27 April 2008


The singing was incredible. Women who were raised in the church, knew the hymns, remembered the harmonies, lifting their voices in praise like a choir of angels.

Except one.

She was out of tune, off rhythm, not blended, and clashing against the three part harmonies of the others. She sang at full volume. On Friday night when we first started singing, women kept turning around to see who was it that was singing so out of tune and causing the harmony to dissonant. All except the women at her table. They all drove together. She was a part of their body. It wasn't that they didn't hear her or care if it sounded good, they knew her and knew she was singing her part... and yes, out of tune.

Each time we gathered to worship and sing, There was this one singing in the midst of such harmony. I started thinking, it sure would be nice to hear the women without her so that I could enjoy the beauty. It became about the music and not the worship for me.

In the afternoon, from 1:30p to 5:00p, we had freetime for the women, when we opened the boats, had crafts, food demonstrations, hikes, games, and the giant swing for them to do. Near the end of the afternoon, the woman who was the off key singer decided to give the giant swing a shot. The giant swing is about 34 feet in a tree that you have to climb, using the "staples", which are about 4" wide and sticking out of the tree 3" or so, which makes it pretty hard to climb, especially for a first tryer.

After putting on her harness and standing in line for 30 minutes or so, it was her turn. "On belay!" "Climb on!" She started out climbing the 7' rope ladder and had a hard time doing that, but was encouraged by those around her and the staff. The people who had her on belay where helping her by pulling her a bit on the rope to get her up instead of stuck. It was very hard for her to muster the strength but she did not back down. She was asked a couple of times if she wanted to come down, but she refused.

30 minutes pass, then 45. More women started lining up waiting for their turn. We could see the encouragement turn from support to frustration. Then one woman angrily said what many were thinking "Why don't you just bring her down so the rest of us could get our turns in before it is time for dinner." It is hard to hear out loud what we are thinking in our hearts.

The staff asked her if she wanted to quit, she said no and they continued. One of the staff told the woman who spoke out, that we are here to support her make it through her fear just as we would anyone else. Which just frustrated the woman even more. Responding in love is not what is wanted when we deal with the flesh. Compliance is sought. Sure pull her down. Humiliate her. End our discomfort and satisfy our desires, so we can go on to the next desire. Been there, done that, need the next thing to consume. Damn the people, full speed ahead!

When dinner came I was told of the story by the staff who got chewed up a bit and usually I would have been uneasy that we didn't accommodate the woman who was impatient because she paid as much as the other woman and should have gotten her turn without feeling put out... But then a peace came over me in a different way than ever before. And it became about ministry not accommodation. The woman who was frustrated experienced the love of Jesus through our staff for the woman on the swing. She saw people who were loving and patient (and were probably as frustrated as the inpatient woman but found love for the woman for whom they were responsible). Love confronted her impatience and those around her, and isn't that why we have Christian retreats.

Are Christian retreats and conferences about accommodations or spiritual transformation into the image of Jesus Christ?

During worship that night the singing was sweeter than before with the woman still singing her part in full voice and adding to 3 part harmony to make it 3.1 part harmony.

05 April 2008


One of my favorite times at church when I was growing up was the once-a-quarter Potluck dinners. Sometimes there would be a speaker, a missionary or a pastor visiting; a special event like a talent show, christmas pageant, game night, hymn sing, etc. No matter what the program it would be kicked off with a potluck.

I was talking to a high school student the other day and he had never gone to a potluck and didn't know what it was, so here is a definition, A potluck is a gathering of people where each person is expected to bring a dish of food to be shared among the group.

Of course you never had a potluck because that would mean that you were contributing rather than just showing up and consuming what was furnished for you. Then after it was over you probably criticized the meal instead of talking about which dish was your favorite and aren't you glad that Mrs. Seeley makes her award winning casserole and brings it each time.

Potlucks gave individuals more value because they contributed instead of just consumed. Mrs. Seeley took pride in her gift to the supper as many would coo as they were tasting it. Sometimes a new member would show up with their specialty dish and they were immediately welcomed, as people were trying to find out who made the new lasagna. Yes, there was a bit of competition and Mrs. Seeley was beat out by Mrs. Ray's chinese chicken salad, but usually a few potlucks later we were cooing again the new casserole Mrs. Seeley brought and people reminisced about how good her other casseroles had been. Mrs. Bell's chocolate cake was to die for as the ratio of frosting to cake was almost 1 to 1.

An Armenian family moved in and they brought some new kind of dishes, baklava, hummus, and peda bread, and people were talking with their mouth full. A Japanese family brought a sweet chicken, called teriyaki which was new to us. Enchiladas by the Martinez family were always a hit and if you weren't there early you would be ticked all night as people were remarking how she made the sauce taste better than the kind you get from a can. People started asking for the recipe from these new families. We would bring bread that my father made and people were glad we did. It was always better with butter instead of that new stuff that comes in a plastic tub.

We ate well, but better yet, we knew each other better. The program afterwards was really insignificant compared to the life of the body that sat and enjoyed the lingering fragrances of community.