Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction

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bad-hair-dayLet your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. ~ Colossians 4:6 ESV

A while back, I got some interesting reactions to my Facebook post, which read, “First, why don’t women check the back of their hair before going to church? Second, could my noticing this trend be the start of my new ministry?”

Although it was meant to bring a chuckle, it got me to thinking. When is it appropriate to point out a faux pas or oddity? In ninety seconds flat, I thought I had a sound two-prong theory.

1) It IS acceptable to say something if you believe the person is NOT aware of the situation.

2) It is NOT acceptable to speak up if you believe the person IS aware.

Sounds simple, huh? Upon further review, I discovered simple isn’t always easy.

Let’s take the case of the woman with the church-hair in the front and bed-head in the back. I don’t think she knows, so I should tell her, right? Not so fast.  Ask yourself a few questions. Does her hair-do complement her wrinkled wardrobe? A style of her own, maybe? Or, is her half-hearted comb-out the end result of getting a passel of kids to church on time? Think before you stop her in the foyer and hand her a comb.

I’ve come up with some additional Church Courtesy Guidelines to help in these awkward situations.

What’s on Your Face? Feel free to point out milk mustaches, chin drippings, and spinach in teeth — but not tea stains or tartar. Yes to boogers, but no to moles.

When It Comes to Kids: When children are noisy in church, don’t turn around and give their parents an evil eye. We can learn from their joyful noises!


Comb-overs: Seriously, a comb-over doesn’t happen by accident. It involves the skill of a weaver, firm-hold hair spray, and an extra half hour.  Look away and keep silent.

Hairpieces: Say nothing unless the hair piece is flipped up in the back or on backwards. I’ll let your relationship determine what you say and where you say it.

in my pew

Conversation: Do not verbally correct a statement made by someone, especially if you’re not part of the conversation. If someone mispronounces a word or uses incorrect grammar, just snicker and correct them mentally.

Pew Etiquette: When someone is sitting in your usual pew, let them figure it out for themselves. Tip: It’ll go quicker if you hover over them and glare.

Accidental Accessories: Yes to saying something about the glob of food on front of their blouse and the toilet paper stuck to their shoe or tucked in the waistband of their pants. However, you might want to hold off mentioning a wedgie.

Singing Voices: Sometimes voices are off key and loud. Leave these people alone—me included. God’s perfect hearing has a motive filter.

pats fan_300_225_90 (1)

Clothing Issues: Although not a huge deal, it might be helpful to mention the ripped seam in a congregant’s slacks, their inside-out sweater, mismatched footwear, or hem coming undone. But, unless you’re in leadership, say nothing about sports team jerseys and hats. You could get booed or beat up.

Make-up: This can be tricky. What you may think is too much make-up may not be too much for them. Unless the lipstick is on her teeth and magnetic eyelashes stuck to her braces, I’d ignore it.

However, if your comments are sincere, a person may be grateful. As proof, I give you this conversation with my ten-year-old grandson, Max:

Max, greeting me with a chin-nod: “Hi. So, what’s with all the make-up?”

Me, searching for my compact mirror: “I always wear make-up.”

Max, chuckling: “Yeah, but this time you’ve got way more on one eye than the other.”

Me, frazzled: “Why thank you, sweetie, for pointing that out. I love you too.”

On the Other Hand: Maybe I should take advantage of every chance I get to keep my mouth shut … and maybe my eyes.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

~ 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV



Don’t Leave Without Paying Your Respects

God brings death and God brings life, brings down to the grave and raises up. God brings poverty and God brings wealth; he lowers, he also lifts up. He puts poor people on their feet again; he rekindles burned-out lives with fresh hope, Restoring dignity and respect to their lives— a place in the sun! ~ 1 Sam 2:6-8 (MSG)

respect“Freddie White died,” my mother broke the news to my father as soon as he got home from work.

“Freddie White?” Dad sat heavy in his chair as the news sunk in. “How? When?”

“A few days ago, at age 48. The obituary didn’t say how. The wake’s tomorrow night.”

Dad bent to take off his concrete-encrusted work boots. “I should go. He didn’t have much family.”

Freddie White was one of my father’s “men.” That’s what he called his crew of irregular mason tenders and bricklayers, many of them recovering (or wannabe recovering) alcoholics and drug users. Dad had picked them up, here and there, during the decades of his own sobriety and membership in AA. Referring to them as “men” was a sign of respect.

Part of his personal sponsorship style included giving them work now and again. He often had more men than he had work. It had been years since Dad had seen Freddie. Perhaps that’s why he wondered aloud, “Maybe if I’d stayed in touch . . .”

The next night, on his way out to the funeral parlor, Dad said to Mom, “I might be a while. A lot of the old crew will be there. It’ll be good to see them . . . even under these circumstances.”

When my father came home from the wake, he had a story to tell. “I couldn’t believe it. The place was packed. The line to the casket was out the door.”

“You’re kidding?” Mom looked surprised. “Who all was there?”

“I didn’t see a familiar face,” Dad said. “This crowd was different.”

“No guys stuffed into borrowed sports jackets two sizes too small?

“Nope,” Dad said.

“How about men wearing neckties which stopped six inches above their belt buckle?”

“None,” Dad answered. “Another thing, I shook hands with a lot of people and didn’t find a bloodied knuckle in the bunch.”

“It sounds like Freddie had some fancy new friends,” Mom said.

“You might say that. While the line wound its way toward the casket, I overheard some of the others talking about Fred’s brand new forty-foot power boat and how sad it was that he never got to take it out.”

Mom shook her head to make sure she heard right. “A what?”

Dad continued. “All I could think was, ‘Wow. Freddie White died owning a forty-foot boat.’ By the time I reached the casket, I was in shock.”

“Why? Was it a fancy coffin?”

“No, I was in shock because the guy lying in it wasn’t Freddie!” My father started to laugh and couldn’t stop. “The man’s name was Frederick White. You got that part right, but he was 84, not 48. And he was a Mason as in Freemason, not a mason as in laborer.”

Mom’s hands flew to her face. “Oh, no! What did you do?”

“What could I do? I was only a few feet from the family; I couldn’t very well leave without paying my respects. I took his wife’s hand in mine, looked into her tear-filled eyes and said the only thing I could about her husband: “It’s a real shame about the boat.”

True story (even with some literary embellishment). And it has a moral: Don’t leave this earth without paying your respects to someone: the down-and-outers, the up-and-comers, the in-crowd, the outcasts, the young, the old, the hurting and the healthy.

It won’t kill you. I promise.

Note: In case you’re wondering, after Dad’s funeral parlor faux pas, he connected with the real Freddie White. He was sober and doing well–although not well enough to buy a boat.