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As Long as We Remember...

January 28, 2007

Sorry, Honey. I Wasn't Paying Attention!

Tom McLaughlin

I like preachers, especially when they're not in church. I enjoy meeting them at functions away from their congregations when they can be themselves.

I never ask the idiotic question "Have you heard any good confessions lately?" But I usually try to engage them by asking about their favorite sermon.

After careful thought, I think because no one ever asks them out fear they will launch into it, the response is usually a blank look. Followed by a change of the subject, usually to what I am all about. I state I am non-practicing Buddhist and then they look for someone else to talk to.

Last weekend here in Ocean City the teenage "Rock for Christ" convention was held. These young teens with their chaperones were all over this sparsely populated town.

I was having lunch and watched a large group being, well, teenagers; laughing, secretly holding hands under the tables and talking about contemporary music when the preacher walked in.

The decibel level dropped to well below dead silence; hands were unclasped and brought to the tabletop; and empty chairs were quietly manipulated with feet so no one could join them at the table. Finally, after an embarrassing period, a brave mother asked the poor soul savior to sit with them to the horror of the teens sitting with them.

When the food was served, a parent glanced at the faces for grace; but everyone had the pained expression of "please not me," mainly because they had forgotten the words. Finally, the smallest one, who had just learned the meal prayer at Sunday School, started the prayer with others mumbling and then joining in at the parts they remembered which was usually the resounding "Amen."

I talked to one of the fathers who got snookered into taking a group of church teens to this event. He told me about the football players and other notables who gave testimony between the bands. "The kids absolutely hate it," he told me. "How about the music," I asked. "It's so loud I don't know if they like it or not," he replied.

Apparently, his wife was in charge of the spiritual development of the children in that she took responsibility for Sunday's church services and all of the other related activities. He went to the computer and claimed he had to work during various church events when in reality he visited sites that we would rather not talk about.

A weekend in Ocean City? Sure, he said, turning off his mind to the rest of what she was saying back in late October. The time had come and he found himself with 10 or so teens, the exact number he was never sure of, on a floor in a hotel during periods of heavy snow flurries.

His greatest fear?

Meeting the preacher.

He couldn't remember his name or what he looked like even though his children complained about him as they were being dragged to church and Sunday School. Just in case, at the hotel, he grabbed the Gideon Bible and opened it to the shortest chapter and read to be ready for the minister should he appear, which he did at the ill fated lunch when his wife asked him to join the table.

"I was reading my Bible this morning, the Book of Habakkuk.."

"But Daddy you never read the Bi," - swift kick under the table.

"And it says people walk on coals (3:5). What about that?"

The preacher looked and smiled at him knowingly.

"Shame about the Ravens," he replied.

A long commiseration ensued. Not a bad guy, he thought, but I certainly am going to pay more attention to what my wife says, he promised to himself.

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