Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I am the daughter of an English major. Yes, I'm prone to wince when I hear the words lie and lay misused. Or when the pronoun I is used as the object of a preposition. Or when someone uses a singular verb with a plural subject.

A friend once told me that members of her church conjugated in the fellowship hall on Wednesday evenings after dinner. Were they conjugating verbs? Or, were they all engaged in some type of bacchanalian ritual, creating a new generation of little church members? I bit my lip, resisting the urge to snort with laughter and make some grossly inappropriate comment.

I have to admit that when I hear someone using bad grammar, I am tempted to dismiss them as being ignorant and as having little of value to communicate. Does this person have keen insight and understanding? Does he have a gift for applying Biblical truth to the business of daily life? Does she have a tender and empathetic heart? Sadly, I sometimes overlook much that is good, focusing instead on that which is weak or offensive.

Several years ago, I attended a worship service with a friend at a church that decorated its sanctuary with brightly-colored banners displaying the names of Christ. Lord of Lords! Emmanuel! Lion of Judah! My friend fidgeted in the pew as we waited for the service to begin. "I don't think I'm going to be able to concentrate on the message," she fussed. "These tacky banners are so distracting!"

At a different worship service, an older church member pulled me aside. "I saw someone at church this morning...barefooted! Do we really allow that kind of thing to go on here?!"

Maybe you've heard this line before: "I could never worship at a church where everyone wears suits and ties and fancy dress clothes. That's way too stiff and formal for me!"

Folks have told me they could never attend a church that sings "boring" hymns. Others have said they can't stand "contemporary" worship music - such mindless, repetitive, irreverent noise!

So, what's my piont? What's buzzing around in my head to prompt this post? Well, to be honest, it's all about head lice.

My family had just returned home from several days of church camp. Sleeping bags and coolers cluttered the living room floor. The first load of laundry was chugging in the washing machine. My kids were flopped in their beds, catching up on sleep, and I was trying to figure out what to fix for supper. The phone rang.

"Well, my camp director duties aren't over yet!" Gaye Lynn laughed.

"What's up?"

Turned out, one of our little campers had head lice. I had just spent a week sharing a cabin with "Tina" - had rocked her to sleep at night, toted her down the path to the lodge hall for meals, held her in my lap during worship. Let's just say Tina and I had lots of close contact!

"You'll want to check Martha and Helen for lice, too," Gaye Lynn advised before hanging up.

There was a time when a phone call like this would've made me angry. How dare some little kid risk causing my family an infestation of head lice! What a hassle to have to check everyone's head, and then treat everyone if needed! Gack - think of all the laundry! Well, never mind that last thought - I had a ton of laundry to do, either way.

But this time, I didn't get angry.

Tina and I had just spent a week learning about Christ's extravagant love for broken, nasty, sinful people. We had been wallowing together in the gospel. "Head lice - hah! They've got nothing on the Gospel!" I laughed.

What makes you wince, Dear Reader? What is it about the body of Christ that you find offensive? Head lice? Bare feet? Men in suit coats and ladies wearing pearls? Organ music? Guitars? Bad grammar? White skin? Dark skin?

The Gospel transcends all these...and more. The Gospel unites believers in Christ - with all our peculiarities and eccentricities and weaknesses - into a beautiful, graceful body.

The next time you're gathered with other believers for worship and you find yourself irritated by the style of music, or the pastor's too-long prayer, or your neighbor's off-key singing, or a fussy toddler's fidgeting - stop and consider anew the Gospel. Look around you for that which is beautiful, that which is evidence of the love and work of Christ. Let us extend to those around us the grace we have experienced ourselves and revel in the beauty of the body of Christ.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9


Jenny said...

YES! FANTASTIC post, friend!!!

Suzanne said...

Here's a litany I have heard and my own responses.

Little children in church are noisy and distracting.
-God bless them and their parents that gave them life instead of aborting them with birth control chemicals and violent "surgeries"! I need to volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center this month and invite clients to join me for worship.

He stomped his cowboy boots in the pew!
-God bless that little cowboy and thank God that his family can afford to put shoes on his feet. God bless the many people without shoes, too! I can clean out my closet and take some gently used shoes to Goodwill.

That toddler spilled Cheerios in the church!
-God bless that toddler and thank God those parents can afford to feed their child. God bless the many people going hungry today! I think I am due to take a load of canned goods to the community food bank this week.

The brat whined the whole hour!
-God bless that child and bless his parents with understanding and patience. If the child is feeling ill, God please heal the child. Thank God his family got to worship today! I need to donate some money to the free clinic for uninsured patients.

That girl needs her hair combed. Her mom must not care how she looks.
-God bless the child. She may have hard to style hair or just play a bit hard between dressing for church and getting there! Maybe her mom is a bit harried getting the family ready for church and could stand some encouragement and help on occasion. God bless the whole family. After church, I can get to know them better and may be able to volunteer some childcare time.

For every distraction, there is an opportunity to lift a neighbor in prayer. God is very generous in giving us opportunities to love our neighbors. What we choose to do with the opportunities is our response to God's perfect gifts. Is it good stewardship and thanksgiving or complaining?

Camille said...

I like your idea, Suzanne. Use a distraction or irritation as a cue to pray!