Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Church Ladies Rock

On Sunday, I attended an afternoon worship service for the dedication of a new church building. A friend of mine serves as pastor, and what a building! They did not renovate the sanctuary...the built a brand new building for classrooms, daycare, offices...but the most impressive part, I mean, the part that made me drool was their kitchen! Oh, the work table! Oh, the refrigerator! Oh, the warming thing-amajig! I know the amount of food that goes out of our church kitchen, so of course, I was thinking to myself, "Just imagine what WE could do with this kitchen!"

But, the part of the kitchen that inspired me the most was the group the church ladies working it! They were refilling punch bowls, putting out fresh trays of goodies, refreshing cookie plates - and being friendly and charming the entire time. And, you know, I could go into almost any church and find a core of church ladies who do the same thing.

In fact, I think of the church ladies I knew growing up - my grandmothers and my great aunts were church ladies. Then, there was Nettie, who was a brave church lady who worked with the youth. There was Joyce who sang in the choir. There was Kathy who took care of my sister and me once when my dad got really sick and had to go to the hospital. I think about the church ladies I know now - they just know how to 'do' and then they do it. Do you know what I mean?

There is an art to being a church lady. If you are going to be any good at it, you have to love being at your church. Seriously - you cannot get all mad because you're not at home on your couch. You have to be willing to serve even when you get no recognition or attention. You have to have a flair for something - cooking, table decorations, compassion, service, conversation...and if you don't have that kind of flair, be an organizer and delegate, delegate, delegate.

All of those church ladies on Sunday were so happy with their new kitchen. But, I could have swapped them out with the church ladies in my church or the church ladies from my youth, and the result would have been the same...a roomful of people eating, sharing stories, laughing...and a Table that just keeps getting refilled.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

God just keeps showing up

Every now and again, I get together with a couple of other local ministers for lunch. We catch up on our families and the changes that time always brings to those we love. We talk about our churches - things that are working well and things that we wish we could do better. There is a lot of experience sitting around the lunch table, and it is a gift to be able to share in it.

Last time we met, we talked a little about this movement in evangelical Christianity towards monastic things. Apparently, Christians are turning by droves to the monasteries to learn how to pray and how to build scripture into their lives...and how to make a connection to God. We wondered what the church is missing for its own members to turn elsewhere for a "God thing." One could make any number of arguments about that, but what struck me about our conversation was our own longing to make a deeper connection with God. Where, as leaders, do WE turn for a spiritual booster shot? Where do WE turn for prayer and ongoing spiritual companionship - the honest kind, the kind where you don't have to keep your guard up, the kind where you can freely admit your own failures and shortcomings? Sometimes, leading is really lonely. We talked about options and practices, and I am still trying to figure out the answers to all of those things.

But, one thing I know for sure. Even though I want more depth in my prayer life, God just keeps showing up. God does not seem to base divine presence on my spiritual prowess. That is a good thing.

For example, this morning, I was getting ready to go to church - to our homecoming service, which for a variety of reasons, is the most stressful service of the entire church year for me. But, I looked at my cat, Lola. Pretty little Lola. Her markings are gorgeous. Her eyes are gorgeous. She is just a beautiful, beautiful cat. Surely God had a lot of fun making her - watching her play made we wonder about the creative enthusiasm that God must use to approach this world.

Then, I got to church. The bell ringers showed up early to practice. The hospitality team had already spent yesterday setting up. It was raining, and the Sunday school teachers still pulled up to teach. Commitment like that is not the first response in human nature - it is something that God sparks inside of us.

The service ended. The meal took place, and then I came home, closed my eyes, and fell asleep for a little while. Rest is such a wonderful gift from God.

Now, as I drink a cup of coffee, I remember again that God comes to us in many, many ways. Some people are a lot better at noticing. Some people have developed the habit to notice when God just keeps showing up. It is my prayer that God can become as much of a habit for me as is my daily dose of caffeine.