The Sled of Shame
As church planters, there are dozens of people who rely on us especially and sometimes very intensely during the holiday season. It is so important to take a minute to reflect on our own lives: to remember, reflect, and renew.
Do you remember Razor sleds? If you’re under forty this may be more difficult. I’m sure they are outlawed in all fifty states by now because they were so dangerous. My three brothers and I shared The Flexible Flyer. It was designed so one could steer the sled using the front crossbar. It was wildly-dangerous fun.
To get razor sharp rails, we waxed them for hours with big chunks of a soap-like wax. The waxing made the sleds even faster and more deadly than they already were. Our hearts raced as we dragged our little bodies and sleds and moon boots to Green Hill. Our walk was a mile and a half or so. The hill was the best and most wonderful next-to-a-deadly-expressway there ever was.
We raced down the hill, slicing through packed on snow-ice, making sure every appendage was tucked inside the sled. The busiest expressway in Chicagoland lay to the right of the hill. One small and rickety fence kept us from rolling onto the Dan Ryan. However, nothing stopped us from sledding. These were fun-filled, freezing cold days. Sledding is what we did as kids in winter on the south side of Chicago.
One fateful Saturday morning, my little brother and I peeked in our parents’ closet, trying to find our Christmas presents while our parents were at work. Right there in front of us was the biggest most beautiful yellow sled we had ever seen. It was glorious. We laughed and danced and high fived when we saw it. We had seen this exact sled on TV, watching happy children race down perfectly packed inches of snow at lightning speed. The yellow sled not only had a device to steer in the front, it had a brake in the middle so you could stop, spin out, and do amazing tricks. We coveted this sled. We shut the closet and waited patiently for Christmas morning, all the while practicing our very surprised faces to convince our parents we hadn’t peeked, and were so very grateful for the thoughtful gift we were going to receive.
Christmas morning, the presents were distributed, and in my pile was a very long and narrow package. After I opened it and proudly convinced my parents of my surprise, my mom said, “Well, the sled was actually for your brother. He snooped, and for his punishment, you get the yellow sled of wonder.”
Was I ashamed of my own part in the deception? Absolutely (for one millisecond). My response was, “He did? I told him not to snoop because you are very good parents and work so hard to provide for us. I told him we already had all we needed, and why would he want anything like a dumb old new sled?” My brothers’ eyes were as big as saucers and were about to overflow onto six-year-old cheeks. He was betrayed by me, his eight-year-old sister.
Later that afternoon, I dragged my new Yellow Sled of Wonder the mile and a half to Green Hill. My little brother dragged the Flexible Flyer, the same size as him, all the way there. I promised him I’d give him one turn on my sled, and then my conscience would certainly be clear after that. The third time down the hill, the Yellow Sled of Wonder hit a rock-solid ice ramp the older boys made. It caught some air, crashed down hard and got a crack smack dab in the middle of the frame, rendering it absolutely useless.
The “Sled of Shame” memory has always been funny to me, tinged with guilt around the edges. I hope my brother has forgiven me. Some memories of Christmas are good. Others are marked with memories of a different nature. I often forget to give myself time to reflect over my own holiday memories. Typically our holidays are filled with ministry-packed long days, until last year. Our family decided to make some huge changes.
My husband and I have been part of ministry and church planting movements since before we were married. All in total, a little more than thirty years. For years, my husband had never been with us on Christmas eve. He normally preached or was a part of eight, nine or ten services in our then megachurch. Even so, it was a wonderful time! We did this year after year, until we realized we were worn out.
Now, our children are almost grown. Two out of three are in college, with one not far behind. Christmases with them flew by, faster than a razor-sharp waxed sled down a hill. Last year, however, our family decided to plant our own church, a church full of microchurches, in the Kansas City metro area. Our Christmas now looked drastically different.
This new church plant has been the wildest ride of our lives, but we are in it together and for the long-haul. The KC Underground is a church made up of a dozen microchurches that gather in worship and Bible study all over the city. Our microchurch? In our living room-or we open the door with a bowl of salad, walk across the street, open our neighbor’s front door, and sit down for church at their house. Our hearts are not racing. We are not frantically grabbing children, throwing them in car seats, flying down icy roads to make it to church on time without dad, again. We go slow.
We listen to our neighbors. We laugh over baby antics and children spilling milk. We cry together at the losses we face or the hits we take. This new season of church planting is filled with joy as we empower the men and women of KC Underground to start microchurches of their own.
I wrote this poem as we made our transition from mega to microchurch. It reminds me of the careful walking around intention Jesus-the carefulness of his gaze upon us, the rightful glory of our praise. I encourage you to take a minute, take a breath. Enjoy time with your family, friends, and your sweet, sweet Savior. He is crazy about you, even if you have secrets hiding in your closet akin to the Sled of Shame. He is a good, good God. Reflect. Rest. Renew.
A King Was Born
David and Joseph…
Joseph was royalty.
He had the blood of kings in his veins.
A chosen king.
As improbable David’s anointing
Was Joseph becoming the Father of the King of Kings.
Carpenters and shepherds.
Shepherds and carpenters.
Blue collar workers with royalty in their veins
because the God of the universe knew
Could achieve true Greatness
with their own strength
could earn status in God’s kingdom
without His secret ways, His blessings, His miracles
No one is wise enough, powerful enough, perfect enough
To end up the King of Israel
Or the unintended Father to the King
moved some impossible
parts and pieces together
And blew divinity into the line of David. Knocked him to His knees.
And to Joseph
He Whispered a similar task
To be the shepherd to the king of kings
David fell, Joseph nodded, God smiled
and a King was born.
Michelle is an artist and writer living in Kansas City Kansas. She has been married to the love of her life for 27 years. They have raised three delightfully spirited young women,Madeline21, Whitney, 19, and Isabelle, 16.
Together as a family and with a fabulous team, they have planted the KC underground, a church made up of micro churches in the Kansas City metro area. The KC Underground is celebrating their one year anniversary in January.