Archive | May, 2013
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Church Music Trends, Throughout the Ages!

31 May

Church Music Trends, Throughout the Ages!

Two truths remain about church music:
1) We all have personal preferences. If we are not careful, we can elevate them to the level of Scriptural commands.
2) Anything new is viewed with suspicion.

I have much to learn beyond #1 and #2. I am not sure whether I could ever entertain the idea of Christian rap or Christian hip-hop. I plan to read more on this issue and write on it occasionally in the future.

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Are We Turning the Sinner’s Prayer Into a Magical Incantation?

30 May

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Controversy does sell, unfortunately.

I totally understand why J.D. Greear called his latest book “Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart”. He doesn’t mean to never ask Him in. He means to not obsessively ask Him in over and over again, claiming lack of assurance of your salvation.

As a person affected by a smattering of OCD, I recognize what he is trying to say.

There are those of us who have trouble arriving at an assurance of our salvation. I mean, God’s free gift does seem too good to be true sometimes!

On the other extreme are the people who ask Jesus into their hearts every once in a while as they live like the devil, with no relationship to Jesus or His law/commandments whatsoever!

Both extremes meet their solution in the gospel of Christ, the gospel of grace.

You see, salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9). It is not due to baptism nor to joining a church. But it is also not due to saying the right prayer.

Two words apply, as J.D. Greear walks us through the Scriptures to see. “Repentance” and “faith”. And Ephesians 2:9 tells us God even gives us the faith.

So when we get obsessed with a prayer (the prayer for salvation is often called “The Sinner’s Prayer”) and whether we prayed it correctly, we make salvation about us and about our works.

It is really about Christ’s finished work on our behalf.

That is an important distinction, for, as J.D. Greear says, there are many people who have been saved but talk themselves out of assurance that the event took place. There are also many who have no relationship to Jesus at all, and do not care to have one, who are living in false assurance because they prayed the Sinner’s Prayer once long ago.

Repentance and faith. We can see them in an assurance that we are rightly related to God in Christ and in His finished work.

It is all about Christ. When we try to insert a worthy-enough prayer from our end, we end up making the Sinner’s Prayer into a magical incantation!

Then we Baptists become just like the people we criticize for thinking that a religious ritual saves them.

Let’s not make the Sinner’s Prayer into a religious ritual.

It really is all about Jesus. He bore our sin so we could claim salvation in Him. Hallelujah!

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Building a Diet on Fruits and Vegetables

30 May

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When I lived in London, I had a friend named Liz who went on all fruit diet for a while. She was very petite and had gotten a tiny, tiny paunch, which haunted her. While eating only fruits, Liz dropped about 20 pounds in a month. She actually had to add foods back into her diet eventually, to keep from fading away.

Liz proved the wisdom of the Weight Watchers decision several years ago to count all fruits and most vegetables as zero points. It’s not that they don’t have calories. It is just that they have so much fiber that it is nearly impossible to eat so many of them that your weight would be affected. Meanwhile, you are filling a spot in your tummy that used to be reserved for cakes, pies, and cookies!

I remember that often when people lecture me about juicing (I don’t do it–why throw all that good fiber away? I would rather make a smoothie out of the entire fruit), or giving up fruit sugar (why is the person giving me that lecture about fruit sugar usually eating a Twinkie as she does???). I know everyone has her pet theories and practices and it is a free country, but I usually let those folks talk on without paying much attention to them. I love my Weight Watchers program and it works marvelously for me! A weight loss of 110 pounds in about 13 months says it all.

I truly believe I do well to spend my food dollars more on fresh fruit than on fresh meat. Oh, I eat meat–I have been a vegetarian off-and-on but I do currently eat meat–but I eat far more fruits and veggies. I think balance is key. Meat to me is a flavoring for other things.

Would love to hear what works for all of you. Feel free to comment, down below.

Pansexuality Explained

30 May

My generation of Christians has never heard of pansexuality.  Probably a lot of other people haven’t either.

I have been aware of the term for almost 20 years.  It goes beyond homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender issues because it emphasizes the souls of the people involved.  It is the belief that we look for a soulmate and, having found that person, we don’t worry about the “plumbing” with which that person was born.   

A pansexual person might be a male who finds a male soulmate and has gay sex with him.  Or the same male might find a female soulmate and have heterosexual sex with her.  To a pansexual, the point is not the type of sex in which he ultimately engages.  It is the soul of the person with whom he has sex.

Note:  to avoid tripping myself up in too much language here, I am going to use the terms “he,” “man,”  and “human race.”  The understanding is that I am using those terms to represent everyone, male and female alike. 

The high priestess of the pansexual movement has been, at various times, Camille Paglia.  I have not read a lot of her writing but I do admire her honesty.  She decided to declare herself a follower of the Greek and Roman gods because she realized that her sexual lifestyle of multiple partners matched the sexual lifestyle and the religion taught back during the Graeco-Roman empires.  

She said that it would be impossible to call herself a Christian and engage in the sexual lifestyle she had.  She said Christianity really only leaves the door open to a heterosexual marriage to one partner.  

I agree with that statement, in so many ways.  And I give her credit for acting in a way consistent with her beliefs.

As I see it, there are at least three different views of sexuality.  One is internally inconsistent:

1.  The one supported by the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Scriptures of heterosexual sex/marriage.  The Christian and Jewish Scriptures support one man-one woman.  The Muslim Scriptures support one man with several women, if he can provide for them all.

2. Pansexuality, supported by the Graeco-Roman religion with its pantheon of gods, from back in the ancient days. Pansexuality fit with the Greeks, who believed the body to be a contaminated, imperfect container for the soul. (Pansexuality does not fit as well with Judaism, which taught a very intentional creation of the body by God in Eden, then a resurrection of the body in the last days. If we live all of eternity in a glorified version of this body, then this body matters).

3. The view applied somewhat inconsistently by the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender lobby that, if there is a god, he created everyone just the way they are and is equally happy with all expressions of sexuality, as long as they are not coerced.  The internal inconsistency in that view is that transgender people claim they were born in the wrong body for their gender identity.  So if they believe in God, they obviously believe He is capable of making a mistake.  The gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender lobby probably added the “transgender” category without thinking through the inconsistency of teaching that God created people gay/bisexual, but made a mistake with transgender people!  I have yet to hear anyone even talk about that internal inconsistency, much less explain it.

So where do Christians go with this information?  To be loving, informed members of our very diverse society that increasingly is going back to Graeco-Roman roots rather than Christian roots.  

To challenge people to believe in and follow Jesus Christ and to consistently follow the Christian Scriptures.  

After all, a loving God is behind every event there is, and nothing takes Him by surprise!!!

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A Trophy of God’s Grace: Rosaria Butterfield

27 May

A Trophy of God’s Grace: Rosario Butterfield

The story of Rosaria Butterfield’s conversion, and her journey from being a radical lesbian professor to being a Reformed theologian and homeschooling wife of her church’s pastor!

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Nobody Gets a Free Pass if He Tries to Kill a Police Officer

25 May

Nobody Gets a Free Pass if He Tries to Kill a Police Officer

Volatile situations make us uncomfortable. They make us want to run away fast.

We never like it when a young black man is killed by an older white police officer. Emotions run high.

However . . .

I have written before that we all tend to have blinders on in relation to the things our own children do. This article points out that tendency once again.

The young man in this article seems to have had exemplary behavior in life until this week. Then he made a series of unfortunate decisions.

He and his girlfriend attempted to pass a bad check.

When caught, he decided to try to flee from law enforcement officers on the scene. That involved the decision to back up over one of them, and not only once. He took enough evasive actions that he bounced his car off several impediments in the area.

The LEO’s partner, not knowing where his partner was or whether he was alive, utilized deadly force to disable the man who had already attempted murder.

I am sure someone somewhere is spouting the line about how adolescents and young adults don’t yet have a sound, functioning area of the brain related to judgment and decision-making. How they make awful decisions that affect the rest of their lives.

For this young man, that was surely true. His bad decisions ended his life.

Now his girlfriend, his family, and some of their community members want to make that the police force’s fault.

They seem to think that, since he was young and not capable of good judgment, he should have gotten a free pass to attempt to kill or even succeed in killing a LEO.

Be careful what you ask for, folks. If we make it hard for white police officers to work in black communities without criticism, we may find good people choosing careers other than law enforcement.

It is never easy to make split second decisions in a crisis. It is especially hard if you become aware that your decisions involve someone of another race and you might be highly criticized no matter what you do.

Let’s let our local LEO’s know we appreciate them, shall we? They have one of the most difficult jobs around, and often only face criticism.

Let’s tell them they matter to us and that we pray for them . . .

Today’s Love Stories: “Shakespeare in Love”

24 May

I am glad I finally watched the Best Picture of 1998, “Shakespeare in Love,” last night.

Glad because it is off my bucket list.

I was, quite frankly, bored stiff by it.  The characters, including the leads, were seemingly made of cardboard.  

A far cry from the love stories of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Even a far cry from “Monk” who expresses far more emotion with his eyes than Joseph Fiennes and Gwynneth Paltrow did with their words and bodies, even in their sex scenes.  No, especially in their sex scenes.  I have never seen such a vivid reminder that sex, if divorced from emotional warmth, could be boring.  

It is telling when the most interesting thing in a movie to me (a history buff) is to see how women of the time (the 1500’s) bound their breasts with a bolt of cloth twisted around and around and around themselves.  It was obviously meant to be alluring when Gwynneth Paltrow twisted around and around in a dance and Joseph Fiennes unwrapped that bolt of cloth, the first time they were together sexually.   It was telling that my reaction was simply, “Oh, so that’s how they did things back before brassieres were invented!”

Yup, I regard “Shakespeare in Love” as a highly stylized, historically accurate fail.  But maybe that is just me! 

Electronics in Church

22 May

Okay, I have chosen a topic without a Scripture to guide us.  Yet, the whole counsel of Scripture guides us always, in everything, doesn’t it?

So, I will, with fear and trepidation, take on this topic.  I do so as a “bridge” person.  I am someone who is almost ready to join the seniors group at church (my 55th birthday is next month).  But I am also someone who has drunk deeply from the well of the current technology, both at work and in my homelife, for the past twenty years.

I know that technological advancement is not going away.  In fact, it will probably just become more and more a part of our lives.  Many young people today will have many, many more experiences online in their lifetimes than they ever have in person!

That said, which applications are fitting for use during a church service, given that most churches have wifi now and we are technologically able to camp onto the signal during a service?  What should we use that signal to do, in order to glorify our Lord during that service?

The first principle we all have to remember is grace.  This applies both to those of us with electronics in church and to those of us without electronics in church.  We extend grace to our fellow churchmember, especially if he is of a different age group and there might be something we misunderstand about him and his practices.  We extend grace as Christ has extended grace to us.

People who have not used technology may not understand it.  If they are behind someone who is using his tablet to look up Scriptures and take notes during a service, it is possible that his Facebook page or text message file will update via a banner across the top of his tablet.  That banner does not mean that that young man is on Facebook or texting during the service.  It is merely a notification telling him to check those applications later.  We do well to assume the best of our brother unless we have incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.  We especially do well to assume the best of our brother if we don’t understand his technology. 

On the other hand, a large laptop or fullsized tablet can be distracting to the person behind us if we continually scroll back and forth between applications.  So it is necessary for the person with the electronic device to pay attention to the light and flashes from his screen and how they are likely affecting the people around him.

For myself, I have settled on the following for use during church services: 

1)    I have a bookmark to the King James Version of the Blue Letter Bible on my iPad.  I use that Bible during the service instead of carrying one.

2)    I use my notes application on my iPad to take notes.

3)    I have in the past googled words and terms I did not understand during a sermon, but Pastor has convinced me to put those in my notes to look up later (or ask him about them).  The reason for that is not to say that using Google or looking up words during a service is wicked.  It is just to minimize distractions to my brother sitting behind me!

4)    I have in the past received texts containing study aids for the passage we were considering.  These came from a friend who was elsewhere in the auditorium.  If we had been sitting near each other, we might have whispered the same information.  Texts are certainly less distracting than whispering.  However, I have concluded that the study aids from a friend are, again, something that can be written down in the notes and passed later.  Again, not because texts with study aids related to the sermon are wicked, but because it is just better to minimize distractions to others.

5)    I must admit I did, once, open a Facebook post during a sermon.  It came from my family in Michigan and concerned a family emergency.  I wrote a three word answer and went right back to the sermon.  My jury is out on that one.  I could have waited.  But it was the equivalent of taking a phone call during church when there is a crisis.  Some will do it; others won’t.  I just know the overriding principle is to consider the effect of our actions on our brothers and sisters around us!

 

I hope that these ideas, from my experience, might help you to embrace electronics in church in a way that honors the Lord.  The conversation is far from over.  In fact, it is just begun.  I would welcome your feedback!

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Living Free of Fast Food!

21 May

Living Free of Fast Food!

It is now almost a year and a half since I started Weight Watchers. I lost 100 pounds in 2012. I have lost ten more since then.

I occasionally post tips, for those who are serious about losing a lot of weight like I did or even for those who just want to trim some calories out of their everyday existence.

I just calculated some savings that I made when I got rid of the fast food element of my life in early 2012. I still eat my lunch out when I am at work, but now it is a Subway Veggie Delight sandwich on a 6-inch flatbread with lowfat sweet onion dressing. And a bottle of water. $5.86 a day at least four days a week. I used to walk to the McDonalds near our old building, feeling virtuous about a five minute walk before I tucked into a quarter pounder combo. Those ran at least $2.50 a day more than what I am paying now. Especially as I used to get hungry mid-afternoon after eating all those empty calories and go back for a latte or two. And this was even after I gave in and upsized to a large fries after less than a year of eating there! Do you see all the fat I was consuming?

That $2.50 difference in price, four days a week, adds up to a savings of around $750 over the course of the last 75 weeks. Guess where some of my money came from to buy 18 new dresses this spring?

But wait, there is more. I also used to go through the drivethrough twice a week for a McDonalds Big Breakfast with Hotcakes. Don’t even look up the calories and fat grams in that one. I just did and I was heartsick (almost literally, after having such a diet for the first two years I worked at this job!).
That breakfast, with a latte or two, ran me more than $10, or more than $20 a week. Over the course of 75 weeks, I have saved $1500 because I never eat breakfast out now. I make do with what we have in the house.

And there . . . I have just shown you how I have not only saved calories, but how I bought my new wardrobe.

*Note to economists: I realize we now buy slightly more breakfast food because we eat at home every day. But the point is that I have saved a lot, whether my totals are exact savings or not.

**Note to college students: I got started eating quarter pounder combos one summer in college when I was not on the meal plan at school. It was cheap food, but it was ultimately a bad idea to have a quarter pounder combo as my “go to” meal every day. I did not gain much weight back then, but I built a terrible habit from that. Please don’t do as I did. Hamburgers are cheap because every American eats them. It is not balanced to eat them every single day for lunch however . . .

*** Note to everyone, about McDonalds: It is possible to eat within Weight Watcher points at McDonalds. It is not easy, but it is possible. I just do not personally choose to do that. When I have a hamburger, once every three months or so, I go to Five Guys. This post is not meant to take away anyone else’s freedom of choice, but just to reveal that I have my own, too.

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The Joy of Slander (Not!)

20 May

The Joy of Slander (Not!)

Have you ever noticed that when someone is intent on secretly slandering a person, they can always dig up someone from that person’s past who will call him a dirtbag?

I don’t care where someone has lived or what his job has been, if you want to shake the trees badly enough to find his enemies, you can always do it.

I have heard people say, “Oh, yeah, I know a chief who used to serve with him in the military and you should hear what that chief says about him . . .” or “I know someone who used to minister with him at his former ministry position and, wow, your head will explode if you hear what he has to say . . .”

Only, let’s be fair.

Does anyone who is active at all ever get through life without making a few enemies?

And, that said, why do people always dig into someone’s past looking for his enemies? Why not look for his friends?

Oh, yeah, ‘cuz then it wouldn’t be slander, would it?

Let’s admit it. The human race loves the juicy, negative stuff.

But let’s also admit that that part of us must die. It is the part Christ came to save us from!

Can We Reasonably Expect Privacy in a Public Space?

18 May

I had a note from a friend on my Facebook page last night.  I had filmed several segments of a concert in our church auditorium.  The concert was the spring concert put on by our church’s day school.  I had filmed from the balcony on my iPad.  

My friend took exception to me filming without getting the express permission of every parent whose child was on that stage (I filmed middle school and high school students).

Rather than answer her back on my FB page, where it could be perceived as personal, I wanted to explore the topic here.  Social media has put this one right in our faces.  What is the expectation for privacy in a public space?  Is it the same as the expectation of privacy in our homes?

In short, no.  Court ruling after court ruling has said that.  If I am in a mall, I can be filmed by closed circuit cameras all around me.  The same with being outside on some streets.  Part of how the Boston bombing suspects were identified involved a closed circuit camera mounted on the outside of a department store.  Let’s not even get into live webcams mounted all over cities.  Closed circuit cameras make a permanent enough record!!!

If my minor child were to be accused of shoplifting in a store with closed circuit cameras, you can bet they would retrieve the film that contained his images to see whether they could catch him in the act.  Such film could be used in court against him, too.

So, no, no reasonable expectation of privacy when you leave your home for a public place.  Home is different.  A public place is, well, public.

Now, that said, there can be individual policies in various places, subject to the owner of that place or the person in charge.  I checked whether our church or day school has such a policy against filming events.  They do not.  It would be rather difficult to enforce.  A lot of the grandmas who attend these concerts don’t belong to our church.  I don’t think they would pay attention to an announcement that prohibited them from filming on their iPhones or posting their videos on FB for other family members and friends to see.

In fact, people were filming all around me last night, in most cases much closer to the kids than from the balcony.  My videos just happened to be the ones my friend saw on FB.

And that brings us to a final consideration, especially when policies are being considered against filming at church/school events:  the policy, if there is one, must be enforced even-handedly.

The former principal of our day school was probably the one who instituted the filming and sharing of pictures and videos at concerts, as he was also the director of most school choirs.  Some of our academy’s concerts have even wound up on Youtube.

So, our pastor, who emphasizes that we are all one body, whether we have children at the day school, in public school, homeschooled, or grown, would usually not separate between groups like “those who know all the students” and “grandmas who are only filming one child but the rest happen to be in the picture.”  And I am guessing he probably would not send that grandma after 20 different parents, whom she doesn’t know, to get permission to post the video with her grandchild in it.  

Tends to divide the Body of Christ, if you make different rules for different folks, doesn’t it?

Actually, I would probably suggest that our day school, and any other group involving minors who perform publicly, just have parents sign a blanket statement at the beginning of the schoolyear that they hold harmless all filming of concerts and other public events with their child in participation.  

Their kids are going to show up on someone else’s video.  It is gonna happen.

One final example of how not to do things:  a very private person, a young man in fact, approached me after my son’s graduation ceremony last year and said he didn’t want any pictures of himself to be on my FB page.  Big problem with that:  he was in the background of the best picture taken of my son!!!  He was in about one-fourth of the pictures taken at the ceremony because he came with one of the speakers.  

We would have had to ask our photographer (who gave us the pictures as a gift) to do some massive editing of the photos before I could publish them anywhere or even give them to family.

I appealed to the young man to be content with me not tagging him on FB (putting his name on his picture).  I asked him to agree to be the anonymous person behind Joey in many of the shots . . . and he agreed.

If he had not, it would have been very, very difficult for us.

I also didn’t want to be the one to tell him that he had no reasonable expectation of privacy when he came to a ceremony and stood around with the honoree for almost half the time he was there.

Common sense dictates this:  if you don’t want to be in the pictures, it is up to you to remove yourself from standing right next to the graduate.  

Ya know? 

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Beloved Enemy, or Sexual Assault in the Military

18 May

Beloved Enemy, or Sexual Assault in the Military

I outed myself today in a Facebook discussion of the latest military statements on sexual abuse and sexual harassment.

Yup, I was one of the 20% of women who was sexually assaulted while in the military.

At the time, I didn’t call it that.

Nor, probably, would anyone else have called it that.

I was crudely groped in a vault in Jacksonville, Florida while the people who normally worked there were at lunch. I had happened to stop by to see a document kept there at exactly the same time as a married acquaintance stopped by to see the same thing.

He apparently thought the absence of anyone else who could serve as a witness granted him leave to do anything he wanted to do.

Thankfully, I was able to handle it with a “What are you, crazy? Don’t ever do that again” and a hurried departure.

The thing that subsequently made me maddest was that he was promoted to lieutenant commander faster than I was. The dirtball!

I worked with him again in London and he never again tried anything with me. I hope he never tried anything with anyone else either.

All that to say, as a statistic, I am glad the military is addressing sexual assault.

I do disagree with General Odierno calling fighting sexual assault the Army’s primary mission, but I understand that he was resorting to hyperbole.

The reason we fight sexual assault is because, aside from being ungodly, it also breaks down unit cohesion. If you can’t trust your fellow soldiers or sailors to treat you as a person instead of as the sum of your anatomical parts, you really can’t belong to a unit!

Not to put too fine a point on it . . .

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Just a Thought . . . on weight loss!

17 May

Just a Thought . . . on weight loss!

Some of you have stalled out on your weight loss and are looking for a few tips that will help you get started again.

Here is one that has worked mightily for me: the once-a-month dessert.

I know, I know, we are all different. A lot of folks prefer to have smaller helpings of dessert every day. Or they substitute ingredients so they can lower the calories and have a bigger helping of dessert every day. Those are good plans. I am not against them.

I am addressing a specific group–the ones who have messaged me and said they are stalled and don’t know what to do to pull out of their weight loss stall. This tip might be worth trying, at least for a month or three. If it doesn’t work for you, get rid of it later!!!

I go to the Route 58 Deli in Virginia Beach once a month and get a piece of the Carnegie Deli cheesecake (and, yes, it is brought in from New York City!!!). It is 16-18 points of deliciousness. I get 34 points a day, so you can see where I am going with this . . .

It only happens once a month and I am currently at the same weight I was in my 20’s, while going through Aviation Officer Candidate School and working out three hours a day.

Not bad results, God be praised!!!

A last tip and I will leave you alone: I will just say I don’t know anyone who has successfully lost weight and kept it off while drinking Coke or other sodas. I have given it up for life. I am not sure that the artificially sweetened ones are any better. They seem to make people hungry!

May happy weight loss times lie ahead for you!

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Beautiful Tribute to a Young Man who Died this Week!

17 May

Beautiful Tribute to a Young Man who Died this Week!

Lovely! No words!

Surprising a Loved One

17 May

I wrote this for our church blog.

Tabernacle for Today

Two-red-heartsEphesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Yesterday was Mother’s Day.  Everywhere I went this weekend, I saw preparations being made to surprise mothers.  At the Navy Exchange flower shop, in the Navy Exchange cologne section, at the bakery where I went to help a friend select her wedding cake.

I love surprises.  Chances are you do, too.  We love to get surprised.  We also love to surprise our family and friends.  This love of surprises seems built into us as a human race.

We often speak of God as the One who provides the pattern for all earthly fathers and truly He is.

However, there are some attributes of God that are very different from earthly fathers, too.

For example, have you ever thought about the fact that we can’t surprise…

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