Little things matter. Along the way you discover they weren't so little after all.

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English: An old Methodist church, a week after...

English: An old Methodist church, a week after its last worship service, in Ceylon, Minnesota. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t been to a show in a few years. But when I’ve gone I’ve been surprised at the similiarities between a good concert and some of the music portions of church services (Evangelical, Protestant bigger size church services to be more specific).

Smoke machine – check.

Light show – check.

High decibel level – check.

Well-trained, talented musicians – check.

Depending on the church you go to, people may or may not have their hands in the air, but at the shows I’ve been to, you can believe they do and there will be boisterous singing along, responding to the music and the promptings of the band.

There are times when emotions run high at concerts, so much so that tears stream down people’s faces, for a myriad of reasons. That’s been known to happen in a few services as well, although it is more seldom at my church.

We are in Minnesota, after all, and some emotions are better left unexpressed. Well, most emotions.

That’s a stereotype, but there are times when I get frustrated at church because it seems like we don’t feel free to engage the music or the worship leaders or the One we’re there to worship in the first place. But you put a bunch of Minnesotans at First Ave (a famous concert venue up here) and they’ll rip up the place with their enthusiasm.

Where’s that passion on Sunday morning?

Not everyone worships the same way. I get that. Music isn’t everyone’s “thing” and that’s okay. But when people remain stoic and unresponsive for the entire.worship.service. then they ought to be sitting in a board meeting for all the passion they’re showing.

Because worship isn’t only tied to music.

It is in fellowship.

It is in the message.

It is in serving.

And if people remain unmoved and unresponsive to all these facets of worship, they miss out on an opportunity to interact with a God who is active, moving, responsive and engaged.

What ways of worship come most naturally to you? Are you part of a church and if so, what kind of worshipping body is it? Finally, been to any good concerts lately?

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This is part of a linkup with LIsa-jo Baker and her Five Minute Friday. We get the word prompt, set the timer, and write for five minute. No editing. No perfectionism. Just write for the sheer joy and fun or writing. Anyone is invited so join in any time. Here’s her site: http://lisajobaker.com


I’m loving these Five Minute Fridays. Each week, Lisa-Jo Baker (http://lisajobaker.com) chooses a word prompt and people write unedited for five minutes flat. The idea is for me to get out of my own way and just write without the burden of perfection. It’s been fun to meet other bloggers and see the different ways people go with the prompt. Anyone can be a part of the action, so maybe you want to try and link up sometime soon?

Five Minute Friday

Courage

Courage (Photo credit: Pete Reed)

Prompt: Brave

One of my friends, a curly-haired henna head, is a gifted artist and performer. She says and does things that other people would never dream of doing. For her, it is no big deal to get in front of people and say outrageous things that are both hilarious and inappropriate (maybe that’s why they are so funny?).

Another friend is quiet and reserved. She serves behind the scenes and avoids any extra attention. She’s thoughtful and considerate.

What might send my one friend thrills of excitement would send my other friend to the bathroom with dry heaves.

Here is a good general principle I’ve found: what is a brave step for one person is easily accomplished before breakfast for someone else. Courage comes when you push past fear to do the thing that scares you.

Putting the pen to paper may be a huge step of bravery for one person.

Saying aloud the question they’ve had in their minds may be that step for someone else.

Just opening a search for a new job may be a huge act of faith, regardless of whether an interview is ever secured.

For me, today, my act of bravery is to say aloud that as a Christian, I do not have all the answers. I’m starting to think that the Bible might not have something literal to say about every single aspect of the nuances of modern life.

I do not feel comfortable with the representation the loudest voices are making on my behalf.

I’m tired of hearing about “speaking the truth in love” to people with whom there is no relationship, which would give the slightest responsibility to speak that truth.

I’m tired of the Church being a force of marginalization, polarization and alienation.

I want to be a source of absurd grace, which I truly see in the example of Jesus. So why does it feel like an act of bravery to say that out loud? Maybe it is because the Church only lets grace apply to certain areas of life and not others. Maybe there is an unspoken understanding that there really is a hierarchy of sins, and that some acts are worse than others. So your act of homosexuality, abortion or being a female leader takes up more of the apparently exhaustible bounty of Christ’s grace than my selfishness, envy or gossip. Don’t bogart the grace, man. Is that really what we believe? Cause that’s what it looks like. God’s love is not a limited commodity.

Whew. Well, that came out of nowhere! Thanks for letting me share from the heart. Apparently this is what happens when I silence my inner editor/censor. Putting this out into the world really does scare me, but I am being brave today, hoping we can start a respectful conversation.

What is your reaction to this post? Do you have opinions or feelings about “absurd grace” or the idea of a hierarchy of sins? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. And as always, thanks for reading! 


This post is part of Five Minute Friday, a link up through www.lisajobaker.com . If you’re here as a part of it, hello! and thanks for stopping by! You can find out more on her website, but here’s a quick summary of what Five Minute Friday is:

It started because I’d been thinking about writing and how often our perfectionism gets in the way of our words. And I figured, why not take 5 minutes and see what comes out: not a perfect post, not a profound post, just five minutes of focused writing.

Today’s prompt is the word Friend.

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I’ve been the new girl a lot. Growing up we moved a few times (nothing compared to a military brat – those kids have it hard) and not always at easy transition points.  Even saying that, though, I realize that over time I’ve adopted the role of being the new girl as part of my historical identity, and that has given me a gift, whether I was the new girl all that much or not.

My gift?

Girls Going to High School Dance

Aren’t we fancy with our 1990’s hair?

Making friends.

I don’t mind making new friends.

And being someone who has had to make new friends has given me an eye for being the new girl.

I notice it a lot at church.

The things people take for granted at church are astounding. If you are the new girl at a church, you probably don’t know the layout of the building, therefore signs or lables are very helpful. Friendly greeters or people with a girft of saying hello are extremely helpful. It’s important to cultivate an environment of hospitality. (Am I supposed to take communion if I accidentally come when it is being served? Do you guys charge for donuts and will I get the cold stare if I don’t put a quarter in your little wicker basket?) Use terminology that everyone can understand.

Church friends can be the best friends because they share a common value of investing in spiritual life and making time for it each week. On the flip side, churches have cliques just like high schools, and coming into a new church can be an intimidating experience.

Do you have an eye for what new people see when they enter your church or place of worship? Is it a place where new people feel welcomed?

Old church building in Charlotte, TN


Hosanna!

Hosanna! (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

Update: In the original post, I neglected to mention some important information! This blog post is part of a link-up for faith, art and life. To find other blogs that are participating, logon to Twitter and search the Twitter hashtag #faithartlife. There are bound to be a lot of great posts, and I think you’ll be encouraged to discover new bloggers for whom faith is an intricate part of life and art. 

My family and I go to a large church in a northern suburb of the Twin Cities. I mean LARGE. And they’ve got great, dynamic, creative kids programming that all my children love being a part of.

But they don’t have Palm Sunday.

At least, they don’t have Palm Sunday the way I had it as a child.

Do you remember?

Remember finally getting to wear the special shoes your mom wouldn’t let you wear unless you were on a rug or carpeted area, even though they were so pretty with their little strap and tiny latch and shiny gold lining?

Remember the fancy dress you got to wear with the lace trim that made it extra-specially special? Maybe it had a petticoat or crinoline if you were really lucky?  And you didn’t mind the buttons and how long you had to stand still while someone else buttoned them, as if you were doing them a favor by holding still for so long, rather than seeing what an act of love their buttoning was.

And remember the palm branches the kids all got to wave as they walked through the sanctuary?

“Hosanna, hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

You got to sing

and walk down the aisles

and be the center of attention

English: Description: Left Apsis: Jesus enteri...

English: Description: Left Apsis: Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Fresco in the Parish Church of Zirl, Austria. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and wave your palm branch

and wave at your parents

and hit your neighbor in the eye with your palm branch,

then try to explain how it was an accident,

then get pushed away by the injured party,

then forget the self control you promised your mother you’d remember and push the one-eyed kid back, just a little bit,

then wave your palm branch vigorously to cover the rude faces you and the kids were now making at each other while standing on the platform in front of the entire congregation.

Afterwards, you’d get to bring your palm branch home, a small piece of greenery to get your through the rest of the Minnesota snowscape, which may or may not be gone by the time you want to look for your Easter basket seven days later. Nothin’ says spring like going on an Easter egg hunt in your parka and snow pants.

Remind me why my church doesn’t do Palm Sunday like we used to when I was little? Oh that’s right, because the grown-ups finally came to their senses.

Disclaimer: Even though it doesn’t sound like it in this post, I really do miss Palm Sunday for the kids. It was a great part of the rhythm of church life, and even though it was sometimes disorderly and had potential for chaos to break out at any moment, it was a time when the adults and children in the church got to share a moment together. And those moments are precious…even if they are messy. 

This is what it looks like in late March, 2013 in Minnesota.

This is late March, 2013, in Minnesota. Happy Spring!


At our church two weeks ago during a sermon, the pastor lost me. It wasn’t because he was expounding on a difficult theological concept. It was because he put his hand behind his head and moved his hand in the sign for talking too much. He conveyed his illustration of a different sermon point with the idea that women talk too much. I was so mad, I didn’t hear anything else he said.

Last weekend I was at my friend’s cabin with a bunch of women and there was a lot of talking. But beyond the normal range of catching up and visiting, a few of the women seemed to dominate the conversation. As in, they got started and would even talk OVER one another.

When I take my scrapbook stuff away from home, this is how I roll.

When I take my scrapbook stuff away from home, this is how I roll.

One night, all I could do was get in a smart aleck comment every so often because they

couldn’t.

stop.

talking.

They wore me right out.

So is the pastor wrong?

Do women talk too much?

Some men talk a lot. That seems to be okay. Does it really matter if some women talk a lot?

Not all women talk a lot And because Christian culture has traditionally been repressive of women, it would be hard to err to far into letting women have a voice.

The pastor, because of his position, is presumed Erik Bergman (1886-1970), parish minister, fat...as an example of the viewpoint of his church. If he makes a sarcastic remark in his sermon, this is counted as the church’s position on women: they talk too much. How’s that for a first impression on a visitor? His comment was belittling and condescending to women. It may have been in jest, but he went too far when he made it about all women rather than making it specifically about one woman, ie. his wife (like that’s not a cliché that hasn’t been beaten into the ground — get some new material in that joke book, please.).

My weekend with my friends may have been a non-stop jabberflappy lip-fest, but we had a lot of catching up to do and a limited amount of time in which to do it. We had to talk fast to get it all in! And these chatty women don’t always talk that extensively. This get-away was a safe space to share freely about our lives and what’s been going on.

If that pastor’s opinion is that his wife talks too much, then he should take it up with her. He should not blanket an entire gender because of the traits of one person. And he certainly should not use the pulpit to put down women, who do so much for the church and the people in it. If he was trying to be funny, it was an epic fail. And it pains me to think that someone was visiting and went away thinking that was the church’s position towards women.

…unless that position was accurate, which would force me to become the women’s advocate at that church, because Christ never went out of his way to silence women. If anything, He was about including and validating women. The Church as a whole needs to get it together and acknowledge the vital role women already play. And then it needs to pass out new joke books to all the speaking pastors.


It is cool this morning, the air is dry, and there is a subtle scent that has me thinking that even if the calendar didn’t say it was the middle of August, I would still know that autumn is on the way. My sweetie has been saying it is the end of summer since July, though, so I’ve been resisting and trying to be the summer optimist.

My family is in for a serious reality check this fall. Over the past year, we’ve had very few things regularly scheduled in our lives. I homeschooled my oldest son, my middle son did a few days of preschool, and our youngest, our daughter, just hung out and did whatever the rest of us did. Even this summer, my husband and I chose not to sign up the kids for many activities, for a few different reasons: we wanted to be free to spend time at the family cabin, we were just getting settled into a new house and town, we don’t want to be the parents that schedule every waking moment for our kids…and we missed most of the deadlines in the spring!

A few weeks ago, however, I wished we had more structured outlets for the kids. There was one five day period when they were all crabby and difficult, which made me feel crabby and irritated. I realized then that there is a certain amount of schedule that helps define a summer, helps punctuate it and make it flow. Of course families who sign up their kids for multiple clubs or sports also have times when their kids are ornery too, but they have more times when they don’t have to hear it since their kids are off doing something else with somebody else. There’ve been times when I wished for that this summer, if I’m totally honest. But shhhh, ’cause I’m not supposed to say that out loud.

As we get ready to start life with a 2nd grader and kindergartener (the preschooler hasn’t gone anywhere, but we aren’t sure if she’ll attend a program or not), we want to be purposeful about which activities we enroll the kids in. There are so many things available for kids to do these days, and they’d probably have a great time in any number of them. But we’re trying to look towards the future, and not get ourselves committed to something we’ll regret later.

Let’s take sports, for instance. What if we sign up our oldest for hockey this winter? Do I ever want to see my baby get checked up against the boards by a boy twice his size? That sounds like a really stupid idea! But what if he tries it and likes it? I had a brother who played hockey growing up, and I’m familiar with the sharp smell of indoor ice rinks and the smell of stinky hockey equipment cluttering up the laundry room. And football doesn’t seem much better, without even bringing up the expense of the required equipment.

It’s not only sports that we’re thinking about. In an attempt to raise well-rounded children, we also want them to be involved in music (a high priority for me, especially). Do we automatically start them on piano? Then I’ll have to draw them a keyboard on the dining room table, ’cause we don’t have a piano, nor do we intend to purchase one. (Do they have indestructible, outdoor pianos?) Then there’s the mid-week church activities, not to mention all the after-school clubs they offer these days. We could already choose between chess, Legos, science, cooking, art, and even more “enrichment” activities.

How does one choose? That’s where you come in, Dear Reader. I have my own ideas, but I’d love to hear your words of wisdom, as my family enters the world of elementary school schedules, and grooming my children to take over the world. How do you pick between “the better” and “the best” for your family? Post your comment so I can come back and blame you when I’m stressed out from driving my kids all over the place! Ha! I’ll need somebody to be the scapegoat.

My Children's Musical Future



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