Aug 172009
 

We’ve been members of lots of churches on our faith journey.

Right after Chase was born, we started going to a cozy little Methodist church. The congregation was old, wise, and gentle. The elegant minister peppered her simple sermons with “God is good,” to which the whole church replied musically…“All the time.” I think this may have just been her way of keeping those closest to heaven (the kids and elderly) awake, but I loved the steady reminder. I also loved the part during the service when people would stand up and ask for prayer about whatever was on their hearts…a granddaughter’s piano recital, a daughter in-laws breast cancer, a lonely friend. We were doted on like grandchildren there, and we felt valued and adored, like everyone should feel at church.

There were too few children to teach a separate Sunday school class, so the minister would call the kids to the altar and use a parrot puppet to teach them a simplified version of the day’s message. After the parrot lesson, the children scurried back to their parents in the pews and the minister delivered the adult message.

One Sunday, during the grown up sermon, I looked down at Craig’s hand in mine and his fancy church shoes and my mind started wandering.I marveled at how handsome he was and how fantastically mature we were to be in church, together, by choice. Like I always do, I felt like I was just playing grown up, complete with my costume of lipstick and heels .My day dreaming caused me to lose track of the sermon, and when I tuned back in, I was lost.

I leaned toward Craig’s ear and whispered. “I’m lost. What is she talking about?”

After a long pause, Craig whispered out of the corner of his mouth:

“I have no idea. I only listen to the parrot part.”

Aug 172009
 

I recently had my feelings crushed by a friend with good intentions and bad timing. I shared a personal story with her and in response, she shared a personal criticism of me. The criticism was valid. But that never really matters, does it?

I used to drink and eat when I felt sad or confused, but now I pray and write. And eat. So I dragged my bag of chips and heavy heart upstairs to the computer that day. This is what I came up with:

Cracked Vase

Each of us, at our essence, is a beautiful bouquet of flowers … God living in us. Unfortunately, if we’re brave enough to offer our bouquet to the world, we have no other choice but to present it in the cracked vase that is our own self and has seen better days.The world has knocked us around, and has left some of us a little chipped and others in pieces on the floor. Miraculously, regardless of the degree of damage to our vase, our bouquet remains unscathed… as pristine and breathtakingly perfect as the day God gave it to us, on our first day. So when my neighbor offers me her bouquet why do I notice the imperfect instead of the perfect? Why do I need to see the broken instead of the unbreakable? Why can’t I see the bouquet for the vase? Is it because I think if I focus on how broken her vase is, she might not notice that mine is shattered?And am I even aware that all the while I am missing out on the beauty, the offering, the blessing of her bouquet? Each time I point out her cracked vase I suggest that maybe her bouquet would be better back there on the shelf, where not so many people will see it. And she starts to doubt that she ever even had a bouquet…she remembers that she’s just a cracked up old vase after all. That’s all she’s ever been, really.

I am going to ask God to show me the bouquet instead of the vase.I want to see and respond to the flowers, and to say thank you to the neighbors who offer them. Because it’s so brave to keep offering your bouquet, what with being so cracked and all. It’s like showing up at a bridal shower out of love for your friend even though you’ve spilled a latte in your lap in the car, and it appears that you’ve peed yourself. So brave.Then maybe, if my neighbor asks, I’ll try to help her patch up her vase a bit…make it a little stronger, to hold in more water and keep her bouquet fresh…but only if she asks. Otherwise I’ll just thank her for her courage and tell her how beautiful, colorful, and perfect her flowers are. How they, like everyone else’s, are the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen, and how they made my day. Then, if I’m feeling brave enough, and she has time….I’ll offer her mine. And I’ll ask God to shine the light on his bouquet instead of my cracked vase. And He will, but maybe he’ll also remind us both, my neighbor and I, that the cracks are where the light sneaks out. And in.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

2 Corinthians 4 7-9


 

 

Sep 062009
 

Bono said,

“As an artist, I see the poetry of it. It’s so brilliant. That this maker of creation and the unfathomable universe, should describe itself in such vulnerability, as a child. That is mind-blowing to me. I guess that would make me a Christian. Although I don’t use the label, because it’s so very hard to live up to. I feel like I’m the worst example of it, so I just kinda keep my mouth shut.”

Which reminds me of my favorite Bono story.

At a U2 concert in Dublin a few years ago, Bono tried to convey the vast scope of world hunger. Near the end of the concert he yelled to the crowd, “Every time I clap another child dies of starvation.”

Clap.

Clap.

Clap.

The crowd was solemn and silent until a confused Irishman in the fourth row yelled out:

“WELL THEN QUIT BLOODY CLAPPING, YOU ARSE!”



Then the cops took my dad’s Guinness and kicked him out.

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