The point we’ve been missing

A friend posted a link to a recent NY Times article on books addressing the growing Spiritual but not religious segment. Writing a recent memoir has made me think a lot about Christiian community, and specifically, the communities that raised me, formed me and continue to support me. I want to offer an excerpt from that memoir as my response.

from I Don’t Remember Signing Up For This Class: a life of darkness, light and surprising grace

I think we get confused sometimes about who church is really for. Of course, I need the challenge and the community and the comfort and the chance to sing. I need the friendships that I form. But it’s not just about me.

I spend hot summer days helping with the recreation for Vacation Bible School because someone did it for me. I invest in helping to lead a Sunday school class because I never know who might need that small group of fellow pilgrims. I never know what people bring with them into that room. I gather for worship because I need it. But I also gather because there are children and youth who will need to know that God loves them too. There are children and youth who need to be connected with adults who aren’t their parents.

It’s what the “I can worship anywhere” crowd forgets. It’s not just about us. It’s about the widow living alone who has no other source of hugs than what she gets on a Sunday morning. It’s a teenager who gets told in a thousand ways that she’s too fat or he’s too stupid, and who need to know that there are people who love them as is. It’s children who need to learn first hand that God’s house is a place where they can laugh and have fun, be silly, talk about what bothers them and know they are loved.

Sometimes you can pick them out. Even if you don’t know them, you see the haunted, desperate look in their eyes. You feel the hunger in their hug. And sometimes you’d never guess.

Just look at me.

We encourage each other to pay for the cup of coffee ordered by the person behind us in line, and when it happens to us we’re astounded by the grace of it. Yet week in and week out there are folks who are paying it forward, and I gladly count myself in their number.

The God I came to know through God’s people saved me. How can I not extend the same grace to someone else?

I participate in Christian community not just because my spirit needs it, but because I’m helping to create a container that the world needs.

It isn’t just about us.

I Don’t Remember Signing Up For This Class will be available on Kindle within a week, and will come out in paperback in September. Sign up for my newsletter (click on sign up) to get fair warning for both of these events (as well as others.)

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There’s always the dog door

There’s always the dog door

My brother and sister-in-law were in town for a wedding, staying in my guest room. Waiting for them to come home from the rehearsal dinner I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, falling asleep on the couch. (Allergy medicine was involved.)

They came home and rang the doorbell. I didn’t stir. They knocked on the door. I didn’t stir. They called my cellphone, which was right beside me. I didn’t stir. They called my home phone. I didn’t stir. Finally my brother came in through the (large) dog door. (My dogs were away at camp.) I still didn’t stir. After I woke up I didn’t realize they were home until I went to the back door for something and saw their car in the driveway. They were already sound asleep.

Life is like that sometimes. Not the being so tired that you’re comatose part. But the part about having to find a different way.

I’ve been listening to a biography of Muppet Creator Jim Henson while in my car. Besides his manifold creative gifts, Jim had the quality of being able to hold things lightly. Over and over again he made pitches for shows that were never picked up. He spent hours working on a Broadway show that didn’t happen. (Just today Disney announced plans for a possible Broadway Muppet Show.) He pitched pilot after pilot to the network, not just creating a proposal but creating actual muppet characters and producing skits. Either the network suits didn’t get it. Or if they were enthusiastic, they couldn’t find a time of it. For years he worked on this dream of having a weekly television show only to be turned down time after time.

Meanwhile, at the insistence of Lorne Michaels and the network, the Muppets were part of the original cast of Saturday night Live. (Yeah, it sounded strange to me as well.) Obviously, they didn’t click with the cast and writers but Michaels liked Jim so much he didn’t want to fire him.

At this same time, through the work of his agent and connections made while doing a special with Julie Andrews (who herself had been given a special because her network show was cancelled after one season, a casualty of going head to head with Mary Tyler Moore) Jim was offered a syndication deal. Originally skeptical of syndication, Jim allowed himself to be talked into it.

The Muppet Show was born. When the agent called with the news Jim didn’t ask about money or budget. He simply said, “I love you.” There was, of course, no issue with Jim being let out of his SNL contract, and everyone parted with relief.

He had his dream. Not on the timetable he’d wanted. Not in the way he envisioned. But he had his dream.

Sometimes we miss what could be possible in our lives because we insist that they can be possible in only one way and on only one timetable. But the truth of the matter is, sometimes they have to come through the dog door.

What are you wiling to hold lightly?

A prayer for prayer

God,
I don’t pray enough.
But I suppose
you already know that.

I know I should
have a routine.
I know I should
clear out a space in the morning
or create a time in the evening.

I know I should
be more disciplined
more focused
more earnest in my seeking
more regular in my gratitude
more focused in my asking.

I know I should have a prayer list or maybe a prayer journal
or at the very least
a time and a day
for settling into prayer.

God,
I want to do all of those things.
I need to do all of those things.
I know that it’s important
to do all of those things.

And God,
I am trying.
Honest I am.
But for now
surrounded by shoulds,
this is all I can manage.
A quick word
here and there…

Remembering
to turn off the radio
so we can talk as I drive.
A chat as I walk my dog.
Sitting on the patio in a soft summer evening.

Mostly, God, I want that
what I know I should do
not to get in the way
of what I can do.

At least for today.

We can work on tomorrow together.

from heart prayers 2 by Peggy Haymes