Monday, August 21, 2006

the amusement park

This is a continuation of my previous blog, being that it is the next day and a Sunday. Saturday was a struggle, and Sunday revealed what my struggle was truly about thanks to our pastor being gone, the book of James and a an annual trip to a local amusement park. Our pastor and his family took a much-needed vacation to Ocean City, NJ, so that left our worship team needing a leader and someone to fill the pulpit. I'm next in line to lead when that happens, and my husband volunteered to take the pulpit. We're a very small church, so this is not unusual. But I woke up feeling less than adequate and enthused about the whole thing. I resented having to continually "be there" for a group so small it seemed hardly worth it. As I got into my morning I also realized that the day was shaping up to be an absolutely perfect one weather-wise for a trip to Knoebel's Grove, another thing that I was less than enthused about. I do not like to ride things that zoom you multiple stories in the air and drop you multiple stories down equally fast...or crowds, or noise, or walking for hours waiting for other people to be flung into the air and dropped as often as they can. Sigh. I asked my younger daughter if I'd be missed, and realized that was a stupid question even though she's too kind to tell me outright I'm a selfish ass.

So I put on my skirt and lipstick, made sure I was fortified with two cups of coffee, loaded my daughter into the car and off we went. My husband was already at the church, opening the doors, putting on the air conditioning and making sure all was ready for the morning. I got into the music still sort of gritting my teeth-someone borrowed the general song folder and didn't return it, which I knew about because she called me-so copies had to be made with 5 minutes to spare before the service. Irritation stalked me and panic threatened to take away any scrap of calm I had. Well, half-way through the list I sensed the gracious presence of the Holy Spirit pouring over the music. My irritations were washed away. I sort of half-dreaded my husband's sermon, which I secretly felt I could do better, and was really surprised at how well he put it together, shared from the heart, grabbed his audience's attention and had them laughing and listening. I was, too.

Soon it was time to go to the park, but before that happened a friend was walking by the house, someone who had commissioned me to do a great deal of artwork. She came in and oohh'd and ahh'd at the work on the walls and asked me to do yet another piece, someone close to the family who had passed away young. Her presence lifted me and began to sweeten the day. We went to the park and it was actually fun. My husband and I eschewed the anything gravity-defying and played mini-golf, although the two boys behind us seemed to have golf balls that defied it! They were so funny to watch. We played skeeball and pinball, road the mini-train, thought about life on the Merry Mixer and realized in two years we'll be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. The trip home was beautiful and I wasn't feeling the usual relief that it was finally over. We listened to the kids in the back-my two daughters, a girlfriend and a boyfriend, came along, and I thought about how very fortunate I am.

So now the book of James, and what the struggle was about on Saturday-James let me know in no uncertain terms that I am full of pride. Pride in the sour, impossible-to-please guest in the feast of life. Listen to what James says about it, "What leads to strife and they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members? You are jealous and burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain the gratification, the contentment and the happiness you are like unfaithful wives breaking your marriage vows to God...God sets Himself against the proud but give grace to the lowly who are humble-minded enough to receive it...come close to God and He will come close to you..." My problem is and has always been, I feel too good for the life God has chosen to bless me with. If I do not accept this life with gratitude and see how blessed I am, I will never find any good in it. In truth, this life is too good for the likes of me. It was like being in that amusement park, with something that everyone might enjoy, only if you want to, go there and buy the tickets, and use them and enjoy the ride. I also realized the focus of my decision was wholly about me in the beginning. I recall in the sermon my husband saying, that is our biggest problem. Our focus is on the wrong person. When I was able to thank God for the day, want to be with my family, want to enjoy the day, I did.


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