Wednesday, April 04, 2007


"...the pious pail draws the water/ from a well that's long gone dry"
-- Autumn Rains

I opted out of Lent this year. As a Protestant, it is my prerogative, so I enacted it. I didn't even go to our Ash Wednesday service. For one, I'm taking a break from my church's Wednesday services. Since Ash Wednesday invariably falls on a Wednesday, I was out of luck.

I've also been a little upset since UBC began celebrating Ash Wednesday a few years ago that we don't have our service in the morning. I mean, seriously, what good is it to get your head all dirtied up if people don't get to see it? It goes on then we go home and shower within a couple of hours. If I'm going to embrace the mysteries and sacred motions of the church calendar, then by golly I want people to see the ashes on my head and think me a little enigmatic. Here in the Jesus-Land that is the Bible Belt, we're all keeping score. So if you can't be a witness to my devotion, then screw it, I'm going to the bar.

In my church growing up we put our offering in envelopes. On top of the envelopes were spaces for our name, the date, and how much we were giving. On the bottom was a checklist to keep up with our Christian accomplishments for the week, such as whether or not we went to Sunday School, made any visits or contacts (meaning- did we invite anyone to church,) and, my favorite (because it was do-able, and also you could lie)-- if you read your Bible daily. These tallies were added up and, I always assumed, written down in a ledger and kept safe in a vault somewhere. I imagined our church secretary keeping charts of our progress.

While perusing the shelves of a Christian bookstore recently, I noticed a version of these envelopes that I had never before seen. Not only was a checklist printed on the bottom, but each individual item had a percentage value assigned to it, to be added up for a total grade. The values are as follows: Attendance (Sunday School)- 20%, On Time- 10%, Bible Brought- 10%, Offering- 10%, Prepared Lesson- 30%, Preaching Attendance- 20%.

If only following Christ were this easy. If it were, I would have aced it lately, regardless of the numerous ways my life falls short.

I think it should be our goal to discard anything that seems trivial in the face of the events of Holy Week. I think Lent would make the cut, because it gets us ready and reminds us who we are. Spending time with those we love should also make it, because Jesus did that (and it's also do-able for most of us.) But checklists should go because, honestly, isn't it a little silly to be adding up points in contrast to the Crucified Christ? I mean, the only thing our Savior would have received points for that week would have been possibly for preparing the lesson. That's only 30%-- quite a failure by our idiotic standards.


Anonymous said...

So I've been meaning to ask: Do you like or dislike Donald Miller? Is it him as a person, or his writings?

Jason said...


Anonymous said...

what autumn rains are you referencing?
the band with shawn martinez?

if so that would be awesome.


jennie said...

Oh my. I SO remember those envelopes with the boxes for us to check. Ridiculous.

Katy said...

My church growing up never had those envelopes. I remember thinking they were really strange when I found out about them in the sixth grad (I went to a private Baptist school in sixth grade). I would have thought envelopes for one's tithe would have kept private the amount a person chose to give. I guess that doesn't work if you write it down on the outside. If I ever went to a church that had those envelopes, I think I'd be tempted to write down extravagent amounts and then put $10 in the envelope. Man, I'm cynical.

J.T. said...

How much do I LOVE that you used an Autumn Rains lyric?! Nice. Very nice.

Craig said...

Yep, Blake, that's the one. I actually figured it'd only be old-school ETBU'ers, like J.T., who would get the reference.

I actually wrote the post before I thought of the quote. When I finished writing I had the word "piety" bouncing around in my head then that phrase "the pious pail draws the water, from a well that's long gone dry," and couldn't for the life of me remember where it was from. I actually began to think I was a genius for coming up with it, until I looked through some old cd's and saw the Autumn Rains album.

I would have never guessed anyone who reads my blog would have known them, other than perhaps J.T.