Time for a Tune-Up

Typing away in the other room while a playdate ensued, I heard the voices of my Sweetgirl and her friend carrying loudly in the air. They were singing along to a popular song about sunshine in their pockets. One of them was out of tune. Jarringly out of tune. But, singing along no less enthusiastically.

Isn’t that just the way we humans do, sometimes?

We become glaringly out of tune with what’s good, true, honest, or noble. And we can’t even hear it.

Maybe that’s just me.

Sometimes, Grace has to swoop in on the raised eyebrows of one forced to listen to each off-key note, to get my attention. Other times, Grace opens my eyes to the words set before me.

That’s exactly how He found me this morning, wedged between Sweetman and Sweetboy on the shiny wooden pew at church. Listening to a message about our very human and very real need for second and 432nd chances, I felt my attention shifting to the list of things to be done this week. Because, clearly, I am intimate with the notion of third and 303rd chances.

Soon, I began considering my lunch options after church was done. IHOP was firmly on the short list.

But Grace reminded me (yet again) that church isn’t ever “done”.

And nothing shakes me from my irreverent reveries like a call to worship.

The opening notes were strummed and I realized we were about to sing one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”.

I stood up, perked up, and prepared to sing, thinking, “Oooh, I love this one!”

God wasn’t finished getting my attention, though.

Nope.

As we skipped to the third verse, my eyes read what my heart already knew.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart Lord,
Take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above.”

Now Grace had my full attention. Just some of what was out of tune sprang to mind:

  • The willingness to read one more chapter of the latest story over one more chapter of The Greatest Story
  • My eagerness to join conversations about others without grace even as that very grace was being heaped out upon me
  • Forgetting the joy that comes out of sacrifice as I stubbornly refused others’ needs for my wants

Friends? Forget about my inability to carry a tune, physically. Singing The Truth in that moment, my heart’s distance from the heart of God felt like a million spiritual miles away.

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Clearly, it was time for a little tune-up.

And God, in His boundless beautiful grace, whispered love. He tuned my heart to His, as He has countless other times.

Yes indeed.

I left church this morning reminded that I don’t need a tune-up because I’m bad, but because of my human ability to become dissonant. Oh-so-easily.

And, because Grace is always good, He tightens those loose strings. He replaces the frayed ones. He adjusts the pitch.

He gently brings harmony back to my heart.

Thank you, God, for binding my wandering heart to thee.

Out of the Rain

Kicking and screaming – that’s how I finally went off, this morning, to engage in the women’s ministry offerings at our “new” church. This being the official One Year mark since we first started attending regularly, you might be picking up on what a struggle it’s been for me to fully embrace this place.

I rushed into the building resentful, late, and dripping wet.

Resentful that I had to “start over”. Late because I found every possible last-minute “forgotten” chore to take care of before walking out the door. And dripping wet because, well… rain was pouring down.

To match my mood.

Scanning the room, I quickly sat down at the way way back, in the first free chair I laid eyes on.  As I scooted into the open chair, I determined to keep my heart closed.

But, I made a grave error… I breathed.

And a prayer escaped, unbidden.

Despite the feeling I’d had this past year that God forgot my need for flesh-and-blood fellowship, a fresh Hope blew in.

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Instantly, I realized that I was sitting with a small group of three women that clearly already knew each other. And, they didn’t seem to be very open, themselves.

But, because I’ve never met a stranger, thank-you-very-much, I started chatting this group up.  In my mind, I was drawing them out.

As usual, God had something altogether different, and altogether lovely, in mind.

From the moment the first one started speaking about the dark places she’s been, I realized she had a story that I wanted I needed to hear. Hers was so completely different from mine. And yet, the same in all of the important places. As the next woman spoke of past entanglements that I full understand, hers, too, became a story of redemption that my heart desperately needed to hear.

Redemption comes softly and not.  But, He always comes. And only Redemption, Himself, knows exactly when we will be ready to fall at His feet and welcome union with Him.

I’ve been giving this passage a lot of thought lately.

Exodus 13:17-18 says, “When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led them in a round about way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.”

Recognizing their inability to face a challenge at this early stage in their freedom journey, God routed them differently than expected.

I am no different.

God knows how susceptible I am to a setback at the beginning stages of a new adventure.

Oh God, You knew! You knew that I desperately needed to sit next to a group of women who so recognize their need of you that I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own.

And You knew, too, that had I attempted to join in last Fall, it would have been a detour that my heart wasn’t ready for.

But. For. Grace.

Thank You for opening my ears to hear Your whisper, and my eyes to see your outstretched arm through these beautiful women this morning.

Maybe, even more, for loving me enough to pull me out of the rain and into Your Holy arms, once again.

I so needed that fresh Hope.

Jesus Wore Pink

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Growing up, we attended a church that was more famous for the pastel color painted on the outside than for what was taking place on the inside. The color of the church didn’t bother me much, although I can imagine many a visiting family’s conversation that went a little something like this: “Sorry family… We simply must find a church that’s less… pastel.”

While there were certainly some who adored Jesus and His ability to transform lives, none were as passionate as my Youth Group Leader. That building may have been pale on the outside, but it was ablaze with a fire for Jesus in this one man’s heart. And that fire spat embers of Life out onto all that came into contact with him.

I’m sure that Jesus wore pink because, over ping-pong and Orange Crush, I met Him. He scooped up my heart and claimed it right there in the middle of all that pastel.

My youth group leader’s influence has been on a my mind a lot lately. What he tirelessly sought to do was make each one feel included.  He brought so many of us tweens to the feet of The Only One who could soothe savaged hearts.  I remain forever grateful for his willingness to reach out to those who felt isolated, outcast, and awkward.

Some of you, who have graciously hung around here for a while, know that we went through a painful church search last spring. We found a church to call home, but it hasn’t called out “Home!” convincingly enough, to me, yet.

And, it certainly isn’t calling out home (or anything even remotely comforting) to Sweetboy. He was the reason for the change. It’s more than a little upsetting to hear your quirky boy, who has trouble connecting to others out there in The Everyday, issue the same indictments week after week. “No one likes me there.” “I haven’t met any friends.” “They’re not very nice there.”

My God!

If we can’t get it right for the least of these, then I think we may be getting this church thing all wrong.

I’m not sure what to do with how I feel about all of this at the moment.  Do I volunteer to be a Sunday School teacher so that I’m “being the change I want to see”? Do I be the “squeaky wheel that gets the grease” and tell the Children’s Pastor my concerns? Do I just keep hitting my knees and praying for God to open eyes and hearts?

Jesus wore pink, back when I was growing up, so I know he has no problem meeting people wherever and however He can.  I keep thinking back on that time and trying desperately to remember what the Sunday School teachers said and did that ushered in a sense of belonging and welcome.

I’m coming up empty, because I’m remembering through the lens of a parent whose child is hurting. And that lens? It keeps getting clouded over with tears. Talk to me. Please.  I need some community right about now.

Let’s brainstorm how The Church can do this better.  How can they meet the needs of the marginalized better? What can we, who believe in redemption for all, do to spur on a better way of loving those who are hard to love? 

 

Plans Were Made

When the plans were made for Sweetman and I to leave our old church and seek a new one closer to home, we knew it would be hard on us, and even on Sweetboy.  Our eyes were wide open, as were our hearts. Careful planning went into exactly how we would “try out” each church that was under consideration, so as to minimize dragging the kidlets from church to church. To the Children’s Ministry folks at each church that we visited, I’m so sorry for the endless string of interview questions.

We prayed God that would steer us in the right direction, as we deeply desired to find a church that would provide connections for our quirky boy. Getting to know new people and making the effort to get involved were on our list of things that we knew we’d have to be willing to do. We sought wise counsel as we went along with our plans. We prayed some more.

Each factor that we considered was carefully accounted for. We made our list and checked it twice, as it were.

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What we didn’t plan for?

How deeply this would affect Sweetgirl.  Always the one to get the short shrift in this family, she rolled with this whole decision from the get-go.

Until…

She received a birthday invitation from one of the friends she used to see at our Old Church. A lot.

And the tears… Oh, the tears!

“I don’t ever get to see that girl that I like anymore, mama. And I’m sad.”, said Sweetgirl.

My heart shattered into about five hundred pieces.

For her, yes.

And also, for me.

I thought we had planned for everything.  Indeed, we certainly had.

Only, our God reminded us that we’d left out one little curly cued factor.  And as she works through the hurt of change, I pray for the perfectly timed hugs and most needed words.

Change is hard.  It’s really just… hard.

How do you ease the hurt of change for the children you love? I’d really love some suggestions.