Church of the Future?

I got this email forwarded to me this morning:

CHURCH SERVICES OF THE FUTURE

PASTOR: “Praise the Lord!”

CONGREGATION: “Hallelujah!”

PASTOR: “Will everyone please turn on their tablet, PC, iPad, smart phone, and Kindle Bibles to 1 Cor 13:13.

And please switch on your Bluetooth to download the sermon.”

P-a-u-s-e……

“Now, Let us pray committing this week into God’s hands.

Open your Apps, BBM, Twitter and Facebook, and chat with God”

S-i-l-e-n-c-e

“As we take our Sunday tithes and offerings, please have your credit and debit cards ready.”

“You can log on to the church wi-fi using the password ‘Lord909887. ‘ “

The ushers will circulate mobile card swipe machines among the worshipers:

  • Those who prefer to make electronic fund transfers are directed to computers and laptops at the rear of the church.
  • Those who prefer to use iPads can open them.
  • Those who prefer telephone banking, take out your cellphones to transfer your contributions to the church account.

The holy atmosphere of the Church becomes truly electrified as ALL the smart phones, iPads, PCs and laptops beep and flicker!

Final Blessing and Closing Announcements…

  • This week’s ministry cell meetings will be held on the various Facebook group pages where the usual group chatting takes place. Please log in and don’t miss out.
  • Thursday’s Bible study will be held live on Skype at 1900hrs GMT. Please don’t miss out.
  • You can follow your Pastor on Twitter this weekend for counseling and prayers.
  • God bless you and have nice day!

Now, I will tell you that this email was sent to me by someone who CLEARLY doesn’t understand the technology that we have today.  And judging by the REPLY ALL emails I received later, not many on the distribution list understand technology either (first of all how to not REPLY ALL – grrrr…).  One such reply even went so far as to reference the coming of the end times just because people bring their phones out in church.

My friend, Helene, has a wonderful post on this subject here. I know there are many people (teens and adults) who have their phones and tablets out during church.  Perhaps you have seen someone like that in your own congregation.  Perhaps you’ve seen ME with my phone or iPad out at church.  Perhaps you’ve silently judged those people (or me), assuming they are texting friends, or disrespectfully ignoring the worship service they are sitting in.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that no one uses their technology to distract them from worship.  BUT – I will tell you that not every person on their mobile device in church is up to trouble.  In my own case, I have started “live tweeting” our worship services.  When Matt says something during the sermon that I want to remember later, I get on Twitter, and send a tweet with that phrase.  People who follow me often comment on it or share it with their followers.  When was the last time you told all of your friends what your pastor said in a sermon?  I also like to take pictures during service, and share those photos on Instagram.  Maybe it’s the lyrics that are on the screen, or it’s the youth group who just returned from their mission trip – whatever my picture is, the people who follow me see it.  They see what is going on inside my church.  When was the last time you showed your friends something that was important to you?

And electronic giving?  We’re trying that at our church too.  Maybe older generations don’t understand it, but younger generations like mine don’t tend to carry their checkbook with them everywhere they go.  We pay for things with debit cards, PayPal, etc.  And giving to our church is happening whether we are writing a check or paying online.  In fact, I would argue that a lot of younger people are giving more frequently because they are able to do so online by setting up recurring payments.

The church today is caught in the middle of “how things used to be” and “how things are probably going to be soon.”  We have all generations coming in our doors to worship God.  We need to be welcoming to all of these people – whether they carry a “proper” leather and paper bible or if they use the YouVersion app on their iPad; whether they put cash in the offering plate, or pass it because they have already given their tithe online.

The next time you see someone using their phone or tablet in church, ask them after the service what they found interesting about the sermon.  Chances are they were sharing their thoughts on the service with their friends and interacting with others about Christ.  These devices that are “ushering in the end times” are probably in actuality supporting the faith journey of people giving to God and sharing their faith with others.

iphone-leaning-psalm

Spirit of the Living God

There is a song we sing in the United Methodist Hymnal called “Spirit of the Living God.”  It’s a very simple song, often used in a time of prayer as a way to center ourselves and ask God to be present and moving in our lives.  The lyrics are as follows:

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me; 
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. 
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. 
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

I have sung this song many times, often praying that God would “Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.”  I’m not sure what I thought I meant when I was singing those words.  Perhaps I thought God would use me in mighty ways to speak his truth and work with him in transforming the world.  Perhaps I just meant the “fill me” part, because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to be filled?

Most of you who know me or read this blog (as inconsistently as it is published) know that Matt and I have experienced much turmoil in our attempts to begin a family.  Over seven years of infertility, including four miscarriages, and we are still where we started – childless.  I have prayed many times that God would use me.  That he would turn these awful circumstances into something that can be used for good.  Tonight I was given that chance.

My dear friend’s little sister is in the midst of her first (and hopefully last) miscarriage right now, and I told my friend to have her contact me if she wanted anyone to talk to.  I’m so glad her sister got in touch with me.  I talked with this woman tonight – shared my story with her, and listened to her story as well.  Making myself available to this conversation meant that I had to pull back that curtain on the grief that I try to keep hidden day-to-day.  I had to get in touch with that part of myself, and remember what it was like when I experienced this loss over, and over, and over and over again.  As she told me her story, my heart broke for her.  It broke for me and my four losses.  It broke for all the women I know who have felt this pain.  I prayed with her over the phone, and assured her that I was available if she wanted to talk more.

I hung up the phone with her, and crumbled on the spot.  I laid my head on the table and heaved giant sobs of grief again for those babies I have lost and for this new friend’s loss as well.  As I cried and swiped mascara-tinted tears from my face, the song “Spirit of the Living God” was playing on repeat in my mind.  “Melt me.  Mold me.  Fill me.  Use me.”  I meant those words when I prayed them before, but I had no idea how much it would hurt to be melted, molded, filled and used.

Think about the process here: To be in situation so hot and painful you literally melt into an unrecognizable puddle. To be poured into a mold that the artist has chosen. To be filled with whatever object you are now designed to carry.  To be used as this object is shared with others, and you are subsequently emptied time and again.  It hurts.  This goes against all that the world tells us we should be doing with our lives.  It requires sacrifice, a relinquishing of control.  It is downright painful.

So as I sat and sobbed in grief for this hurt that I don’t understand, I was reminded that of this song – this prayer that I have recited many times.  Thank you God for hearing my prayer. For turning this bleak part of my life into something that can be used for encouragement – for your glory.

Do I like that this is my story?  Of course not.  Do I wish I was tucking those four babies into bed right now instead of writing to all of you (again) about this subject? Of course I do.  But this is my reality.  This is my story.  And I will tell it again and again if it helps even one woman find comfort in her grief.  Will you pray with me tonight for my new friend and her family?

SpiritofthelivingGod

________________________________________________________________________

Miscarriage is a very lonely type of loss.  To grieve the loss of a life that had barely begun – that some don’t even recognize as actual “life” – is confusing and painful.  You grieve the loss of the hopes and dreams you had for that child.  You grieve the loss of what could have been.  And a lot of people don’t understand that.  A lot of people think it’s a grief to be kept inside, not to be dealt with publicly.  Friends and family members of parents grieving in this way are even more confused about how to handle the pain.  Should we ask questions?  Should we acknowledge it at all?  And many choose to simply pretend that it’s not a big deal.  Everyone is different, but in my case I think it’s better to be open about it.  I don’t enjoy this part of my journey, but I will gladly share it with anyone who wants to hear. I hope that every time I do, it helps peel away a little bit of the mystery surrounding miscarriage.   

I have gleaned a lot of encouragement and comfort from this blog.  I hope you find some comfort in it as well:  http://www.calebwilde.com/category/death/miscarriages-stillbirths/

“When it’s snowin’ I’ll be goin’ back to my country home…”

This past Saturday my family gathered for one of our favorite annual holiday traditions: COOKIE NIGHT!  Mom makes these delightful sugar cookies in various holiday shapes, and we have fun slopping colored icing everywhere as we decorate them.  Festive music plays in the background, and we all sing along as we paint our cookies.  It’s so much fun!

The other night as we were playing with icing, one of our family’s favorite Christmas songs came around on the shuffle.  It started playing, and my little niece piped up – stating clearly that this was her favorite Christmas song.  We cranked the iPod louder, and all sang together in harmony.

Emmylou Harris released her Christmas album, “Light of the Stable” in 1979.  I’m not sure when my parents purchased that record, but we Kermeen kids grew up listening to that album every year at Christmas time.  These 10 songs have played as the soundtrack to every Christmas season I can remember.  Some songs are better than others, but the entire album makes me nostalgic for family, for Christmases gone by, for a crackling fireplace and sparkling tree.

As an adult, Christmas often seems to have lost its lustre. When I was a child, presents under the tree brought so much excitement, my breath would catch and my heart would skip a beat.  Now seeing presents under my tree makes me remember how much money I spent and the paper-cuts that were inflicted as I wrapped each gift.  When I was younger, I longed to hop from one Christmas party to another – donning sparkly dresses and a little blush and lip gloss.  These days all the Christmas parties on my calendar make me stress about what I’m going to wear, and how long it will take to get there, and do I really have to wash my hair AGAIN?  As a kid I remember the magic of traveling downtown to see the lights on the Circle and riding the train at L.S. Ayres to visit with Santa and tell him all the things my little heart wished for.  Now L.S. Ayres is gone – replaced by a nice department store that just isn’t the same – and I wish for things that Santa just can’t help with.

I got older. My life got harder. Christmas doesn’t seem to have the magic it once did.   But sitting around the kitchen decorating cookies with my family and singing harmoniously with one another to Emmylou Harris sparked some Christmas spirit in me.  Kamryn declared “Christmas Time’s A Comin'” her favorite Christmas song.  My sister, mother and I all merrily sang along with her six-year old voice.  Even my Grandma Alice joined in on a few with us (Silent Night was beautiful!).  Our harmonies may not be perfect, and we may not always remember the words to every song, but I know that our singing brings joy – even if it’s only to ourselves and our wistful hearts.

I can get so caught up in Christmas – the way that the mall wants to define it anyway.  I love the shopping and the wrapping and the entertaining and the decorating.  I stay up too late shopping online or ordering Christmas cards, and then when people ask the next day why I look so tired, I wearily explain, “I was up late doing X, Y, and Z for Christmas. Tis the season!”  Tis the season indeed.

Before I went to Cookie Night, I was feeling stressed about the last few purchases on my Christmas list and wrapping and cooking and parties.  After our Kermeen Christmas Sing-Along, I was reminded that “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” This is what matters.  Christ matters.  Family matters.  Joy matters.  Gifts are nice, but Spirit matters.

Thank you Lord for sending your son right when we need to see Him most.  And thank you Emmylou Harris for always being the best conduit for Christmas spirit…