February 24, 2009

The Little Car That (Hopefully) Can

“It weighs 3.1 ounces,” the official reported.
“How much should it weigh?” I questioned.
“Five ounces.”
Dismayed at the weight deficit, I asked hopefully, “Do you have any weights?”
“No, but maybe one of the other dads has some extras.”

This evening I found myself in a place completely out of my element—the weigh-in for my son’s Boy Scout Pinewood Derby. See, I did the Girl Scout thing with our daughter and my husband does the Boy Scout thing with our son. It’s the way it works around here. For the most part the arrangement works well, except when Dan travels and I have to fill in—like tonight.

“Just bring the car for the weigh-in about 7:00. You’ll be in and out in no time,” he breezily instructed this afternoon.

Sounded easy enough. Except the car wasn’t exactly finished. Luckily my son knew what to do. He put the wheels on, then spruced it up with some decorations. I added an electrical tape stripe down the center and voila a race car was born. (Although my attempt to help straighten the wheels didn’t go so well. I pray the car doesn’t crash into anything.)

With our underweight car, we joined the other Scouts waiting their turn for the official weigh-in. With no solution to our problem readily available, my son saved our place in line while I ran to the car hoping to discover a clever answer. I located some coins and grabbed tape from the first aid kit to attach them. (Certainly not an elegant solution.) On my way back in, I bumped into a dad who had observed my dilemma. He handed me his supply box, “Here, you can have all my extra weights. There’s double-sided tape to stick them on, too.”

"Wow! Thanks!"I gratefully offered. I headed back to my son, victorious.

In case you don’t know, at the Pinewood Derby, everyone starts with exactly the same block of wood. Within a few specifications, there’s no limit to what kind of car one can create. Judging by the ones I viewed as we waited in line, creating these cars is serious business! Power tools had been wielded skillfully, paint applied masterfully and creativity lavished generously. Many a dad had obviously relived (or created) his own childhood memories. We saw an Army tank, a Batmobile (complete with tail fins), a pink pig with a curlicue tail, a high-tech Formula One race car and more! Extra weights were strategically placed and cleverly hidden in trap doors and recessed holes.

When it came to placing the weights I had no clue where they should go or what was even “legal.” Thankfully, this is Boy Scouts and not the Indianapolis 500, so my son’s leader showed him where to affix the weights. We got busy with double-sided tape and, when that ran out, an unknown person’s glue gun. The finished product was more Franken-car than streamlined racer, but it should get the job done—and the scale confirmed it was a perfect five ounces. The best news is that my son is perfectly happy with the results and looking forward to the race on Friday.

Tonight, I entered an environment where I didn’t know the rules or culture. I’m thankful a few kind people softened the experience, but I felt foolishly out of place—like everyone had received “the memo” except me. Forty-five minutes after we arrived, I was thrilled to head back home to the comfort of the familiar.

The experience got me thinking. What impression do “outsiders” have when they visit our churches or Bible studies? Does our language and culture unintentionally exclude? Do we act like a club for insiders only? Do visitors feel like they didn’t get the “memo?”

In the past I’ve been the outsider and have visited churches and Bible studies where my answer to all these questions was “yes.” I never went back to those places again.

Nothing is more off-putting to seekers and the unchurched than the feeling that they don’t fit in. That somewhere credentials were issued and they just don’t measure up.

Jesus fought against that. Again and again, to all kinds of people, He said, “Come.” (Mt. 14:29)
“Come and you will see.” (John 1:39)
“Come, follow me.” (Mk 1:17)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28)

As Jesus’ disciples, we must extend the same invitation to all who enter our churches and Bible studies. We need to meet people where they are: Come in and you will see.

Are you offering your extra weights or protecting your winning design? In the end, we run the same race. Some may arrive may arrive gracefully and in style. Others of us will haul ourselves, wheels falling off, across the finish line. The most important thing is that we’ve entered the race.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)


Runner Mom said...

Love this! I have entered the race...my application was turned in years ago. I am learning that the true race isn't at the finish line, but all of the twists and turns along the way to the yellow tape.

Love you!

Debbie said...

Please have this published for many more to read!

xo, Deb

saleslady371 said...

I love your heart to point people toward Jesus, your honesty about how you felt and your sensitivity about accepting others just as they are. I wish you could have heard me at my computer cheering you on.

wegotspirit said...

Amen, Sister! And I must say, those PInewood derbys can be fairly cut-throat. GREAT POST!

Sue J. said...

With our girly house, we won't know the joys of the Pinewood Derby, but we do live vicariously through our nephew/cousin. (The best part is that I think all the boys received some kind of certificate recognizing their unique achievements!)

As for today's churches/Bible studies/Christians, we are challenged to figure out how to be just the right light for a given place of darkness. I have been very forward with some folks about being in certain situations, because I tend to be a bit academic (i.e., "deep") and I don't want to scare people off. I ask folks to be my accountability partners and to tell me when I've gone too far for the group.

We took a little berating this past Sunday as our worship leader said, "Is that the best you can do?" of our singing. I understand we want to worship God with abandon, but I think we need to be careful that we aren't scaring those around us (or offending folks who have been there for years--it's OK NOT to clap, thank you!).

Sorry to "post" here, but I see your point so well, and we all need to seek Jesus' wisdom as we reach out to our world.

Anonymous said...

Upon relocating to Redding, I attempted to find a church home. I know of at least 2 that made me feel like an outsider. When I found my church home I was thankful for the attitudes in the other churches because I may have stayed there and become stagnat.

Since that experience I try to always say hi to everyone that crosses my path whether I know them or not. It only takes on person to make someone feel welcome. We all need to do our part.

Lori said...

Great thing for all of us to think about. How often we just "assume" everyone has been to church before, or knows what to do, where to go, etc. This also greatly applies to how we treat people. We don't want to push someone away from a life with Christ by not showing His love for everyone we meet.

Maybe a challenge for all of us this week is to play "hostess" at our home churches to make sure we aren't turning anyone away feeling unwelcome in God's house!

Thanks for a great post!!

JerryLyn said...

Kelli: This is an awesome post! On a subject dear to me. As a single parent the two times I was looking for a new church home were both really tough. I felt like an outsider in both cases, at first. But what I learned is I have to move out of my comfort zone, too. I don't like being alone at church and sometimes I wish I could vanish into the church pew, because my family was broken--different than others and sometimes I'd even be worshipping alone. But in both cases, God sent along just one person to reach out...and that made me feel at ease. It was hard enough to come to church by myself, but to feel like I didn't belong anywhere, broke my heart. But God broke through and allowed me to have courage to step out and others to slowly greet me and then go out of their way to welcome me. I love the things you have us think about!

Cheryl Barker said...

As always, good food for thought, Kelli. Something I hope to keep in mind...

Blessings to you this week!

Julie Gillies said...

Oh, I have some MEMORIES about the Pinewood Derby, girl! Great post, Kelli.

Isn't it funny how we both wrote about running the race this week?

Blessings to you.

Laura said...

Hi, Kelli! We've done the whole Pinewood Derby thing...adding those weights at the last minute! I don't envy you having to handle that on your own.

I love your analogy. We need to make people feel welcome in our churches. We can't win people to Christ if we are our own little clique.

Preach it, sister!

agpowers129 said...

Your story is great and very relevant especially the Indy 500 part.

It is true that all of us are in a different place on our journey and we all are experiencing different things. Being out of ones comfort zone is ok when you are not pushed to the point that you get frusterated and perhaps throw in the towel.

Sue J. said...

Thinking of you and the great weekend you are going to have, celebrating your kids! Looking forward to the update next week.

Have a great time--this is when the special memories are made!!

Terri Tiffany said...

Wonderful post--I've felt that same way when we have visited churches like you said, "we didn't get the memo." ANd it is an awful feeling.
And you brought back memories from the derbies. Used to have them at Awanas!