LOOK BEYOND THE WRAPPINGS
I spent this past weekend with my daughter Laura, her husband, and three of my grandchildren in Tyler, Texas. This is always a special time that I look forward to. But, there is also something else that is special about these trips, and that is visiting in their church, Lanes Chapel United Methodist. I didn't always feel that way, and I didn't go with them the first few years they were members there.
The first time I walked into the sanctuary, I had misgivings. This didn't look like where I worshiped. I sat there, somewhat judgmental. As an Episcopalian, I am accustomed to a church where there are benches for kneeling at the back of each pew, priest in long ornate robes, stained glass windows, and communion at every service.
Upon entering Lanes Chapel, I noticed there were no pews, but rows of chairs with no place there to kneel for prayer. There was a group in the corner with guitars. Screens were on the wall, much like in a movie theater. Soon after we found our seat, this nice cheerful man came over to welcome us. In his crew cut, pink shirt and flashy shoes, Brother Lou, the minister, was a far cry from what my priest looked like. I scanned the area over to the piano where I saw this man with long straight hair hanging down to the middle of his back. I was beginning to wonder about this place of worship.
By the time I left at the end of the service, I had a totally different opinion of this church and those who worshiped there. The folks with the guitars began to sing in such a way that it drew me into the experience. The pianist with the long hair was a blessing to the service with his talent. There wasn't any kneeling for prayers, but people raising their hands as they experienced the message delivered by Brother Lou. And, such a message it was. He talked from the heart, as he shared the message of God.
This Sunday, Brother Lou, in his purple shirt and white shoes started off the service with asking everyone to hug a few people before we got down to the business of worship. And, that is what happened. The choir, with ladies dressed in their bright purple sequined tops and black pants, and the man with the long hair made beautiful music. Brother Lou delivered a powerful sermon. The love for each other, and for God was evident throughout the congregation. It was a true blessing.
On my first visit, there was a gift there for me that I had been reluctant to accept. The wrappings were different, and I was resistant to opening my mind to them, just as many of us are when we encounter new people or situations in our life.
How many of us miss out on the blessings of life because we fail to look beyond the wrappings? It is often human nature to judge what is on the outside without looking further.
I once heard of a man who wrapped his garbage in fancy wrapping paper and left it in his unlocked car. He left his items of value in a rumpled bag on the floorboard. When he returned, the nicely wrapped garbage was gone, but the rumpled bag hadn't been touched.
Next time you go shopping pay attention to the packaging. Companies pay to have design departments develop attractive packages for anything from a cereal box to a video game. Human nature draws us to the attractive box first. And, although the cereal in the plain box might have the better taste and cost less, many look no further than the style of the box.
Do we, in our quest to seek out those we encounter in our life with stylish clothing, slim body, and cute/handsome features miss out on the blessings of those absent of pretty wrappings? Do we fail to see the intelligence and caring heart of the one who may be overweight or dressed in less stylish clothing, or of a different race?
We have all heard the expression "don't judge a book by its cover", yet we are all guilty of this in our life. Perhaps we would give and receive more blessings if we became more mindful to look beyond the wrappings.
Dr. Nona Owens
580 Springridge Rd.
Clinton, Ms. 39056