My little brother came to visit this weekend. Well, he's not so little anymore. He's about to turn 22 and about to start his senior year of college. He's working an internship this summer that is his first real exposure to the working world.
His girlfriend also came to visit. These two are crazy in love and it's absolutely wonderful. She's a fantastic young woman. She's about the same age as my brother, just graduated from college, and is entering a Master's program this fall.
Last summer, she planned a surprise trip to Indy to visit us. The surprise was for my brother- she picked him up and didn't tell him where they were going and he fell asleep in the car and when he woke up, they were outside of my house. We had an awesome time visiting the Zoo and other fun things.
This summer, the weekend was planned. They arrived Friday night and stayed until Sunday afternoon. We did lots of fun things- the weekend was insanely crammed with activity. There was a trip to the Farmer's market, flying kites at the park, bouncing fun at Monkey Joe's, lunch out (sushi for the girls, pizza for the guys), movie time at home (we watched Tangled).
Sunday morning, Ted and Em opted to come to church with us.
Jeff was under the weather so he stayed home. Teagan was acolyting (she went up with another girl and they lit the candles on the alter at the start of the service). There was discussion about the church situation ahead of time.
My brother is Catholic. My dad is Catholic, my mom is Lutheran. Ted primarily identifies with Catholicism but has also been part of other Christian denominations through their youth programs. Em is Catholic but is seeking her place and was raised with exposure to many different belief systems.
Em definitely wanted to visit my church. Partially to see Teagan light that candle and partially, I think, because she knows I love it. Plus, coming with me meant getting to be a helper for children's choir after early service.
I offered to find Mass for Ted to attend- I have many Catholic friends and there is a Catholic church down the street from our house. But he opted to come with us.
So I've got these 2 young people with me and I'm very excited to introduce them to my church family. I don't take those words lightly. The members of the congregation of my church have truly become my family. These are people that I know would lift me and my family up in times of trouble, would put their love into action to help us, and are people that I would do the same for.
It wasn't until church had really gotten underway that I realize just how... different... my church might feel to them. They've both attended Christian youth conferences with contemporary music so that wasn't anything weird. They've been around people who sway to the music or raise hands when they feel the Spirit. Nothing too different there.
My church is seriously, seriously... relaxed.
Something about seeing it through the eyes of these young people I'd brought with me made me realize just how relaxed we are.
Our pastor was out on vacation and a member of the congregation was filling in. When he stepped up to give his sermon on putting faith into action, he slid off his flip flops and delivered the sermon barefoot.
There was something about that one move that set a tone. I was a little concerned that my brother wouldn't be comfortable, that he would feel like we weren't serious enough about our faith.
Instead, he seemed to understand exactly what that barefoot sermon really signified.
My church is my home. Those people are my family. We don't show up on Sunday morning out of a sense of basic obligation. We show up because we truly want to come together to worship God, to pray for our loved ones, to put our faith into action, to grow in God's love together. It doesn't matter what shoes you wear (or if you wear them at all), what kind of clothes you wear, where you sit, if you take Communion or not, who you sit with, and so on. What matters is that you are there and you are open to the message being given.
When we say that kids are welcome- we mean it.
When we say come as you are- we mean it.
When we say there is a place for everyone- we mean it.
I'm sure there have been instances where someone hasn't felt that way or maybe there has been drama that I was unaware of or something. But my own experience has showed me that if I feel left out or put down, it's usually something in my own mind and not the words or actions of the other side that get me there.
My church is different. And I love it.