Tag Archives: Church

Loony the Lamb

For years I celebrated holidays by directing church musicals. One fateful Easter I chose Watch the Lamb, which focused on Jesus as the Lamb of God. A live lamb would make the ancient story come alive.

During rehearsals, the cast greeted our lamb with enthusiasm.

Church janitors did not. “Do something before that animal pees all over — or worse.”

Why hadn’t I considered this minor complication? Especially as the lamb made entrances down different aisles. Most Passover lambs in 30 A.D. did not wear Pampers®

 What other option existed?

God provided the perfect solution: we would cover the stage and church aisles with the burlap-like backside of my recently discarded carpet.

However, God didn’t send angels to cut, arrange and duct tape the carpet throughout the sanctuary. After two unspiritual, aching-knee days, all my bases were covered. No worries now, right?

Wrong.

Loony the Lamb had his own ideas about entrances and exits. A hay bale helped keep him quiet, but for obvious reasons, we avoided feeding him too much.

The 60-member cast’s noise made Loony more nervous than your Aunt Nellie. Kids petted him without mercy. Bright lights and heat caused him to hyperventilate. During dress rehearsal, Loony the Lamb collapsed onstage in a wooly, quivering heap.

Watch the Lamb? No audience would want to watch this.

Two animal lovers carried the prostrate lamb outside while we prayed — and Loony recovered. One guy built a pen outside the stage door where our prima donna cropped grass between scenes. Visiting hours were restricted, with no autographs. We did everything but paint a star on Loony’s gate.

Thankfully, he showed no new signs of cardiac arrest. His brassy baaaaa erupted only once during performances — during solemn prayer after the crucifixion.

Our ingenious actors shifted and blocked escape routes, all the while looking very holy.

One child earned my special appreciation: “Loony was peein’ on my foot the whole time Jesus was on the cross, but I didn’t say nothin’.”

Even after Loony returned home, I couldn’t shake off sheep. Scriptures about lambs leaped from the Bible’s pages. Jesus frequently called his followers His sheep. After Watch the Lamb, I figured He didn’t mean it as a compliment.

Nevertheless, the King of Heaven volunteered to take on the title “Lamb of God” — what God in His right mind would do that?

Only a King who loves confused, clueless sheep more than His own life.

Even one dithery pageant director named Rachael — which means “lamb.”

 

Have you participated in a pageant/play that taught you more than you expected?

 

 

 

 

Confessions of an Ex-director

Once calendars change to December 1, airport authorities turn their attention from averting terrorists to halting the escape of Christmas program directors. Many seek asylum in remote jungles. The most desperate sign up for space shuttle flights.

Why this seasonal exodus? Until Advent, optimistic directors delude themselves that Christmas program rehearsals are going well. Yet choirs have forgotten their music every week. Sixth-grade clarinet players blow the wrong end.

With a turn of the calendar page to December, however, …

Christmas program directors run screaming from holly wreaths and The Salvation Army bell ringers.

Experts say victims of this psychosis, like Grandma, were obviously run over by reindeer. Which explains why anyone would become a Christmas program director in the first place.

The real drama begins when soloists and speaking roles are chosen.  Most Nativity plays include only one Mary, and 49 hopeful candidates — backed by 49 equally hopeful mothers — eye the role. Choosing an Infant Jesus from the cute babies in a nursery is a task no Middle East negotiator should tackle.

Amidst controversy, enter the Advent flu. …

It never picks off a candy cane who speaks one line. No. This deadly illness wipes out leads and entire tenor sections. The Annunciation loses something when a nauseous-looking Gabriel delivers his lines holding a barf bag.

Standing defenseless before hacking, germy choirs, instrumentalists and casts, the courageous director battles a shower of viruses unmatched anywhere in the universe.

But by law, directors are not permitted to die during Advent. So, gulping remedies and popping pills, they face weeks of practices. It is said there are no atheists in foxholes. This also holds true during Christmas program dress rehearsals.

Finally, the Big Day arrives …

… and the cast stuns the director with an incredible performance. They were actually listening when she begged them to warm up horns, annunciate words and not pick their noses.

To be sure, no production escapes imperfection. The angels suffer from static cling. Joseph still doesn’t know how to sit while wearing a dress. And as Wise Men and Shepherds adore the Baby, a borrowed donkey leaves offerings on the hay-strewn floor.

But flawed performances only remind leaders that the original event took place with no rehearsals, except in the Mind of God. And as weary directors everywhere breathe a deep sigh of relief and shelve Christmas music until next August, no one needs to tell them Christmas miracles still happen today.

Have you ever led or participated in a Christmas program? What moment would you most like to forget?

Nursery Duty: Grandma’s Fix

nursery-569199_640My husband and I enjoy volunteering in our church nursery.

I did not feel so positive when I endured 24/7 baby duty because of Steve’s busy medical practice. Our mean babies eventually morphed into nice human beings, but began their lives eager to destroy mine. The little insomniacs suffered from 13 kinds of colic.

People who told me to “enjoy these years — they pass so quickly” were removed from my Christmas card list.

Church nursery duty became a purgatory where diaper duty multiplied a dozen times over.

My ex-Christmas-card correspondents, however, proved correct.  My nestlings flew away to give birth to mean babies of their own. At least, so say their parents.

I, however, have grown in wisdom, now recognizing perfection. I just don’t get to hold it enough.

toddler-boy-1397818_640So I get a “grandma fix” in the church nursery. There, Steve and I are surrounded with bright eyes, dimpled elbows, and plump baby toes like rows of June peas.

“Waaaaaaaah!” Several small charges do not feel so positive.

Steve and I introduce them to the sacred ritual of fellowship (translation: “eating”). Cheerios aren’t nearly as yummy as the official adult version of fellowship (doughnuts), but sufficient to dry tears. One upset toddler speaks a language I studied long ago, but don’t remember. Eventually Steve solves the mystery: we served her Cheerios in a paper cup; other nursery workers had placed them on a paper towel. When he brings her one, a brilliant smile rewards him.

A family doctor for decades, Steve is good with babies. At 6’3”, he appears a bearded giant, so he sits on the floor to play trucks or tea party. One tiny girl plops onto his lap. She recognizes a grandpa when she sees one.

His eyes light up, and he’s in love. I don’t mind, though she is young and beautiful.

We hug, kiss and play. We read, rock, referee … and rescue. Why do engineers spend thousands of hours designing machines of perpetual motion when a church nursery outshines them all? Darling munchkins crawl, whirl, fight, giggle, pile, knock down, throw, grab and climb.

A mother appears, and one cutie erupts with joy, setting off a stampede. Fortunately, more parents soon show up. A large, unclaimed toddler saves his worst for last: a diaper that could empty the church. My nursery-warrior husband braves disaster and presents him clean and sweet-smelling to his folks.

Suddenly, the nursery is still. Our wild, wonderful little friends have gone home to long afternoon naps.

But none as long as ours.

baby-hand1856370_640Have you ever served in a nursery? What was your most memorable baby moment?

Living in God’s House

If asked my address as a six-year-old, I would have answered, “I live in God’s house.”

After missionary service, my family lived in two back rooms of our home church. We children didn’t know we were homeless and nearly penniless. Jesus, our invisible Best Friend, had invited us to stay with Him, like we did with cousins. Boy, were we lucky!

My mother, who made a home for us, no matter where we lived

My mother, who made a home for us, no matter where we lived

Our mother, having recently delivered her fourth child, might not have regarded this sojourn in God’s house so positively. Her life consisted of endless hundred-yard dashes to the restrooms located in the church’s foyer, kids hanging from her skirts. We took baths at sympathetic neighbors’.

My parents and baby brother slept in one room. The other contained a tiny kitchen, table and chairs, and a built-in wooden bed, where my preschool brother and I slept. Our toddler sister slept on a sofa pushed against it. The sofa’s curved back made a great slide. Every morning my brother and I zoomed down upon our sister in a glorious tangle of arms and legs.

Church trash cans hid treasures. After a wedding, my mother found discarded blue netting and made a glamorous dress for my doll.

“We’ll just steal this,” she’d said, laughing. She thought no more about it — until I told wide-eyed parishioners we stole church stuff.

The sanctuary proved the best perk. Our parents forbade us children to linger there after bathroom runs.  But exploring the sanctuary alone, we gained a kindergarten sense of the holy.

Sometimes I sat quietly and watched sunlight streaming into the huge, echo-y room. God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. Though I didn’t know the Bible verse, I absorbed that truth in those serene, stolen moments.

The sanctuary gave us creative ideas. “If we filled up the baptistery, we could take baths there,” I suggested to Dad. “It would make a great swimming pool, too!”

He disagreed. But unknown to Dad, my brother and I walked along its narrow edge, pretending we were tightrope walkers.

We also discovered mysterious, shiny tubes inside the organ. I spread small hands gently over the piano’s keys, imagining myself playing God’s songs, like Mom.

We found free chewing gum stuck under the pews! Sadly, Mom did not recognize God’s miracle of provision. She made us spit it out.

My own children did not live like gypsies. My kids experienced unborrowed bathtubs, doll clothes that weren’t swiped from trash, and soft gum imprinted with no one else’s teeth. As a mom, I am thankful for such blessings.

Still, I would not trade those irreverently reverent days living in God’s house.

 

How did where you lived as a child influence you?

Silly Song Syndrome

BrainyNotesMusic exerts a profound effect on me. Not surprising, as my family sang songs of faith on all occasions. I distinctly remember strains of “God Works in Mysterious Ways” sung around my cradle upon arrival home from the hospital. …

Musical or not, 99.783 percent of humans are susceptible to a mysterious melody malady that defies both art and science. No research has yet produced an effective cure for Silly Song Syndrome, or SSS. At the disease’s onset, a motif or musical phrase appears, repeats itself, then overruns the brain. The National Center for Disease Control reports this virus acts like audio poison ivy. Once it spreads, 24/7 itching sets in, which sufferers cannot scratch.

Unbelievably, our culture fosters the growth of SSS. We, who supposedly value our children, provide toys that encourage destructive repetition. These high-tech days, when an infant pukes on his teddy, it sings “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” in Spanish, French and Chinese. Three hundred and four times each.

Or until a parent flushes the batteries.

Educational authorities claim children need repetition to learn. Oh, please. How many times did you drill your child before she could sing the Viagra jingle to your minister?

The SSS problem is rooted in the past. Remember the songs we Boomers learned? Why didn’t at least one of our brilliant generation compose alternative words to “There’s a Hole in My Bucket,” non-repetitive lyrics in which dear Liza threw the singer, the song and his stupid leaky bucket into a deep, deep well?

Even classical musical exposure cannot counteract SSS. I play it almost daily, yet do you think the “Hallelujah Chorus” or “Gloria” fill my thoughts? No, “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I’ve Got Love in My Tummy” takes over my central nervous system every time.

Sundays prove particularly traumatizing. Once I awoke not with “Amazing Grace” looping in my mind, but “Barbara Manatee,” as sung by a neurotic cucumber named Larry. It is my least favorite from the Veggie Tales DVD I purchased for my grandchildren — and my husband, who requested it for his birthday. In this seemingly harmless tune, an obsessive manatee with a quavering soprano longs to attend a ball, but her love interest cannot dance.

Exactly what I want to consume my thoughts as I enter church to worship God.

Immediately, I counter by feeding my brain a mind-drilling gem from my college years: “Give me gas in my Ford, keep me truckin’ for the Lord.” Despite its commercial side, this ditty was somewhat spiritual.

It beat the heck out of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

Having read this, what song will assault your consciousness for a year? If not, how did you get rid of it?