Monday, February 21, 2005

"Ya'll Come On In and Move Down Towards the Front" or "Church People Frustrate Me" Vol. 1

What is our fascination with the back row at church? At what point in a persons life does it become more cool to sit on the back row than on the front? High School? Junior High? If my 3 year old daughter is excited to be somewhere, she runs in and sits on the front row. She wants to be where the action is. At church, she would sit on the stage if we would let her. Maybe we should. "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

On the other hand, we have adults who will unstack chairs to create a back row as close to the exit as possible when there is plenty of seating available. What are you afraid of? Fire? Flood? Loss of oxygen? Scripture reading? And these people are NOT going to budge. I plead, I prod, I ridicule and humiliate. Nothing seems to work. It's like going to someone's house for dinner and insisting on being served in a different room from everyone else. It makes no sense and it is really challenging for teachers, preachers, worship leaders and others attempting to engage with you in worship (perhaps THAT is what you're afraid of).

The church where I attend has room to grow. We only utilize about half the space in the auditorium. And yet we look like a big donut on Sunday mornings. People sitting up front, some on the sides and others in the back with a big hole in the middle. Do we even like each other?

Some have babies and may need to leave in a hurry if they cry. I appreciate that, but in my family we don't make the people with potentially crying babies sit at the back. We help them and understand that babies sometimes cry. We also don't make Grandma sit in another room. We help her into the room where we are. And if someone has to leave dinner early, we don't hold them in contempt or claim they have ruined our dinner. We wish them well and trust that they would not be leaving early unless it was really important.

What would Rosa Parks say about all of this back row nonsense? There was a time when being allowed to sit up front meant something. Well, I think always sitting in the back means something too. Grow up and join the rest of us. You look awfully tough back there, but I think you're scared (yes, I'm calling you out).

If you are a back row sitter at your church, try moving a little closer this Sunday and let me know how it goes. Ya'll come on in and move down towards the front! Come on, you can do it!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

MRI - My Righteous Indignation

There have been moments in my life, not moments I'm proud of, but moments none the less when I have had feelings of disdain for what I perceived to be other people's weaknesses. The stressed out, the phobic, sometimes even the depressed. One of my best friends Brandon is deathly afraid of snakes. I must admit I have shown little sympathy to him about this. In fact, I've probably made references to him being womanly because of it. My own brother is somewhat claustrophobic, but has received from me small amounts of pity and never any compassion. You see, until you walk a mile in a man's shoes...

Today, for the first time in my life, I went to the hospital for an MRI. The kind technician explained the process to me and said it would take about 45 minutes to complete. He told me to lie still and try not to cough or swallow while they were shooting the pictures. I told him how laid back I was and that I would likely fall asleep in there. I lasted about 47 seconds. My heart began to race, I was having trouble breathing, and I HAD to get out of there! I began to wiggle my legs and call for help. Two men came running and rescued me. They were very nice and told me that it happens all the time and that I could reschedule if I needed to. I got a drink of water, settled myself, closed my eyes, said a prayer and went back in. They split my session into two parts with a "stretch break" in between and we got 'er done.

I was a little embarrassed, but mostly ashamed. I apologize for my past righteous indignation. I'm truly sorry if I have been less than kind to you about your own phobia.
Trust me, I have truly been humbled.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

V-Day and B-Day

My wife was born 33 years ago today. The day after Valentine's Day. Now I'm sure her parents did not think this through and choose this date simply to frustrate her future husband, but it makes things difficult for a guy who has trouble coming up with good gift ideas. Add to that the fact that Stephanie gave up CHOCOLATE for Lent. That's sort of a staple Valentine's present. You know, kind of a gimme. Not this year.

And there's another problem. In my family, when it was your birthday you were aloud to pick what Mom would make for dinner. If you were lucky, a card or a shirt might get thrown into the deal. In Stephanie's family, it is customary to remember every birthday of every living ancestor, including those who still live in Germany whom you have never met. In other words, my family...not a big deal; Steph's family...HUGE DEAL.

My parents have tried to be sensitive to this fact by remembering Stephanie's special day. One year on my birthday I received the usual fair from my folks, they shelled out a five spot for a card and a rolled up poster. They thought I could frame it and put it in my office. In other words, they gave me the task and expense of framing a cheap poster. Happy birthday son. One month later on her birthday, Stephanie received a nice card containing $200 from these very same people proving that down playing my birthdays all my life had been a complete sham.

I love my wife and I am certainly glad she was born. Her kindness is a needed balance for my cynicism and her beauty begins at the core of her being and works it's way to her every part, inside and out. She is a Godly woman and a woman without guile. She makes our home a place that I can't wait to return to every time I walk out the door. She is a fantastic mother. She loves me, takes care of me, spoils me and challenges me. I hope she will also forgive me for my sometimes clumsy efforts to communicate all of that to her and for my ineptitude when it comes to gift giving.

I love you S. Happy V-Day and B-Day!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

My Little Pony

I love to watch my daughter Rainey use her imagination. She is really into My Little Ponies right now and she likes for me to play with them with her. She says she will be the girl little ponies and I can be the boy little ponies. The only problem is, they all look like girls to me. What self respecting stallion would put sparkles in his hair or have a dainty daisy tattoo on his hind quarters?

Yesterday she decided that the biggest pony (purple with flowing blue sparkling hair) was the only boy pony. I kept referring to him as "The Stud" but she said his name was "Scapagallion" or something like that. He led the women to water where they not only drank, but also went crab hunting and had plenty for dinner. Then they found a boat and went out on the ocean which started me singing, "If I had a boat, I'd go out on the ocean. And if I had a pony, I'd ride him on my boat." Rainey's not really a Lyle Lovett fan so she ignored me until the ponies began falling overboard and we had to rescue them. Rest assured, no ponies were injured and they are all safely back home in Rainey's room today. I couldn't figure out why they kept falling in. My best guess was that they had spent too much time at Isaac's bar, but again, Rainey thought that was just silly and said their hooves simply kept slipping on the wet deck.

Stephanie was out with some friends last night, so I had bath time and bed time all to myself. There were more adventures on the high seas during bath time and then off to bed. Bed time prayers are always interesting. Last night she really gave God an ear full. She prayed for her dog Ike and her friend Riley, then me and her mom, then every house in Texas and all the people that live in them, then her grandparents, then she asked Him for a baby brother and then she said this: "And God, even bless me. Rainey. Rainey Bailey. Rainey Ann Bailey." Just to make sure the blessings got to the right house. Trust me, they did.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Getting Older

I turned 35 last month and I have to tell you, I'm enjoying getting a little older. Each year brings with it an opportunity to become more like my mom. My mother, Rose we call her, went gray in her early thirties and resisted any urge to ever color her hair. In fact, I don't remember when her hair wasn't gray. When I was a kid, people sometimes thought she was my grandmother. That was a little embarrassing, but I watched Rose use this to her full advantage. There is a certain freedom to say things when people think you are older. You can get away with telling people blunt truths and you can really mess with people's minds. When I was a small child, Rose and I teamed up on my innocent young friends on numerous occasions. Now, Rose gets along with children, pierced and tattooed young people and people her own age equally well. She surprises them all with her humor and honesty. She plays the little, gray haired lady role to a tee. After all, she's had over thirty years to perfect it. If you happen to meet her, don't be fooled!

I stopped by Starbucks on my way home this afternoon to grab a mocha frappuccino por moi and a strawberries and cream frap for Steph. The two girls behind the counter looked like they were college age (maybe) and were engaged in a conversation about the movie Napoleon Dynamite. One girl was commenting that her mother (probably older than dirt, like in her forties or something) hated the film. She thought it was "the dumbest thing she'd ever seen." I was about to join the conversation when it dawned on me that in the eyes of these youthful lasses, I resembled one of their parents or teachers or bosses, you know "the man". I immediately thought of Rose. So I listened to their comments and waited for my drinks. As I was leaving I told them, "I'm going home now to draw a liger, a combination of a lion and a tiger bred for its skills and magic." I realize a big question mark is forming over the heads of those of you who have not seen the movie, but those of you who have get it and I took great joy as I reached the door and heard the girl who served me say to her co-worker with surprise and laughter in her voice, "Did you hear what that man said?" I smiled all the way home. Rose would be so proud.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Rob Bell

If you do not know who Rob Bell is, I implore you to check out and listen to this man of God teach. My brother-in-law introduced me to his teachings last Summer and I'm addicted. I listen to at least one sermon a week from this man. I pause as I go and take pages of notes. As one friend put it, he crafts a sermon like a well designed web page. He starts broad like a home page and then links you to several other pages and ties it all together in a beautiful, convicting and motivating package. Rob Bell is the main reason I asked for (and received) a Dell DJ for Christmas. Yes it's nice for downloading music, but I want this guy in my ear as much as possible.

I would also highly recommend him for new Christians or seekers. He is profound, but gentle in his approach. That's it. Just an advertisement for Rob Bell today.