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Archive for April, 2009

Humor and Holiness

Yesterday was Bright Sunday, and it rained all day! Nonetheless, we had a fun Risus Paschalis. And so far as I know, no one has labeled me a heretic, yet. I do think the folks who came on this typically “low Sunday” were glad to have come. They enjoyed the Easter Eggs in the pews and the jokes stuffed inside. In our traditional service, the organist picked some really fun music for the instrumentals. Our prelude was something of a fantasia on “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. The Offertory was something around the “Pink Panther” theme. It was so nice to see and hear people laughing in church, and just as good to hear the applause for the organist. It was just that kind of day.

After a bit of nap, the sponsors and I took the youth group to a Christian concert in Springfield. It was over an hour’s drive away, but it was really great; even better than I had expected. Though I had an enjoyable time with the kids, there is something to the idea that clergy need to find a community to worship with outside of the church they serve.  And though a Christian rock concert is not so much a church community as it is a worship moment, it was definitely a worship moment. I found myself going through so many emotions, starting with the sense of being transported back to age 20 again by the loud music, chest pounding beat and dark room with spotlighted stage. It made me remember being in college, single, and looking for love. Attractive singers fueled the feeling, and then I remembered that I am in my late 30s and married with two kids! Then I was wishing that my husband was there with me.

As the singers each gave a bit of testimony I was led to think about my relationships and the state of these. In this self examination I kept going back to my health, praying for healing and cure, and trying not to think about all the awful ways my life could end. But gradually I gave myself over to the message of the music and pulled myself away from darkness and doubt. Thoughts really do have a factor in our happenings and health. I couldn’t help but wonder if the forces of darkness that lurk in the human condition were trying to pull me away from the God I love. And then Bart Millard (MercyMe) said something that made my ears prick up. He said “We are not here to fix you. We don’t have the power to change your life, but we know who does…Jesus.” Well smack me in the head! Isn’t there something about being with thousands of Christians that makes you want to believe the Holy Spirit will come and do something miraculous? I don’t know about any one else, but I did feel a bit healed by the experience.

But there’s something else about music, energy and people of faith, and being a pastor who is more accustomed these days to leading worship than worshipping. It made me wish that I could have been at the concert either alone, or perhaps with my husband or best friend. The music got into my soul and started pushing things outward, which manifested in tears. I couldn’t stop them from coming; I could only try to keep them under a bit of control so that my sponsors and students wouldn’t freak out or ask too many questions that I don’t want to answer.  If I had felt free enough to really let the tears come I would have gone through an entire big box of tissues.

Even through all of the challenges of the last 3 years, I haven’t much cried. I attribute it to the lingering hormones of childbirth and breastfeeding. Now that my son is 4 and it’s been two years since he quit taking mom’s milk, the circumstances of life are beginning to bear on me. So the tears come on when I’ve been triggered. This is precisely why I try to avoid sad songs on pop radio, those break up songs, you don’t love me anymore, I’m so out of touch, etc. I get the feeling that if I were to find an experience of worship where I could be completely free that I would just turn to mush. I wouldn’t be able to stop the tears. And I’m beginning to wish for it. Tears are cathartic. They have chemical properties that really do make us feel better, and if I could just release a gully washer there would be release and healing. I’d like to take the top off the bottle and empty it so that it could be refilled with fresh, clean water.

The concert last night was a taste of holiness and the divine. Some of the visuals for the show were highway scenes and skylines that looked like Texas. I made me homesick for the Lone Star State. It made me homesick for how in love I was with God and the church when I lived there. I suspect that in order to get a sense of that feeling again I am going to have to find a way/make a way to worship without being the one leading worship. Maybe it is time for me to go back to serving at church camps. It’s been over ten years since I last did a real week long camp. It’s been more than ten years since I had a week in which I was outdoors every night looking at the stars for as long as I wanted. That is what is really missing.

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We chose VBS curriculum the other night. We’ve decided to use the Mennonite curriculum, which was a VTS Top Pick. While it doesn’t have the flash and splash of some of the other publishing houses, we’ve decided that it works for us and we can add our own decorative touches.

It just drives me crazy to see how much rampant commercialism there is in VBS programs. You start with a preview pack that costs $100 – $300 and then you add in all the “must-haves” to support the program: pre-packaged crafts, daily trinkets, t-shirts, banners, costumes, decorations, game materials and so on. By the time you’re done you’ve spent more in one week than you did for the rest of the year. And I’m not convinced that all the trappings make the kids learn any better. I rather think that the kids remember the cartoon characters but not the substance of the lessons. Plus all that stuff may put performance anxiety on adults who would otherwise be really good models and mentors for kids.
Sure it’s fun to be silly or to have a fun theme around which to wrap a series of lessons, but at the end of the week, isn’t it more important that the kids connected with adults and kids they’d like to continue to be in relationship with and with whom they can share their growing faith?
The best comment we received from our teachers last year was how much they appreciated having time to do a real Bible lesson with their group, and that they had a full 30 minutes for each activity instead of just 20 minutes and an incomplete project.
I say, let’s have fun at Bible School, but let’s learn something too. And while we’re at, can we make some lasting friends?

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Easter Tuesday

I haven’t posted in so long! The last couple of weeks have marked two years since my cranial surgery! Praise God I am here to celebrate. My Mom & Dad came up to visit for Holy Week which ended rather abruptly with their departure after lunch on Easter Sunday. No it wasn’t anything I said; it was their busy social calendar. They had places to be on Wednesday and needed two days to drive home.

We had two baptisms and 1 confirmation on Sunday. It was really lovely to see my students making their faith commitments with mentors, parents and family looking on. And the young children had a ball with our first Easter Egg Hunt in the church yard. Thanks again to God for the beautiful weather that allowed us to conduct the hunting outside. I’m pretty sure that many of our families would not have come during the Sunday School hour had it not been for the Egg Hunt. And since the teens were putting it on, they were there too. What a great day! And of course, worship was beautiful and the communion bread had been baked by the Pastor’s Class, so it was even more special for them.

So now we turn to the coming Sunday. You may have seen back in my blog at this time last year I preached a Holy Humor Sunday sermon, and I plan to do it again. Only this time we’re taking it a bit further and I’m putting Easter Eggs in the pews. The eggs will have jokes in them to help continue the celebration of the Easter laugh. I’ll figure some way to work in my limerick too. That was such a funny gift of a dream, too good.

So much happeing all at once. I have a meeting tonight, but nothing for Wednesday or Thursday night, and Friday night just opened up too. I might actually make it through this week with some good family time. Now I’ve just got to get back to finishing those tax documents. Yikes, that will have to come after my evening meeting. Zippy dooo!

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