At one time my sister, Caren, was a a nonbeliever emphasis on the word was. I guess having two handicapped siblings and a father passing away at an early age could cause disbelief. I remember her asking me once, "How can you have faced all the bad things that have happened to you over the years and still believe in God?"
My simple reply was, "How can I not?"
My oldest sister, Chris, worked hard at trying to get Caren to believe. She would look up churches for Caren to attend in Arizona, Utah, and Montana. Caren would go to church with us, but would not go on her own, and she definitely did not like attending churches where an expression of faith was demonstrative.
After attending church with Chris in Texas and myself in Arizona Caren started exploring churches. A few summers ago she surprised me by suggesting we try attending some churches in Montana. A church that was near the movie theater we attended (This was a good lure for Caren because after church we could go to the movies.) was a Vineyard nondenominational church. I knew that a nondenominational church was the way to go for Caren, and I had a friend that attended a Vineyard church in Arizona and she assured me that they were "quiet" worshippers.
Caren and I entered the huge church and the first thing we noticed was the casual dress, but Montana is a casual place where Berkinstocks, socks, and shorts are worn to weddings. When the musical worship started a very young band got on stage which we were okay with. They started to play and many of the worshippers ran to the the stage and raised their hands in praise and started swaying to the music and jumping which we were okay with. A few minutes later a few people laid prostrate in front of the stage, and Caren gave me a look, but we were okay with it. This continued for about 30 minutes. Suddenly from behind I heard someone shout, "Jay Zuzs heal this woman!" Caren and I turned around just in time to see a woman slapping another woman on the forehead with the heal of her hand. Knowing Caren's dislike for demostrative praise I said, "Caren, we can leave, if you want."
She replied, "No, I am okay. Let's give the preacher a chance."
After another 20 minutes of singing, swaying, laying prostrate, and shouting, "Heal this woman, Jay Zuzs!", I was beginning to feel uncomfortable and I suggested, "Ummm, really, Caren, we can leave, if this is too much for you."
She smiled at me and replied, "This is kind of entertaining. What do you think the preacher is gonna do?" And at that moment the preacher entered. He was a middle-aged man in a basic cowboy "uniform" (Wranglers, and boots). I thought we might be okay and then he started praying and praying and praying and praying and praying. Thirty minutes later, he asked for another song and he hadn't even started the sermon, yet.
The song started, the people rushed forward, the man laid prostrate, the woman shouted, "Heal, Jay Zuzs!" and then it happened Caren's final straw was pulled. Two woman ran up by the stage and started waving flags. Huge flags, the kind of flags that male cheerleaders wave at college football games.
It had been over an hour and a half and no sermon yet, but there was a lot of praying, shouting, lying prostrate, swaying and now flag waving. I might be a bad Christian, but an hour and thirty minutes is about as much sitting in church that I can do without looking at my watch wondering when things are going to finish up. Thank, Jay Zuzs, Caren looked at me and said, "Okay, I think we can sneak out and nobody will know."
I didn't want that experience to scare Caren away from attending church so a friend of Caren's and I convinced her to try a different church. It was called the Cowboy Church. It was so "cowboy" that it was held at the Grange. On a Saturday night, the three of us entered the very small building where folding chairs were lined up for seating. As I scanned the room, I looked at Caren and said, "I think I recognize some faces in here."
"Oh, you do not," was her reply.
We sat in the very last row, just in case. The small room was stifling hot with the only means of air being two floor fans. One of those fans happened to be next to us, so we were okay. At that time a man and woman entered with their dog which is casual to the extreme. The dog looked like a Bernese, huge and very hairy, and it looked very hot. But not to worry the lady that brought the dog to church proceeded to turn the fan so it blew directly on the dog and only on the dog.
I continued to have that deja vu feeling. I was sure I recognized people in the room. Then the preacher stepped up to the podium to begin the service and it was the preacher. Caren and I looked at each other wild-eyed and started to giggle which is not a good idea in such a small, close space. Lying on the floor in a far corner of the room I saw them, the flags. I pointed them out to Caren and her eyes almost bugged out of her head. In unison, we turned to Caren's friend, Pam, and giggle whispered, "We gotta go!"
Pam replied, "We can't go. That would be rude. The place is so small and everyone will see us."
"No, really we should go," we implored.
"Come on, girls, you can handle this," Pam insisted
After an hour of sweltering heat with no breeze because the dog needed it, swaying, lying prostrate, shouting, "Heal Jay Zuzs" Pam turned to us and giggled, "I think we might be able to sneak out and not get noticed."
As we tiptoed out of the building someone stopped us and asked if we were okay and why were we leaving? Caren and Pam both pointed to me and said without skipping a beat, "She has to pee and you don't have accessible bathrooms."
I looked at the person with my best crippled kid who has to pee look and squeaked, "Yea, sorry!"
A few months later, Caren was at a party and a woman asked her to attend a Bible study class. Caren said she wanted to say, "Hell no", but the lady was so nice she said, "Sure, I know where it is I will meet you there," knowing she could bow out. The lady must have known Caren might chicken out and she insisted on picking Caren up. Caren attended the Bible study class and has been going every Friday since then.
In September of 2007, Caren met her friend from Bible study by Flathead Lake and QUIETLY gave her life to Christ. I had the opportunity to hear Caren give her testimony to a large Bible study group and she said, "I felt the weight of the world lift from my shoulders when I gave my life to Christ."
"Thank you, Jay Zuzs!"
I don't discuss religion or politics. I just want to say I am glad we are back in Montana. I love the mountain air, and I, especially, love playing with Osa.
The Flip Side
I have two questions: Who is Jay Zuzs? How did that dog Reflection get to Montana? I didn't see him in the van on the drive up. P.S. Osa scares me. She is one big dog.