Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Steeples & Needles

How do you feel about pigeons? From a distance ... I've always felt compassion for them & a "yuck" at the same time. They're a quaint sort of bird, traveling in packs (ok, "flocks"), scratching around as ground feeders on the leftovers of life. They have a crazy look in their eye, like they're looking at something they shouldn't ... through a peep hole. Then there's the "park" instinct ... you know it. They find someone sitting in a park, maybe at a bench or on a blanket, wait for a crumb to fly, and they swarm in on the vulnerable who unintentionally called in the local pigeon population. I saw this in Romania while I was wandering through an ancient town square which was ideal, romantic, picturesque ... except for the rogue pigeon force. They just aren't desirable birds.

Have you ever known anyone to put out birdfeeds to attract pigeons? Nope. Finch feeders. Hummingbird feeders. Songbird feeders. Pigeon feeders? No.

Today as I was walking into a church building, my eyes were drawn to the azure blue sky and the gleaming white steeple. As I squinted to bring it into focus (first thing to go post-40 :) ), I noticed that a small group of pigeons had also been drawn to the steeple. They were sitting around it, perched on the roof, as if waiting for someone to drop a french fry up there. I noticed something strange about the steeple, though. Around the edges were sharp needles pointing up, to keep those messy pigeons and their bad habits away. Afterall, having pigeons on a clean white steeple could really make a mess, so the needles prevent the undesirables from getting too comfortable and (gasp) possibly deciding to stay!

Those pitiful pigeons and those sharp guards on the church caused me to think ... does our church have "sharp things" that keep people from being comfortable and settling in to stay? Does yours?

I had the pleasure of meeting a woman a while ago who had a lot of questions about her life and circumstances. Her life did not look like lives inside the church, in many ways, but she really wanted "in" to see what the "life with God" thing was all about. It was like she was waiting for someone to drop a crumb, so she could move in and make herself at home. I wondered ... would my church receive her? Would her habits make them "shoo" her out, like a mother who's sorry her child ever tossed that cracker crumb? Would she find sharp needles that make it hard for her to settle in?

It's so human of me to judge based on appearance, but Jesus said, "Do not judge according to appearance," John 7:24. "God does not judge by external appearance," Gal. 2:6.

James 2 warns about showing preference to those who look good externally and rejecting those who appear to be .... well, the pigeons. Read James 2:1-9 here to read about the man with the bling and the man with the "ring" ... around the collar. And lest you look down your nose too quickly at the New Testament flock, put yourself in their sandals.

May God help us to take a close look at our church bodies to see if there are "needles on our steeples" that keep those who hover closely from feeling welcome to come in, perch, and settle down as one of the Family.

What ways do you see the church in general, or your own church, make it hard for people to come on in? Have you seen believers receive people with love and acceptance?

4 COMMENTS ~ Click here to leave a COMMENT:

Anonymous said...

When I came to West Park, I was warmly received and made to feel welcome. I never would have thought that I would 'fit in' and make wonderful friends and be received with love at such a large church. My misconception of what a large church is like was completely wrong.

Julie@comehaveapeace said...

That's so good to hear! I'm so glad you, anonymous :), did not run into needles. Your insight that "big" doesn't necessarily mean "cold" is so true. On the flipside, "small" doesn't necessarily mean "warm." Great thought.

Lydia said...

I just wanted to tell you that I have been really mulling over the comment you left on Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. I think you are so right that the church is often the place that makes us feel pressured to wear masks. Thanks for challenging me in this. Your comment and now your post got me thinking about being more real and inviting my church family to be more real and okay with "the bedlam".

I'm going to have to peruse your blog more when I have time to sit and think and process.


Kristi_runwatch said...

Julie, you have such a God-given gift for word pictures. Thank you for this beautiful reminder of the body as it should be versus how it often is!