Tuesday, January 11, 2005

2 things that bothered me, and 2 things that didn't bother me so much

1 thing that bothered me:

On Sunday, I had a Youth Council meeting. For those of you without a background in Youth Ministry - this is when youth ministers enlist a panel of actual teenagers to do part of their job for them, because teenagers will always know teenagers better than even a 20-year-old will. We do this by using them as a kind of focus group, and giving the illusion of power in the decision-making process, when really we just want to get them on our side, or blame bad decisions on them when the other students don't really go for it.

The idea behind this is to get the best of the best from the youth group for the Council - putting them, for better or worse, in the position of "Example for the other students". Anyway, the meetings at 5:30, Evening Worship is at 6:30. The meeting covered, among other things, the expectations for those who wish to have a position of service on the council, including church attendance. I don't think that's too much to ask of someone who's pursuing a position of responsibility that involves decision-making. I think you see where this is going. Of the 12 students that came to the meeting, FOUR OF THEM actually attended the church service. What the heck? I don't know what to do anymore. These same kids who are clamoring for a leadership position, complaining that we didn't have some kind of Youth Council, are skipping church after the first meeting! After church got out (at 7:15 - only 45 minutes later!) I called them all at home to tell them that they were losers. Get this - some of them weren't even at home. No excuses about homework, or their parents not letting them stay out - they weren't even at home! So I told the parents that their kids were losers. I hate being a youth minister.

The other thing that bothered me:

An open letter to the Louisiana State Trooper in the cruiser with License Plate # 464:

Dear Smokey, Po-po, the Heat, the Fuzz, Pigs, Bacon, Cops, Louisiana's Finest,

I'm not sure where you were headed on Sunday night at about 8 p.m., but I hope you made it safely. God knows that all of us jerks driving the speed limit in those two east-bound lanes of Coursey Boulevard didn't mean to get in your way. And I appreciated you using your turn signal when you filled up that one-car-length space in front of my car, and behind my girlfriend's, at 45 miles per hour. I was wondering (while you rode her bumper for a mile and a half, and then proceeded to pass her on the right, and speed up to nearly 60 mph in a 45 mph zone) why you didn't just turn on your lights and sirens to move everyone out of the way, if you were headed toward some official police emergency. I'm sure that in all the hustle and bustle, you probably just forgot, didn't you? Strange how you don't forget the lights and sirens, though, when you can't stand sitting at a red light with the rest of the citizenry. Just out of curiosity - who polices the police? Who makes sure they don't drive too fast when there's not an emergency? Who makes sure they don't commit the godless offense of speeding up at yellow lights? Who's in charge of counting one - one thousand, two - one thousand for the car in front of them? Just curious. Sunday night you came very close to hearing my horn, and my flashing bright lights until you yourself pulled over. I had a fantasy of walking up to your window and asking for your license and registration please, while I made show of walking around your car and giving it a very smug and official looking once-over. I wanted to ask you if you knew why I had pulled you over today - and without waiting for an answer, take your documents back to my car, and listen to the iPod for a few minutes, while you wondered, and were late for whatever appointment you had. I probably would have fulfilled my fantasy - except for the fact that now I have to hide from you, because I can't afford to fix some ridiculous little emissions thingamabob that is specific, not just to Louisiana, but to this particular part of south Louisiana, and therefore couldn't get my inspection sticker.

Oh- I don't mean to complain. After all, sir,... YOU are the one who needs the pay raise. Isn't that what you've been complaining about for the past 2 years? Isn't that what our new mayor promised you? Forget the fact that in Louisiana, people like me already pay an astronomical state income tax to support you - it's going to take a few more dollars an hour of our money to subsidize your failure to serve or protect anybody. Well, officer, take it from a guy who's been more than 3 years in the same position without a pay raise - It's probably best that the voters at large get to decide how much you make, because I wouldn't pay you a penny for the example you set on the road the other night.


LA JJM 028

Take a few moments... come down off of that... Okay. Ready.

1 thing that didn't bother me so much:

So in a cruel twist of fate, and a triumph of acheivement in spite of parenting, my own sister, Casey Thomas, is now serving as Children's Minister on the staff of the church where I serve. She and I haven't attended the same church since I was a senior in high school, and she was a freshman. Well, apparently, somewhere along the line, she picked up the art of sign language. Who knew! As I stood next to her in church recently, she proceeded to sign the words to every single song we sung. At first it annoyed me, because I was thinking that maybe she likes the attention. She is textbook drama queen, anyway. But the more I thought about it, and chastised myself for being concerned about somebody else's worship, I began to recognize it for something more beautiful.

I suppose that there is one sacrifice; one friend; one supreme act of selfless service; one mediator between God and men; one way; one truth; one life; one Alpha; one Omega; one Logos; one Creator, Sustainer, and Author of our faith; one lover of my soul; one image of the invisible God whose virtues cannot be extolled with the lips and voices of a multitude of individuals. No - it takes more than we can express, or ever will express. If all of our feeble offerings were a grain of sand, then His glory would be a universe of beaches. In this context - I suppose that if I encountered such a force in the universe, I would want to be armed with all the languages my lips and hands could muster to express a portion of what my heart yearns to say. What a beautiful way she interfaces with her Creator.

I'm not annoyed so much by it anymore.

The other thing that doesn't bother me so much:

Tommy Stewart sits on the very front row on the right side of the floor seats every Sunday morning. Actually, he doesn't sit on the row, because he's in a wheelchair. I'm not sure how old he is, 60's I'd guess, but he's the sweetest man you ever met. You can't walk by him, even if you're in the habit of trying not to make eye contact with handicapped folks. He has a smile that is magnetic, and a slurred "Good morning, brother!" that I have grown to look forward to. I don't know how long it's been since he walked.

This past Sunday, we sang the hymn Love Lifted Me. In my mind, it always conjures memories of the old Kenny Rogers version of that song that I used to hear riding with my parents. Kenny's version didn't have the spiritual significance of this one, and I have ruined many a worship service with it's very mention. Needless to say, I was distracted as I mouthed the words robotically. I looked over and saw Mr. Stewart singing, and pointing to himself right in the chest everytime we sang the word "me". Love lifted me (point), Love lifted me (point), when nothing else could help, Love lifted me (point). He didn't just point every now and then. He pointed every time. Right at himself. Right in the chest. At first it seemed cheesy. But then again - I'm kind of a lame Christian, so it took me a second to get to this point:

Funny how, when I'm in the car, I am very aware of the lyrical content and significance of the songs on the iPod, or the radio. Funny how, when I'm in church, I could be saying anything, and not know it. Sad, really. Maybe I'm the only one - but as I'm singing Love Lifted Me, I'm guilty of singing a different song altogether. I'm singing a song that goes: Love lifted some guy a hundred years ago that was so moved that he wrote a song about it, Love lifted some guy - you get the idea. Not Tommy Stewart, though. If I may be so bold - Here's a guy who knows a little something about being lifted. Because of his handicap, he gets lifted out of his chair and into the car; lifted onto the couch or chair at home; lifted on to the toilet; lifted into bed at night; and lifted back out of it the next morning. Somebody physically has to pick him up and lift him. And it can't be just anybody who would fool with 200 pounds of hairy old man. It's somebody who cares for and loves him, when he has absolutely nothing to contribute. Love, very literally, lifts him, over and over, all day, every day. He is singing a song about Tommy Stewart; written by the heart of Tommy Stewart; and told (once again) by the lips and hands of Tommy Stewart. He's singing a song that I may never know.

All my heart to Him I give, ever to him I'll cling, In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing; Love so mighty and so true merits my soul's best songs; Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs. Love lifted me (point), Love lifted me (point), when nothing else could help, Love lifted me (point). Love lifted me (point), Love lifted me (point), when nothing else could help, Love lifted me (point).


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