Categotry Archives: Rantings

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Why I Haven’t Backslidden (I Think)…Er…Why I Think I Haven’t Backslidden

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), Rantings

Let’s just dispense with the diplomacy for a moment…I’ve seen more than my fair share of crap and hypocrisy in my church experience. Actually, being in or near the inner circles of ministry leadership for most of my life, I’ve probably seen more than most. Televangelists hospitalized under assumed names for drug abuse, prominent pastors fabricating medical records for insurance purposes, ministers who turn out to be compulsive gamblers or pedophiles. And then there’s the stuff that happens closer to home. Staff meetings that turn into shouting matches. Church members who engage in power struggles with one another, and sometimes with the pastors. Church boards who mutiny against a pastor with new ideas by tossing his belongings out into the parking lot, and changing the locks on the building (I’ve seen that happen in two different churches in two different states). Pastors who lie through their teeth, gossip, and back stab; pastors who manipulate their people emotionally to keep the advantage, just because they can. I don’t know if you have ever looked in a pastor’s eyes and seen malevolence and evil intent toward you, as if Satan himself were staring you down. I hope you never experience that; it isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s completely deflating, because it leaves you wondering who there is left to trust.

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The Rape of the Media

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Categories: creativity, food for thought, Meanderings (look it up), Rantings

Now THAT title ought to get me some Google hits. 🙂

Actually, at first glance, that title might seem to some like a contradiction. It sounds almost like “the media” (meaning the news media) are the victims, rather than the perpetrators as many of us often think of them.

However…that’s not what I mean by “media” here. 🙂 I am referring to the broader definition; any form of communication, particularly public communication, is a medium, not just journalism. Art, music, dance, literature, television, movies…all of them (and others) are the media I’m talking about.

So…who has been raping the media?

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I (Used To) Love the Red-Winged Blackbird

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Categories: random stuff, Rantings, What the heck was THAT?

I’m not really a bird-watcher. At least, not in the sense that I stalk through the marshes in khaki shorts with a camera, looking for a glimpse of the rare plaid-bellied whispercrike.* But I do enjoy seeing them out my window, especially when they are colorful; and when I’m traveling, I get a kick out of seeing species that aren’t found in my neck of the woods…although most of the time I couldn’t identify them as anything other than hey-look-at-that-red-and-blue-bird-with-a-little-bit-of-yellow-on-the-wings.**

All that said…we have red-winged blackbirds*** in our neighborhood. They don’t show up all the time, but you notice them when they do, because of, um, the small bright red marking on the wings. They sort of stand out among the other run-of-the-mill blackbirds we see flying around.

Anywhoo…I used to love them. Not anymore. I have recently come to discover that they can be argumentative, persnickety, stubborn, and downright paranoid. Especially the male (identifiable because their colors are more brilliant than the female’s). And especially when that male is apparently guarding a nest of newly-hatched or soon-to-be-hatched baby red-winged blackbirds.

At least, this is what I surmise by the recent behavior of the male red-winged blackbird who has been sitting on top of our chimney all week and throwing a hissy-fit whenever a human or dog emerges from our house.

I’ve never seen the mate, or the nest, or the chicks. But apparently the nest is on or very near our house, possibly even in the chimney. (The Wild One thinks she may have heard the chicks through the fireplace.) But this daddy bird is taking his job very seriously. Nobody who comes within 200 yards of the place is exempt from his wrath, and everything that moves is perceived as a threat. (I think he might have even yelled at the tree in our backyard once when it blew in the breeze.) We hear it scolding things all day long, morning to night. (Apparently we have a very active neighborhood.)

And scolding isn’t all it does. Let me tell you how I actually “met” our feathered “friend.”

Finally the rains ended around here this week, and I got to give the lawn a much-needed mowing. But shortly after I began working in the yard, I began noticing a loud chirping and a winged shadow, looked up, and saw a very ticked-off red-winged blackbird flapping its wings just a few feet above my head.

I’ve been dive-bombed by birds before, so I recognized the behavior. (I know what you were doing while it was raining, you little rascal.) I headed for the covered patio, and the blackbird perched in the tree and yelled at me for awhile. When it got bored with that, it flew back up on our roof to keep watch. Sure enough, as soon as I left the patio, it began again. It never actually made contact with me, but it kind of did these flybys, like Tom Cruise buzzing the control tower with his jet in Top Gun. I figured if I didn’t get dive-bombed, I was going to get pooped on at some point. He’d fly overhead, go perch somewhere close, and fly by again. And the whole time, the bird never stopped complaining.

I thought, Hey, I’m your friend, pal. Don’t you know I can’t fly up there and hurt your kids? Don’t you know I like your pretty red wings? I’m on YOUR SIDE!! But it didn’t matter. This daddy bird was so overprotective, if these baby birds were human, they would never, ever get a driver’s license. Or go on a date.

The Wild One was all like, “Oh, how cute. He’s so afraid someone’s gonna hurt his babies.”

I was all like, “Afraid? That bird is paranoid.”

Sure, honey. Take the bird’s side. How the crap am I supposed to mow the lawn when I have to keep ducking? How do we stop him from dive-bombing the people when it’s time for house church?

I used to love the red-winged blackbird. Now I just hope those kids move away when they grow up.

*Not a real bird.
**Also not a real bird.
***This one is a real bird.

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God and Secrets and Missing the Point Again

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Categories: food for thought, Rantings

This morning I was thumbing through a popular Christian magazine I used to subscribe to. I no longer am a subscriber, but they keep sending me issues saying, “Your subscription is expired!” hoping I will re-subscribe.

Anywho…I was looking at the Christian book advertisements in it, and had the impulse to see how many times the word “secret” was employed to pitch the books.

I lost count. But it was more than a couple.

Other words similar to “secret” were used, also. “Hidden treasures” of Jesus’ life on earth. “Breakthrough strategies” of King Solomon. “Cutting-edge” principles to restore your hope in Jesus during economic hard times.
In fact, one book promised to reveal at least twelve hidden secrets to success, happiness and fulfillment by studying the ancient Jewish culture. (Um, when they obeyed God, they prospered. Now you don’t need to buy the book.)

Probably what troubled me most were the books promising to reveal the secret principles of happiness, prosperity, fulfillment–by examining the life of Jesus.

Okay, don’t misunderstand. I believe God’s desire for us is a full, abundant life (in fact, that’s why Jesus said He came). I believe He desires our enjoyment and fulfillment, and delights when we do well. And I have no problem with lovers of God being wealthy–otherwise we’d have to fault guys like Abraham, Solomon, and Job. And I even believe the blessings on the Jewish people are a valid part of God’s covenant, and that Christ-followers are partakers in that blessing. But aren’t we completely missing the point here?

At what point did the Christian walk morph from following Christ to exploiting His example for our own purposes? When did His life become a trove of “hidden secrets” for us to excavate and use to get what we want to make our lives better? When did Christianity stop being a revolutionary lifestyle and turn into a self-help tool to facilitate the American dream?

When did this stop being about Jesus and start being about us?

This whole thing about secret knowledge is no stranger to the church. From the earliest days of the church, the church leaders were teaching and warning against prevalent heresies like Gnosticsm, which claimed that God could only be ascertained by “secret knowledge”. It seems we humans are always intrigued by these secrets–or at least, the idea of them.

Remember when that new-agey type book The Secret came out a few years ago, and how much discussion there was about it, even within the church? In it, the author claims to have discovered the keys to success and getting pretty much whatever you want through positive thinking. It was kind of revealing that church leaders actually came down on both sides of the issue. Some said the whole thing was a crock, while others in the more charismatic faith camps claimed that while the truth was corrupted in it, some of its principles were actually Biblical.

Not having read the book, I’m not here to weigh in on that controversy. What troubles me is the whole idea of secrets here. Secret knowledge that if you get hold of it, it will make you wealthy, healthy, happy, spiritual, sexy, thin, younger, stronger, whatever…with a total absence of acne thrown in for good measure. If there really are “secret truths” that get you all this kind of stuff…then once the book was published and it was no longer a “secret”, why didn’t everyone get rich, happy, sexy, and acne-free by doing what the book said?

Kind of like…why don’t you ever hear about telephone psychics winning the lottery? 🙂

What troubles me about this regarding the church is two-fold: first, that we have bought into the obsession with exclusive secrets, even with our own faith; and second, the very fact that our obsession with those alleged secrets is so incredibly self-indulgent and self-centered. Like I said, we’re not following Christ as much as we are using Him for our own purposes. It’s like we’ve forgotten which of us is God, and which of us isn’t.

What probably troubles me the most, though…is that not too very long ago, I was right in the middle of that mindset–looking for the secrets to my personal success in the name of furthering the kingdom of God–and not thinking anything of it.

Yes, God is unfathomable and infinite; and yes, according to Paul, there are things we can only ascertain with the help of the Holy Spirit. But that does not mean God is keeping secrets, reserved only for the most spiritual or dedicated among us. In fact, just the opposite…the whole thrust of Scripture is that God is revealing Himself.

So these days, when I start hearing someone claim they’ve uncovered some secret key from God to unlock my success box, and want to sell me their book to tell me about it…frankly, I walk quite quickly in the other direction.

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Hey! Watch Where You’re Aiming That Thing!

9 comments

Categories: Rantings

Can I just say something that ought to be painfully obvious?

The Word of God is not a weapon we are to use against other people.

This might not sound very loving and tolerant (and if not, forgive my humanness here)…but among the few things in this world that still piss me off–one of them is smug, self-righteous Christians who use the Scriptures combatively against their brethren (and even against non-believers), entertaining the profound delusion that they are somehow doing God a favor by doing so.

You see this type of thing all the time: some poor unwitting soul who shows up at the wrong place and time, and finds himself cornered by one of these religious Rambo-commandos. You can almost see the poor guy or girl crouching for cover helplessly as the Scriptures start flying–rat-tat-tat-tat-tat–spewed rapid-fire like some kind of machine gun. Sometimes the words are spoken with some sort of feigned “righteous” anger; but sometimes they are spoken with a sticky-sweet smile, which causes them to hurt even worse. Either way, the Scriptures come flying with no mercy…because you see, these people are not just interested in winning the debate. They want to annihilate it. And when the battering is over, the Christian calmly brushes off his three-piece suit (sarcasm intended) and walks away, self-satisfied in a job well done, while the victim still tries to grasp what has just happened.

And the really sad part is…you can tell that many of these Christians actually enjoy this. Some even boast about it to others as though it is something to be proud of, something that gives them prestige–that their knowledge of the Scriptures enables them to silence any opposition. They relish the pain that registers on the faces of their victims, because, of course, this means they have “gotten through” to them, and maybe now God can “get hold” of them. When actually, the victim is just hurt, because someone naming the name of Christ acted more like a terrorist.

Kind of like the Crusades, only without physical bloodshed.

Look, I am fully aware that numerous times in Scripture, the Word of God is referred to as a “sword”. But in none of those instances do I see that this “sword” is a weapon we are to use on each other. None. In Ephesians 6, the “sword of the Spirit” is described as part of the armor of God, but it is in the context of withstanding spiritual principalities (namely, Satan and his minions). And in Hebrews 4, the Word of God is referred to as “sharper than a two-edged sword”; but in context, that Scripture is talking about how the Word of God is able to judge our own thoughts and intentions.

I’m not saying there isn’t a time and place for confrontation, because there is. And certainly it is right for brothers and sisters to discuss the Scriptures and grapple with their interpretation. But I think you probably get what I’m talking about here. The more I ponder this–and I’ve been as guilty as the next guy–I just don’t see any Biblical justification for using the Scriptures combatively against our fellow man. I don’t see where we have the authority to lift “power verses” out of the Bible, load them into our spiritual guns, and use them to silence disagreement, win arguments, or otherwise prove our supposed spiritual prowess. In fact, we need to consider that when we use the Bible this way, we are mis-using it. We are, in effect, taking the Word of God and commandeering it as a weapon for our own purposes instead of God’s.

Isn’t that basically taking something holy and profaning it?

So to all followers of Christ…let us consider before we just start swinging. If you feel tempted to take aim at someone with the Scriptures–watch where you are aiming. It’s time we stop being irresponsible with this sword, and remember what the Scriptures are for.

And here’s a hint–they aren’t for hitting your fellow man.

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Day, Interrupted

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Categories: Rantings, what I did today

“Hijacked” is more like it.

Getting ready to leave to do my normal morning stuff (i.e., BLOG, get stuff at the store)…I walked into the garage to find water pouring out of the water heater closet, through the garage and halfway down the driveway. Figured out quickly the water was backing up through the water heater drain (not the water heater), apparently caused by a clog deep down in the pipes.

So I went to call the plumber. Opened my cell phone…my display is busted. Colors are going nuts on it, the picture is warped…I can’t even read the numbers. Oh, great.

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Why We Should Sort of Take It Easy on the Pastors

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, Rantings

For the past few days I’ve been pondering the whole clergy-laity thing, and the idea of leadership within the context of the institutional church. A couple of days ago, I invited the readers to discuss whether human church leadership is Biblical–and there was a lot of very helpful input and insight left in the comments (thanks!). Yesterday, I weighed in on the conversation in this separate post.

Today, because I think/hope it will lend perspective…I have some thoughts about the abuse of authority in the church–from the leaders’ standpoint.

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Square Peg

11 comments

Categories: Rantings, whine-and-opine

Sometimes being outside the walls of institutional church feels exciting to me, even hopeful. It’s like there’s a whole new way of looking at church, ministry, and Christ-following, and when you remove the typical parameters of “churchiness” from these, it’s like whole new realms of possibility open up–because there aren’t nearly as many requirements as to what ministry can look like. You can potentially get very creative about it, and still keep the heart of what the Scriptures intended, maybe even more so. The possibilities seem endless. And when I think of this, sometimes I get excited. Hopeful, even.

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Friendship–Only the Genuine Article, Please

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Categories: Rantings

I seem to be latching on to a thread of inspiration in writing this post. I was inspired by a post Sarah wrote today…and Sarah was inspired by Alan…and Alan was inspired by Steve. (Sounds almost like a genealogy, doesn’t it?) And our posts aren’t about exactly the same thing, but they all resonate from a similar theme: the disconnectedness believers often feel in church.

Here are some highlights from Sarah’s post:

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