As long as I live there will be something worth fighting for, worth writing for, and worth dying for.

Friday, November 26, 2010

So Many Blessings

Did you have a good Thanksgiving? I did! That was, of course, after God taught me a lesson I have been teaching others. I hate it when that happens. When you preach something (in a loose use of the word: preach) and God looks down and says, "Oh. Really? Let's see how well you do on this."


I have a bad record of not passing these tests the first time around. At all.

Last Friday, I got to go hiking. It was a field trip, so I had to go out in the beautiful fall sunshine, in perfect hiking weather and hike the Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls. Shucks. Can I just say right now, how much I enjoy my job!

Of course, there is always that one student bent on making a perfect day a miserable one. And, of course, this teacher has to stay with said student and practically drag them through the trail. It was tedious. He didn't like dirt, bugs, the thought of snakes (regardless of how many times I told him it was too cold for snakes), water, leaves, rocks, heights... we still have not determined why he even went on the trip. Needless to say, after about an hour of his incessant whining, the student who had stayed back to help spoke the words that I, in all of my teacherly political correctness, could never speak. "Would you please just shut up and stop complaining."

Took the words right out of my mouth.

So a couple more hours passed full of gentle and not-so-gentle prodding and encouraging. At one point the other student actually grabbed this particular slow student by the front of his jacket and drug him over a rock. I couldn't figure out if it was appropriate to laugh.

His whining and attitude were making it a miserable trip for everyone near him. It's hard to enjoy the dirt, bugs, water, rocks, leaves, heights, and such when someone is fussing about them. As we neared the end of the trail, I decided to use a teachable moment. I'm trying to work on spotting those.

"Now look," I said, "you were going to get here either way. You could have made this trip a lot more fun if you had just tried to enjoy it instead of complaining about everything."

Funny. I didn't remember those words the next day when my boss scheduled me to work all day Thanksgiving. In fact, I kinda threw a fit (not really). I am a teacher. These are my only days off school. How dare he make me spend time away from my family and force me to not only work Thanksgiving but waitress, of all things. I haven't been on the floor in months. This is ridiculous. This is unfair. And then he was going to try to force me to wear a tie *pause for outburst of hysterical laughter from those who know me well*  That wasn't happening.

Oh, I had a list. I was hot. I was so frustrated and disappointed and felt so used. The money didn't really matter, it was the fact that I couldn't spend time with my family and that I had to work during my vacation (which after last Friday, I figured I deserved).

My mother offered a bit of encouragement. "We'll just have Thanksgiving dinner when you get home." I wasn't scheduled to get home until about 7 or 8. Feeling a little late for Thanksgiving dinner. I will confess, I woke up yesterday morning with a bad attitude. Yes, I had a bad attitude on Thanksgiving. One of those, "God, I am grateful for everything except for the fact that I have to work today. Everything but that."

I got to work and the first words were, "Thank you so much for coming in. We're going to try to get you out of here as soon as possible. You are first off." (Meaning when things die down, I would get to go home first). I was feeling better then. Maybe Thanksgiving dinner wouldn't be at midnight after all. Hours before expected, we were cleaning up and resetting the room when my coworkers' morning coffee must have worn off. Meanwhile, I'm being pulled into the office to do stuff and being told that as soon as the room is reset, I can go. Well, the room isn't getting reset while said coworkers are sitting around staring at each other. Frustration level rose again.

We lit a fire under them and got them going, but I still ended up resetting the room by myself, more out of bitterness and anger than teamworking. I finally got the room reset and ran back to the office to finish up a last-minute printing. My poor mother had been waiting outside for an hour and a half, while our potatoes boiled dry on the stove (true story). As I tore around the office, my boss handed me an envelope and said, "Here, for you. Just so you know how much we appreciate you." It was a holiday bonus. Like a bigger bonus than the tips I made going in yesterday.

Do you know how much of a jerk I felt like?!?

It wasn't until I got home and sat down to eat my turkey and smoked mashed potatoes (they were actually pretty good!) at 7:30 that I remembered those words I had said a week ago, "You were going to get here anyway, you could have made it more enjoyable."

When we develop a me-focus, we become easily frustrated.

I am learning that. If my student had focused on the beautiful weather and the fact that he is well enough to hike such a trail and that it is actually kinda fun, that field trip would have been very different. If I had shut up and stopped complaining long enough to be thankful that I have a job this holiday season and that I can cover while some of my coworkers travel to visit their families, this week would have been so different. I would have made it to today either way. I go back in tonight to work a late party and then back in tomorrow to work office. Not the vacation I had planned, but you know what!? It's OK. I am blessed.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Worship and a Grilled Cheese Sandwich

A number of weeks ago, I read an article by a friend of a friend in regards to teetotalling (the practice of not drinking alochol- at all, ever). He brought up some great points about Christian liberties in Scripture as it comes to motives and such. Long and the short, I have never drank and never will, at least not intentionally. I ate a bread pudding in bourbon cream sauce once and do believe the bourbon was not sufficiently creamed.

All alcohol aside, though, last week I encountered a different application of Christian liberties, equally controversial. Worship.

First off, it's a shame that worship is, in fact, controversial. It shouldn't be, but we like to make Biblical commands controversial. Apparently, life is more exciting that way.

I "attend" two "churches." To one I claim official membership, while the other I claim a majority of my fellowship. One, I am faithful to attend every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. It is where I serve in the prints and publications division (there isn't one, but that's the best way to describe what I do). In the other, I get to be one of the body. My purpose in the second is to fellowship with likeminded believers of similar place in life. It is markedly more contemporary.

Sunday night was one of the first nights I made it to the worship service of church B. I usually miss that because I am trying to finish up my church A. Last week, I skipped church A altogether and went to church B instead.

I am still adjusting to it all. About two hundred people crammed in a teeny tiny room with really strong acoustics. It gets loud. Not because we are trying to make it into some kind of rock concert, but because it's just loud. The people there want to worship God. It's a far cry from the drolling Sunday morning hymns squeaked out by the people around me. And I'm not talking the 'praise and worship' Christian contemporary stuff people like to fuss about. We sang "Take my Life and Let it Be" (a hymn) louder than I have ever heard it sung before.

It was something else last week that drew my attention-- a man and his wife in the front row. At first, there was judgement. One moment he would be on his knees, the next standing up with his hands in the air. His wife would be the same. I had a list of reasons why they shouldn't be doing that. Then, an interesting thought popped in my head:

Worship is like a grilled cheese sandwich.

A few nights ago, we had grilled cheese and my sandwich, to my dismay, was cut straight up and down. It was fairly upsetting to me, actually. I was rather miffed. When the second sandwich was made, it was cut diagonally, and I was happy.

Now, did the sandwich taste any different? No! Did it stop being grilled cheese because it was slice the "wrong" way? No. Why did it matter? Because it wasn't what I was used to. Grilled cheese sandwiches- any sandwich for that matter- in my book, should be sliced diagonally. That's the way I do it.

Here is a man and his wife, worshipping God. As am I. I am not lifting my hands. I am not moving. Does that mean I am not worshipping? No. They are lifting their hands and kneeling. Does that mean they are not worshipping? No. Would I do that? Probably never. Just like I will never cut my grilled cheese straight up and down. It's not how I was raised. It isn't how I worship.

But it can still be worship. One isn't better than the other, one isn't worse than the other. Just because I'm standing still doesn't mean I am a better worshipper, and their hands and kneeling doesn't make them a better worshipper. It all boils down to our hearts. No one can judge the outward appearance, because we are all used to something.

We all have a norm, and every now and then, someone will come along that challenges that norm. They aren't intending to destroy that norm or tell us we are wrong. They are simply letting us know that it is really ok if the grilled cheese is cut a different way. We can all still get along.