The 5 most embarrassing things that can happen to you at church.

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When I think through my collection of embarrassing moments, it seems like almost all of them took place out in public somewhere.

Makes sense.

So I suppose it’s no wonder that people can find themselves embarrassed at church from time to time.  The problem comes when the embarrassment feels so strong that someone is tempted to not come back.

It happens more than we might realize, and that’s something worth addressing.

Here, then, are the (unofficial) top 5 ways folks find themselves embarrassed at church, and how to move past them.

young-screaming-boy

1. MY KIDS ARE OUT OF CONTROL!!!

What happens:  I hear this one all the time.  Maybe your baby has a complete meltdown in the middle of the pastoral prayer.  Perhaps your 3rd grader and your 5th grader won’t stop fighting.  Somehow children have this uncanny ability to pick the WORST moments to cry, scream, laugh, argue, and fuss.

How it feels:  It can feel as if the whole world stops and turns towards you.  Every nearby woman becomes a disapproving mother.  Every person of authority deems you unworthy.  And in general, everyone in your presence agrees:  You are not a good parent.

Truth be told:  There probably are a few people who act annoyed or disapproving.  Shame on them!  The truth is there is NOTHING more precious to the church than children.  Most people and churches understand the joys (and trials) of raising children, and most parents can sympathize with those days when the kids are wound a bit too tight.  Church is better — for all of us — with children in it.

Bottom line:  Let the Children Come.

 

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2.  I DIDN’T PUT ANYTHING IN THE OFFERING PLATE!!!

What happens:  The plate is passed.  The person to your left puts in a check.   The person to your right is holding an envelope in anticipation.  And you?  You don’t have anything for the offering plate.

How it feels:  It can feel as if all eyes are on you and your lack of a contribution.  Do people think you’re stingy?  Do people think you’re poor? Does it mean you don’t deserve to be here?

Truth be told:  Relax, nobody’s looking. Many people pass the plate without putting something in it.  Lots of people give monthly, or online.  Some mail their pledge in, and yes, some folks just can’t afford to contribute financially.  Passing the plate isn’t supposed to be an exercise in guilt.  It’s an exercise in commitment.  Next time the plate comes by, touch it and briefly say a word of commitment to God.

Bottom Line:  Offer yourself, as best you can.

 

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3.  I COULDN’T FIND COLOSSIANS.

What happens:  In Sunday School, the teacher has everyone turn to Colossians (or some other book).  Everyone else turns right to it, and you find yourself flipping around before sheepishly looking at the table of contents.  Uggh.  Either that, or  you’re being asked general Bible knowledge questions and you haven’t the foggiest answer.

How it feels:  It can feel as if everyone is snickering behind their Bibles, watching you flail in your scriptural ignorance.   Or you might feel frustrated and lost, as now the teacher’s moved on to the next scripture before you could even find the last one.  It can make you feel stupid and silly and out of your depth.

Truth be told:  Every church is filled with people at every range of Bible knowledge.  Some folks were raised memorizing scriptures, and others have come only picked up the Good Book recently.  Most adults know a lot less about the Bible than they would like to admit, so it’s very doubtful anybody is snorting in your direction.  Instead, be proud that you have a desire to grow in your faith and knowledge of this Holy Book!

Bottom Line:  Keep Searching.  (Colossians is towards the back)

P.S.  Bible Tabs make it easy to find your way around the books of the Bible.  Get ’em at a Christian book store

 

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4.  I COULDN’T REMEMBER SOMEONE’S NAME. (Or they couldn’t remember mine)

What happens:  You recognize the face, but when you find yourself standing next to them at the coffee hour, you can’t remember their name. The worst is when you call them the wrong name, but it’s not much better to have to fish around and act like you remember it when really, you don’t.

How it feels:  It can feel like you’ve offended someone.  As if you didn’t care enough to remember who they were.  Or, if the opposite happens and they’ve forgotten your name, you can feel slighted, less important.  Either way it can make you hesitant to want to keep wading through that sea of Sunday morning worshipers.  Why bother getting to know these people anyway?

Truth be told:  A person’s name IS important.   In many ways we see it as the key to our identity.  So when the name game fizzles, it’s not a great feeling.  However, it’s a harder game than most people realize.   There are only a few gifted people out there who can remember everyone’s name.  So, the rest of us just keep working at it.  Since most of us have our slip-ups from time to time, it’s better to just laugh about it together, own up to having a slippery brain, and devoting the rest of the conversation to learning more about each other.

Bottom Line:  Names are important, but slippery.  And that’s okay.

 

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5.  MY SINS ARE PUBLIC.

What happens: This is perhaps the most serious one of them all.   When you’re the subject of gossip, or your name ends up in the paper, or the folks in your neighborhood know about your business, coming to church at all could seem like a really bad idea.  Why would you want to walk into a church — where people talk about sin — if everybody already knows about yours?

How it feels:  Every whisper, every glance — it would be hard not to think they’re talking about you.  Maybe you had a brush with the law — will church members trust you now?  Maybe you had an affair — will that change everyone’s opinion of you?   Maybe you have struggled with an addiction — will people see you as unworthy?   It would be easier to stay away, right?  To roll over in bed for another hour and avoid the pain.

Truth be told:  The church was MADE for people like you.  People who have fallen in some way and are trying to stand up.  The church is where you can receive love and support, where you can be embraced by a family of other sinners, all redeemed by God’s grace.  Now, let’s not be naive –churches have plenty of gossip and judgement in them.   Some of that you may just have to ignore.  But don’t give up on the idea of church — there’s a place for you there.

Bottom Line:   Church is about Grace.  Keep looking, and you’ll find it.

 

Okay, that’s it.  An impressive list of embarrassing things that, in the end, you have no need to stay embarrassed by.

Instead, may your experience at church turn your cheeks a rosy red,

not out of embarrassment and shame, but as a reflection from

your warmed heart.

Have a great week,

Mitch

Noah rosy cheeks

Human Barometer

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I can predict the future.

Sort of.

Half a day before a thunderstorm hits outside, it hits in my head.

I’ll feel like someone’s blowing up a balloon inside my skull.  My ears will hurt.  I’ll have trouble thinking straight.

It has something to do with the change in pressure, I’m sure.

It’s mostly a pain in the neck–literally–but someday I’ll put my predicting ability to good use.

Maybe I’ll get all those symptoms on a day when there’s no rain in the forecast, and I’ll stand up in the middle of town and declare, “There’s a surprise storm coming!”

Would anyone believe me?  I don’t know.  They might even laugh.

I wonder:  Is that how Jeremiah felt?  Or Isaiah?

Somehow they had a sense of the storm that was coming to their land.

That knowledge was probably painful enough to bear, but then they had to endure rejection, disbelief, and hostility when they opened their mouths to share it.

All the more reason that the prophets of old deserve our profound thanks and respect.  They read the signs, and listened to God, and spoke an unpopular Truth to God’s people, all out of their deep faithfulness.

It takes faith to listen to a prophet.  It takes even greater faith to be one.

There are prophets today too, you know:  Activists, spiritual leaders, scientists, wise ones, even weather forecasters (occasionally).

There are people out there who are willing to speak up and speak out about the storms that threaten.

To predict the future, even, for those who will listen.

Well, thank God for them.

As for me, being a human barometer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I’m gonna take some sinus medication,

and turn on the Weather Channel.

 

Have a great week,

Mitch

steve

When’s the last time you took on a Goliath?

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You seem like a capable person.

You’re intelligent, and experienced.

You strike me as someone with gifts and abilities you can put to use.

You’ve got some talent. I can tell.

So, I’m just wondering:  When’s the last time you took on a Goliath?

You know what I mean?   A challenge.  A pretty big one.

Not just a typical Tuesday’s little problems to face — I’m talking about something BIG.

I’m talking about something fairly risky, fairly difficult.

Something large enough so that success is not automatically guaranteed.

When’s the last time you took a deep breath, and just went for it?

Took on something that would make you feel proud, and God, too.

Something that drew on your faith, but would definitely require God’s help.

The truth is — there are always Goliaths out there.  Obstacles, challenges, needs, ministries.

Things that threaten the growth of the Kingdom.

You and I are called to rise to the occasion.

To gather our courage.

To overcome and accomplish and advance the cause.

Not just in little ways.  In big ways.

So, yeah, I was just curious:

When’s the last time you took on a Goliath?

I’ve been racking my brain…

and I think I’m due.

What about you?

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

davidgoliath

Whisper

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The words and images in today’s devotion come from a popular app called “Whisper”.   Whisper is a social networking site where people can anonymously post whatever they want.

There’s plenty of flirting, goofing around, rough language, and immaturity (so be forewarned), but the site seems to actually serve a purpose, too:

This is where people post their real struggles, pains, fears, and confessions.   Things they might not even tell their closest friends.

People write their whisper, and the program automatically chooses a picture background based on the words.  (Sometimes the picture fits better than others)

Here are some of the posts I found that come from within a half-hour radius of my church, but be forewarned — it may hurt your heart to read them.

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steroids needhelp hungry jobeliminated gambling heroin feelempty brokenhearted domesticabuse drunk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

depressed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow.  These are things we don’t generally mention during Joys and Concerns, right?

Just knowing that these people live and work within range of my own church makes me ache to reach out to them.  And then it occurs to me:  Who’s to say these people, or people like them, aren’t already a part of my congregation?

The truth is, everybody has pain, and secrets, and plenty of material for “whispers”.

We don’t give voice to our whispers because we’re ashamed of them, or because people wouldn’t understand, or because we don’t want to appear weak, or because we aren’t ready to change.

Maybe we don’t speak our whispers out loud because we’d feel too vulnerable.

So what can we do with our secrets, our fears, and our shames?

Well, that’s why we have covenant groups, and accountability groups, and support groups in the church.  They are places of high trust designed for sharing the deeper stuff.

And there are counselors and therapists and pastors who are willing to listen and help.

And of course, there’s prayer.

Whether they were intended as such or not, I consider posts on Whisper to be prayers.  Surely God hears them.

God hears your prayers, too.

As for Whisper, I think it may provide a place for ministry in the 21st century.  People can actually reply to a person’s whisper, so I’ve responded to a few, offering some encouragement and comfort.

And there are people out there who offer Good News in their whispers.

For every dozen desperate secrets tossed out into cyber space, you’ll find something like this in with the mix:

godislove

 

May you find a place, online or off, where you can whisper.

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

 

 

 

Nocabulary

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I guess you could say I make my living on words.

I write a sermon every week, and teach a class or two.

I write this devotion.

And it’s all based on words.  My ability to take an idea and translate it and convey it.

I’ve wondered what it would be like if I were sent to Korea.  Or China.

Some place where my vocabulary was suddenly a no-cabulary.

Would I be able to convey the awesomeness of God to someone who spoke another language?

Or what if I sat down with someone who was deaf?

Could I explain a life in the Spirit with crude hand gestures?

Hmm.  Have you ever thought about this?

You may or may not think of words as your bread and butter, but what if you were at a loss for them?

Could you testify to your faith?  Could you express what Christ means to you?

Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 9:15,  “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”, so apparently even Paul reached the limits of his words occasionally.

He’s describing an encounter with the ineffable.

“Ineffable:  too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words.”

Yes, more than a language barrier or an inadequate thesaurus, there are times when what God has given us is simply more than we can say.

The depth of that kind of connection with God cannot be explained, only experienced.

That  means no sermon or devotion or caring conversation will ever sufficiently capture the ineffable, unnameable, indescribable God of my life, or yours.

That doesn’t mean we can’t try.

Poets, philosophers, theologians and musicians have dedicated their lives to weaving words together that at least point towards God.

So, for me, I still think it’s a worthwhile calling.  Language can at least point in the right direction.

But if the inability of words to fully describe God’s Love has you feeling a little disillusioned…

Would you like a hug?  🙂

Have a great week,

Mitch