The Cheap Seats

IMG_1989

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to do something pastors seldom do in their own church:

Nothing.

It was a special Sunday, Children’s Sabbath, and our children were running the whole show (with expert help from our staff).  I was, for once, superfluous on a Sunday morning so you know what I did?

I sat up in the balcony.

Each week I watch this crew of folks who choose to sit in the balcony.  Lots of kids, laid back parents, folks who seemed to take things a little casually.

I decided I wanted to see what it was like to just be a spectator–an audience member up in the cheap seats, so I climbed up, sat down, got comfortable, and discovered that I was wrong about the whole thing.

I was wrong about worship in the balcony.  I hadn’t fully realized that it was a holy place of worship just like any other place.

If I truly wanted to do “nothing” that Sunday, I was in the wrong place.  There was nothing superfluous up here.   No audience members or spectators.   Only worshippers in our balcony.

In fact, the unique perspective added to the experience.  We were hovering down over the worship leaders and the rest of the congregation — I’d call it an angelic perspective.

We stood and sang at the hymns, we prayed at the prayers and we listened to the sermon, just like anybody else. But from our vantage point the whole sanctuary was laid out before us.

It was quite beautiful, really.

I always wanted to sit in the “cheap seats” because it looked like fun.

Turns out it offered the richest of worship experiences.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch

cheap_seats1

Best. Picnic. Ever.

images (2)

The United Methodist men’s annual picnic was supposed to begin at 5:30 in the park next-door to the church. And when I looked at the radar on my office computer, I could clearly see a band of thunderstorms headed our direction.

I’m a weather hound so I was looking forward to the booms of thunder as we relocated into the fellowship hall for our picnic.

At 4:25 nobody was there.

I stood out on the steps of the church and looked up at the bubbling clouds just ready to drop. Then there was Jerry, carrying a pan out into his car. “I’ve got the beans” he said. The beans were a special recipe and no United Methodist men’s cookout was complete without them. He put the heavy pan into his car and started to get in.

“Where are you going?” I asked. “It’s about to start pouring.”

“Duane thinks we have enough time,” Jerry said. “Or maybe it’s Fred that thinks we have enough time. It’s his cooker”. He got in his car “I choose to think we have enough time too” and with a smile he headed down the street to the park where I could just barely see the smoker set up at the other end.

“These guys are crazy,” I thought to myself, and I went back in the church to check the radar again. Sure enough, it seemed like the storm was right about on us. I decided to smugly wait it out at the church for when they came dashing in out of the rain. But at 5:30 on the nose nobody was at the church, and it still hadn’t rained. So reluctantly I climbed into my car and drove down to where they were gathering.

Sure enough there were a dozen men, and a couple tables set up with buns and chips and condiments, and of course, the beans.  Fred’s giant smoker was cooking up hamburgers and hotdogs.

“Yeah, I think we’ll have enough time,” somebody said, and we just stood there for a little bit chatting while Fred cooked up the meat. I went and got a bottle of water out of one of the coolers as distant thunder began to boom. I shook my head at the group. “I thought you guys were silly for setting up out here, but obviously you have to have lived in Mulvane a few more years to understand the weather.”

There was another boom, not quite so distant.

“Pastor, maybe you better pray,” someone said. Someone else said, “and make it a quick one” Just then lightning struck even a little closer so I just said “dear God, don’t kill us amen”.  The guys chuckled at that and the food was ready.

We lined up and started fixing up our hamburgers and hotdogs. The hotdogs looked especially plump and juicy, cooked perfectly. I put one on a bun with some mustard and took a bite just as a raindrop hit my arm. We ate fast, standing around the table, barely talking, just shoveling the food down.

“Did anybody bring any forks for the beams?”someone asked.  Joe said he’d run up to the church and get some.  It was beginning to sputter so several guys yelled “hurry”at the same time.

Meanwhile my teeth sank into that hot dog, and standing there in the moments right before the thunderstorm I have to tell you that was the most delicious hot dog I ever ate in my life. It made me giddy it was so good.

The wind picked up and Joe made it back with some forks. All these guys standing around the table are now shoveling these world famous beans into their mouths, as Fred’s weather radio went off. The storm was on its way and it was a severe one.

Guys began to pack up the supplies and put them in cars as the rain began to drop. Remember, I was the one who thought they were silly to be out there in the first place, but I couldn’t help myself. I made myself another hotdog and stood there in the light rain giggling to myself.

Then the wind picked up and the rain really began to fall and a dozen United Methodist men scrambled like a flock of birds picking up supplies and running for the cover of their cars. I ended up with a cutting board and a couple of oven mitts in my car–no clue whose they are.

The rain poured down and it looked like hail could be on the way, so the cars scattered.  Instead of going back to the church I just drove home, which is only a block away.

I pulled into my garage and I looked at the time on my watch:

5:49.

It had been a 19 minute picnic, and without a doubt it was the best.picnic.ever.

There’s little more to report other than that I sure like being a United Methodist Man!

Have a great week,

Mitch

530_IMG_3438

12:12 training

 

img_5629

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12

I believe I have failed this verse completely.

First word:  Be.

Yep, I’ve blown that before.  Now, ask me to “do” and maybe I can help you out.  Or to ruminate, or worry, yes I’m your man.

But to “Be” anything is a challenge.  Let alone what I’m suppose to be:

Be Joyful.  Be Patient.  Be Faithful.   Gulp!

These are not simple things to ask for!  To be joyful — well, I’ve managed that from from time to time, but certainly not on command.

To be patient? This is maybe the hardest request out of the whole verse.  It’s just not something I’m any good at.  Not for more than maybe 5 minutes at a time.

Then, to be faithful.  Oh Lord, I wish I were.  I work on this one, I really do, but it’s a challenge for me.

Be joyful, patient, and faithful.

Already it seems impossible, but then add in the conditions, and I’m positively sunk.

Be joyful IN HOPE.  So as I try to muster up a little hope for my life, I need to do that joyfully.  Yikes.

Be patient IN AFFLICTION.  I have trouble being patient at the drive through lane, and you want be to be patient in affliction?

And finally, be faithful IN PRAYER.  You want me to be consistent in my prayer life, reaching out to God as much as I possibly can?

Hmm.

Ok, maybe I can be faithul in prayer.

Which maybe means maybe I can try

to be the rest.

After all, I might not be Romans 12:12 perfect,

but I can be in 12:12 training.

Have a great week,

Mitch

photo