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.

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.

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