Posted in Everyday Musings

Why I Call Myself a Grinch – but I’m Not Really a Grinch

It’s like a switch that automatically turns me off as soon as the Advent 1 church service starts. All of the joy and excitement and celebration that suddenly becomes the center of everyone else’s life for four weeks to Christmas just falls right out of me. Dries up. Heck, runs away screaming.

Because of this, I’ve always called myself a Grinch, sometimes a Scrooge or a Humbug.

But dammit, I’m not. I’m none of those characters. I’m not mean or nasty or heartless. I don’t steal anyone else’s fun and cheer.

I don’t hate the holidays – the secular ones or the holy ones. I don’t hate the traditions, the gatherings, the food, the songs, the colors, the festivities.

But I’m an introvert. The holidays, and my reaction to them, is one of the few ways I know, truly know that my Myers-Briggs 1-point preference for introvertism is really true; seven other behavioral analysis, several repeated, confirm this. I know, it’s hard to believe of me, right?

“The holidays” are inherently a social phenomenon; they can’t happen without the tacit cooperation of groups – mostly large groups – of people, whether parade marchers or watchers, naughty and nice list comparisons, and the most basic present giving and receiving. Even more so, the religious foundation of holi-days is social, beginning with and culminating in a collection of the largest worship services of the year for most churches.

Think about it. There is not one single holiday tradition that carries a positive connotation and is experienced without engagement with others.

And for me – an introvert with a 6-person max – this is excruciating. Even if I’m mostly left to “wall-flower” (which is what I always secretly hope will happen), I watch the clock so that I can cut and run as soon as I’ve attended for a respectable amount of time.

And I do want to be respectful when I choose to attend; I never want to make a host/ess feel like s/he has done something to make me uncomfortable or unhappy. It’s why I choose quite carefully and deliberately when and how and with whom to engage during the holidays.

If I cow to expectations and attend, I’m often noticeably reserved, even if I have a drink. In fact, I willingly – actually cheerfully – volunteer to cook, serve, and especially clean up just so I have an easy excuse to just be rather than interact.

If I do what I want and RSVP regrets in favor of Die Hard and Home Alone marathons, I’m labeled a Grinch, a Scrooge, a Humbug by others.

It’s a Catch-22 of the purest variety.

Because I’m not a Grinch with a heart too small to love others. I’m not a Scrooge who’s been hurt by others and just wants to hurt people back. I’m not a Humbug out to squash others’ celebration. (While I do detest yard decorations with a passion, I’ve never once suggested that others stop decorating or take theirs down.)

But I don’t have any other cultural references to use when trying to simplify my discomfort with the norms of the holidays than to call myself a Grinch, a Scrooge, or a Humbug. They serve to convey that I don’t want to participate, certainly. But the edge of negativity they come with is something I’d like to figure out how to divest.

Advertisements
Posted in God Loves Me!, Singing

Overcoming Objections for Joining the Church Choir: They’re watching me!

Yep, they sure are! And you can watch them right back…hehe!

One of the most common objections church members cite as why they don’t want to join the choir – after not being “good enough” – is that everyone is looking at them through the whole service. Naturally, this objection is only relevant for churches where the choir sits up front and center-ish.

I get it. I was thinking about that today during church, specifically during the special music when a dear friend and I sang a duet. Yep, we accepted a request that put us in even more of a spotlight than when we sing as part of the larger choir group.

But what I get as the trade-off to being watched is such an exquisite blessing. You who sit in the congregation and never venture to the chancel (front) and turn to face the congregation never get to experience this. You’re just facing the wrong direction entirely and can’t.

Here are some of my favorite things to see each week that you don’t get to:

  • the smile on a congregant’s face when communion is carried to him/her – usually someone sitting pretty far back in the pews – and since we don’t usually turn around, few get to see the gratitude, the inclusion
  • the children when they return to the sanctuary during the Offertory or Doxology, their faces eagerly searching for mom and dad, hands grasping or heads wearing their Children’s Church creations
  • the people who know and love a hymn so well that they put their book down, look up and into my eyes, and smile as we share the joy of that song, those words, God’s love
  • the usher who brings a walker up the aisle at the end of the service to make post-service fellowship that much easier and more comfortable and safer to enjoy

Our choir boasts singers with asthma, allergies, limited ranges, melody-only skills, and we love them all. They sing to the Glory of God, and are blessed to witness each week the unnamed kindnesses and brilliant joys of others because we can see the whole congregation right back!

You can find me singing in the choir most Sundays at Palmetto Presbyterian Church in Mount Pleasant, SC.

Posted in Children, God Loves Me!

Children’s Sermon on The Holy Spirit for Pentecost: Acts 2: 4

Scripture: Acts 2: 4

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Props: handheld fan, candle and light (if your church doesn’t light candles for service), cotton ball with essential oil, recording of strong wind

 

Do you know what special day this is? This is Pentecost Sunday. It’s the time when we remember that before Jesus returned to heaven, he promised that God would send a helper — the Holy Spirit — to live inside of those who follow him. He promised that the Holy Spirit would give them the power to do great and mighty things.

One day, after the Resurrection at Easter, the disciples were all together and they heard a sound from Heaven: a loud, powerful rushing wind. And a flame appeared – no candle or anything – and touched on each disciple. And the disciples felt a great power and immediately went out to preach – that’s what the power of the Holy Spirit helped them to do – to tell others about God and Jesus.

How do you think you can tell when the Holy Spirit is giving you the power and the urge to tell someone about God and Jesus? Let’s test our senses to see how many ways we can feel that mighty rushing wind of the Holy Spirit:

Can you feel the Holy Spirit? (use a battery-powered hand fan to blow on the children) Can you feel the wind like you’re at the beach or high in the mountains? YES! That’s the Holy Spirit making sure you know it’s there for you.

Can you taste the Holy Spirit? Hmmm, that’s a tough one, isn’t it. Wind doesn’t have a taste, but it we stick out tongues out when the wind blows, we do get another way to feel the wind and know the Holy Spirit is encouraging us.

Can you smell the Holy Spirit? (hold a cotton ball with essential oil in front of the fan to send a scent on the wind) Let’s try it: we already know we can feel the wind when it brushed past us, but the wind – the Holy Spirit – can also use smells to let us know how we can minister to others.

Can you hear the Holy Spirit? (cue Crystal to play the wind storm sound on the Clavinova) Wow, right! That’s a big mighty wind. That’s definitely the Holy Spirit when it really needs to get our attention, right!

Can you see the Holy Spirit? Take a look at the candles on the table. That’s the light of Christ we bring in each Sunday and we take out into the world each week. What makes that light move so that we can see it? YES! The Holy Spirit.

Our basic senses are how we feel and know that the Holy Spirit is with us and ready to help us to do what God asks us to do. This is what we are reminded of each year on the day of Pentecost: that when we know God and follow Jesus, we are filled with the Holy Spirit which gives us the power and the instructions to do wonderful and mighty things for God.

Let’s pray:

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending us the power of the Holy Spirit. Please fill us up each day with the Holy Spirit that we would have the power to live for Jesus and let His light shine in our lives. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

Delivered on Sunday, June 4, 2017, at Palmetto Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

Posted in Children, God Loves Me!

Children’s Sermon on John 10: 3-5 – Jesus Knows Your Name

DSCN2141
Swim Coach Chris Puglia with South Carolina Special Olympics USA Games 2014 Swimmers Amanda, Tate, and Travis

Scripture: John 10: 3b – 5

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.

Who here is on a sports team – any time of year? Swimming, dancing, soccer, football, gymnastics, baseball, running, bowling, lacrosse…

And how do you and everyone else know which team you’re on when you’re playing a game or competing? Colors of the uniforms

And how can your coach tell you apart and know your names to call out suggestions to help you win? You’ve spent time together in practice and your coach has learned who you are and your name.

And how do you know which coach’s voice belongs to your coach? You know his/her voice and how he/she talks.

In today’s Children’s Church lesson, we hear the same kind of being known and of knowing about Jesus, about how He knows our names and we know His voice so we know which voice to follow to make good choices in life. As I read the scripture, think of yourself as one of the sheep:

He [Jesus] calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.

For Jesus, He knows our names and who we are instantly. But for us, we have to learn how to tell Jesus’s voice from other influences, sometimes just our own wants. So we come to church and we study and we ask our teachers and parents and leaders how they learned to know Jesus as well as He knows us.

Will you pray with me?

Dear Jesus
Thank you for knowing my name.
Thank you for protecting me as your sheep.
Help me to know your voice.
Help me to follow your guidance.
In your name, we pray,
Amen.

Posted in Everyday Musings, Lighter Topics, Published Writing, The Old Days

My Love Letter to Mt. Pleasant, SC – featured on LowcountryLoveLetters.com

Check out my guest post at LowcountryLoveLetters.com where I write about how the changes in, the growth of my small-town Mt. Pleasant, SC, is an opportunity for long-time natives to activate our history, not simply hold it sacred and separate from collaboration with our newer neighbors to shape our town’s future.

Thank you to Angela Wicke and Emily Gildea for inviting me to carefully consider what loving my small town really means in a tangible and shareable way.

Posted in Children, God Loves Me!

Children’s Sermon on John 11: 1-45 – Unconventional Signs of Our Love and Humanity

Scripture: John 11: 1-45 – the illness and death of Lazarus

Focus: The sadness and grief we feel and share (i.e., crying) when a friend or loved one dies are some of the outward signs that we have learned to love one another and to share God’s love through our acts of kindness toward one another.

Who here has ever written a note or made a card for someone’s birthday or Father’s Day or Grandparents’ Day? Yeah! It’s fun, and we write nice things like “I love you” and “you’re beautiful” and “I have so much fun at your house”, right?

IMG_1727I’ve got a couple of notes my niece Anna has made for me. This one was for my birthday last year. It’s a pink Pecachoo and says “Happy Birthday CeCe” and has a heart on it. Do you think any of these words and pictures might be signs that Anna loves me? Yeah, the heart, and she says “Happy”. Those are great signs of love, easy to spot.

I’ve got this other note with me that she wrote one when she’d done something she wasn’t supposed to and I put her in time out. Here’s what it says:

IMG_1726I don’t like you, CeCe.
You’re mean.
By Anna

Isn’t that the very best, most wonderful note you’ve ever heard about how much my niece Anna loves me?

No? You don’t think that sounds like she loves me? It’s not a common sign of love, to tell someone you don’t like them, but when we share our feelings with someone – even our not-so-happy feelings, that’s also a sign that we love them. You see, there are more signs of love – especially Jesus’s and God’s love – than just the fun ones like hugging and saying I love you.

In today’s Children’s Church, you’ll read and talk about the time Jesus learned that his friend Lazarus had died. In the Gospel of John, we read that when Jesus went to see Lazarus after he had died that “He wept,” and that those gathered around saw Jesus’s crying as a sign of his love for his friend.

Will you pray with me?

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for becoming human like us
And showing us more ways
To love and to be kind to others.
Help us to always remember
That others will know
That we are Christians
By our love.
Amen.

Delivered on Sunday, April 2, 2017 at Palmetto Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant, SC.