Not Yet Ready to Titus

October 18, 2020 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Carol Barnier –

I should have seen it coming. The Bible says, “For everything, there is a season,” but somehow I missed that memo saying “. . .and Missy, your Autumn approacheth.”

It’s true, I no long qualify for MOPS. I haven’t had a preschooler in, well, awhile. My calendar no longer schedules play dates, but rather, testing dates for the SAT, and ACT.

Whether I’ve taken note or not, time is marching on in my life, even though I’ve made every attempt to age only on alternate leap years. But I think it hit me hardest when I was approached by a lovely young woman in my church asking me to assist in a program. I assumed I was about to be asked to help in the nursery, to perhaps teach Sunday School. But no. . . instead, she asked me to become. . . wait for it. . .a Titus woman. The surest sign that you have aged is being asked to become a mentor to younger married women, which of course means that you are no longer one of them.

I don’t know if my face gave testimony to my shock, but inside I felt the sudden stirrings of rheumatism, and a shocking need for more fiber.

Now I know it’s an honor to receive such a request but I have problems even with the name. Titus. Think of it. It rhymes with Phlebitis, Gastritis, Hemorrhaging Encephalitis—ALL good words to stay away from.

Nonetheless, since it’s an honor, perhaps I could manage it. I decided to go home and look up just what this job description entails.

Have the older women. . .[ah. . .that’s supposed to be me I think. . . joy] to be reverent in the way they live.

Uh oh. We may have a problem right off the bat. My humor is often described as IR-reverent. Perhaps I’m not qualified for this matronly honor after all.

She is not to be a slanderer. Okay, I think I’m good there. In fact, I sincerely hope that I’m more a Barnabus—you know, an encourager and keeper of the heart rather than a slanderer. Moving on.

She is not to be addicted to much wine. . .

That one’s easy. I don’t even like wine. But if addiction is the key word here, I must confess to a less-than-healthy relationship with my morning cup of coffee. My favorite mug reads “I drink coffee for YOUR protection.”

Moving on again.

. . .but she is to teach what is good.
Well, maybe I could teach one or two good things. Perhaps age does bring some worthwhile experiences with it.

In the end, maybe I could pull this off. But somehow, I’m just not quite ready for this Titus-Woman thing. The honor of the request is not lost on me, but it seems such a serious responsibility. And perhaps, I’m really not right for such a task, even with the aging requirement easily fulfilled. God doesn’t call each of us to be the same thing. That’s why He said, while we’re all a part of the body, some of us will be an eye, others a foot, others an ear, still others a hand. Yet all are a part of His bride, which I think means I fall somewhere near the elbow—a silly looking part of the body, the purpose for which is not totally clear, but is nonetheless directly connected to the funny bone.

Tongue, Be Thou Loosed

August 23, 2020 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Carol Barnier –

Welcome, friends, to Church Speak Recovery Class. My name is Carol. [Hi, Carol.] And I’m a recovering addict of church speak. Yes, friends, for years I suffered from an acute addiction to the compelling lure of church language. Its grip on me and my tongue was so tenacious that it could emerge at any time.

“Why, Laura, come in and have a muffin. Would you like a proper exegesis with that?”

While trying to live for the Lord, my uncontrolled use of the best practiced and most historically accurate of church terminology often puzzled people, in some cases, moving them further from the very God I wished them to know. I often saw the confusion spreading across their faces as I shared my thoughts of grace, mercy and ecclesiastical catechesis — and, yet, I was clueless as to what I had done to produce the wrinkled brow and baffled expression that regularly met my eager gaze.

Luckily, a mentor emerged to show me the error of my ways. “Carol,” he kindly said, “You do understand that the person you were speaking to believes Total Depravity is a headbanger group from the 90s?”

It was then that I realized the need for change. Yes, friends, it took years to jettison my vocabulary of words unknown to many and, thus, basically worthless in attempts at actual communication. But, with Yahweh’s divine intervention, … I mean, with God’s help, I began.

I started small, and, by that, I mean Big. Big words were the easiest to locate and remove. Propitiation. Apostate. Dispensationalism. In fact, if the word ever appeared in any one of the Confessions, or was listed in a seminary dictionary, or possessed more syllables than the gears of my car, it was now set aside.

The harder task was to remove the little words, words that while easy and simple to utter, were still unknown in concept to many people.

For example, I might say something seemingly plain, such as …
“Sin entered world, which caused the fall of creation. So, God sent a sacrifice to take on our sin, and that’s the plan of salvation” (hear the lyric beauty of the rhyme).

Seemed clear to me. But what people actually heard was …

Glorp entered the world, which caused the floogery of nim-cloppidge. So, God sent a ramdoozle to take on our Glorp. And that’s the drission of interpillionism.”

Big sigh.

I’m reminded of a song of the Shakers — ‘Tis the gift to be Simple, ‘Tis the gift to be free. I couldn’t agree more. It would indeed be a gift if I were able to speak simply, clearly, with no loss of meaning. And it certainly would be freeing, most especially for anyone listening to me. C.S. Lewis felt the pull of this simplicity goal, as well. His BBC radio lectures (yes, the same BBC that eventually brought you Monty Python) on the basics of the Christian faith were an attempt at simple, clear understanding of some rather weighty concepts. So successful was his work that many came to faith as a result, and the subsequent book, Mere Christianity continues to be standard reading, even 50 years later. It is to such simplicity and clarity that I aspire…as well as to a best seller that sells well for half a century.

Of course, if you ever miss the good ole’ days when you could speak your mind without a single edit and produce that puzzled look on the face of your listener, you can always briefly drop back to your old ways. Start chatting up someone in the grocery line and tell ‘em it’s all under the blood, or don’t cast your pearls before swine, or that they should perhaps put out a fleece. Gets ‘em every time.

Church Service Survival 101

July 29, 2020 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Carol Barnier –

This will probably get me in trouble, but … I think it’s possible that children shouldn’t be allowed in church, at least not until they’ve been trained. I don’t mean that typical genteel parental kind of training. I’m talking more like truly useful, kid-to-kid warning and wisdom. Call it “How-to-Survive-the-Next-Hour-Without-Getting-Spanked-101.”

For example, I learned at a very young age that, when the elderly Edith Cooper began her weekly snore, looking back at her would invariably produce a tiny ping from my mother’s index finger. Mother was a firm believer in the Head-Always-Forward theology. Once, when the second to the last pew completely collapsed, sending three people through the floor into the basement, emitting a cloud of centuries-old dust, I hesitantly glanced up at my mother only to watch her simply nod to the pastor and quietly say “Amen.” She was a rock.

Young children, coming to church for the first time, need to be warned. Don’t look back! Or if you must, do so with technique. I eventually learned that if I dropped the bulletin at the correct moment, when returning from my retrieval lean, I could swipe a quick backward glance that was, if not elegant, at least permissible. But there is a firm once-per-service allotment of this technique. Use judiciously. You’ve been warned.

Children should also be told about the risks involved when they are all taken up front for a “children’s message.” Who invented this terror-filled activity? This situation is fraught with peril. The most important rule is simple: don’t offer anything unless asked. Sharing that your sister has a bank of boogers on the inside slat of her bunk bed will not endear you to your parents. While there is a risk in saying too much, there can also be a risk in saying too little. A visiting pastor shared with us a time when he called all the children forward and asked a seemingly simple question.

“Hi, kids! Got a question for ya’. What’s little and gray, has a long fluffy tail, skitters around on trees and stores up nuts for the winter?”

Total silence met this man’s eager face.

A little surprised, he nonetheless cheerily continued.

“Oh, come on, guys. Let’s try again. Little and gray, long fluffy tail, skitters around on trees and stores up nuts for the winter.”

Again … not a peep, but this time the children’s eyes were huge and fearful.

This visiting pastor was clearly becoming agitated.

“Kids … this isn’t tough. The story won’t work unless you answer. So help me out.” He shot through the question again. “Little and gray. Long fluffy tail. Skitters around on trees. Stores up nuts for the winter!”

Finally, one kid timidly raised his hand. Clearly fearful at this line of questioning, he nonetheless took a deep breath and said, “Pastor … I know we’re always supposed to say ‘Jesus’ … but that really sounds like a squirrel to me.”

This kid knew one of the most basic forms of church survival. When in doubt, answer “Jesus.” Nine times out of ten, it’ll be the answer they want. But, as it turns out, listening is also a pretty good strategy. Who knew?

I actually love the buried truth in that concept. When in doubt, answer “Jesus.” Not only is it usually the right answer to the teacher’s question, it’s the right answer to most of life’s questions. I love it when we actually learn something from our kids. Maybe that’s why Jesus turned to the pompous adults in his company and said, “Be more like kids.”

Maybe we should let them back in church after all.

What Twisted Mind Thought Up Soap?

May 2, 2020 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Carol Barnier –

Have you ever stopped to think about how weird it is that we have soap?Think about it. That wondrous little bar of cleansing magic that you hold in your hands in the shower means that once upon a time, some bizarre mind had to come up with a truly strange set of steps.

“Hey,” mutters the wild-haired man staring at the fire. “I know what! Let’s try pouring water through all the leftover ashes from our previous fires.” His eyes squint in concentration as he works out the details in his head. “Then, when the water drains out, instead of being frightened by it—since it can literally peel the skin from your hands (no kidding, this is where we get Lye)—we’ll just put on little hazmat mittens and gather it up by the bucketful.”

Others around the fire look suspiciously at the wild man. Is he serious? Is there a village somewhere whose idiot has gone missing? But most importantly, what would he be planning with such a corrosive liquid? With that thought, they all took three steps backward.

“Don’t leave me now!” he bellows. “It gets better! We’ll take all those buckets of nasty caustic lye and we’re gonna mix it up with gallons of fat that rose to the surface of the water we used to boil up the butchered cows. Isn’t this great?”

At this point the crowd began scanning the ground for excessive empty wineskins. Either that or they were looking for something with which to protect themselves.

“But wait!” he blathers. “This is where it verges on miraculous! We’re going to cook the oily fat with the blistering lye, and when it globs up, we’ll cut into chunks, rub it on our bodies, add some fresh water and wa la!  We’ll. . .be. . .CLEAN!”

He grinned in obvious delight. Right up until the point he was thrown into leg irons.

Seriously. Those are the steps in making soap. Who would possibly have put this together? I submit to you that no one could have made such strange leaps of logic. It requires too many leaps of logic and several
counterintuitive actions. So then, I pondered. Where did the idea come from? Where in nature would one find a natural mix of water, ash, animal fat and finally, at the end of the whole process, fresh water. And that’s when it hit me. The Old Testament. Or more specifically, the ash mounds from the period of animal sacrifices. Think about it. The rains washed down over the ash mounds, naturally mixing the resulting lye with the cooked fat from the burned animals.  Don’t you imagine that it didn’t take long for the local washer women to figure out that the clothes were cleaned more easily downstream rather than up?

I think this is genius. In fact, I think this is God’s God-ness at its best. A little science, a little spiritual lesson and a great big dollop of humor. You may think that God came up with the sacrificial system to get us ready to understand the eventual coming of Christ. And that’s true. But I also suspect He got tired of us being so filthy, smiled that God-smile and decided to help us along. The metaphor works. Filthy bodies cleaned by the sacrifice of so many animals. Filthy hearts made clean by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. And God, as always, our provider.

When God is LOL

January 10, 2018 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Carol Barnier –

The three-letter expression, LOL, has been rolling around in text-speak land for quite a while. When it first emerged, I wasn’t clear on its meaning. Lard On Lollipops was unlikely. Licensing of Obese Libertarians seemed even less promising, although in an election year such things are possible. Turns out, it was much simpler: laughing out loud. The problem was, this little three-letter mark of jocularity was often appearing in places where I found it difficult to determine what the text-speaker found to be so funny. . .funny enough that it would cause an actual audible guffaw. Most of the time, a simple snort was more in order. Or even just a hmphh. There have been very few times when I’ve actually laughed out loud at something I’ve read or heard.

One was when reading an interview with a somewhat younger Miley Cyrus who was explaining that she and her new boyfriend were special, more complex, capable of greater thought than one would have expected.

“We’re just deeper than normal people.”

I didn’t mean to laugh out loud right there in the airport boarding area. But I don’t know, it just escaped from me—with a great deal of volume, I might add. I don’t know if it was because of the pretentiousness of the word “normal” to describe all the rest of us mere mortals, or if it was her total lack of awareness that anyone who would actually utter such a phrase has, ipso facto, indicated a decided lack of depth by virtue of her claim to the contrary. But this was most clearly an LOL moment.

People taking themselves too seriously often brings out a chuckle in me. There are many things that do this.

Poetry being one of them. Sometimes it’s a beautiful combination of words that share something fresh and deep. But just as often, it’s the 43-thousandth time that I’ve heard “Life’s a bummer.”

Indie bands. They’re not making music . . . they’re making art, which according to my daughter means they still practice in their parents’ garage and aren’t famous yet.

But, oh how I LOVE those who are unpretentious. . .who even perhaps SHOULD be taken more seriously than they let on, but you’ll never hear it from them.

That’s my Dad. He is brilliant, and yet most of the folks who meet and talk with him would never know it. His goal in talking with folks was always to connect, to encourage and lift them up, and oh yeah. . .to make them laugh. That’s why as a pastor he was so effective. Everything he shared was carried on the wings of an obvious love and concern for others.

I’ve recently heard more than my share of folks who are sharing some concern they have for the theology of others. And while they may or may not have some truth in their concerns, what ruins it for me is the fact that they take themselves sooooo seriously, such that they look down on those they examine—even ridiculing them, and that there is a decided lack of love for those they chastise. I think the apostle Paul said they are like a “clanging cymbal.” Noisy, irritating. Frankly, they remind me of crows. Peck, peck, peck. And such self-important pecking at that.

I can’t be sure, but I suspect that when the God of heavens looks down at any of our self-important pronouncements, we provide Him with an LOL moment.

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