Lord, make me an instrument.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” — The Prayer of Saint Francis.

“Lord, make me an instrument.”  — Me.

Guess what:

For the next hour, you have the ability to play (beautifully, I might add) any musical instrument you can get your hands on.

Go!

Let’s all go to the High School band/orchestra room and see what kind of music we can make!

What would you pick up first?

First, I’d pick up the trombone. My dad plays, and I could never produce an actual musical note on that thing. I’d puff and blow and the best I could ever produce was a sort of “pbbbbbbttttt” sound.

But not today. Today I break into a little “When the Saints Go Marching In”, complete with all kinds of slides and slurs. Fun!

Next, I pick up an electric guitar, propped up in a corner by the jazz band instruments. I can already play a little guitar. I know the basic chords. But I never learned to really strum, or finesse, let alone play a solo.

Today is different. Today I play Hendrix’s version of “The Star Spangled Banner”.

I play so loudly people are leaning their heads into the room and “shushing” me.  Today, I ignore them. I’m not interested in that kind of feedback.  I’m interested in this kind:  *Squeeeaal*

Then I switch gears. I pick up an oboe and let loose a gentle haunting melody. I rush over to the cello and improvise some brooding vigorous rhythm.

I pick up the piccolo. Hardly the instrument of choice for a big guy like me, but I play a little of the descant for “Stars and Stripes” just for the fun of it.

What instruments would you like to play?

Maybe you stopped piano lessons in 3rd grade. Today you can play like Liberace.

Maybe you only sing in the shower. Today you’re a diva.

Maybe you struggled with “Mary had a little lamb” on the viola. Today you’re first chair!

It’s a wonderful fantasy, isn’t it? To be a virtuoso on all things musical.

Well, as you and I are rushing around the band room, trying out instruments, God is leaning against the wall, smiling. This is the sound of life, after all. The music  of co-creation. You, and I, and God, collaborating. God loves this.

 

You see, to God, we are the instruments.

God is the creative spirit. Our lives make the music. We are the instruments.

Don’t worry about hitting every note. Don’t worry about staying in tune.

Sure, it would be fun to be that musically proficient, but God finds joy in all kinds of noise.

So buy a $1 harmonica. Pound on your steering wheel. Dig that high school flute out of the closet. Strum your guitar that’s missing 2 strings. Put your lips together and whistle.

Whatever comes out, comes out of you. That’s good enough.

Whatever comes from your heart…

is music to God’s ears.

Have a great week,

Mitch

P.S. What instrument have you always wanted to play? Leave a comment.

 

 

originally published in 2012

Dyeing for the love of it

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At the children’s Easter Carnival I had the best booth.

Sure, there were egg races and bracelet making and several other exciting stations…

but I was at the egg dying booth. Score!

It was three tables long, with pink, blue, green, yellow, and orange cups, ready to receive boiled eggs.

There were white crayons for drawing names, and special Easter stickers for decorating.

From the moment the event began, our booth was the busiest.  Kids excitedly dunking their eggs, and only cracking a few.

I was heart warmed to see how many kids knew what they were doing, using the old wire tool, or the newfangled plastic tool to escort their eggs from one cup to the next.

It had been 20 years since I’d dyed eggs, but I was happy to see that such traditions live on in many of today’s families.

There was only one problem.

Those darn eggs just wouldn’t get dark.

I don’t know why, either.

The mixture was made with vinegar and water, just like the package suggested. The water was room temperature, also as instructed, even though I remember a lot more vinegar and a lot hotter water when I was a kid.

Anyway, the pink looked pink.  The yellow looked off-white.  The blue and the green looked vaguely blue and green.  The orange looked kind of yellow.

The colors were kind of wimpy.

Not that anyone was complaining.  The kids had a great time.

But some of them left their eggs in the cups for a good 15 minutes trying to get darker, with little discernable difference.

Here’s why I was a little annoyed:  Easter is supposed to be vivid.  Bright.  Deep and colorful.

I was reminded of Holy Thursday services that failed to engage the congregation fully.

And Good Friday services that seemed just a little dull.

And Easter services that seem to be a little less…vivid.

What if that’s what Holy Week is like this year?  Like Easter eggs that are a little less wild and a little more mild.

What if it fails to entertain?  What if the sermon falls flat?  What if the resurrection seems like just another old story?

I don’t know what I’m worried about.  Those beautiful kids at our Easter Carnival had the time of their lives.

They weren’t looking for perfection, or drama, or brilliant colors.

They were thrilled to participate.

(They dyed for the love of it,)

Meanwhile, if you have any concerns about Holy Week being a little weak this year, remember it’s not about the flair of the presentation.

It’s about participating,

and it’s about Jesus,

(who died for the love of it.)

 

Have a great Holy Week,

Mitch

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9 extreme ideas for getting people into your church.

So you’ve hung out door hangers, talked to your neighbors, and put ads in the paper.

If nothing seems to be working, try these 9 extreme ideas for getting people into your church.

*Note* It’s up to you to decide which of these has merit, which are kind of silly, and which are just crazy enough they might work.

1. GIVE AWAY A BIG SCREEN TV ONCE A MONTH91BZ7U+n1+L._SL1500_ (1)

Let’s get the most extreme idea out of the way early.  But hear me out, this might actually work.  A 40″ Smart TV costs around $260. Every guest who signs in the attendance book for the entire 4 week period is eligible to win the TV.  The winner would be announced on the 5th Sunday. So, for $260 you have enhanced the attendance of visitors, giving them 5 weeks to acclimate.  You may be saying this is flat our bribery (and I might too), but you could also call it “our special visitors gift.”  All the other visitors get a $10 gift card to Best Buy, and hopefully they will have put some money in the offering plate to offset the cost.   I told you this was an extreme list…

2. OPEN A STARBUCKS IN YOUR FELLOWSHIP HALLimages (1)

Keep in mind, setting up a Keurig and some discount coffee flavors will not bring people into your church.  However, if you’re serving the best coffee in town, even if people need to pay something for it, you could attract sleepy-heads who need their gourmet coffee fix.  Bonus Points:  Let them take their coffee into the sanctuary!

3. START COUNTING OTHER THINGS AS “WORSHIP ATTENDANCE”Holy-yoga-street-sue-bidstrup

Our church has a couple “Holy Yoga” classes that include prayer, movement, silence, and intense spirituality.   Sounds like a worship service to me.  (There’s even an offering).   We also have a “Kingdom Seekers” class for grade school and mid-high students on Wednesday afternoons.  Part of the activity is a worship time.  Singing, praying, a message, and so forth for the kids.  I could make a strong argument that both of these constitute worship, thereby raising my average worship attendance by about 85 every week!  So far, the only real reason I could see to “count” those as worship would be to remind our church of the sacred times outside our 8:30 & 11:00 service.  Still, it’s in the back of my mind.

4. GIVE LOTS OF “SCHOLARSHIPS” FOR STUDENTS TO SING, OR…

Christians at church.

Christians at church.

You know the old “your mom paid me to be your best friend” gig?  It actually works.  “pay” a minimal scholarship to a handful of kids to sing in the choir or the praise band, and soon their parents may come, or their friends.  If there’s a population segment missing from your worship, why not financially support someone who can help reach those people?

5. TWO WORDS:  BREAKFAST BUFFETes_bfastbuffet_11_712x342_FitToBoxSmallDimension_Center

$5 to eat, $3 if you’re worshiping afterwards.  Again, if it’s the best in town…

6. GO PET FRIENDLYlaugh

Pet owners are a different breed.  (get it?)  There is a spiritual bond pet owners have with their pets, so why not incorporate that with worship?  Have a special worship service in the fellowship hall that is pet friendly.  Sing a couple songs, say some prayers, and even a short message that respects that animal world.  If you’ve ever done a blessing of the animals, you know what the possibilities are.

7. GIVE TICKETS TO POLICE OFFICERSmlb-al-wild-card-oakland-athletics-kansas-city-royals-850x560

Turn the tables!  Invite the area’s police to worship, and lure them with two free tickets to the Royals (or whatever).  During worship, have them stand and thank them profusely.   The same idea could work with a BARBECUE FOR FIRE FIGHTERS

8. FREE HAIRCUT DAYdt.common.streams.StreamServer

If you have several hair stylists in your congregation, enlist them (paid or not) to offer free hair cuts before and after worship.  How about a slogan like “Look spiffy for church”?

9. OR…STOP WORRYING ABOUT NUMBERS.  THINK VITALITY.vitality.min_

You can stop worrying so much about numbers.  The truth is, Christianity in North American is on a downswing, so dropping in numbers is to be expected.  Instead, focus your attention on being vital — a congregation that is aggressively reaching out into the world with love and Good News.

Funny thing…the list above, silly as it is, is the kind of stuff a vital congregation would do.

Not to make numbers,

but to make disciples.

Have a great week,

Mitch

How To Help An Enigmatic Crier

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This is a picture of me crying.

There are three reasons I generally might cry:

  1.  I drink a lot of caffeine, and for some reason, when it wears off, I start yawning and tearing.
  2.  I’m now in allergy season, and my allergies give me watery eyes.
  3.  I’m sad.

Frequently I’ll have people asking me why I’m crying, and it’s admittedly a little embarrassing to have to explain why I’m tearing up.  (Usually 1 or 2)

I’m not the only enigmatic crier.

In John, chapter 11, we hear about the death of Lazarus.  Jesus arrives at the tomb several days late, and encounters a distraught Mary and Martha, as well as other Jews gathered there.   This is where we hear the shortest verse in the Bible:  “Jesus wept.”

But why was he crying?

Was it:

  1.  Because he missed Lazarus and was sorry he was dead.
  2.  Because he was sad at the lack of faith of the people gathered there.
  3.  Because he felt sorry for the grieving Mary and Martha.

People have made arguments for each possibility down through the ages.  Which one do you think?  My guess is #3, but there’s probably no way of knowing.  Just like me, Jesus has multiple reasons to shed tears.

And we’re not the only ones.  Crying isn’t always a straightforward activity. From time to time you will encounter someone who is sad or even tearing up and you may not know why.  What do you do?

You could:

  1. Politely ignore the tears and hope all is well
  2. Ask what’s wrong.

Those could both work.  My personal favorite, however, is…

3.  Hand them a tissue.

No matter the reason for the tears, passing a Kleenex seems to say “Whatever you’ve got going on, I care about you”.  It’s a direct, physical action that invites but doesn’t require further conversation.

I guess they didn’t have Kleenex in Jesus’ time, but if I’d been next to Lazarus’ grave when Jesus wept, I would like to think I would have offered him a sleeve to wipe his eyes on…

and maybe he’d have offered more than a two word explanation!

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Automatic Pilate

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There are some days when I enjoy I long relaxing shower.

But other days, like this morning, I just want to be dressed and on my way to work.  This shaving and showering and shoe-tying seems like such a waste of my higher brain functions.

Also…

There are some days when I enjoy driving on the open road, listening to audio books.

But other days, like tomorrow, I’ll be driving 3 hours for a 3 hour meeting, and I really want that time back.  It’s dead-time.  Pointless time.

There’s got to be a better way!

Maybe I could invent a device, a sort of an automatic pilot, that would kind of kick in when I’d rather not be present in the moment.  Yes!  When life gets annoying I could engage my automatic pilot and I’d “wake up” a couple hours later refreshed and free from tedium.

Time to scoop the poop in the back yard?  Automatic pilot.

Time to argue about finances?  Automatic pilot.

Time to to make a dozen decisions I don’t really know the answers to?   You guessed it.

“Automatic Pilot (patent pending):  You really can care less!”

I wonder.  How many hours would you zap out of your day with a device like that?

An hour?  Three hours?

I suppose the question is what in your life is tedious enough to make you want to let it pass you by.

Not just tedious moments.  How often would you use your Automatic Pilot to avoid uncomfortable situations?

Remember Pontius Pilate?  When he washed his hands of Jesus’ fate, wasn’t he using that water like a primitive automatic pilot?

“This moment is more than I can bear.  I wash my hands of it.”

To be honest, I think that would be the biggest design flaw in my Automatic Pilate.  Er, pilot. You and I might not be good at discerning the moments to skip, and the moments to put up with.

Want to hear something funny?

I came up with the idea for this devotion in the shower.   The shower I didn’t want to take because I was in a hurry and wished I could skip it.

If I’d had an automatic pilot getting me ready today, I might still be trying to figure out what to write about.

It just goes to show, living on automatic pilot may not be all its cracked up to be.   We’re better off not washing our hands of the tedious or troublesome moments in our lives.

(Even the ones when we’re actually washing our hands).

Instead, we are called to ask God to guide our every steps,

which automatically makes

every moment count.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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