Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I Was A 44 Year Old Bridesmaid

It sounds like the title of a horror movie. And (gasp), I’m playing the leading role! Being married, I suppose my official title is Matron of Honor. Sounds important right? In reality, all it means is I’m old enough to have a 46 year old husband, two teenagers and a seven year old to make fun of me in the little strappy number I’ll be wearing. Even if I will be the fattest of the four, at least I have the satisfaction of knowing I’m not the oldest maid in the bunch—yeah, you know who you are.

Okay, picture this; I walk into the bridal store with my girlfriend and one of the other bridesmaids. We’re greeted by someone we’ll call Lola, a wedding coordinator. Queue the flashback scene music. Doo doo doo; doo doo doo…

Amy (The bride): we’re here to pick out bridesmaids dresses.
Me: Don’t forget to tell her we’re old and fat.
Lola: (Laughs) All right Amy, what color is your dress, white, ivory, cream, or something else?
Amy: Well, I haven’t picked out my dress yet.
Lola: And…when did you say you were getting married?
Amy: October.
Lola: (Wildly fanning herself) Oh Lawd! (Picks up telephone and presses speaker button) Paging Miss Shania, please come to the front of the store. We have a code red at the welcome desk.
Enter Miss Shania…a short stocky middle aged wedding coordinator.
Lola: Miss Shania, I need you to help these ladies out while I take Miss Amy to pick out a wedding dress.
Miss Shania: Well, certainly ladies, step right this way.
And you’re the mother of the bride?

In the past, people have always said I look much younger than I really am. But apparently to Miss Shania, I look like I could mother a 34 year old woman. I don’t know what came over me. I couldn’t make my finger stop wagging in her face. I looked over at my “older” friend who was snickering uncontrollably. Well, for the rest of the day I was Miss Shania’s “best friend”. And for some reason, in Miss Shania’s opinion, every dress I tried on from that point on was absolutely gorgeous on me.

Just when I thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, my body decided to betray me and go into personal summer mode—I’m talking Sahara Desert caliber hot flash. The sweat fountain opened up and my face was brighter than the “red apple” color dress I was trying on.

You know, when God created the institution of marriage He never intended for us to be consumed with bridesmaids dresses, controlling mother’s (not me), or what flavor the groom’s cake should be. Sure God wants us to celebrate the union of two people, but it’s never been God’s plan that we worry about these things. After all, it was at a wedding that Christ performed His first miracle. And thank goodness, He’s still in the miracle business, because it’s definitely going to take one to get me through this wedding. Do you think I’m being repaid for the mauve dresses I made the girls wear in my wedding?

Question: How can you tell whether it’s a first time marriage or not?
Answer: The combined total of children belonging to the wedding party alone is more than sixteen!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Conflict Will Come—And When It Does…

When our church revealed its plan to institute a building campaign I was overjoyed. The thought of worshiping in a real sanctuary with pews and carpet instead of a straight chair on a hardwood gym floor stirred images of pious splendor. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought that some in our congregation would oppose building a new sanctuary. But conflict, I would soon find out, is a fact of life.

In the article, “The Hurting Church: Why we get hurt and hurt others in church,” Gail Rodgers states, “More and more often we find people and leaders in conflict within the body of believers, robbed of the joy Jesus promised in Him. When we find this hurt hanging on to our own bruised soul, it can make us want to leave the church and sometimes even want to “back burner” our God who seems to have allowed it all.” According to Rodgers, there are five steps to conflict resolution, all of which are based on a framework of God’s love.
Step 1: Know your enemy – When in conflict with another believer, we need to ask ourselves the question, “Am I wrestling against flesh and blood?” The answer in these situations is usually yes, but we must never forget, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers…” (Ephesians 6:12). Scripture tells us to “be alert”, “resist the enemy” (1Peter 5:8-9) be on your guard and “stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). So when irritation strikes…know immediately who your opponent is…know immediately he has schemes and plans in place that will at best steal from you and at worst destroy God’s people and their effectiveness. In addition to being alert we must keep praying, (Ephesians 6:18). When prayer is no longer the oxygen of our spiritual soul or the heartbeat of our church, our defense is down.
Step 2: Keep short accounts – The simple truth of the Word of God in the instruction from Paul to “not let the sun go down on your anger” is so profoundly elementary that we miss it. Scripture tells us “a root of bitterness springs up and defiles many” (Hebrews 12:15). When it finally spills out, or spits up, it defiles us and those around, and hurt is the result. That is why Proverbs 4:23 tells us “above all else guard your heart for it is the well spring of life.” It is the very source of all we are. The trademark that identifies us as His disciples vanishes and the world looking on can see no difference in us. Be alert of the seed you allow in your heart. They all produce fruit of one kind or another. List the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, (Galatians 5:22). Ask yourself, “What fruit of the Spirit is in short supply in my life right now?”
Step 3: Don’t be afraid of accountability – In any given troubling situation we need to honestly ask ourselves, “Am I making choices that allow God to be in control here or am I taking control?” Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “trust in the Lord with your whole heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” If your own understanding is resulting in opinions and actions that bring division, be accountable for what is going on in your own heart. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked (selfish) ways, then I will heal their land” (their church, their heart). It’s a sure promise!
Step 4: Acknowledge pride – Scripture says, “God resists, or opposes, the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Pride is a killer. It is one of the subtlest tools of the enemy. God actually resists the proud. The simple question to ask before opening your mouth is: “Will this lift Jesus higher or will this lift me higher?”
Step 5: Be willing to plant stakes in the ground – You must ask yourself: “Am I willing to acknowledge my part and take steps to prevent a repeat?” James 3:13-17 talks about two kinds of wisdom, one, which does not come from heaven, and one that does. The one not based on heavenly values is centered on earthly, unspiritual values with envy and selfish ambition at the core. Not hard to spot…the trademark of love will be missing as well. The wisdom based on heavenly values will be pure, peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
We have all heard stories of church congregations splitting over something as trivial as the color of the carpeting or the old hymns versus praise chorus issue. I consider our own fellowship exceedingly blessed, having completed a major building campaign with only the most minor amount of opposition. Taking godly steps for conflict resolution, faithfully bathing every situation in prayer and coating it with God’s love is ultimately the answer for most every church conflict.