Monthly Archives: August 2007

Keeping Telling Myself: It’s a Tool

A big Christian hard-core concert was held at Anchor last Sunday night. They usually hold concerts downstairs in our fellowship hall, but this was a Biggy Concert which required the sanctuary. After church, the worship team cleared our equipment off the platform and stuffed it all in a side room, where it remains (there’s a wedding tomorrow). We’ll go early Sunday morning to set everything back up (drums, drum shield, amps, keyboard, mics, stands, cables….).

I stopped by the church Sunday night for about 45 minutes. Hadn’t been to one of the concerts in a while, and wanted to see what was happening. Leadership had been turned over to another person.

There were maybe 300 kids, most wearing black attire. Lots of tattoos, lots of colored hair, but plenty of fairly normal-looking teens and young adults. Cars were jammed everywhere. I walked around the back of the church. Scores of kids were just hanging out, sitting on the grass or leaning against cars. All behaving nicely.

The sanctuary was packed with kids. All of our sanctuary chairs had been stacked along the side. A little moshing was going on. Kids were standing on our nice chairs to get a better look, their shoes no doubt wearing on the cloth.. Loud, loud music with totally unidentifiable lyrics. I think five bands played that night. Booths with merchandise (especially T-shirts) were set up in the back of the sanctuary (“…but you have made my house a den of thieves…”). Two off-duty cops patrolled the grounds, one staying inside, one outside. Neighbors called on-duty cops once, because a band was making too much noise outside in the street, but that had stopped before the officers actually arrived.

These concerts are such an interesting environment, particularly for an old fuddy-duddy like me.

Sanctuary windows have been broken in the past. This time, two windows were broken. A fellow standing on a chair accidentally fell into one window and broke it. Then some other kid, a jerk by all accounts, punched his fist clear through another window–actually, through a double window.

Yeah, this bothers me. But it also bothers me that most churches would never allow concerts like this, merely because of the threat that their pretty-pretty sanctuary might suffer unsightly wear and tear. And because they don’t approve of the music style.

I have to keep reminding myself: our building is a tool. It’s not a sacred shrine where God lives 24/7 while the rest of us are at work. We can have these wild concerts one night, then set it up for a worshipful service the next Sunday.

But I still wish they wouldn’t break windows.

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Elizabeth Edwards Fights the Mommy Wars

Just read a fascinating piece called Elizabeth¬†Edwards and the Mommy Wars, on Time’s “Swampland” blog. A woman, writing on a blog, really attacked Elizabeth Edwards for spending her final days on the campaign trail instead of with her kids. I found myself thinking, “Good point, good point.”

And then came Elizabeth Edwards’ response. Phew! That lady’s articulate and thoughtful. Everything I’ve read about John and Elizabeth Edwards indicates they are really good parents with a good family. Elizabeth’s defense of herself gave some great insights into good parenting.

I like that lady.

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Traumatic Tag

Several elementary schools in Colorado have banished tag from playgrounds. Seems some kids complained that they were chased against their will. Running games are still allowed, but only if students don’t chase each other and there is less physical contact.

All I can say is: it’s about time!

I still sometimes wake up in a cold sweat after dreaming that classmates are chasing me, culminating in being tapped on the shoulder and told, “You’re it!” Is any declaration more horrifying that being told, “You’re it!”

I live daily with traumatic memories of playing tag. That, and dodgeball. And I yearn for a world in which today’s fragile children are free of being forced to play tag, a world in which they are not subjected to the torments and resulting years of therapy which have characterized my woefully diminished life.

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Gullible Conservatives

I am continually amazed by people’s gullibility, as evidenced by the emails that get forwarded to me, as if it’s information the “liberal press” doesn’t want you to know.

Today, I got one about Ollie North’s testimony in the Iran-Contra hearings, in which he talked about Osama bin Laden as a terrorist and the most evil person he knew. I remember watching his testimony. The terrorist was Abu Nidal. Back then, during the years Russia occupied Afghanistan, Osama was our friend. Ollie probably even sent him some Stinger missiles.

The email said that the senator questioning North disagreed with North’s solution–that bin Laden should be assassinated. That senator, the email said, was Al Gore. Well, Gore wasn’t part of that committee.

Then there was an email saying Mohammed Atta blew up an Israeli bus in the 1980s, was captured by the Israelis, but was released after pressure from the Clinton administration. And he then flew a plane into the Twin Towers. Well, the bomber was another guy with the same name.

Hey, my fellow conservatives: quit making stuff up. If you hate Democrats, that’s okay. But at least tell the truth.

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When Reconciliation Wins

It’s nice to hear marital success stories every once in a while.

There’s a couple I know, been married about 30 years. Earlier in the marriage people had suspicions that the guy was fooling around (and he probably was), but nothing went public until a fling about ten years ago. Most people thought the wife should have left him; I guess that would be the reaction in most cases. But she didn’t. They both got good counseling, and they stayed together.

I remember hearing a seminar speaker say many years ago, “Adultery is grounds for divorce. But it is also grounds for forgiveness.” In this case, the wife opted for forgiveness. Some folks are cynical about her motives, since he’s a successful guy. But how can you fault her for determining to save a marriage?

Today, by all appearances, they have a good, strong marriage. They both have a great relationship with their daughter, a really fine young woman who is becoming a successful professional. There are plenty of cynics who suspect he’ll go AWOL again–and maybe he will. But right now, I look at a marriage that has been restored, and it makes me feel good. It should make all Christians rejoice.

But because it’s Bill and Hillary Clinton, we’re not allowed to feel good about it, and certainly not commend them. Why is that?

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Email–The Scourge of Creativity

I’ve been trying something new regarding email, and I like it.

I’ve always kept my email program open, set to automatically check for new email every few minutes. When new emails arrive, I’m alerted by a sound and by a red number appearing on the icon in my Macintosh dock (the number tells me how many unread emails eagerly await my attention). Email is like a phone call, trumping whatever you’re doing. If you’re deep in prayer but the phone rings, you abruptly leave God without explanation and rush off to answer the phone.

This is bad for creative types, like myself. I read an article which talked about this.

“The problem is that when you go back to what you were doing, you’ve lost your chain of thought and, of course, you are less productive….People’s brains get tired from breaking off from something every few minutes to check emails. The more distracted you are by distractions, including email, then you are going to be more tired and less productive.”

The article said adverse effects are felt most by employees in creative jobs or in jobs that require long periods of concentration. That certainly applies to me. Whether I’m writing an article, editing a manuscript, or doing graphic design, I’m at my best when I immerse myself in the work without distraction. I imagine writing a sermon requires similar concentration.

I didn’t realize how much the constant bombardment of email detracts from my creative efforts, continuously pulling me away, every few minutes, from what I’m doing.

So I’ve been keeping my email program closed. As the article suggested, I set aside specific times for processing email, or maybe do it when I’m at some kind of natural break (switching from one project to another, returning from lunch, etc.). I launch Apple Mail, process my email, then quit the program and plunge back into my creative work.

What a difference it’s made! I’ve been doing this for a couple weeks now. And let me tell you–it’s been a huge benefit to my creativity. Just wish I’d learned this ridiculously simple principle ten years ago.

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The “Enabler” Fallacy

We’ve had a couple and their baby living with us since last December, helping them out until they can get established on their own–which appears, at this point, still a long way away. Tonight, Allen and I sat out on the porch talking for a couple of hours. I didn’t manage to work any great spiritual insights into our conversation, and I feel a silly guilt about that. But I think he appreciated talking.

People at church and work continually warn me about being “enablers.” I understand what they’re talking about. But at the same time, I’ve been questioning the whole concept, at least as it applies in this situation. Because I’m not sure how much “enablement” is part of God’s vocabulary. God, after all, is the one who said to forgive your brother 70 times 7 times. How much more enabling is that? Shouldn’t you give a person a few chances to get it right, and then give up? Why is God so naive?

I’ve decided that “enabling” is very much an American concept that fits with our values of rugged individualism, self-responsibility, etc. I’m not so sure it fits the spirit of Jesus. Should we kick our guests out, because we’re just enabling them (making life easy for them)? Should we declare that not enough progress has been shown in self-responsiblility, accept that we’re just throwing pearls before swine, and send them on their way? Is that what Jesus would do?

I don’t think so. Stuff like this–the issues I wrestle with, the frustrations that lead to insights into what I perceive as the mind of God–show me that their presence in our home is as much for my benefit as for theirs. God has shown me things about himself and about my own stupid paradigms that would never have come apart from taking in this couple who had no place to go, and showing them love which occasionally borders on “unconditional.”

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Three Minutes Early

Yesterday at 4:27, a transformer in back of our building blew. The lights flickered and then settled into a dim state, and some computers (including mine) went off. We had to shut down all of the computers and go home.

The office normally closes at 4:30. Three stinkin’ minutes! What’s the point of that? Why couldn’t the transformer have blown at, say, 11:00 in the morning? Was God playing a cruel joke on his faithful servants here in the United Brethren Headquarters Building?

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The Uninfallible Me

We were in Borders Bookstore, and I heard a lady asking a clerk about “that woman author who writes mysteries that all start with a letter.” She wanted to get some books from that series for somebody she knew.

Well, I’m an authority on all things related to detective novels, and here was a chance to flaunt my knowledge.

I walked over and casually said, “The author is Sara Paretsky.” I then spelled out “Paretsky.” She thanked me, and I walked away, a good deed done. The customer and the clerk were now on the right path.

About ten minutes later, it hit me: it’s Sue Grafton. Sara Paretsky writes the V. I. Warshawski novels. Sue Grafton does the “alphabet” books starring the intrepid Kinsey Millhone.

I wanted to slink away in humiliation. The clerk had probably found the right author and told the customer, “That guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

I am not, after all, infallible.

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The Incredible Rain-X

It’s been raining like crazy all day, something we’ve needed.

Amidst the downpour, I’ve not used my windshield wipers. It’s an experiment. I’d heard about this product called Rain-X: rub it onto your windshield, and rain will bead up and go away. We’ve not had enough rain this summer for me to really try it out, until today.

It’s pretty amazing. The water just beads up on the windshield and goes…somewhere, I don’t know where.

This doesn’t mean I’ll stop using windshield wipers. It’s just an interesting addition to my wonderful Dodge Dakota SLT.

[This has been a paid advertisement of Rain-X…NOT.]

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