History of Church Seating

April 14, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Carol Barnier –

It’s happening again. Another local church is talking about ditching the traditional pews in favor of something more plush and comfortable. I really feel uneasy about this. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere in Leviticus a warning about the ungodliness of a relaxed posterior and the slippery slope of comfortable worship.

Amazingly, the idea of sitting in church didn’t even emerge until the Reformation. It’s true! Up till that time, those poor German peasants worked hard all week long and then went to church on the day of rest to do what? STAND and listen to a sermon in a language they didn’t even speak. You may not have known this, but when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg, thesis number 58 was, “It’s time to let us sit down in church for crying out loud!”

In some churches today you’ll see kneelers. These little flip down steps of wonder were put in place for the ease of congregants whose church liturgies involved more and more kneeling. But no such devices can be found in the earliest church structures. That’s because the preferred submission position was prostrate (face down, flat on the ground) and the early church architects felt a flip down panel accommodating this practice would require too much space between the pews. Besides, early attempts of this device revealed a flaw that sometimes catapulted would-be-supplicants up and over the altar.

Eventually kneeling did emerge as the preferred method of humility. However, for quite some time, the earliest congregations needed no such kneelers. They were of hardier stock and found the cold solid stone against their knees refreshing. But then the Church Potluck was introduced and folks began having problems with the getting back up part. Enter: the kneelers. Followed by kneelers not quite so close to the ground. Then, the padded kneelers. Then ,the intricately needle-pointed padded kneelers. I think heated gel pads and a lift ticket are the next obvious mutation.

Now seating is growing more and more like expensive theatrical events. Stain resistant. Deeply cushioned. Padded armrests. Sometimes even with cup holders. I fully expect this trend toward more technology will eventually include an electronic circuitry panel embedded into the backs of the seats in front of us allowing us to provide constant assessment and feedback of the pastor’s efforts.

My current level of interest….hmmm…my mind did wander just a bit there. I’ll give him a 4. Clearly he’s trying. But that passage about Cain and Able could have used a bit more action and drama. A video clip would have been nice. Well, maybe just a 3 then.

I’m thinking we’ve got this backwards. The technology should be on the side of the preacher. If we begin to whisper and be distracted or start nodding off, he would have several buttons of wonder at his disposal. First offense, the chair simply vibrates. Sort of a you’ve-been-warned sensation. The second option would be a sort of elevator that lifts you up over the crowd a good three feet, so that others will know of your transgressions. For the really offensive congregants or those who’ve completely gone to sleep, I’m thinking a mild seat-imbedded tazer is in order.

Okay, perhaps a bit much. But you know what they say.  If you laid all the sleepers in church end-to-end along the pews … they’d be a lot more comfortable.

The Love of God, from the Roots Up

February 13, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Carol Barnier –

“This is where we create the gold bowls that prayers are kept in.” The small group of newcomers moved along behind the winged angel tour guide and nodded as they viewed the large room of worker angels pouring gold into bowl-shaped molds.

The group shuffled along to a massive room that looked like an airplane hangar, open at the far end, with angels coming and going at a rapid rate. “This is our message dispatch room where delivery angels get their assignments to carry personal messages to folks on earth. Lots of serious stuff coming and going in this room.” Indeed, the looks on the faces of these angels were all business, even grim, but the occasional beaming smile crossed the face of a delivery angel when given some obviously joyful news. One can only imagine.

The small group moved down a long hallway, and on to a quieter wing. In a room off to the side sat a group of angels, each with an iPad™ looking device in their hands. They were chatting merrily with each other. There was no tension, no seeming deadline or urgency. There was even a seeming merriment in the exchanges between them.

“This is the hair counting room.”

“The what?” a confused tour group member immediately interjected.

“Hair counting. You know. . .even the very hairs on your head are numbered? In God’s word?”

The tour guide suggested they take a closer look and the group was allowed to mill about, spreading out in the room to get a sense of what was going on in much greater detail. The device held by each of the angels displayed the names of dozens of people, each name with a corresponding number. Every so often an angel would tap a name, note an increase in hair number, and return to the name to adjust the entry. It seemed a pretty easy assignment. But as the group of newbies moved on a bit, going deeper into the very long room, they noticed that the angels seemed busier, less chatty. And finally at the very end of the room, the angels were downright intense. They were constantly checking the names and adjusting the numbers. They clearly had more to deal with, and the demands of their increased work load evident on their furrowed faces.

Finally one of the group spoke up. “What’s happening here? Why are these guys so much busier than those at the start of the room?”

“The folks at the beginning of the room were tracking the hairs of babies.” The smiling guide continued. “That’s pretty easy duty. You add about 100 hairs a day and you’re done. But at the end here, we’re tracking folks over 50. They’re losing hairs at an alarming rate. And if the person gets a shampoo, you almost have to do a total recount.”

At that moment an angel taped his iPad and gleefully said, “Yay. We’re up two for a change!”

“Angel Jarrod. . .” Our guide directed his very serious tone at the delighted angel, who now looked up with a sheepish expression. “We’ve talked about this before. What is the rule?”

The angel dropped his winged shoulders, made an adjustment on his iPad, and said, “We don’t count stray chin hairs. It’s just not nice.”

“And what else?”

He dropped his head ashamedly and added, “Or nose hairs or ear hairs.”

I’m immensely grateful that God is so invested in us that He even numbers the hairs on our heads. I’m perhaps more grateful that He keeps that number to Himself.

The Tell

February 5, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Carol Barnier –

Sometimes you see something about an individual and it just speaks volumes to you about this person. For example, there’s this guy with devil’s horns imbedded under the skin of his skull. Now looks can be incredibly deceiving. I know that. But my first instinct when I see this guy is to think he probably doesn’t do scrapbooking. Or sell Amway. Or vote Republican.

Or Democrat.

Or any of the first ten possible party affiliations on any standard college political science list.

Maybe after Republican and Democrat and Independent and Green and Socialist and Communist. . .way down there, there’s this Beelzebub Wannabe Caucus that he’s shooting for. I don’t know. But ya gotta be careful. You can be really wrong about assumptions. He could run a preschool daycare program for indigent immigrants for all we know.

However, sometimes you just know you’re spot on.

There was this woman at my church. She was really new and had already volunteered to help us with VBS. I didn’t know her at all but she and I were asked to move some boxes from the furnace room in the basement up to the classrooms. So off we go. In she trots to this little furnace room, squats down to pick up a couple of the boxes, and when she does her jeans drop down a bit in the back. Now these were not those low rise puppies that descend so frighteningly that you’re suddenly reminded Crack kills. No. These were perfectly respectable jeans. Godly jeans. Jeans I might even wear. But out the back, like a kite set free to the wind, was a big old tag. To me it indicated two things.

1.) She wore granny panties that went all the way up to the top of her jeans and clearly covered every square inch of her behind and then some. No hip hugger, bikini cut, or heaven-forbid dental floss look to these puppies. These undergarments were THERE. . .and they were standing their ground.

2.) But the second thing it indicated, given tag’s current position, was that this woman’s underwear was inside out. Perhaps she’d dressed that morning in the dark, unaware of the current orientation of her undergarments. Perhaps she was fully aware of their reversed status but needed to get out the door to a waiting van full of her loving family. Or perhaps she saw that the underwear was inside out and she simply didn’t care. She couldn’t be bothered using her remaining brain cells and limited time on such fripperies as correctly oriented underwear.

And what could I determine from this littlest snippet of information about this woman?

I liked her.

Probably a lot.

We might even be soul mates.

I’m pretty sure there’s a chapter in the Bible on women like us—women who put no stock in outer appearance or apparel, women who look to serve, even in the dusty dungeons of the church furnace rooms. I know it’s not Proverbs 31 because there you’ll find quite a bit of pressure to have beautifully dressed family members wearing lots of scarlet and purple. There’s much weaving and storing up for the winter. Maybe the scripture I’m seeking has more to do with the verse I have painted on my laundry room wall. While other women might approach their laundry, look upon those many piles of soiled and dirty clothes with great pain and resignation, I just glance up at my verse, and find peace, inspiration and grace every time.
What’s it say?

“They were naked, and they were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:25)

Fashion Advice for the Short and Stumpy

November 20, 2020 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Carol Barnier –

There is a woman in my church who is always pulled together. She is sweet, kind, thoughtful, funny AND…she is always perfectly dressed. I mean perfectly. She is just the picture of lovely. Her colors always complement her creamy complexion, they fit her beautifully, and they have just a bit of snazzy to them – enough to make me look at her with admiration…

…which I then follow up with a look of resignation. . .

…which is usually translated into a sigh when I pause to consider my own appearance at that moment. I have two (count them: one, two) “church skirts” that I typically pull out; one is for cooler weather, the other for warmer weather. (I previously had an additional beloved swirly summer skirt but I was informed by the committee-for-unsightly-in-church-offenses that it made me look like a tired bohemian Gypsy. Skirt now retired. Made into lovely throw pillows.)

But now, as I look upon this pulled together woman…let’s call her Grace, (what else) who wafts in each and every Sunday morning looking like a catalog cover, I decided it was time to actually choose my clothing with forethought and proactive intention. Gone will be my previous methodology which basically was “Does it cover my person and was it clean at some point in recent memory?”

Choose Your Shape—I began to research my topic with enthusiasm. My study quickly took me to the science of body shapes. First, I learned, one must “dress to their shape.” My many years of raising preschoolers taught me that round is indeed, also a shape, but apparently it has been callously cast aside by the fashion shape selection police. So while “round” might best suit me, apple, pear and rectangle are the standard industry choices.

Create Proportion—Next I was informed that puffy sleeves add extra dimension to one’s top half if one already has more than enough dimension to one’s bottom half. But further reading revealed that puffy sleeves are not recommended if one has either an abbreviated neck or extra flappery in the neck region. No suggestions if one has all of the above.

Height Assessment—Additionally I learned that certain accommodations can be made if one is too short. To give you perspective: I once stood behind a podium to give a speech and was later accused on an audience survey of having sat down the whole time. Apparently only my head could be seen, given a frightening rendition of the oft used “talking head.” All my animated gestures and meaningful body language were completely lost.

For those with such linear deficiencies, fashion authorities state that one must take hem lines to just above the knee to give a better sense of proportion. But a tad later, in the exact same article, they mention that if, however, one has pudgy knees, the hem length is better just below above said knee pudge.

How had they determined that you were only permitted one body flaw per person? Why hadn’t I gotten that memo long ago?

I continued to follow the lengthy flow chart of questions designed to lead me to the perfect fashion choice, which in the end…big sigh…was a burkha.

One day, when I am finally successful in taking my shape from round to apple or pear, I shall astound them all…even Grace…with my Sunday morning style. But till then, you’ll find me in my American Burkha (read that—winter pajamas) working on my latest book: Fashion Advice for the Short and Stumpy.

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.

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