Fellowship Alliance Church, July 22, 2012.

Logan and I jumped back in the saddle today by attending the 10:00 a.m. service at Fellowship Alliance Church in Columbia Falls, Montana.  Turns out my neighbor across the alley goes there and arrived shortly after we found our seats and joined us in the long, beige padded pew.  It was another great Google find!   Should I feel guilty that my church selections are mostly based on time and location through a Google search thirty minutes before we scurry out the door? 

I have been itching to express my observance of the double handers.  While growing up, my parents would occasionally send us to church with my religious grandmother.  The Little Brown Church; a quaint, non-denominational church in Bigfork, that just so happened to be painted a chocolate brown, was my grandma’s home on Sundays.  I found the sermons boring and the organ music a bit too stoic.  But, I was a kid.  What did I know?  During the songs of praise, my grandma would raise her right arm in the air as if trying to reach for a jar of canned pickled beets on the top shelf of her pantry.  I was embarrassed and wondered if the saucer of prescription pills she took every morning with her coffee and black toast was a dangerous concoction. 

Now, in the midst of my journey, visiting several different churches- I have a different kind of wonder.  In the eight months of going to church, I have only attended two church services where there was not a single hand raiser in the bunch.  A few congregations have had only one or two black sheep brave enough to praise God among conservative masses.  Many churches have several single and double hand raisers.  I observe with curiosity. 

Witnessing people worship sometimes feels like I am peeking in on a couple making love.  It is that intimate.  There are some who are a little reserved in their praise and keep their elbows by their side and bend their arms upward with their palms facing up.  Some bounce or wave their arms with the music.  Whatever it is…they feel it.  And my immature youth feelings of embarrassment have turned into immature adult feelings of jealousy.  I want to feel what they feel.  I want to drink their Kool-aid.   Not so different than the infamous quote in “When Harry Met Sally.”  I’ll have what she’s having. 

Now go to any rock concert or just pop into the Great Northern Bar in Whitefish, Montana on a Friday night and CROWDS of people have their hands in the air…both of them!  They FEEL the music.  They FEEL youth.  They FEEL good …no, GREAT!  Ok, in all fairness, the majority of this behavior may be alcohol induced.  But, my point is that people are not afraid to openly praise musicians in a concert or bar.  Church is different.  The majority do not have their hands in the air.  So, I am not alone.  I am part of the empty majority.  (And, please do not take offence if you are not a hand raiser and completely feel the power of God moving you.  I am not writing and sharing to judge anyone but myself.) 

The service today at Fellowship Alliance Church was moving.  I did not catch the name of the Pastor.  The message was about living a full life.  His sermon was passionate and relevant.  He provided us with just four questions to ask ourselves.  “Who am I?”, “Why am I here?”, “What is wrong with the world?” and “How can what is wrong be made right?”  He guided us through the answers found in Colossians 1:15-23. 

It looks like their church website posts past sermons, www.cfallschurch.com.   I certainly hope they post this one.  I’ll let my audience ponder the above questions.  But, I will give you a hint on number four. 

Jesus is the Kool-aid.

God comes in nuggets too! 2/12/12 – The Paul Harvey!

Big Mountain Fog
A Two Chair Fog Day

Wow!  Nothing like a spike in your blog stats to inspire you to get up at the crack of dawn to write!  Thanks for all of the loving comments!

A few weeks ago I was skiing while my four year old son, Logan attended his weekly two hour ski lesson.  Two hours of freedom for his mama is worth its weight in gold!  Good thing we actually don’t have to carry around gold anymore, but if we did, I guarantee those two hours would be worth it!

There is a benefit to skiing solo.  You get to hop in the singles line, cut in front of everyone else and ride with total strangers.  You can choose to chat about the snow conditions or pray in silence and ignore your lift mates, whatever suits your mood.  This particular week I chose to chat with the friendly people next to me.  The conversation strangely enough brought up church service.  The woman was telling her out of town guest about a weekly church service held at the summit of the mountain, at the top of chair one.  She had never attended, but had heard about it and recalled the time of service being at 2:30pm.  I was excited of my new option if I happened to miss a morning church service. Plus, how cool is it to worship God at the top of a mountain, looking at a 360 degree vista of God-created splendor?  Mental note taken.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and once again, our rushed Sunday morning routine found me taking a deep breath and thanking God for my back up plan.  For those of you that know me, this going to church every week commitment is HUGE!  Not the actual church part, but the getting there part…on time.  I am used to creating flexibility in my life.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do when Logan actually has to attend school.  Pray for me please!

My back up plan required some orchestrating.  Logan’s ski lesson ends at 3pm.  If church service starts at 2:30pm I did not think I would be able to attend church service at the summit and ski down to the base of the mountain to pick Logan up in time.  I arranged for Logan’s ski instructor to leave him at the pricey day care center after the lesson.  They will charge in 15-minute increments, so I managed to justify the expense in my single-mom budget.

It was a foggy day on the mountain.  I know this is no surprise to my local audience.  Skiing solo also has its drawbacks.  I count on God for a lot of things, but I don’t expect him to bail me out on account of stupidity.  I play it safe and ski on the popular runs where hopefully someone will witness a life threatening fall if my skis decide they have a mind of their own.  For the first half of my two hours, I enjoyed skiing chair two, a lift with access to the lower part of the mountain, where the fog seemed to be only a two-chair fog day, instead of a one-chair fog, or no-chair fog day.  (Fog can be rated by how many chairs you can see in front of you while riding the lift.  Handy!)

At two pm I headed to the summit via Chair 1.  The fog was thick and I was already nervous about my traverse down the face of the mountain.  Perhaps God would clear the skies for me, not that there are more pressing prayers to answer, right?  I arrived at the summit early.  I assumed that the service would be held on the large deck of the Summit House.  The Summit House is a large building which serves skiers with plenty of fast food, plastic bottled beverages, a full bar, plenty of tables and chairs to rest your weary ski legs and dry your drenched clothing, restrooms and a gift shop with useless souvenirs and forgotten necessities.  Let me digress to the sentence before last.  I believe the only thing I learned in my high school senior year chemistry class, taught by Mr. Hartford, was that fact that when you ‘assume’ something…it often results in making an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.  I take that back.  I learned two things.  Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and ballroom dancing.

So…I believe I am early.  I am the only one sitting on a frosty picnic table bench on the entire Summit House deck.  A hippie-looking fellow walks up and places his skinned skis on the table and starts the process of removing the skins.  I glance over and he is concentrating on his skis.  I am wondering if he is there for the service too.  I keep glancing at the time on my cell phone.  It was now 2:35pm.  Perhaps the Pastor was nervous about the fog too and had canceled the service.  At 2:40 I finally walk inside to the gift shop and ask the shop clerk about the service.  She says, “Oh yes, the service is right there,” as she points to the mass of people that are mingling about, unloading from two different chairs and shuffling from every direction headed toward their favorite run.

I make my way outside, clip on my skis and glide over toward the moving wave of skiers.  As I am glancing around to determine if there is actually an organized group of summit church-goers, I see a woman carrying a staked blue sign displaying the words “Worship Service 2:30pm.”  She is headed to the small white building next to the unloading zone of chair one.  Assuming (there’s that word again!)  the service is over; I approach her and ask her where the service meets should I wish to attend in the future.

“Actually, no one showed up…but, I could do a service for you,” she says with eager sincerity.  “Sure!”  I reply, relieved that I will be fulfilling my Sunday quota without reverting to plan C of an evening service.

I follow her shuffle to a less crowded area next to the boundary tape.  She stabs the stake into the packed snow with force which proves this aint her first rodeo.     She introduces herself as Sue and immediately informs me that she is not a pastor, but is a volunteer and attends the North Valley Baptist Church in Columbia Falls, the town in which I live.  She also informs me that this is just a nugget of a church service.

She starts out with a prayer.  I bow my head and balance myself with my ski poles.  She then places a small yellow slip of paper in my ski gloved hand and asks me to read the bolded responsive words after her.  “You be ‘THE PERSON’, instead of ‘THE PEOPLE’.”  We both chuckle.  I read my three lines after her three lines.  She then shares a devotional thought, which I might recall if I had a habit of writing immediately following a service rather than weeks later.  We say the Lord’s Prayer together (which is engrained in my head from four years of attending Al-Anon meetings) and she wraps up with a quote of scripture, Jude 24-25.  That was it…my five minute-tops, nugget of a church service!  It was quick, to the point and left me feeling spiritually satisfied.

Ski on!  Church on!

Keep those comments coming!  I love them!

Have a wonderful day my friends!