Posts tagged ‘joy’

2013/11/30

Wonder

WonderRecently I was honored to be asked to go to Grandparents & Special Friends Day at a local private school as the special friend of a young lady from our church. I was doubtless filling in for grandparents who did not live close. Plus, when I thanked the sweet girl for her invitation, she honestly said, “We don’t know many people around here.” At least I am blessed to be one of the few.

The day entailed a sweet program where each grade did a musical presentation before we were given tours of the school. The program was progressive from the youngest grades up to eighth grade. As I watched the kids, all uniform clad and many eager to share their hard work, I started noticing more details about the students. The uniforms did not hide the occasional student with unkempt hair, or an untucked shirt here and there. They couldn’t hide the weariness in some kids faces, or the students that didn’t smile as they sang.

I sat there realizing that adults are more like kids than we like to admit.

There’s a commercial out right now which features a dad and his son eating pudding. Dad starts talking about his adult life, and the kid’s imagination takes him into the scenarios he hears described. Suddenly we see the son is balding with a small suit on. He goes through the day, fighting traffic, dealing with jerks in the office, and so on. By the end of his dad’s explanation of why he needs pudding, the son simply hands his cup of pudding over saying his dad needs it more than he does.

It’s cute to see the kid in the commercial walking through his dad’s paces. We adults sometimes like to think we have it all together because we have learned stuff along the way. But in reality, we are messy, and we get hurt. We fall down, and we make mistakes every day. In those ways we are very much like kids.

We sometimes have to deal with bullies in the form of bosses or mean people. We don’t always choose good and faithful friends. We forget to take our lunch with us, and someone has to spot us until we can pay it back. Then we spill the lunch that we had to borrow money for down our shirt and we don’t have an extra one at work. We are like kids.

If only we could capture the playfulness, wonder, and the spirit of joy that kids have this time of year. 

We are at the beginning of Advent, and the new year in our church life. The story starts again–the most amazing story every lived. And we do have the chance to act like kids. We have the chance to approach the next few weeks with childlike faith and wonder as we visit the manger and think about how God changed the world forever with a little baby.

Yes, there will be mall traffic, and school programs, and decorating, and family functions, and so much more to navigate. But let’s act like kids this year as we focus on the coming of our King. Let’s anticipate His arrival by (at least inwardly) jumping up and down, just like kids at Christmas. Who’s with me?

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2013/03/21

More body of Christ

Body of Christ

Body of Christ

It’s one of my favorite stories from my daughter’s toddler years. Our family was attending our first Episcopal church. Our daughter had been baptized there, and Emma’s dad Chuck was in the process of becoming a priest. We were learning the traditions of a church much different than those of our childhoods.

I did not leave the Nazarene church due to any deep seeded angst. I did sometimes feel like a square peg in a round hole while I was growing up in the church, but much of that could be explained by being a preacher’s kid and a theatre geek. I left simply for love—love of a new tradition of worship and love of my then husband, Chuck.

I felt if each of us went to different churches our house would be a house divided. So though Chuck studied at Nazarene Theological Seminary, he soon felt a call to be an Episcopal priest. And through my own personal prayer and discernment, it seemed the very right thing to do was to support him and join this new church steeped in liturgy and ancient worship such as I had not experienced before.

One of the traditions that I fell in love with is the celebration of Christ’s sacrifice through communion every Sunday. I simply love how that is the center, the climax really, of most weekly services. No matter the priest, the sermon, or the season, we all come together at the table to acknowledge that Christ died and rose again to save us.

I don’t remember the exact time of year, but our church was meeting in our fellowship hall due to some renovations in the main sanctuary. The space was seemingly less sacred as we used it as a place for lunches after service, weekly meetings, and the annual pancake supper. To accommodate all of the weekly worshippers, chairs were now crowded in row upon row. We sat near the back. With a squirmy toddler on my lap, I didn’t know when an exit would be necessary.

And so it was that on that Sunday in the bottom level multipurpose room of our church, the time for communion came. We went forward to receive the body and blood, Emma in my arms. The customary words, “Body of Christ,” “Blood of Christ,” were issued as I received the bread and then the cup. Then Emma received a wafer. She chewed the remaining bits as I turned us back up the aisle and began navigating the narrow path to our seats.

She finished the bread and then without warning yelled out, “More body of Christ!” Everything seemed to stop as all eyes landed on Emma and I. Then throughout the hall laughter from our friendly congregation erupted, and smiles were exchanged as communion continued, believers celebrating Christ’s sacrifice together that day amidst linoleum floors, fluorescent lighting, and folding chairs.

As Lent draws to a close, I know I am not the only one eagerly anticipating the celebration of Easter. I pray that even with it’s reverence and awe, as we honor days such as Good Friday with the solemn and rightful digesting of the price that was paid for our sins, that we will feel a true rush of joy at Easter. And like the words expressed by my little girl many years ago now, I hope we feel that Easter once again marks a day where we encounter a desire for more of Jesus.

When we celebrate with our families and friends whether over creamy deviled eggs, ham, and carrot cake or fried fish, hushpuppies, and homemade cobbler, may we enter into the season of Easter—which goes beyond that one Sunday—to a place where we cry out, “More body of Christ!” And may we share our enthusiasm for the One who has saved us with the people we love and everyone around us. Amen.

2012/06/07

Surprise

Image

Surprise!

A few months ago, my daughter and I took a friend of ours to church.  I had specifically invited him on that day because I knew what my choir was singing.  When we came into the church, the ushers offered us bulletins, but I wouldn’t let our friend take one.  He looked at Emma and I with a confused look. I simply told him that something was going to happen during the service that he would enjoy, and I didn’t want him to read ahead. He smiled and kind of shrugged, and then we walked in to find our seats.

Before the service began, he leaned over and astutely inquired about the music for the day.  I just smiled and said, “You’ll see.”  Temporarily forsaking my place with the first sopranos, I had opted to sit in the congregation because honestly, I had to see his reaction when the music started.

We went through the traditional paces of the service, and all the while I was a little giddy inside knowing what was coming.  I tried my best to be reverent through the prayers and liturgy, but this wonderful tension was building and I kept stealing silly looks at our friend in anticipation.

Finally the moment arrived, and being the musician that he is, our friend only needed a few notes to realize that his favorite song was being sung. I had expected that he would be happy; he looked over at us and shook his head while smiling really big. Then he turned more inward and dropped his head a bit, and I could tell that he was gently crying. The surprise had touched him in a deeper place than I had imagined, and with tears in his eyes he looked at me and mouthed, “thank you” as the glorious music wafted out, swelling in all the familiar and best places and then resolving to a peaceful end.

God surprises us like this.  He puts things into our path, into our hours that make us catch our breath. He knows how beauty and purity can touch us deeply. The sunrise over an ocean, the first kiss from someone we see building a life with, the miracle of a tiny baby in our arms, a letter saying “You’ve been accepted into…,” a long-awaited recovery, and the list goes on.

I find it hard to understand why some people hate surprises, and of course I’m talking about good surprises here. It’s amazing to me that there are people who hate the surprise birthday party or the unplanned weekend trip where someone else has packed the bags.

But there are also people that can’t see or even enjoy a surprise. Numb from pain, boredom, or busyness, they don’t let a surprise touch them.  They don’t lift their head to see the sunrise or stop to feel the kiss.  They don’t connect with the weight of that baby in their arms or let the words, “You’ve been accepted…,” go very deep. They don’t believe in true recovery.

But God is a God of surprise. And if we tune into him expectantly, he will surprise us over and over, giving us unimaginable joy—the kind of joy that only someone who knows us intimately can provide. We have to be awake and aware to enjoy those moments. We may even have to look for them.

Lift your head. Feel. Connect. Let the words go deep. Believe.

P.S. This is the song that surprised our friend. Recognize it?

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