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.

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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!

A British Truck Driver & Al Gore’s Inconvenient Silliness Monday, Nov 3 2008 

Well, proof that this blog has no point whatsoever, just whatever’s on my mind the day I decide to write something.

Today it’s been politics. Came across this fascinating story today about the British truck driver who didn’t want his kids hit with Al Gore’s propaganda “documentary” presented as fact in school. He brought a lawsuit in what seems to me an actual good use of the right to sue, and whaddya know, someone has some sense in the UK! An expert testified to 20 inaccuracies in the trial, and the court considered a subset of those (it wasn’t clear in what I read how many it did consider of the 20). Turns out of however many were considered, the government decided that there were 11 significant inaccuracies in the film. You can read a bit more about it here.

If Gore’s silliness interests you, read another bit about some silly things he said (and about his possible financial motives for saying such silly things) here.

What a ridiculous time we live in when temperature becomes politicized! There has even been controversy at the Weather Channel over this! I find no a priori reason to disbelieve scientific evidence that the earth is warming. I am extremely skeptical, however, when I hear that back in the 70’s the majority of scientists were just as convinced that we were in for another Ice Age! Do they not recognize that the Earth’s temperature has always fluctuated? Long before people drove gas guzzlers, long before they drove anything without a heartbeat. So when you take that skepticism and you add out-right lies into the mix, attached to a political agenda, I just have to throw my arms in the air and give up.

You know, if the Earth is warming, I can’t fix that. The only thing I can do is what I ought to be doing whether the Earth is warming, or is cooling, or is fluctuating back and forth like fall weather. Whether I contributed to it by driving a car for 10 minutes to work instead of spending 60 minutes on a bus and choose to live in a house with electricity and running water rather than a grass hut with an outhouse.

I can recycle. I can try to make my driving as efficient as possible. I can carpool whenever it makes sense to do so. I can avoid over-heating or over-cooling my house. I can turn off lights I’m not using. I can support an energy policy that includes diversity of source and supply and encourages innovation in cleaner energy production and use. I could go on, but I think you get my point. God created a beautiful planet and it’s my responsibility to treat it as well as I can.

When Al Gore gives up flying around on private jets and gives up however many homes and cars he owns to live in a grass hut with an outhouse…then maybe I’ll take him seriously.

Obama: Under My Plan Electricity Rates Will Skyrocket Monday, Nov 3 2008 

Again, not my words. His. You can read a complete transcript (really complete, “uh”s and all) of the segment here, including the part about how his plan will bankrupt coal power plants.

Did anyone notice what happened last time energy costs skyrocketed? Worldwide rise in food costs, for example?

Who will “reach across the aisle”? Monday, Nov 3 2008 

A few weeks back I was listening to Bush’s former press secretary, Scott something or other I think is his name — an interesting fellow, he seems to take every chance he gets to do something to impugne Bush. Nothing out of the ordinary in our polarized political world…except for the “he is his former press secretary” part. Meaning (I presume) a Republican. One wonders what was going behind the scenes there! Anyway, this was shortly after this fellow announced he was supporting Obama for President. In an interview I saw with him, he cited as his primary reason for voting for Obama that he wanted a candidate who would “reach across the aisle,” and he believed Obama was the person who could do that.

I watched with my jaw literally agape.

Has Obama ever sponsored a piece of legislation with a Republican? Has he ever compromised in order to meet a Congressional Republican halfway to get something accomplished? Not that I know of. (Remember, this is the person with the most liberal voting record in the Senate. He even voted to prevent babies who survived an attempted abortion from then receiving medical care! That’s pretty darn far left.) But wait! There is a candidate who has in fact demonstrated through deeds — more than once! — that he will reach across the aisle to get things done. That candidate is John McCain. It’s one of the things I admire about him. Senators and Representatives should work slavishly for American citizens…not slavishly for a political party.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to write something about this for some time now but have been too busy. I am voting for McCain in this election, and I hope you will too. If you’re a liberal who’s fairly far left on the political spectrum, Obama is your candidate, no doubt about it. If you vote for Obama, vote for him for reasons based in reality, vote for him because you agree with his political positions. If the number one thing you’re looking for is “reaching across the aisle,” then McCain is your candidate, no ifs ands or buts.

I’m voting for McCain because:

(1) he believes when it comes to babies in the womb, it’s the baby who has the right — the right to live

(2) he’s highly qualified — political experience and military experience — and has shown sound judgement in his past decisions

(3) he does what he thinks is right — even when it’s unpopular (loudly supporting the “surge” in Iraq, for example, when naysayers said it was a lost cause and another Vietnam, and [see “judgement] it’s worked) — it seems to me he’s had to tone this down a bit in the presidential election, but I believe it’ll be back in full force when he’s president

(4) on a whole set of social and economic issues he is a conservative (in some nuances not as conservative as some would like, but nothing that makes me overly concerned as a social and economic conservative)

(5) I admire him as an American and a human being — for serving his country in Vietnam and going through what he did there and coming out of it in sound mental shape if not 100% physical. Okay, this in and of itself is maybe not a reason to vote for someone. (And if he held Obama’s political views, I wouldn’t.) But patriotism is important in a President, and there’s no doubt he’s got it.

(6) McCain — in my analysis — has never defined himself with the label “Republican.” To be sure, his views line up with the Republican Party and not with the Democrats. But I believe he has defined himself by his beliefs and by a will to get things done. As someone who needs no help from the Republican Party platform to determine her beliefs — and is not necessarily in step with every plank (I fully support the 2nd Ammendment and the right to bear arms but I would require a licensing procedure just like for driving a car, for example) — this is something I respect.

I could probably write more but I’ve already said more than I initially intended to. If you care about your country, please vote your conscience on Tuesday, if you haven’t already.

Obama Will Bankrupt the Coal Industry Sunday, Nov 2 2008 

His words, not mine.

Check it out.

Another Number One Falls; Another Florida Win Sunday, Nov 2 2008 

Well, it was a fabulous Florida victory. Florida-Georgia is always a fun game. I can remember being in college there and I guess media or somebody had been saying that if Georgia lost once more to Florida they were going to fire their coach at the time, Ray Goff, or however it was spelled. Those were the Spurrier days, and, well, we won. As the student sections surged out of the stadium we were chanting, “Keep Ray Goff! Keep Ray Goff!”

Sadly for Mr. Goff, I don’t think they kept him.

OK, so, Florida beat Georgia 49-10. We went into it ranked 8, Georgia 6. An earlier version of this ESPN article said that dear ol’ Tim Tebow surpassed Emmitt Smith’s record for rushing TDs — how crazy is that! However, I’m now concerned that the updated version of the article says Tebow sprained his ankle! Well, we have Vandy, South Carolina, and the Citadel (??!!) up next, so hopefully he’ll be able to baby the ankle a bit before Florida State comes up November 29. (Maybe FSU isn’t such a big deal this year? Ranked 15, they just got beat by unranked Georgia Tech. Still, we <so embarrassing> lost to an unranked team earlier this season, and, hey, this is FSU! This game is IMPORTANT!)

The other big game of the day was (1) Texas v. (7) Texas Tech. Wow, another #1 bites the dust. The question will be how far Texas falls. They only lost by 6 points. But Florida won so convincingly, I think we stand a good chance of jumping to 6th.

I can’t imagine we’ll be jumping over  (2) Bama (v. Arakansas State, 35-zip), (4) Oklahoma (v. Nebraska, 62-28), or (5) USC (v. Washington, 56-zip — ouch, what’s happened to you, Washington?!).

Looks like we will be playing Alabama for the SEC Championship. That brings back memories!

Anyway, ’twas a good day for football.

Go Gators!