Archive for the Totally Judging Category

“And where do we go from here?”

I have started, and deleted this post about 3 times now. It’s gone from snarky to whiny to incoherent. As I sit here trying for the 4th time to get this written, this version may be snarky AND whiny AND incoherent. See, there are events and conversations behind it that would give it the necessary context, but I don’t want to blog about those. But there was one conversation that has kind of served as a catalyst for wanting to write about this because something was said that kind of shook me up and made me think.

At one point I said essentially that doctrinally I am still a baptist. Then later as I thought on it I thought “But culturally, I don’t think I am.” This brought up the realization that I have been a baptist my whole life – 12 years longer than I’ve been a believer. So naturally, me being me, I “have” to question whether I have picked baptist churches as an adult because I am altogether baptist or if it’s because that’s all I know. I mean, seriously, up until the past month, aside from a handful of base chapel services when I was active duty, the only non-baptist church I had ever attended was a Catholic church with my best friend in high school for a few months.

There are some things that I am sure of.

1. I don’t want my “Christian experience” to consist of just church attendance. That’s performance. I did that for my entire childhood as a deacon’s kid. I don’t want to just play the part at church services and functions. Like I said, been there done that.

2. I don’t want to go through the motions and not get out of my comfort zone. Kind of like #1, only I want to perform in a way that brings glory to God and not attention to me. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”

3. I want to reach out to the lost, particularly the unchurched. You know, the ones who don’t know how to “perform” as a “good Christian” is supposed to. Rough, crude, and unpolished. The ones that folks who grew up in church and never openly rebelled/strayed don’t know how to relate to.

4. I don’t want to “get our country back to God” by means of political activism under the banner of the church. We cannot ever change a culture of any kind through politics. No law ever changed a person’s heart. Plus, the USA has never been nor will ever be the new Israel which is to say we, as a country, are NOT God’s chosen people.

So far, this seems to be kind of a ramble, but whatever. That’s what happens when I don’t fully contextualize. ;) Where I am right now is with my family looking for a new home church. Let me tell you, when you leave a church where you love each and every person there, it is like breaking up. It’s not pleasant. It hurts. It hurts you, and it hurts them. But sometimes you have to move on for the sake of the whole family, and when your kids don’t want to go anymore, and you reach the point that it is nearly impossible to force them, it’s time to move on. Hence the dilemma. Do I continue to press for a baptist church out of tradition? And I have come to the conclusion that what I want is a church faithful to scripture, zealous for evangelism and discipleship, as focused on children and youth ministries as adult, and not afraid to open up in worship and in life (meaning, you can’t be open if you “bite and devour” aka gossip and backbite).

I think I managed to hit snarky, whiny, and incoherent. Therefore, since I have labored over this post for well over a week, I leave you with a little “Flyman.”

Something is missing

I generally try to come up with a title and write around it. That doesn’t always work out so well, and is often why I end up not writing at all. Eh, whatever. This time, though, I know what I want as title because it is the subject of what I want to write about. And for some reason, thinking “Something is missing” reminds me of that scene from Star Trek: Generations when Picard meets Kirk in the Nexus. And as an aside, I generally don’t think the odd numbered Star Trek movies are all the great. This was #7. But it’s Kirk, and I am digressing.

Over a 9 day span, I had migraines for 7 of the days. I have never had migraines like that. They weren’t so bad I couldn’t go to work, but while I forced myself to work, that was the only place I forced myself to. This past Sunday, I finally decided that since I didn’t have anywhere I absolutely had to go, that I would take a valium and see how that worked. All the pain went away, and I sat all afternoon knitting. Ok, not all afternoon. I did get up from time to time and do stuff. And it made me a little dizzy which made me a little sick so it’s not like I want to take it again. However, it confirmed that my migraines were from stress and tension. I already suspected that. Oh, and I haven’t had a migraine since. 3 days straight. Imagine!

But even before the pain lifted, I knew that something had to happen. Something had to change. Petra has quoted this to me time and time again:

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
(2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)

At least I think that’s the one. ;) Anyway, you would think it would eventually sink into my thick head. But, no, I have to learn the same lessons over and over the hard way. It’s so frustrating, and maddening. I know this stuff. I grew up with it. Why after all these years is it still not sticking?

I’ve noticed that over the past couple of years I have grown less judgemental of non-believers, and have finally got it through my head that not everyone grew up saturated in a “fundamentalist” Baptist church in the Bible belt where most everyone is assumed to at least be a regular church attendee with at least a basic knowledge of the Bible belt legalistic moralism “Christianity.” See what I did there? My judgementalism transferred from non-believers to Christians. I seem to so easily point out what is wrong with other Christians, while still setting myself up in my ivory tower of self-righteouness because I “get it.” Except I didn’t.

Last week it finally sunk in that I was missing something, and it isn’t toast. ;) Something big that was keeping me back and hindering my prayers and keeping me from experience the peace and joy that I am supposed to have. Now I know that doesn’t mean I’m supposed to have a carefree easy life. Jesus didn’t say, “Take up your Lazyboy and chill out” but “Take up your cross and follow me.” I understand what that means, and it is by no means an easy, comfortable life. But yet I still try to control circumstances around me so that life’s easier or so I don’t get hurt. Fear and worry. Lacking trust in the One who is the only one I can trust.

Paul said,

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)

Contentment escapes me. Even when things are going fairly well, and I feel like I’m getting a breather, something is missing. I have come to the conclusion (partially from judging others for this very thing) that what I am missing is the Holy Spirit. Not that the Holy Spirit isn’t there,

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
(Ephesians 1:13 ESV)

but that I have spent so much of my life working at controlling the circumstances around me that I have missed out on the Spirit’s power in my life. The power to make me content no matter the circumstances. The power to feel peace and joy when the world is falling apart around me. But most of all the power to obey. The power to forgive. The power to love. The power to praise God no matter what, and to trust Him completely with everything. Because He is in control anyway. And this all changed what I prayed for. Because I asked for what I also fear while confessing the fear as I prayed. I mean, it’s not like he doesn’t know. But I can’t overcome the fear without the Spirit either.

And now I wait.

And the sun still rises in the east

Yesterday was something else. I woke up with a worse headache than I had gone to bed with, finally conceding that since no over the counter meds and no amount of hot showers were touching the pain significantly, the headache was a migraine. So I called in sick and took prescription pain meds which successfully took care of the pain while making me all loopy and ADHD. That’s why I didn’t write anything yesterday.

Tuesday night the hubby asked me, “So who do you think is going to win?” First I rolled my eyes because I knew he was just poking at me because I was so fed up with the politickin’, but then I grinned and I just said, “God.” Now I was pretty certain well before the election that President Obama would win reelection. In 2008 I was completely certain he would win the election. And, you know, in 2008, I realized that I could be at peace with Barack Obama as President even though I disagree with him politically on pretty much everything.

Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him. (Daniel 2:20-22 ESV)

The President of the United States is not a king, nor is he the supreme ruler. His power is shared equally with that of Congress and the Supreme Court. In 2008, Republicans ridiculed the Democrats saying that they raised Barack Obama up as their messiah. After the lamenting I saw yesterday, Republicans did the same thing with Mitt Romney, and were therefore crushed by his loss as if the world is now going to end. There was (and still is) a plethora of derisive blaming and name-calling by defeated Republicans that is nothing short of vile and mean-spirited. And what’s worse is that many of the awful remarks I have seen are from professing Christians.

I think what the Christians lamenting the direction our nation is heading fail to realize is that we are not going to be judged for what is happening now or what is going to come now that the Republican messiah wasn’t elected (because apparently now if you are a Christian you have to be a Republican). We ARE being judged for what we have done for decades with our legalistic moralism and prosperity gospel teachings. The legalistic moralism focuses on sins that good Christians don’t do while the prosperity gospel promises us material wealth and happiness in the here and now. So what we are left with is either the self-righteous critical Christian or the selfish materialistic country club Christian, the latter of which pretty much prescribes to moral relativism and only as much backbone as to protect their possessions and personal comfort.

So to my fellow Christians I ask this: Which are you? Or are you a combination of both?

I think as a whole, Christians here in the US, particularly among the Bible Belt, are known more for what we are against than what we are for. We will attend political rallies disguised as prayer walks, and we will support entrepreneurs when they offend homosexuals, and then pat ourselves on our backs for standing up for our faith and our freedom of speech. But where is Christ in that? We want to pass laws to protect human life and protect marriage, but when has the law ever changed the human heart? We rail against homosexual marriage but turn a blind eye or even justify no-fault divorce. We may not be quite as vile as the Westboro Cult, but we still point the finger at homosexuals telling them that they are going to hell for their sin as if being homosexual is THE sin that will send them to hell, yet we are largely silent about fornication and adultery. Therefore, homosexuals see us just as they see the Westboro clowns because while we don’t picket funerals with “God hates fags” signs, we are just as guilty of not showing the love we are commanded to show to our neighbors.

So Christians, you want to “turn our country back to God”? You can’t do that through political means. Once social issues are political issues, the culture war on that issue has already been lost. Laws don’t change hearts; only the Holy Spirit can do that. Engage the culture instead of just condemning and avoiding it. Disciple instead of pressing for a quick decision that amounts to offering a “get out of hell free” card that produces no fruit. Stop looking at evangelism as a way to fill up your church building on Sunday mornings so you can continue to pay for it, and instead be willing to give up the comforts of an elaborate building in order to actually lead the lost to Christ and build his kingdom instead of filling our pews. Pray for a heart that is broken for the lost, and repent of your own self-righteousness. And pray for your duly elected leaders, whether you voted for them or not – not for your comfort, but for God’s glory.

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV)

The heart of the worship war

When you grow up in church, you tend to take things for granted, and don’t pay as close attention as you should. At least that’s how it was for me growing up in the Bible belt south. Church is routine, and depending on how life is outside the church house, it can be so routine that it doesn’t mean so much – it’s just a box to check off on your moralist checklist.

For the first 19 years of my life, I went to 4 different churches (5 if you count the few months I went to a Catholic church, but it was a technicality, and I had no intention of converting), and in those churches the service order was practically identical, and they each sang pretty much all the same hymns with the primary (if not only) accompaniment a piano. Good old southern 4-part harmony gospel with a definite country-western bent (like a Gaither Reunion only faster).

Then 20 years later, I discovered different sub-genres within Christian music just like secular music, and the churches we attended were singing these songs. Then we found a church home that sang both contemporary songs and traditional* hymns. I joined the choir and played guitar along with the music leader. Then he resigned and I became one of the worship leaders, which was not in any way a goal of mine. But because of this, I have a much different perspective on the songs we sing both from things I hear (whether direct or second hand) that people say, and from how I hear them singing along with us. But I also had my own bias to contend with.

The old saying “familiarity breeds contempt” was totally applicable to my attitude towards the “old” hymns. While a few I like because they were upbeat, I found them mostly old-fashioned and boring, and just went through the motions of singing them. Oh, sure, Amazing Grace would make me cry, but I always associated it with funerals so it was always a grieving song to me.

Then one morning, we sang a song called “Lord Have Mercy.” We had done the song before, but this was my first time leading it. (Note: this is not the arrangement we sing, but it was the only version I could find on YouTube, and it is the same song.)

I barely made it through the last verse and ending, and I remember thinking “I need to compose myself before the next song,” and when I turned to Josh to tell him to give me a minute, I guess he saw it before I had to speak, and spoke for a couple minutes while I stopped myself from sobbing. It was the first time a song had affected me like that, and would not be the last. I’ve had it happen again off and on, mostly during contemporary songs which reinforced my hymn bias.

But then it happened during a hymn that wasn’t Amazing Grace.

I grew up singing that song, and for the first time, of course while up in front of the congregation, I actually paid attention to the words I was singing, and nearly lost it. Oh, I had it coming because not long after having to step up into a music leadership position (albeit a shared one in which I still don’t want the lead position), I was aggravated over grumbling about the contemporary music. It wouldn’t have bothered me so bad if the person grumbling was singing the hymns with “gusto” (for lack of a better word), but there was no visible passion watching that person sing any of the hymns. As I told the pastor, I am not looking for a “holy roller, dance in the aisles” type of display, but that people would sing the songs like they mean it – like we are standing before the Lord singing to him. That’s when I determined that it would start with me, and that I would sing the hymns with all the energy I was pouring into the contemporary. It was reinforced when I read Singing to Build Up. That’s why Pass Me Not got me.

The worship wars aren’t specific to a particular church or even denomination. I think that as a body, we have slid towards relying on a particular musical style or accompaniment to motivate us to worship instead of relying on what God has done for us through Jesus on the cross to motivate us to worship. I just can’t help but think if we truly have hearts centered on what Christ has done for us, it would not matter what kind of song we sing, what accompaniment we have (or even if we have any at all), or whether or not we have sheet music or a power point slide on a screen. I came to that conclusion after reading Song Story: Matt Redman’s “The Heart of Worship”, and taking an inventory of my own heart and how I was approaching the worship service.

As I hear of further grumblings from the other side of the worship war, there is only one conclusion I can come to as to why there is so much active conflict and strife over music. Idolatry. Yes, that is harsh, but when you are dissatisfied with the music in your church, you are making music the object of your worship instead of the means of worship. Ask the members of underground churches in countries where being openly a Christian results in torture if not death if they need a praise band with the talent of Hillsong. Ask them if they need sheet music. Worship wars are a self-centered 1st world problem, but it is really a problem of the heart focused on the wrong object to worship.

*By traditional, I mean songs in a hymn book, which in the churches I have been in are relatively modern (reformation-era) with the oldest being written by Martin Luther.

“And this is what comes from dabbling…”

And if you drop something on a Facebook wall, you might as well turn it into a blog post…especially when prodded. ;) Seriously though, I would have let the whole thing go with just some eye rolls and head shaking, but further commenting just raked me the wrong way, and I was in the mood to fight anyway.

It all started when I got a message from Petra who read God Doesn’t Want You to Read Fifty Shades of Grey, and came across a sentence that reminded her of me, and made her laugh a lot. For the record, I don’t seek out pictures of cute kittens; they are sent to me. lol Anyway, I went ahead and read the post and dropped the link in the Google chat I was having with Molly. I think we discussed what little we knew about the book and I think I told her why I was going to let it pass on by. I’ve slept since then. Anyway, Molly posted a status on FB about wanting something to read. Out of the first 5 suggestions, I was the only one who did NOT recommend Fifty Shades of Grey. I had just started reading Eat to Live (which my doctor “prescribed” like 3 or 4 years ago), so I recommended it. You know, that’s how I roll. LOL I then proceeded to ignore the additional Fifty Shades of Grey recommendations, and then Petra commented…and a couple chicks got defensive…and I got irked, and dropped this comment:

People who read those books are typically less (or un-) satisfied with their sex lives, and looking for an instant thrill. I got introduced to the “smut novel” in my teens, and that just opened the door to a dysfunctional sex life when I got married. As someone who knows the consequences of porn addiction (both from “erotic fiction” and video porn) personally, I can assure you that porn does NOT improve a sexual relationship. Only when porn was completely out of our household (and my husband gave it up long before I did), did we start communicating to and with one another whereby we finally achieved the level of intimacy in our marriage that so that our sex life reached a mutually (very) fulfilling level. Porn is porn whether literary or video, and does not depict real life. Sexual addiction is every bit as enslaving as drugs, alcohol, food, and cigarettes. Reading erotic fiction and calling yourself “open minded” is just fooling yourself. It’s being single-mindedly focused on physical pleasure which ultimately does not satisfy.

So there went my skeletons – run-on sentences, extra words, questionable grammar, and all. And here they are for you my 10 regular readers, though I guess it would be 8 since Petra and Molly already know. haha. And yes, I generalized without evidence. Isn’t that what a flame war is all about? ;)

I figured if I was going to put this out there, I should expound more on what I flushed out thinking on how feeding off the smut novels had such a negative impact. I developed expectations based on those novels. Expectations of every aspect of a relationship, too, and not just sexual. Naturally, when those expectations didn’t come to fruition, discontentment set in. But, of course the expectations weren’t going to be met because they were all based on fiction – from someone else’s imagination, and not even my own.

So, yeah, I won’t be reading Fifty Shades of Grey which is apparently the new Twilight only “heavy on sex” and without the vampires. And while I’m at it, I might as well throw out my opinion of the grown women who went/go nuts over Twilight. Women, when you are in your 30’s, but more especially in your 40’s and 50’s, and you are swooning over a fictional character, you look and sound immature and ridiculous. Just sayin’. Seriously,Cedric Diggory? Yes, I concluded that getting senselessly killed by Lord Voldemort turns you into a sparkly vampire.

*The post title is a partial quote from Practical Magic. The full quote is “And this is what comes from dabbling; I mean you can’t practice witchcraft while you look down your nose at it.”