Thursday, January 31, 2008

church search

Yesterday I got home early from work and spent too much some time looking online for churches in our area that we could visit. Last Sunday struck home to me once again that--while I really like the pastor of the church we're attending, and the people are nice--this church is just not working for me or for our family. DH and I have talked about this on numerous occasions and just scratched our heads on what to do about it.

So...where was I? Oh yeah...the internet.

Well, after ruling out Catholic churches because we're not Catholic, Southern Baptist Churches because they can't seem to get past constantly harping about gender issues and I get annoyed by that, and very wacky charismatic churches, there's not much left to choose from. Nondenominational churches are a mixed bag. They can be very charismatic or KJV-only dogmatic. You never really know until you visit.

I sifted through the web for the few churches left that didn't fall into those categories and was depressed by what I found.

Here are a few things I came across that set off warning signs:

1. If the church's staff members all share the same last name, that's bad. A church run by one family is just asking for trouble.

2. If the What We Believe section is five pages long and has more detail than an electrical engineering book, that's bad. The need to place disputable matters alongside basic doctrines of Christianity indicates a rigid and closed perspective.

3. If the church has a page describing how it is a new work and explaining how other churches have lost their way and are gravely mistaken about how to do church, and how this church would never do that, that's bad. The church is likely the result of a split from another church and there will be a whole lot of baggage to work through.

4. If the Pastor's page lists all of his ministerial experiences, and you add it all up to discover he has been in 7 different churches in the span of 10 years, that's bad. Someone can't seem to keep a job or live in a stable way. Run for the hills on that one.

5. If the home page has an advertisement for So and So's worship CD's, who also happens to be married to one of the church leaders, that's bad. The church is not a place to hawk your son-in-law's products.

I finished my web search with a discouraged heart.

Surely somewhere in this community is a healthy, open church that we can be a part of and serve in. It couldn't be that hard to find one, could it?

heh.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No More Phone Calls; election talk

At long last the phone has stopped ringing--no more pleading for my vote from desperate politicians.

Sour-faced Mitt Romney was on the Today show whining that McCain had made over 10 million robo-calls. My jaw dropped to hear Romney's complaint. He, his wife, and about 100 of their closest friends have called us non-stop for two weeks, vying for our vote.

Yesterday, after work, I went to our voting precinct and made my selection--John McCain.

Why McCain?

Well, while philosophically Huckabee might be closer to my opinions, I felt that he really had nothing of substance to offer on the national level. He was probably a great governor, but seemed to have no thorough plan for anything. His ideas were always vague generalities that never communicated any specific visions for the war in Iraq, immigration, or foreign policy.

Romney...he just bugs me. His authenticity carries a huge question mark for me.

Giuliani....too focused on his glory days of 9/11 and the islamo-terrorist issue. He seemed like a one-trick pony.

Two of the areas in which I identify strongly with McCain are his stance against the use of water-boarding and torture, and his views on immigration. He seems to be the only Republican willing to stand up and say that any use of torture is wrong and not right for our country. He also seems to recognize that America's relationship with immigrants is not easily solved by deporting everyone to Mexico. Let's face it, if that happened our economy would crumble within months. It's unrealistic and naive.

So, McCain got my vote despite his stance on stem-cell research and the war in Iraq. I, personally, would love to see our troops home. McCain is committed to staying until we win...whatever that means. My vote was not determined by the War simply because, regardless of what any of the politicians say, we're going to be there for a while. Neither Clinton nor Obama are going to be sworn into office and be able to pull the troops out right away. It's impossible to do and would only create a bigger problem in the long run, so I don't buy the whole "elect me and I'll get them home ASAP" line. Life isn't that simple and things have a way of developing beyond the control of a single political leader's wishes.

The political pundits have posited that if Huckabee drops out Romney will get all of his social conservative votes. It's not going to happen. I think that, as a whole, the evangelical voter doesn't buy into the idea that electing someone with the same religious beliefs is going to lead to a better America, or success on the social issues that concern them. Many have voted for Huckabee because he is the candidate that evangelicals wanted 10 years ago, when they still believed the Republican Party was God's Party. Some still stubbornly believe that, but those numbers are dwindling in the face of Republican scandals and dissatisfaction with the War.

Now that it's all over, I'll be happy to answer the phone when it rings.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I've had to travel through bad neighborhoods before for my job. We perform at several at-risk schools throughout the year. Some are located in the middle of dilapidated housing projects, others are simply in old neighborhoods that have been abandoned by white flight. Today was the first time that I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of sadness for the kids we saw.

The school was not worse than others. The guidance counselor seemed compassionate. Yet....the kids had such an air of detachment and tiredness that I couldn't ignore it. Their eyes were dark, their faces glum. There was no playful chatter or overt friendliness with each other. They came in, sat down and looked forward, but they were a million miles away.

In between our two performances, we talked with the counselor and listened to her stories about having the school locked down, not because of the kids but because of the parents. Poverty, violence, drugs; they've taken their toll in this particular neighborhood. A local university had just done a research study in the area which showed that 85% of the adults in this neighborhood did not have a high school diploma. The school had 200 students that were held back for two years or more. That means 7 and 8 year-olds in kindergarten, 10 and 11 year-olds in second grade, 13 year-olds in fourth grade.

It's hard to wrap my mind around that.

My partner made a comment about not letting kids play video games, and the counselor quickly remarked that most of them didn't have video games; they were too poor for that. Most of their families struggled to pay the water bill consistently.

As I looked out over the faces of these bedraggled kids, imagining what life is like for them, I wanted to cry. Their problems are too big for an hour show about bullying and stereotyping. A few well-chosen words won't transform their lives or give them stability in their homes.

Lord, help me to remember those left behind.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

One Last Nail in the Coffin

heh.

Today was the Sunday that we help out in the children's ministry at the church we attend. We do that once a month to help fill in areas that have people missing. It's an easy way to contribute without requiring too much of us right now. We have been on the fence about delving more into ministry here as a result of our ambivalence about our place here.

For the past week or so I have been thinking that we should just grow where we're planted, and try to forge ahead to find/make a place for ourselves in this church, to strengthen our ties to it and begin to develop relationships. Now, I'm ready to chuck that idea out the window.

We have been here for over two years, mainly because this is where we landed after leaving a church that we dearly loved. We searched around, found this church to be a close fit theologically-speaking and settled in to lick our wounds. The wounds are just about cleared up, but my interest for this particular church has grown no stronger.

So, what's the problem? Is it me? Am I simply a whiner and complainer? I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not. It's hard to evaluate whether it's me, or the church, or simply the combination of the two.

I have come to realize that philosophically I have completely divergent views on what the purpose of a church is and how to achieve that purpose. I agree with almost all of the theology of this church. I have much in common with its members. There is no glaring spiritual issue pushing me out the door.....at least from a superficial perspective. So what's the deal?

Here's the deal:

All of the ministry choices and administration are dictated, perhaps subconsciously, by the size of this church. There is no Sunday School or Bible Study offered on Sunday mornings because the church is filled to capacity for the two services that are offered. People come for the service and then leave, making room for the next round. Instead, the church pushes cell groups, called Life Groups, as a way to build relationship and community within the church.

It sounds great, but it is completely incompatible with our lives. It involves finding child care for the kids and meeting in someone's home on a weeknight. We have no budget for childcare, and DH works into the evening, past the time that most groups meet.

Which brings me to another philosophical difference I have with this church. Everybody is separated. Sunday mornings, adults go into the main sanctuary, elementary students are in the old sanctuary, the youth has their own service, and the middle school does too. So everybody is separated into their own demographic and participates in a service geared specifically for them. Great, right? Not in my opinion.

What do we teach our children about the community of believers when they are never interacting with anybody other than their specific group? Families don't worship together. Other than Christmas Eve, our kids have rarely seen us sing and pray with the corporate body of the church. When the service is over we pick them up from their area, amidst a million other families, and go our merry way. I don't know the other children in my kids' classes, let alone their parents. After two years, isn't that pathetic? How can our children forge friendships with other Christian children if there is no time to get to know them? How can they see other families which share our same values in such an environment? They can't.

When people are baptized, the main sanctuary gets the feed showing it--it occurs outside in a baptismal fountain...remember, this is Florida where it's warm--but the kids, youth, etc. never see it. This is an important ceremony and is only celebrated by a partial congregation. It is a missed opportunity for the children. Instead of seeing people making life-changing decisions, they're doing business as usual.

Today we stayed for a church meeting which unveiled a plan for the church to go "multi-site". What that means is that, in another part of town, people would meet for church, watch a recorded DVD of the pastor's message, yet have their own worship band and "campus pastor".
The idea is to produce pretty much the same church, in a different location, through the use of technology.

We actually visited a church like this once. It was truly bizarre. The church went along as it normally would, except when it came time for the sermon. A white screen was then lowered down and we viewed a recording of the pastor at the main church campus speak. It was like being stuck in a theater watching a bad movie....and with no popcorn.

During the Q and A, I asked why the church was going in this direction instead of just starting an autonomous church plant as a sister/associated church. The pastor said it was a great question and proceeded to answer me with a not-so-great answer. Church plants fail 85% of the time. DH said later that a good follow-up question would have been to ask what percentage of "multi-site" campuses fail.

So why do I care?

I care because it shows that the church is committed to doing church in a very specific type of way. I excused a lot before simply because of the size of the church and the space constraints. Even though I knew it wasn't super-compatible with our family, I was willing to take what was offered because it was what it was. Now, it has become evident that, not only does this church run things this way because they have to, but because they prefer this model.

It's discouraging. I have never felt so out of touch with the way church is done. It seems to consistently rely upon convenience and technology instead of community and fellowship--the two things needed most by myself and many others.

Teaching I can get anywhere. Community....now that's something that is in short supply.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Is Januarty 29th Over Yet?

I am not exaggerating when I say that we have personally received about 50 phone calls from the various Republican candidates during this past week--Mitt, Rudy, John, and even Mike called to invite us to meetings or let us know about their plans for the U.S. and their unique qualifications for the presidency. The pitfalls of being a registered voter with a party affiliation are vast. Apparently, the Do Not Call directory doesn't apply to campaigning politicos.

So help me G--, if I have to hear Mitt Romney talk one more time about his role in the Olympics, I am personally going to throw a ski pole at his head. I watched the Salt Lake Olympics. Their opening show stunk!...some little girl ice-skating in a red jacket. Where were the flame-throwers a la Sydney's 2000 Olympics? hmm? Plus, how hard could it have been to get the Committee to Salt Lake. "Oh...you need snowy places and mountains for the winter events? Hey we've got some of that right here!" Now holding the Winter Olympics in Southern Texas..that would take skill.

And...everybody's arguing about how much they support Bush's past tax cuts. This is relevant to what I am looking for in a candidate how? I am supposed to vote based on tax cuts that were initiated before the Iraq war and the billions of dollars we are spending there? And where are we going to get the money for all that defense spending anyway? I guess from the fifth dimension in which tax cuts magically produce income to fund the government. What a wondrous dimension.

McCain seems to be cashing in on the past in a completely different way. His ads prominently feature photos of him in the seventies, playing off his boyish, handsome looks of yesteryear. The ads make no specific mention of his Vietnam service, but seem to have the subtext of, "I used to be a hunky, virile guy. Vote for me!"

Maybe that's why I am leaning toward him.....can't resist a man in uniform.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lord or Legend?--an interesting read

I just finished reading Lord Or Legend? Wrestling with the Jesus Dilemma, by Gregory Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy.

So...my thoughts?

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It is aimed at the relatively recent theory that Jesus never existed as an historic person, but instead is a compilation of 1st century myths. I first encountered this idea in the past year after reading The Jesus Puzzle ,by Earl Doherty, and responded with a couple of posts about it before abandoning my attempt in the face of daily life; something that happens frequently to me.

Right before Christmas I got into a conversation with Lifewish that meandered its way through about a million different ideas, some of which came to bear on the general reliability of the Gospels and the Bible as a whole. I had asked for this book by that time and was happy to receive it and reexamine some of the things that I had suspended because of a busy schedule.

I enjoyed the book and thought it did a fairly good job in addressing some of the more pertinent issues about the legendary Jesus theory. Very frequently, I wanted more detail than what was offered. There are copious amounts of end notes, which are great if you want to research some of the book's claims yourself. I might be interested in tracking down the more academic version of the book later. Boyd and Eddy had a more general purpose for this version. To quote from the book's intro:

...we have written this book for the interested layperson and have thus attempted to keep it as brief and as readable as possible without overly compromising the quality of the scholarship. If some readers desire to explore certain issues raised here in a more thorough manner, we encourage them to consult our more academic (and much longer!) co-authored book, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition.


I'll have to check the library, or Amazon for that.

Some of the arguments Boyd and Eddy make are more convincing than others, and some would be flatly rejected by true skeptics, but the overall scope of the book would definitely be an encouragement to believers who are questioning the basic historicity of the Gospels. It does require some familiarity with New Testament issues and scholars, so it might not be the perfect read for someone who is just dipping their toe in the waters of scholarly criticism. It would be a 201 level course, instead of a more introductory 101 level.

I hope to write about a few of the more interesting points the authors make over the next few weeks.....she says knowing she may never be able to get to it!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

taking a break

I am in a panic right now. I have a Birthday Party scheduled tomorrow that is attracting more kids--and therefore also their parents--than I had anticipated. The count is up to 13 kids. The total square footage of our house is 1238 feet. Yikes.

I have cleaned all day long....y'know, because it's important that total strangers think my house is always immaculate. Heaven forbid they find out I hate to dust and only mop when it's absolutely necessary.

I just had to take a break from harsh chemicals and party planning and surf around the blogosphere to chill out for a minute. I also needed to tie up the phone line so that Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and all their phone-o-matic goons would stop calling me to tell me that they "have an important message for me."

I'm going to vote for McCain purely out of reactive spite for receiving more than one call from them.

So there!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Withdrawal

In the comment section of one of my posts on inerrancy, a commenter defends keeping his kids out of the school system in response to my point about fear and withdrawing kids from public school.

First, I want to say that I have no problem with homeschooling. I have had many friends who have homeschooled and their kids have absolutely flourished. Some have done it because their children had special needs, some have done it because they wanted their kids to get a certain type of education, and others have done it because they just love being with their kids and enjoy teaching them. No worries.

My comment in Fear-Based Theology has more to do with a bunker mentality that can be preached in some circles about public schools and the world in general. I have actually heard a well-known evangelical make the case that if your kids are in public school, then you are putting them in a spiritually dangerous situation and possibly harming them. The Solution? Keep them at home, put them in private schools, do online education, anything other than throw them to the vicious lions of the public school system.

That's where I think Christians can go wrong. We see a degraded culture all around us and are fed a steady diet of end-of-the-world scenarios, sweeping generalizations, and "news" sites that twist the truth into sensationalistic nonsense. So, we react by withdrawing from the world around us. We justify it with biblical concepts such as being "strangers in a strange land" and "being in the world and not of it". It sounds like the right thing to do, so therefore it must be the right thing.

I don't think it is and here's why:

In America, Christians can go to any church they want, buy their books from Christian bookstores, listen to Christian radio in their cars, homeschool their kids or send them to a Christian school, make them participate in Awana programs or RA/GA programs instead of the Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, get their coffee at Christian Cafes....and on and on the list goes. We unknowingly--or perhaps quite knowingly--insulate ourselves from every point of contact with the world and people who don't believe exactly the same way that we do.

When we withdraw ourselves from the larger community, we abandon our calling to be salt and light. Instead of giving of ourselves to the larger community of children and teachers, we disappear, leaving a gaping hole where we used to be. Suddenly, there are fewer parents to help out on field trips, help tutor in the classroom and contribute to the overall health of the school community.

If we want schools to be better, then we have to make them better; not by pushing our agenda on the school board, but by making personal contacts with teachers and students, helping in any way we can. Engaged, involved parents can make a difference, not just in their child's education, but in the educational system overall.

Withdrawing from the public square can also deprive us, and our children, from opportunities for our own spiritual growth. We become near-sighted when the only people we bump up against are those who think like us. This gift we possess seems less important when we aren't seeing what life is like without it. Not only that, but our usefulness is limited in a closed environment. Preaching to the choir, gathering consensus for the views we all share, or bickering over the non-essentials we don't, wastes our time and energy. We expend ourselves on ourselves instead of on others.

That being said....I have no problem with those who choose to homeschool, or the concept of homeschooling. Use it when necessary.

However, let's not use fear to push Christians out of public schools. We're needed there. Our kids are needed there. Christian teachers are needed there. The church is salty enough. It's tiem to get out of the shaker and be put to use.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Monkey!



Six years ago I went to the hospital for a scheduled C-section and came home with you!
I remember lying on the operating table, drugs keeping from feeling any pain, as the doctor quickly opened me, delivered you and sewed me back up again in about 10 minutes flat. When they set you next to me in a little bassinet, you had already been cleaned and swaddled up in one of those ubiquitous, pastel-striped, hospital baby blankets. You wriggled and squirmed, grunting little baby grunts, while your father teared up--'cause he can be a softie sometimes.
I didn't cry, but I was happy to see you after all that time inside me. Maybe it was your own happy spirit wearing off on me. Just like this morning when I asked you how your birthday pancakes were, and instead of answering me, you looked at me, smiled and gave me a "thumbs-up".
You've grown into a joyful, smart, child that can surprise me with incredible insights at the most bizarre moments, like just last night. There we were eating tacos and talking about birthdays, which of course leads to the question about how old God is--naturally what every six-year-old is thinking about, right?
Your brother said God was at least a trillion years old, and that Jesus was only 2008 years old, and out you come with: "No....God is infinity. Think of the highest number you can think of and keep adding one more."
Yes...God is infinity, little one.
And so is my love for you!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fear-Based Theology

thinking more about the inerrancy thing..

One of the ideas that fuels a fundamentalist view of inerrancy is the fear of what will happen if people don't believe in inerrancy. If people don't believe the Bible is perfect in every way and circumstance, then what will hold the Christian faith together? How will we cling to Jesus if everything we know about Him comes from a tainted book? Won't people begin to slowly peel away all the theology we have, all the while reminding us that the Bible is not inerrant?

It's true. That can happen. First one doctrine is questioned and then another, and another, until what's left doesn't bear much resemblance to Christianity as it has been practiced for thousands of years. We're left with a bland pile of goo that really isn't good for anything.

It is false to say that not believing in inerrancy is equivalent to saying that the Bible is tainted or unreliable. A document can be completely truthful while having some errors in it. Reading an inventory for a regiment during the Civil War, and discovering that they claimed to have more artillery than they really did, in no way disproves that the regiment existed, fought in battle, and sustained casualties. It just means someone wrote down the wrong number or miscounted. W would consider it ridiculous for someone to base a conspiracy theory about the falsification of the Civil War on such a minor type of error. Yet, that is exactly how we treat Scripture. Fearing that those who don't affirm Christianity will use such types of errors to defame our faith, we come up with ways to protect it.

I understand the desire to cement what we believe into a perfectly preserved specimen, immovable and indestructible. It provides a comforting level of security to be able to say; "I don't understand it, but I believe it because I'm supposed to."

However, the solution is not to arbitrarily declare theological truth out of a fear of what might happen if we don't formulate a pre-emptive doctrine. That's horrible methodology for theology and for life in general.

That sort of thinking is what makes Christian parents pull their kids out of school and keep them at home--a fear about what could happen in the public system dictates the choice, not a confidence or faith in God's ability to move in the lives of our kids and their classmates and teachers. It leads Christians to push for abstinence-only sex education even in the face of evidence that it doesn't work. The fear of what teenagers might do if they know too much about sex trumps the knowledge that telling kids not to have sex, and giving them very valid reasons for why they shouldn't have sex, will not really stop many of them from doing it anyway.

But, we're afraid. We're afraid that if we don't perfectly control the way things are said and interpreted, be it about the inerrancy of Scripture or the social lives of our children, then everything will fall part and disaster will befall us all. So we construct rules, paradigms, and explanations to hide behind and give us reasons for our actions. We judge those who don't affirm those same paradigms and explanations very harshly because of their dangerous thinking, once again inciting the spectre of fearful consequences in place of thoughtful discussion.

I used to feel guilty about everything, not overwhelmingly so, but just enough that I would feel a pang of "ooh...should I have said/thought/done that?" over relatively minor things. I used to think that was the Holy Spirit telling me where I'd gone wrong, and it surely was sometimes. One day I realized that it was fear frequently poking at me--fear that I was less than what I should be, fear that I was disappointing to God, fear that if I didn't perfectly follow through in every way that I'd be just scraping by as far as God was concerned. I know from experience that many Christians feel that way.

But we don't need to.

1 John 4:15-16a and 18

"If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in hi and he in God. And so we rely on the love God has for us.."

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

If we have faith in Jesus, then we are accepted by God. Constantly fearing His punishment and disapproval is an indicator that our faith needs some perfecting. Constantly fearing what will will happen if we don't do A, B, or C, as far as fighting in culture wars or developing theology, is another indicator that we're focused on controlling ourselves and those around us rather than transforming ourselves and those around us.

The point of the Gospels is not to create a checklist that we can keep to make us holy and acceptable in God's eyes, and to make us falsely secure in our right thinking. The point is to know we have been released from such checklists and welcomed into God's kingdom.

The transformation comes from the inside out, not from the outward constraints inward.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Inerrancy

Check out Internetmonk for a great article that captures the essence of the inerrancy argument and many others.

For starters..read the wiki article on inerrancy and the Chicago statement of inerrancy about it.

I have slowly moved away from a strict belief in the inerrancy of The Bible. It almost pains me to say that because it feels like betrayal to my faith of the not so distant past. It shouldn't, but it does.

To say that I don't believe in inerrancy is not to say that I don't believe the Bible. It doesn't mean I think the biblical stories are legends. It doesn't mean I think that everything in the Bible is figurative, outdated, or irrelevant.

It does mean that I won't go to gymnastic lengths to justify every word I read against every other word I read in my Bible. It means that I recognize that God spoke to people then as He speaks to people now. He uses their personalities, their talents, and their situations to express His truth.

So, when I read the Council in Jerusalem tell the Gentiles to whom Paul was ministering "You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols..."Acts 15:29..and then later read Paul write: "So then about eating food sacrificed to idols: we know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one", in 1 Corinthians 8:4,--where he goes on to say that eating food sacrificed to an idol is not really sin, but should be avoided for other people's sakes--I don't have to try and come up with some obtuse explanation about how both are in Scripture and simultaneously inerrant truth. I can say that the Council was made up of Jews who were already revolutionizing their worldviews, and had made sweeping changes for the Gentiles in the first place. Their stance was still a bit of a hold-over from their previous commitment to the Law, but a vast improvement over requiring Gentiles to be circumcised and keep all the Mosaic statutes.

It is not earth-shattering to my faith. It doesn't require a constant use of the word paradox, yet I can still affirm that Scripture is truthful.

Of course, coming to this view is a little frightening because of the greater faith that it requires. Declaring inerrancy is not really proclaiming faith. Instead, the concept exists solely to create a safety net of false certainty in a believer. And..it works! Most of the time, that is. Minor problems can be swept away by a quick recitation of the mantra. However, it can actually keep people from deepening a true reliance and faith on Jesus. Instead of actively listening to Him, we can just open our handy-dandy "Instruction Book" or "Love Letter" or "Guide Book" and figure it all out for ourselves.

Maybe that's a little strong for how I feel. Scripture most definitely expresses love and instruction and guidance, but when we try and make it something that it was never meant to be, we do more harm than good.

If we can't say that the Bible is inerrant, then we say God is a liar...or so say some people. It is a false dilemma. God never describes Scripture as inerrant in the sense that most people refer to it. The words God-breathed and Inspired are used, but those terms are vastly different than a strict view that everything in the Canon is perfectly recorded.

Here's the thing: do people believe in Jesus because they have accepted the inerrancy of the Bible? Obviously, if they believe in inerrancy it might make it easier, but if someone is unchurched and has no basis to even know about Jesus, how do they come to faith? Through revelation from God. We can parse all of our verbs, but really it is the transformative truth of Jesus that brings an individual to faith. That truth can come through Scripture, from a discussion with a believer, from a vision a la Saul on the Road to Damascus.

enough for now.

Music Stream of Consciousness

I'm making dinner--just mac and cheese tonight--and listening to a Fernando Ortega CD. Normally he's a little mellow for my taste, but this particular CD has several hymns on it that I love!

Be Thou My Vision has to be one of the hymns I came across later in my life that just always gets me...could be my Irish heritage...the use of thou and naught ...or maybe just the urge to kick it old school style, but it's one of my favorites.

This past Sunday we actually sang one of my other favorites during our worship time; Great Is Thy Faithfulness. It wasn't quite the same with a slow, electric guitar and keyboards, instead of the grand piano, but you take what you can get in a contemporary service sometimes.

I started mentally compiling a list of hymns I actually like and miss singing:

Be Thou My Vision
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Holy, Holy, Holy
It Is Well With My Soul
Immortal, Invisible
All Creatures of Our God and King
Fairest Lord Jesus
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

That's all I could think of off the top of my head.

As I listened, I contemplated the roles of music in the church, remembering all those Baptist arguments that older people in the church would make against the use of modern worship and praise. Every once in a while I bump into a site, or person, that is still interested in fighting over what style of music is honoring to God and appropriate for church. I scratch my head and think, "Are we still arguing about this?"

Every hymn was new once upon a time. Every style of music was once considered strange and bizarre. Gregorian chant isn't going to make its way back into every day church life. But, I get it sometimes. When I enter church and the youth band is alt rockin' it out at a million decibels, I have a hard time feeling very worshipful. I guess that's just the way it is. You get older and start sounding like people you used to scoff at. heh.

Is worship music corny sometimes? yes. Is it mediocre sometimes? yes. But to those singing it is an expression of their heart however corny and mediocre it can be.

and speaking of mediocre

Occasionally, we will have dancers in the service--usually only for some special song or dramatic skit or something. It probably only happens about 2 or 3 times a year. I am not opposed to it in principle, but came up against some objections during our Christmas Eve service. There were four young teen girls dancing rather dramatically--except, they weren't very good. It was obvious two of them had actual dance experience, but one dancer in particular was completely lost and missing steps and just generally botching up her moves.

I felt bad for noticing...but it was hard not to notice.

I thought,"Wow...they should have held her out until she had practiced more." I caught myself and felt bad. After all, this was church, not American Idol. I wondered what I would have done if I had been the worship leader. Would I have called a young girl over and told her she wasn't very good, thereby completely crushing her....or would I grin and bear it and hope she pulled it out at the last minute?

Hmmm. That would be a choice I wouldn't want to make.

My next thought was that perhaps dancing just shouldn't be used simply because it is so visual that poorly executed dancing is far more noticeable than poorly executed singing. Both can be distracting, but the former is much more cringe-worthy. It requires a certain level of precision to be done well; precision that most local churches don't possess.

Is that too snarky?

Weird Things I Notice

A few weeks ago, while the kids and DH were away for a couple of days, I did some painting and
"redecorating". I had decided to get rid of the fancy, shiny, goldish comforter with accompanying shams and dust ruffle. It was too much, difficult to wash, and was getting snagged by the dog's claws.

Instead, I decided to buy a nice, fluffy, cream blanket that would be easy to wash and would be less expensive to replace if the dog happened to ruin it somehow. I kept the gold dust ruffle, brought in a greenish throw for the bottom of the bed, and spent two hours in Target trying to decide which decorative pillows would work with the color scheme I had in mind.

Yes...very important...I know.

I got home put it all together and was pleased with the result. It was casual, coordinated and spa-like--in my mind anyway. It was only after I had bathed the dog, and let her jump up onto the bed, that I realized what I had done.

I had decorated my bed to look like the dog. Snuggled up to the pillows, I realized my whole color scheme matched her color scheme! Golds, browns, even the cream blanket matched the white stripe on her nose and the patch on her chest!




So...do I love the dog so much that I subconsciously wanted the room to match her? Or....did we I pick her out from the other dogs in the shelter because of my natural preference and attraction to earthy, neutral colors?

Hmmmmmmm?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Toy

Yay!
We finally got our new digital camera. Our old one, a Canon PowerShot A80 was killed off by our children in a two step process. Intuitive Monkey accidentally knocked it off the counter one day, causing the camera to crack along the seam where the batteries were held. Carefully applied tape held it together, applying just enough pressure for the batteries to make contact thereby allowing the camera to actually work. The second step in the camera's untimely demise was executed by a very "helpful" Rationalist who decided to do us a favor by changing out the rechargeable batteries without asking if he should or could. When the cover didn't open quite right, he figured he just needed more force to pry it open. Bye-bye little PowerShot.
Sigh.
That was right before Christmas, which meant we had to rely on an old 35 millimeter that used actual film. Gasp! Yes, they still make that stuff! I was happy to use that old camera because once we made the switch to digital I took a ton more pictures, but few of them have been printed out. So, the the computer has an endless stream of pictures, but the photo albums abruptly end at Christmas 2003.

Ahhh....but now we are firmly back in the 21st century with our replacement--a Canon PowerShot A570. I only got to use it for a few minutes yesterday and it follows the same pattern as the old camera, but seems to have decreased the wait time between the pressing of the button and the taking of the picture...one of the more annoying aspects of digital photography.
Here's a pic I lifted from some site...'cuz it's hard to take a picture of a camera with that same camera without breaking the laws of physics. Hopefully Canon won't mind. It's free advertising....right?


So far it seems great; better resolution, more features, lighter and slightly smaller than the A80.
I'll have to post some pics later!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Blogging Blahs

Inigo DeLeon "The cure for writer's cramp is writer's block."

To Blog......or Not To Blog, that is the question.

There are a million ideas I have that I'd like to write about, so it's not for lack of subjects that I have abandoned my blog to the mundane. Quite simply, I am wondering about whether my blog has any viable purpose for me right now. When I delve into things more deeply, I enjoy it, but it also makes me a little obsessive. I check to see if anyone has commented. I think about what I wrote and wish I had said it better. I ponder things while driving around and doing errands. All this over my little square of cyberspace.

Commenting on other blogs does the same thing. I check back to see if anyone has replied,then reply to their reply. Back and forth it goes and all of a sudden I've "wasted" a good chunk of time.

I don't always see it as a waste. I've had a number of good conversations. The question is, in the long run, is blogging beneficial to me as a person, and to the few brave souls who weather through my mundane posts with me?

Who knows?

So...I might blog more. I might not. I might revamp my blog or start a completely new one that has more focus. I might wake up one day and delete the whole thing. Probably not, there are too many anecdotes and pics of my kids for me to jettison them into the nether regions.

Either way I'm in the process of figuring it out.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Michael Crichton Is A Hack

I read Next, a Michael Crichton book I actually asked for around Christmas time.

I don't know what had come over me; spontaneous loss of reason, forgetfulness, or maybe just plain ignorance. I'll have to let DH know that if, for some reason, "Michael Crichton" , "purchase", or "read" ever flow from my lips in the same sentence to seek psychiatric help for me.

Seriously.

I read hundreds of pages and was subjected to flat, one-dimensional characters, gratuitous sexual references that included pedophilia, extra-marital affairs, frigid women and generally base behavior that really had absolutely zero to do with the advancement of plot. Numerous story lines and subplots were used to try and illustrate Crichton's points, but several were left as loose strings never to be sewn up.

I should thank him. Tying them all up would have meant I had to read more.

I should have stopped reading after the first 100 pages, but I have this bad habit of hoping a book will get better when it gets off to a shaky start. You'd think that, by now, I would have learned that such hopes are seldom fulfilled.

Pulp fiction has its place. Not every story must be profound and life-changing, but it should at least have some semblance of depth to the character to be more than a cheap book you read on vacation and completely forget two weeks later.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Quote

"About the time we think we can make ends meet, somebody moves the ends."

--Herbert Hoover