Married to the Empire

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


We have a beautiful new house in Oklahoma.  We're settling in and making our house a happy home.  And yet, in some ways we're still homeless. 

I'm talking about church. 

After being members of the same church for over a decade, it's been hard to pick up and try to find a new church home.  Nothing has been just right.  We want a mix of people passionate for God, active community service and missions emphasis, good music, solid teaching, and friendly, welcoming arms. 

If churches are living out their faith actively, that shouldn't be a tall order.  And yet, we're finding that it is. 

One church would have been perfect for us.  It pretty much fit the bill, except we couldn't come to terms with their style of worship.  The word style isn't quite right here, but I'm not sure what else to use.  We're lifelong Baptists, and this was a pentecostal church.  Long story how we ended up there, but it's really a great church.  We just couldn't get comfortable with people speaking in tongues (without an interpreter, as the bible says there should be) and practically having seizures in the front of the church, then falling over backwards.  I'm sure those folks are quite sincere in their faith, but I just don't understand it. 

Another church had a fantastic Sunday school and friendly people, but the church service was dead.  Absolutely dead.  Even their kids' VBS presentation lacked any energy.  I had the impression that the Spirit wasn't there, and this church would not be a partner to us in cultivating a love for the Lord in our son. 

Yet another church had a friendly, family feel to it.  We liked that.  The pastor obviously shepherds his congregation and has a true heart for the Lord.  But the Sunday school class that best fit our needs was just awful.  The teacher doesn't have the gift of teaching, unfortunately, and the whole class was checked out.  The music was dreadful.  I was passionately involved in the music ministry in our church in Texas, and I just couldn't see getting involved in this one.  I tried to overlook it, but I just can't. 

While I think we've found our church, we're still not certain.  Music is amazing, teaching is not just good, but intellectual (that's becoming more and more unusual these days), the nursery is great for Alex, they're actively involved in the community and missions, but... the only people who talk to us when we go there are Steven's coworkers and our neighbors.  They have no Sunday morning classes to get to know people, so we'll have to join a small group before we really get a feel for whether or not this is the place for us.  Except, small groups shut down for the summer.  *sigh*  I know that churches have trouble keeping stuff staffed when folks are on vacation, and leaders need a break once in a while, but I do wish churches would see what a bind this puts visitors in. 

I've been sick, so I stayed home with Alex on Sunday morning.  When Steven got home, I asked about church.  He said the service was good.  But when I asked if anyone talked to him, he said that only folks he spoke to first talked to him.  Ouch.  There's something very wrong with that picture. 

More and more, I'm realizing that the verses in the bible about hospitality aren't simply referring to offering food or a place to stay or otherwise opening one's home.  Church is also home, so Christians should be welcoming strangers into that house, too.  If you see visitors at your church on Sunday, please talk to them.  Make them feel welcomed.  Chances are, your church isn't the first they've visited, and they're growing weary of the search.  I know that most folks are probably not meaning to be unwelcoming; they're absorbed in their own lives and just not thinking.  I've been guilty of that myself in my own church back home.  But being on the other side has really opened my eyes.  I can't help but wonder how many folks have entered a church seeking God and have turned away simply because they weren't made to feel welcomed. 

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have show hospitality to angels without knowing it.  (Hebrews 13:1-2)

Friday, July 13, 2012

How To Create a Loyal Customer

I've mentioned before that I'm struggling here in Bartlesville to find a grocery store I really like.  One is too expensive (although I like it a lot), one is kind of yucky and has a poor selection, and one is just too far away to make a regular place. 

And then there's ALDI.

I'd read for years on various blogs that ALDI is great for saving money and has good-quality items, even if it's inexpensive and bare bones.  So when we moved here, I gave it a try.  Truthfully, if I hadn't read so much online about how great the store is, I likely wouldn't have given it a second try.  On first glance, it doesn't look very worth one's while.  But I dove in and started trying things. 

I like it.  I like it a lot, actually.  Here are a couple of reasons:

If you'll notice the little circle to the right in the first picture, you'll see that it says, "No MSG."  The second pic shows candy with all-natural food coloring, meaning no Red 40 dye.  MSG and Red 40 are both migraine triggers.  When shopping cheaper stores, one doesn't expect to find products without chemicals, and yet, ALDI has tons of products that I can eat.  That's huge for me, especially considering I'd often pay twice the price of the above pictured for all-natural licorice at Sprouts or Whole Foods. 

I don't find a huge taste difference in ALDI's products from name brand.  Their corn chips aren't a dead ringer for Fritos, but it's pretty darned close.  Their version of Cheez-its?  No difference in taste whatsoever.  And yes, my husband and I compared. 

Okay, their paper towels are lousy.  Just saying. 

But here's what really made me a loyal customer: they actually respond to complaints and do something about them.  A couple of weeks ago I went to the store, and I was frustrated that I couldn't access any carts with non-broken baby straps.  If you're not aware, ALDI chains their carts together, and you have to pay a quarter to get one out.  You get your quarter back when you return your cart.  I have no problem with that system.  I had a problem with the fact that the few carts I could see with non-broken straps were way back in the cart queue, and I would have had to have a pile of quarters out and no baby in my arms to pull out cart after cart to get to one of them. 

I held onto Alex, who wants to move constantly these days, while I shopped.  But I needed both hands to unload my cart.  I couldn't hold onto him while I did that.  While I unloaded, my kid nearly fell out of the cart twice.  Had I not been watching him closely and been quick to catch him, the result could have been tragic.  I left the store extremely angry. 

As soon as I got home, I sent an email to ALDI about the situation and just let them know that while I like the store, I couldn't continue shopping there as it was unsafe for my baby.  I expected a form letter back, at the most.  Instead, I received a phone call the very next day from someone at corporate.  She apologized for the situation with the straps and assured me that she had straps that she was sending to the Bartlesville store that week, so the next time I went in, I should be able to strap Alex in. 


And you know what?  I went back today, and sure enough, every cart had brand-new baby straps on it.  Alex was safely secured, and we were able to shop without incident. 

That is how you make a loyal customer.  Add me to the legion of bloggers who love ALDI.