Current Entertainment Sunday, Jul 15 2012 

Currently reading: Reading and re-reading my own fanfiction I’m working on; occasionally reading another fanfiction. I’m reading less of the others now than I was before I started writing mine and as I was starting it, because I realized there was the risk my story would be influenced by them and I wanted to stick very closely with canon (Thor and The Avengers in this case). Most recently read actual book was Tim Tebow’s book, I think the title is Through My Eyes. Good book.

Currently watching on TV: Oh my, nothing, except The Closer. Haven’t watched an actual TV show in quite a while now other than that. I watch more DVDs these days than TV, though the last few week not many DVDs either. Too busy writing/researching.

Most recently watched movie: Batman 1 and Batman 2, both tonight, ha! The more recent series. First time I ever saw any Batman movies. This will sound incongruent here but the superhero genre is actually not my genre. So, last movie seen in theater, the new Spiderman just a couple days ago. Before that, The Avengers…three times. Yeah, I admit it. This is why they call it obsession.

Currently listening to: At this very moment, The News Boys Adoration album which I just love-love-love. In my car is currently New Order, ironically the same thing as the last time I made this post like 3 years ago or something. It hasn’t been there that whole time. Actually I lost it for a while and just recently found it! Also in my currently is Lifehouse’s Smoke and Mirrors which I also adore. Lifehouse is one of my favorite bands, if not outright favorite.

Ghost Squad Books Sunday, Jul 15 2012 

I had 2-3 books in my probably later elementary school, maybe up to junior high school (?) years, that I loved so very much. They were part of the Ghost Squad series. I have been meaning off and on to Google them for a while now. I really liked the books but especially loved the one where they went on the Concorde. It fascinated me so much! Really spurred my imagination. It was on my to-do-once-in-life list, really. I was very very sad when the Concordes quit flying because it meant that dream was gone. And I was happy to at least get the chance to look at one at the new Udvar Hazy Air & Space Museum in the DC area, closest I’ll ever come to being able to fly in one I guess. I remember how the ghost characters like phased out partially or something when they were on it, going supersonic, like they had lines in them or something. The memories are vague but I read tons of books and these stand out in my memory above most others.

I still have at least two of the three, I saw them not long ago. And the coolest thing ever, actually I knew there was a “book 1” — an “origins story” I know to call it now — but I didn’t have it, and in those days there was no internet so if the local bookstore didn’t have you were out of luck. So I wrote to the publisher! An actual letter (that’s what we had then, you know!). The address was there in the book. And I told them how much I liked the two books I had and could they please tell me how to buy the one I didn’t have. And they sent it to me for free! That was so awesome, I still remember how excited it was and how I knew how nice of them it was, I hadn’t expected that.

So, finally, I looked them up. On Amazon you can find a few of them sold as collectors items. And it looks like a couple of remake books have been written. I read the description of another one of the books and it referred to a “Malev” which meant a malevolent ghost. And suddenly I remembered, this is where I learned the word “malevolent.” I’m a language geek so occasionally I do have memories like that, of exactly when I learned a word. And that gave me even more warm fuzzies. I enjoyed these books, they stoked my imagination, and I learned from them — it doesn’t get better than that in kids’ books!

So I looked up the author, E.W. Hildick, on Wikipedia. And felt kind of kicked in the gut to see he had died in 2001. I never knew anything about him, didn’t remember his name. But I was genuinely saddened to learn he’s no longer with us. According to the Wikipedia article among his other careers he was a secondary school teacher.

If anyone should come across this post who read his books and may have some memories to share, I’d love to hear about it!

Current Entertainment Friday, Jan 22 2010 

Currently reading: Yikes, nothing at the moment. I guess I should fix that. Most recently read the absolute worst popular fiction book I’ve ever read. (Not my usual reading fare, but it’s good airplane and travel reading.) There didn’t seem to be any plot development at all until the last couple of chapters. The characters did out-of-the-blue unmotivated things. The guys got together and hung out and talked about their feelings for the girls (what guys really talk about at diners, or what girls like to think they talk about at diners, hm?). Huge cast of characters drawn over from a previous book; more time was spent going over the plot from the first book than having a plot in THIS book. Took place in a small town…small enough that anything anyone did outside of their house was seen by at least one — usually more — other main character; I’m from a small town and it ain’t quite like that. Reading this book was kind of like work, but once you start you feel obligated to finish. I find it remarkable that anyone published this book.

Currently watching on TV: Chuck, loved-loved-loved the episode I just watched online, “Operation Awesome.” This is good fun stuff that leaves you with that “feel-good” thing. The Closer remains at the top of my list, though it isn’t currently showing. Can I marry Fritz? 24 has just started, so far so good. Could be interesting. Gosh, did you see what Renee did to get the security bracelet off that guy’s wrist?! Woah, was that unexpected! (Oh, yeah, “that makes her craaaazy.”) Yeah…I turned away from that one, as one sometimes has to do on 24. I just watched the first episode of Human TargetMostly because of the lead actor, who I like and have vaguely followed over the years. It’ll probably be like for most things these days though, if I’m home and happen to want to watch something on TV, I’d watch it. I still like the Law and Orders, but don’t catch them often. Have gotten into Criminal Minds recently after being turned off earlier by some uber-violent sicko stuff in some episodes, but again I don’t catch it often. I think that’s about it! I can always dig people house-shopping on HGTV.

Most recently watched movie: Airplane! Oh yeah, baby. “And that’s when I developed my drinking problem.” “And don’t call me Shirley.” “–A hospital? What is it? –It’s a big building with sick people in it, but that’s not important right now.” “And they’re perfect for keeping hot dog buns fresh.” “Would you like that smoking or non?” “Jim never has two cups of coffee at home.” “El noa you smoko.” “Everything is perfectly fine. And, by the way, does anyone know how to fly an airplane?”

Most recently watched movie in the theater: Uhhhh…the latest Harry Potter movie, months ago!

Currently listening to: The Moody Blues and New Order, both hits albums. The Moody Blues are mostly a band from before my time, though I loved “Your Wildest Dreams” in the 80’s. It’s so weird that I’ve come to love them so much. I love the harmony, the richness and energy of the music with all the different instruments, oh, the flute in “Nights in White Satin”! I could listen to that CD over and over and over again…and have! I got New Order just recently, man is that a fun album. New wave I’d call them, not sure exactly what it is, synth pop or something. Somehow I never heard of them in the 80’s, though I vaguely knew 3 songs. “Blue Monday” is the best, and the long version of it on Disc 1 is awesome. It was a good buy, I like the songs I didn’t know before too. Good fun stuff, good to clean your house to and dance around a bit.

I Love Chuck!!! (spoilers) Thursday, Jan 21 2010 

If you have not seen Episode #4, the Operation Awesome episode, of the third season of Chuck, DO NOT READ FURTHER.

Wow, wow, wow. I had so much fun watching this episode it prompted me to write something here after almost a year!

I have actually missed every single episode of Chuck this year so far, and have watched them online, turning the volume off during those annoying repetitive commercials. I was shocked — SHOCKED — to see Episode 3 (the Angel de la Muerte) episode, in which it looked like Awesome had been killed. (Usually you kind of hear about these things in advance, online or in previews or something.)

I love the Awesome character. I am super-impressed with the writers’/actor’s ability to create a character that is so darn perfect and “awesome” in every way…and you actually don’t hate him! In fact, he seems like a genuinely nice guy, somebody you’d like to hang out with as a friend, or to be your older brother.  You’d enjoy hanging out with him even though he’s smarter than you, better-looking than you, more charming than you, more athletic than you, etc. etc. etc.  This ain’t easy to pull off, folks!

So I was both shocked and very much saddened. I wondered why they did it, and figured, I guess shows do what they have to do, you know, and killing off Awesome brings some “reality” to what is an absurdly unreal show (I hated it in the first episode and didn’t watch again until I think the second season…when I “got it” — oh, it’s comedy!), and it opens up dating storyline possibilities for Ellie. Then I also thought, well, it’s kind of refreshing how they did it, no violent struggle or anything, just a quick look at a guy’s face and his needle, Awesome’s awesome bedside manner, cut. Cue largely wordless scene of Chuck reacting to the news about Awesome, and watching Ellie, anticipating her reaction. Interesting storytelling, I thought, maybe we won’t see the scene you “have to” see, of the closest person getting the bad news.

I don’t watch much TV these days. So I didn’t see the promos that some people on the official Chuck message boards referred to that clued them in to what would happen in Operation Awesome. Right before I watched the episode (the episode where I expected to see them dealing with Awesome’s death, and, based on the title, going after the guy who killed him), I saw a Season 3 cast photo, which Awesome was in, and I thought…maybe, just maybe…he’s not dead? Oh, I have to watch right now!

Opening scene — Awesome’s very much alive! OK, yeah, I said it out loud — “He’s alive!” And I was absurdly happy. (“Absurdly” b/c we are talking about a TV show here…I had a frustrating day at work, maybe that contributed!)

Oh. My. Gosh. This is a classic Chuck episode. All the things I like about Chuck. Laughter, family/friend/loved one feel-good stuff, ridiculous juxtapositions of all types.

Favorite lines/moments:

Big Mike: “Usually mornings are Big Mike Time. Time for reflection and pastry.

Awesome and the cat…no, wait, the bear…no, wait…the headless bear…oh, my gosh, I loved Awesome more with every word. Oh, and LOL again, Ellie’s little reactions to Casey after Chuck’s version of the evening.

Casey: “Something else you should know about me. I love guns.” (after several couple of characters have told us how much they hate guns)

Morgan…quite unexpectedly!…takes control of the rebelling employees. What a nice bit of character development!

I think it’s still a question whether the show can continue to be the feel-good fun that is with Chuck and Morgan “growing up.” I hope it succeeds, because it’s pretty rare for a show to actually develop its characters rather than leaving them static…really rare in comedy! One odd moment in this episode, I thought, was when Angie Harmon’s Sydney looked at Chuck and just based on looking at him was like, “You can’t be the spy.” Well, in Seasons 1-2, OK, I can go with that. They had Chuck looking pretty nerdy/goofy/geeky, whatever you prefer. But this Season? His hair is very different, and I don’t think he has that nerdy/goofy/geeky look anymore, I don’t know if it’s just the hair, or they’re costuming him differently, or what, even makeup could make a difference, but I just didn’t see anything in his physical look that would make a character with a stereotypical view in mind say that about him — he looks like a very good-looking guy now (not just a “good-looking guy once you get past they nerdy/goofy/geeky factor,” which of course he always was). Maybe she thinks only guys with blond hair are spies, so Chuck is clearly not a spy?

Anyway, this was a rip-roaring good fun episode. I can’t believe I actually believed he was dead! I didn’t doubt it for a second, not until moments before watching this episode. I mean, really, I grew up with soap operas — no one’s ever dead, not even if you saw them die right in front of your eyes. I remember reading about one soap where a character was decapitated…and still came back later. But I never questioned this. I don’t know if it was tiredness on my part, or just a really Awesome job by writers/directors/actors/and all.

In retrospect, of course, the brief “informing Chuck” doesn’t make much sense now — was it Sarah that told him? “It’s Devon.” Then hugs. Yeah, that’s not how it would have played in Chuck-land had Awesome been kidnapped. It was a cheat. But…I forgive them. The surprise in the next episode was…Awesome!

This season’s episodes can be seen online on NBC’s website.

Middle Knowledge Thursday, Feb 26 2009 

I first came across the term “Middle Knowledge” only a couple of years ago. To put it in simple terms, this is basically the view that God’s omniscience encompasses things which — from our time-bound perspective — we would call counterfactuals. In other words, if I’d come straight home from work today instead of going to the grocery store first, what would I have done? What would I be doing now? If I’d added political science as a second major as an undergrad instead of linguistics, what would I have done after graduation? Etc.

I read about this in the context of a book on theology from the Arminian perspective, so I took this as a typical part of Arminian theology. Indeed, although pulling yourself out of the space-time continuum is quite a mind stretch, I think having Middle Knowledge as part of Arminian theology makes a lot of seeming contradictions go away. How does man choose God, but God chose man first? Because God created the particular world that would eventually lead to that man choosing God. Why do I give God all the ultimate glory and credit for something I physically did myself (ie., God didn’t supernaturally swoop down and do it for me)? Because He is ultimately responsible for every single factor that led to my success. The first time I heard about the Middle Knowledge concept, and thought it through a bit, I was overwhelmed by a sense of God’s omniscience and omnipotence, simply His greatness, in a way I probably hadn’t been in a long time (it’s easy to take that for granted as a long-time Christian). And, I suppose it’s something I’d always believed, but never really thought about it, certainly never thought through its implications.

So, I never really thought about whether Calvinists believe in Middle Knowledge. Recently though I came across this blog post, which provides a lengthy quote from noted Calvinist RC Sproul which indicates it is indeed a part of Calvinism. And, with only a half-second’s thought, it makes sense. This basically gets at the omniscience of God, and I certainly don’t believe orthodox Calvinists believe in any less (or more) of an omniscient God than orthodox Arminians do.

I suppose, then, it’s in the implications of Middle Knowledge where we differ. It seems to me that M.K. is less impactful (which is not to say less glorious or awe-inspiring!) within Calvinism, because God’s choosing of man is viewed much more “directly,” if that’s the word. In Arminianism, even if you apply M.K. in quite a deterministic way, you still have God permitting man a genuinely free choice (=he could have decided otherwise, but God, not bound by time, knew exactly which choice he would make in the particular world He created), whereas in Calvinism “freedom” is redefined to entail someone “freely” choosing what God has decreed he choose.

Just something I’ve been thinking about lately. As always, I’m looking forward to the day when we’re seated at Jesus’s feet and he corrects all of us. “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

Current Entertainment Monday, Feb 23 2009 

I happened to wind up over at my old blog, and realized I’d forgotten all about the various random things I’d posted there. I came across one that was interesting to look back at, “Current Entertainment.” Since it was interesting to look back at the old one, I decided to write a new one. Friends and family, feel free to share what you’re watching/reading etc. in a comment.

Currently reading: Well, I just finished reading Perspectives on Election. It was OK. Sometimes I can only take so much of the polemical kind of stuff. It’s in the “5 views” series, with 5 contributions plus responses from two Calvinists (one supra- and one I guess infra-, I’ve already forgotten precisely), one Arminian, one open theist, and one Christian universalist. I think I found the Christian universalist chapter most interesting because it was a view I was unfamiliar with (though I can’t say I was convinced by the author’s argument). At least the book was mostly in good spirit — 4 of the 5 authors were considerate and respectful in their responses. The fifth, a fellow named Reymond (the supra-), ended several chapters saying he was praying for the authors to see the error of their ways and basically came off as quite smug, arrogant, and condescending. On the whole, not a bad book if you’re interested in what the various views are out there among the broader Christian community.

I hate starting books (love reading them but hate starting them…if that makes any sense), so I haven’t started it yet but I have from the library Peace Like a River, which my friend Amy told me about. That’s next on the list.

Currently watching on TV: Monday nights are a killer! I would need to take a day off work to watch all this in one day. At 8 I watch Chuck and House. House is beginning to annoy me a bit, but I still watch it so far. Chuck I used to think (from the first episode and maybe part of another) was the dumbest thing I’d ever seen. But recently I’ve seen a few more episdoes and found it hilarious. One of my favorite recent TV lines comes from here, “I was having a great time until the terrorists stole my pants and tried to kill me.” It really captures the spirit of the show, too. It’s kind of silly, but fun and with a really good heart. Kind of like Chuck.

At 9 I watch The Closer and 24. The Closer (along with Battlestar Galactica) has really become my only must-see TV. I had gotten to where even though I watched every 24 episode, it was mostly because you had to to get what was going on. But this season is different. The new FBI agent partner brings a human face to what had become almost a joke of “who’s going to get tortured in this episode?”. Seeing it through her eyes, in my view, makes it fresh again.

At 10 I watch one of the two shows I had to miss on my DVD recorder, if I managed to record them. Otherwise I watch them online later.

Normally I actually don’t watch too much TV anymore.

Most recently watched movie: Ummmmm…oh my gosh, I actually can’t think of one. I saw The Village a month ago or so at a friend’s house. That was pretty good. Oh, my most recent in-house movie was Consenting Adults. Rated R but not nearly as sketchy as it might sound from the title. I’d wanted to see it for some time because a young Kimberly McCullough, who grew up on General Hospital in the 80’s-90’s and is still on today, was in it. Not worth it for that, BTW. I don’t think she even had lines. The movie was pretty disappointing on the whole. The plot had promise, I guess, but somehow I never really bought into those characters, except maybe for Kevin Spacey’s character, the bad guy.

Most recent movie watched in the theater? Oh, my, couldn’t say. I’d’ve liked to’ve seen the new James Bond movie, and also the new Liam Neeson movie Taken, but it never worked out. Maybe Mamma Mia was it? Found that one extremely disappointing. It is wrapped up in happy bouncy songs and happy bouncy people, but it is at it’s heart a celebration of hedonism and lack of responsibility. I think a lot of people missed all that amidst the happy bounciness. I did really like the dance scene to “Lay All Your Love on Me” (I song I LOVE from Information Society, didn’t know ABBA did it first) where the guys are out on the dock and they all jump off.

Around the same time I saw the new X-Files movie…extremely disappointing is putting it mildly.

Currently listening to: In the morning when I wake up, the radio. My CD player alarm broke. It’s not even a good wake-up station. There is a good wake-up station, but for some reason I can’t pick it up well in the master bedroom. In the car, I’m seriously missing my free SIRIUS subscription and my favorite channel, 22. I’m listening to the radio or to one of three CDs — Burek by Dino Merlin, Big Thing by Duran Duran, or Who We Are by Lifehouse. That is more or less random, the CDs that happened to be there.

Time to go set up those other Monday night shows to record!

Favorite Childhood Books Friday, Jan 30 2009 

I have again been hit with a period of extreme interest in writing, so I thought it might be a good time to post something else about writing…at least indirectly so.

Below are my favorite children’s books, having in mind around up to 6th grade — or, probably actually younger (not my genre, BTW). I may be forgetting some — I read voraciously as a kid. A couple of these are kind of obscure, so I’d love to hear from anyone else who grew up reading and loving them.

1. The Ghost of Windy Hill, by Clyde Robert Bulla (1968)– my all-time favorite no questions asked, I must have read this book 5 or more times over the childhood years. It is kind of a suspenseful mystery, yet nothing violent or inappropriate. I also was stunned to look it up the other day and find out it takes place in 1851! I think as a kid I really had no grasp of what living in a different time meant. Reading that made me realize why some parts of the book seemed so strange, like something involving a stream and something involving something that seemed like a greenhouse but wasn’t exactly (sorry, it’s been a couple decades, I don’t remember it clearly). They were probably getting their drinking or washing water or something from the stream…which didn’t make a lick of sense to me at age 8 or whatever. But I think that vague sense of strangeness was actually part of what drew me into the novel.

Check it out on Amazon and Wikipedia.

2. Betsy-Tacy-Tib, as I thought of it, more properly known as the Betsy-Tacy series, by Maud Hart Lovelace (1940’s) — wow, I loved these books. Interestingly, they also take place in the past, late 1800’s to early 1900’s, in Minnesota (to a Florida girl Minnesota may as well have been China). Again, this explains why some things seemed so strange to me about the book, the calling cards, things like that. The stories basically follow the (mundane but thoroughly engrossing!) adventures of two friends, beginning at age 5, then the new friend Tib that moves to their street, up through (at least) Betsy’s wedding. My memories are so vague on the stories, but I do remember some strange intriguing thing about them visiting these people (they seemed like foreigners of something to me, it was all very strange!) no one else knows and getting their signatures for some kind of petition (this is where I learned about petitions), but then people not believing the signatures were real because they didn’t know the names. But as I’ve read little bits online, I remember them dressing as beggars, leaving calling cards, Tib being from Milwaukee (the first time I heard of Milwaukee, and where I learned about the German cultural aspects of Milwaukee). Apparently there is a small legion of fans of this series out there. I found these books in my church library as a kid — what a joy to see that other people out there loved them too!

To read the opening lines (and find other information), click here.

Check it out on Amazon, Wikipedia (where you can learn that the series was “written at progressively more difficult reading levels as the characters age” — how clever! — I don’t recall noticing that as a child), and the Betsy-Tacy Society.

3.  Little House series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder — I’m not even going to bother with links. Is there anyone unfamiliar with this series? If you grew up in the 80’s you’ve at least seen the TV show. The show was pretty different in a lot of ways; it had to be because of the constraints of the genre. I loved both. Again, I have weird little unconnected memories from the books, the family living in a not-a-real-house thing with dirt and grass on top, maple syrup (we ain’t got trees where you can get stuff out of the trunk in Florida — weird!), Nellie and her pale skin looking down on Laura for her tanned skin (huh!), Laura passing some test at age 15 (!!!!!) to become a teacher, Laura refusing to say she will “obey” Almanzo (Manly!) in their wedding vows, and the last book in the series so clearly written in a different style, so sad with the death of their baby, actually it kind of made marriage look depressing (shortly after reading that one I learned that its stark differences were due to lack of editorial involvement — and the Wikipedia article linked to above says the material is of a much more mature nature). Anyway, good, good stuff, and if you have somehow never read them, you need to remedy that!

4. The Narnia series, by CS Lewis (1940’s-1950’s) — magical, incredible books. Like most people, probably, I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe first, and loved it, but was always disappointed aftwerward that the kids were not the focus (or not even in) the subsequent books. I have again only vague memories — I do recall being traumatized when, as it seemed to me at least, two characters were about to go sail in some boat right over the edge of the earth — and they are confounded by many viewings of the 1979 TV movie (first made-for-TV movie, who knew?), plus a coule of viewings of the recent film, and the more recent Prince Caspian film (am I too old to be saying that that Prince Caspian was darn cute?). But these are exciting, engaging, enchanting books, with Christian themes incorporated (though not in a way to put off non-Christians). The Wikipedia article is interesting, but includes the requisite (for Wikipedia) criticisms, like how some people find the books racist (for making fun of some made-up country called Calormene or something) and sexist  (for disparagingly noting that Susan is now only interested in lipstick and nylons — hence proving that Lewis disdained women’s sexuality). Puh-lease. These are the type of people who could look at the dishes in my cabinet and find something racist and sexist about them. As for Susan’s obsession with her lipstick…does that symbolize sexual maturity (womanhood) or frivolousness (misplaced priorities, perhaps vanity)? Hmmmmm….seems obvious to me it’s the latter…unless you’re just looking for any excuse to impugne Lewis. Whatever. These are incredible adventure stories — if you haven’t read them, you really must! Read them for the adventure and the magical delight of the children and the joy of Narnia…not for some psychoanalysis of Lewis (!).

As I reflect on these books, one thing I note that they all have in common is a certain fantasitic quality, some kind of other-worldiness. Quite literally with Narnia, but with the others more of a removal from time and geography. In a sense they were just as different as Narnia from rural Florida, for a girl who knew nothing more than Florida and our northern neighbors GA and AL. Of course, later there were family vacations around the country, and much later, even world travel. But as a child I traveled through time and space (and wardrobes!) quite regularly through the books above and many, many others. I suspect that I owe a great deal of who I am today to that childhood literary travel. And I am grateful that while I might have begged for toys and such as a child that I didn’t get (and didn’t need), I never had to beg for books. My elementary school teacher mother bought any book I wanted, and my church library (unfortunately no longer in existence — the library, not the church!) was available to me twice a week.

Least favorite childhood book? Black Beauty. I must have started that book three or four times but always found myself completely bored and unable to continue. How much can I read about a dumb horse, anyway? (Maybe if I’d grown up with horses I’d have enjoyed it…?) Actually, I think the same is true of Little Women — I just couldn’t get into it. And the title annoyed me I seem to recall.

What were your favorite childhood books? What drew you into them? Any least favorite ones come to mind?

What do you LOVE about your church? Wednesday, Jan 28 2009 

Just so it’s not all about complaints…

Here’s a few things I love about my church (and I won’t say the name here because this isn’t a plug for my church, though if anyone should wander by who just happens to be looking for a solid church in the Northern Virginia area I’d be happy to share). Skipping the most obvious stuff, the stuff that I wouldn’t be there otherwise without (biblically sound!)…

(1)  A lot of great verse-by-verse preaching. I really enjoy both topical and verse-by-verse preaching, but at my church now the percentage of verse-by-verse preaching is higher than topical, whereas at my previous churches the reverse was true. This difference takes good preaching and makes it even better for me, because it’s fresher.

(2) A friendly congregation that actually looks you in the eye when shaking your hand, and often introduce themselves (though I can never remember the names, to my enduring shame), and even sometimes invite you to church activities. I’d say all my churches were friendly…but it’s quite possible this is the friendliest I’ve been to.

(3) A large(-ish, that’s relative, it’s not a megachurch) church with all the resulting activities and classes, that holds multiple services in an intimate-feeling sanctuary that makes it feel like you’re going to a small church. Of course, this may need to change eventually; I regret the strain that multiple services puts on church staff, especially the preacher. But I very much like the feeling of the sanctuary now — you can look around and see everyone easily. (Actually, as I’m thinking about it, my church where I used to live was bigger, around 3,000 attendance I think when I left, and we had built a new sanctuary while I was there that held I think over 1000, and I loved that too! The sound of the music was incredible. So I guess there are some great things about both the smaller and the larger.)

(4) Care paid that all aspects of worship are God-honoring. Especially I would note the music, where so many churches (it seems to me) do not give sufficient attention to the lyrics, but in my church we haven’t sung a single song where I would quibble over lyrics (and only one song I personally don’t care for, because it sounds too much like a 13-year-old girl singing about her boyfriend — “My Savior’s always there for me…” — but as I said that’s only a personal preference…and it was only once😉 ). There’s no “sendin’ it to ya'” or “I did it my way” or “and it burns, burns, burns, like a flame goin’ higher” here!

I think I started out with a few more, but it’s getting late and my brain’s slowing. So, perhaps you have a few to add!

Praise God for all churches that love and honor Him in all things.

What do YOU want from church? Saturday, Nov 15 2008 

“I love my church, but — ”

Fill in the blank.

Surely there’s something. In fact there may be a lot of somethings! We in America are some of the world’s greatest consumers, and we often take our consumerist attitudes to church with us. We complain about the length of the sermon. The topic of the sermon. Which pastor or minister is preaching. The children whispering behind us. The style of music. Too many/too few hands in the air. Too many/too few musicians. The praise team because we prefer choirs/the choir because we prefer praise teams. The parking space that required a five-minute walk to reach the sanctuary. Too many jeans/too many suits. The size/shape/consistency of the communion wafers.

Surely, surely, by now I’ve written something that you’ve actually complained about. If not out loud, in your head. (God knows about those too!😉 ). I was able to come up with them because I’ve had critical thoughts about most of them at one time or another!

Some complaints are legitimate. God calls us to be discerning. One of the churches I visited in the area where I live had a lot of things about it I liked. The sermon was biblically-based and delivered well. The church’s doctrine seemed pretty much in line with what I believe the Bible teaches. But the music…well, for part of the music they sang TV show theme songs. There was a point to this, as the theme songs were all on topic related to the topic of the sermon. Is it a sin to sing TV show theme songs in church? I would not be so legalistic as to say that. It seemed weird, but…okay, fine. But then they did the Laverne & Shirley theme. Is Laverne & Shirley a wicked show? Well, actually I’ve never watched it, but I wouldn’t guess so. But the chorus basically repeats how “I did it my way.” Sinful words? Well, not necessarily, probably depends on the context. The context here was church. The House of God. Rather than shaking a playful fist at convention or men or whoever it was those gals were shaking fists at, it kind of seemed like shaking a fist at God. In my opinion, at best it represented a glaring thoughtlessness about the choice of songs. I never went back to that church. Did I overreact? I don’t know, but I think this example goes beyond a personal preference, and it wasn’t about what I “got” or didn’t “get” from the church.

Another example from music — where so many of our criticisms come from — is the song “You Deserve the Highest Praise,” which has bothered both me and my friend Amy because of the phrase “sendin’ it to ya'” — boy that sounds petty, doesn’t it? But should God really be referred to as “ya”? It doesn’t feel very godly. It doesn’t feel very respectful. It certainly doesn’t remind me of God’s holiness. And therefore it bothers me.

So, what’s legitimate to complain about (broadly speaking, to include critical thoughts), and what is a sign of an arrogant and ungodly consumerist attitude toward church? I certainly don’t claim to have the answer (now THAT would be arrogant). When it comes to the things that are clearly personal preferences rather than clear violations of biblical teaching, I think it has at least something to do with (1) how we express our disagreement or criticism, or otherwise respond to it, and (2) whether it distracts us (or worse, prevents us) from worshipping God and fellowshipping with church family.

At the third service of my church (the service I usually attend), there is a young man, almost certainly in high school, who plays the electric guitar. I do not like this electric guitar. I think the music would sound much better without it. And after all, shouldn’t three guitars be enough? I try very hard not to let this electric guitar distract me. It has only really distracted me twice — when I found myself wincing from a headache I’m pretty sure it contributed to. But I say this only in a very anonymous fashion here. I’m sure the young man who plays that guitar is very talented. I’m so glad (SO GLAD!) he’s using his talent in public worship of God. I’m glad he’s there as a testament to the youth in the service. I’m glad he’s there to bring a sound to the music that — while I’d happily do without it — others may really enjoy. I hope that his participation is as much a blessing to him as it is to anyone sitting in the pews. So I try not to think critical thoughts, and I succeed. Usually. And writing all this has made me realize that I should pray I succeed all of the time.

Without further ado, though, check out the following two illustrations of the negative and critical attitudes we sometimes bring to church with us. Laugh…but be convicted as well. And please, I’d love to see your comments on the things you’ve said or thought (or you’ve heard from others) that you know are signs of an improper attitude — again, funny, but convicting.

A Sampling of 90’s Music Memories Tuesday, Nov 11 2008 

Today I have been playing around on Youtube, looking at top 100 hit lists by year and going, “Oh, my gosh! I remember that!” And, though I’m an 80’s gal, these songs are some memorable ones (or videos) from the early 90’s that you don’t hear much — or at all — anymore. Here are a few gems.

(1) Signs — I didn’t know this one well but always thought it was funny — check out this user video. I laughed so hard my throat hurt. What’s your favorite sign? Ooh, oops! Actually, warning, bad word in the first couple of frames. I’m having internet problems last couple of days and missed that frame first time around. Anyway, for me it’s a toss-up between the sign on the bridge at about 1:00, the bicycle sign at 1:42, and the fine (the LEAST of your worries) at 3:07. [Ratings notice: in addition to the bad word in the sign, in listening again, I think there may be a few naughty words in the lyrics themselves, though online lyrics list different words.]

(2) Three Little Pigs by Green Jelly — oh my gosh! How I remember screeching “Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!” with my friends in college.

(3) If I Ever Fall in Love Again by Shai — I was never terribly into R&B, but man is this song pretty! Love it! What a nice sentiment too!

(4) Informer by Snow. Heavy rotation on MTV, and no one could understand the lyrics so they started playing the video with lyrics onscreen, like here.

(5) Ah, and the only one of these you’re at all likely to hear on the radio once in a while, the Bee Girl Song! Okay, that’s not the title, but that’s what it was famous for, to the point of controversy. The Bee Girl overshadowed the group! But I LOVE this video, and the song. The 90’s were kind of lousy for music if you like upbeat fun stuff — so glad grunge is gone. But look at the colors in this video! You almost can’t help but feel happy…just like the Bee Girl in the end!

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