Friday, July 25, 2014

The Modern Church: No Stuffiness

Hey, Friends!

So, I have found this amazing church, and I really thought I'd brag on it a little.

First off, they have a No Shoes, No Ties, NO Stuffiness policy. (I think the shoes part of it is a joke; I've never actually seen someone show up to church without shoes) But, most of the Youth just wear their favorite T-shirts, like ICP, Adventure Time, OBEY, or whatever, and short shorts or workout wear. Some of the moms and dads do as well -- very casual. Last week the pastor even wore her yoga pants and a T-shirt she got from a local 5K.

They are very community and charity-minded. As a matter of fact, several times throughout the year, members are encouraged to miss church for community events, park and playground clean-ups, sports events, picnics with neighbors, service projects, or simply to support local businesses. They will know we are Christians by our love, right? We have to get out there and be the church to others. You know, not use profanity, show others it's possible to drink in moderation, help others out, and show others that God wants us to have healthy bodies as well as healthy spirits.

The worship band is very cool. They do Contemporary Christian, of course, and lots of secular stuff -- obviously they keep it clean. They really know how to rock. And the preaching is not like preaching at all. We don't use Bibles or anything, and the pastor likes to quote from more current and cerebral sources; most people consider the Bible too difficult to understand, and it sort of stands in direct violation of that "No Stuffiness" thing. When she is quoting from the Bible, she uses a translation that is easy for everyone to understand, and then says the same thing, but usually in more of a parable or anecdote -- all that theology stuff is just too much for people seeking spirituality. And she doesn't cram truth down your throat; I mean, "what is truth?"

One week I walked into the bathroom of my friend's church. I couldn't believe it! There were Bibles everywhere; they all had those ridiculous covers on them, and pens and notebooks falling out of them! So hoity-toity. And some -- a lot -- of the ladies were wearing dresses. So stuffy. And they're wedged in there, talking about prayer and the sermon; I wanted to say, "Give it a rest. You're in church already! Do we have to hold prayer meeting in the bathroom? Not every minute of the day needs to be saturated with stuff about God. New people don't want to see that!" And the service was almost an hour and a half long! I lost count of how many times they prayed. Too much.

I couldn't wait to get back to my church!

Well, didn't mean to bore you or anything, but I thought you might be interested. I hope you can find a church like this; they're springing up all over the place!

Peace Out,
The Prince of This World

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I'd Like You to Meet Annie

I like people, in general. It's the things they do that make me completely bonkers. Which is why I'd like to do you, The Reader, a favor and introduce you to an amazing woman who can never sour my mood. I'd like you to meet Annie, one of the characters who fades in and out of my life, but one of the individuals I feel it is a monumental privilege to know.

I first met her at the hair salon. She was sitting in another stylist's chair -- I say "another," because I was in my stylist's chair right next to her. Now, I like going to my stylist, Marlene, because she is no nonsense. I think I've mentioned her before. She doesn't gossip. She's not a party girl. It's no drama; just a relaxing day being foiled, tugged, dyed, snipped, and singed. That is, until Annie. But I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Her stylist is younger. In her mid to late twenties, I would guess. And still looking for Mr. Right, or Mr. Right Now. Ally, I think her name is. Well, the two of them make an unlikely pair. Ally is white, blond, as I said -- in her twenties, and a little "edgy" in her sense of style. Annie is black (apologies, if you prefer "African American," but Ally isn't exactly "white" either), with graying hair, sixty-six, and somewhere between "beach" and "Bohemian." And Annie too, is in the market for a man. Despite obvious differences, these two ladies played off one another wonderfully; though not to discredit Ally, I think Annie could play off of anyone with even a thready pulse. I left the salon absolutely doubled over in pain, my stomach ached so much from the laughter.

Annie has this incredible zest for life that can never be anything but contagious. The sound of her voice is unmistakable -- somewhere between a lullaby and the sound you get when you suck helium from a balloon. She wears costume jewelry and accessories as though everyday was a garden party. And though I know she would never shy away from an invitation to such aristocratic affairs (and has I am sure, received many), she would change the definition of "lively" in a way no one at those things would ever admit; there would have to be some sort of blood oath that what happens among the petit fours, stays among the petit fours. She is simply at home among people, and thoroughly committed to the notion that all the world is a stage -- her stage.

The next time I saw her heard her, I was in the produce department of a local market. She was explaining to someone that her Nana had great genes, and lived to her nineties, so she probably would as well. I laughed right out loud, knowing the woman Annie had shanghaied was not going to leave the Pathmark unaffected that day. As I made my way to the onions, I saw her -- larger than life, and a sun hat larger than that. She was wearing a flowing leopard print dress, and beads, lots of beads. Her hair was down -- wiry and silver, perfectly suited to her ensemble, and just like her -- a little crazy, but in an attractive and gentle way. She briefly engaged a young man walking through the entrance.

I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible; it was a hot day, and I had milk and eggs from a previous stop sitting in the car, but by the time I hit the register, who was there telling her audience about Nana? I couldn't help it. I mean it, she is thoroughly contagious. I laughed and allowed myself to take the bait. She was now disclosing her plans for an upcoming lunch -- flying to see an old roommate from college, now a millionaire. See, I knew it!

The cashier says, "So, what, are you going to someplace like Tavern on the Green?"

"No, this place is actually a little nicer," Annie replies, as if comparing Pizza Hut and Maggianos. She then talks about her first experience flying First Class, courtesy of her friend, and a trip to Neiman Marcus -- "Needless Mark-Up, I call it," she says; "She goes there like I go to Dollar Tree."

As she was leaving the store, I heard someone yell from halfway up an aisle somewhere, "See ya, Annie, have a great day!"

Letting the bags slide down her arm, and lifting the brim of her enormous hat with the back of one hand, she waves with the other. "You, too! Have a great day!" she yells back.

In the parking lot, I rushed to assess the damage inflicted on my awaiting Dairy. The loud protest of an old door hinge caught my attention. There was Annie, loading her groceries and her celebrity into a rusty, multi-colored Old Mobile. She fired it up and drove away. Every head turned, but I refuse to believe it was entirely the hole in the muffler -- the way she sat behind that wheel couldn't have been anymore regal in a Rolls Royce.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Cinderella Story

Everybody loves a good story. I am no different. I love a good story...and shoes. I love shoes and good stories. Now you combine those two elements, and you've got yourself quite a good thing. In fact, it's been done before -- maybe once or twice -- and quite successfully in the form of my favorite story, Cinderella.

I don't think I'm alone when I say, as a little girl I dreamed of my prince, riding up to take me -- unworthy, common, hidden by ashes -- for his bride. But there is irony here, an irony that the story of Cinderella doesn't capture. Most little girls -- unworthy, common, and hidden away beneath the ashes -- reject at least one prince, and choose at least one troll. I was no different. It wasn't until I felt completely worthless, believed myself to be beneath common, and had made myself quite comfortable among the ashes, that a prince came along who accepted me as I was, but loved me far too much to leave me there.

When I met him, he told me right from the door, "If you're sick of the way you've been living, and you want to make some real changes, then stick with me, but if you want me to treat you the same way you've allowed yourself to be treated your entire life, find someone else." What?! He may have been a prince, but this was a guy who had chased me for months; this was a guy who'd been told "No" more times than a six year-old at Toys 'R Us! And he thinks he's just gonna walk away like that? Yep. And he would have, too, if I hadn't straightened my tail out and made a commitment to be better to myself -- for him.

As parents, one of the greatest disappointments is watching your child do something that is going to hurt them. So many times, as I have corrected my children, their first instinct is to apologize, and mine is to say, "I'm not telling you this because you've hurt me, but because I know how badly this will hurt you." My prince loves me like that. He would have never been able to stand by and watch me self-destruct, and there is absolutely no way he could have helped me in it.

But, you see, my prince is merely a picture of another Prince; the Prince who had been there my whole life, slowly, gently, and despite my greatest resistance, coaxing me out of the ashes and into His arms. But I'd always run. I was sure I wasn't good enough -- and I wasn't, but The Prince accepted me exactly the way I was.

I just never saw it that way.

Being worthy, or being uncommon, or even being clean was where He was dying -- literally -- to take me, not where I needed to be. He wanted to walk me through it; to commit to being better to myself -- for Him.

I just didn't see it that way.

Besides, there were a lot of trolls to go around. And, at least a troll was just as filthy and contemptible as I was -- if you stay at the bottom, you never have far to fall. And a troll would never expect me to be anything but unworthy, common, and hidden in ashes -- no grief and disappointment in that. And a troll would always be a troll -- no nasty surprises.

No good ones, either.

Not everyday with my prince, or my Prince, is easy, and not everything works out the way I have planned. But whatever befalls, befalls us. And whatever burdens we have, we share. And the good stuff, we enjoy together, happily, and ever after.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Here's to the Frat Boy in All of Us!

I am a hot mess. I am such a hot mess, my husband doesn't even know what a mess I am!

We all have a different "face" we show the world, but you're supposed to feel comfortable enough to be yourself in your own home, around your closest friends, with your spouse -- right? I do. It's just that I tend to keep things to myself. By no stretch am I an introvert; I love meeting new people, and I will talk to just about anyone. I don't hold grudges; I can't waste my time on drama. I'm not some milk toast that never sticks up for herself; I tend to be somewhat opinionated (HAH!). It's just that I have this really bizarre internal dialogue that doesn't need to be released at every opportunity. I have phrases, and ideas, and metaphors that run around in my head. Sometimes they are relative to what is happening at that very moment. Sometimes they are relative to something that happened years ago. Sometimes they haven't even happened yet, but are based on what I anticipate. (Yeah, if all this doesn't get me 302'd...)

Then there's the "frat boy." And while I'm not sure the voices exist in everyone the way they exist in me, I know the frat boy does. For instance, I drink milk from the jug in the fridge. Not always, and not in front of my kids -- what kind of example would that be? -- but, I do it now and again. Cram a handful of chocolate baking chips from the freezer into my mouth until I look like a deranged squirrel? Yup, I do it. Alone, in my truck, I have liberated some belches that would rival a sonic boom. And the beauty of all this is, it's not just me!

When I was in my 20s, I met a woman at a dinner party. She was eloquent, and refined, and ridiculously worldly in her familiarity with designer clothing, art, travel, and wines -- woody or fruity, and so forth. She was pretty wealthy for a woman not much older than I, and was well versed on current investment trends. Sandwiched amid her tales of achievements and famous associates was a story about having a spitting contest from atop a parking garage. I was so jealous of who she was and what she had, I couldn't appreciate the value of such information. But I certainly do now. That frat boy lives, somewhere, in all of us.

 I have a friend I consider to be "proper." We don't have tea or practice diction, or anything like that, but she was raised in a somewhat aristocratic home, with formal living and dining rooms. Though she doesn't continue that tradition, she married "well" and entertains some important people. That is, when she isn't sniffing her shirt to see if she can wear it on her walk just one more day. The first time I saw her draw this crumpled piece of cotton from the floor of her closet, I thought she'd been dusting. My face crinkled as I saw her hold it to her nose. Lemon-scented Pledge, perhaps? "Sure, I can just throw this on. Will you excuse me?"

One of my dearest friends has taught me volumes about being a good wife and mother and woman. I've witnessed her pitching dirty diapers (just the wet ones, not the loaded ones) from across the family room, into the trash can. I would have never labeled her the athletic type, but she's a pretty good shot!

Sure we're girls. We are dainty, or not. We like flowers, or we don't. Being female does not make us one-dimensional. We sniff things we shouldn't sniff, pick things we shouldn't pick; we are competitive and classless. But we are human, and beside the "frat boy" that occasionally pays a visit, we are many other wonderful, colorful people.