Category Archives: Church Life

Facebook killed the blogging star . . . And why do we do the things we do?

I am not the first person to put to use the song from 1979 to talk about how Facebook impacts blogging, so I’m not being very creative here.  But I do think it’s true.  Not that I’ve ever been a blogging star.  Not even close.  But I know I used to share little snippets about my kids on my blog.  And pictures!  I posted pictures of my kids!

And now?  Well, today I wanted to go back to my blog-every-day plan, but I don’t have much in the way of thoughts floating through my head this morning.  But I did have some Adventures in Ruthie I thought I could share.  But then I realized I already shared all about them on Facebook.  And since I only have a handful–or two–of friends who read my blog, and most, if not all, are my Facebook friends, what’s the point?  Well, except I do have that friend out there who is engaging in a Facebook freeze during Lent.  Actually, I have two friends on a Facebook freeze.  So, they might like to hear about today’s Adventures in Ruthie.

And maybe I should consider a Facebook break of my own . . . yes.  I will consider it . . .

So, now I’m at a crossroads:  Share the Ruthie story?  or ramble on about the value of Facebook?  dilemma, dilemma . . . My title implies a Facebook reflection, but my mood says To Heck with the implications of my title.

Let’s go with Ruthie today.  And maybe Facebook tomorrow.  But I’m not making any promises.  Because I’m not so adept at keeping them.  Particularly of the blogging variety.

Anyway . . . So, Ruthie.  We went to the little grocery store in our little town yesterday.  While we were climbing back into the minivan, Ruth noticed a teenaged girl wearing pajama bottoms.

WOW!

Ruthie was quick to point it out:  “Mama!  That girl!  She’s wearing pajama bottoms!  to the grocery store!!”

Knowing full well that this moment could be a defining moment for my reluctant-to-wear-clothes daughter, I brushed passed her observation with a detached, “Uh-huh.”  Conversation closed.  Success.

Until.

This morning.  I announced to Ruthie that we would run out to the store before school today, to buy some bubble stuff and sidewalk chalk in honor of spring’s arrival.  Seemingly out of nowhere–certainly out of nowhere for me, having completely forgotten yesterday’s teen attire–Ruth asks, “Mama?  Are you allllloowwed to wear pajama pants to the store?”

Clearly Ruth had not forgotten the jammy-clad adolescent from yesterday.

“Well, Ruth. . . . (think!  think! think!) . . . people are allowed to wear pajama pants to the store.  There’s no law against it.”  (Notice the generic use of the word, “people.”  Yes?  I am in no way suggesting that Ruth is allowed to wear pajama pants to the store.)

“Well,” replies Ruth.  “Am I allowed to wear pajama pants to the store?”

think.  think. think. . . . If I say yes today, am I prepared to say yes every day?  If I say yes today, am I prepared to have Ruth wear pajama pants everywhere she goes for the next 13 years?  If I say no today, am I prepared to have an extended argument with Ruth over the injustice of one person being allowed to wear pajama pants to the store, while another person is not?  Am I prepared to really dig my heels in and allow this to become a knock-down, drag-out, “Just because I’m the Mama and I say so!!” event with her?  Over pajama bottoms?!!!

No.  No I am not.

“Sure, Ruth.  You’re allowed to wear pajama bottoms to the store we’re going to today.”

And then Ruth and I proceeded to have the most pleasant trip to the store we ever have had.  She cooperated.  She looked but did not beg.  There was no screaming, no whining.  Only a perfectly polite, kind, and gentle girl on a lovely morning shopping trip with her mom.  Fighting the pajama bottoms would have created an entirely different atmosphere, and likely would have resulted in a grumpy-pants mission for bubbles and sidewalk chalk.

Not. worth. it.

It’s hard.  It’s hard to know which hills are worth dying on, which are worth surrendering.  So it is with parenting, so it is with the Church.  I could blow this out into a full-on sermon, but I won’t.  But it does make me think about the Church’s convictions.  About why we maintain them.  About how important it is for us to reflect on why, exactly, we are holding on to them.  Are they clearly commanded or required by Scripture?  Or have we been holding on to some cultural norm that wormed its way into our Christian tradition?  Those are tough questions.  And, really, the ones I’d like to wrestle with long-term.

But for now?  I’m glad that my “major” crisis this morning involved a cute little 4yo girl and her pajamas, and wasn’t a really difficult decision at all.  A cute 4yo going to the grocery store and to Dollar General, having the time of her life with her mama?  Who cares what she’s wearing?

Well.  I care.  Only in so far as it was super cute.  When I reminded Ruthie that yesterday’s teen was wearing pajama bottoms, but just a regular tee-shirt, I was thinking I could de-jammify her look, making her a bit more inconspicuous, or not quite so obviously pajama-clad.  She’d been wearing a pink fleece top with a kitty on it.  Ruth, upon remembering the teen’s regular shirt, picked out her own tee-shirt to go with her pajama pants.  I’ll let you be the judge of whether the change helped subdue her be-jammied look.

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Filed under being The Mommy, Church Life, Ruth

Life’s Miscellany

Ummm . . . let’s see. Apparently I gave up writing for Fall. Who knew it was a traditional time of fasting?

What else? . . . I’ve just discovered Pandora Radio. Not more than ten minutes ago. Who knew there was a way to find more music like some of the random songs I’ve come to find and enjoy? Maybe I’ll start listening to music again. I’ve been on a bit of a music hiatus for . . . Oh, I don’t know . . . a decade or so. I’m actually kind of excited, because I’ve been missing having music in my life.

OK. . . . Now what? Apparently Christmas is coming. Some might say it’s only ten days away, but I’m skeptical. Because if it were indeed only ten days away, surely I would have at least a present or two on hand and I don’t. No tree up. No presents bought. Well. Maybe one is on the way in the mail via a catalog order, but it’s for the one other fully literate member of my family, so I won’t give away anything more than I already have. Otherwise though . . . nothing. zilch. Noodle!! (ten points for the one who gets that reference.) No tree. An Advent wreath-like thing that’s been lit approximately three times so far and we’re, what? twenty-two days into Advent now? Oh. We do have lights on our house. That deserves a separate paragraph . . .

My Boy. Just call him Clark.  Specifically the Christmas Vacation version.  But really, Clark in general.  In fact he’s at least the fourth generation Clark.  Isaac.  Ry.  His father.  And his father before him . . . These men.  These men with their grand ideas.  Grand ideas borne of such noble motives.  Eternal, anything-is-possible optimism, never-say-die determination and perseverance.  Along with an inexplicable susceptibility to bad luck.  I love these men.  Every one of them.  So, Isaac’s latest manifestation of his inner Clark is his commitment to turning our house into a Christmas light extravaganza.  Given the fact that Ry and I, in our 15 Christmases as a family, have never been motivated enough to decorate any one of our homes–and this is our fifth Christmas-time dwelling–beyond a single strand of white lights once or twice in one apartment, we’ve given Isaac free reign and dubbed him King of Christmas Decorations.  As a result, my house looks like it’s been decorated by a seven year old with two good trips to K-mart.  It’s beautiful.

In other news . . . I’m getting a job.  Starting in January I will be the “Worship Leader” for the teeny tiny Presbyterian church in my teeny tiny town.  I’ll be leading worship (including preaching) every Sunday and doing crisis visitation.  It’s an absolutely minimal time commitment, which is simply perfect for where my family is right now.  I’m hoping the session of our family’s church will move the time of the service from 9:30 to 10:00, that way I’ll be able to get from the 8:30 service in our town to our family church in time for the start of worship, or at least by the end of the announcements.  I’m still committed to being with my kids as they grow up in the church and grow in their experience of worship.  I think Isaac and I came up with a wonderful solution this past week though.  He came to worship with me in our town, then we went to where his dad was preaching in time for Isaac to attend Sunday school there.  Best of both worlds.  It’s been to-my-core important for my children to worship with the rest of the believing community on Sunday mornings, but I’ve struggled to balance that desire with my kids’ comfort and enjoyment of their overall experience with church.  The church already runs most of our life, I want them to enjoy the fun and fellowship with their friends that is the added blessing of being part of a congregation.  Anyway, that’s really a whole other post . . .

Back to my new job . . . apparently I’m going to preaching every Sunday from now till I die.  Give or take.  That’s a little intimidating.  Scary.  Exciting.  Exhausting.  Scary.  And I admit I have some fear of alienating most to all of my Christian friends who are, for the most part, part of traditions that do not see women serving in preaching and teaching ministries to be in keeping with Scripture.  Just Saturday I watched a woman’s face fall as I shared with her that I’d be leading worship at the church in our teeny tiny town.  We just had been enjoying a conversation about our struggles with deciding whether or not to homeschool, determining the best educational path for our children when they move from our rather insulated elementary school to meeting up with the worldlier children from the southern part of our district in middle school.  There we were, bonding over our shared faith, our shared concern for our children’s moral and spiritual well-being, feeling like we had found a sister in the plight.  And I mention my leading worship and . . . confusion followed by polite head nods.  Anyway . . . there it is.  My used-to-be secret concerns about my vocation.

That’s enough chitty-chat chatter for one post.  Each of those paragraphs could have been a post in itself, probably.  Of course, my intention was to write far less.  But once my fingers start their little tippity-tap dance, they just can’t stop.

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Filed under Church Life, Family Life, Isaac

You Go. I’ll take care of this., part I

Isaiah 49:

14 But Zion said, “the LORD has forsaken me,
And the Lord has forgotten me.”
15 “Can a woman forget her nursing Child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
16 Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before me.”

Psalm 131:

1 O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
2 Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever

Matthew 6:

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

These were the three lectionary passages for a Sunday last May when I was serving as pulpit supply at a nearby church. Immediately after reading the three texts, my mind began to spin, placing all three passages together quite easily. First, there was the passage from Isaiah: “Zion (Israel) said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me’.” In response the Lord compares himself to a nursing mother, telling Zion that a nursing mother is more likely to forget her child than the Lord is to forget his own. Now, Isaiah’s audience would not have been so far removed from the nursing image as we in our modern, Western culture might be, so let me help flesh out this reality for you.

Anyone who has nursed or has known well someone who has, knows how next to impossible it is for a nursing mother to forget her child. A nursing mother’s ability or inability to forget her nursling is not simply a function of how much she loves her child, or how good a mother she is. No, there’s a lot more to it than that. A nursing mother can’t forget her nursing child because her body won’t let her. Her body remembers for her. If she is absent from her child for a time longer than they would normally go between nursings, a mother’s body tells her quite plainly, quite full-ly, and sometimes even quite pain-full-ly that her child is missing. A mother who has to spend extra, unexpected time away from her young nursling is just as desperate to reunite with her baby as he is with her.

This is the kind of love and connection God is speaking of here. God will not forget his own, he cannot forget his own. In fact it’s even easier for a nursing mother to forget her nursling, and that is a physical impossibility. Isaiah 49 assures Zion, and by extension us, in no uncertain terms, that we will not be forgotten by our Lord. He will remember us, he will remain faithful to us, and is faithful to us, even when we have forgotten him.

In Psalm 131, David speaks of resting content in the Lord, as a weaned child with his mother. A weaned child has a calm, a contentment, a security. Resting in the arms of the one who has provided all his needs until his needs were fulfilled, a weaned child rests, assured of continuing love and care, assured that the one who has met his needs of the past will continue to meet the needs that are to come.

The passage from Matthew, this excerpt from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, continues the Psalmist’s theme. David, calmed and content in the arms of the Lord, lives the life called for in Matthew 6:24-34. Not worrying about tomorrow, trusting God to provide for his needs as God provides for the lilies of the fields, David doesn’t have to worry about tomorrow. Nor do we.

So within about 15 minutes of reading the lectionary texts, I had that. Ok, I’m done, I figured. But that won’t take long to say, that’s hardly a full sermon. In fact, it’s only about 4 minutes’ worth. But then again, what more is there to say? God does not forget us, he remains with us, faithful to us, supplying our every need: food, shelter, clothing, giving us nothing to worry about. It’s all right there, spelled out so neatly, so easily.

But is that it? Really? As amazing as all that is, I think there’s still more to be learned from those three passages working together.

While it’s all very true, here, in this context, falling in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount as it does, this passage is saying far more than “Don’t worry, be happy.”

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Filed under Church Life, nursing, theologizing

Writing for the sake of writing . . .

I haven’t written in a bit.  I’m feeling too tired or lazy to check how long since my last post, but I know it’s been a week or more.  I’ve started other posts.  I’ve come here and almost started other posts.  I have this itch to write but no idea to actually write.  Finally I decided to just write anyway.  So here it is.  Writing for the sake of writing.

My last two weeks have been spent preparing for my ordination exams.  Well, more accurately, they’ve been spent under the cloud called Supposed-to-Be, presently labeled “preparing for my ordination exams.”  Whatsa ordination exam? you ask.  Well.  I’ll tell you.  Because I’m just writing for the sake of writing.

I’ve said that I graduated from seminary and I’m a sometimes preacher.  In my denomination (PCUSA) that does not make me a pastor, that does not mean I’m ordained.  Seminary is but one step in a longer path toward ordination.  I can best describe the process–for the truly curious–by using my husband’s experience.  He finished his bachelor’s degree (in Mechanical Engineering, wouldn’tchaknow) and then headed to seminary three months later.  Seminary is a three-year program culminating in a Master’s of Divinity.  It’s kinda like law school.  It’s a professional degree.  While he was in seminary he did two field education placements, one full-time over a summer, one part-time over a school year.  In February of his senior year he completed four ordination exams.  For the first 12 weeks after he graduated he completed a program called Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) where he served and trained as a hospital chaplain (in his case, assigned to an oncology unit). All during this time, he was “under care” of his presbytery which entailed periodic meetings with a committee, they were tracking his progress, while he was getting to know them, presenting them with a statement of faith that was then put up for evaluation.  His next to final step toward ordination was being extended a call (getting a job offer) to a position in a church that required ordination (in this case, Associate Pastor for youth and family ministries).  The final steps were being examined (evaluated and questioned in beliefs) by the presbytery under whose care he had been and by the presbytery in which the church that called him was located.  He started the job, he was ordained.

That’s the quick, efficient way of going about being ordained in my denomination.  Yes.  That is the straight-shot ordination process.  My experience has been a little different:  more complicated, more convoluted.  First:  I was out of undergrad (B.A. in a nice, sensible program:  English/Secondary Ed.) for four years before I sensed a call to seminary.  Initially I was pursuing an MA in theological studies.  Shortly after beginning (6 credits of Greek in a 6-week summer session), however, my classmates sensed in me a call to pastoral ministry I had not yet discerned and they encouraged me to switch to the Masters of Divinity program and to go under care.  Two weeks into my fall semester of classes, I decided I needed to get da heck outa that seminary and transfer to the seminary from which my husband had graduated.  So we moved back around the corner from our first apartment and I joined the church where my husband had done an internship so that I could come under care of the presbytery a year from then–you had to be a member of the presbytery a year before you could come under care.  (Meanwhile, as an aside, my husband was called to serve as that church’s associate pastor for youth and families.)  I did indeed go under care a year later.  In the course of my time in seminary I did my part-time, school year internship and two full-time summer internships.

In the end, I was 37 weeks pregnant with Isaac when I graduated.  I essentially put on hold the entire care process.  I did not take my ordination exams during my senior year like everyone else did (I was horrifically nauseous with morning sickness and likely pretty darn depressed and, possibly, just plain under-motivated and lazy) and I did not do CPE.  I worked that first year out of seminary (well, beginning in October, when Isaac was 4 months old) part-time as a director of Christian education.  After that and since that time I have been a SAHM.  Full-time.

Now, my baby is two and I can feel the promptings to move forward in this whole ordination process thing.  I went under care of our new presbytery (we moved 4 years ago) and now, this very weekend, I’m taking two out of four ordination exams:  theological competence and biblical exegesis.  Their purpose is to make sure you can take all your academic knowledge from seminary and translate it into normal-person-speak so you can actually talk to real, bona fide human beings, not just those pale creatures that roam the hallowed halls of the ivory tower.  My hope is that’s all I’ve been doing for the last seven years.  Talking to real people.  Answering the real theological questions of real people.  We’ll see if that’s really all one needs to be able to pass these bad boys.

After I finish these exams, and assuming I pass them, I’ll have to take two more in February.  They will take much more in the way of preparation.  I need to do far more than just sit under the Supposed-to-Be cloud.  I have to learn a Book of Order top and bottom and inside out and know how to apply all the denominational rules.  Fun times.

After ords, in addition to continuing my care process where people meet with me and ask me questions and evaluate my suitability for the ministry, I’ll still need to do CPE somehow.  And then . . . and here is the million dollar question . . . what will I do when I’ve checked all my boxes and I’m eligible for ordination?  I wait for the call to find me.  Because I’m still not sure how I’m going to work with three still-pretty-small children and how I’m supposed to teach my children how to worship when I’m standing up in front of the sanctuary jabbering during worship.  I’ll see.  I know God’s prompting me forward, I’m just still waiting for a head’s up on the destination.  And honestly, I’m perfectly fine not knowing it yet.  That’s the gift of faith.  Just waiting on God to show you what’s next.  And it’s fine.  Because he knows what he’s doing, he’s got plans better than any I can come up with.  Or maybe I’m just lazy or too tired to make my own plans.  Maybe I’m just waiting for the sake of waiting.

Nah.  I’m just waiting.  And it’s good.

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Filed under Church Life, writing

What do a couple of church geeks do to celebrate?

So these are a big couple of days for us around here. Sunday was the anniversary of our first date and today is my birthday. The date’s proximity to my birthday is probably the real reason we remember it and celebrate it every year. They just go together in our minds. So, what wonderous celebration do we have planned for this year?

We’re going to a presbytery meeting together. (Here. Have some presbyterian polity fun. My treat.) Now, some may scoff. Some may feel bad for me. Some may simply say, “Are you kidding me?” But we . . . We are excited. Ok, well, I’m excited because I get to go to a presbytery meeting. Ry is excited because he doesn’t have to go to a presbytery meeting alone. But we are excited. I’ve been looking forward to it all week, since I got the bright idea and lined up my parents to watch our children.

The romantic part is that it’s an hour drive to the meeting, so we’ll get to hang out and chat all by ourselves. Unless, of course, the elder who is set to drive up with Ryan does indeed drive up with us even after we tell him I’m going too. That will be less fun. But, there’s still the meeting. I love presbyterian polity. And there’s some big stuff coming before our presbytery over the next couple of months–coming out of the General Assembly, our denomination’s largest governing body (I was serious about that link up there)–so I really want to be there. And then there will be the whole post-game show, when Ry and I get to talk it all over. That’ll likely be the best part. 🙂

It’s official. We’re church geeks. A pastor and his seminary-trained wife. We’re just as boring as you feared we would be.

This is where the meeting is:

See? It’s romantic, right?

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VBS . . . revisited

I realized upon further reflection I was too hard on VBS last week. Blame the July heat. Blame the sheer exhaustion from the late nights. Blame the eternal pessimist.

Truth be told, we all had a great time. And the days since have been filled with my Hannah-girlie singing all manner of made-up songs of praise to her Savior. And when we play the VBS DVD or CD Ruthie immediately begins to applaud and do her bouncy dance. And Isaac and his next-door-neighbor-grandson friend were taking turns playing their CD’s from their two different VBS’s at their respective churches. A beautiful sight: six- and eight-year-old boys dancing around the backyard with VBS music blaring. Nice. Very nice.

And in the spirit of this year’s VBS theme, may the Lord grow great fruit from the seeds planted in my children during VBS. May their hearts always be so filled with joy for their Savior. Amen.

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VBS . . . Y?

I’m here. Back in the high-fan air-conditioned white noise bedroom with a bag of M&M’s for company. The kids aren’t driving me batty this time. I am just worn. out. Tired. Exhausted. Oh me oh my whump exhausted.

Why? You might ask. Why so tuckered?

Three words.

Vacation. Bible. School.

In theory I understand the charm. I do. I really really do. Kids having fun at the church. Church is a fun place to be. Jesus loves you. Here, let me share the love of Jesus with you so you know and feel that Jesus loves you. Reaching un-churched families. Reaching families without a current church home. Involvement in the community. Aiding children in their spiritual growth. . . . and so on. Truly, undeniably, wonderful, worthwhile things.

But whyyyyyy VBS? Why? I see no vacation in it. Though there is a Bible there. Every day. And that’s very, very good. But I would never call what I did this week with 3 and 4 year-olds school. I’ve taught school. And this weren’t it. It was managed chaos. It was screaming. It was lots and lots of animal noises (we did a County Fair theme). Yeah, yeah, yeah, it was fun. Sure. It was fun. For everyone.

But tired. Oh dear. So tired. Me. My kids. All three. And I think that’s been my big whine this week. Our church does VBS in the evenings, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. My kids are generally in bed, if not asleep, by 7:30 PM. You do the math. This week they went to bed at nearly 10PM four of the nights, and 10:30 on the last night. The bright spot? One morning. One morning they slept until 9:10 AM. Otherwise: 7:30. As usual. Again, you do the math. Tired doesn’t even begin to describe what became of my children this week. Or what became of me, primary caretaker of exhausted children who, as we’ve already established, are given to fits of screaming and beating on a good day. I invite you to imagine . . . just imagine . . . this week.

And that was just my day-job.

Because my evenings were taken over by even more 3 year olds (and some 4’s), screaming, laughing, running, poking, kissing, prodding, pushing, having all manner of good time. The nerve. We’d get home at 9:30, dump everyone into bed, and by ten we were finally child free. For me, the first time since 7 or so that morning. Unless you count the hours between midnight and 7 during which the Ugly Teething Monster ravages my poor innocent baby for whom nothing but some Mommy Milk will console. If you count those hours, it was 22 hours since I had been child free. Did I mention I’m an introvert? I need. some. quiet. time.

Actually, I need a bowl of ice cream and some time snuggled up on the couch with the man of my dreams watching Netflixed re-runs. Ahhhhhh. Heaven. Except I would do that and then it would be midnight and then Ruthie would have her first wake-up just as I was drifting off to sleep and I would start bolt upright to her first cry out and look to find a bed-head-blond with a yellow waffle-weave blankie tucked under her chin rubbing sleepies from her eyes. Oh. You dear. Sweet. Baby.

So, this week’s exhaustion got me reflecting on this creature known as V. B. S. Where did it come from? Who’s bright idea was this? Who thought it was a good idea? I grew up Catholic, and, in those days at least, Catholics didn’t do VBS. Smart. Smart people. Why? I ask my Cradle Presbyterian Husband. Why did someone dream up VBS? Why inflict us with such agony, such pain? What had we done to deserve it? Why do we do it to ourselves?

My conclusion: Protestant Purgatory.

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Filed under Church Life, Family Life, silliness