Friday, June 30, 2006

Friday Five Meme - Independence

It's that time again: RevGalBlogPals' Friday Five. The topic today is "Independence."

1) Do you celebrate 4th of July (or some other holiday representing independence?)
Yes, I do, though not by organizing a huge celebration or anything. I'm American, so I at the very least mark the day by giving thanks to God for blessing me with a homeland that I believe, despite our many flaws as Americans, is the best country there is.

2) When was the first time you felt independent, if ever?
I first felt independent, oddly enough, when I left home at 18 for Army basic training. I come from an abusively controlling family and had never done anything on my own. Despite basic being a highly controlled/controlling environment in its own right, I still did some independent sorts of things: took my first airline flight to get there, chose a new haircut (we women in the '70s, as now, did NOT get the Demi Moore look!), and even took a huge risk to tell the truth to my C.O. when ordered by my drill sergeant to lie. (Glad he believed me, or my military "career" would have been over before it began!)

3) If you're hosting a cookout, what's on the grill?
If I *were* hosting a cookout (apartment dweller here is not), I would probably grill steaks and burgers--and veggie burgers--according to the tastes of my guests. Corn in husks, packets of new potatoes with yummy herbs, red peppers, dunno what else. But they'd all be seasoned to perfection and taste GOOOOOOD! (It's great to have an imaginary grill, don't you think? And there are no calories or mess to clean up.)

4) Strawberry Shortcake -- biscuit or sponge cake? Discuss.
Oh, sponge cake, definitely. Sugar freak that I am, the sweeter the better. But left to my own devices, it's *pound* cake. Preferably my own homemade sour cream pound cake. Edible sin.

5) Fireworks -- best and worst experience
WORST: My first experience with "snakes" as a little child. Those things creeped me out clear to hades and back. If you don't know what those are, you light them and they come "crawling" out, a lengthening, fattening, twisting snake-like dark carbony ash that, when you're only four or so, looks like it's chasing you. But then, I was a very jittery kid. Even sparklers scared the you-know-what out of me and I would let my brothers burn most of my package after I'd burned a couple to "prove" I was "grateful" to get to play with fireworks.

BEST: The annual, obligatory "Fourth of July Concert" I had to play every year while in service. It's so trite I'm embarrassed to say, but at the end of the concert we'd play Tschaikovsky's 1812 Overture, complete with real artillery cannons (firing blank shells, nevery quite in sync with the rhythm) and fireworks. While we in the band would be tearing down after the last number, the crowd would be mesmerized by the fireworks and even we jaded musicians would be a little impressed with the biggest and most colorful bursts.

(Tangent: I think it's ironic that on the most patriotic American holiday, the tradition is to play a Russian overture. Musically it works fine, but I've always thought we ought to have a huge, over-the-top American composition for the Fourth of July. Copland's Fanfare for the Comman Man or even Hoedown from Rodeo come the closest for me, but they're both too short and just don't cut it for "fireworks music." Ah, well.)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Godly Authority vs. worldly authority

Over at the CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality) blog, there is a discussion going on about freedom in Christ. A patriarchalist, who is a pastor (if I'm reading some of his detail correctly) recently asserted that women may prophesy because "Authority in the church is not given to those who prophesy, but to the elders or pastors." I believe this is classic eisegesis. Here's what I replied to the man:

"I must disagree with Brian, both in general on what I see as his misunderstanding of true authority, and specifically about prophecy carrying no authority. If prophecy is declaring truth from God (and if it is not, it is certainly not prophecy), then it had BETTER carry God’s authority! Authority always centers around the task God gives one to do, not around a position of prominence or power. Authority is a tool, not a right or privilege. Authority is given by God to get the task done. So a preacher preaches with God’s authority, but is not an “authority figure” as Jesus warned us about. A prophet prophesies with God’s authority. A pastor shepherds with God’s authority, a teacher teaches with God’s authority, and any servant of God serves with God’s authority. We do what we’re called to do because God gives us the authority necessary to do it. This matter of declaring some “positions” as carrying authority and others not, is IMO the method Christians have used through the centuries to make the church more amenable to the worldly authority structures they end up emulating. God’s way is startlingly, effectively different than that."

I'd be very interested in what others think about this.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hump Day Humor: God's Design for Men

Proclaiming Softly commented a couple of posts back about some humorous little articles I hadn't read in a while, from Egalitarian Christian Alliance (ECA). I read a couple of them over again and they did indeed lift my spirits. I thought for today's Hump Day Humor post, I'd point you to J. Taylor's "God's Design for Men."

DISCLAIMER: This is egalitarian humor that unashamedly pokes fun at the type of hermeneutic used by those who promote a theology of patriarchy. If you would find this kind of satire offensive, I respectfully suggest you do not follow the link.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Dreading the coming Sunday

Ooookay, I may draw a buncha flak for this one, but I need to say it, if only for the sake of my own sanity:

I don't wanna do what I gotta do this Sunday!

At least I get the following Sunday off for vacation. Did those colors give you a clue as to what's on my plate? Yep. It's "Let's all confuse the flag with the cross because it's a patriotic holiday weekend" Sunday, aka the Fourth of July Two Days Early.

As in, all four verses of the National Anthem. I'm not kidding. In addition to all "patriotic hymns" during the worship service proper. And I suspect, though I don't know for certain, that we're in for a repeat of the lecture-in-place-of-proclamation-of-the-Word, which we first experienced on Memorial Day weekend a few short weeks back. The pastor received rousing applause for what passed for the sermon that weekend. It was all about the need to watch terrorists' recordings of beheadings and hyper-violent patriotic movies, stop watching network news, and follow even obscure political/government "real" news closely so as to be godly,informed citizens who are grateful for the freedom our fallen heroes bought for us. It was about how we need to be proud that the U.S. is a Christian nation and be sure we do all we can to keep it a Christian nation. After hearing this sermon twice before noon, I was vaguely ill...and still starved for a word from the Lord. (Fortunately, one need not rely on one's pastor as the only source for spiritual food.)

That's not how it usually is in our little corner of Christendom. Honest. Maybe that's why it's so hard to swallow the patriotism masquerading as worship when that's the planned, deliberate focus.

Now lest anyone think I'm a merely soft pinko desecrating the memory of those who have given their lives in service to their country, I cherish the gift of my freedom as an American citizen. I love my country and cannot imagine pledging allegiance to any other. I gave seven years of my life in active military service, three of those years in combat divisions. I happened to be blessed to have served during a relatively long period of peacetime, so in some eyes that means I don't have the right to comment. But I'm an American citizen, one who took the oath of service regardless of what conflict I might have faced. I *do* have the right to speak out. And I believe I have the right, and the responsibility as a citizen of the Reign of Almighty God, to call it as I see it when anything less than the Sovereign of all Creation is worshiped in place of God.

The trouble is, how does one relate such an observation when the ears are itching for more patrio-worship? I'm praying about that, despite the deliberately farcical style with which I began this post. I'm praying very hard, as a matter of fact. I love my friend and pastor dearly. I love my church. But on this score, I'm solidly at odds with what I perceive to be the large majority of my brothers and sisters in the congregation, and I am their music minister. I am the one who must lead them in the singing that I find highly inappropriate for Christian worship. So far, the answer seems to be to submit to my pastor in this matter. I do think I owe her the honesty of giving her a "minority opinion," so that she has at least heard she could be wrong in taking this direction.

And I admit that I should be willing to be persuaded that I am wrong as well. Any so inclined are invited to pray for me, for my church, and for all churches who face this kind of conflict on these kinds of occasions.

Context Revisited (Biblical Equality)

I think I finally got some semi-original insight into one of the pro-patriarchy rationales for women being subject to men. It came from a woman whose writing I read from time to time, and who in her own words "hates egalitarian feminism." OK, that's her right. I happen to hate the effects of patriarchy that I've witnessed in society, family, and church. And that's my right. The difference is, I can acknowledge that this woman is still my Christian sister, despite what I absolutely believe is her blindness about the equality the Bible teaches us is our re-birthright in Jesus Christ. She, sadly, has declared that we biblical egalitarians are heretics. Ah, be it. Her opinion may separate us in some ways, but despite that opinion, we both belong to our Lord.

Anyway, I commented on another blog in response to her direct question "Is woman made for man?":

"Of course woman was created for man, [her name]. Contextually, it is clear that they were created for each other and, together, for the purpose of glorifying God and partnering together to do God’s will."

I read several of her non-approved responses that expressed strong disagreement with this statement of mine, because she posted them on a public forum. I also read the one that eventually was approved and posted on the blog. From what I can make out, she completely missed the word "contextually," and she seems to see no distinction between Paul's "man was not created for woman, but woman for man," and my observation that the full witness of Scripture does indeed teach us that womEn are made for mEn even as mEn are made for womEn. Paul begins with giving the summary of the creation order, then reminds us that man (that is, subsequent men) are now born of woman (subsequent women), and all find our source in God.

What this woman seems be saying, which I find fairly original among patriarchalists, is that this one phrase ("For man was not made for woman, but woman for man") constitutes an ordering of women to be subordinate to men. Try as I might, I cannot find anything that makes this true. But again, that's her argument.

So my point in blogging about this (and I do have one) is to ask whether anyone else who embraces biblical equality has encountered this argument before. A second, more general question is, how have you addressed the issue of biblical context with people who hold opinions like this (framed by proof-text), yet who are genuinely interested in understanding a hermeneutic that permits one to recognize equality as God's intended "order" for men and women in church, family, and society?

Why do I do these things?

If they're any good, I know the result will be INFP!

But just in case you really, really need to know your Myers-Briggs Personality Type and are willing for a blog-fun level four-question "test" to determine it for you, you can go to

and you, too, can learn your "Bloginality."

[rolls eyes]

Monday, June 26, 2006


On Maundy Thursday, my pastor and I co-led a Seder dinner in our Fellowship Hall. It was a lovely, well-attended event. Each table had a hosting couple who were responsible for setting a beautiful table and inviting people to join them around it. We used a haggadah (order) and we all learned a great deal about our Passover heritage, which made our observance of Communion around the tables that much more meaningful.

One of the portions of the haggadah was the "dayenu." The dayenu is a litany that declares that God is enough (dayenu), with or without any of the blessings God bestows on us.

I thought of dayenu this morning as I read this post on Douglas Groothuis's blog, Culture Watch: Thoughts of a Constructive Curmudgeon. Here, he proposes:
For one month, all Bibles and all biblical material on the internet and in other books disappear. There are no biblical texts available. We are thrown back to our memories alone. How would this Bible evacuation affect your daily routines, the teaching and preaching in the church, your email messages, your conversations, your prayers?

Who would miss the Scriptures and why? Who would you seek out to if you wanted to hear the Word of God from memory? (I would go to my wife. She recently memorized seven single-spaced typed pages of Scriptures. I also read that John Piper memorized Romans 1-8.) How much would you have stored in your own soul to draw from? How would the teaching in seminaries change?
First of all, I think dayenu informs our answers to this proposal, or at least it should. It is enough that God, revealed in Jesus Christ, simply is. Our frequently careless, cheap treatment of the Bible as a tool for besting our opponents is shameful. If that's the best thing we do with it, better that we should make it disappear for a while until we learn better. But I think what Groothuis was getting at is that too many of us also take a very casual approach to learning the Bible, growing to love it, and never really appropriate it. And bless him for observing that, while he is all for memorizing Scripture, memorization is not enough.

Some of the most dangerous, frightening times in my life (which I won't share here or now) have driven me to the Bible, which has never failed to be a lifeline. At such times, I read as if my life depended upon it, and perhaps it did. I've never forgotten the passages, many of them lengthy, that kept me connected with the One who gives us the Scriptures as a most precious gift. No, not all of these passages are memorized, at least not perfectly. And besides that, I use a number of different translations now. Memorized in one is likely to be considered "wrong" by someone who memorized the same passage from a different translation. But I digress...

The point is, God is self-revealed and I am self-revealed through the Bible. I know both God and myself better for having claimed the Book for myself. I have come to know and love the God revealed therein by knowing and loving the Book itself.

Such treasure is not to be kept to myself. And here, I think, is where, like our passover haggadah, it is time to say "lo dayenu" ("it is not enough"). It is lo dayenu to merely memorize the words of Scripture. It is lo dayenu to proof-text our "superior" opinions with Scripture. It is lo dayenu to assume that sword drills make our children Bible-literate. It is lo dayenu to observe a quiet time where we systematically read through the Bible in a specified length of time.

It is dayenu that the God of Scripture is with us. It is dayenu that the Holy Spirit teaches us what our reading cannot. It is dayenu to live the sacred words, breathe the sacred words, teach both the sacred words and the application of them to faithful living. And it is certainly dayenu to do all this without thumping the Book that contains these sacred words in such a way as to negate the words' credibility to a doubting world.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The call goes on, and on, and on

Our pastor has taken a week of vacation, and she was gone this morning. Many things happened this morning, some planned and some unplanned, but one of the planned things was that I led a significant part of both services.

This might not seem like a big deal to some of you, or might seem like a bigger deal than it was to others. But three weeks ago marked the fourth anniversary of my last Sunday as a UM local pastor, and I have missed that work more than words can say.

I now make my living part-time as a minister of music (I have a B.Mus. in Church Music) and part-time as an office manager for a psychotherapist who is also a UM elder. It's not a bad living, but it's certainly not what I thought I'd be doing at this stage of my life and I'm not making much more money than what it takes to make ends meet. I completed half the hours toward my M.Div. and have significant hours at the Master's level in both Sacred Music and Music Education. I won't go into all the reasons I didn't finish the M.Div., but they all centered around money (or a lack thereof).

Anyway, this morning is the closest I have come in the past four years to serving as the primary worship leader. It was good. I didn't preach; we had a visiting evangelist preach this morning, and I have had a couple of short evening worship opportunities for preaching in the interim, and they were good, too. This was the first time I have offered congregational prayer, issued an invitation, and given a benediction. It's difficult to describe just why, but these things were right. It's where I belonged, at least as of today.

Several people have commented recently about my needing to enter candidacy again. I think they're right, but it's not financially possible right now (again, as of today at least). The visiting evangelist commented after the service about how good he thought my children's sermon was. He liked that I engaged the children with the text for the morning. This was just the latest of out-of-the-blue affirmations of what I've come to realize is the ongoing call to ordained ministry.

As much as I love music and find fulfillment and blessing in leading music in the church, the same answer I surprised myself by giving at my first District-level candidacy interview 14 years ago is echoing in my head now: I'm not passionate enough about music. The passion for worship leadership, however, has never gone away and it smacked me hard this morning.

This impotence of longing to be able to respond to this resurgence of God's call, yet it not being possible at the moment, is a deep ache in me. I suspect that it's important to allow myself to feel that, however. Perhaps that's why God led me to the blogging project, and especially to the RevGals. (Thanks...I think!)

Don't get me wrong: this morning was good. Despite the sudden changes in music for the services because our accompanist was unable to get a flight back in time to be here, the big gap in the choir ("when the cat's away" syndrome re: the pastor's published vacation), and a few other more minor bumps, worship happened and God was glorified. (The evangelist was really, REALLY good!) I know that this isn't about me, at least not much. But when God reminds one that the call hasn't been rescinded despite whatever detours the path has taken, there is at least a little personal aspect to the worship experience.

I'll keep up here on how things progress. I suspect God isn't going to let up on me.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Friday Five Meme - Ice Cream!

The Rev Gals' Friday Five meme yesterday was five questions about ice cream. I go!

1. Ice cream: for warm weather only or a year-round food?
The latter, absolutely! Even though we here in Texas have relatively few cold days, I'd miss ice cream too much if I enjoyed it only when it's warm.

2. Favorite flavor(s)
Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie, with Breyer's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough a close second (depends how much I'm craving chocolate). In a pinch, anything chocolate except mocha.

3. Cake cone, sugar cone, waffle cone, cup?
Any of the above except sugar cone.

4. Childhood ice-cream memory
Friends' birthday parties at the *original* Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor in Portland, where we'd all dig into the huge bowl filled with scoops of every flavor Farrell's made, with cute plastic animals mixed in, that was the Portland Zoo. This monstrosity was delivered on a stretcher by 1890's-style firemen, complete with a siren, and lots of fun silliness. I always wished I could have my birthday parties there. Even as young teens, everyone looked forward to a Farrell's party invitation.

5. Banana splits: discuss.
Ah...let's see. I'm a traditionalist, so it needs to be dipped ice cream (NOT soft-serve) in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Hot fudge topping, strawberry topping, and either pineapple or caramel topping. Whipped cream, absolutely. Skip the nuts for me. And a cherry on top of EACH scoop's whipped cream. And best of all, a friend to share the guilt!

OK, I think I just gained five pounds thinking about this one. Why did I answer this while hungry? (I WILL NOT go to Braum's for lunch, I WILL NOT go to Braum's for lunch...must be hungry...)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Results of Hymn/Worship Song Survey

I think I've gotten all the responses I'm likely to on my Favorite Hymn/Worship Song survey, though you're free to comment here and keep it going; if you do, I'll post updates every so often. Here are the results of the first survey:

All Creatures of Our God and King.- 2 votes
Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord - 2 votes
Here I am LORD - 2 votes
At the Cross
Most of Steve Bell's paraphrases
The Church's One Foundation
Crown Him With Many Crowns
Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether.
Great is thy faithfulness
Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen
Holy Holy Holy
How Firm a Foundation.
In the Palm of Your Hand
A Mighty Fortress.
O For a Thousand Tongues
One Bread, One Body
Our God is an awesome God
Jim Strathdee's Sanctus
Touching Place (Christ’s is the world) from the Iona Community
You Statisfy the Hungry Heart

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Importance of Context

I'm not one who generally jumps down society's throat for relativism. I think it's generally an OK (not terrible and not great) thing. We're somewhat better than we used to be at allowing people to be different from each other without being judged inherently bad for their differences. That's a good side of relativism.

Where I think relativism is disastrous is in our communication. Whether sending or receiving, relativism wreaks havoc on understanding. We cannot be very relativistic when it comes to deciding for someone else what he or she meant to say. One way we can keep our relativism in check is for us to take contexts seriously.

Considering how our "sound byte"-loving Western society chucks context out the window in favor of what sounds good on air or looks good in print or in the 'sphere, we're anti-context communicators. We need to provide context if we wish to stand any chance of being understood, and we need to consider context if we wish to understand anyone else.

I'm a minister, one who makes a significant portion of my living serving and serving among a congregation of Christians. As such, I take the Bible very seriously and I cherish it above all other books. Indeed, I consider it uniquely inspired by God. One of the ways I take it seriously is in taking the effort to reading it in context. It is not enough, for me, to be able to quote a verse here or there to "prove" some point or other. It troubles me greatly when Christians use it in that way (known as proof-texting) to attack other Christians. What any given verse or fragment says, often means something very different when we read or hear it outside its context, than within it.

Slavery was often supported through proof-text here in the U.S.A. Subjugation of women still is. In the current day it gets proof-texted to tell people they must vote according to a particular party, limit their attire to certain types of garments, cover or not cover their heads, prohibit make-up and cutting hair for women, hate same-sex-attracted people, and say all kinds of outrageously false things about God. In short, any of us with sufficient knowledge OF the Bible, can use it to further our own extrabiblical preferences.

The context for Christians, of course, must include the witness of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. I think it's irresponsible for any Christian to declare that thus and such is true, based on a verse or two, when the witness of Christ shows that declaration to be incomplete or downright false. We can't appeal to some verse in Leviticus or Numbers as binding on us today, without taking into account the original "audience" of that verse (what if it's part of the code for the priests, for example?) and seeing how it is informed by the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord.

I'm not going to get into further specifics here. It's simply a dangerous, inaccurate trend that many of my Christian brothers and sisters engage in with relish. It's yet another way of dividing the body of Christ into "us vs. them," despite Christ's prayer that we all should be one. Like it or not, Christ intends for us to work together, even when the toes and ankles of the Body think they have nothing in common with the nose and the eyelashes.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hump Day Humor

From Bert's site: Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Grandpa:In my day, we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Someone told us that the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.
Alvin Toffler:Because the chicken was suffering from future shock.(Barbara Llorente)
Timothy Leary:Because that's the only kind of trip the Establishment would let it take
John Locke:Because it was exercising its natural right to liberty.
Jean-Paul Sartre:In order to act in good faith and be true to itself, the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.
Howard Cosell:It may very well have been one of the most astonishing events to grace the annals of history. An historic, unprecedented avian biped with the temerity to attempt such an Herculean achievement formerly relegated to homo sapiens pedestrians is truly a remarkable occurrence.
John F. KennedyEr ist ein Roadcrosser
Salvador Dali:The Fish.
The Bible:God came down from the heavens, and He said unto the chicken, "Thou shalt cross the road." And the Chicken crossed the road, and there was much rejoicing.
Oliver StoneIt was a government conspiracy.
(Barbara Llorente)
Sirs William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan:To verify through measurement and research explorational, Asserted widths and properties of highways transportational. And thus through brain and intellect did prove itself, this animal, To be the very model of a modern chicken-general.
E.O. Wilson:Under the influence of a road-crossing gene, selected because it conferred a survival advantage in the chicken's ancestral line. We could conjecture, for example, that crossing roads represents the transfer of a behavioral trait whereby some chickens sought to distance themselves from rivals, thereby distinguishing them in the eyes of potential mates and increasing their reproductive potential.
Sir Edmund Hillary:Because it was there.
Mark Twain:The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated.
Sigmund Freud:As an expression of the repressed desire to have sex with its mother. The road symbolizes the barrier presented by the cultural taboo.
Carl Jung:The confluence of events in the cultural gestalt necessitated that individual chickens cross roads at this historical juncture, and therefore synchronicitously brought such occurrences into being.
Johnny Cochran:The chicken didn't cross the road. Some chicken-hating, genocidal, lying public official moved the road right under the chicken's feet while he was practicing his golf swing and thinking about his family.
Darwin:It was the logical next step after coming down from the trees.
John Wayne:'Cause a chicken's gotta do what a chicken's gotta do.
Richard M. Nixon:The chicken did not cross the road. I repeat, the chicken did not cross the road. This isn't about roads and chickens. I don't think you quite understand that what you believe I may have meant isn't what you think I said.
F. Lee Bailey:The question is not "Why did the chicken cross the road?" but is rather "Who was crossing the road at the same time and who did we overlook in our haste to observe the chicken crossing?"
Jerry Seinfeld:Why does anyone cross a road? I mean, why doesn't anyone ever think to ask, "What the heck was this chicken doing walking around all over the place anyway?"
Machiavelli:So that its subjects will view it with admiration, as a chicken which has the daring and courage to boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom among them has the strength to contend with such a paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the princely chicken's dominion maintained.
Pat Buchanan:To steal a job from a decent, hard-working American.
Louis Farrakhan:The road, you will see, represents the black man. The chicken crossed the "black man" in order to trample him and keep him down.
Martin Luther King, Jr.:I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.
Bill Gates:I have just released the new Chicken 2002, which will both cross roads AND balance your checkbook, though when it divides 3 by 2 it gets 1.4999999999.
Bill Clinton:I did not, and I repeat, I did not have sexual relations with that chicken!
Hippocrates:Because of an excess of light pink gooey stuff in its pancreas.
Perry MasonI don't know, but I intend to find out. Della, get Paul on the phone for me. (Becca Love)
Marlin PerkinsWhile Jim wrestles the chicken across the road I'll be taking a nap here in the tent. (Blackbeard)
Stevie WonderChicken, what chicken? (Becca Love)
George Orwell:Because the government had fooled him into thinking that he was crossing the road of his own free will, when he was really only serving their interests.
Aristotle:Because one chicken cannot be more chicken than another.
Nietzsche:The chicken crossed the road, but it will take time for the consequences of the chicken's actions to be felt by the common chicken.(Barbara Llorente)
Jean ChrétienDa chicken crossed da road because 'e 'ad da plan. (Bert Christensen)
Former President George BushTo face a kinder, gentler thousand points of headlights.
Current President George W. BushIt will be a long crossing that is for sure, and we ask all pedestrians and automobiles for their patience as it crosses the road. But make no mistake about it, it WILL cross the road! It will prevail!
Albert Einstein:Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.
Emily Dickenson:Because it could not stop for death.
Ralph Waldo Emerson:It didn't cross the road; it transcended it.
Ernest Hemingway:To die. In the rain.
The Jihad:The chicken crossed the road hoping for martyrdom.(Barbara Llorente)
Karl Marx:It was a historical inevitability.
Adolph Hitler:To purify the chicken race.
Joseph Stalin:I don't care. Catch it. I need its eggs to make my omelette.
Dr. Seuss:Did the chicken cross the road?
Did she cross it with a toad?
Yes, the chicken crossed the road.
But why she crossed, I've not been told!
O.J. SimpsonIt didn't. I was playing golf with it at the time.
Osama bin LadenTo strike at the heart of the infidels. Praise be to Allah! (Jaco Strauss)
Colonel Sanders:I missed one?
Buddha:Therefore, on the road there is no chicken, no road, nor perception of the road, nor impulse to cross it, nor consciousness of the road, no feathers, no beak, no clawed feet, no chicken. No road no chicken no crossing... only the great prajnaparamita of the empty form of chicken and the empty form of the road, and that emptiness; gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond. "But, O Buddha," said Sariputta, "what is that crossing the road before us at this moment?" And the great One replied,"A chicken, Sariputta." "But why, O great One, does it cross the road?" "To get to the other side, Sariputta." Om.
Arthur O. Andersen Consultant: Deregulation of the chicken's side of the road was threatening its dominant market position. The chicken was faced with significant challenges to create and develop the competencies required for the newly competitive market. Andersen Consulting, in a partnering relationship with the client, helped the chicken by rethinking its physical distribution strategy and implementation processes. Using the Poultry Integration Model (PIM) Andersen helped the chicken use its skills, methodologies, knowledge capital and experiences to align the chicken's people, processes and technology in support of its overall strategy within a Program Management framework. Andersen Consulting convened a diverse cross-spectrum of road analysts and best chickens along with Andersen consultants with deep skills in the transportation industry to engage in a two-day itinerary of meetings in order to leverage their personal knowledge capital, both tacit and explicit, and to enable them to synergize with each other in order to achieve the implicit goals of delivering and successfully architecting and implementing an enterprise-wide value framework across the continuum of poultry cross-median processes. The meeting was held in a park-like setting enabling and creating an impactful environment which was strategically based, industry-focused, and built upon a consistent, clear, and unified market message and aligned with the chicken's mission, vision, and core values. This was conducive towards the creation of a total business integration solution. Andersen Consulting helped the chicken change to become more successful.

But, we will never know because the chicken was shredded before it reached the other side.

Stockwell Day:I pray for this chicken, as surely as I pray for all godless heathens who refuse to share my beliefs in total. And I am not saying this because I am a sanctimonious prig, but because I surely believe that yeah, although the chicken has crossed the Road of Death, he is still in danger of falling into the Frying Pan of Hell if he does not cross back to the good, the moral, the Right side of the road -- mine.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Whose Will Is It, Anyway?

One of the things that really irks me is when I occasionally read a pro-patriarchy author claiming that female clergy enter representative ministry (they rarely use those words, but that's what they mean) because they "want to." I wouldn't be surprised if I conducted a poll of clergy, male and female, if those who became clergy because they "wanted to" was as low as five to ten percent. I understand that a few people do; generally they're relatively young, "look the part" (you probably know what I mean there; let me know if you can't figure it out), are bright enough to make it through the years of education, and may even become quite good at it. And when God is merciful (to said "want to" types and to their congregations), that wrong-headed reason gets transformed into a deeper, genuine response to God's will.

But as for the other estimated 90 - 95 percent, like their "want-to" counterparts, they go through some period of discernment, some degree of mandated study, some degree of denominational scrutiny, some kind of endorsement, and of course, a long period of educational preparation. Somewhere in the midst of all that, they probably get to the point where they truly want to be clergy, but part of the conflict for them is that they want to serve God and people more than they specifically want to be clergy.

I'm blessed to be United Methodist, a tradition in which we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. There's almost no comparison between the difficulties that first and second generation of women faced and the relative freedom female candidates now have to explore, test, and answer vocations to ordained ministry. But probably a majority of even United Methodist lay people would still probably say that a "typical" pastor is a man, especially here in the Bible Belt, where most other denominations are pro-patriarchal (in my geographical area, even the Episcopal diocese does not ordain women as priests, though they will permit them to step over to the neighboring diocese that does--how gracious!).

This is to say that I suspect that very few women simply "want to" be ordained ministers. I've never met one who said that the starting point. To a woman (and for men I know personally, to a man), it is a matter of God's will, not theirs. Saying yes is costly in every way: financially, to one's family, to one's previous plans and dreams, and to one's sense of self-determination. That's mostly a good thing, though I understand from my married clergy friends--especially those with children--it can be a very difficult learning curve to strike the right balance of serving family while serving the church. Saying "yes" to God's will means being reduced to one's fundamental identity--child of God--and allowing God to rebuild and equip one as God sees fit, because no sane person ever believes he or she is capable as is to be an effective pastor. That's why "because I want to" is not a sufficient reason to be ordained. Those traditions with stringent examination of their candidates will weed out those for whom that is the only reason--or they should!

While it might help bolster the incorrect interpretation of pro-patriarchy types to claim falsely that female clergy are in violation of 1 Tim.2:11-12 and other out-of-context verses for them to believe such women simply "want to" be pastors, they're just engaging in further invention. The problem is that GOD wants them to do so. As so many pro-patriarchy people have said to egalitarians on several equality-related issues, "Your gripe isn't with me, it's with God." That's a snotty thing to say, yes. But that's the heart of it here. The call originates with God. It's a weighty matter to dismiss that fact so lightly. You might think all these women are mistaken, but God must still be obeyed. Come to think of it, anti-female clergy types refuse to be a part of female clergy-led congregations anyway, so it's a really cheap opinion to hold. Let your wife, or your daughter, or you yourself (whether male or female) have to truly wrestle with a call from God and be told by fellow mortals that you're disqualified because you're female (or male), and you'll begin to understand the cost and why women aren't resigning wholesale on the basis of your disagreement with their callings. God's call is going to trump your opinion every day of the week.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Too Much of a Good Thing

I just couldn't NOT post these pictures! Given my booger of a headache and lack of creative or intellectual energy right now, Maced With Grace's "ooh-cute" pictures of critters who think too much of a good thing is just about enough, will surely suffice for today's entry. Enjoy! Oh, and Rosie, my brown-and-white tabby cutie who takes after me in her shape, remarks that she and I look a bit too much like the cat in the last photo. Dang little butterball is right, as usual!








Sunday, June 18, 2006

Spiritual Formation Under Attack

WARNING! Rant alert!

Why do we Christians keep doing this to one another? I just learned of a "ministry" that is entirely devoted to exposing the "dangers" of Christian contemplative spirituality and spiritual formation. I was blown away, because according to their own stated purpose, these old, stable, time-proven methods of growing in Christ are falsely believed to espouse "all paths lead to God." These misguided souls have laid a totally false foundation, and thus are "exposing" something that's not even there!

This is not to say that there are non-Christian contemplative traditions even older than Christianity itself. I'm not talking about those, and supposedly neither are they (the Dombrowskis). Yet what they describe as pertaining to specific Christian movements are not even recognizable, I suspect because they keep reading into them what they mistakenly believe must be there because that's what "contemplative" and "spiritual formation" MUST be about.

Sorry, but casting aspersions on practices such as contemplative prayer and spiritual formation simply because one couple's own spin on Scripture doesn't leave room for them, is highly damaging to the body of Christ. They're throwing the baby out with the bathwater! That's what reactionaries have always done. Take something you personally disagree with, find a little support for your POV, and declare war. Never mind that some of the most beautiful and profound writings of Christians across the centuries came about as fruit from contemplative prayer. Never mind that ANY Christian who is discipled by a more mature brother or sister, is engaged in spiritual formation. Never mind that the church has been enriched for nearly two thousand years by those who undertake such spiritual disciplines. We're to oppose everything to do with the Alpha Course, Rick Warren and the "Purpose Driven" principles, the Emerging Church movement, respected Christian authors such as Beth Moore, Max Lucado, Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, and Thomas Merton, most Christian publishers, many Christian seminaries, and practices such as lectio divina and breath prayer, all because these people insist that these avenues lead inevitably to "far eastern spirituality." Oh, and while we're at it, let's stand against the "Global Peace Plan." (What, and pray for global war instead?)

This rubbish about fearing anything remotely resembling prayer and meditation techniques that some non-Christian traditions may also employ, is a huge stumbling block to people and is totally unnecessary. If you need to hedge your own faith because you fear it, go for it! But don't build a ministry designed to spread your fear to as many as you can get to swallow it. We're not supposed to have a spirit of fear. And techniques that slow down our world-frantic lives so that we can listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit teaching us, are nothing to fear. If you're praying to the true and living God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, then WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF, ANYWAY?

Granted, not all types of prayer are helpful for everyone. Some people have to keep it entirely cerebral, while that style is intimidating for others who are "wired" by God to pray more intuitively or emotionally. And I, too, believe that Christians need to be clear that our focus is always to be Jesus Christ, our Way to God. But I'm not about to be taken in by charlatans who monger fear of what they neither practice nor understand. I can't take seriously anyone who claims that deliberate, systematic reading of Christian texts (aka "lectio divina") is a path to Buddha. Hello?! Read Christian books to follow Buddha?? I don't think so!

I find it telling that on their Master List (books and authors they warn you about), they categorize Hildegard of Bingen as "new age," Henri Nouwen as a homosexual writer, and yet apparently don't find any problem with the false teachings of the manhood/womanhood movement and its Grudem/Piper/Mouser proponents or the blatantly it's-all-about-sexuality T. D. Jakes of "Woman, Thou Art Loosed" infame. Just be sure to never read anything by Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, Scott Peck (yeah, it occurs to me they might not want anyone to read "People of the Lie," especially), Jack Canfield (yeah, too much "Chicken Soup" could be bad for you), or Mike Yacconelli (of Youth Specialties), plus a score of others whose books' worst crime is that the Dombrowskis are afraid of something in them or something they think might be true about the authors themselves.

And for the Dombrowskis' information, Merton remained a faithful Christian, for all the time he spent actually getting to know and understand Buddhists. Funny how respecting other people and their faith traditions actually works at getting them to know and understand and respect Christians in return.

We Christians ought to spend more time and energy promoting what we stand FOR, rather than discrediting perfectly legitimate Christian practices in order to invent something to rail AGAINST. Trust the Holy Spirit to use even practices you yourself don't understand or appreciate, to grow the faith of your brothers and sisters. God knows better than you or I do!

And no, I'm not posting a link. I don't want anyone thinking I support them in any way. You can find the poisonous "Lighthouse Trails 'Research' Project" pages on your own, if you really want to wade through all their false witness. Ugh! I feel dirty just from reading this trash!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Equality, Bible-Style

One of the things I believe very strongly in is the Bible's teachings about our equality and unity in Christ. As a United Methodist, I don't catch much flak for this within UM circles. It amazes me, however, just how furiously some Christians oppose these beliefs! They assert instead that the Bible requires a hierarchy of men over women in marriage, family, and church, with a lot of waffling over whether this should be the case in the greater society as well.

Actually, there's a lot of waffling in that position anyway. They can't agree on just what verses define the "men's roles" and "women's roles" that they insist the Bible prescribes, though they're fairly unanimous in these roles being mutually exclusive. They all pretty much draw the line on "no women preachers or pastors," though they disagree sharply on just what constitutes preaching, pastoring, and even the group setting that constitutes the church in which such things must be limited to men. They disagree on what ventures are permissible for women to undertake (what is work, how far afield is "outside the home," if women can work outside the home before and/or after children are in the home), what submission to one's husband entails for the wife, how far a husband can go in loving his wife as Christ loves the church before it becomes submission--a unanimous "no-no" for husbands, and so forth and so on.

There's also a huge amount of hyperbole going on about what Christian egalitarians believe. (Here in Texas, "hyperbole" is one of those "four-bit words," and many would prefer "lie" because it's plainer what I mean. But since some of these folk actually believe the hyperbole, I think I'll go with that. If they're a-lyin', at best they don't think they're a-lyin', and at worst I have no proof they're a-lyin'.) I've read all the following falsehoods, and I'm not a-lyin':
  • Egalitarians are really communists
  • Egalitarians think men and women are identical
  • Egalitarians think abortion is OK
  • Egalitarians think divorce is a good thing
  • Egalitarians don't believe the Bible is inspired by God
  • Egalitarians don't respect the Bible
  • Egalitarians are out to feminize the church
  • Egalitarians are out to feminize God
  • Egalitarians are anti-marriage
  • Egalitarians are the cause of homosexuality
  • Egalitarians hate women
  • Egalitarians hate men
  • Egalitarians hate God
  • Egalitarians are conforming to the world's culture

First of all, until very, very recently (and only in the affluent West), the world has always been overwhelmingly patriarchal and hierarchical in its various cultures. Christian patriarchalists see a number of descriptions of this worldly patriarchy described in the Bible, and mistake these descriptions for commands from God. Yet the Bible, counter to the world's rule-by-might sinful pattern, calls for each to consider the other better than oneself, sacrifice oneself for the sake of the other, love as Christ has loved, and submit ourselves to one another out of our reverence for Christ. That's as counter-cultural as it gets. No one gets to ursurp Christ's authority over us and invent hierarchies. We're called in various ways by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve one another. Where there is authority, its source is always God and is given to us as a tool so that we might serve more effectively.

In Christian marriage, the husband is described in high metaphor as the head of his wife. Christian patriarchalists lift this metaphor out of its context in order to invent an authority and hierarchy in marriage that is expressly proscribed by Jesus. "One flesh" is not to be divided into a leader and a follower in this way. They seem to miss, or ignore, the fact that in this metaphor the wife is referred to as her husband's body. This is unambiguously a metaphor for unity, not for authority. Christ is Lord (authority) of both husband and wife, and of the one flesh that is their marriage and of their family, if any. Patriarchalists insist on making the husband the authority in the marriage, investing in him a variety of responsibilities and privileges that the Bible never gives him (just exactly what privileges and responsibilities depends on which patriarchalist "expert" one reads). "Final say," his wife's spiritual well-being, head of the household, priest of the home...these are just a few examples of things the Bible never places on a husband.

And in the church. You'll never find such a convoluted, conflicting set of teachings as from patriarchalists on the "role of women in the church." They must be totally silent. They don't have to be totally silent, but may only sing, not speak. They may not lead congregational singing. They may speak and sing, but may not pray aloud. They may pray aloud, but may not address the assembly. They may address the assembly, but may not do so in a way that resembles teaching or preaching. They may teach, but must not preach from a pulpit. They may teach or preach, even from a pulpit, so long as they do so under a man's "covering." They may do whatever they like so long as there are no men in the room. They may do whatever they like, so long as there are no men or boys older than twelve in the room. They may do whatever they like, but only with pre-school children. They may not lead meetings, except for women's groups. They may write Bible studies, but may not teach them. They may not write Bible studies. They may not study theology or biblical languages. They may study biblical languages, but not in a seminary. They may study in a seminary, but must take only "women's" classes. They may study at seminaries but are not permitted in Master of Divinity programs. They may study anything they like in seminaries, but may not be ordained. They may be ordained, but only as women's pastors or children's pastors.

Anybody else going "huh"? Isn't it so much simpler, and more godly as well, to listen carefully for God's guidance, participate in a discerning community of faith that will help us discern God's callings, and then OBEY GOD?

For ever prohibition, we have at least one biblical "exception" to that dizzying list of rules, or else no biblical examples of either men or women doing such things. Try as we might, we cannot find "yes or no" answers in Scripture for every possible human endeavor. We can find principles if we're willing to examine the whole of Scripture. When we're willing to do that, many of our cherished preferences will end up nailed to the cross. Submitting ourselves to God and to one another is a big leap of faith, for we no longer get to say, "But God, that's not what I was taught." Patriarchalism is one of those things that simply cannot stand up under contextual biblcal scrutiny. We can't afford to read the Bible through the lens of patriarchy or any other human construct. However, we can always, reliably, read it through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in Whom the Apostle Paul writes in the Spirit, we Christians are all one, "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. "

Friday, June 16, 2006

An Interview with Ken Medema (MUST read!)

One of my heroes over the years I've been a church musician is Ken Medema. Phenomenal storyteller, superb musician, masterful songwriter and arranger...I've seldom been as moved as when I've heard/seen him perform live (twice).

This interview is a must-read if you plan, lead, or participate in Christian music.

Interview with Ken Medema

RevGalBlogPals' Friday Five

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

1. In what kind of environment do you sleep best? (e.g. amount of light and noise, temperature, number of pillows, breathe-right strip, sleeping in the buff, etc.)

I like a little light, some white noise (TV or radio will do in a pinch), cool enough that pulling a light blanket around my shoulders feels heavenly, two pillows, curled on my side (preferably without one or both cats interfering with my breathing mechanism). As for sleeping attire, I really do like soft flannel pj's. When it's too warm for that (here in Texas, that's at least half the year), I switch to cotton knit short pj's. When it's colder, flannel nighties are also comfy-cozy.

2. How much sleep do you need to feel consistently well-rested?
How much can you get by on?
What are the consequences when you don't get enough?

I need the proverbial eight hours of sleep for optimum performance. I can get by on four. When sleep-deprived, I am both jittery and slow-headed.

3. Night owl or morning person?

I am decidedly a night owl. If I could design a schedule that would permit me to work 1:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m., I would be happy as a clam. I feel slow and cotton-headed in the mornings, though God pulls a weekly miracle on Sundays and helps me at least appear to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. (Flattering makeup and clothes colors also help in this!)

4. Favorite cure for insomnia

When I can't sleep, I either read or try to find something other than infomercials on my non-cable-connected television. I have learned not to go net-surfing!

5. To snooze or not to snooze? Why or why not?

Yes, I snooze. I admit it. I deliberately set the alarm early so I can steal some extra dozing guilt-free. Sorry, but it's one of life's little indulgences for me.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Give of Your Best to the Master

Or, Excellence in Worship Music

Here's an issue that spans every style and preference of worship practices: the quality of the music sung/played during worship.

Whether you have a cantor, a choir, an organist, a pianist, a keyboard player, drummers, name it, or if it's the congregation together singing unaccompanied, how well music is presented is important.

I don't mean that we must all be expertly trained professional musicians. However, I believe God deserves the best we can give.

I believe we human beings probably cringe more than God does. After all, even the glorious sounds of a Cecilia Bartoli or Yo Yo Ma must sound like the tiniest, most amateurish efforts to the One who invented music and created our various gifts in making music. However, I suspect that the Almighty is saddened far more often than we are when we sing or play in a lackadaisical or careless manner. What a waste, and for such an Auditor!

I also don't mean that any one type of music is superior to any other type. There is nothing more intrinsically holy about a baroque organ cantata or plainchant than a Southern Gospel song or edgy rock-style piece, so long as the text (if any) is a genuine expression of the faith we profess and is sung/played with the intention of worshiping God.

I only mean, for heaven's sake (and I mean that literally), let our music be presented with excellence!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ten Commandments for the Internet Age

Ten Commandments for the Internet Age

Another bit of "Hump Day Humor," thanks to Ben Witherington.

More Words that Aren't Words

"Alot" and "alright" reminded me of sniglets. Sniglets, unlike the two aforementioned words, have a right to be words, because there are no words that mean what the sniglets mean.

Here is a very funny list of sniglets. I haven't explored the rest of the pages at this site, so enter them at your own risk.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Picking Writing Nits, Part Deux

A few more "that makes my teeth itch" examples of common writing mistakes:

1. "Your" vs. "you're"
This is one of the most common mistakes I see, and just about the simplest to avoid if one simply remembers what a contraction is and how to create one. "Your" is a possessive; it always modifies a noun (as in, "That is your sweater, not mine.") "You're" is used correctly only when the meaning is "you are." A correct sentence using both words is "You're going to get your degree soon, aren't you?"

2. "Tenant" vs. "tenet"
Hang around theological discussions much, and you're bound to see this error over and over. D.P. of Disert Paths observed this mistake not too long ago (but I can't find his post at the moment). Just remember that "tenants" are renters who occupy the quarters they rent, and "tenets" are major beliefs within a belief system. It's a stretch to put them both in a single sentence, but here is how they're both used correctly: "The tenants held a meeting to discuss the tenets of their faith."

3. "Loose" vs. "lose"
Here is another case of commonly mistaken identity between two similar-sounding words. "Loose" is an antonym (means the opposite) of "tight." "Lose" is an antonyum of "find." Here both words are used correctly in a sentence: "If your bicycle chain is too loose, you will lose it."

4. "All right" vs. "Alright"
Simply stated, "all right" always is, and "alright" never is. "Alright" is not a word. It is also not a contraction of "all" and "right." Don't use it, please! If you thought it was a word, you're probably confusing it with "already," which is a perfectly good word.

5. "A lot" vs. "alot"
See the rule above. "Alot" is not a word. Use "a lot" instead. Neither should be confused with the word "allot," which means to apportion. The two correct words are included in this sentence: "She did not allot a lot of time for the test." (Say that fast three times.)

6. "Any time" vs. "anytime"
Which of these choices you should use will depend on what you wish to say. "Any time" places the emphasis on "time," while "anytime" is a compound word that refers to an event that is not subject to a specific schedule. For clarity's sake, I won't use them both in the same sentence. This question-and-answer example is correct: "Do you have any time available to meet with me?" "Yes, you're welcome to drop by anytime."

[Stay tuned for the next irregularly-scheduled rant. Some Bat-time, same Bat-channel.]

Manila Drive: The Semi-Pelagian Narrower Catechism

Manila Drive: The Semi-Pelagian Narrower Catechism

Ha-ha-ha-ha! This is a hoot! Really...

Another Observation about Contemporary Song Texts

Going back to Saturday's topic of shortcomings in contemporary worship song texts:

(And that is the topic. Please don't comment on how much better--or worse--you think contemporary music is than traditional, and please don't comment on contemporary vs. traditional worship issues. --Thanks!)

I believe strongly in the biblical principle of equality among members of the dear Lord's body, the church. That is a given in my congregation, as it is (or should be) in all United Methodist churches. In fact, I pray often and hard that throughout the whole Body, we may all come to embrace this principle of living in Christ.

That said, I am troubled by how exclusively masculine so many contemporary song texts are. If we were talking about traditional texts (smile), we could certainly level the same charge, but with this BIG difference: contemporary songs, by definition, have been written during the past twenty-some-odd years. Only during my nearly half-century of life has American English come to be relatively gender-blind, but that is the common language situation today. We should be singing, in large part, in the common language in our contemporary worship.

And mind you, I'm not talking here about language descriptive of God, though I have thoughts on that issue as well. I'm talking about our language concerning our fellow human beings. Like it or not, "man" no longer commonly means "the human race" or "humanity." It means a singular male human being. It's no longer either generic or plural.

So why in the name of all that's holy should so many contemporary worship songs still utilize generic masculine words and phrases? Why do so many current writers fall back on archaic usage that, frankly, offends a whole lot of non- and new Christians unnecessarily...and not a few of us old Christians, too? In my opinion, it smacks of a smug disregard for the need to present the Good News of Jesus Christ in a language that those seeking the Christ can understand without stumbling. The words people sing should lead them TO God, not away from the church.

[rant over...for now.]

Monday, June 12, 2006

Confessions of a Nit-Picker

I'm sure most of us have certain things that drive us up the proverbial wall. One of mine is poor writing by those whose educational level should imply at least basic mastery of their native language in its written form.

Here is an incomplete list of common spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors that grate especially hard on my sensibilities:

1. "Someone and I" vs. "someone and me"
Using "I" or "me" depends on whether the phrase is the subject or the object of the verb. "She gave the cookies to Robert and I" is incorrect. "Robert and I" is the object. As such, the pronoun "I" is incorrect. The correct sentence is "She gave the cookies to Robert and me."

2. "There" vs. "Their"
A sentence illustrating the correct use of these identically-pronounced words is: "Their car is over there."

3. "It's" and "their's" vs. "its" and "theirs"
These possessive forms never take apostrophes. "Their's" is never correct. "It's" is correct only when making a contraction of "It is." A correct sentence might be, "The dog came when its master called, but the cats refused to obey theirs." (Cat owners recognize that this sentence is true as well as correct!)

4. Plurals formed with an apostrophe followed by an "s"
This is correct only in very limited cases, such as when making a plural of a number (such as "He gave me five 20's for my 100 dollar bill," or from an acronym (as in "He is one of the five ADA's in the District Attorney's office.") "He is one of my hero's" begs the question, "Your hero's what?" You avoid this error by learning and remembering the rules of plural spelling, such as adding an "es" to words ending in vowels other than "e."

5. "Where," "wear," "were," and "we're"
Proper use of these words is a matter of spelling them correctly and, in the case of "we're," understanding how to make a contraction of "we are." A sentence using all four words correctly is, "We're going to wear warmer clothes this year when we return to where we were skiing last year." (Yes, that is a poorly written sentence, but it is grammatically correct and all words are spelled correctly.)

6. Incomplete sentences
A complete sentence requires a subject and a verb (the subject is occasionally implied). "Stop!" is a complete sentence, since it implies "You" as the subject. Complete sentences also must not begin with a conjunction, such as "and" or "but." Thus, "Since he is out of school for the summer" is not a complete sentence; the word "since" points toward a previous phrase or a phrase to follow (such as "He has a lot more free time"). Such phrases together comprise the complete sentence and should be separated by a comma.
- - - - -

If this is also one of your pet peeves, comment on!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Hymn/Worship Song Survey (updated)

My earlier post concerning the language of contemporary worship songs went through topic drift. I realize that it might be helpful and interesting to provide a topic in which we can all give our favorite examples of what we believe is best in whatever style of hymns/worship songs we prefer. (Sincere apologies to John for singling you out in this post earlier; I participated in the drift as well.)

I'm asking those interested to comment here with the title of what you believe is the most meaningful worship song for you right now in your journey. If it's not a widely-known title, perhaps you'd also include the author's name (if known) and/or a verse of the text. Also, please include a paragraph or two about why you chose that text.

It can be "contemporary" or "traditional," "chorus," "hymn," "song," or pretty much anything you've sung recently (or wish you'd have sung) that has transported you closer to God in worship. There is no restriction in terms of age of the text or specific focus of the text, so long as you genuinely believe it is conducive to worship "in spirit and in truth."

I'll look forward to compiling a list from your comments in a week or so.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

One More Quiz for Saturday

What Musical Are You?

My two feline companions would be proud!

You scored as Cats. Feel free to express your inner-animal! grrrrowl! Try to get over that you're not accepted into your feline world - the world is your litter box!







Les Miserables




Avenue Q


What MUSICAL are you???
created with

Which Theologian Are You?

Thanks to D.P. at Disert Paths, I found this quirky little quiz. Like D.P., I answered as "Anselm." Like D.P., I take exception to that! However, given some of the other theologian choices, I could have come out worse.

You scored as Anselm. Anselm is the outstanding theologian of the medieval period.He sees man's primary problem as having failed to render unto God what we owe him, so God becomes man in Christ and gives God what he is due. You should read 'Cur Deus Homo?'



John Calvin


Friedrich Schleiermacher


Jürgen Moltmann


Paul Tillich


Martin Luther


Karl Barth


Jonathan Edwards


Charles Finney




Which theologian are you?
created with

Frustrations with Contemporary Music

I grow increasingly frustrated with the corpus of contemporary Christian music for several reasons. First, however, perhaps I should give a summary of how I come to be sitting in judgment on this issue.

Nearly two years ago, I found myself in a leadership position for a worship service that utilizes contemporary Christian music. I must both plan these services and lead the music for them. My background in this area previously had been as a distant auditor only. So necessity became my instant teacher. I must admit that I have not always done all the research I should in order to know what all is "out there" to choose from. But based on what I have found, here are several areas of shortcomings that I am finding it difficult to work with:

  1. The majority of the texts focus on the individual, rather than the corporate, in relation to God. They are more appropriate in private devotions than in public worship.. An example is "Breathe." This one is so prominent in my mind because of the sheer length of the repeated "I" phrases. "I-I-I-I, I'm desperate for you. And I-I-I-I, I'm lost without you, I'm lost without you." Titles such as "Let Your Spirit Rise within Me," "I Will Worship," and "Draw Me Close" illustrate this trend. I don't mean to imply that there is never a place for individualistic focus in worship songs. The problem is that the large majority of songs to choose from are individualistic
  2. Many contemporary worship music texts are about God, rather than being addressed to God. This shortcoming is separate from, though related to, item 1 in this list. Here, "Breathe" makes the cut, though again its over-reliance on the first person singular remains problematic. Let me hasten to add that traditional hymnody may be slightly worse in this regard. My little worship team is quite fond of "We Want To See Jesus Lifted High." This song passes the corporate focus test, but fails on the God focus. (It's great to want to see Jesus lifted high, but when we're in worship, perhaps we should address the One being lifted!)
  3. Taken as a corpus, contemporary worship songs reflect poor theology. One way they may do this is in failing both #1 and #2 above. It is bad theology of worship to have it all be "me 'n' my Jesus" and talking about God as if the Almighty is not present. So many of the songs reflect a careless familiarity with one or another of the Triune Persons. Yes, Jesus is undeniably our friend, but if all our songs reflect this casual kind of approach, we ignore the holiness of the Creator of the universe. There must be balance. So in and of themselves, few songs fail this test. Together, the corpus does.
  4. There is a dearth of response songs in contemporary worship music. It is important to follow the proclamation of God's word with one or more acts of response. When we have heard/seen the word prolaimed, a response is expected! There are too few songs which fill this need. A good example is Twila Paris's "Carry the Light." I challenge you to think of more than five familiar contemporary worship songs that articulate a response that is both corporate and focuses on taking the proclaimed word into the world. This contributes to the problem #3, in my opinion.
I am blessed, in that two of my gifts are writing and musical composition. I've decided to spend my time off this summer in writing worship songs that meet the criteria of #1-#3 in order to create new response songs (#4). After all, it's one thing to complain about the present situation; it's another thing entirely to do something about it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

One Final Entry for Today

(Big whopping Day One for this blog):

It was a very pleasant surprise when I opened The United Methodist Reporter and found a story that mentioned both RevGalBlogPals and The Reverend Mommy. The article was about the blogs in both society and the church. Read the entire article here.

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five

Even though I'm not officially a part of this blogring yet, I liked their list of five questions, a regular Friday feature. Here are my answers:

1. Favorite way to spend a rainy day
Curled on the sofa or bed, reading (current book is Jesus, by Walter Wangerin

2. Favorite song about rain
Rainy Days and Mondays (I don't know very many rain songs)

3. Favorite movie featuring rain
Castaway (where Helen Hunt tells Tom Hanks, "You're the love of my life!") -- boo-hoo-hoo!

4. Favorite piece of raingear, past or present
The transparent vinyl umbrella that came down REALLY low over my shoulders, when I was about 12 or 13. VERY cool (at the time)!

5. Favorite word for rain

Of Christians, Illness, and Healing

I wonder sometimes why some Christians deny God the possibility of healing human beings through medical techniques. We see such healings all the time, healings that twenty, fifteen, even five years ago would have been considered miraculous. As a Christian, I believe God is ultimately the source of such healing. It is God who gave scientists brains, inspiration, and the natural tools from which all other tools, medicines, and techniques derive.

Relatively few of us tell insulin-dependent diabetics that if they only prayed harder, they'd be cured through extramedical means by God alone. However, comments like that are common in Christian circles when the illness is depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and other types of mental and emotional illness. There are clear clinical causes for many of these disorders, yet some Christians still cling to the old "wisdom" that says if you're sick, it's because you sinned...or maybe your parents did. Jesus, however, had a clear response to this error in thinking:

As [Jesus] walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, saying, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. --John 9:1-7, NRSV

After a lifetime of blindness, this man wanted to see. After months or years or a lifetime of mental/emotional illness, people want to feel better. What if the man's friends had told Jesus to stay away with his mud cure or kept the blind man away from the pool? "He'll be fine, he just needs to pray harder." I don't think so. We go to our physicians and therapists, accept their ministrations, and many of us find marked improvements or cures.

I'm of the opinion that we presume too much upon God's prerogative when we dictate to the Almighty, "I will accept improvement or cure from you only through prayer. Take my refusal to consult a healthcare professional as proof of my faith in you." Doesn't God have the right to use human hands and knowledge to effect better health for us?