"Mommy please come to church today, we are singing in the big church," asked my youngest daughter as she excitedly bounded into my room on this sunny Sunday morning.
"Ok, baby, what are you going to wear?" I tiredly threw back the covers and made myself swing my legs out-of-the-bed...I had already told my husband I was planning to stay in and get caught up on my studies before my two-day training this week for an upcoming temporary project.
I went to the shower and as the water cascaded over my body - washing away the aches I still held after a week of overcoming a bad bout with shrimp and a day in the park celebrating 100 years of Girl Scouts - all I could do was smile that my daughter was able to get me to do something I hadn't done in a while.
The issue of the church I attend sits on me, but this morning, I pushed that aside and threw on my jeans and early-fall orange sweater. I wanted to make sure I was matching the girls were told me they were wearing "fall colors" for their debut, even my older daughter, who has been acting a little "tweenish" lately, came into my room with her loc pony tail swinging, "Mama, I'm singing, it is going to be my last year to do it, after all!" She is usually the one who has to be dragged out of the bed, literally, because she just loves sleep that much. It wasn't even 9:30am and she was already dressed and doing her hair.
Breakfast was fun and energized as the girls chattered away and had that excitement energy of someone about to perform. They made sure I knew they were going back to their classes after they sang and each girl wanted to make sure she had her Bible before we settled into the van to drive to church.
It was empty in the cavernous sanctuary when I found my space in the front set of pews. I wanted to be close to see the girls perform and since I hadn't been there in a while, have a chance to see what I've been missing.
The kids of the elementary ministry, grades K-5, did not disappoint in their effervescent cuteness and synchronized movements to the praise songs scrolling on the screen. It was a typical, Euro-centered, mega-church, delivery that happens once-a-year to prove the need and existence of all those really cute and bubbly grown ups who talked in really cute and loud terms but who were really ministers, it was a chance to show the parents that their children were really learning something in that separated hour-and-a-half on Sunday.
After the kids were ushered off stage and the scripted message and prayer was delivered, the pastor - who I have yet to meet after going to this mega, mega space since we moved here - began to teach on the Beatitudes series.
The church, to be fair, is very organized and scripted to make sure that every ministry in the church is focused on the same thing, delivered in an age or grade appropriate way. With two campuses and three services, it is important to celebrate the Euro-dominated emphasis on order and timeliness. I could appreciate knowing that with the service starting at 11, we would definitely be finished by 12:15pm.
Today, the message was a lot of what the soul needed. If everyone who claims Christ actually followed the Beatitudes, we would be a lot better off.
I was all good until he got on the social and political again, those "culture war" issues that make a foray into our political stream, right now in a political season. He started about a local ministry that "helps" young women find a way to not have an abortion and made a statement about requiring ultrasounds as being important since this particular ministry uses that tactic to get these young women to not have abortions.
My hands almost instantly started gathering my things to leave, it was at the end of his message, and the undercurrent made me mad! But I sat and listened as he also admonished the audience about the so-called Christians who have perverted the message of the Beatitudes and that Christ wouldn't recognize our American image of it. He put up dual pictures of those he said were returning evil for evil - pro-life protesters versus pro-choice protesters. I could see his point, neither side could hear the other as long as the "flesh" was leading in the discussion.
The message, without the social commentary, was right on. I felt "convicted" in areas where I was all up in my soul - mind, will, and emotions - and not letting the Holy Spirit lead me through some tough decisions. I stayed in my seat after the scripted end, when he had a small extra worship service, and felt a communal move that was one of the things I used to love about "worshiping together."
I am not sure if I will go back, I am somewhat still exhausted by the universal church and even the call to do the 90-minute, 4-class "round-the-bases" to become a member of a church that I do not agree with. Perhaps I should push past it and find my quest for God among other people there, clearly diverse, who were also on a quest to understand their faith outside the usual constraints of religion.
Only my little girl could make a request so significant to push past my stubbornness and send me on a spiritual quest...again.