Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bowling TOGETHER

That is the opposite of the title of a book that our minister seems to keep referring to in teaching our Wednesday night class. Bowing Alone, by Robert D. Putnam is a book that explores the breakdown of community in our society today, using the metaphor that people who used to bowl in leagues now go bowling alone.

In our class, we’ve begun reading and discussing another book, entitled Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them, by John Ortberg. This is a book that discusses how important it is to build Christian community, to accept each other as we are, and to genuinely care for each other. We’re only three chapters into it, but so far it seems to be very good! Also, this past Sunday night, our minister preached one of what is becoming a very long series of lessons from Proverbs, entitled “Proverbially Speaking: Living in Relationship.” In his lesson the other night, he listed about eight different ways that we needed to work at living in relationship with one another, eight different practices in how we treat each other. Among them were being genuine, being concerned for others, being kind & hospitable, and being prayerful. His sermon seemed to go hand-in-hand with what we’ve been discussing in class so far, and as I was listening to it, I couldn’t help but think of how blessed I am to be in a group that takes this effort of community-building so seriously.

One of the things our minister mentioned Sunday night is that living in relationship with others requires an investment of time. He asked, “How many of you are going to leave this place and have NO contact with anyone from this church? You don’t see each other, don’t talk to each other, you don’t pray. But we come back next Sunday and do it again. That’s kinda like being in the Kiwanis club or something; you just show up to some meetings, pay your dues, and the rest of your time is yours, really. Friends, that’s not the church.” For some of us in our singles group, that thought, that idea of not spending time together, is unimaginable. There are some of us doing something together, I would say, at least four days out of the week…and that’s at a minimum…on a week when there’s not a lot of stuff going on.

Besides our regular Sunday and Wednesday worship and classes, I’m privileged to meet with a group of ladies from our singles group on Tuesday nights for what we call our Vespers group. It’s a combination of Bible reading and prayer time, but it is a very relaxed atmosphere, one where there is a lot of opening up as we not only share the Bible together, we share our lives together. There are the occasional tears shed, as we are not afraid to openly express our struggles. We cry together. We pray together. And that’s an incredible blessing, to be able to approach our Father, with each other on our hearts, and know that He hears us.

On Friday evenings, a group of us gathers again in our Singles room with a different purpose in mind, and that is to just have fun together. We may share some dinner, or each person may just bring their own. We play games…cards, dominoes, taboo, mad gab, whatever you can imagine. We may listen to music. Or we may watch a movie. We open up our Singles room at 7:00 p.m. and some people come and go, they’ll drop in to visit for a little while. Others will show up at 7:00 and not leave until the door is locked. That time varies, but is usually at some unreasonable, early-morning hour. Because after the movie is off, or the game has died down, we still spend time just sitting there…just talking. And, honestly, we’ve had some of our best conversations during those late-night hours. Since we’ve started these Friday night gatherings nearly a year ago, I can’t tell you how many weeks I’ve been there till 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. A serious investment of time, folks.

But I’ll confess something to you…it’s not enough for me! Because these singles that I spend time with are but a few of the nearly 2,000 people that I worship with. Earlier this year, I expressed to our singles minister and singles group my desire for us as a group to become more involved with the rest of the congregation. This is something I’ve felt for quite sometime, as I blogged about it here about a year ago. And yet, in the past year, I’ll also confess that I haven’t done much to become more involved.

Until now. After a discussion w/a guy in my singles group (at one of those late, late Friday nights, coincidentally) he suggested to just do it. Find something to do and just show up. About a week after that conversation, the opportunity arose for me to assist teaching the 1st graders on Sunday morning. This is not something I would’ve done myself, because I’m not a teacher and haven’t helped teach Sunday school in nearly a decade. But I knew the person that needed help and have been thrilled to be able to assist her! Also, around this same time was the start-up of a church-wide ladies’ Bible study. I started going to it on Monday nights and have had the opportunity to meet several ladies that I didn’t know before. Also, it looks to be a very in-depth study of the Old Testament, which I am very excited about! I know it will be incredible!

All of this to say that it’s worth the investment of time. This past Saturday was a most recent example of time that I had to spend with both singles and members of the rest of the congregation. We had a little bit of a girls’ afternoon outing. There were about 7 of us single girls, along with our singles minister’s wife and 11-year-old daughter, and the wife and 11-year-old daughter of our ex-Sunday School teacher (he’s left us to teach another class!), and we all went bowling! Together!

And you know what I learned a little bit more of on Saturday night? That I worship with some incredible people! Lousy bowlers…but INCREDIBLE people! So that’s my encouragement to you all! Go bowling...together. You just might discover a little bit more about how incredible your brothers and sisters are!