Some say that the best place to begin is at the beginning, but I don’t think that’s always true. Especially if you’re the type to get lost as you chase down rabbit trails and never end up getting to the original point you were trying to make. And I am that type. I can go down all sorts of trails, following points all over creation, and never get where I wanted to go. So I think that I’m going to start with the place my mind went when I first started thinking about this project.
As I wracked my brain for an idea to start this project off, something that would relate to the Old Testament, something that would “be a witness” to others, I realized that the only place I could go was the Psalms. One Psalm in particular, to start off. Psam 116, the one that I read as my public declaration before my Baptism. But then I continued my thinking and realized that to understand WHY this Psalm is so important to me, perhaps some background would be helpful.
So, here’s the quick version of my early childhood religious upbringing. When I was a kid, my Dad would take me, nearly every Sunday, to the local coffee shop where he would meet with his friends and talk over coffee. I didn’t give a wit about the conversations, I was excited because I got to drink either Coca Cola, or CHOCOLATE MILK! Neither were not often to be had at home.
But even better than the prospect of chocolate milk or Coca Cola was the actual drive to the coffee shop. We did it nearly every week. We would drive several bocks off course, to a particular street in town. This particular street, in just a two block stretch, had four churches. And one block east was another one. Every week we would drive down those two blocks, turn east and head back past the fifth church. Once past, we would head on to coffee and cola heaven with Dad saying, “Well, we’ve done our churchly duty.” That’s my best memory of church when I was growing up.
In contrast, the experience ofchurch that does not bring joy happened when I was 5 or 6 years old. As far as I remember, I only actually went to church when I spent Saturday night over at my grandparents house. I remember that Sunday School was pretty fun when I was there. We got to play, have story time and then a snack!
I loved snack time, cookies and Funny Face koolaid. (I know, I know, I’m showing my age with Funny Face. Goofy Grape was the BEST!!) And I loved to help make the Funny Face, it was my act of service. But really what it was, was my chance to SNEEZE! I LOVED to sneeze when I was a kid. And when you dumped the packet of koolaid in the pitcher, a very fine powder would waft up and, if snorted correctly, produce an awesome sneeze.
And therein lies the rub. That is the cause of the bad memory. The leaders told me I was a bad girl for doing that. I didn’t understand why helping out was bad. Then they said I couldn’t help anymore, and that confused me even more. I got really upset about it. I had a bit of a tantrum about it. And that’s when they said I couldn’t come back. I remember standing in the hallway when Gramma came to pick me up, and them telling her what a bad girl I had been. They said I couldn’t come back until I learned how to behave.
And so I didn’t go back. I told Gramma that I didn’t understand why helping was bad, and I didn’t understand what they wanted me to change. I keep saying “they” because that’s what they were. They were the nameless, now faceless big people who got mad at me for being a good, quiet, helpful little girl. And “they” are the ones who scared me away, kicked me out of Sunday School at the tender age of 5 or 6 for snorting koolaid! I still had to go to church with Gramma when I spent the night, but I went to big people church and drew pictures during the service.
And that’s how my 40 years in the wilderness began.