Sunday Thoughts: A Letter to the Ordinary Saint

 

Dear Ordinary Saint,

Yes, you. The one who quietly slips into their pew every Sunday, stands, sings, sits, reads, stands, sits, and quietly leaves. Yes, you. You who have health issues and can’t even stand for the Bible reading. You with the wiggly children who can’t whisper yet. You who are bearing a weight of such sorrow, you can’t talk to others. You who don’t rush around after the service, don’t play a musical instrument, don’t manage anything big or small. You who don’t talk much. You who are there every week: we appreciate you.

There is nothing in the world as important as the preaching of the Word of God. Nothing. And there is nothing more discouraging to the Bride and body of Christ than empty pews where fellow brothers and sisters are supposed to be. You ordinary saints who move through this life with a quiet contentment as you raise your families, love your wives, and obey your husbands, are encouraging your church family with your faithfulness. Don’t belittle it, or think it unimportant.

Mothers, you think you spend the whole service hushing, shushing, calming, and disciplining your children. You worry that it might be better if you just avoided church with your noisy brood for the first five or six years of their lives. Please don’t! Your faithfulness encourages all of us. We come into the service bloody and bruised after a week of fighting sin, weary to death, and what do we see? You. Again. With your children, ready to hear the Word. Our faith is bolstered. Our hearts are lifted. We see God’s gentle provision expressed in your paper-strewn pew and we are reminded He will care for us.

Young people, you have a million things calling for your attention. Work, movies, concerts, friends, events, functions, education. There are hundreds of more exciting things you could be doing, and honestly, hundreds of more exciting churches that would love to have you on their worship team. Please don’t! Your faithfulness encourages all of us. We have all faced the temptation to play or work on Sunday, or attend an event, or just sleep in. Seeing you make the sacrifice of what is considered normal in our culture to be in church every Sunday encourages us to stay at the task. Our resolve to face our God- given duties is braced by your faithfulness. Have you ever realized that? That your cheerful willingness to be in church every Sunday helps all us old people?

Men, be you young or old, married, fathers, single, husbands, your faithful choice to set aside ease, comfort, and relaxation to gather yourselves, your families, your wife, your children, and be in church is leading. Your job tells you to work long hours. Your world tells you to use Sunday to enjoy yourself, or finish something on the eternal Honey Do List. Please don’t! You have no idea how many other men are struggling to be in church themselves or with their families. They may be drowning in the temptation to stay home. They may have lost sight of why we are in church. But they see you there, every week, in the same spot, and they’re encouraged in their duty. You didn’t have to say anything to serve. You probably didn’t even realize you are serving. But it helps all of us hold the course when our men faithfully attend church.

Last, for the sake of your dear pastors and teachers, please understand the power of faithful attendance. Do you ever think about your pastors’ week? They have spent hours and hours studying the scripture, testing themselves against other wise men, formulating something that is understandable. They have labored late into the day. They have forgone rest. Some of them have woken in the middle of the night to make sure, one last time, that what they’re about to say is true and edifying. They have agonized over each word. They have fought the temptation to say something popular. They have shredded their sermons and lessons and started over, on Friday. Their wives and children have sacrificed time with them, so they may study for you. Then, when everyone else is ready to have some rest on Sunday, they stand before you and give you the Word of God. They have brought word to the bride from her husband. They have prepared armor for you against sin and temptation.

You weren’t there to put it on.

You weren’t there because something more important came up. More important that the Word of God? How discouraging it is for these men to look out and not see you in your pew. To wonder if you are okay? To find out you sacrificed the Word of the Lord, the amour you need for the week, the defending of your soul, to stay up late last night, or to work on the house, or finish a project, or just cause you couldn’t pull yourself together. Not only does faithlessness discourage your pastors and teachers, it is unbelievably disrespectful to the Lord.

But, when you have made all the sacrifices and given up all the little comforts of this world to be in your pew, your pastors and teachers are encouraged. They’re inspired to continue in the work. They’re filled with hope that you will listen and be prepared for the fight. They’re cheered in their work and ready for another week of study and preparation.

Ordinary saint, you have no idea the power of your faithful attendance. Your year in and year out, repetitive sliding into the pew each Lord’s Day builds up those around you. It bolsters your pastors and teachers. A lack of faithful attendance is like sitting in a foxhole with a soldier who always avoids his duties. It’s his turn to guard and he’s not there. It brings the whole unit down. It’s dangerous for us and you. It may cost the lives of your fellow soldiers. Have you ever thought of it this way? Have you ever taken your church membership and church attendance this seriously? Are you willing to sacrifice everything else in your life (work, rest, status, art, sports, and cultural norms) to make sure you’re in church ready to hear the Word of God? Do you do this for your sake, and for the sake of your fellow church members?

We all need each other. We’re soldiers in the same war. We’re a family that will be a family long after our earthly families are dissolved. We believe that the preaching of the Word is Christ amongst us. Your faithful attendance is a reminder of His faithfulness to us. Never ever lose sight of how important our everyday, ordinary attendance to church is.

Love in Christ,

A fellow pilgrim

 

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Thanksgiving (Day 22)

You may or may not have noticed that most of my thanksgivings this year have been for quiet, ordinary, hobbit like things. This may seem insignificant to most of you, but for me it’s very important. For most of my life I wanted to be different, unique, weird even. my husband used to tease me by calling me “vanilla”. Just plain Jane vanilla. It irritated me so much cause I wanted to be different. I wanted to be an elf and not a hobbit. Hobbits were so ordinary.

Over the years my attitude changed. I began to see the magic, joy, and beauty of everyday ordinary delights. I, by God’s grace, found contentment in the common. And much to my surprise, I didn’t find boredom but abundance. I didn’t find dull existence, but the quiet magic all the Hobbits have that I just couldn’t see before.

Now, I smile at the light over the stove that we leave on to welcome us back home in the evening. I love a clean house and a made bed. I love a messy house that says family and friends were here. I love living in the same place with the same people. I love the change of season. I love good bread and good beer. I love snuggles under blankets with a man I’ve  known most of my life. I love everything the familiar adventure of traditions.

I love the ordinary. God is so kind to us to give us such beautiful gifts.

Happy Thanksgiving !

Thankfulness  (Day 2)

Today, I’m thankful for everyday common grace. I find it interesting that when we write post-apocalyptic fiction the world is ugly, but we live in a post-apocalyptic world (The Flood) and look at the beauty God left us!  I’m so thankful for our oak trees, our pecan and crepe myrtle trees. I’m so thankful for flowers all around my house, the butterflies that have been so predominant this year, the wren and cardinal families nesting in our front hedge, the hawk couple living in the neighborhood, and the crows that visit occasionally. I’m thankful for the Texas Fence Lizards and Carolina Anolie that guarded our front and back porches like tiny Dragons.

God could have made this world so ugly after the Flood, but He didn’t. I’m very thankful for that small, ordinary grace.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

The Beauty of the Ordinary: Nieces and Nephews and a Book

Since I’ve been feeling a little better, I’m trying to spend more time with my Nieces and Nephews. It’s wonderful to get to share some new adventures with them again. And since several of them are old enough to start school soon, the pressure to enjoy freedom as long as possible has been felt. These are every day, ordinary things, but to us, they’re the most fun.

Adventure 1: The Dallas World Aquarium

If you haven’t recently reminded yourself of how magnificent and sometimes funny God’s creation is, stop by the Aquarium. From a sloth, ducks, and monkeys, to sting rays, sharks, and snake eels, the Dallas World Aquarium has much to see. You can move through it quickly or interact with all the information and learn a lot about what you’re looking at.

The highlight of the trip was the sheer joy of the boys when they saw the manatee.

Adventure 2: The Christmas Store

There’s no point in having little people around if you’re not corrupting them somehow. I’ve hooked two of my nieces on Lord of the Rings. And now, me and my sister are teaching, sharing, spreading the joy of Christmas to her two daughters.

Just before Imogene was born, Liz and I went to the Christmas store for her birthday. Now, almost three years later, we took Imogene back. She was so excited to go, and we played loud Christmas music and ate ginger snaps.
She loved all the trains, lit trees, and the pumpkins in the small Thanksgiving section. We all left with a special ornament and many happy memories. I even started working with her on memorizing all of the names of Santa’s Reindeer.


A Good Book

A good book is like magic, is magic. The Last Unicorn is no exception. I’ve seen the very strange and creepy cartoon several times, usually as a snarky event with friends, but I’d never read the book. Somewhere in one of the many different artistic groups I’m part of online, the book came up. At first I just moved on. The cartoon was so odd in an uncomfortable way. But the book kept coming up.
Finally I caved to the pressure and started reading it. Where has this book been all my life? It was beautifully written, had some of the most unique descriptions I’ve ever read leading me to wonder how he came up with the comparison, and was surprisingly funny. I cried. I laughed. I longed. I felt feelings I’ve only felt reading Lord of the Rings. It had that happy sad, lost and found, home feeling. It’s so rare to find that in a fantasy.

It refreshingly broke so many rules, and still managed to have an unbelievably touching moment of heroic self-sacrifice, love, and even Eucatastrophe.

Put The Last Unicorn on your list if you love fairy tales. It is just excellent.

Ordinary, everyday adventures. Special to me. Magical.

The Beauty of the Ordinary: Thankfulness

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“…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you…” 1 Thess. 4:11

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song about hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

– JRR Tolkien

View from first room.

Recently, I spent six days in the hospital with my father-in-law. The first day started with a call at 530 in the morning saying he was in the emergency room because he fainted. We left the house without showers, me with no makeup, no plants watered, no dishes done, the curtains not even open. We got home around 700pm and were so tired, I only watered my elephant ears and fed my sourdough starter.

The next morning started slower and I was able to do everything that didn’t get done the day before including shower and enjoy a quiet cup of coffee. Standing at the sink doing dishes, I was struck by how often I either complain about dirty dishes, or don’t really think about them at all. I never get up and realize that doing dishes in the morning is a good sign that things are normal in my home and in my family in general.

Everyday chores get a bad rap.

You know, one should never be that boring suburban family who never does anything artistic, adventurous, or amazing. Who could possible want to spend their life mowing lawns or rising kids, right? Travel the world, explore other cultures, and find yourself.

Attitude change: how about being thankful for a morning that starts off with simple things? Take the quite as a sign that your family is well, fed, and off to face the day. You never know when you might wake up and spend your whole day, or several days, in a hospital watching the people you love face major health issues.

Get your hands good and soapy, get out in the heat to water plants, make the bed, take a shower, and be thankful for the small things in life, the little things the Lord provides every day.

Like father, like son.

As another morning started with chores left undone and coffee in a freezing hospital, my heart went out to all the people I know who’ve had to spend so many more hours in one of these little uncomfortable rooms. My heart went out to those who didn’t have a family member feeling well enough to give every nurse and doctor a hard time. My heart when out to those who had to go through the soul-tearing struggle of coming home one family member short.

It was sooooo cold!

I’m generally good a empathizing with others, but sometimes that empathy needs to be reinforced with a shared experience. I imagined how tired those friends must have been, how worried they were to even go home to take a shower, how confusing all the doctors and nurses and information was. I sat in that cold room and remembered how many other dear saints that I know have sat here before.
Spending a week in a hospital makes you thankful for quiet days and it makes you pity others as they face the same thing.

Day after day spent hurrying up and waiting, gave me the wonderful joy of watching a real life example of love. I’m old enough now to have old parents and extra parents. Now, they aren’t old old, but we are starting down the path of old age. How terrifying is it as an adult child to watch your parents start down that path? Very Terrifying. The strongest become the weakest, the together come undone. Roles reverse. But, by God’s grace, there is beauty here too! For almost a full week, I got to see real love. Not silly Hallmark love, (my extra Mom loves Hallmark movies) but love that is there in sickness, frailties, grumpiness, confusion, exhaustion, surgery, and post-surgery. I got to see self-sacrificing love that didn’t run away, but chose to be there every day. I saw real vow keeping visible in stolen blankets, bathroom issues, tidying, carting, worrying, fixing, and fussing. And it wasn’t just my extra Dad that my extra Mom took care of. It was all of us. She made sure everyone else was taken care of before herself. Love expressed through action, day in and day out, in the most ordinary way.

My own love for my husband grew as he prayed over his father, worried, took care of his mother, and encouraged me to stay with them each day, while the dishes and laundry piled up. Self-sacrifice and love in action.

View from the second room, post heart procedure.

Six days in a hospital lead to fresh thanksgiving for the quiet ordinary things, fresh pity for others who have had to be here too, and a fresh idea of what true love really looks like, unfiltered and earthy.
My extra Dad is home, and we’re all happy not to have to spend another day in the hospital, but God gently uses everything to make us more like Him, and for that I’m thankful.

Waiting for him to come out of surgery, and trying to stay out of trouble.

He always makes faces when I take his picture.

Racing the elevator.

They weren’t alone in playing on the stairs and elevator, Wanda joined them. It’s amazing they didn’t kick us out! 😉

Sunday Thoughts: Ordinary People

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(found on Google)

What is one of the must unsung things we as believers can do to help our congregations, our church family, our own pursuits of holiness?

Faithfully attend every service held in our local body.

Look! It’s so un-shiny, it’s so un-glitzy, it’s so . . . so . . . so boring.

Being there Sunday in, and Sunday out, on time, focused, in your pew, every week.

Where is the glamor? The excitement? The passion!?

Something inside us wants it to be more. We want to see!

Granted, there are some bigger and more obvious ways you can serve and encourage your church, but this is the best place to start. Start with the quiet and ordinary. Isn’t it funny how God always calls us to self-denial? We want something big and bold and he gives us something quiet and ordinary.

(From Google)

(found on Google)

Think about it. Faithful attendance:

First, it encourages your pastors. They’ve worked diligently all week to be ready to preach to you because they care about your soul. Have you ever thought about how discouraging it is to them when you don’t come, or you come in late, or you get up and down over and over? They are the messenger of Christ with a word from the Lord and you over slept?

Second, think about the other members. If so and so with five kids can get there, why not you? If so and so who is sick or over worked, or old got there, why not you? And how discouraging is it to your church when you decide not to make attendance a priority? Think how it might tempt others who are already struggling with faithful attendance.

You can encourage the whole body just by being there, not to mention feed your own soul!

Third, think about the outside world and the message it sends when you give up on all the ‘Sunday’ stuff to be at church. This sends a stronger message of your walk than all the tracks or evangelism you could ever participate in.

All that, and it’s so easy, so ordinary, so boring: be at church every Sunday, every Wednesday, faithfully.

We live in a world trying to divest itself of the ordinary. In doing so, it misses the beauty and power of living a quiet, ordinary life. Don’t listen to the lies. Be content and even joyful about being ordinary.

(found on Google)

(found on Google)