Tag Archives: Church

Church Lady Complications

Image by Barbara Jackson from Pixabay.

Sunday, when I worship Christ with His family and grow in my faith, is my favorite day of the week. However, even a confirmed church lady occasionally experiences a Sunday that makes her wish it was Monday.

Those tough Sundays happened more frequently during my years as a church music director.

One unholy morning, my pastor met me at the door. He’d changed his sermon topic on the way to church. Would I please restructure the service in five minutes? Thank you.

Half the choir music had disappeared. Who steals church choir music?

The regular accompanist had left on vacation. Our substitute struggled, but she played loud to make up for it. During practice, I sneaked a signal to our young sound man, Dylan. Turn the piano down.

Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay.

I fastened a microphone to my lapel and hung its little black box on my waistband. Dylan usually did a good job, but this morning, the sound system hated us both. After squawking and squeaking sound checks, I quickly made a restroom stop before heading downstairs to warm up the choir. Without warning, the microphone leaped from my lapel and dove into the toilet, followed by the clunk of the little black box.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay.

I screamed, clearing the restroom of primping churchgoers.

Did I really have to fish the mic out of the toilet?

Ewww. …

Its green power light no longer shone. I wiped the microphone with a dampened paper towel, then tried to dry it. As I headed to the sound booth, I pasted on a toothpaste-ad smile and avoided shaking hands.

Dylan was also a church board member. What could I say?

In a microsecond, I evaluated my fib files. None came close to explaining this.

I held out the still-damp, $200 device. “Dylan, I dropped the mic in the toilet. I’m sorry.”

He stared, then whipped around to test a second mic. “Hurry! Service starts soon.”

No threats of dragging me before the Inquisition. Or the budget committee.

Image by Valerie from Pixabay.

The little green light on this second mic shone like a candle of compassion. I rewired myself, incredulous at his forbearance.

Decades later, I remember that complicated Sunday, when I wished with all my heart it was Monday.

Thanks to a fellow Christian’s maturity, not so unholy, after all.

Image by BenteBoe from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever experienced a complicated Sunday?

Super Swooper Versus Small-Time Heroes

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay.

Do you also wish a superhero would swoop down and fly you to a beach where sunshine is the only butt-warmer needed?

My Super Swooper hasn’t appeared. Still, throughout my life, small-time heroes have popped up like crocuses through snow.

My family was staying in a church’s back rooms with no bathing facilities. Mom’s friend shared her old-fashioned bathtub, making the world a less stinky place.

Unknown drivers pulled over 1950s Chevys to give my young father rides to work.

As a preschooler, I pilfered a necklace from Etta, the Church Lady. Mom forced my confession before Etta and God. Both pardoned me. Later, Etta gave me a necklace of my very own.

A preacher gave me a Hershey bar and told me I could sing.

Serious hero points go to children’s education leaders who kept straight faces and saved mine. Assured any scripture memorization qualified for a prize, I recited Song of Solomon passages. Unknown to me, they weren’t about palm trees and goats.

As a teen driver, I smashed a pastor’s car, yet he maintained his religion.

Image by RitaE from Pixabay.

At my first job, I dumped salads with French dressing on a lady wearing a white suit. She waved off my tearful apology: “No problem. I have six kids.”

A college student, I worked summer nights in a rough Western town. The cook drank coffee out front, wearing a snarl no cowboy challenged. “If anybody hassles you, I’ll break ’em in two.”

Less menacing, a couple with small children picked up my boyfriend and I for church every week.

Despite my future in-laws’ visions of a marital Titanic, they supported our wedding during medical school.

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay.

Other small-time heroes zoomed in:

An unemployed couple slid 10 dollars under our door.

A child brightened my tough workday by saying I was pretty.

A stranger, concerned about my pregnancy, pushed my shopping cart and unloaded groceries.

A snowplow operator cleared our driveway, with homemade bread for payment.

I’d asked a Burger King counterperson to reheat cold fries. Upon hearing I’d been dieting and hoped to enjoy a treat, she handed me smoking-hot replacements.

A young college student carried this old adult student’s backpack up three flights of stairs.

A grouchy, nonfiction editor didn’t throw me out for mistakenly pitching fiction to her at 8:00 a.m. She ultimately published several of my pieces.

Image by shahbazshah91 from Pixabay.

A writing friend grabbed me before I entered an important meeting wearing a Chiquita banana sticker on my power-suited butt.

All these and more have rescued me. I can’t count how many times my family has saved me.

Who needs Super Swooper, anyway?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Who are your small-time heroes?

Classic Post: Loony the Lamb

This post first appeared on April 12, 2017.

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.” It meant daily life with stupid sheep and deadly encounters with wolves in sheep’s clothing. 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, BTW, means “lamb.”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever participated in a pageant/play that taught you more than you expected?

Um, This Is Church?

First, we were advised not to go to church. Then forbidden to go.

What?

I’ve attended since a newborn. As a toddler, I sat on the front pew as my mother played the piano. Mom dressed my brother and me in sleepers, as we nodded off before services ended.

Sleepers! In front of God and everybody! An indignity not to be endured.

Finally, Mom gave in, and I wore proper church attire.

Our small church supplied infinite hugs. I played hide-and-seek after services with friends more like cousins. And the potlucks! I still embrace the credo that the church supplies the ultimate food for both body and soul.

Best of all, I not only learned the song, “Jesus Loves Me,” at church, I grew in that truth.

As a teen, though, I fantasized about skipping services. Later, as a busy church music director, I occasionally longed to worship per TV, where everyone sang on key.

Sometimes, the following prayer cropped up: “God, just this Sunday, may I stay in bed?” Worshipping while wearing sleepers sounded downright spiritual.

Then the coronavirus, a dark angel, swooped in.

Watching online worship while wearing bathrobes, our shaggy-haired congregation probably looked quite biblical. So good to see our pastors. To drink in the Scriptures, living water for parched people in a COVID-19 desert.

Yet, a cyber hug can never replace a real one. When restrictions were lifted, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Except those — including seniors — considered high risk.

Steve and I took Communion at home on Maundy Thursday.

As a teen, I’d wanted to sneak out of services. Now I considered sneaking in.

Could I lie about my age to attend church? What if a bouncer carded me — “She’s got Medicare B!” — and tossed me out?

Reluctantly, Hubby and I continued online worship. The small congregation practiced “social distancing,” as if all had forgotten to shower. The long-haired, masked group resembled a gathering of hippie surgeons.

Weird.

Yet, I ached to be there. …

Finally, when seniors received a sort-of green light, Hubby and I donned masks and went to church, sitting miles away from friends we’d missed so much.

My mask fogged my glasses, causing hymn lyrics to disappear. The mask contracted when I inhaled, poufed when I sang. Still, loving the church family voices around us, Hubby and I belted out hymns with vigor.

Despite the odd, reduced gathering, Jesus was there.

We and our brothers and sisters at home pray fervently that soon, we will all be together again. Meanwhile, we connect through prayer, technology, and conversations across yards, streets, and parking lots.

Above all, we connect through joy that “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Even wearing sleepers for church can’t take that away.

Upland Community Church — I’m not sneaking out now!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Has the pandemic changed your church?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Missing Church Way Too Much!

O Lord, I thank You that our governor has opened possible ways for Your people to worship in person — though I, past 65, have been strongly advised to stay home. Sigh. OMG, I suppose that lying about my age to go to church isn’t a good idea?

    

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Daylight Losing Time*

O my God, thank You for seeing us through another time change. I feel for pastors, as yesterday was the crankiest Sunday of the year. OMG, shouldn’t the law that gave us Daylight Savings Time also fund high-octane coffee, plus three doughnuts apiece, to sweeten tempers?

*Title credited to Phil Callaway

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?