I Love My Church Because of Trunk or Treat & Lamentations

I know I say/write this pretty often, but I love the church of which I am a part. The response to the two very divergent things we did this past week is yet another reason why I love my church. First let me explain the two different things that we did last Sunday.

1st we held a “Trunk or Treat” for our kids – i.e. decorate your trunk and pass out candy to the kids that make up a part of our congregation. We are not a large church (usually around 30 to 40 people attend our weekly worship gatherings) and yet 8 vehicles were decorated and candied up for our kids to enjoy and participate within. That’s about a 1/4 to a 1/5 of the church participating and making sure our kids had a good time. Here are a few photos of what people did.

I love the fact that these “threads” care about our kids.

2nd our gathering this past Sunday revolved around the Book of Lamentations. In fact, we read the entire Book of Lamentations as our message for the Sunday. A thread read an intro to the Book of Lamentations and then we read one chapter, sang a song, read the next chapter, sang another song, etc., etc. through all five chapters of the book. First, I loved the gathering that was all about scripture and lamenting. Second, I loved the fact that one of the “threads” who was reading had come in costume as a part of her trunk for “Trunk or Treat”. Erin dressed up as Merida from Pixar’s movie “Brave” (a great movie in my opinion) and was still in costume when she read. You know how many complaints I heard about someone reading scripture while in costume? Not a one. We were just focused on the scripture and understood that she was in costume for our kids, which was one of the most God-honoring things she could have done.

This isn’t the moment that Erin was reading but instead David reading chapter 1.

I love our church.

You Have To Save This Date Because We’re Going to Chicago

Bragging on my awesome wife because a while back she said “you need to be free on this Friday afternoon because we are going to go to Chicago for a surprise for you.” That’s all the info I got. I only discovered when we walked up to the Broadway Theater that Pam had bought two tickets to An Evening with C.S. Lewis. It was wonderful. As usual I am very grateful for Pam.

Look at My New Sticker … Or the Devil Will Get You

The “Go to Church or the Devil will Get You” sign doesn’t necessarily state what I believe about faith. The devil isn’t going to “get you” if you aren’t in church and going to church, while amazingly important for faith (solitary Christianity doesn’t really fit with the faith that Jesus expressed), isn’t the same as faith. Still I have loved this sign for years for one simple reason. Driving past this sign was an essential part of our family road trips to Mobile, AL (the sign is close to Prattville, AL which is about two and a half hours North of Mobile). Thus I always looked forward to seeing it, and usually tried to grab a picture of it when I drove past it.

This was my church stool January of ’17. It has many more stickers now.

Thus last week I was thrilled to accidentally run across a sticker of this sign on redbubble – I have a thing for stickers, I like to put interesting ones on my church stool, which is why people randomly give me cool stickers, I look for free ones, and every now and then I buy some. When I saw the sticker on redbubble I figured I needed to buy one as a reminder of those trips. Pam thought she needed one too. They came in the mail today. I am excited to place this new sticker on my church stool. It will go on there this week.

Of course, in order to see this sticker you will need to be at one of Tapestry‘s worship gatherings and therefore, based on the sign’s logic, you will be safe from the devil getting you since you are at Tapestry seeing this sticker in the first place. 🙂

That We May Be Children of Our Father

It is recorded in the Gospel According to Matthew (5:43-48) that Jesus said:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Please noticed that Jesus didn’t say that this is because your enemy deserves this love. Instead it is based off of who you say is your Father. For a Christian loving your enemy is based off of a desire to be like our “Father in heaven.” Loving your enemy doesn’t mean that you don’t seek justice, it doesn’t mean that you continue to allow your enemy to hurt you or others, it doesn’t even mean that you don’t use force, if necessary (sorry my pacifist friends I’m not all the way there with you, at least yet), to stop him. It does, however, mean that you treat your enemy as human and thus a bearer of the Imago Dei while you are seeking justice.

Terrorists, such as al-Baghdadi, are not excluded from Jesus’s command to love our enemy. If you proclaim God to be your Father then be like your brother Jesus and love your enemy.

The Why Behind the Why

I’m going to start this post with a tweet from Rachael Denhollander (who is amazing and heroic – and having just ordered her book I can’t wait to read it, though I am certain that once Pam sees this post I will have to fight her to read it first, and on a side note her husband Jacob Denhollander is pretty amazing too – I respect any person who is obviously a big fan of their spouse – how’s this for a Pauline run on sentence. 🙂 ). Here’s the tweet:

Since I am often challenged and encouraged by what Rachael writes and recommends, and Brad Hambrick’s post is about the book “The Body Keeps the Score” (third reference I have heard/read to this book in 3 weeks – hold on a second, let me order that one too – Pamela we now have books to swap while each other read the other one – but I will insist that the dust covers be removed while we are reading them – this is a debate in the Terrell household) I went over to read Brad’s post. Very insightful and helpful review of the book. I guess I’ll have to follow him now too, only problem seems to be that he is a professor at SEBTS. Sorry this is my NOBTS and SWBTS pride coming out here (from back in the day when SWBTS was good, caring, and open to conversation i.e. the Russel Dilday era, not the era of the jerk and abuse enabler that was recently shaping the direction of SWBTS – I may be a little bitter here). Anyhow aside from teaching at the wrong institution his post is wonderful. You should go read it HERE. I’ll just share this one paragraph.

When we listen well, acknowledging the limits of our understanding, and patiently allow the person to convey their experience we counter the fear that we cannot be trusted or can’t understand (to borrow Dr. Van Der Kolk’s phrases). In her book We Too: How the Church Can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis, Mary DeMuth talks about her experience of disclosing abuse, “I healed because people in the church dared to listen to my story and pray for me (p. 133).” If you read Mary’s book, you will find the beneficial listening was not quick listening that prematurely assumed understanding and applied the Bible to a base-level emotions, but empathetic listening that was as patient as the book of Job is long.

I bring up Rachael’s tweet about Brad’s post about Bessel’s book because it fits in with a phrase that I was reminded of again and again during the chaplain training that I finished going through Tuesday. Corporate Chaplains of America requires its chaplains to go through training twice a year. It is a good way of refocusing us on the basics of being a chaplain. Being a good chaplain is all about going back to the basics again and again. The statement that kept coming up during the training was “What’s the why behind the “why?” In other words, someone just came up and asked me a question and it is very easy for me to jump into trying to answer that question or fix that problem, instead of stopping and actually exploring why that question was asked in the first place. This is often phrased as “what’s the question behind the question”, but I really like the “why behind the why”.

Why is this person really asking this question? If I go down that route of dealing with the initial question am I actually missing the point? Are they asking me this to see if I will just assume that I understand what they are going through and thereby stop listening to them? Is this question really a test to see if i am safe? Trustworthy? Caring? Why is this question really being asked?

The covenant name of God is Yahweh, I am that I am. The influential American theologian Paul Tillich described the essence of God’s covenant name as “being” specifically the “being there”. God is the One who is truly there in the moment, He is the eternal present, He is “God with Us”, bringing the future and the past into the present rather than having the present derailed by the future or the past. When we walk in His way we are there too. As nuts as I often think much of Tillich’s thought is I really like his focus on being and being there. Here’s one quote from him:

“Whenever a human being says, ‘Now I am living; now I am really present,’ resisting the stream which drives the future into the past, eternity is. In each such Now eternity is made manifest; in every real now, eternity is present.”

Paul Tillich, “The Mystery of Time,” in The Shaking of the Foundations

Jumping to answering the initial question is the domination of the future or the past. “Let me fix that” takes me out of the present moment and specifically takes me out of being there with the person who is asking the question. “What is really going on here at this moment? What is the person in front of me, who bears the imago dei, really dealing with and how can I be here with them?” Emmanuel is with us to the point that He understands the “why behind the why” and thus responds to my fear and worries because He actually hears them rather than just the questions and statements that I initially make. I need to remember to do the same. To be present with those with whom I interact enough to hear the real need and be present in the real pain, rather than just trying to answer the first question. To be with them in the midst of a question that seemed to point to something else, until I was really there to hear the real reason the question was being asked.

Thanks Rachael, Brad, Bessel, and CCA for reminding me of this (and so many other things).

Commercial Air Transportation is Better with Cool People to Talk With

Saturday I posted the following image to my Instagram account and commented concerning my hatred of the process of flying.

I meant it at the time and I still mean it, but I left one part out. I love hanging out with people I love and therefore sometimes the airport becomes a wonderful place when it enables me to hang out with those I love.

Two examples, the first is our family trip to France last year. As much as I gripe and complain about the process of flying (and again I meant what I posted above) I really enjoy being with my family while we rush through airports to get from one gate to another and then waiting for the flight. Last year standing in a crowded area around a gate while we waited for an hour for our plane to load and eating a ham & cheese sandwich with Pam and the boys was one of my favorite memories from the entire trip, and that is saying something because it was a magnificent trip. There was just something about being in it together, laughing through it all, and discovering that French airport concession ham & cheese sandwiches are still pretty awesome that was great. Can’t you just sense the excitement in this photo? 🙂

Also our extremely brief visit to Iceland (i.e. running through the airport was also a blast. Here is the only picture I have of us in Iceland. Can’t you sense our adventurous spirits from this photo? Iceland was wonderful. I hope to wait there in the airport with my family again some day. 🙂

My second example is the people that I get to chaplain with in Corporate Chaplains of America. I am taking a bit of a break at the moment because I am about “peopled out” but I will soon finish this post and start talking with and listen to my coworkers and friends again. As a matter of fact, one of my coworkers just sat beside me and I stopped writing this post for awhile because we both realized we had not talked with each other much during our training this break and we wanted to find out how each other is doing. Being stuck in an airport with them, even one that only has seven gates (hello Ashville Regional Airport) is an enjoyable experience. There is almost always an interesting story to while away the time (seriously one of my coworkers was a chaplain for the Cleveland Cavaliers when Lebron played for them the second time). The process of flying may be a good example of eternal judgment but the waiting within the process can be very enjoyable when the right people are a part of it.

These are some of the people that I am presently waiting with (this was before we were stuck in the “massive” Ashville Regional Airport with all its luxury). They are a good group to spend a couple of hours with while you participate within the dehumanizing process known as commercial air transportation.

I am so thankful for the family and friends I have that make terrible experiences often pleasurable.

A Southern Baptist Porch & Sukkot

I am presently in North Carolina at the Ridgecrest Conference Center for continuing education as a chaplain. The company that I chaplain through, Corporate Chaplains of America, does this twice a year and I am appreciative of this training – though more so when it doesn’t take me away from home and church on weekends. The photo attached to this post was taken when I started thinking about what I wanted to write concerning. You see at the moment I took that photo a multitude of thoughts were going through my head. Here is what was happening:

  • I was reading a book of sermons from my favorite German theologian while waiting for lunch and trying to bring a little peace back to my mind. Jürgen Moltmann once fought against most of the rest of the world as a German Air Force auxiliary until he was captured became a believer in Jesus as Lord in a Scottish prisoner of war camp.
  • The reason I didn’t have much peace at the moment was because I was (and am) hurting for two friends that Pam and I love. I had just spent the previous hour trying to write out a prayer to send to them to hopefully express a little of my love for them in the midst of their pain and grief and be a part of the comfort that they know is found in Christ and His church. I wanted the words to be right even though I am pretty sure that none of the words will mean anything. So I struggled with the words, all the while remembering that the loved ones who reach out to them and are around them will say what my written words could not, and knowing that so many of the people who were sending my friends words of love were doing so in Russian because of their years of service in Belarus and Russia.
  • I was intermittently unable to avoid a few different conversations by the groups that joyously walked by me on their way to lunch. Three of those conversations happened in languages that I do not understand and that came from three difference continents. It was pretty easy to tell that they were conversations of groups who loved each other.
  • All of this took place on a porch that was built a long time ago by Southern Baptists who were almost assuredly detected by old, white men who had been raised in the South.

To quote Randy Stonehillit’s a great, big, stupid world” and there is a ton of pain within it. Still there are moments when I experience brief moments of people from all over the world, with very little experience in common, being brought together by nothing other than a belief that Jesus is Lord that I know God peace can overcome anything.

My Jewish friends will have begun celebrating Sukkot today, a festival that commemorates the harvest and the Exodus. I’m not Jewish and I don’t want to claim any of their heritage for my own benefit. I do, however, know a little bit about Ancient Near Eastern Jewish culture because it was my Lord’s culture. Sukkot celebrate to remember the God Who redeems His people out of the pain and exile of the fallen world. He redeemed His people because He is the God who “devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished.” I know that my Redeemer lives and He has and will set us free. I was reminded of this today while sitting on a conference center porch in North Carolina.