Saturday, August 20, 2011

"This is a ch_ _ ch. What is missing? U..R"

Obviously, I'm getting old.
How can I tell?
For one thing.....the crazy amount of gray hair I have now!!
{What?  Oh, you thought this was my natural color??}

For another thing, I remember the days when everyone dressed up to go to church.
I'm not talking about the days of hats and gloves for women either.
{I'm not THAT old!}

Just the days when you went into church, you knew you were somewhere special.
You knew that it was different than the school house, or the playground, or the beach, or the mechanics shop.
The folks had actually taken the time to iron their clothes, and shine their shoes, and put on a tie, or a dress.
The little girls all wore dresses and the little boys had their shirts tucked in.
I'm not talking about Norman Rockwell's Americana Fantasy Land either.
I know you know what I'm talking about.

Church has become so casual these days.
Like a stop-off before going to the grocery store or the ball game or the mall.
Not a prepared for destination in and of itself.
Like no thought was put into Who we are coming to honor and worship.
Like we're expecting a hamburger happy meal in the drive through McDonalds.

In this century, our culture is moving at warp speed.
Life comes at me every single day like a tsunami!

"Be still, 
and know that I am God:"
Psalm 46:10

Is it possible that in this culture of lightning fast internet, and ipods, and ipads, and kindles, and cell phones....
it's next to impossible to settle our minds down and focus on the One who has given us this breathe......and the next.....
I have found that the older I get, the longer it takes me to actually hear anything from God's Word.
I have to read the scriptures for at least 15-20 minutes just to get focused in before I can get the noise of the day out of my head.
Then, it takes me another 40 minutes or so to grasp the "concept for the day."
How can I possibly get enough spiritual nutrition for the day by just reading a quick 5 verses and the corresponding devotional.
It's not enough.
Anymore, I have to deliberately MAKE that much time in my daily routine, or it never happens.
For me, that means waking up at 6 or 7 am.....before my children are up and going.

It's the same thing for Sunday worship.
I have to prepare for it.
Set it apart in my weekly routine.
Even dress differently than I normally do when I'm at home, or going to Wal-Mart, or even out to dinner with my precious husband!!

As a child, I read and re-read all of the Little House on the Prairie Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
One of my favorite stories comes from On the Banks of Plum Creek where Laura described "going to church" during the days of the pioneers:
"Laura and Mary had never seen a church.  But they knew from Ma's voice that going to church must be better than a party.  After a while Ma said, 'I am so glad I finished my new dress.'        
'You will look sweet as a posy in it,' Pa told her.  'We must start early.'
Next morning was a hurry.  Breakfast was a hurry, work was a hurry, and Ma hurried about dressing herself and Carrie.  She called up the ladder in a hurrying voice:  'Come on down, girls. I'll tie your ribbons.'
They hurried down.  Then they stood and stared at Ma.  She was perfectly beautiful in her new dress.  It was black-and-white calico, a narrow stripe of white, then a wider stripe of black lines and white lines no wider than threads.  Up the front it was buttoned with black buttons.  And the skirt was pulled back and lifted up to puffs and shirrings behind.  
Crocheted lace edged the little stand-up collar. Crocheted lace spread out in a bow on Ma's breast, and the gold breast-pin held the collar and the bow. Ma's face was lovely.  Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes were bright.
She turned Laura and Mary around and quickly tied the ribbons on their braids.  Then she took Carrie's hand.  They all went out on the doorstep and Ma locked the door."
It was a special event.  One they deliberately prepared for and set apart from their regular routine.
One they dressed up for because it was important and an opportunity to wear the best they had.

I certainly don't hold to the philosophy that certain items of clothing make one more spiritual than another.
But I do believe that we should offer the very best we have in gratitude to the Giver of all.....and whatever your best is...whatever you can afford......that's what we should present ourselves for worship in.
For our OWN heart preparation.....not for the response of those around us.
God makes it very clear in His word that it's not how we look on the outside anyway, but the attitude and motivation of our heart.
"And let not your adornment be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.   1 Peter 3:3,4" 

All that we have.....the way we look, what we have in our closets, our children.....are gifts.
Given to us.....unmerited, unearned {because the strength we have to work and even having a job are gifts too....right?}....graces.
How wrong of us to parade around and show off for the oohs and ahhs of those around us.
But I've also noticed {without even trying to see} how some people feel that what they've been given should be seen by all.  Again, going back to this shift in how casual church dress has become.
But scripture clearly guides us in this area too:
"Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness.   1 Timothy 2: 9, 10"

I love how a former college professor of mine described this principle in an article she entitled "Graceful Modesty:"
 "As the truth of His grace fills the heart of a Christian woman, she will develop a mind of sobriety that will find her setting “her affection on things above” (Col. 3:2). The more she is consumed with the fact that her nakedness has been covered with robes of righteousness, the more she will desire to physically clothe herself in a manner that will richly—and not skimpily—demonstrate that covering. As she grows in grace, she will begin to more fully understand that, as a redeemed child of God, her clothing represents more than a physical covering."
I want my children to develop the habit of making church the most important part of their week.  Not because we think we "HAVE to or else,"  not out of fear, or tradition.....but because we NEED it.
We need that day of "rest" from our regular routines.
We need that time with our church family members to be encouraged and to encourage.
We need to focus our minds on the Creator of all a reprieve from all the things.
I need it.

And I feel children must learn how to prepare for going in to our "House of Worship" and to expect to meet with the Kings of Kings and Lord of Lords!!

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