Thursday, April 28, 2011

How I Ruined Easter Service.

I will be honest with you (it’s this new thing I’m doing). Easter is not my favorite Sunday of the year. My issues are practical, not theological. Often, and despite the best efforts of my church and friends, Easter kind of sneaks up on me. I find myself surprised on Saturday night that I have to find something on the high end of presentable to wear, cook an egg dish for the earliest potlock of the year, and show up to church before the sun rises. My groove gets thrown off – and I don’t even have any little girls to wrestle into tights.

This is a shame, because Easter Sunday (also known in my circles as Resurrection Sunday) is a celebration of the very core of my identity. Jesus Christ, the perfect son of God, willingly died an unjust death and unlocked a depthless mercy. This mercy is what makes me a Christian. Christ rose to life again on the third day. He conquered death. And now he wraps his arms around me, warts and all, and presents me to the Father.

It’s a beautiful story, and an every day story, but once a year we celebrate this remarkable event in a special way. With egg dishes and sunrise services and cantatas.

Cross City Church, being the reasonable baby church that it is, opted for a simple celebration for Easter. A nine a.m. service followed by lunch at the Burns’s house.

We all had our roles. Ken was leading music, Scott was teaching. Melissa prepared to feed us all afterward. Beth was teaching the kiddos something involving palm branches hidden in Easter eggs. Others in our congregation brought friends and family and food. I, jetlagged from a redeye flight and reeling from the four hour AK-OH time-zone gap, was tasked with printing and bringing the song sheets.

When my cell phone rang on my nightstand at 9:15 Sunday morning, my first thought was, “There’s no way I can fix this.” Those were also my first words to the person on the other end of the line, who turned out to be Scott. Ken couldn’t come to the phone, because he was too busy standing up front with his guitar strapped on his shoulder.

The meeting had started, and Christ has risen, but I was still abed.

The irony is not lost on me.

We don’t have songbooks, or hymnals, or any kind of projector yet. Each week, we print the lyrics on a sheet of paper and make a copy (more or less) for everyone. Unless Ken wants to lead us in some kind of worship solo performance, we need those song sheets.

My one job, the “bye” job, had disrupted the whole flow of the morning.

“No problem,” said Scott, his voice an octave higher than normal, “we’ll just sing at the end. Come as quick as you can.”

I threw on some clothes (definitely not on the high end of presentable), battled my printer and rushed out the door. The trip from my house to the community center where we meet takes about 2.5 minutes. Unless you catch the one red light. Then it takes about 15.

Ken was waiting as I pulled into the parking lot. I could see the whites of his eyes. He traded me his six-month old for the sheaf of songs and rushed into the building, just as Scott was wrapping up an uncharacteristically prompt sermon.

I was unshowered, bleary-eyed, and embarrassed. Easter service! It’s supposed to go smoothly! I’m supposed to look pretty! Everything was out of whack this year.

The whole church was nice about it, although I did get some deserved mockage. Ultimately, the blame was placed squarely on my jetlag.

Sweet, sweet, scapegoat jetlag. What do you have against Easter?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


The subject of me being the worst blogger ever has been a recurring theme in my life – and for good reason.

Weeds are growing up through the floorboards of this blog. The eyes on the potatoes of this blog have sprouted into curling vines that spiral around the feet of anyone who dares to visit. It has a layer of dust on every surface, it smells damp, and the mail has piled up on its front porch. In other words, it looks a lot like my house, to which I just returned after my three-week trip to Alaska. Cute infrastructure, pleasant history, but obviously unlived-in.

It’s not like I don’t have anything to write about. I just moved across the country to a new place, bringing with it a host of awkward moments and funny stories. And it’s not like I don’t have readers – my dad harangues me about writing every time we talk.*

But when I sit down at my rapidly aging computer to tackle the day’s events, I run into the same wall.

I don’t want to look like an idiot.

“But Jess!” you protest, “You’ve never had a problem looking like an idiot in the past. Wasn’t that you who got her jeans stuck on a doorknob? And hit the moose with your car? You know that every time you pen a sentence, you display your utter lack of “when in doubt, leave it out” comma mastery.”

That is all true. I do my best work with the flush of embarrassment in my cheeks.

But while I don’t mind being an idiot about driving, or England, or even my own failure as a grammarian, I’ve found there are some subjects that are a little too close to my heart for me to comfortably share.

Right now I’m in the midst of the early days of a new church plant in Columbus, Ohio. It is a hard, often awkward, uncertain process. I am on a team of good-hearted men and women who love the Lord and are doing their best. I’m confident that God has called us to German Village, and that our efforts will result in His best plan. I am even fairly certain that His best plan is a healthy, thriving church in the middle of the city. The road to that church, however, is paved with the stones of setbacks. It also seems to be coated with some kind of sticky syrup that is slowing everything way down.

Now, I feel compelled to say that there have been some huge encouragements. I don’t want to miss the wonderful people that God has brought to our church (the few, the proud), or the overwhelming financial support form believers who don’t even live here. Or the awesome neighborhood which features a huge park, streets paved in brick, and a restaurant called The Sausage Haus.

Still, we are toiling – praying for more believers to commit to our church, for direction and leadership, for shared vision, for funding, for the heart of the community. And, not being clairvoyant, I can’t help thinking that it’s all “too soon” to commit to print.

In writing about Columbus, I know that I will be betraying my naiveté, my selfishness, my ignorance about church planting and a fair amount of presumption. But the effort to present my life devoid of mistakes and troubles has paralyzed my writing voice. If I knew how everything turned out – if I could control my story arc – then I think it would be easier. But I don’t know what I’m going to learn through this process. I don’t even know what I don’t know yet.

I miss being a blogger. I look back over the years and see every post as a snapshot of my life. When I have to quantify a feeling or impression into a sentence, it draws my perceptions into focus. I also know that Christ did not come for the well, but for the sick, and any true thing I divulge about myself on this simple, silly website is already known by God and forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice.

Don’t worry, this blog will never become an exposé of the innards of my soul, but I know it is read mainly by my family and friends scattered across the world, and I want you guys to know what’s really going on. And great things are going on.

Which is why my next post will be entitled, “How I Ruined Easter Service.”


*don't worry, Pop, you don't really harangue me. Just a little authorial license to make the joke that my parents are the only ones who read this.