Sunday, December 25, 2005

314 The Barbara Walters Special on Heaven

So far, I haven't come across anyone who watched her special on December 20, nor did I see any comments in the paper last week. Did it bomb? I mean, if someone wanted to know about heaven, would she ask Barbara?

"“Although Barbara Walters’s intent should be commended, her content should not. She confused rather than clarified the issue by giving equal weight to popular authors, near-death experiences, movie stars, religious teachers and pastors. She merely surveyed various opinions in a show that should have been titled, ‘Heaven: Have It Your Way.’" BP News

Last March I took one of those Internet "A quiz of cat lovers" and learned I was going to cat lady heaven. So I wrote this.

"I'm going to "cat lady heaven" because I treat a small mammal with fur and whiskers and a crooked tail well. It's a cute quiz, and fortunately I already know I'm going to heaven, but not because of my cat, and not because of anything I've done right.

Actually, I'm not sure of the preposition to use, whether heaven is up, over, in, around or through. Scripture is rather vague about that. In an odd turn of events, the earth, the country, the towns that we know so well are what is transitory, and the Christian's real citizenship is in heaven. (Keep that in mind flag-wavers.) Space and time is something we only need on earth, so I suppose the preposition really doesn't matter--heaven is where God dwells and "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away." (Rev. 21:3,4) In order for heaven to have no tears and sorrow, maybe you'll need to have your cat or dog--I'm sure it can be arranged."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

313 Today at the library

Check my other, other blog for this story on Christian magazines at the public library, then take a look at yours.

"I'd sort of gotten out of the library habit because the internet is so easy, and recently have gone back to checking out about 4 or 5 journals a week--not always the same titles, but maybe JAMA, or NEJM or Kiplinger's or Forbes. But I'm a shelf reader, and although I'd been aware that the public library isn't the place to find Christian material, I was a bit taken aback when I realized there was only one evangelical Christian magazine (Christianity Today), but there were 15 or 20 serial titles on films, entertainment, jazz and rock. Films were particularly overly represented in the collection."

Monday, December 19, 2005

312 Thus sayeth the Lord

Two years ago my bookclub was reading "In the Beginning," which is about the King James transation of the Bible. I wrote the comment in my other blog, which was my only one then:

"But most interesting was learning that the verb forms ending in “-eth” were most likely pronounced as “s” in the early 17th century. English isn’t phonetic in many words (through, tough, plough), and although the people were pronouncing “sayeth“ as “says” and “giveth” as “gives,” a hundred years later when the 1611 version really became almost universally used, no one corrected the pronunciation while reading. There are no recordings of how people spoke. The closest we have to English as spoken in the 17th and 18th century is our own Appalachian people in the U.S., since it is no longer spoken in England."

Friday, December 16, 2005

311 Turn Your Radio On

I'm finishing up some Christmas cards that I missed earlier in the month. I've got my Bill Gaither video tapes in the living room vcr and the volume cranked--"Turn Your Radio On" and "Old Friends." I love these old Gospel, swing and sway, emotional songs for listening, just not for worship. I think these were made in 1993 and 1995--many of these performers who were up in years then, have since died. I think his purpose was to capture some of them while they could perform, but the series became so popular now it's sort of become an institution. "Turn your radio on" is the one I have on now. I particularly like Cynthia Clawson, but it is very difficult to find her on CD since she's not the "current" contemporary Christian music anymore. (And I refer to impulse buying at stores, not going on-line.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

310 A Jew speaks out about Christmas

“Hanukkah menorahs are never referred to as ''holiday lamps" -- not even the giant menorahs erected in Boston Common and many other public venues each year by Chabad, the Hasidic Jewish outreach movement. No one worries that calling the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by its name -- or even celebrating it officially, as the White House does with an annual ''iftaar" dinner -- might be insensitive to non-Muslims. In this tolerant and open-hearted nation, religious minorities are not expected to keep their beliefs out of sight or to squelch their traditions lest someone, somewhere, take offense. Surely the religious majority shouldn't be expected to either.

As a practicing Jew, I don't celebrate Christmas. There is no Christmas tree in my home, my kids don't write letters to Santa Claus, and I don't attend church on Dec. 25 (or any other date). Does the knowledge that scores of millions of my fellow Americans do all those things make me feel excluded or offended? On the contrary: It makes me feel grateful -- to live in a land where freedom of religion shelters the Hanukkah menorah in my window no less than the Christmas tree in my neighbor's. That freedom is a reflection of America's Judeo-Christian culture, and a principal reason why, in this overwhelmingly Christian country, it isn't only Christians for whom Christmas is a season of joy. And why it isn't only Christians who should make a point of saying so.” Jeff Jacoby, “De-Christmasing Christmas

Monday, December 12, 2005

Visually challenged or just inconsiderate?

Our Visual Arts Ministry hung a show Saturday morning at our newest campus. We'd decided a few months ago to do a rerun of our inaugural show of 2001. For that we gathered as much of our home made art as we could find. Our recollection was that much of it had colorful Advent and Christmas themes. We'd photographed and cataloged it five years ago, so we had a record. Most of the art is in banner form--some felt, some burlap, some elaborate paintings on a coated fabric (looks like window shades), some metal sculpture, and one 3-dimensional mobile of the nativity. We didn't use any quilts because next month we're having a quilt ministry show. Six of us spent about three hours lugging ladders, sorting through musty storage in the basement, using a warm iron to smooth wrinkles, debating aesthetics and hanging the art. We have an Arakawa Hanging System.

The storage area was a disaster. People have just been stuffing things in there, tying stuff with string, or laying heavy things on top of fragile. Some of the banners we used in 2001 were just missing. Yesterday my husband and I went to the old campus and found some of the missing pieces stored behind the stage of fellowship hall, folded, wrinkled and with furniture laying on top even though we have specially design hanging space in the other building. We dusted them off and lugged them over to the gallery space today where we had to rehang a number of pieces to get the show to work right. There we discovered that whoever was in the building over the week-end (that could be many hundreds) had pushed tables up against the banners all up and down the halls--I suppose they were serving coffee or food, or maybe having a book sale. Who knows. Fortunately, I had brought an iron along to smooth out the ones we'd found, so I could use it to press out the creases left by the tables pushed up against the art.

In the catalog of sins for which Jesus died, this is not a big one. But we continue to be amazed that in a large, talented congregation of well educated people who are filled with empathy and sensitivity to many areas of Christian endeavor and service, particularly music and drama, we six seem to be the only members out of several thousand who give a fig about art. We care about ugly coat racks, and messy bulletin boards, and posters taped to mirrors in the rest rooms. Our teeth are on edge at flags and posters left up for years to advertise missions.

We aren't in this ministry to pretty up the building, as some people think. (We get a lot of thank yous from members who enjoy the shows.) We do it to draw people to the church who might never enter the building otherwise. I believe we have the finest gallery space in the entire Columbus metropolitan area.

Well, it's done now, and it looks nice, especially the missing pieces which have all been reunited (it was a series). Sort of like we'll all be in heaven.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Femspeak and Gay Marriages in the ELCA

The November 2005 issue of First Things is on-line and has an article by Robert Benne reporting on the 2005 Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) in August. The status quo was confirmed, so both the traditionalists (i.e., those who trust God's word) and the revisionists are staying put and not bolting the synod. But you know who's going to get their way eventually, don't you? The revisionists. Progressive Protestantism is taking over all the main line denominations and it's gutting the churches of believers. Read the whole article here.

What they couldn't stop is damage to the language. The historical creeds, hymns and some psalms are getting the feminist hatchet job. Perhaps it will be the final death blow for real hymns--remove any words that have a male pronoun. Father and Son are on the ropes. Then we can all sing praise choruses and forget any theology that might hint at the Trinity.

"For instance, the leadership proposed—and the assembly affirmed—a process that will lead to a new hymnal, which will alter the words of the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds so that hypersensitive feminists will not be offended by masculine language. In the Nicene Creed we will avoid confessing that Christ was “made man.” Rather, he “became human.” In the Apostles’ Creed we will evade a masculine pronoun for God in the second article. Instead of “We believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son,” we will now confess that “We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.” The ELCA is now willing to risk a heretical formulation of the Creed in favor of femspeak. (In a Trinitarian formula the Son is Son of the Father, not of the Triune God. The Son of the Triune God would be another God.)

Many of the Psalms are to be rewritten to circumvent masculine pronouns. A hymn, paraphrasing the twenty-third psalm, changed “The Lord is my shepherd” to “God is my shepherd.” The “Renewing Worship” materials used at the assembly shunned “Father,” “Lord,” and “Master,” all replaced by “God.” Not one ELCA official allowed a “his” or “he” to creep into a speech. The presiding bishop even used the horrific neologism “Godself” a number of times."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Are you in an orange barrel church?

Navigating the programs offered by our church reminds me of a construction zone with orange barrels. Just when I get comfortable with a program or a direction, someone puts up a detour sign and puts those orange barrels in the road. I was reading a document yesterday--4 pages that could have been written in one--that mentioned we are replacing "Network" with something else--what I don't know.

Network was supposed to direct all our current and new members to the right area of service for Jesus to match their passion, gifts and personal style. I was (am) a member of the Visual Arts Ministry, and because the Bible says almost nothing about the arts, and because our congregation seems to be artistically impaired, we got no referrals from all their efforts of screening probably a thousand people.

I resisted even participating for a long time, because I don't like being put in little boxes. But once I was a "table facilitator" for a new members class and everyone, including the leaders (old term), had to jump in and complete it. Here's how it played out: My passion was "purposeful, intellectual activity; my spiritual gifts were wisdom, administration and prophecy; my personal style was unstructured task. (I'd never heard of blogging at that time, but I think this describes a Christian blogger.)

If you've been active in a church, no matter the size or denomination, you'll know that no pastor or lay leader wants a member who tests high on "wisdom and prophecy." Especially not a woman! Administration is OK because then you can be put in charge of the book sale, or the collation of the annual report.

Prophecy is described in Network as "challenging listeners simply and practically with the truths of scripture, giving attention to detail and accuracy." Wisdom is "proclaiming truth in a timely and relevant manner for understanding, correction, repentance or edification." These are not spiritual gifts to be envied or coveted.

Maybe it's being dropped because members started taking it seriously?

Hungering and Thirsting like the rest

After listening to me vent yesterday my husband's eyes got big, and he said, "You need to find a different church." Not we, but you, I noticed. So that's not going to happen. We went through this in 1976 and it was traumatic. Just awful. It was like getting a divorce from all our friends. And now we're 30 years older. You don't throw that away for a temper tantrum.

So in the afternoon I took myself to a coffee shop with my little notebook, and with an extra jolt of caffiene, I made notes on what I wanted in a church. What would I be looking for if I moved to a different community?

The big one for me: Worship.
1) A sermon for believers that includes the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Our hope. Something to keep us from navel gazing for a week. Something that says this isn't about you. It doesn't have to be the whole topic, it doesn't have to have an altar call, but the pastor has to let me know why we have gathered for worship.
2) Music--not rock 'n roll, happy clappy, or praise choruses. Not song leaders hugging microphones with closed eyes and thrusting pelvis. Not "me, me, me" songs. Something from a hymnbook so I don't lose my skills for reading music.
3) Liturgy--it would be nice to have the liturgy every Sunday, not just occasionally. I wouldn't look for this in a Methodist or Presbyterian church, but yes, I would if I were visiting a Lutheran church.

The next big item: Teaching, Solid and Biblical.
1) Can be Sunday school or small group. Would really be nice if led by a pastor, but a good lay leader will do. Mid-week opportunities.
2) Strong women's fellowship. Or is that women's strong fellowship?

And to put faith to work: Service opportunities beyond the church walls.
1) Schools.
2) Prisons.
3) Food pantry/clothing sites.
4) Hospitals/nursing homes.

Sadly it is worship, my first priority, that often fails me here. Teaching and Service are top notch. The gospel from our pulpits (10 services) is so hidden or buried, that I make a check mark on the bulletin if I hear it! It has made me the most attentive person in the pew! How hard can it be to remind us each and every week why we have gathered? What would it take? Two or three sentences? That still leaves time for the personal anecdotes and theological word studies and the challenges to go out and do, do, do.

I'm afraid to bring a seeker to our services--what if she liked the building, or the music or the location or the friendly faces, and didn't notice Jesus hadn't been invited too? I'd hesitate to invite new neighbors who were believers and seeking a church home. What if they listened as carefully as I do and moved on?

"I love to tell the story,
For those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting
To hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory,
I sing the new, new song,
'Twill be the old, old story,
That I have loved so long."
Katherine Hankey

Monday, November 21, 2005

Lutheran Hymns on-line

It has been awhile since I looked at this site, and I'm going to add it to my links. Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) has been added, and I don't believe it was there the last time I looked. Our pastors are mostly from the old American Lutheran Church synod (Scandanavian in tradition), our worship leader is a former Presbyterian, and our choir director for the service I attend comes from a Baptist tradition. Most of the time it's "words projected on the screen," instead of holding a nice hymnbook and singing what you see. So I'll have fun going through this web site and remembering the "good old days."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

He who is pregnant

with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment. Psalm 7:14

Somehow, I'd missed this reference to men becoming pregnant in the Bible. I watched an old Cosby show (1984-1992) the other night where he was dreaming he was pregnant, as were his son, and two sons-in-law. Moaning, groaning, and hormones out of control funniness. The son gave birth to a sports car, one son-in-law to a small boat, and Bill had an enormous sandwich followed by a liter of pop. The women, Claire and her daughters, were assuming the usual platitudes and asides usually attributed to men.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

303 What is a bad Christian?

It's an oxymoron, say Pastor Cholak of Gordon, NE. He saw the phrase in the local paper which provides space for an essay by one of the local churches.

"What happens to a bad Christian? Are they sent to purgatory? Do they have bad things happen to them? Does Satan have his way with them for a few hours? NO, no, and no! Christians are Christians because of the doing of Christ, not because of the doing of the person. Christ says in Matthew 25 that when he comes again he will separate all the people of the nations into sheep and goats. He doesn't say anything about bad sheep...and a goat is definitely not a bad sheep - ITS A GOAT! There are sheep and there are goats. There are righteous and there are unrighteous. Noah was counted righteous by God and therefore was chosen to build the ark...but every inclination of the thoughts of Noah's heart was only evil all the time. He was righteous because the Holy Spirit gave him faith. He was called righteous because God was merciful. A Christian is a Christian because Christ's blood marked his forehead and his sins were taken away by the death of God on the tree of Calvary." more

Sheep don't ask for their wool to grow, he says. It grows because they are sheep and that's the way good works are. And sheep don't become sheep because they can grow wool!

"You don’t ask your good works to come forward, yet they come and your good works don’t make you a Christian - your being a Christian makes the works good. You are righteous because Christ has made you righteous. Christ has called you by name, he has shed his blood for your sake, he forgives all your sins and presents you as GOOD to his heavenly Father."

I had this very conversation with a young man last night--only I didn't say it nearly as well! Thanks Pastor Cholak!

Monday, November 14, 2005

302 Christian band gets the gate, not the take

Wright State University, down the road here 'bout 80 minutes, disinvited a Christian band because they wouldn't tone down their message.

(AgapePress) - A Christian band at Wright State University in Ohio says it has been the target of religious discrimination by the school. "The Ambassadors" recently accepted an invitation to perform at a WSU homecoming event, but the university backed out at the last moment and replaced the Christian music group with a secular band.

The move to bump the band came after the University Activities Board asked the Ambassadors to modify their lyrics for the campus event by removing any religious references, something the band was not willing to do. Sophomore Jason Seidler, a rhythm guitarist and vocalist for the Ambassadors, says the Activities Board members argued that the school could not use public funds to pay for a religious group.

Actually, I don't think the band should sue. Leave that litigious whiney stuff to the atheist and agnostic entertainers. God will bless when you do the right thing. Righteousness is its own reward.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

301 Thinking about France

The riots in France are with us in the evening news. This Welsh pastor, Alan Davey loved his job, but decided to go to France to be a pastor about a year ago. In September 2004, he wrote:

"Then about 5 years ago we visited France for the first time. If Spain is needy, France is very needy! Lots of factors became important in my mind. 60 years ago British people fought hard for France's political freedom. But what of her spiritual freedom? Shouldn't we work harder and more sacrificially for that? I seem to be able to learn languages. Pat is plucky and adventurey and is willing to go. The kids are young enough. We have no parents. If we can't go, who can? But how, with whom and where? There didn't seem to be any obvious path ahead. Till UFM & Bordeaux. It seemed that God was opening a door."

More recently he wrote:

"The rioters are described as immigrants. In fact they were all born in France. Their parents or even grandparents came to France, but still they are referred to everywhere as immigrants. I think that speaks volumes in itself. It's even slightly shocking. It indicates a failure to integrate the "new French" or even to accept them. It's especially shocking when you consider that, like Britain, there is no genuine French archetype. Everyone came here from somewhere else if you go back far enough. Even we Celts arrived from central Europe back in the mists of time!"

The blog is Daveys to France.

Friday, November 04, 2005

300 Five centuries of Lutheran Musical Heritage

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans has produced the most fabulous collection called "Celebrating the Musical Heritage of the Lutheran Church" and I've just listened to all five centuries! Actually, I listened to the 18th century three times--Bach. If I read the web page correctly, this only available at Lutheran churches. I checked it out from our church library.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

New art show at UALC

The UALC Visual Arts Ministry is sponsoring the Ohio Plein Air Society Fall Show at our Church at Mill Run, which is located at 3500 Mill Run Drive, Hilliard, OH 43026. The show will run until December 9. Check the website for directions or map, Don't know what Plein Air is? I just found a really terrific site. I assume this blogger is posting her own work.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

298 All Men are Liars

This is exerpted from one of Pastor Petersen's Nuggets to pastors, All Men are Liars, and this particular section is about the "children's sermon." Our church has one at the traditional service, and yours does too, probably. He provides an angle that I've never thought of--that it takes us out of the uncomfortable presence of God. I'll have to think about that.

"None of us is rational in what we want or like. We often don't even know what the real issues are. For example, consider the so-called "children's sermon." Children's sermons serve an important liturgical role in the congregations that have them: they take people out of the uncomfortable presence of God. The ceremony of the children's sermon is key thing, that is: the parade. It is about watching all the children march up to the front. It is a chance to relax and laugh and enjoy a little show. But they'll never tell you that. They'll tell you that it is about teaching the faith or involving the children. It is a waste of time to argue about whether or not children's sermons teach the faith or involve the children. Those are not the real points. The people that advocate these things don't care about Doctrine and Practice. They'll say they know what they like but they won't admit that what they really like is the parade. And if you don't like the ceremony, then they will take that to mean that you are against children. Emotionalism rules at every corner. One woman crying at the microphone is all it takes to turn a synodical vote. Wading through all of this and guiding them to the higher ground takes wisdom only God can provide. That wisdom always looks like utter foolishness to men. And through it all is the fundamental reality that you are really no different than them. You just have different issues."

Pastor David Petersen is at Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Fort Wayne, IN.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

297 The Pope's first encyclical

At a Catholic blog I read that the first encyclical of the new Pope will be presented on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and will evolve around the theme of the Centrality of Jesus Christ for the life and mission of the Church.

I think that's very smart. Put down some basics. Let the folks know what doing church is all about. There are a few Protestant churches who ought to get on board with that idea. Yesterday I received a plan of organization from a church I used to belong to. I'm not sure why since I haven't received any polity notices from them for years, but perhaps they got the newsletter labels (which I still receive) instead of members' labels. Anyway, it said its mission is to nurture its members, seeking ever to bring them more and more to the stature of maturity in Christ, and to be related, as God's instrument, to the problems and the needs of the world. That was sort of the explanation of the "Great Commission."

I don't know about you, but that would have never brought me to faith. Come to think of it, I didn't have any faith in Jesus Christ when I was a member there.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

296 Christian Film makers of the Future

Check out Rebelution, a blog site by twin teens interested in film for a very exciting look at film making.

Monday, October 24, 2005

295 A Prayer for The President of the United States, and all in Civil Authority

Sometimes, whether you are a red stater or blue stater, you've got a problem with President Bush. Here's a nice neutral prayer from the Daily Office According to the Book of Common Prayer, 1928.

O Lord, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty Ruler of the universe, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth; Most heartily we beseech thee, with thy favour to behold and bless thy servant THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and all others in authority; and so replenish them with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that they may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue them plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant them in health and prosperity long to live; and finally, after this life, to attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

294 Somebody tell this guy about Jesus!

There's a musician here in Columbus who calls himself "crl + alt + del." He was interviewed for a local paper and said his music is about his "sacred journey". . ."dig deep within my soul, an attempt to exorcise myself of my demons and to find a center and bring back the key that I need to solve the mystery that had become my life."

So what do you find if you reach deep down inside yourself? The BIG YOU!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

293 Schedule of Services, UALC, Columbus, Ohio

This is difficult information to find, I think. So if you live in the Columbus area and are looking for a place to worship, or are visiting from out of town, you might try one of the eleven, yes eleven, worship services at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, six of which are not in Upper Arlington, because we are a multi-campus congregation. All services are in the sanctuary except those listed as Fellowship Hall--this is important, because some are held at the same time. If you're looking for hymns, you probably don't want to wander into the rock-n-roll service, although it could bless you, too. The sermons in the sanctuary of each location are all preached by the same pastor that day, but the pastors rotate. We have four full time ELCA pastors, and several part-time pastors.

At our original location, 2300 Lytham Road, Upper Arlington, Ohio 43220 we have five services:

Sunday morning
8:30 Traditional (there will be some liturgy and hymns you recognize plus a choir)
9:45 Celebration (I call this happy-clappy, or boomer praise service; you may or may not recognize the music, but it has a beat)
11:00 Traditional
11:15 Xalt in Fellowship Hall (casual, rock-n-roll music, gen-x and grannies both like it)
Sunday evening
5:00 p.m. dinner, worship 5:30 Xalt in Fellowship Hall

Sunday School for adults: 9:45
For children: 9:45 and 11:00 (see signage for age group)

At our worship center that opened in 2000 in the Mill Run Shopping Center area, 3500 Mill Run Drive, Hilliard, Ohio 43026 there are five Sunday morning services:

Sunday morning
8:45 Contemporary (happy, clappy, boomer, etc.)
10:00 Contemporary (deaf interpreter available)
11:00 Xalt in Fellowship Hall (casual, rock-n-roll, etc.)
11:15 Contemporary
11:15 Xalt in Fellowship Hall

Sunday school for adults, 10:00 and 11:15 (these are not classes, but large group lecture/discussions)
For children: 10:00 and 11:15 (see signage for age group)

At our Hilltop location--this is an urban church on the west side of Columbus, 12 South Terrace Avenue, Columbus, 43204

Neighborhood breakfast at the church 8:30
Worship 10:00 (blended)
Sunday school for adults and children at 9:15

All the locations have welcome centers where volunteers should be able to direct you to the right room or service. Don't ask me if you see me--if I didn't have the newsletter in front of me, I probably could only direct you to the church libraries, the rest rooms, or the sanctuaries.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

292 Google's new blog finder

Google has a new feature whereby you can find blogs by the bloggers name, or topic. I tried it with my name and then my name + a topic and found it very easy to use. However, it also makes it easier for the blog spammers to be target specific. These are the "Hi, great blog. Come and visit mine on [your topic]. So I'll have to add the stronger filters to the comments. My topical blogs are all getting hit.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

291 New Beth Moore Study

Today I attended my first class in Beth Moore's new study, The Patriarchs; encountering the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I'm sorry I'll miss about 4 of the 10 studies because of travel this Fall, but our church library should have discs to check out. I think I've already learned more in one morning than I picked up from 60+ years of Sunday School and sermons.

If you are a member of a church that can't, doesn't or won't hire women pastors, I hope your male leadership continues to stay uninformed about what great female PASTORS we women have via video who go by other names--leader, teacher, speaker--the guys really don't care what they call themselves as long as it isn't "ordained." Never mind that Beth Moore who uses a call and response style plus a lot of humor and emotion could preach most pastors under the pew. And there are others, she's the one on my mind right now because I had class this morning.

In my church, women's aerobic classes taught by women volunteers and VBS organized and taught almost 90% by women volunteers have probably brought more families into church than anything the pastors have done. After the women bring them in, the men have to show a little muscle in order to keep them, but let's keep it a secret. God has been using women for centuries regardless of how the men mess it up. They seem to loose all their drive and faith when they actually get the title and preach from a "real" pulpit.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

290 A Modern Lamentation

Jerusalem was under seige by the Babylonians for 18 months. Someone, probably Jeremiah, wrote a Lament in the form of an acrostic poem. Although distraught, the poet still trusts God. Elisson in Atlanta has written a Lamentation for New Orleans at Blog d'Elisson.

The original:
How deserted lies the city, once so full of poeple!
How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave.

The rewrite:
O how has the city that was once so populous remained lonely! She has become like a widow! She that was great among the States, a princess among the provinces, has become tributary.

Read the entire selection here.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

289 Gender neutral Trinity

ELCA (our synod) is really struggling with what it means to be a human being (male and female He made them) and what it means to be God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The Cleveland Plain Dealer today reported on the "progress" of the new hymnal. What these committees really want (all main line churches from Church of the Brethren to Presbyterian Church USA to United Methodist and American Baptist have these diversity committees who are running amuck with the blessings of their liberal leadership) is to blur the line between believer and God. The western version of the eastern religions. It's eastern mysticism all dressed up in "Sunday go to meeting" clothes without the claptrap of reaching down within through meditation--skip Go--and God.

I'm guessing that 95% of Lutherans really don't want gender neutral language--but our "faithful radicals" whose own spiritual lives are moldly and barren, decide these things because the rest of us are too satisfied or complacent and we've let them run off with our churches.

Now God is referred to by a job description, by functionality. How intimate is that? Sort of like Higher Power in the 12-step programs, or "ground of being."

"Holy Eternal Majesty, Holy Incarnate Word, Holy Obiding Spirit" is quite a mouthful if subbing for "Father, Son and Holy Spirit." And don't even THINK about King!

If a woman was abused by her father or boss or husband, she should get counseling, and stop messing up my hymns with a stringful of diversity gibberish. Better yet, she should go to the Father through Jesus the Son and ask for mercy and forgiveness for the men in her life, and for herself for all her bitterness and anger. God doesn't grade on a curve.

Turning up the heat on the frog.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

288 'Tis so sweet

My son called on Tuesday to tell me he'd attended a small pentecostal church in his neighborhood. Since leaving the nest in 1987, he's not exactly been a church regular. We call our kids Chreasters--Christmas and Easter Christians. He was on his way to a different church in his area, but saw this one started earlier, so he pulled in the parking lot. He didn't know any of the songs, so he felt awkward, but he apparently did listen carefully to the sermon. He hears and observes better than I do, but isn't much of a reader.

He was a bit discouraged. He wants that "honeymoon with Jesus" feeling back, but heard about all he needed to be doing as a Christian. I was busy getting ready to return to the Lake, and now I wish I'd reminded him that Christianity is not a "do, do, do" faith, but a "done, done, done."

"'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take him at His word,
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know "Thus saith the Lord." "

Update: The pastor sent him a note, so he returned for services today. Still doesn't care much for the music or hand raising, but was able to tell me the sermon. Sounds like the pastor is a live one. He's thinking they really need a bass player (his instrument).

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Just checking

Trying out Firefox, so I'm testing the post.

Monday, July 18, 2005

287 Times I enjoy praise songs at worship

Yesterday Tony Gonzaga sang Psalm 27 at our traditional services (8:30 and 11 a.m.). It's times like that I think those attending the "informal" services (the other 8) are really missing out. But I enjoy the informal setting for worship along the lakefront at Lakeside with praise music and the little kids banging on the tambourines. It seems entirely appropriate with the gulls stopping by and the flag blowing in the breeze at the end of the dock.

Another place would be at the Grove City Church of the Nazarene when the bikers are in town. Check out the Road Rules page and scroll down and load some praise music by the GCCN praise musicians--nice. The bikers were in town this week-end--we met a few on 70E, some going a little too fast, on their way to church.

Friday, July 15, 2005

286 Christians in the Creationist Closet

We met in the coffee shop at Lakeside and began chatting because he was reading the book of Romans for a Bible study group. As a retired librarian, I'm always interested in what people are reading, and when he rattled off his current list of titles, fiction and non-fiction, I was very impressed.

Although his core beliefs probably don't surface in his job, he whispered to me that he too was a creationist when it came up during our conversation about books. The evol-bio-fundies would just go bonkers if they knew how many well educated, urban, deep thinkers don't buy into their religion. He's got 30 years in the teachers' retirement system, is part of a main-line denomination, is highly respected in his community and has at least an MS and maybe a PHD (I didn't ask). And like me, he thinks it just doesn't matter on the job except to pass sophomore biology. We confessed to each other that even as young children being taught this in school (and he is a good 15 years younger), we didn't buy it. All we had to do was look around and see the evidence. But even in our childhoods, one wasn't allowed to think outside the evolution box.

Evolutionists are safe from us, however. Creationists can't even agree with each other (as coherent groups) and waste a lot of energy squabbling. I personally believe biology instruction belongs in the church--evolution/creation, sex/abortion, contraception/abstinence, gender and marriage, stem cell research, and end of life issues because these are also theological and moral ideas. We can't entrust these important issues to the education system which seems to have its plate full with reading, writing and arithmetic and bringing poor and disadvantaged children up to the standards all middle-class children are expected to know.

[Most of this entry also appears on my regular blog, Collecting My Thoughts.]

Thursday, July 07, 2005

285 Why is Luther Winking?

The Chaplain this week at Lakeside Ohio's Lutheran Chautauqua is Dr. Fred Meuser, formerly the President of Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus. I heard him preach on Sunday for church, and twice on Tuesday for Chapel and Vespers. He is really outstanding, and so very personable.

I stopped at the Augsburg table in the back of Hoover Auditorium on Tuesday and purchased a t-shirt with Luther's face on it--winking. I also bought a book I hadn't seen before, "The Lutheran Handbook." (Augsburg-Fortress, 2005)

It tells me "Martin Luther's theology is grounded in paradoxes--sinner/saint, law/gospel, hidden/revealed--and illuminated by a down-to-earth, everyday sense of humor. Thus the winking Luther--our theology doesn't save us, Jesus Christ does.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

284 Dying for a verb in Cleveland

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is what I'm reading while we're at Lakeside, rather than the Columbus Dispatch. The names in the obituaries are different--lots of East European and Italian. Either lots of consonants or lots of vowels. Also, I've noticed that no one is taken from the community with a decent verb around here. They either have no verb, or they "pass away." About half are "beloved" husband or wife, or "loving" daughter or mother. Nuns are beloved aunts.

I wrote a poem about verbs used in obituaries.

I read the paper's policy on obituaries and death notices. I see no small print about "arms of Jesus" or "at home with the Lord." You must have to call to find out why in Cleveland you can pass go, but it's tough getting into heaven.

Monday, June 27, 2005

283 Visualcy

"Many centuries after the shift from oral to written culture, we are now well along in the transition to visual culture—where the predominant mode of communication is images rather than words. Just as the shift to writing required the skills we call literacy, so visual culture requires its own skills—for lack of a better word, visualcy."

Our church is UALC, and we have a Visual Arts Ministry, called in short hand, VAM. Now, thanks to Andy Crouch's article on VISUALCY, maybe we can just combine the whole thing.

His article here.

Friday, June 24, 2005

282 "This makes it all worth it"

That was my husband's comment as he came in the door, and handed me this piece of paper, completing his week as a fourth grade Bible School teacher. He said virtually every one of his 16 students came up to thank the teachers today. Yesterday they were chosen to lead the Lord's Prayer in American Sign Language for the entire VBS (his co-teacher interprets for the deaf). Every year he tells me it was his best class. Same for this year.

Thank you note from a fourth grader

Cross posted at Collecting my thoughts.

Monday, June 20, 2005

281 First Day of Vacation Bible School

This is the 12th year my husband has taught Bible School, and he was uncharacteristically frantic this week-end. The meeting for the teachers wasn't until the 18th when they received their teaching material, room assignments and found out who their co-teachers were. His room is one of those with a movable wall, so he had to go back on Sunday, remove all the chairs, and put his wall in place to put up displays. He's got 17 kids in his class, more girls than boys, which will make it easier.

But what drove him wacko was the material. I won't tell you the publisher, just in case you're using the same company. Usually our church writes and publishes its own stuff because we have about 3,000 kids enrolled, and purchasing that is just too overwhelming. But this year they found a company doing the same African theme UALC was going to offer. After listening to him moan about this several times (he is the world's most patient person), I finally took a look. I started with the title page, inspected the publication information, read the table of contents, and skipped all the introductory stuff. Each lesson was divided into four sections, but section one had two options, and then it seemed to be organized like spilled beans on a slippery floor. After reading through two pages, I handed it back, apologized, and admitted I was clueless. Truly, it appeared to have been developed by someone with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. After his third try of barricading himself in his office and outlining the lesson, he announced victory: lesson one completed. His co-teacher will do Tuesday.

On a happier note (or maybe not), this morning I was playing the DVD of George Barna lecturing on the importance of Children's Ministry. It is part of Church Communication Network, February 2005 CCN Broadcasts. This is from our church library which has a subscription. The title of the disk is "Becoming a church that transforms children into spiritual champions." He's convinced me that ministry to children needs to be the church's first priority. He says, moral foundations are set by age 9, and by age 12 children have made their faith choices. "Ministry to adults is essentially a maintenance ministry." The real changes happen to children.

VBS Photo Gallery, 2004

Friday, June 17, 2005

280 Today she would use Google

Julie has an interesting 5 part faith story at her Blog, sotto sotto.

"One statement stopped me in my tracks though -- the assertion that Catholics believe that the Sacraments are necessary for salvation. I stopped and thought, "Crap. Do I believe that?" I wasn't sure what the answer was, and it scared me a little. But I headed to the library.

Miraculously, I found a book to start with -- an examination of the documents of the Council of Trent. (The fact that the book still felt and smelled new after decades in the library was amusing but not surprising.) I was afraid of reading something that I didn't agree with, but in faith I started to dig in. And I am so glad that I did, because the study I did that day gave me a new measure of confidence in my call to the Church. I didn't just accept the teaching....I embraced it. And I could defend it too."

This part (about the value of a library and a good book when you have questions of faith) is found in the 5th part of total story.

Gerald didn't use the library, but did go to the movies to see The Passion:

"First I found a home and patriotism in this blessed land, then I found a home and patriotism in the Kingdom of God. I think that the Holy Spirit, God’s amazing grace (always a song in my mind, from early on in my life) moved me to move here. I don’t think I would have found God in Europe. Of course God was never lost, I was, so actually He found me, just in the nick of time." The Cafeteria is Closed

Saturday, June 11, 2005

279 Intelligent Design doesn't sound as intelligent as Genesis

The efforts to include Intelligent Design in science classes sound a bit tepid and pale to me. I'm a six day creationist myself, and the ID stuff just has no pizzaz, no oomph, no. . . well, Truth with a capital T. It's even more boring than the "days are millions of years" exegesis of the beginnings. Give it up Christians, and go back to basics.

This morning I slipped a CD into my van's player (it's the best cd player we have) and listened to the first 8 chapters of Genesis (NIV) that were part of an 8 disk set that was left in the library's freebie box (one disk is missing). Usually I don't enjoy listening to the Bible recorded--the voices are too monotonous or regular or something. This one was different. It had wonderful introductory material by a woman and was read by a man, and both had excellent, interesting voices that sounded like the reader believed what was being read.

Hearing it again, I was struck by the fact that so many of today's problems are mentioned in the earliest chapters of the Bible--disobedience, guilt, male-female differences and problems, marriage, parenting, jealousy, killing, alienation from God. The scope is breath taking; even though I'm familiar with the story--have heard it all my life--it is always today's newspaper or evening news.

Our church rarely preaches or teaches from the first eleven chapters of Genesis, does yours? (We did offer a class on why evolution wasn't Biblical during an adult Sunday School time, but that was researched and taught by a non-staff member.) There's a lot of good stuff there. Until Christians start believing Genesis is worthwhile for us in our everyday lives, I see little point in assaulting unbelievers with it. I didn't want my children learning someone else's religion in school--New Ageism was the biggie in the 70s-80s--and I'm guessing you don't either. Let's give non-Christian parents the choice to indoctrinate their own children as they see fit.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

278 Maybe it's just me. . .

There's something odd about the juxtaposition of the words and meaning in this paragraph, don't you think?

"When Aspen Baker was 23 she had an abortion. Baker had just completed her college degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from University of California, Berkeley, and, after weighing her options, she chose to have the procedure at a local hospital."
Women's e-news

277 Be ready with the evidence

Remember that old saw, "If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" This morning during the radio "drive-time" with Bob Connors (WTVN 610) I heard an interview, or at least the introduction, with a very prominent Columbus area pastor who heads the largest congregation in the city, and maybe the state. I won't mention his name or church because this blog is picked up by an aggregator and we're not supposed to be critical of other churches, faiths, or denominations. Let's just say this church is big, fundamentalist and charismatic with an enormous community outreach and education program, and a televised service that goes all over the world.

Anyway, Bob begins with: "Tell us Rev. X, what is a Christian?" To which Mr. Big Church gives a long drawn out definition that would make the World Council of Churches proud, because he never mentions Jesus Christ! Then Bob responds, "Oh, when I was growing up I learned a Christian was a person who followed Jesus Christ." The pastor laughed and made some comment about that was why Bob was in radio (he could say something in few words) and he was a pastor, (because he needed many words to say the same thing). At this point, I was in the parking lot turning off the key, so I'm not sure if the pastor ever caught on that he'd just blown the interview. Also, I don't know what the discussion was about, so perhaps he recovered later on and made our Lord rejoice to have him as a follower.

276 Bags of Blessings

Our church partners with an urban elementary school providing hundreds of volunteers. Tests scores have improved dramatically. Reading is the big push because many of these children are coming from chaotic home situations, or they are foreign born, or they are transient and parents don't have the interest or the time to read with them.

For the summer send off, each child receives a "Bag of Blessings" of fun items, but included is an application for a Columbus Public Library Card and a flier for the school's six-week summer reading program. Also provided for the send-off is a trumpeter and a catered dinner for the families. The church is providing the summer bookclub, and members can purchase the books (which the children keep), read with the children, provide the snacks or be a host/hostess.

Monday, June 06, 2005

275 What books do pastors read?

“When pastors were asked to identify the three books that had been most helpful to them as a ministry leader during the past three years, more than two hundred different books were listed. However, only nine books were listed by at least 2% of all pastors; just ten authors were identified by at least 2% of pastors, and just three categories of books were named by at least 10% of the church leaders interviewed.” Barna Research.

The Purpose Driven Life and Purpose Driven Church topped the list, particularly with baby boomer pastors of large congregations (our large multi-campus church used these titles and 2 or our 4 pastors are boomers).

I thought the categories read by the different age groups and different denominations were very interesting. Older pastors and women tend to read fewer books on leadership; main-line pastors read less in the area of evangelism and more in theology; and pastors of small churches read fewer books.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

274 Self-Control, Gift of the Spirit

My friend Sylvia is visiting this week-end, so this morning we attended two services, the 8:30 a.m. traditional at our Lytham Road campus, and the 10 a.m. contemporary at the Mill Run campus. It was communion Sunday, so after the second time I leaned over and whispered to her, "If we attend any more services we'll be tipsy."

Pastor Jeff had another good children's sermon using a cookie jar to talk about self-control. He asked the children, "What do you think is in this cookie jar?" and one little guy said, "Your cell phone!" Really, how do kids come up with these answers?

Although Jeff (LR) gave a strong gospel message, I sort of enjoyed some of the points in Pastor Dave's (MR) sermon. Specifically when he talked about the relationship between freedom and self-control. "Who today is the most free?" he asked. In the music world, it is the one who spent the hours and hours on scales and drills. On the basketball court, it is the player who practiced the most. In finances, it is the person who saved and invested and paid her bills who is now free. He also reminded us that it is the disciplines of the Christian life--Bible study, prayer, corporate worship, and fellowship with other believers--that keep us in the flow of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

273 The hymns of Charles Wesley

In the morning I try to read a daily selection from "Amazing Grace; 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions" by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Every entry is wonderful, not only for the story of each hymn, but the inspiring thoughts of Mr. Osbeck. Other devotional sources I've tired of, but never this one.

However, no hymn writer is as amazing as Charles Wesley who wrote 6,500 hymns. Think of that. If I read one of his hymns each day, studying the scripture or theology on which he based them, it would take me over 16 years just to read them! So if he wrote one every 48 hours, that would be a non-stop effort of nearly 35 years.

And if that isn't amazing with a capital A, he also traveled over 250,000 miles on horseback preaching to over 40,000 people. How do you write hymns on horseback? He must have been composing in his head while swaying and bumping along. However he did it, 200 years later we are still being blessed by his efforts and faithfulness.

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

Sunday, May 22, 2005

272 Never ask a question during the children's sermon

This morning Pastor Jeff called the children forward to the front of the sanctuary and sitting beneath the cross and in front of the altar, he opened a brown paper bag. "I have similar items in this bag, and I want you to tell me what they all do." One by one he pulled out a bottle of glue, a rope, a roll of scotch tape, a big roll of duct tape, and some velcro with great drama for each item. He commented that duct tape seemed to be holding the world together these days and "what would we do without duct tape," and went on to explain the velcro. "What do these things all have in common?" he asked. One older child said, "They hold things together." "That's right," Jeff said. "And what holds us together in God's love?" One little guy so excited, shouted "DUCT TAPE!"

Monday, May 16, 2005

Pentecost Concert

Our choir presented a wonderful "Choral Evensong on Pentecost" yesterday afternoon at 4 p.m. It was a time to show off our "new choir" (specifically for the Lytham Rd. campus) and our newly refurbished pipe organ. Interspersed with brief messages from the pastor and scripture reading, we had choral numbers, brass ensemble pieces, two hymns with the congregation, and several organ solos.

Pastor Paul made the most stunning remark I've ever heard at a church concert. He told us we had work to do--that listening was the work of the audience. I wish that message could have come before the wonderful organ/brass Prelude (Praise the Lord, Sigfrid Karg-Elert). A woman behind me was reading the program aloud and commenting to her guest--who probably could have read it herself, and the woman beside me was chatting with her companions. The louder the brass, the louder they talked. As a former trombone player, I wanted to hear the Prelude!

Paul also gave us a bit of history about the organ that I didn't know. The church is 49 years old. A member gave a $50,000 gift in 1970 to purchase the organ, and Paul estimated the same instrument would be $500,000 today. But in 1983 the size of the sanctuary was doubled (holds about 750), and there was not enough space to enlarge the pipes to really fill the church with the sound needed for some pieces. In January the pipes of the organ were dismantled and taken out for repairs and cleaning (we used the piano), and when it was reinstalled, there were some ranges included that are digital since there is no room for additional pipes. A few years ago another member in her will left $250,000 to the church just for the music program, and $80,000 of that when to repair and refurbish the organ. (I didn't have a pencil with me to take notes, so I might have a few details incorrect.)

And another thing I loved. The women of the choir wore white shirts and black skirts or slacks and the men wore dark suits with white shirts and ties. There were times in the past when I'd have to shut my eyes to the cacophony of colors and clothing styles during concerts. Our new director must be from the old school who thinks sight and sound need to be in relationship, not fighting each other.

Friday, May 13, 2005

270 What Mel did for Jim

Jerry and I met in the late 1980s at our first Medical Library Association meeting. Boston maybe? We became almost instant friends. Two things, besides our profession, bonded us. We both had bad backs and were standing up against the wall to listen to presentations and we both attended Al-Anon. We continued to meet annually--Seattle, San Antonio, Detroit, Philadelphia and probably a few other cities. We also met each others husbands.

We'd sort of lost track these last few years--she took some exotic positions out of the country, but e-mail recently reconnected us. She happened to mention that her husband had become a Christian and stopped drinking. "Tell me more," I responded in the reply message. Here's what she told me, and it is absolutely awesome. Enjoy--I have her permission to share.

"A year ago February, we were in Florida with my brother, Tom, and his wife Jeannie. They invited us to go see the Passion of the Christ. Jim said, "Why not?". He came out of the movie just sobbing--received Christ at the point of Jesus leaving the Tomb. It was an awesome occasion. I was what you would call a back slider. Had been a Christian for years--just wasn't walking the talk. We came home from Florida and joined a wonderful church--Clarkston Community. Pastor, congregation, music everything is just awesome. Can't wait to go every Sunday. Jim has become involved with Habitat for Humanity--he's a house leader for the June Build. He worked as one last year, as well. I've been trying to organize the church library--no space!!! Jim quit drinking that night of the Passion. Just amazing what a happier person he is now. Life is good!!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

269 Roast Preacher for Dinner

You've probably heard that old saw--"after church they had roast preacher for dinner." Saturday night we had dinner at friends--I think there were 11 of us, and the topic turned to preaching. We were all Lutherans, some Missouri Synod, some ELCA. Our church is fortunate to have four really outstanding pastors, all with different gifts. Jeff, the youngest is an orator--his preaching skills are amazing and energizing. Paul, the senior pastor, is gentle, soft spoken and an encourager. His father and grandfather were Lutheran Pastors. Dave is our theologian and teacher--I love his classes and have blogged about them. He is a former missionary and an excellent musician. But I love John's faithfulness to preaching the gospel--his attention to the "left side of the THEREFORE." Like me, he was a church member all of his life, but the light turned on for him in his 30s when he was a schoolteacher in the Columbus Public Schools and he left a successful career to go to seminary. So he knows from experience there are a lot of member-seekers sitting in the pew every Sunday who need to hear the Gospel in fresh, but persistent ways.

The left side of therefore. By that I mean if you ever see the word THEREFORE, or NOW in Paul's letters, pay attention. He's just finished up laying out for you why you should believe. The cross and the resurrection. Then he moves on to what you should do about it. So many sermons focus on the right side of the THEREFORE, and the sermon becomes just so much law. "Therefore, do this, and that, and don't forget about thus."

Sunday morning John was the pastor at the service I attended (we have 10 services). I had been finishing up some art show details, and slipped into the last pew by my husband who was an usher that service. The sermon was just starting. John announced the good news that Jesus had died for our sins, that his resurrection was our hope. The topic of the current sermon series is "gifts of the spirit," and the day's theme was kindness. He went on to tell a personal story (forgot to mention that John is the best story teller, having been an elementary school teacher). After selling their home to church members about 8 years ago, they moved to a condo. The new residents didn't wait for the neighbors to call on them, and instead, on Christmas Eve took cookies to the neighbors. They met a family who had just experienced a death and were grieving. They invited them to church and offered to pick them up. That couple have since become members and love the church. John said somewhat sheepishly that he had lived there for years and although he had spoken to them about yard and flowers, had never invited them to church or offered a simple kindness like a plate of cookies.

Coming away from a sermon with one major point to ponder is good; but coming away with that point plus the Gospel is even better. Thanks, Pastor John.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

268 The Festival of Blue Hair and Walkers

Alto Artist blogs about being a Jewish singer in "On Chanting." Once you start reading her story it is difficult to stop. To begin at the beginning, I think you need to go to the February archives. Here's a sample:

"When I had a moment of awareness, years later--a sudden and jarring formulation, for which I was not prepared, of the idea that I did believe in God--I thought I had gone crazy. It made no sense. Rational people didn't waste brain power on this. It was months before I even mentioned it to anyone. In the interim, I started going to services. It was an unusual synagogue, full of singing and dancing--based upon my prior experiences, I barely recognized it as Jewish. And there was often a woman standing at the bima, which was utterly alien. I told myself that it was fun, and a great place to meet guys, but the real reason I returned each week, even going so far as to wake up early on Saturday morning, was to convince myself that I wasn't nuts. Here were hundreds of smart Jewish people who prayed; they couldn't all be living in a fantasy world (especially since a large percentage were mental health professionals, this being the Upper West Side), could they?"

And another:

"Chanting Torah had always seemed like one of those interesting and ridiculously difficult things other people did, like roping calves or writing symphonies, solidly ouside the realm of experience I happened to occupy in this lifetime. On the other hand, thirteen-year-old boys and girls did it all the time, so I knew it was easier than brain surgery. And it involved singing, an opportunity I could never turn down. Intrigued by the challenge, I agreed to give it a try."

Hat tip to Glory Be for introducing this wonderful writer.

Monday, May 02, 2005

267 Visual Arts Ministry has three shows in May

The Visual Arts Ministry of Upper Arlington Lutheran Church (UALC) is planning three shows for May-June, 2005. At The Church at Mill Run, 3500 Mill Run Drive, Hilliard, OH 43026, from May 7 -June 11, 2005 we will again offer the Spring Show for the Upper Arlington Art League. Popular Lewis Center artist Charles Rowland will judge the show. At The Church on Lytham Road, 2300 Lytham Road, Upper Arlington, 43220 from May 6 through June 10, we are offering "The Elaines." Watercolorists Elaine Strutner of Upper Arlington and Elaine Sherer of Dublin, both of whom began seriously painting after retirement, are the featured artists. The members of the UALC Visual Arts Ministry are having their own show at the Upper Arlington Public Library, 2800 Tremont Road, Upper Arlington, 43221 during the month of May.

The web page for the Visual Arts Ministry is a bit out of date, because I'm in charge. We use a turn-key system that I think is a bit cranky and I haven't been able to get in to revise our section for maybe a year or more.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

266 Hildegard von Bingen

Today my Inner Catholic cum Latin Wannabe decided to check out some Cds of lovely, spiritual music from the library. I chose two discs of Hildegard Von Bingen, a 12th century musical genius, a German Abbess. She was quite sickly as a child, but seemed to have a rich interior life which was the basis of her music and writings. Right now I’m listening to Vision; The Music of Hildegard Von Bingen, by Richard Souther. This is a jazz interpretation, and I suppose I could say I’m not beside myself with joy over it. So now I’ve switched to Diadema. One account of her life and work says Hildegard was most recently hijacked by the New Age Movement. I’d been listening to some old timey hymns in the car, like Trust and Obey, and What a Friend we have in Jesus. I’m probably not ready for Hildegard, but it is interesting that regardless the age, illness and difficulty seem to have inspired many hymn writers.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Our Lady of Liturgical Abuses

Vox Lauri is a Roman Catholic librarian with a lot of health problems and a quirky sense of humor. After attending Mass at OLLA she stops at a Walgreens to buy hair dye where she encounters "burly man" who sat next to her in church. She tells quite a wild story.

"Around the store all the employees were talking about the fight: burly man tried to stop a shoplifter. I immediately thought that wasn't too bright, as in burly man could have gotten killed to save Walgreen’s the loss of a talking fish plaque or Chia Pet. The police arrived and took a statement, promised to look for the thief; their promise almost like someone asking how you are or wishing you a nice day, trite and expected."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

264 A Mother's Peace

We don’t usually stay for Sunday School after worship. However, today our pastor encouraged the congregation at the 8:30 service to stay and hear Rachel Muha talk about God’s peace, and the murder of her 18 year old son, during the Sunday School hour. We are doing a series on the gifts of the Spirit, and today’s topic was Peace, using the passage, Phillipians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We were so blessed by Mrs. Muha’s loving, quiet ways. A tiny woman with a lovely smile who appears to be in her mid-40s, she talked about her two sons, Chris and Brian, their growing up years in a Columbus suburb, their school and activities, and their love for family, church and community. Both went to Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH and that’s where Brian and his roommate were kidnapped and then murdered in Pennsylvania in May 1999. She talked about prayer and the peace God gave her as each horrible detail began to unfold. As the students packed the college chapel to pray for the missing students, Mrs. Muha addressed them and said, “Whoever is responsible for what has happened to Brian and Aaron, and whatever you have done to them, I forgive you.”

She talked about why she had to forgive the three young men, Terrell, Nathan and Brandon, who murdered Brian Muha and Aaron Land. Hers is not a warm, fuzzy, whimpy forgiveness--she says her heart has been shattered and will always be in a million pieces. But she won’t let the devil make her hate. She concluded with the story of the Prodigal Son, and says she prays daily for those young men and hopes that prison will be their path to heaven. She calls them her brothers. They have not yet repented six years later, so she urged us to pray for them also.

There are numerous accounts of this crime and the trial on the internet, but I thought this one, less than a year after Brian’s death, accurately reflected what she told our group.

After the trial, Tony Norman wrote:

“At the heart of the courtroom's luminous drama was Rachel Muha, the mother of Brian. Her gracious speech will reverberate for years in that sad and divided community.

"If you hadn't done this, I would have my Brian and you would have your freedom," she said calmly. "But losing your freedom is not as bad as losing your soul." She then asked Herring to redeem the rest of his years on Earth before blessing him and assuring him she'd pray for him.

Herring had no idea a year ago that he'd ever be confronted by such a woman. Had he known such love in his life, he would've wrestled his partner to the ground. Taking a bullet would've been better than living under the weight of a heartbroken mother's prayers.

Rachel Muha's redemption song has stunned and inspired many people. What the petite woman did in the presence of the tall man who helped kill her son required a bravery beyond what it takes to squeeze the trigger of a gun. What good is hatred? Rachel Muha understands that, sometimes, the language of redemption is the only thing in the whole world that makes any sense.”

A loophole in Ohio's law has caused our Supreme Court to throw out the murder convictions in this brutal case, according to this article and this one, and that loophole has now been closed, but too late for the victim's families.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

263 Les Miserables

Cindy Swanson writes about Les Miserables, and her anticipation of using the tickets for the Chicago production given as a birthday gift.

"I absolutely LOVE the music in Les Miserables. I also appreciate the Christian world-view that permeates the play. Grace/mercy versus legalism/justice--it's a pretty classic theme. I love the character of Jean Valjean--he epitomizes a redeemed soul. I think Valjean's lyrics in "What Have I Done?" are a picture of salvation:

"I am reaching, but I fall
And the night is closing in
And I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin
I'll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now
Another story must begin!"

Sounds spectacular, Cindy. Hope it met all your expectations. Cindy is a radio announcer and voice-over artist by occupation. She loves to read and write, and can't live a day without music, according to her bio.

Friday, April 22, 2005

262 The Pope is Catholic

Isn't that a surprise! Philip Lawler in today's Wall Street Journal says that the portrait being painted of Benedict XVI by the MSM responding to the secular liberals "is completely at odds with the actual personality of Benedict XVI. In fact, he is a genial, diffident man. Those who meet him for the first time are invariably struck by the humility that camouflages his powerful intellect." He comments that belief in absolute truth gives offense to those who cling to the self-contradictory principle that there are no absolutes. Their real complaint is that the Pope is Catholic. Lawler is editor of Catholic World Report.

As a Protestant (Lutheran) watching all this unfold during the last few weeks with the death of the Pope and selection of the new Pope, I've discovered my inner Catholic. And my high school Latin. I actually want someone in charge! I'd like someone to say, this is right and that is wrong despite what your government or school system or entertainers say. In Protestantism we are constantly thrown from one side of the boat to the other, and we wander from church door to church door looking for truth. We don't take in converts, we get disgruntled transfers seeking different music and jazzy programming. All Protestant denominations have had numerous splits and schisms. Then they regroup and start all over again. I think when the Catholic church caves, we're all in trouble.

I've heard a few Catholic commentators suggest to those Catholics who don't like what the church is doing, to "walk." Well, stay out of our neighborhood--we've got enough problems of our own figuring it out.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

261 Good for traveling

On our recent trip to Illinois I brought along Hank Hanegraaff's 4 disc set of Bible questions, The Bible Answer Book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I checked it out of our church library, and at $20 I think it is an excellent buy and would recommend it. One gets tired of talk radio, inane advertisements and loud music on these long trips, so it was very pleasant to listen to his clear and thoughtful explanations of common questions people have about the Bible.

I'm more a book/print person myself, but if the speaker is slow enough and varies his voice, I can get a lot out of it. I recently tried Anne Graham Lotz's "Why; trusting God when you don't understand" which is read, unabridged by the author on 3 discs. However, she reads too fast and there was not enough variation in tone and value to make it an easy listen, so I stopped half way into the first disc.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

260 Spitting in the wind

And I'll say it again, anyway. In my reading of Christian authors, the biggest challenge is often finding a clear presentation of the Gospel, and that includes Max Lucado and Rick Warren, two extremely popular Christian writers. Wonderful writers both, but because they know the Gospel so well, they fail to build a foundation for their readers. All Christian writers and publishers can assume that at some point a seeker or an unbeliever will pick up their material, so they shouldn't start with sanctification assuming the reader knows about sin and salvation.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Prayer for the Unemployed

A young man at another site is going on an interview and has asked the other bloggers for prayer. He didn't leave his e-mail address, and I thought this reply might be unappreciated if posted at that site, so I'll put it here and make a referral. This prayer is taken from "My Prayer Book" published by Concordia in 1957. I've modernized the language a bit.

"Dear Father in Heaven, Giver of all good things, I thank you that you have created me and preserved me to this day. You know my needs and my fears because of my present unemployment. I ask you to comfort and strengthen me, and help me to maintain my hope and courage.

It is clear from your Word that work is normal and good for man, yet I have not found the work which I need and seek. This situation is hard to understand. Help me, Lord, to surrender wholly to you and to look to you for the employment which I need.

I pray Lord, correct what is wrong with me or with the employment situation in general, and give me the opportunity to earn my own bread. Open a door to employment which I do not now see. Keep me from discouragement and bitterness, and help me to put my trust in you.

Help me to say with a believing heart: "The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O Lord, and Thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest Thine hand and satisfiest the desire of every living thing."

In that knowledge and in that faith make me trusting and patient. In the meantime care for me and mine according to your promise. I trust you will do so for the sake of Jesus Christ, my Savior, in whom you have promised to give us all things. Amen."

I used to think it odd that people relied on printed prayers, but I see more and more are being published. I often refer to this little pocket size book and have found it very flexible and scriptural. It even has prayers for various professions (although not librarians). The petitioner expresses his needs and fears and discouragement then asks for a fresh look at the situation, for trust and patience. Unemployment is very wearing on the soul and spirit.

Monday, April 18, 2005

258 Watching the Papal Conclave

CBS News broke into the Dr. Phil Show to allow us to see this historic moment. However, the news speakers just blathered on and on--I couldn't even hear the music. So I turned on Fox News, and got a simple 30 minutes of just the event of the cardinals taking the secrecy oath. I briefly checked CNN and they were chattering too. Eventually, Fox added the voice of a Roman Catholic priest, knowledgeable about the Sistine Chapel, the faith and event who explained the theological and political significance. Then they too succumbed to the "can't have a dead space" disease.

Photo here

Thursday, April 07, 2005

You too?

"The music employed by the Church, and used in the bumpers for the coverage [of the Pope's death], which is much different from the Sunday Catholic worship norm. The reason? We are talking about death and resurrection right now. Whatever the virtues of most modern popular Catholic worship music, it is not generally about those subjects."

Seen at Dyspeptic Mutterings

Saturday, April 02, 2005

256 Spring Break

Check out one of my paintings and a poem about April at my other blog, Collecting my Thoughts.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Ideas have consequences

One of the things that has disturbed me about the Terri news coverage is that the outrage about the starvation and thirst (even the callous Europeans are horrified), might actually work in favor of the pro-death crowd. Denyse O'Leary writes: "Starting slowly in the early 20th century, but now picking up speed, naturalism has begun to make deep inroads into our culture, including the school systems. And we are seeing the results.

At one time, only unborn children slated for abortion were treated with complete indifference to their possible suffering. Now it could be you. And if you complain that Terri is being treated cruelly, you will be told that a lethal injection would be more humane. In other words, going the whole way of treating all humans as animals would be more humane.

So, even if you are not religious or not socially concerned, but merely selfish, wake up and care."

The whole essay is well worth reading.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

254 Lip Service after Easter Services?

On Good Friday, Zach Wendling wrote about why he treasures the services held on that day--services that end in total darkness leaving one with a sense of horror at what has transpired on our behalf, Jesus death on the cross for our sins.

“Before Jesus could overcome sin and death by his glorious resurrection on Sunday, he had to endure that sin and death today. What we will celebrate in two (three?) days is predicated by what happened today, and so it behooves us to mark this day as different. To ignore Good Friday and skip straight to Easter may even have theologically troubling implications. Pride makes us want to ignore our sin and skip straight to the Gospel message of salvation and joy, and appropriately, Easter is a celebration of that salvation. Good Friday, on the other hand, is a stark reminder of why we need Christ, why he died, and how he died.” Zach Wendling In the Agora

In a nutshell, Wendling described why so many sermons with “bumper sticker gospel” fall flat, both for the saints and the ain‘ts. To me they are stuck either on Palm Sunday with happy, relationship themes, or they underscore the law in Paul’s writings with admonitions to go out and do more witnessing, more serving, more stewardship, more good examples, etc. They not only skip over the Resurrection, our hope, the rest of the church year, but ignore what happened on Good Friday.

“Pride makes us want to ignore our sin and skip straight to the Gospel message of salvation and joy.”

Here’s an example of the Gospel of Jesus Christ reworked to be inoffensive. Our church magazine for March has a reprinted interview with Quaker Richard J. Foster, the founder of Renovar√©. My first complaint is that his article on prayer is reprinted from The Plain Truth, the organ of a sect that I’m not ready yet to embrace given its founding by Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God (which has split into many factions since Armstrong‘s death).

I know Foster is considered a wonderful writer, but in this interview the Gospel is just gibberish, an unbeliever would never figure it out and a believer would just be lulled to sleep with all that sweetness and joy. There is no Good Friday. No Easter. Only figuring out through trial and error how to get close to God in prayer--which sounds an awful lot like works to me. It’s not that tough in a two page article to insert a few words about sin and the cross so we have a foundation from which to start. Here’s the cheerleading, bumper sticker gospel to which I object:

“God will not come into certain corners of our lives until we open those corners to him.”

“It is the life relationship, the interaction with God, that changes us.”

“Prayer is one of the means God uses for purifying our motives [to pray?].”

[Through prayer, good, bad, whatever ?] the problems of sin begin to be dealt with in time.”

“A loving relationship with God . . .is a great adventure.”

The name of Jesus does not appear anywhere in the article. Even the Muslim clerk at Meijer’s says, “God bless you” after our chats.

The article did drive me to his website, which is better than this interview--actually mentions Jesus--but still bogs down in relationship chatter. Sort of the ecumenical version of, “do you have a personal relationship with Jesus” to the power of 10.

Monday, March 28, 2005

253 Not only Christians fight for Terri

"Eleanor Smith of Decatur, Georgia, sat on Tuesday in a motorized wheelchair in front of the hospice, baking in the sun, with a sign on her lap reading, "This agnostic liberal says 'Feed Terri."'

Seems she'll take the Christians over the ACLU when it comes to life.

Story here.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

252 The gift of helps

In December 2003 I wrote about the Gift of Helps I saw in action while helping a friend recovering from an injury. The story here.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

251 Ten myths about Contemporary Christian Music in Worship

I enjoy contemporary Christian music--in my office, in aerobics class and in the car. I’m listening to some right now on an Internet radio station. So does Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk. He’s not too thrilled with some of the mythology concerning its use in worship. He writes a six-pager on this topic, so I’m including just the ten points with highlights of his essay. I think I’ve heard at least eight of them just casually talking to people in the narthex at our church about why they attend a particular service (we have ten, four styles of worship). You can read the whole thing--and it is worth every word and very funny in a serious sort of way--at From here on, it's all the Monk.

1. Contemporary Praise and Worship music is especially anointed of God. Advocates of P & W have lost the capacity to realize that Christian music companies will say anything to sell product.

2. God has sent contemporary Praise and Worship music to.....
A. Revive the End Times Church before the Rapture. This is patently ridiculous.
B. Break down "religious strongholds" in the church. I think this means that God wants us to act strangely and say it's the Holy Spirit. Loosing a "religious spirit" seems to be Churchspeak for doing something that used to get the ushers on your case.
C. Minister to the special issues of "this generation." "This generation" seems to be a movable term that most often applies to young people willing to fight you to turn the front of the church into a mosh pit.

3. Praise and Worship Music evangelizes without preaching.
Praise and Worship music falls somewhere between pretty good use of Bible texts to complete nonsense. Preaching, when done right, proclaims Christ and how to be saved every time it opens its mouth.

4. Praise and Worship Music brings down the Holy Spirit.
Among systematically goofy theology, this is one of the patriarchs. . . God PROMISES to be present with His people when they gather in His name. Music is completely irrelevant to the intention of God to keep his promises to His people.

5. Praise and Worship music brings a unique experience of God's Glory.
God's glory is a major Biblical theme, and encountering the glory of God would qualify as the greatest trauma a sinful human could experience. The contemporary Praise and Worship crowd apparently believes that Christians are now invited to become like Moses, and experience the glory of God routinely.

6. The overridingly important factor in deciding what church [service] to attend is MUSIC. [I]t's clear that church government, leadership, the sacraments, preaching, teaching, discipleship, doctrine and church support of the family are all areas where scripture gives some guidance of importance to any of us who are picking a church. Yet, I am not aware of any way to read the Bible that places music in such an important place in church life.

7. People worship better with contemporary Praise and Worship music. How lame is it to say that a mini-concert with hand motions is "worship" and everything else is what we did before, after or instead of "worship"? Since when do we worship "better" based on whether we are singing "A Mighty Fortress" with piano or "Shout to the Lord" with a band? Do these people have any idea what worship is anyway?

8. Contemporary Praise and Worship music is used by the Holy Spirit to bypass the mind and go directly into the human spirit where real change can occur. I feel dirty typing such an absurd sentence . . . This kind of kookicity seems to come from the spiritual warfare camp, where tales of doing an end run on the devil by slipping in through music are pretty common.

9. Contemporary Praise and Worship Music is taking music away from the devil and using it for God. Theology at work here: giving the devil credit for the appeal of the larger culture, especially music, and then sending the church on a mission to raid the pantry.

10. Using contemporary Praise and Worship Music is necessary for a church growth breakthrough. If growth occurs, we ought to be able to say with Luther, "The Word did it all!"

Friday, March 25, 2005

250 A great old hymn

Rebecca in the cold Yukon points us to a warm place in our hymn memory, O sacred head now wounded. Good Friday is not a day for those happy/clappy choruses we hear so often these days in church.

And I think of Terri.

My Savior, be now near her when death is at her door;
Then let your presence cheer her, forsake her nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave her not alone,
But take away her anguish by virtue of your own!

Note: The English was translated from the German which was probably translated from Old French or Latin, so a few adjustments didn't seem out of place for 21st century American English.

249 Jesus died for Michael Schiavo

For this topic, I'm referring you to my other blog, where it was posted yesterday (it gets 5 times the hits as this blog). Most observers agree that the moral thing to do would be for Michael to turn Terri over to her family. However, experts on federalism, states rights, neurology, palative care, right to die, right to live, and rights for the disabled are all over the map on this one causing huge rifts among people who would normally be standing together. Speculation on why Michael won't do the moral thing has caused screaming, vituperative fits of text and video, and even Christians are taking opposite sides. Time to reflect. Jesus died for Michael.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

248 Thanks, but I'll pass

Today we received an invitation from an area church that is planning a forum to "explore moral issues grounded in individual internal consistency rather than any political party or ideological position." The church is responding "to the deep divisions regarding moral values that came to a head in the last election cycle."

On the playbill are a retired Lutheran theologian; an official of Stonewall Columbus; an official of the local and national ACLU; an advisor for health policy at OSU; a former judge; someone from the office of public defenders; a doctor; a professor of health services management; a professor of history; a a former counsel for the ACLU.

Hmm. Grounded in individual internal consistency. Not grounded in Biblical faith or understanding. Many Democrats followed their belief core on life and crossed party lines. Many Republicans, likewise saw the war as a serious moral lapse, and voted outside the party. Is this forum suggesting they should've voted the party instead of beliefs?

The issues on the list are incredibly important. Why shouldn't we be divided? Do they plan to dialogue for 15 minutes about abortion and stem cell research and move to break-out groups thinking we'll come to a consensus on a Spring Sunday afternoon with snacks and child care?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

This Easter, the Passion of Terri Schiavo

"This year it would seem we are to approach Eastertide through the passion play of Terri Schiavo. Now the new culture of technology and disposability vs. the old culture of loyalty and love is put on upon our video stage for what may only be a two-week run before death brings down the curtain. The ultimate end of the play -- two weeks or twenty years -- is not in doubt. No matter. Its resolution it is already that of a vast cultural tragedy. Performed by the Shiavos, the courts, the media, the congress, it was written by all of us day by day over several generations that only wanted one thing -- more. Seen for what it is, it sickens all of us as it should. It is only proper that we now be forced to watch what we have made. . .

This previously private but now national drama reminds us -- as things magnified by our relentless media often do -- that one of the crucial questions of our blighted age is whether or not we are correct in regarding human life as something which is, under the proper conditions and self-ascribed definitions, something that really is "disposable" whenever it becomes inconvenient? And in our answer to this, whatever it may be, we shall learn very little about Terri Schiavo but a great deal about ourselves." American Digest

246 Your view of Terri

For now, there appears to be a compromise that might restore Terri's feeding tube. Now that Terri's face is finally on the national news, even with the condescending, sneers of the MSM commentators who don't know the facts, it is still surprising to me that when the human being is the most helpless, and can't speak for herself, her value and worth, as a creation of God and as a citizen, is determined by the beliefs of the guardian and not by U.S. law or a higher law. In Terri's case, her husband and guardian believes she has no value in her present condition. The people who know her best, her parents, disagree, as do thousands of other Americans. In other cases, it is a mother and an unborn child. If the guardian (the mother) believes the child growing within her will have an unpleasant, or unhealthy or inconvenient life, she determines the child's worth. She determines that her own wishes and values are of greater worth than the child's life.

I listened to Joni Eareckson Tada on the radio Friday. She and all the disabled community are watching this case very carefully, and she stressed again that thousands of people receive nutrition and hydration this way, and it is NOT considered an extreme or invasive life support method. It was reported that Bill Frist of Congress (R-TN) has talked to a neurologist who believes some of Terri's faculties could be restored--but her husband has prevented her therapy, for which he was awarded over a million dollars.

Terri is not aware enough to know the battle that roars around her. Satan has made sure that millions of others will be oblivious too. Terri may die, but now millions know how disabled and dying people are treated in hospice and nursing homes. I know a woman whose father was starved to death (no feeding tube was involved) his last days. Because he was in his 90s and very weak, it didn't take all that long. It was simply agreed between the staff and his wife (not the mother of this woman) to discontinue feeding him. When she (a nurse) and her sister (also a nurse) traveled across several states to be with him in Michigan while he died, they snuck into his room, disobeyed the orders that he wasn't to be fed, and gave him broth. He then immediately revived and knew them. His wife was furious, they were told to leave, and they weren't allowed at his final services when he died.

So, if you're thinking Terri is just one person, about whom the Congress shouldn't be concerned or pass special legislation, think again. Next time, it might be you, or your parent, or your married child.