Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Detritus of Daily Life

In Auntie Flat, Church, creativity, Home, Learning on October 19, 2017 at 9:55 am

As much as I need to declutter my house, I also need to declutter my mind. Things pile up in there and multiply when I’m not paying attention.
If you’re familiar with David Allen’s OCD book, Getting Things Done, you know that his secret is to list everything you need to do. I mean EVERYTHING. Need to do a load of laundry? Put it on the list. That reminds me, I need to put a load of laundry in the washer.
Okay, that’s done. Now I need to remember to put it in the dryer in about half an hour and then take it out of the dryer, fold it and put it away. Sorry, but it just seems dumb to write all that down on a list.
Now Radley is letting me know that once again he got shut in the laundry closet. Coming back from letting him out, I see the dishwasher and remember that I have to unload it and put the dishes away so I can start filling it again with dirty dishes. And I still have a pot soaking in the sink that I should wash and put away.
Will I ever get past these chores and get to the (slightly) bigger things like taking my car in to have the tires rotated and balanced or making an appointment to renew my driver’s license or calling to have my 401K switched to an IRA?
Then I want to get back to writing the mystery I started two years (!) ago. Maybe I should participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November and punch through that.
I did manage to finish the church history I’ve been working on or (mostly) procrastinating for months and just in time for our 125th anniversary this Sunday. Come one come all. It’ll be fun. We’ll have special guests and singing and stories and food. What’s not to like?
Okay, I’m a little distracted.
That’s life.

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Journey Group

In Church, Friends on October 9, 2017 at 6:56 am

Five of the seven of us are around 30 or so and fit together naturally. You wouldn’t be surprised to see them socializing. The two of us in our late sixties seem out of place, but that’s what these Journey Groups are all about—gathering with other random members of our church and getting to know one another. We meet at someone’s house for two hours of snacks and conversation. In a growing church like ours, people frequently lament that there are just so many new people all the time. We get to know the people who sit near us in the sanctuary, but not those on the opposite side of the aisle.

Following some ice-breaking questions from our pastor, we found out where the others went to school and what they do and how they ended up in Colorado. We had fun confessing the kinds of things that got us in trouble growing up.

The more revealing question had everyone naming a secret goal or project. One woman really likes to bake, and her husband-to-be would like to open a microbrewery next to her future bakery, “when we win the lottery.” Another would like to start a mountain hiking program for disabled youth. We gave her a few ideas for funding sources that might make her dream possible. A single woman wants to have kids either through fostering, adoption, or the usual way. A married woman with two kids would like to have a lot more “if money were no object.” She also loves baking and cooking and thinks about starting a food blog.

One retired woman wants to write, and we encouraged her to start doing that. All it takes is a computer and a few ideas, with maybe a tiny smidgen of courage.

Of course, I already write these daily posts about whatever strikes my fancy, and initially, I couldn’t think of anything beyond that. Then I remembered that I started writing a mystery a couple of years ago and I’d like to get back to that.

Many believe that we don’t meet people by accident. They cross our paths for a reason. I don’t really believe that, but I do believe we shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to get to know those who appear in our vicinity and who may accompany us on part of our journey through life. After all, some people we encounter as we cruise along end up changing our whole direction.

White People Clapping

In Church, creativity, Learning, music, spirituality on September 18, 2017 at 6:26 am

My favorite thing about church other than seeing my friends is singing. A friend who was a music director for a couple of churches said it’s also one of the things people complain about the most. They want more contemporary songs, they prefer the traditional hymns, the pianist plays too slowly, they want a band, they don’t want a band. It’s always something.

Pastor Brad avoids African American spirituals because he thinks we do them badly. “If you’re going to engage in cultural appropriation, you need to do it well.” Apparently, we don’t.

I have heard visitors from other churches say they’re impressed that we actually sing as some Methodists are too reserved to make noises loud enough to be heard. We try to clap, but I guess we do that badly, too. “There’s nothing worse than white people clapping,” some people (you know who you are) say. We clap on beats one and three in 4/4 time when we’re supposed to clap on two and four.

How do we know which beat is which? I’m asking for a friend.

Who makes these rules? I looked it up and this is what I found. “Most contemporary 4/4 music emphasizes the first and third beat. This is why clapping on 2 and 4 creates syncopation and sounds good.”

In 4/4, the drummer almost always hits the snare drum on 2 and 4. That is what the rest of the band is listening for. When a bad audience is clapping on 1 and 3….or 1.25 and 3.67…it is disorienting.”

Traditionally, rock rhythm is based on the upbeats (2 and 4). Clapping on 1 and 3 will sound off for that kind of music.”

That’s fine for you musicians out there, but what about the rest of us? Give us some credit for reading the words AND the music while holding a hymnal and trying to clap. Whaddaya say we take a few minutes in our next service for a lesson in clapping?

Two musically inclined friends told the story of Harry Connick, Jr. who simply adds a beat to dupe audiences into clapping on the right notes, showing both leadership and creativity.

Luckily for me, I usually sit near a professional music director, so I just try to follow her lead. Friends don’t let friends clap incorrectly. When she’s not there, I’m a lost cause.

Tag, You’re It

In Church, writing on September 15, 2017 at 7:21 am

People tell me they like these posts and wonder why I’m writing them. Do I plan to collect them into a book? Nope.

I started writing them for Advent last year. I’ve pared my Christmas down to about as simple as it can get. I don’t participate in gift giving or parties. My decorations consist of two 4-foot trees and a collection of teddy bears. I do write a Christmas letter and mail a dozen or so cards. I don’t attend a family dinner, but I look forward to the Christmas Eve candlelight service at church.

So I wanted to do some kind of Advent devotional to force myself to think about the meaning of Christmas every day leading up to the holiday. Those books that direct you to read this or that Bible verse and read a short piece illustrating the point just don’t do it for me. Truth be told, I’m not much for reading the Bible.

I decided to write my own daily devotional using secular Christmas stories. It was a challenge that had me scrambling to find short stories, poems, essays, songs and cartoons to write about. It required discipline and it was fun.

Then came Lent, a longer season but only six days a week, and I did the same thing. My theme was Season of Change. Again, I enjoyed the daily demand of finding something to write about, and friends asked me to please not stop when Lent ended.

Now I write around 300 words five days a week. No theme unifies the posts although several topics pop up regularly. I’m surprised at how often, for example, I write about church since I’m not especially religious (see above). Still, my church is an important part of my life, and I write about whatever refuses to let loose of my mind. Frequently subjects come to me in the middle of the night.

I make notes, look up quotations or news stories, and try to organize them into a coherent whole. More often than not, the endings surprise me. Like many writers, I don’t know what I think about something until I work it out on the page.

My only goal is to get things off my mind and onto yours.

Free Hugs

In Church, spirituality on September 14, 2017 at 7:29 am

I did not grow up in a hugging family, so I always felt a little awkward when people hugged me. I didn’t know what to do, where to put my hands, when to let go.

When the women’s movement came along, men who hugged or touched women without permission were suspect. When was it sexual harassment and when wasn’t it? The true but impossible answer was if she liked it, it wasn’t.

These days hugging kids is a big issue. We teach our kids that no one has the right to touch them without their permission, and that includes hugs.

Hugging has some health benefits. It releases oxytocin, aka the cuddle or love hormone, which can lower blood pressure and reduce stress.

A woman in San Rafael CA is known as the hugging saint and people wait in line for hours for her embrace. There’s even a Free Hugs campaign with people who offer hugs to anyone who needs one—and really who doesn’t need a hug? But, I don’t want hugs from random strangers.

The Urban Dictionary says, “A hug is an expression of warmth and friendliness with arms outstretched around the other.” Yet, as a friend pointed out, “some people are huggers and some aren’t.”

I’m not sure when I moved from one category to the other, but I know it happened at church. Sometimes I think that since I live alone, one of the main reasons I go to church is for the hugs. It’s a safe and warm environment, plus we have some world champion huggers in our pews.

It doesn’t always come naturally to me, and the first few times may turn into one of those awkward one-armed hugs. I’m working on it, so I need practice.

If you’re a friend, next time you see me, please feel free to hug away.

Under the Big Top

In Church, Friends, music, neighborhood on September 11, 2017 at 6:00 am

Sometimes church is just too much fun. Going to church always makes me happy. I love seeing my friends, singing and praying in community, and hearing uplifting words from our pastor. But sometimes, it’s an exuberant celebration of life and love and, yes, God. Yesterday was one of those days.

Once a year, we leave the sanctuary to have our service in a big tent in the parking lot. A local bluegrass band, Thunder and Rain, provides the music. People wander by because it’s that kind of neighborhood and also because there’s a farmer’s market just down the street, and some of them join us for a song. Being outside makes us much more relaxed as does keeping our three or four dozen kids in the service with us. It makes us louder, too.

Many people, not all of them kids, danced in the aisles as we sang “May the Circle Be Unbroken,” “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” “Amazing Grace,” and my favorite, “I’ll Fly Away.” Abby and Scarlett, both about four, played with Abby’s doll carriage and stuffed animals. Several people strolled to the back of the tent for refreshments before returning to their seats.

We learned that the United Methodist Church, with which everyone in our congregation disagrees on at least a few things (*cough* social principles), encompasses members as diverse as George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and Jeff Sessions. It’s a big tent. We acknowledged the founder, John Wesley, with a bobblehead doll.

Afterward, just about everybody there helped fold and stack every chair we own to haul them back to the church. We’re a family; we all pitch in. Note to self: We need to buy more chairs because the family is growing.

Then, since it was also bike to church day, people took off on their bikes for a short communal ride around the neighborhood park. A glorious good time was had by all.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

In Church, Friends, neighborhood on September 1, 2017 at 6:37 am

Hurricane Harvey caused the worst flooding ever including almost 52 inches of rain in one day, yet Republicans still refuse to acknowledge climate change. They’d rather blame the catastrophe on Houston having a gay mayor or the country allowing marriage equality. Sure, that makes sense.

During times of crisis, it is always gratifying to see pictures of neighbors helping neighbors, although the newspeople report it so breathlessly that you would think it never happened before. The truth is that every disaster brings out our altruistic spirit. We reach out, send money, assemble flood buckets, use our boats and cars and wagons, open our homes, whatever we have to help others.

Unfortunately, disasters can also bring out the worst, as illustrated in the tweeters who praise 45 for his response while criticizing Obama for his response to Hurricane Katrina when it was George W. Bush who botched that effort so spectacularly. Obama was an Illinois Senator who was, in fact, helping people displaced by the flooding in New Orleans.

Maybe the biggest fail of the week goes to Joel Osteen who refused to open the doors of his megachurch to shelter flood victims until he was forced to do so by public scorn. His excuse modified from saying the church was flooded and inaccessible (not true) to “they didn’t ask me to” when it is perfectly clear that Jesus asked him 2,000 years ago.

The Christian response came from Jim McIngvale, the Houston furniture store owner who didn’t hesitate to open his furniture store doors to shelter and feed hundreds of desperate people with nobody asking him to. Also lauded were the four bakers who found themselves trapped at work and spent their time making hundreds of loaves of bread for other flood victims.

The response from local, state, and federal government is being called excellent so far, although experts remind us that it will take years to recover from Harvey. What it takes to build a bridge over these troubled waters will be all of us linking arms like those people who formed a human chain to rescue people trapped in flooded cars. As Anne Lamott said, “Give someone hope, and then there will be hope in the world.”

We need to become a human chain of mercy and compassion.

A Little Light

In Church, Learning, Prejudice on August 14, 2017 at 6:19 am

A Little Light
What can I say in 300 words about the white supremacists in Charlottesville and everywhere else, including the White House? I despise you more than words can express and I hope you die an agonizing death–soon–and spend eternity writhing in hell. That just about sums it up in only 43 words. Not very Christian, I’m afraid.

I spent Saturday weepy, clicking through channels and scrolling through Facebook to find information about Charlottesville. The news stations focused on Trump’s threats of war against North Korea and Venezuela and ignored the white supremacists threatening us here in America.

Later, after the man in the White House gave his mealy-mouthed response to the violence in Virginia and refused to call out domestic terrorists, I saw a meme that said, “Not many presidents could make threatening nuclear war the second worst thing he did in a week.”

Sunday morning couldn’t come soon enough. Our movie this week was Wonder Woman and I was afraid Pastor Brad would say something about how we had to love even the terrorists. I knew I couldn’t do that.

Instead, he used Diana Prince’s words, “I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat.”

He talked about light defeating darkness and was surprised to get choked up talking about Wonder Woman. I was weepy again through the whole sermon as were several other people. When it gets posted on the website, I’ll let you know. I need to listen to it again.

We closed the service by singing This Little Light of Mine, just like the stalwart clergy in Charlottesville. That will be my lasting impression of Saturday’s events. Not the Nazi slogans or the killer ramming his car into a crowd of protesters. When I think of Charlottesville, I’ll think of the line of clergy of all denominations and races and ages, male and female, locking arms to surround the forces of evil and singing This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let it Shine.
I’ll give the last word to Hillary Clinton, “If this is not who we are as Americans, let’s prove it.”

I’m with her.

Not That Kind of Woman

In Church, Learning, women on August 10, 2017 at 6:33 am

Biblical womanhood is not for me.
Let’s just start there. First, women in the bible pretty much have to be married. Been there. Done that. As God is my witness, that won’t happen again.
As an unmarried woman, I would probably have to move in with my brother, who is way too smart to allow that. If necessary, he would take me in, I think, but with some justifiable reluctance. I can be a handful. I’m opinionated, outspoken, and hypercritical, and I really don’t like being around other people very much. Plus, I have a temper and a cat, and he’s allergic to both.
As I write this, I am halfway through A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. Like A. J. Jacobs in The Year of Living Biblically, Evans set out to spend a year living as the Bible instructs women to live. She combed the Bible looking for every passage related to women’s behavior. Not surprisingly, she found some paradoxes and contradictions.
“So what I have found is that any time you think you have found a sort of blueprint or standard for biblical womanhood, a woman in scripture comes along and is praised for breaking it.” Hmmm. I could probably go for that “breaking it” business.
She decided to focus on a different virtue each month—gentleness, domesticity, obedience, valor, beauty, modesty, purity, fertility, submission, justice, silence, and grace. She also developed a “Biblical Woman’s Ten Commandments,” but she lost me on the first one, “thou shalt submit to thy husband’s will in all things.” If you’ve ever wondered why I’m not married, that would pretty much sum it up.
Much of the book referred to the Proverbs 31 woman, a person I had never heard of, but who seems to embody the ideal Biblical woman for many evangelical Christians. Evans quickly discovered that the verses “perpetuating a three-thousand-year-old inferiority complex” among Christian women are used by Jewish husbands to honor their wives. So there are two sides to that story.
Some other things I refuse to do: grow my hair, wear skirts, cover my head, and keep my mouth shut in church (or anywhere else).
I will, however, dress modestly, bake bread, and praise women of valor, especially that last one.
Evans concluded that “the Bible does not present us with a single model for womanhood.” As the saying goes, “Well-behaved women seldom make history,” including those in the Bible.
Thank God for that.

Homeward Bound

In Church, Denver, Home on August 9, 2017 at 6:48 am

“Daddy, everyone should have a place to live,” said five-year-old Joey.

When we started talking about homelessness, we quickly realized what a huge and overwhelming topic it is. In the Denver metro area, more than 6,000 people are unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure and adequate housing. Efforts to solve the problem run into ignorance and misconceptions.

A 2015 report from The Denver Foundation, found that 64% of homeless people are families with children, not single men. They are more likely to stay with friends or live in their cars than on the street while working or looking for work and trying to save enough to cover the ever-increasing rent and deposit requirements for housing.

The family living in my church’s studio apartment have a typical story. Both the husband and wife were working and, with their sons, living a good life in New Mexico. Within one month both lost their jobs. It seemed as if we blinked and found ourselves struggling to stay above water,” the wife said.

They came to Denver to find work and spent the last of their savings waiting for the new job to begin. They found help through Family Promise, a nonprofit that helps families with shelter and support services.

The wife’s favorite thing about living in the church apartment is being able to do normal things like clean dishes, cook meals, watch TV, and be together as a family. She also enjoys spending time alone with her husband after they put their sons to sleep.

Soon, they will move into permanent housing and their lives can really get back to normal.

They are among the lucky ones.

As T.S. Eliot said, “Home is where you start from.” Without a home, you’re untethered.

The Denver Foundation survey revealed that homelessness is much more common than many believe. One in ten respondents had once been homeless themselves, and one in five had come close. Many of us are only one crisis away. What would you do? What would you miss?

Our extraordinarily low unemployment rate (2.1%) helps, but housing costs continue to rise. We’re a long way from Joey’s vision that “everyone should have a place to live.”

Meanwhile, we’ll keep working in our own little corners to do what we can to help one or two or ten people and take some comfort in knowing we made a difference to them. We’re trying, Joey.