A Blessed Mess

Our church, The Crossing, is growing. A lot. “With rapid growth, we experience problems.” Pastor Keith Simon’s message yesterday certainly made that clear. Paraphrasing some of what Keith had to say, my husband and I can both vouch for the truth that how we view our problems – large and small – makes all the difference in how we see God at work in the details.

“What have we done?”

Our own family has grown in the last year, too.

Calvin is a golden doodle, our newest addition. We wanted a puppy for our son and, after two years of nonstop harassment, my husband finally gave in last summer, and Calvin came home with us in June, during the week of Kid’s Club 2013. Calvin is nearly a year old now and still very much a puppy, although it’s hard to look at him and see “puppy” these days. He was small, cute and cuddly for what now seems like about 15 minutes. Today, he’s 75 pounds of boundless energy running through our home, knocking over furniture and small children. Sometimes even me or one of the other adults. He is, in a word, ridiculous.

Interestingly, even though it was entirely my idea to add a dog to our family, I often find myself exasperated by his antics. Every time he comes in from outside, he drags in all manner of debris in his fur. Often enough, his entire snout is covered in dirt from his latest efforts to unearth something – only God and Calvin know for sure what – from our back yard.

For those who know me and how much I love a clean home, you can imagine how this sort of nonsense lands on me…and it happens about 30 times a day.

He is ill-behaved in all sorts of other ways. He steals my shoes. He has figured out how to use his tongue to roll out toilet paper (and then consume it) every single time he finds the hall bathroom door open. He defies all our efforts to simply put on our socks and shoes unmolested. And then there’s Calvin’s favorite puppy game – finding something he knows full well he shouldn’t touch, grabbing it up in his mouth, then making sure that one of us sees what he has so that we can begin the merry process of chasing him down to retrieve it. He’s having a blast tearing through the house with his contraband. Meanwhile, we’re having an epileptic fit, especially when it’s our eyeglasses, shoes, or young son.

Not long ago, we woke up to find puddles of drool all over the bathroom floor where Calvin slept; this happened before he took over our bedroom. Concerned, we rushed him to the vet. Four hours and $200 later, we received the happy news that our dog was perfectly healthy. He just had a pretty bad case of heartburn. (In my head, I could not help but wonder how many Rolaids I might have been able to purchase with two hundred dollars.)

So our experience thus far this past year has been pretty simple: “The bigger the puppy, the bigger the problems.”

But would either one of us choose to go back to the days when our family didn’t include Calvin? No, of course not. The scare at the vet’s office taught us that Calvin has become what I always wanted; a beloved (energetic, crazy and mischievous) member of our family.

Yes, this is exactly the sort of thing I look forward to when
getting out on Sunday morning to worship. (You too?)

Keith’s message yesterday held a similar theme. The growth we’ve seen at The Crossing over the past ten years I’ve been a member is nothing short of remarkable and, by God’s grace and mercy, it continues apace. We are seeing our Sunday morning worship services filled to overflowing.

Human nature being what it is – and for those of us who remember what things were like when we met over at the Rock Bridge High School Performing Arts Center – it’s easy enough to complain about how hard it is to find a parking space, or getting four seats together if you don’t arrive early enough, or how long the line is to get your free cup of coffee at the Crossing cafe. We could have the mindset that the tremendous crowd coming to The Crossing these days is “getting in the way” of our worship experience.

Ten years ago, I was one of those new people. I visited The Crossing for the first time with the guy I’d just begun dating and would soon thereafter marry. I had been attending church my whole life, off and on, but I’d not once heard the Word of God preached with such power. Or such relevancy. Every week, it seemed that the pastors were preaching a message designed “just for me.” I think I probably cried nearly every week for the first year I attended. God – working through the preaching and relationships at The Crossing – changed my life back in 2004.

God’s authoritative Word continues to be poured out faithfully, week after week in 2014, and more and more people are being changed. Am I willing to take a few extra minutes on a Sunday morning to find a seat in the auditorium, so that others can join our family and experience God the way I’ve been allowed to get to know Him? It might cost me in ways I don’t expect.

A fugitive from justice, attempting
to radically alter his appearance?
The face of evil itself? No, this is
just what happens when you fail to
brush a golden doodle every day.

Our family loves Calvin, even though he brings a huge measure of insanity and unpredictability to our lives. He chews on the wood that used to be our back deck, and has eaten approximately two-thirds of the new river birch I planted in the back yard just last spring. He eats giant bags of premium dog food, and any effort to purchase less-expensive fare causes his poor little tummy to get upset though, somehow, eating a newly-planted tree does not. Huh. Not long after his expensive heartburn prognosis, his long hair became hopelessly matted, and it cost us $70 to shave him down and (in the words of the groomer) “get a do-over.”

In much the same way, my family can’t help but notice the increase in insanity the crowds on Sunday morning bring. The competition has become fierce when acquiring a free donut or bagel before they disappear. My husband’s childish need to attend church in the exact same auditorium seats every week has forced us to show up so early for third service that we need reading material for our long wait. Should anyone dare to ask him to make room by moving from his aisle seat, the resulting glare signals a Thunderdome-scale battle might be in the making. (Yes, my husband still has quite a ways to go in terms of sanctification in this particular area.) Neither one of us grew up in a church that required guys in vests to show us where to park. Compared to how we understood “church” to be done prior to watching The Crossing’s growth explosion, our beloved faith community sometimes seems insane and unhinged.

And again, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thank God for jammed parking lots. Praise him that the free-bagels-and-donuts table looks like it suffered an attack from ravenous wolves. And may we all pray that whatever God is doing in the midst of the craziness, He will be entirely pleased to allow it to continue.

“Lord, how can I help? How can I cooperate with the barely-manageable chaos that You are currently creating in mid-Missouri?”

Acts 2:42-47 (ESV)
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

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