enough to go on in following Jesus. Accessing stillness makes us realize that the “a-HA” moments are more plentiful than we originally thought.
Inspired by Jon Acuff’s post #750 “Thinking the church is not wisely spending your tithe” , I thought I’d write a note about one of my peeves: When pastors, church staff, and “poor people” have to explain or justify a purchase or experience because someone might think its extravagant. I was going to ask Jon to write something on it if he hadn’t already then I thought, “Duh, you have your own blog, Joni.” So Jon, if you’re reading this, feel no pressure to express my thoughts.
So, you hear that your pastor, church staffer or a “poor” friend just had an awesome dinner in one of the hottest restaurants in the city and then saw a high priced show. How about a brand new car? House? Vacation? What’s your first thought? Try some of these on for size: “That’s a little extravagant isn’t it?” “I’m sure they could have found a better way to spend that money.” “How much are we paying our pastor again?” “He/She shouldn’t be driving a car like that. He’s obviously not stewarding his/her money well.” And they/you will say “stewarding” because its more spiritual than saying “spending”.
I had a former pastor who took his wife to the Caribbean every other year for vacation while the church struggled to pay its bills. No one knew that another couple gifted a week in their timeshare every other year so the pastor could vacation with his wife and actually relax and reconnect. Another friend super burdened financially and medically yet they managed to move into a bigger home. Oh, did I mention her parent gifted them the house? Things aren’t always as they appear and there is usually that one bit of information that puts it into perspective.
Do we need to begrudge someone a new car? I’m kind of tired of Christian bumper stickers showing up on beater cars. Would love to see “My boss is a Jewish Carpenter” slapped onto the backside of a BMW or Mercedes. Well, then they’d get in trouble for buying a foreign car. But I digress.
Then there’s this thought. What if there were no logical or spiritual explanation to justify or defend a so-called extravagant expenditure? Gulp. What if they DID spend more then we thought reasonable? What if? How about SO WHAT? Is it really our business? Go deeper. Why don’t we want others to have or experience extravagance? What’s the problem with enjoying another’s good fortune? Is Romans 12:15 all that important?
I used to work in an office environment. This is the reason I cannot watch “The Office” television program. Flashbacks and PTSD. Anyway, I was the trainer for our administrative staff and occasionally, the sales staff on new forms, procedures, some technology etc. I can’t tell you how many times I would try to train a salesman on a new procedure and have him tell me it was stupid and that he was going to keep doing it his way anyway. At that point I had two options: 1. Agree with his attitude to avoid the conflict, then complain to the rest of the staff about the new procedure as well or 2. Stay positive, do my best to give the instruction, forward his feedback to my trainers. I chose #2.
Now in the above situation, I was the leader of the training but I had a leader over me who communicated the new procedure to me, why it was important, and how it would benefit both the sales staff and the company. My temptation was to avoid having to “fight” through the teaching so the salesman would still like me. My duty was to find the best way to communicate the benefits, encourage him to jump into unfamiliar territory, and be available for clarification. By choosing to follow my leader’s instructions, I could work through his fears and bring stability to the situation–which, by the way, is a better environment for learning. If I chose the, “yeah I know, but I’m supposed to teach you this stuff” route, I would have perpetuated division ending with our branch using two different systems. So, if I needed to train a new employee, I would have to teach them the current system and old system so they could function in either camp. Not good. I believe that’s called co-dependency–trying to keep everybody happy with you.
All this to say, if you are leading others in a vision passed along to you, follow your leader. Show respect. Do not undermine. If there are areas that truly aren’t working, don’t wallow and complain within your group or worse, to your customer! Take it back to your leader to evaluate and keep everyone working from the same page.
Hmm, sounds familiar. Have you ever had these things happen to you as a church volunteer? Certainly not in a church.
Been reading critics of churches with this or that music/environment, pastors who wear or don’t wear the right clothes, teachers who gesture too much, not enough or oddly. And some of the analogies are silly to me. Like the line from The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” We keep using these analogies but I don’t think they mean what we think they mean.
“If you were going to a formal dinner or a wedding, you would wear a suit and tie. Why do you(pastor) wear jeans at church?” — Church is not a formal dinner. Its a gathering of different people, in different places on their spiritual journey, with different tastes. If I’m overly concerned about someone’s wardrobe, I’m letting something stand in the way of my hearing a word from God. Pay attention to yourself. You’ll not have to answer for anyone else.
To be fair, I’m also tired of church people saying, “Jesus didn’t wear a suit and tie.” “Jesus wore sandals.” Duh. Pretty sure Armani was hard to find.
“We just don’t want to distract anyone from the message” — We can prepare and offer our best and still God will speak as He deems necessary to each one personally. Sometimes there are things you just have to let go. Obsessing over removing every little distraction is a distraction in itself.
I’m sure there’s more in my head but I’ve blathered on too long already. Perhaps another time.
Our kids are taught a new virtue each month in their Orchard Kids Wahabu class. This month the virtue is generosity. In combination with the grown up church, the kids are also learning about the clean water crises around the world. They talked in small group about what they could do to help whether it was give something from their piggy bank or maybe give up a Christmas gift and ask mom & dad to donate that money toward the clean water project.
So Doug gets a note from Maddie saying she would like to give up the Panda she was asking for and would we donate that money to the water project?
Of course we couldn’t have afforded the $60 Panda anyway but we will happily donate a portion of her Christmas gift budget.
I’m seriously ignoring my goal of floor cleaning by writing this morning. I just needed to get back to the blog. So, back to my title, “I love church”.
Had an awesome experience yesterday at church. Served this weekend in Wahabu Land (the land of God’s love) with the K-5th graders. I get to lead music once a month and yesterday, I got to have my two oldest kids up front with me. They did a good job. Maddie helping JD with the motions(correcting him mostly) but the kids seemed into the music and there were some new faces having a good time.
Then I got to go into the “big church” and listen to Scott‘s message. Since we have 3 services each weekend, I get to participate 3 times so by the third time, I sat down in the lobby with a pad of paper and pen. And had a serious brain dump. I wrote notes from the message as they hit me. I cleared my head of all the “to dos” and “need to gets”. About three pages worth I think. Serving in this way is kind of like Mom’s weekend out. I get some alone time, some extra music time, some friend time, some serve time, some pray time.
I started to just touch on a couple things from the message and yeah, I’m gonna have to do a separate post. You people don’t have that kind of time to read a super long post. More later. Or, you can check out the Orchard for podcasts. I highly recommend.
I wish I could hang out at our weekend gatherings more. Or would that be considered stalking? Can you stalk a church? Creepy.
Well here I am, coming up out of the water yesterday at my baptism. OK, my and 130+ others’ baptisms! What a great day. Kids had a ball on the huge inflatable slide, crawl-thru caterpillar, face painting and balloon creations. 5Bs BBQ laid out an awesome spread of BBQ chicken and pork chops. Ashton Gap provided some bluegrass for the day. The fabulous smile in the picture is that of Kathryn Egly, the Orchard‘s Children’s Ministry director accompanied by Ted Egly, one of our awesome teaching pastors. Just a very cool couple to get baptized by. Kathryn encouraged me when we first joined the Orchard to join Orchard Kids, leading worship for the little ones which eventually turned into my leading the K-5th grade kids in worship once a month.
I don’t know if I have processed it all in my head yet but my first reaction was, “Finally!” I’ve done what I wanted to do for years but didn’t think I was allowed or supposed to. Finally, I can bury the past and move forward. Finally, I can cheer on others as they are baptized without a twinge of “I wish I could…”
It was very cool to hear my kids cheer my name from across the pool and each one give me a huge hug. Some other kid notes…5 minutes before the baptism started, I was informed that JD had been lost for about 30 mins. Turns out he couldn’t find me(I went ahead with the other baptizees), couldn’t find Dad and ended up getting caught up in the crowd walking over to the water park. Thank you to Miss Michelle, one of his church teachers who knew him and kept an eye out until Dad arrived. Maddie told me she had a very good poop in the pool bathroom(after the baptism). And I got a big hug from Annaliese to which she exclaimed, “Mom you’re making me wet!” Special thanks to our friend Mike for taking the pictures while Doug & I were in the pool. I’m sure there will be a video up soon. Check in at the Orchard for that. All in all, not a bad day for a baptism.