Wednesday, December 22, 2004
I have spent a good portion of my life using ground transportation. That's not to say that I hadn't been on a plane before, just not very often and each time was dramatic and memorable. I really can't remember when my fear of flying started, it's always been there. Of course, over the years it grew like some sort of infection, spreading and gripping me more and more as time passed.
After years and years of being terrified of flying, to the point that I wondered if I would ever get in a plane again, one day I just decided that I would do it. I needed to go to Atlanta (about an hour plane ride) with a number of my co-workers. I had grown to enjoy the company of many of them and they felt safe. They well knew about my fear and when I told them that I would be flying with them and not driving and meeting them there they were excited and supportive. The trip turned out good and it was the beginnings of bigger things to come.
Over the last 10 years or so, I have had to fly a handful of times and I have done so with some reluctance. For a time, I had resigned myself to the idea that this was just something that I didn't like and that it may always be difficult for me. Luckily, I didn't have to fly very often.
In the last 2-3 months I have flown at least twice a month and that may increase before it gets less. So, once again, I have had to look one of my biggest fears straight in the face. In the process, my life is changing again and once again I am putting my life in God's hands.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
This is no ordinary tickling, it's more like "prickling". It feels like my arm has been surrounded by hundreds or thousands of small needles, when I make a fist to get the blood flowing faster the "prickling" intensifies.
I said a few months ago that I felt numb, I was terribly unfeeling and unmotivated to get excited about "Church". I also said that if my analogy was correct, that when the numbness subsided it would be temporarily replaced by pain.
The good thing about this type of pain is that you KNOW that it is temporary and in some ways it is invigorating. It is part of the process of waking up lifeless muscles and getting them back to normal functioning order. But still...ouch!
Monday, December 06, 2004
Specifically, we do not celebrate Christmas as a "religious holiday". Momentarily going back to the basics for our beliefs, the phrase "speak where the Bible speaks and silent where the Bible is silent" is thrown around a lot. (Actually, there is some inconsistency in this phrase and how we use it, but that is for another time) Nowhere in the Bible does God tell us to celebrate Christ's birth. There are no examples of such a celebration in the first century Church, no references to such and no command. We are told to celebrate his death and we are given an example of such a celebration happening every first day of the week. So that's what we do.
There are the facts about how the Church of Christ (officially) sees Christmas. In practice, things get a bit wierd.
As a boy and a young adult, I was very adamant about Christmas. It was a man-made event, not authorized by God and therefore not to be acknowedged in our Church or our worship. The name "Christmas" comes from the term "Christ Mass" a special mass from the Catholic Church. My feelings about this bordered on irrational. How so? Let me give you a couple examples.
As a song leader I would never dream of leading songs relating to Christ's birth during the holiday season. Also, whenever (inevitably) someone else lead one of these songs, I would get up and leave. I felt that if we did what the "Catholics" did, then how would the "unchurched" differentiate us? I felt that we needed to be different from the rest of the world that gave lip service to praising God by going twice a year (Christmas and Easter). One ugly side of this is that songs about the birth of Christ are rarely ever sung in our services. Why would you want to sing "Silent Night" in July? The answer is that there is nothing wrong with it, in fact if songs about Christ's birth were standard fare in our Churches, then there would be no problem with singing them during the holiday season.
Also, even though we celebrated Christmas at home there was to be no religious symbolism. That means, no angels on the tree, or stars and especially no nativity scenes (I still don't like those).
So, why celebrate Christmas? The simple answer is because everyone else does, the ironic thing is that this same response answers the question of why we DON'T celebrate Christ's birth around Christmas. It wasn't until I started to stop and look around that this hit me in the face, and that's when I started asking questions...
Here's what I know (and what I don't). Christ was not born on December 25th. Yeah, so what. I don't really know of anyone that really and truly believes that. "Christmas" is a man-made holiday. I used to think that many religions saw it as a religious holiday, that's where I was wrong (even though there are some that do). "Christmas" as we know it is really different that it used to be. Now, it just one of many holidays during our "Holiday Season".
So, the big question for me is "what is so wrong about recognizing Christ's birth on December 25th?" Honestly, I'm having a hard time holding on to my old answers to that question. Yes, God did not command us to celebrate his birth, however...
HE sure made a big deal about it. Take a look at Matthew sometime and tell me he didn't want us to remember his birth. Every word in the Bible is God-breathed and there for a purpose. That's one of the reasons we study it so often (or should) and intently. Since every word comes from God himself, it's an extremely important form of communication with and praise to God. If he didn't want us to know about Christ's birth of if he thought that it was not important, then why did he devote so much space to it in the Bible and, more importantly, why was it so wonderfully miraculous!
There are many examples in our relationship with God and our worship and service to him that displays our own personality into what he set forth. I don't remember anything about using song books in the new testament, he didn't tell us to meet on Wednesdays to study the bible and have an "invitation", he didn't tell us to spend Church funds to buy softball uniforms, the list goes on. Most of us (almost all of us) have no problem with these man-made infusions of personality into our worship to God.
So, for me, I am an old dog that is learning a new trick, a mule that is finally starting to move, the stick in the mud that is wiggling it's way out. I am embracing Christmas for what it is, a man-made celebration of the miracle of Christ's birth. It's not nearly as important as his death, but one comes before the other and his birth WAS miraculous, wonderful and God-given. Praise God, Christ was born!
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
- Integrity is important! No matter what the left says, we are people of character and integrity and we will not surrender those qualities.
- We are a people of deep faith. Regardless of what the media says, this country was founded on faith in God (Jehovah) and the people of this country love and serve him.
- We want to be successful - on our own. Liberals want to give you everything, they think that every human is entitled to all the same things. That just isn't true.
- 2000 wasn't a fluke. I am tired of hearing about the 2000 election and Florida and blah blah blah. Al Gore lost the election because he couldn't even carry his own state! BTW, Edwards didn't deliver his own state to his running mate, but Cheney did!
- Democrats (and their liberal media buddies) don't understand what the word "mandate" means. We Americans delivered a mandate, George W. Bush was the first president in many years to get 51% of the vote, he won the popular vote by a wide margin, won more states. He is our president and we want him there and we like who he is and what he is about. There is no need for him to change just because Kerry lost.
Friday, October 22, 2004
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
That name may mean nothing to you, but it means a great deal to me. I first met Randy through a friend who had been in the Metropolitan Detroit Youth Chorus (MDYC) with me and was then going to Michigan Christian College (now Rochester College). She invited me to a concert the chorus was doing at a local church and she introduced me to Randy. The rest was history. At that time I was all but set on going to another very remote, small college in the middle of corn country, but once I met Randy I knew I wanted to be in his chorus.
A good bit of what I know and understand about worship and leading singing I learned from watching him and being around him about 6 days a week. He never took worship lightly, even 20+ years ago, his song leading was "cutting edge" and listening to him in chorus practices on tours you knew he had a fire for his Lord that could not be contained in boring, ritualistic service. I could lead singing before I met him (thanks to people like Cecil and my mom), but just being around him took me to the next level and the next.
His article addresses something that I have referred to here ("Church Music Part IV - Our Kids"). Our kids DO think differently than we do. For example, for us, it was enough for us to spend some time on the phone with a best friend. For my son, he "talks" to 2, 3, 4, 5 or more AT A TIME on his computer using "Instant Messaging". These are not kids from school (for the most part), but kids he met at camp, or at a youth rally or from short trips to Michigan. It's not as simple as saying that they are the "MTV Generation", because (here's a secret), they are not. Most of them stopped watching MTV (or never did) a long time ago.
Randy is right, they don't think linearly and even though I couldn't get my hands around it (or start to) until I read his article, I already knew that. I talked about it in another article called ("Spontaneous Part One"), we have to find some way to come to a happy medium of organization and spontenaety.
Do I have the answers. I think not, but I'm going to continue looking, in fact I'm going to look harder. I may make some mistakes, but I would rather make mistakes of action than make the big mistake of inaction.
Thursday, September 30, 2004
To anyone else, this quilt would look quite ordinary...a simple quilt not too much unlike others you may have seen here or there.
To me, it's priceless.
Made of simple fabric and very colorful, a patchwork of all kinds of patterns and colors, not unlike looking at farmland from the air. It's heavy, warm and soft.
It's also durable. Yes, over the years it has lost just a touch of it's former brilliance, but to me it's more beautiful now, than the day I first saw it. It's been everywhere with me. All through college, on Chorus trips and late nights in the lobby coloring with my future wife. It was there when I left home and followed my own path, there when I married my wife. It was there to keep me and my baby boys warm as I put them to sleep.
It's always there when I am sick to keep me warm and make me feel better. There on those cold nights at home spending time with my family, enough room for two to watch a favorite movie. It's there when we take trips to snuggle up in the car for a nap or to read a book, there for every picnic, to watch fireworks on the 4th of July, there when my son and I saw Michigan for the first time at Michigan Stadium to keep us warm. It also makes a great tent to watch Saturday morning cartoons in!
Granny's quilt has brought warmth, care, comfort and love for me and my family, just like she did and always will. When I wrap Granny's Quilt around me I can imaging Granny's soft arms holding me as a child, singing to me and making me feel completely safe, secure and loved.
Granny is now with Grandaddy, but her quilt is here and so is a part of her. Like the quilt, just as strong as ever, always ready to comfort, warm and love anyone that comes in contact.
Thanks for the quilt, granny.
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Knowing full well that the Christian Church and the Church of Christ have the same descendants I felt that there might be some familiar things, but I also knew (again, from what I had HEARD) that there would be differences. What I experienced was just about what I expected...but not exactly...
Our first impression was good. One of the parking lots is across a small street from the building and there were greeters at the sidewalks when you crossed the street. That's cool, a real person greeting you with a smiling face. There wasn't any more to it than that (there could have been) but that was a good start. The fun, though, was about to begin...
It's one thing to talk about instruments in the worship place as being "OK", but it's another thing altogether to see them there - knowing they will be played while you are worshipping. We walked into the auditorium and it struck us in the face, the courage we had mustered to get this far was wavering...why?
There was a drumset up there, also two or three guitars, a piano and another keyboard! I turned to my wife and wispered, "we can still get out of here if you want". We both decided to hold our ground, despite our uneasiness.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Of course, I realize that I have been sleeping on it strangely and it doesn't have enough blood so I give it some more by flexing it and eventually I can start feeling with it again. Now, this also brings a funny sensation...pain. The tingling in my arm slowly turns into needles poking every square inch...ouch! At some point, the pain subsides and I am back to sleep...arm working as it normally does.
That would come closest to describing my spirtual "mood" right now. It's not dead and it will certainly work fine again, it's just that I'm having difficulty feeling anything right now, just like my arm when I wake up in the middle of the night. I look at it and seems lifeless, I try to flex it's muscles and they hardly respond (if at all) and when they do, they move very slowly.
It's very strange, because (unlike my arm) this is a new sensation. Now, I am not suggesting that I have never gone through low points in my spiritual walk, but I may not have recognized them at the time (like not waking up while my arm is asleep - I can only conclude that my arm falls asleep more than I know, I just don't wake up during it). Usually I look back and realize, later, that I have walked through a low spot once I get to the other side. But, this time it's like I'm watching it happen - in slow motion - and I have little or no control over what I am watching. It's like those few moments when your arm is still asleep, and it's just not responding yet. It's like watching a movie for the 15th time and screaming at the screen, "Don't go in there!". You know what is going to happen and you are watching it, but you don't seem to able to control it.
I looked the word up in the dictionary and the definition was chilling. "Deprived of the power to feel or move normally...too numb with fear to cry out...Emotionally unresponsive; indifferent". Emotionally indifferent. For the first time in my life, I have no burning desire to be "at Church" ("at Church", meaning "going to Church", "going to the Church building"), but I have an intense desire to worship, however it's like my brain is telling my numb arm to reach for my pillow and there is no response from it. Normally if I want to grab the pillow, I think it and my body does it, but during that time of numbness, my arm is not able to comply.
Either is my body able to comply to that which my head knows to do. The words "go to Church" just don't mean the same thing to me anymore. My head says, "it's 5:30PM, time to get ready for Church...", but my body does not respond. It lays helpless like my arm in the middle of the night.
If my analogy is true, then when the blood starts flowing again and my body responds, then I can expect...pain. Woopee.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
I grew up in Michigan and I still consider myself a "Yankee", however I have lived here in the south for over 12 years and I could end up living longer "down here" than I did "up there". There are a number of things that I have learned about life in the south that I would like to share. First let me say that (unless otherwise stated) when I use the term "Southerner(s)" I am referring to those that grew up down here and call this "home" (and always have).
- Life is slower here. People say it all the time, but it really is true. Southerners just move at a slower pace. When I first moved down here I worked for a truly southern bank, and I was often asked as I was walking through the halls where the fire was. Now, there are two schools of thought here and I think they both apply depending on the person or situation. (1) They just enjoy the journey as much (or more than) the destination or (2) there is nothing worth getting "all worked up about".
Understanding this slow pace is key to every Northerner getting along and playing well with others here. If you push a Southerner to do something faster than they want to then it will just make them mad.
- "No Parking" is slang for "Park Here First". I have never lived in an area where people seem to be more "lazy" when it comes to walking from their car to the front door of the store. Now, (unlike Northerners) they are less likely to park illegally in handicapped spaces, however they will, without a second thought, park RIGHT IN FRONT of the door RIGHT NEXT TO the sign that says "NO PARKING". I really don't understand it.
- Tea. Sweet nectar, the liquid of life. As a Northerner, I never appreciated "Iced Tea", it was something you had every once in awhile (usually at my in-law's house). But once I moved down here, I became enlightened!
When you say "Tea" down here, there is only one thing you mean - Sweet Tea. If you ask for "Tea" in a restaurant, you will get Sweet Tea, unless you specifically ask for that red-headed-step-child called "Unsweetened Tea" (it even sounds funny). You will also find that some people go to specific restaurants just for the tea, because not all Sweet Tea is created equal. The chains are not the best place to get good tea, usually the best places are the local places (barbeque places have the best tea). The way you make Sweet Tea is to START with the sugar. You boil water and then add the sugar (alot) and THEN put the tea bags in and then later add more water.
Making tea "sweet" by adding sugar (or some pink or blue stuff) later is NOT "Sweet Tea", it is still "Unsweetened Tea". Also, good restaurants do four things with their Sweet Tea, (1) they have LOTS OF IT and (2) they never let your tea glass get more than half empty, (3) they serve it in a large "To Go" cup, and (4) always give you a "traveler" (some to take with you in your "to go" cup). Drink up!
Monday, August 23, 2004
God spoke to Abram and told him to go, just go and let me lead you. To us centuries later, this can seem like just a story, but it really happened. A man named Abram spoke to God and God asked him to trust him and put his life, everything he knew (for 75 years!) in his hands, lay it all on the line, just...let...go.
Saying that faith like this is "uncommon" doesn't even come close to recognizing it. Abram's faith was incredible.
God had great things planned for Abram, things beyond this farmer's wildest imagination. God has always chosen simple men to do his greatest work. A few others (off the top of my head), Moses, John the Baptist, Peter... What had Abram done to deserve this? Why did God choose this man to "father" his chosen people? Why did Christ ask a burly, hard-headed, quick-tempered fisherman to lead his Church? Why did God "nudge" a meek shepherd to free his people? I don't know and I don't believe that it's necessary that I do know. How could I presume to comprehend God's master plan? It would be like looking into the face of eternity and trying to grasp it while standing on this earth. Everytime I try I tremble in fear and amazement at God's awesome reach.
When I think of the things that God has asked of me in my life and hold them up to the kinds of things that people like Abram, Moses and Peter did I just have to sigh and say "what am I so afraid of?" It's not like God is asking me to drop what I am doing and leave with the clothes on my back and head off to somewhere I have never been to teach people that will insult me and try to kill me (and eventually succeed). I have never spent a night in jail because of my belief in Christ, I have never faced a mob of angry people who wish to kill me, I have never been asked to denouce Christ or die.
Knowing all of that does not make following Christ as easy as it may seem. There are many days when I just look into the sky and ask God to show me what he has in store for me. "God, what are you doing? Where am I supposed to go? " My two-dimensional mind just can't grasp what God is doing in my life. I perceive road-blocks where God has put stairs and I complain about struggles where God is molding me through adversity.
Still, God understands that I don't get it and he continues to "hit me over the head" with the answers. I am dense and don't always learn from my mistakes, just like a child that continues to stray off the path into the woods with the parent leading them back to the path and away from the the danger in the woods. He still loves me and cares for me and that is why he has a path for me and he longs for me to follow him down that path.
God has great things planned for each of us, if we will follow him. He has proven it over and over again. He patiently waits for us to continually remember that for which he has made us.
"O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." " (Isaiah 30:19-21)
"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. " (Matthew 4:19,20)
Monday, August 09, 2004
Misdirection. It's one of Satan's most effective tools. Satan is the best magician you'll ever encounter. He is an artist that makes Harry Houdini look like a child showing you that his thumb can come apart. Great magicians make large objects disappear in front of our eyes. How? Misdirection. "What the eyes see and the ears hear. The mind believes" (another movie reference).
Just like the Wizard of Oz, Satan uses our own fears against us. In the Wizard of Oz, he used fire and all sorts of loud noises to scare those around him and control them. However, Satan is much better at it than the Wizard of Oz could ever be. Satan knows our greatest fears, he knows what makes us tick, he knows our weaknesses and he exploits them at will. He lets us think that we have things under control and then he has us, the trap closes around us and we are caught. Once we are caught, then he feeds off our our fears, fear of failing (again), fear of humiliation, fear of pain, fear of rejection...the list is endless as is his patience. He has forever to wait.
"Look over here!" He keeps our attention on things that are innocuous while he comes up from behind and then it's (seemingly) too late. To leaders he says, "Do you see what is happening in YOUR Church? They want to clap during worship service! YOU CAN'T ALLOW THAT!" Meanwhile, he is torturing the single mother right under your nose making her feel alone and unwanted, he is keeping that worker so busy mowing the front lawn or publishing that bulletin or decorating that potluck that she has stopped reading her bible and hates going to church.
To the elder he says, "Why are so few men wearing ties to 'Church' on Sundays?" Meanwhile, divorce is running rampant through the congregation (and the community) and the Lord's Church sits and says "what can we do?".
To the deacon he says, "Let's call together a crack team of members and study which color carpeting in the fellowship hall should be." Meanwhile, God's people stop worshipping him and start "playing church". "Look over here!", he says and we look and he keeps us jumping and meanwhile....
Meanwhile the elephant has appeared in front of our eyes and we wonder where it came from. We are astonished at what has happened. How could this happen? We have been toiling and laboring for the Lord, why did HE put that elephant here? The answer is simple, HE didn't, Satan did, and he did it RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. How did he do it? Misdirection.
Monday, August 02, 2004
As a family, we try very hard to watch T.V. shows that are appropriate to everyone in the room. My wife (and I) really likes the shows on TLC and the Discovery Channel (and now ABC) where someone makes over a room or whole house for someone else. The reactions of those that are on the receiving end of this work is part of the interesting part of the show. Will they like it or did the design team really miss it? Will the Jones' like the orange walls with green neon lamps? Fun stuff...until.
My favorite show of this type is "Extreme Makeover - Home Edition" on ABC. The show is fantastic, they take a family that has really gone through some terrible stuff or has given of themselves and give them a dream home in just a week! It's all great stuff and we always look forward to the end to see the reaction of the receiving family, however it never fails to disappoint.
Hundreds of people have toiled for a week straight, businesses have given their time and money, sacrifice, sweat, frustration, love, compassion all come together to give a beautiful gift and all the people on the screen can say over and over again is "Oh my God!" Watch one of these and count, it makes me sick. Is that all you can say? Is that all the imagination you have is to use the Lord's name in vain? Someone has given you a wonderful gift and you mock the very one that it came from.
Let me help you with some replacements for the same phrase:
"Praise God!" (This acknoledges where the gift came from)
"Look at this!"
Great pitchers keep batters on their toes. The batters have to be ready for anything because "anything" is just about what they get from a great pitcher. One pitch may zing by them leaving them swinging at the air and then the next floats in making the hitter just about kill himself keeping from swinging early.
Then there is the curve ball. There are many variations on this type of pitch, but all of them have the same intention. It looks like a normal pitch at first and then...it does something strange, something that you were not expecting. Maybe you thought this pitch was going to come straight in and then suddenly (just about the time you see the laces on the ball spinning wildly) it takes a turn on you and leaves you...swinging at air...again. Another time you see it coming in and at the last second the bottom drops out of it and you are again...swinging at air.
Earthly analogies about God usually come up short as I am sure this one will, but they can still be useful. I think God has one unbelievable curveball (as well as knuckleball, split-fingered fastball, slider...you get the point) and can wield it at will. Why would he do that?
We are dependent on God and we do our best work and serve him best when we submit to that dependency. God knows EXACTLY where the pitch is going to land and EXACTLY what path it's going to travel on it's way.
One thing that's really different between God and a pitcher is the intended outcome. A baseball pitcher's goal is to strike you out (or make you hit the ball in a place the team can manage it). If the pitcher had his way, you would constantly be on your toes and never have an opportunity to hit the ball well.
The other thing that's different is that a pitcher is not on your side, he is on the other team and has no intention in helping you hit the ball. God, on the other hand, not only pitches the ball your way, he helps you hit it if - if you let him. He is still going to throw you curve balls, but (here's the tough part) they really aren't curve balls, you just think they are!
You were moving right along, going about your business, thinking that tomorrow will be pretty much like today, but God has other plans (curve ball). Now, this is only a curve ball because it's doing something that you had not planned, not anticipated, not foreseen(...not wanted?). You think you have it all planned out, you have YOUR daily planner, YOUR plans for tomorrow, the next day, next week, next month, next year...and then God clues you in on what HIS plans are for you. Sometimes those plans fit in with yours and sometimes they do not, the question is are you going to submit to HIS plans or hang on to YOURS?
Often, submitting to God's plans involves humility. "I had it wrong", "That's not what I would have done", "Is this really what I'm supposed to do?", "I really wanted to do this other thing."
Peter thought his calling was fishing - wrong.
Paul thought his was killing Christians - wrong.
Jonah thought his was preaching to those HE wanted to - wrong.
Moses thought his was shepherding sheep - wrong.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
We are not permanent.
Nothing is immediate.
We're so confident.
In our accomplishments.
Look at our decadence..."
"Gone" by Switchfoot
This life is just a whisper, it's just a grain of sand in the beach of time... Eternity is something that we cannot grasp. All of my life, just concentrating on the idea has given me the chills, it has reduced me to a lump of flesh and made me tremble. I have often thought about it in the shower in the morning when it's just me awake in the house and it's then (for some strange reason) that it hits me square in the face.
I will die.
My soul will live on forever.
No amount of thought will help me understand what eternity is while I'm still here.
Maturity (the constant journey towards it) has helped me to recognize that it's those times when I have to just say "Lord, I'm gonna have to trust you on this one.".
"...'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?'..."
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
I almost find that question offensive...yet, there are many around me that ask that question over and over again and come up with an answer that shows their fear of what would happen to worship if we "let go of the reigns".
I have been brainwashed my entire life with the notion that we (the Churches of Christ) are trying to imitate the Church of the first century, yet the answer you get from this question perplexes me. If you study the Bible and look at how the Christians of the first century worshipped God you see nothing but spontaneity and interaction.
Worship for the first century Christians was a living, breathing activity that required all of themselves. Not, the unilateral, funeral-like pattern we have adopted. God-fearing souls of today call for order and solemness in our corporate worship, yet what really happened during the early days of the Church was something that we would never recognize today. Men spontaneously reading scripture, raising holy hands in heart-felt prayer to God, and singing all sorts of songs.
A few months ago I made vow to myself and shared it with my friends and family. I have been a song leader since I was about 12 years old and plan on doing it until my vocal cords will no longer function. Over time, song leading has become routine and rote, just something...I do. No more.
No more opening the song book and picking the first 5 songs that I like, an invitation song (from the 900 section) and a song for before the Lord's Supper. No more of the following "We will now sing number 438, (pause) number 4-3-8 (pause), (pitch), (pause)...." You get the point. I just can't do it anymore, and I won't.
I am throwing out the part of me that want's to do things the easy way and just get up there and get it done. Good-bye.
Monday, July 19, 2004
Have you ever been lost?
When I was a kid in elementary school, my mom would take us to the biggest store around at that time...K-Mart. It was the equivalent of going to Wal-Mart now. We went there alot and spent a good deal of time there. Inevitably, I would tire of following my mom around in the clothing department or whatever and ask if I could go look at toys.
As the minutes went by I would continue looking until I would wonder where my mom was, so I would start looking, of course starting where I left her. She was rarely still there. I would start walking up and down the aisles, looking down each one and as I went from aisle to aisle with no luck, my pace would quicken...and so would my heart. When I found myself at the end of the store I would turn around and do it again, this time faster. "Where could she be?", but it was such a big place. Questions would start in my head "what if she forgot me here?"
Often, I would find her before I started to really panic, but occasionally, I didn't. So I would go up to the Customer Service desk and ask them to page her...how embarrassing!
Was I lost? Not really, my mom new I was in the store and deep down inside, I knew that my mom wouldn't forget me at the store. Knowing those two truths didn't make me feel better when I was running down the aisles calling her name.
I started thinking about this when I read the lyrics to the song "Tourniquet" by Evanescence. The song asks the question that seems to wander into every red-blooded Christian's mind at one time or another. "Can I be so lost that even God can't save me?". "Can I do something so repulsive that God could never accept me into his arms again?"
The answer is a bold "NO"! If you need proof, you need not look farther than the somewhat infamous preacher named Jonah. Jonah TRIED TO HIDE from God and when he did, God showed him that he sees everything. Then when Jonah was in the belly of the big fish and sure that he would die he said "From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. " (Jonah 2:2) Jonah was terribly lost, afraid and on the edge of death. Jonah was far, far away from his Lord...or so he thought.
Then Jonah called for God "To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD , and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. " (Jonah 2:6,7) God was just a call away (just as my mother usually was), God is ALWAYS just a call away.
No, there is no place on earth or anywhere else that God cannot reach us, hear us, or care for us.
i tried to kill the pain
but only brought more
i lay dying
and i'm pouring crimson regret and betrayal
i'm dying praying bleeding and screaming
am i too lost to be saved
am i too lost?
my God my tourniquet
return to me salvation
my God my tourniquet
return to me salvation
do you remember me
lost for so long
will you be on the other side
or will you forget me
i'm dying praying bleeding and screaming
am i too lost to be saved
am i too lost?
my God my tourniquet
return to me salvation
my God my tourniquet
return to me salvation
my wounds cry for the grave
my soul cries for deliverance
will i be denied Christ
© 2003 Wind-Up Records
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Sometimes those of us that are looking, praying and asking for Christ's Church to update itself forget that those we may be knocking heads with did the same thing. We forget to thank them for the great work they have done to give us things that we take completely for granted now, but were divisive issues in the past. So, you don't believe that the same person that is arguing with you about clapping in worship service may have had a hand in updating the Chruch of the past? Let's look at a few examples of things that are relatively new in the Churches of Christ, but that we take completely for granted.
Bible classes. Yep, there is nothing in the Bible mandating that a Church provide bible study classes as part of it's mission, yet it's a staple of any Church today.
Youth Groups. What we do with our youth today is a far cry from "...unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3) It's great, powerful, and wonderful work, but somewhat new.
Fellowship Halls. Here's a biggie. This is a topic that is still on the hearts of some of our older people. Years ago, the idea of having a kitchen in a Church building was just wasteful. They take the idea of stewardship very seriously (as they should) and spending God's money on a place to eat just didn't make sense at first. Now we are spending it on projectors, digital cameras, computers, networks.... Get the point?
We should thank those that have fought for what is right before us, we should thank them for having courage in the face of blinding ignorance, and we should remember that we are where they have been.
Sunday, June 27, 2004
Maybe it's the logical part of me. I think "why would someone think that way?" or "that just doesn't make sense, there must be something we are not taking in consideration...?"
Over that last few years, I have come to the hard conclusion that sometimes, satan just works in the lives of people and that he takes over. I am certainly not immune to this, I have done some pretty stupid and downright spiritually embarassing things in my life. I have been pretty hard on some people that were probably just doing their best in the past. That was satan working in me.
Call it recognizing satan, or call it skepticism, but either way, things are changing in my head. I am tired of witnessing grown men, protect power in the name of preserving righteousness, cowtow to immature grumbling (from young AND old) in the name of peace, sit and do nothing (stand immobilized) in favor of "rocking the boat" with fresh ideas. Fear has gripped our leadership, fear of the unkown future and a lack of faith that God will bless us more than we can ever imagine if we just trust him and follow him into the unknown.
Our leadership are unwilling to shepherd people. They are afraid to tell someone in their flock that they are acting immature and lacking in faith when they resist ANY change to the traditions that they instituted years ago. Even though there is an insurmountable amount of data to convince those with an open mind that we have to adjust to our environment to keep God's Church alive. That over the ages and throughout the Bible, peoples and places and Churches changed over and over again to be RELEVANT to the current times. Some just want to hang on to the Church of the 50's.
I'm going to call it what it is...sin. My skeptic mind says that it is true sin, while my old self says that it's just ignorant error. I'm hoping for the latter.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
As we started to talk more about what she said, we all agreed that the name "Church of Christ" seems to bring negative connotations to those we talk to in our daily lives. For one thing, we have never completely shaken that generalization that "we are the only ones that are saved". That is not as common as in the 50's and 60's, but it's still there, brewing... However, today, more of what we get are those that know we harp on things that just don't matter to many "believing" people. Things like. "aren't you the ones that don't believe in instrumental music?" or "what does non-denominational mean?". During our discussion, I came to a conclusion that ALL faiths have some sort of stagmatism associated with them and that they have to deal with.
In the end, we should "... become all things to all men so that by all possible means...[we]...might save some." (I Cor. 9:22). I believe that the name "Church of Christ" is a good name for a Church and that is one that Christ, it's maker, accepts as worthy (see Romans 16:16). I can think of no other name (Christ's name) that I would want. However, what is inside is much more important than what is on the sign in front of the building (read 2 Cor. 4)
So, "Have we outgrown the name 'Church of Christ'?" . That is yet to be determined, however, I have stopped worrying about what other Churches of Christ think about what I am doing and I am looking to the one and only yardstick that matters, God's word.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
We often equate sin with actions. Someone abuses their body, steals from the grocery store, gossips about a friend, speaks harsh words to someone... These are sins of action and we see them all too often (in our own lives).
What about the sin of inaction. When we lack the faith in God to step out of our comfort zone and do something amazing. To follow him into adventurous territory. I think about people like Abraham, Moses or David (just off the top of my head). They were not perfect men by any measure, but they trusted in the Lord and followed him into unknown territory.
I am tired of our leaders being immobilized by fear of what might happen, about starting somethng they cannot control, but upsetting those around them even though they believe that change needs to happen. Days, weeks, months and years go by and our leaders continue to maintain that which they can control, peace.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Before I go on, I have no crazy ideas that what I am recording here is literary genius, far from it. It's just what's jumping around my head, some of it may make sense, but a lot of it may only make sense to me.
Here's my problem. What is so great about swearing? There is A LOT of it in blogs. It's like all of these people are saying all of the swear words that they couldn't say at home, school, church and in other such public places. Hiding behind the relative obscurity (I have no dilusions that someone could figure out who I am if they put their mind to it) of a blog, they feel like they can be crude and vulgar and that every other word can be..."descriptive". When I read that stuff one thought goes through my head...no imagination.
How much imagination does it take to keep a reader interested if all you do is spew obscenities like an overflowing sewer? Yeah, I might stop to look at that for a second, but I am quickly grossed out and move on to something more fulfilling.
Don't let me mislead you into thinking that I have not and do not swear on occasion. In fact, my closest friends and I have had discussions about this subject. We have agreed that a swear word can be appropriate in some situations (notice I didn't say correct). But when the f-word get's used as much as "the", it loses any "value" (the little it had to begin with) it had.
This is not a plea to stop such swearing because I recognize that it would go on deaf ears, however it's a plea to use the imagination that God gave each of you and see if you can express yourselves without reverting to sophomoric phrases (look it up).
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
When I first saw someone with my own eyes lift up their hands during a worship service (I don't remember where it was) I will admit, it sort of "freaked me out". I didn't understand it, I had never seen someone at a Church of Christ do that! "They only do that on T.V.!", I thought.
Other things went through my mind. Generally, I thought that they were just "showing off" to call attention to themselves like, "...look at me, I'm REALLY into this, why aren't you?..." Another thought was, "...I'm going to shove this in your face, and make you feel uncomfortable because I think that we all need to do this...". The really paranoid part of me said, "...Ok, what's next? Are they going to start 'speaking in tongues'?"
Over the last few years I have come to grips with the fact that these were irrational thoughts. I can no more tell what another person is thinking than I can tell you the next time the Detroit Tigers will win the World Series! Also, after considering this practice, recalling my past studying of the Bible and doing some more studying I think I can honestly say that there is nothing scripturally wrong with it. The opposite may be the case, there may be biblical precedent for practicing it.
So the obvious question is, why DON'T we "raise holy hands"? Another question to be answered is why does it make us so uncomfortable? Still another is why is it being so strongly opposed by the "main stream Churches of Christ"?
I can only respond from my personal experience at this point, but I intend on discussing this with my friends, peers and Church leaders as I get opportunity. I believe it has to do with the dreaded word which I will probably bring up time and again...IDENTITY. We identify that kind of act as something that "those people" do, you know people like the "faith healers" on T.V., the T.V. evangelists, the Pentecostals... "They are just out of control", is what we might say. People are just afraid of starting down that "slipery slope" and never being able to get back up. From my view, (from the cheap seats) I believe that is where we must have STRONG, FORWARD-THINKING, PRAYERFUL, and BOLD LEADERS. It is the job of our elders to guide us down the right path prayerfully considering what is best and pleasing to our God.
Personally, in the past, I have felt funny about it. I think it often looks rehearsed or fake. However, there are moments when it's done at the right time and in small doses that it seems appropriate. MY spriritual life is going through a change, a re-birth, if you will, that has brought about many emotions that I have not felt for a long time or have never felt before. Although, I have never "raised holy hands", as of late, it has crossed my mind. I think this is a good thing, I think it means I MAY be on the right track.
I'm still not conviced that I will do it (and I readily admit that a prominent reason has to do with COURAGE), but don't be flabbergasted if at some very special point in an especially good act of worship you see my hands...slowly...carefully...go...up.
"Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, Will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold."
Monday, June 07, 2004
I believe in ACapella music for corporate worship. I base this on MY PERSONAL HISTORY, I like it's simplicity, it is harder (certainly not impossible) to let material things get in the way when we are praising God this way. As of today, I have no intention of making a practice of worshipping God by singing songs of praise with instrumental accompaniment. However, I don't think that non-ACapella worship is unscriptual, unacceptable praise to God and worth our gargantuan efforts to stamp out. If a friend of mine invites me to worship with him (or her)and they use instruments as part of their heart-felt praise to God, I will join them. I will no longer cringe or concern myself that I am doing something terrible (trust me, I've done MUCH WORSE things), in fact I will try very hard to worship HIM in spirit and in truth.
The real issue here is not about the music issue it's about our LACK OF FOCUS ON THINGS THAT MATTER. To quote Paul Woodhouse from "Grace Centered Magazine", "Let's drop the instrumental music issue. It is irrelevant to the poor single mother, the aborted infant, the divorcee, and the prison inmate...It's time to get real and move on." There are so many other things that NEED our FOCUSED ATTENTION, immorality, the declining importance of family, abortion, depression, divorce, suicide and the list goes on. We should be lights...BEACONS for the rest of the world to find Christ, not enforcers of religious practices (does that sound like a....Pharisee?) If we took just 50% of the time and effort that is spent everyday defending ACapella singing in the Church of Christ IMAGINE WHAT WE COULD DO?!?!
We have lost our focus, it's time to get corrective lenses and get to work.
OK, I'm done (for now).
We were talking a few days ago about a song that I had noticed and I asked him what he thought about it. The song was "Meant to Live" by Switchfoot. He told me that Switchfoot was a "Christian Band" (I recognize that his difinition of "Christian Band" is far reaching) and the next thing I knew we were at Best Buy with it in my hand (THAT is a BIG DEAL - I buy almost ALL of my CD's on Ebay, but I didn't want to wait for this one).
I just read the lyrics to "Meant To Live" and as I reached the end of the song I couldn't resist a smile and some goosebumps. Here's what got me.
"We want more that this world's got to offer... And everything inside screams for second life. We were meant to Live."
Here is a group of young people, with talent and fame and a bright future in front of them. Yet, they acknowledge that the things of this world are not what they were made for. This world does not offer what we need to live, however we can live if we recognize that life comes from somewhere else...Christ...inside us.
Take a look at the words of God through Paul in Philippians 3:12,14 ...I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Here's another one. Once again, Paul, this time talking to the Corinthians (and us) tells us that we should be longing for what is coming after this life. 2 Corinthians 5:1-6 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.
I want to thank groups like Switchfoot. I don't know much about them, I don't know their real morals, I don't know if they go to Church and especially WHAT Church they may go to. But I want to thank them for this...giving my son (and kids like him - and me too!) great MUSIC with a message that gives them hope. There is SO MUCH GARBAGE out there for our kids to get caught up in...and they do! I'm not suggesting this music as a replacement for Bible study, devotionals, worship and the like, but as an addition, and as a replacement of the other garbage out there.
I just have to smile. :)
Friday, June 04, 2004
One BIG change between now and then (from my view in the cheap seats) is that our kids talk with other kids about Church, God, Religion and the Bible MUCH MORE than we did. They invite their friends to devotionals and teen outings like crazy. When I was a kid is was all well and good for US to invite THEM to OUR outings, but forget about going to THEIRS (why would we do that?). So, over the years, the youth of our faith have become more and more...accepting of other faiths.
Why? It's simple, their FRIENDS are from other faiths. We used to have our "Church friends" (those kids from OUR Church) and our "Other friends", which we did not mix together (at least not very often). Youth (and what you call "youth" can very GREATLY) look at all of their friends as one big unit and they cherish their friends that go to other Churches and regard them very highly. Why? Because they can be very good people!
So now, they are exposed to different views of their faith from a very early age and those differences are not keeping them up at night. Their discussions about spiritual things often take them down the same paths...they don't get caught up in the details.
Their friend (Chris, we will call him) is a Christian too! Even though they play guitars in their worship service and might have women preachers. Even though Chris doesn't go to the "Church of Christ" he is still a Christian. Why? "How can't he be? He believes the same things that I do, he just does a few things different. He has the same moral values that I do (sometimes higher). He is just as active in his Church as I am, and I enjoy worshipping with him (the few times I have gone) and he enjoys worshipping with me."
The youth of our faith are more accepting than we are or were when we were their age. That could be a big factor in why they are pushing our Church to update and try new things because they are being exposed those things and their positive impact on personal spirituality. Simply put, their world is bigger and the bounds of their Christianity are too. Singing with musical accompaniment isn't a big deal, they hear the arguments against it and they may even nod their head with understanding, but they also see the positive impact that their friends (their Christian friends that don't go to a Church of Christ) have on them. Furthermore, they can't believe that their friends are going to hell, they are strong Christians, so what if they sing with instruments!
Then we are surprised when they pull back from our faith and become "rebellious" when they are given a very rigid view of Christianity, one that excludes these people they look up to.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
Why does something discussed so little in the Bible take up so much or our time? Whole books, sermons and bible classes are devoted to it. Articles in Christian magazines put their "two cents" in. Over what?
Meanwhile, our kids listen, our members listen...our vistors listen. What many of them hear is "WE HAVE IT RIGHT AND THEY DON'T - THEY ARE GOING TO HELL". Yep, you just told the daughter that her mother who goes to the Church down the street is going to hell, the teenager that his friends as school are going to hell, that if someone brought a musical instrument into this building they would...well you get the picture. It's not very pretty, is it?
Meanwhile, we forget that we are bombarded everyday by images, words, lyrics and other forms of stimulus that have much more impact on our lives than whether or not there is a piano in our Church building or that someone clapped during a song. We are concerning ourselves with the splinter in our finger while the whole tree is falling on us!
Let's stop being so paranoid about instrumental music in our worship and start ministering to each other. We all hurt and we all just want to be closer to our God.
I think part of this is a generational thing, more on that in the next chapter...(did you think I was done?)
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
You wouldn't go to the dictionary and see something like this:
DUCK - An animal that does not look like an elephant, does not have fur and does not hang from trees.
Reading that definition of a duck would tell us NOTHING about what a duck is, nor after reading it would you be able to identify one EVEN IF YOU SAW IT.
I am tired of describing my Church by identifying the differences in it from other Churches. We should have only one identifying mark, that of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We have to start from there, BEFORE we worry about the other stuff. The other stuff is important (some, much more than others, like baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins), but what good does it do to start off by telling someone about all the things that his or her Church DOES NOT do?
There will be a part III...
Specifically ACappella vs. Instrumental. ACappella, is simply translated as "Church music", but has come to mean music without instrumental accompaniment. But, even that definition is not enough for some. For some, even a human voice (or hand or other body part) that mimics an instrument is no longer ACappella music. For such people, mimicking a bass or creating a beat (for example) defies the spirit of the idea of "Church Music".
On the other side we have something as simple as a Church that might use an organ or a piano along with congregational singing, then there are Choruses, all the way to full bands with electric guitars and drums. There is an organization here in our town that proclaims that they are "The Church That Rocks".
Speaking as someone that has spent his whole life singing ACappella music in worship to God, and in choruses in High School and College, at devotionals and even in a somewhat short-lived group, I feel uncomfortable with the idea of using an instrument (other than that which God gave me) to worship him in an assembly. For me, it's distracting and unnecessary, the human voice is beautiful and simple enough for our corporate praise to God.
The Church of Christ's stance (at least traditionally and generally) on this issue is that instrumental music is not commanded in the Bible, nor is there a New Testament example of any Church using instruments in their corporate worship. It's really that simple, the Bible doesn't mention it, so we don't do it. Actually, the idea of instrumental accompaniment is rather new, only for the last few centuries have Churches used instruments in corporate worship to God, so those that would try to use the Bible to explicitly show that we should use an instrument in corporate worship would be foolish, it's not there. It is truly a man-contrived addition to what God established....
However, so are song books...and, Nurseries....and, Bible Classes...and, V.B.S...and, "pew Bibles".
(I originally called this "Let's Get This Over With...", but I decided to change the name to reflect what it was actually talking about)
Friday, May 28, 2004
One day while we were going through our normal routine I asked this simple question. " What artists that have emerged in the last...say 5-7years...will we (or anyone) be talking about and still listening to in 10 years (or 20)?" In other words, "what new groups are carrying the "torch" for Rock music?"
The question seems simple enough, certainly there should be someone doing that...shouldn't there? We started thinking. The artists that we would consider would be those that have proven that they can carry a following of people and deliver true Rock music (even if it is influenced by current trends). My friends came up blank.
Over the next few days my son and I came up with ONE group that we think embodies good, musical Rock, with punch and staying power. Foo Fighters. One hit wonders rule the land in these days. Rock has become so watered down that it includes way too much. New sounds come and go and the artists go with them, their names are forgotten the moment the next new sound hits the air waves.
I wouldn't consider Foo Fighters as my most favorite group (but they are certainly in my top 10), but they do continue to pump out hit after hit and good "album" after another. They are musicians and great song writers, but still give the edginess of today's music. On a side note, as talented as Dave Grohl is, I wonder how he could stand just being a drummer in Nirvana? I think they will be more successful (over the long haul) than Nirvana.
Other possibilities (groups that have great musical Rock, but haven't been around long enough yet). Hoobastank, Evanescence, Linkin Park (they are marginal - they do too much rap, but are capable of musical Rock), Nickleback, Limp Bizkit (great job on MI2 soundtrack!), Audioslave (Soundgarden II - which makes them a strong possibility for the short list), P.O.D (big MAYBE).
In my category of more recent groups that were on the right track and then faded (most of these go back more than 7 years, but are from at least the 90's)... Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hootie and the Blowfish.
An asterisk in all of this is Stone Temple Pilots. They seem to keep breathing, but just barely. They have made some great music, but they need to get their act back together. I can't put them as dead just yet...
That explains why it's getting harder and harder to find good, new Rock music to listen to!
One of the many cool things about him is that we share a lot of music. He listens to a lot of the same music I do (he likes Rush, Van Halen, Yes...) and I have picked up a lot of my listening style (of late) from him. He has introduced me to Trance music (whhich I can't hardly get enough of) and he has kept me much more current than many of my peers in music listening.
A few weeks ago, I took a day (I listen to music at work while I am programming) and listened to Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory (not for the first time) seriously to see what I thought of them. Typically, I buy CDs off of eBay and then copy them to my laptop so I don't have to carry them around to listen to them (quite an expensive iPod!). I didn't copy this one to my hard drive.
I can sum up what I think of them very quickly. First of all I don't like rap, at least what rap has become since the Sugar Hill Gang made it popular. I don't mind a bit of it sprinkled when it adds value. Second, there's just way too much angst in their music for me. But here is the kicker. Why should I listen to them when there is a group that has taken the best parts of their sound, added some better talent and made much better music...Hoobastank. If you don't believe me, just listen to both albums back-to-back and tell me I'm wrong.
Thursday, May 27, 2004
As the weeks grew into months and then years, I started to grow weary. Not of the work, but of other things. The constant struggle to get the elders to understand our potential and use it. Taking the "next step" was like asking them to cut off their arms. We were (I was) "playing Church", we "gauged" each other by how busy we were.
Meanwhile, I was decaying from the inside. My personal relationship with my Lord was going in the wrong direction. Because of my "work", I went about 3 years without attending a Bible class. I was dying from the inside out. Something had to give...
I won't get into all of the things that made this last 12 months suck, because some of it is just too personal. However, much of what I'll talk about for atleast a time is what I have learned from this last year, what I might do differently going forward and how my life has changed.
Let's get started.
I have been a Christian for about 30 years. That means that I have grown up going to Church and believing a certain set of truths about life, death and my Lord. Just to get the mystery behind us, I have always attended a Church of Christ. I can't remember NOT going to a Church of Christ. I went to Church of Christ-based college and met my wife there. My grandparents were Christians and attended the Church of Christ, my mom does, my in-laws do...do you get the picture?
Up until about 3 months ago, I was a deacon at a Church of Christ that I have been attending for about 12 years. The reasons for which will become terribly apparent as this blog unfolds. Over the past few months, I have found myself "reviewing" (or maybe "inventorying") the things that I believe in and why. These are things that most "conventional" Church of Christ goers do not do very often (if at all). I want to write down much of what has been bouncing around my skull. It might get ugly, messy or...enlightening, who knows?