Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Worship Wednesday: He be jammin'!

(Note:  For those of you who may have stumbled across this entry, I'm part of a Church of Christ that has recently added an instrumental service.  There are a lot of very strong opinions about this subject.  This blog entry isn't meant to add to that debate; rather, it's to describe the reaction to one person's worship experience.  If people want to debate the instrumental music topic, there are other, better places to do so than here.)

Sunday, our church had its first regular instrumental service.  It was Easter, an appropriate day to add a new service.  We had over 600 people attend that service; we ran out of communion elements, and some people couldn't see.

Frank and I were not two of the 600 people.  I went to a worship night we had at church before we started the instrumental service, and it was LOUD.  Frank also has chronic ringing of the ears, and at a certain point, he becomes unable to hear.  So we elected not to stay.  Our non-instrumental service is at 8:45, Bible classes are at 10 a.m., and the instrumental service is at 11 a.m.

Matthew, however, decided he wanted to.  The instrumental service takes place in the youth center, so he was already there, front row center.  I asked Matthew if he wanted to stay; he said yes, so Frank and I went up the street, had lunch, and then came back to the building.

I caught the end of the service . . . and there, on the front row, in the middle, stood my son, jamming away on air guitar!

I asked Matthew if he had a good time and he said yes.  The main thrust of his conversation was about the lights.  Our youth center was renovated to put in a new sound/light system.  Matthew is comparing the youth center to a game show set, with all its lights and sounds.  (The youth center is not quite that elaborate.)

Tuesday, before my ladies' group got started, we talked about the service, and I mentioned that Matthew was playing air guitar . . . and one of the other women there said, "We are still talking about that in my family."  She went on to explain that they admired Matthew's uninhibited worship.

To be honest, I don't think Matthew was worshiping as much as he was just plain having fun playing air guitar.  Although, I will be the first person to say that he may understand more than I give him credit for.

But what is it with us that we fear just "throwing ourselves open", in a sense, when we do worship God?  Why do we feel that we have to be so formal with Him, with our "thees" and "thous"?  I know that we're commanded to do things in "decency and order" . . . but I don't think that means to worship God only with head bowed, eyes closed, sitting up straight in a church pew.

I once heard worship being described as "three cheers for God".  When a crowd cheers at a football game, you KNOW it.  It is loud and uninhibited.  You don't have to guess which side a fan is on.  You will either figure it out or they will let you know.

One doesn't have to have instruments to be uninhibited in worship, either.  I have seen uninhibited worship without instruments as well.  Worship can be uninhibited with instruments or without, in silence or with voices, in a whisper or in a shout.  I don't doubt that when the Israelites sang the Psalms, they didn't just say, "Hallelujah," in an "inside voice" (like we tell our kids, "use your inside voices, please!")  "Hallelujah" is just not a word you whisper.  Neither is "hosanna," used when Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem.  That is a word you shout, just like you shout, "We're number one!"

If a kid jamming away on air guitar during church singing helps even one person to be uninhibited in worship--if it helps even one person to hold nothing back, but to cry out in a "Hallelujah!" or "Hosanna!"--well, then . . . jam away!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Manic Monday: 1828 revisited!

The candidate had had it!

His opponent had committed the unpardonable sin:  insulting the man's wife.

Ted Cruz?

Donald Trump?


Andrew Jackson.

The presidential election of 2016 has sunk to lows not seen since the election of 1828, when Andrew Jackson's wife Rachel was subject to repeated attacks on her character.

It wasn't the first time, unfortunately, that Rachel had been attacked.  She and Andrew were married--so they claimed--in 1791, after they received word of Rachel's divorce from her previous husband. However, records show that Rachel's first husband didn't even file for divorce until 1792, and the divorce was granted in 1793 on grounds of her desertion.  Rachel's side of the story was that he'd kicked her out of the house, and she never realized that her divorce hadn't been legally granted until 1794.

To make their union legal, Rachel and Andrew married or remarried in 1794. Over the course of their relationship, Andrew came to Rachel's defense many times--including fighting a duel in 1806, where Andrew's opponent wounded him before Andrew shot and killed him.

When Jackson ran for president against John Quincy Adams in 1828, Adams' campaign asked the question: "Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband to be placed in the highest offices of this free and Christian land?"

Apparently, the voters thought so, because they elected Andrew Jackson to the presidency.

Rachel did not live to occupy the White House. She died of a heart attack before the inauguration. Andrew always maintained that Rachel died of a broken heart.

 This past week, Donald Trump took yet another handful of mud and slung it onto the character of Heidi Cruz, Ted Cruz' wife. Trump tweeted a less-than-flattering picture of Heidi next to a more-than-flattering picture of his own wife, threatening to "spill the beans" on Heidi.

Cruz fired back with the order to "leave Heidi the hell alone".

Not to be outdone, the National Enquirer then published a report accusing Cruz of sexual dalliances with no fewer than five--count 'em, five--women. At last report, Cruz has flatly denied it, and there's some question as to whether or not Donald Trump planted that story. The publisher of the Enquirer is a friend of Trump's.

Apparently, as far as running for President is concerned, the more things change, the more things stay the same.

Someone needs to distribute soap, shampoo, and towels to every American so they can wash the mud that's been slung so far in this election.

And then every American over the age of one needs to be issued a Hazmat outfit, because it's going to get worse before it gets better.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Death, rendered defeated . . .

Today is Easter.  As part of our Easter services, one of the songs we sang was "Forever (We Sing Hallelujah)."  It wasn't a song I wasn't familiar with, and after hearing it, I loved it.  

One of the lines has stuck with me:  "Now death, where is your sting?/Our resurrected King/Has rendered you defeated."

"Our resurrected king has rendered you defeated."

That sounds like a classic British understatement:  "Our resurrected king has rendered you defeated," said very calmly while dressed in an army uniform.

Or like a line in a formal demand for surrender:  "Our resurrected king has rendered you defeated."

Or like Tyler Perry's Medea, looking down her nose and snorting,"Oh, please!  Our resurrected king has rendered you defeated."

The word "render," in this context, means "cause to be or become, make."

Death has been made defeated, caused to be defeated, become defeated.  Today is the day when we celebrate the defeat of death, by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  

If you want a more in-your-face way to say it:

In other words, death, you are down for the count.
You are lying flat on your back, on the canvas, the referee has counted to nine, and he's raising his arm and opening his mouth to say, "Ten!"
The fat lady has finished her warm-up and has strutted out onto the stage to do her solo.
The response to your demand for surrender has been met with, "Nuts!"
Death, you are outta here!

Forever He is glorified
Forever He is lifted high
Forever He is risen
He is alive
He is alive!

He is risen.
He is risen indeed.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Worship Wednesday: The stuff we argue over . . .

I recently joined a Facebook group of Church of Christ bloggers.  One of the first posts I read was about Christians drinking wine.  The blogger believes Christians shouldn't drink wine at all.

I can respect his viewpoint.  I don't drink wine, beer, etc, because I don't know how much it would take for me to get drunk, and I'd rather not take the chance.

But on the group, the discussion quickly turned to, "Well, Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana."  From there, the question became:  "Was the wine alcoholic, or non-alcoholic?"

I've heard this argument before, which, as I see it, boils down to:  Drinking wine is a sin because you might get drunk on the alcohol content.  Yet, Jesus turned water into wine.  Jesus wouldn't sin, nor would he tempt anyone to sin.  If drinking wine is a sin because you might get drunk on the alcohol . . . then the wine that Jesus created must not have alcohol.  Problem solved!

However, wine is inherently alcoholic.  There is no such thing as "non-alcoholic" wine.

I'm not sure if the post is still on the group, but at last count, the number of responses to it was over 100.

I really don't feel like going down the rabbit hole of the argument of "was the wine in Jesus' day alcoholic or non-alcoholic".

Nor do I feel like going down the rabbit hole of the common arguments of Churches of Christ, such as instruments in worship, the "five acts of worship", etc. etc. etc. etc.  That's not the point of this post.

I just find it interesting that we can get so wound up over topics such as the alcohol content of the wine in Jesus' day, on whether or not we can use instruments in worship, on specifically what we can and can't do in worship . . . and in the meantime, we look at the world and see that it's lost and dying, that people starve daily, both physically and spiritually; that people are almost literally at each other's throats over this election; that people are fleeing death and persecution . . .

And we sit here, in our Christian bubbles, pointing fingers and arguing about what I see as inconsequentials.  (And when I say "we", I also mean "I".  I'm probably one of the most "bubbled-in" Christians that I know.)

I honestly think that if the worst happened and we Christians were forced to meet in secret, we Church of Christers would spend so much time arguing about the "authorized" way to worship that we would end up not worshiping at all!

If you feel led to comment here, I don't want to hear the arguments about how to worship, about wine vs. grape juice, about instrumental music, etc. etc.  Can we not focus on what Jesus' first and second commands were, which are, "Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself"?

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

At peace, or just resigned?

It's happened again.  As I type this, I have CNN on, and they are reporting yet another terrorist attack. This time, it's in Brussels, Belgium.  Bomb blasts at their airport and at a subway station have killed 26 people, injured many, and I fear the death toll will rise.

One of the first thoughts I had was a Bible verse, Isaiah 7:4, "Be careful, keep calm, and don't be afraid."

But I wonder, is it easy for me to say this because I'm at peace, because I know "God is in control," and that He has a greater plan and I can trust Him?

Or is it because I'm just resigned to the fact that we live in a world that such things happen?

There's a difference between resignation and peace, and I think I'm more resigned to what is happening than at peace with it.  I can't seem to bring myself to care (although I'm horrified at this attack, and I feel for the people who are hurt and for the many more who have good reason to be scared.)

Peace, at least in my mind, brings an assurance that God is in charge, that He will take care of me, that He will give me what I need as I need it.  Resignation, in my mind, brings thoughts like, "it's happened again and there's nothing I can do about it, so why try to do anything?"

I don't want to be resigned to the fact of evil.  I want to fight evil, and I want to trust God.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Manic Monday: Having a hard time caring lately . . .

Political commentator Erick Erickson's latest book is, "You Will Be Made To Care," which is about the rise of the militant left and how you will be "made to care" about their "agenda".

I get his point, but right now, I am having a very hard time caring or being made to care.

Governor Nathan Deal has a religious freedom bill on his desk.  No matter whether he signs it or vetoes it, someone's going to be mad at him.  And right now, I can't really care one way or the other whether he signs it or not.

The presidential race, at the moment, will probably come down to either a brokered Republican convention and/or Trump vs. Clinton, with Clinton a probable winner.  I can't care about that, either.

It could be because I'm just weighted down with the cares and concerns of everyday life.  But I just don't have the mental or emotional energy to go through the pros and cons of every.single.argument. that is out there about why I should support/oppose certain issues, why I should vote for/vote against a particular candidate, why I should contribute to a candidate's war chest, etc.

Maybe this is by design; that the media think that if they overload us with too much information, we won't care, we will become apathetic, and we'll end up voting for the candidate they want (which I believe is Hillary Clinton.)  Or we'll end up not voting at all.

Sorry, Erick, but right now, I'm having a rough time caring.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Are we ripe for another Arthur Bremer?

He took a gun to a campaign rally, and when the time was right, he pointed it at his intended victim and fired.  As a result, the victim, presidential candidate George Wallace, spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

The date was May 15, 1972; the place was Laurel, Maryland; and the shooter's name was Arthur Bremer.  Bremer was 21 years old when he shot George Wallace.  He spent over 35 years in prison before being paroled in 2007.

Bremer began a diary in 1972 in which he wrote about his plans to assassinate either Richard Nixon or George Wallace.  Why?  He wanted "to do SOMETHING BOLD AND DRAMATIC, FORCEFUL & DYNAMIC, A STATEMENT of my manhood for the world to see."  Later, he would write, "I'm as important as the start of WWI.  I just need the little opening and a second of time."

In other words, he wanted to be important, not unlike Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold nearly 30 years later, or not unlike John Hinkley, the man who shot President Reagan.

I was eight years old in May of 1972, and I remember when this happened.  Since then, I've seen many times the video clip of George Wallace being shot, falling to the ground, with blood staining his shirt; his wife Cornelia throwing herself on him.

After last's night disturbance in Chicago which resulted in the cancellation of a Donald Trump campaign rally, I think we are ripe for another Arthur Bremer.

Who remembers 1972?  We were still in Vietnam, although we were beginning the process of leaving.  One month after George Wallace's shooting, five men would re-tape a door at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. and begin the downfall of a President.

Just four years earlier, 1968, Chicago's Democratic convention had been convulsed in violence that spilled out into the streets, with demonstrators chanting, "The whole world is watching!"  (The next year, Robert Lamm of the rock group Chicago would borrow that audio clip and use it on their debut album.)

Sound familiar?

I've previously referred to the Republican race as a food fight worthy of "Animal House".  These days, I watch the Republican debates for the entertainment value and the chance to throw virtual rotten food at the TV set.

But last night, in Chicago, things ceased being funny.

If, indeed, the whole world was watching in 1968 when demonstrators marched in the streets of Chicago, that's even more true now in 2016.  In 1968, there was no CNN, and Fox referred to the name of a movie-making company, not a news channel.  And people used the word "net" to refer to catching fish or butterflies, not as shorthand for "Internet".

Last night, in Chicago, I saw conditions that were ripe for the making of another Arthur Bremer.

When you have a dissatisfied electorate that has been battered by fears of terrorist attack and nearly eight years of economic malaise and uncertainty, combined with clashes between police and civilians, with the addition of mass shootings that are so common that people are numb to them . . . you have the makings of a situation that appeals to an Arthur Bremer.

Bremer was obviously mentally ill when he shot George Wallace.  But he also wanted to do something "bold and dynamic", and somewhere in that deranged mind of his, he decided that the way to do it was to shoot a presidential candidate.

In this age of YouTube and selfies and 24-hour news coverage which is fueled by violence and which magnifies every injustice, both real and perceived, what's to stop someone from pointing a gun at a presidential candidate for those very same reasons--to do something "bold and dynamic"?  Or, to think that THEY are the only ones that can put a stop to Donald Trump's increasingly shrill appeals to an angry electorate?  Or, to put a stop to the campaigns of Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Marco Rubio, or John Kasich for similar reasons?

Donald Trump is right about one thing:  people are angry.

Just as I was writing this, I saw a news blurb quoting President Obama as saying that the GOP provided the conditions for Donald Trump's success.  Opinions are going to vary as to who is ultimately responsible for the angry American electorate.  I will say, that although Donald Trump isn't personally responsible for this current wave of anger in the country, he's not doing very much to keep it in check.  In fact, he's doing everything he can to fuel the fire!

I fear that this angry American electorate is just the right soil to grow up another Arthur Bremer, who one day will point a gun at a candidate and fire.  I pray to God that that does not happen.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Manic Monday: The Confederate battle flag, from a Southern white woman's POV . . .

I am a white woman.  I was born in southern Kentucky.  Kentucky, during the Civil War, was a border state.

One of my great-grandfathers was named after Robert E. Lee.  (I've done some pretty extensive genealogical research, and I can't find evidence of any of my ancestors being slaveowners.)

I moved to Florida at the age of four, and I was raised there.  A huge controversy rose in 1971 about the usage of the Confederate battle flag at Dixie Hollins High School in Pinellas County, Florida, where I lived.  That was the same year court-ordered busing for racial integration began.  At least one of my friends transferred to a private Christian school that year.  Several years later, I attended a school in a black neighborhood.  I was bused there due to that same court-ordered busing.

I went to college at FSU.  The Florida Panhandle is still, culturally, more of "the South" than St. Petersburg, FL.  The Kappa Alpha fraternity would hold an annual celebration of "secession" with girls in hoop skirts and boys dressed as "Southern gentlemen".

I spent seven years in Miami, which is both a melting pot and a hotbed of racial and cultural conflict.

Now, I live in the Atlanta area, where the name of William T. Sherman is still taken in vain.

I say all that to say this:

I am opposed to the Confederate battle flag.

I do believe it should be in a museum on display, where people can know what it is and understand its history.  (I believe the same about the Nazi swastika--people need to know what it is and what its significance was and is.)

But I don't believe it should be on display, as it has been in South Carolina; nor do I believe that the previous Georgia state flag--which contained the Confederate battle flag--be reinstated.

Why?  Because no matter how many times people insist that the Confederate battle flag is "heritage, not hate", I'm drawn back to these lines from Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens, made in a speech in Savannah, GA on March 21, 1861:

"The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. [Thomas] Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away... Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it—when the "storm came and the wind blew, it fell."
Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. (Emphasis mine, TAS.)
. . . look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgement of the truths upon which our system rests? It is the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature's laws."
The above excerpt is part of what is considered the Cornerstone Speech, also known as the Cornerstone Address, given as an extemporaneous speech.  (I cut and pasted the excerpt from the Wikipedia article on the Cornerstone Speech.  A discussion about the speech can also be found here, at the blog Big Think.)

The Big Think article contends that Stephens' attitude towards African-Americans was more "paternalistic".  Perhaps "paternalistic" can be defined as an attitude of, "we must take care of you because you are inferior."

That (minus the attitude of inferiority) is the attitude I have towards my son.  I do need to care for him . . . but don't I also need to teach him to care for himself?

I'm sorry, but when you put in a sentence like, "the negro is inferior to the white man" . . . THAT is what I hear and what I see when I see the Confederate battle flag.

And saying that a group of people is "inferior" is condescending, patronizing, and hateful.

And that is why the Confederate battle flag needs to be confined to museums and history books.

I admit that, as a Southern white woman, there is no way I can ever "get" a history of slavery or a history of systemic, legalized discrimination.  I don't know what it's like to be afraid that you could be lynched just for looking at someone the wrong way.  And I fear that I can be patronizing and condescending towards others who I may see as "inferior".  Right now, other than doing what John Howard Griffin (author of Black Like Me) did -- dyeing my skin and living as an African-American -- I don't know how to crawl into the skin of African-Americans and truly understand what many of them deal with on a day to day basis.

The Bible does say, in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (New International Version)  There is no such thing as "inferiority". 

So please, do not give me the line of "heritage, not hate" when you refer to the Confederate battle flag.  Too many people see hate and inferiority when they look at that flag.

Including me, a Southern white woman.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.