A New Angle (That Thankfully Did Not Require Geometry)

Well, I planned to post something Sunday night after the Miss America pageant, but then I got sidetracked by sitting cross-legged on the floor and playing cups.

Apparently anything is still possible in America, y’all.

Honestly, it took me a good hour to wind down from the pageant, and I don’t know when Twitter has tickled me more. I thought Kaye Lani Rae Rafko’s hula dance was memorable back in the late 80s, but the cup talent really just beat all.

That’s saying something considering that there was also a ventriloquist in the top 8.

I have to say, though, that not even a surprising Miss America result could put a damper on our weekend, which was delightful all the way around. I was out late Thursday night at a NEEDTOBREATHE concert, and all I could think when my alarm went off early Friday morning was, “THIS IS WHEN I AM REMINDED THAT I AM NO LONGER 27.” I was worn out, but the concert was so worth it. The Oh Hello’s were everything I thought they would be and more, and when they finished their set (do you like the hip lingo? the next thing you know I’ll be talking about when their new album drops.) I felt so inordinately proud of them that I was totally teary-eyed.

This is what happens when you’re in your 40s and enjoy the musical stylings of some folks who are at least 20 years younger than you are. There are a lot of maternal feelings.

And all I know to say about NEEDTOBREATHE is that they essentially led us in a two-hour worship service. Absolutely beautiful. Sweet mercy they’re talented.

Anyway, I had a speaking thing early Friday morning, then work, so by the time I picked up Alex Friday afternoon, I was flat-out loopy from the tired. Somehow, though, I managed to stay awake until approximately 9:30 Friday night, at which point I practically face-planted myself on the bed and slept without moving until 5 Saturday morning, when Hazel decided that there had been enough sleeping, thank you.

About mid-morning I willed myself to go to the grocery store. I don’t know if y’all realize this – because apparently I forgot for most of last week – but the grocery store is a place that has food that you can buy and then take home so that you can prepare meals for your family. WHAT A CONCEPT. So I bought some of the food that Publix had available that morning, and I brought it all home, and then I cooked for three whole days in a row.

I may have to print myself a certificate of achievement.

Sunday was our pastor’s last Sunday at our church, and it was the sweetest morning. We typically go to the 9:00 service, but Sunday we also stayed for a little bit of the 11:00 because one of Alex’s buddies was being baptized. While we were waiting for that second service to start, we were hanging out in the back corner of the church with some other families who were there for the same reason, and I realized that my view of our church was different than it normally is. We almost always sit in the same row in the same section, so something about standing in a different part of our sanctuary – which is pretty big – caught my attention and made me think.

It was almost 13 years ago when David and I stepped in our church for the first time. It was nowhere we ever thought we’d visit, much less join, so we walked into that sanctuary with some trepidation and more than a few reservations – and we thought it would more than likely be our first and only Sunday there.

Much to our surprise, though, we visited the next Sunday. And the next. And the next. Eventually we started to call it “our” church. So not too long after Alex was born, we decided to become members – and nobody was more surprised than David and I were. We grew up together in the same Methodist church, then joined the Episcopal church after we married, so every once in awhile we’d look at each other on the way to Brook Hills and say, “Are we really BAPTISTS?” Then we’d laugh. Because even though it was not necessarily the church we’d expected to be a part of, we knew that we were exactly where we were supposed to be.

Church life, as y’all know, can be complicated. There have been times over the last 13 years when I was so involved that I could’ve told you the extension numbers of most of the ministry assistants, and there have been times when I was so unplugged that I’ve sat in the middle of a sanctuary of 1,500 people and felt just as lonely as I could be. I’ve been challenged at our church, I’ve been broken there, I’ve been encouraged there, and to be really honest there have been a few times when I’ve been ticked off there. It’s been a place where David and I have grown in our faith and in our relationship with each other, but we’ve also sat through our fair share of Sunday mornings where the music started and the tension between the two of us was so thick that you’d need a stick of dynamite to blast through it.

Over eight years ago a young whippersnapper named David Platt began serving as our interim pastor. He promptly grabbed hold of all my well-established notions of what church was supposed to be and flipped them upside down. Honestly, there were times I’d leave church flat-out mad because he wasn’t telling me what I wanted to hear. One Sunday I was so unnerved that I marched right up to one of our associate pastors and said, “I mean, I GET what this new guy is saying, but I AM A MAMA WITH A TWO YEAR-OLD. What does he want me to do? Go to AFRICA or something?”

The associate pastor just laughed. And a little over a year later, when I was the mama of a three year-old, I went on my first trip with Compassion. To Africa. Because God is funny like that.

(This is where I could totally go off on a tangent about how I know our pastor is most associated with being “radical,” but the area where his leadership has impacted me more than any other is worship. And while it wasn’t a super comfortable lesson, it’s been such a good one and something that I hope / pray will continue to ripple in my heart.)

(End of tangent.)


Sunday morning we were standing in that back corner of church, and that meant that I got to see all manner of folks walk into the sanctuary. I didn’t know all of them by any stretch, but there were a lot of familiar faces: one of our associate pastor’s wives, Alex’s 4th grade teacher, his 5th grade teacher, the mom of a guy that I taught eight or nine years ago, a friend from choir (back in the day when I used to sing in the choir), a former staff member who kept the nursery during Wednesday night church way back when, and a couple of “mama friends” whose boys are Alex’s buddies.

So the music started and all of us who were there for baptisms were standing against the back windows, and I happened to be in a spot where I could see most of the sanctuary, which was full to overflowing. Alex asked if he could go stand with a friend of his, and after he found his spot and started singing, I watched those two boys stand shoulder to shoulder. They’re at least a foot taller than they were a couple of years ago – closer to being teenagers than little kids – and I thought about how many Sundays they’ve run up and down the hallways and the stairs in that place, how many trips they made out to the playground when they were younger.

It’s the only church they’ve ever known.

And as they walked down the aisle for the baptism about ten minutes later – as they found a few more of their buddies and watched their friend C share his testimony – it occurred to me that while our church is about 20 times bigger than the one where David and I grew up, Alex is just as at home in that big ole sanctuary as we were in the much smaller one with the wooden pews and the stained glass windows.

That would have been impossible for me to imagine 13 years ago.

David and I didn’t have the foggiest idea what we were doing when we first walked through the doors at our church. We were just a young married couple who knew that there was a whole lot we didn’t know, and we wanted to learn. We didn’t ever dream we’d be there this long, but God has used the people in that place – the ones we know and sometimes even the ones we don’t – to change us.

And now? To see that happening in Alex’s life, too? To see that happening in the lives of his friends?

It’s a mighty sweet thing.

And I am just all kinds of grateful.

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  1. For some reason that I cannot explain, this post made me long with all of my heart for Designing Women- Julia singing “How Great Thou Art” after Charlene quit her church, Bernice coming out of a fog and spouting scripture like she was Moses, and of course, Suzanne and her beauty pageants. This post has all the things I love about the South and church in it. Now, I’m going to find a flaming baton. Cups are a merely a hipster trend; batons will forever remain the gold standard.

    • Julie Reynolds says:

      Amen sister!!! This post may be one of my favorites ever! Now I have to go do something about this lump in my throat the size of a melon! Thanks Sophie!

  2. I love this post. And I read your pastor’s book “Radical” and thought the same thing. Isn’t God amazing!

    I’m so looking forward to your next book.:)

  3. Everything about this post is awesome! There is absolutely nothing on this earth better than growing in Christ! Thank you for sharing a part of your life and heart :)

  4. Oh that angle… It does keep moving about, doesn’t it? And I must ask, my friend … What did you learn about worship? I wanna know!

  5. Farrell Clark says:

    This song kept going through my head as I read your thoughts on your church. I just heard it last week at a Tim neufeld (of Starfield but currently touring with a band called the Glory Boys doing a very different style of music) concert. “This is our church, our family of faith, on this holy ground we’re all the same. And we are the joy of God on display, whenever we meet in Jesus’ name” http://youtu.be/s7n3MbbLmeA

  6. 1. When a Harvard trained dentist that arranged her own classical piano pieces and has wrangled a cheetah loses to red solo cups, you can guarantee it’s a conspiracy.

    2. Just joined a church this past Sunday. Neither side of our family attend. This post gave me a lot of encouragement about that decision.

  7. Loved this post.
    My family has been members of the same church for almost 26 years. Both my daughters work there now as a youth minister/preschools teacher and also met their husbands there when they were younger!
    Our church home has been a huge blessing to my family for sure.
    Nothing like community and fellowship.

  8. Tracey Knight says:

    loved this, sophie. between you, Angie Smith, Kelly Stamps & a few college girls i was completely entertained during Miss America. :) and church – have mercy – yes to all of that. love it and in the few times when it has just worn me out i remember i can’t quit b/c i have a secret key to the wedding closet. so there’s that. :) so glad to have you back in my inbox.

  9. Love your posts. You always make me laugh. Looking forward to your next book. Thanks for sharing your life. Hugs. :-)

  10. I treasure my church, also very large, for many of the same reasons, and am thankful every day that God brought us there about 15 years ago. Your post reminds me today to pray for my church, it’s leadership and it’s people. Thanks, Sophie, for sharing your heart.

  11. This post gives me hope. After going to the same church for 20 years, God moved us to Kansas. I was sure I’d never find another church home, but, miraculously, we did. Now 10 years, later, He’s moving us again to another city where we’ll have to start over with the church shopping. Ugh.

    But God is faithful to provide and He’ll do it again, I know.

    Thanks for the timely reminder. (And for all the laughs and fun Sunday night!)

  12. Love this post. It’s real and true. And I love that you were called to Africa after that statement – God has a great sense of humor.

  13. Becky in 'Bama says:

    Sweet and inspirational post. Birmingham is gonna miss that man! or I should say leader! I posted Sunday evening that though Miss NY has a nice voice, indeed, if she was from Alabama that cup would have been sequined and bedazzled to within an inch of its life. Maybe the red cup was a stand in and her ‘competition’ cup got lost in transit! We’d all like to meet her ‘talent’ mentor. Hmmm?

    • Heather in Carolina says:

      Becky in ‘Bama…that cup would have been sequined, bedazzled AND monogrammed! ;) LOL!!

  14. I would love to hear about what you learned about worship. Can’t wait to see what DP will do at the IMB!

  15. It is lovely to see something that you sometimes take for granted in a new light. I grew up in the church I attend now and though we have finally built a new building, it’s all the same people. I love them and they have driven me crazy a time or two as well. It’s the church that my kids will be raised in, God willing. My Mama always said “try to leave something better than you found it” in regards to the church and that is what I try to remind myself when the going gets challenging and you have to consciously think about loving your neighbor as yourself, but there is no other place I’d rather worship. Thanks for your post and making some of us think.

  16. I love everything about this post. Love how you use words to bring us back to a place in our minds that we’ve maybe forgotten. Our family recently moved to a new town, and so we have joined a new church. I spend more than a little time wondering why God brought us here and looking at things from MY vantage point…thank you for reminding me that there are other angles. :)

    I loved keeping up with you and Kelly on Twitter during the pageant. Y’all kept me in stitches half-the-night. :)

    Bless you, Sophie! Can’t wait for your next book!

  17. I too was shocked to find myself a happy member of a Baptist church. I’m so glad God put you in just enough discomfort to grow, and just enough comfort to thrive.

  18. Sophie, as a pastor’s wife, I just want you to know how much I enjoyed reading your perspective on your church family. Refreshing!

  19. This is one of the sweetest posts I’ve ever read, good job, mama.

    Hugs from Minnesota,

  20. I love this post so much! I grew up in church and now have raised my sons in it. It Is amazing what gathering with a group of other believers over and over again does to a person over time. I, too, have felt the gamut of emotions as I have been in church and walked through some very tough seasons of life there. So grateful for my church family and the way God has used His people to minister to me and my family! I love David Platt and am so excited to see how God will use him to ignite the fire of Truth around the world!

  21. Well, standing in the back truly makes you a Baptist now, ’cause we all know that the “true” Baptists are the back-row ones!

    I’m so proud of David & Heather and the way they openly love the Lord and am thrilled to see how He will reach the “uttermost” through D’s leadership. I’m also proud that he turned out so well, considering how he & his siblings would terrorize each other during my piano lessons! Great family! How blessed y’all have been to be under his teaching all these years.

  22. I feel a new post entitled “What I Learned About Worship”, or something like that, coming on. Your observations were beautiful to read. And, they reminded me to shake things up and move around, once every so often, to get a New View. Lord knows, we can all use a New View now and again! Loved this.

  23. Love this Boo!

    Church can be hard, scary, lonely and yes Beautiful, Grace Filled place.

  24. Probably one of my very favorite posts of yours! I can so identify and my eyes were misty by the end of it.

  25. Karen Beymer says:

    Our Pastor has been preaching on worship the past few Sundays,
    He said he hopes before he retires someone will come up to
    Him after the sermon and say “Pastor, I didn’t get one thing out of that
    Sermon” my reply will be “What did you bring to it?” Worship is active not passive.
    We are responsible for our participation.

  26. There was a nice article about your pastor friend in the Baptist Record recently. I thought of you while I read it!

    Oh, and Sunday night was a HOOT. Sad for Jasmine though, she was so elegant! A winner in our book. Miss Arkansas was pretty good too.

  27. Lynnette R says:

    Thank you for sharing that. One of my favorite posts ever.

  28. 1 ) Love this post. My husband and I have been in that same situation. God bless you for sharing your story so eloquently.

    2) just wondering how many wives your associate pastor has? :)

  29. Heather in Carolina says:

    Love your honesty, Sophie. One of the best things that ever happened to me was God putting me in a big Baptist church. I am so blessed! Our church has done Secret Church with your pastor the past 2 years; it has been amazing to participate, then read his books and listen to some of his sermons. He truly exudes a love for his fellow-man and an unwillingness to sit idly by and watch the lost go to Hell. Praying for your church’s search for a new Senior Pastor and for the Platts move to IMB…to God be the Glory!

  30. Lynda Morstain says:

    Great Post! My sons are 18 & 17, & we’ve been at the same church for 14 years. So it’s the only place they know. When we added a ‘new’ addition 10 years ago, my husband & sons were there every Sat for months for men’s workdays. The building is truly theirs! All of their closest friends are from church (we homeschool, so no school buddies). During the World Cup, we had 10 young men between 15 & 18 years old over to watch USA play. My husband & I both choked back tears as we watched these guys, who were all toddlers a week ago :) stand & loudly & proudly sing our National Anthem! You just can’t beat finding the right church family to raise your own family in!

  31. Our church has been going through a really tough time after the Senior Pastor “Retired” and the Associate (who is much young) Pastor took over. So much we stopped going there, your post gave me hope, and makes me want to try to go back there again.

    I really enjoyed reading this, thanks for sharing.

  32. I’ve been reading your blog for YEARS and this is my favorite post. Loved it. Every word.

  33. Love this post.

  34. Love this post…so good.

  35. This post made me cry – absolutely beautiful.

  36. Somehow I never saw this until tonight. It is so good! I got misty at the end. God is so good. And I laughed about your trip to Africa! God is amazing!
    I really loved and appreciated your honesty about your church and your husband. I can so relate to all of it! Thank you for sharing!