Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘music’

Nine Church traditions that need to die
by Dan Foster , Guest Blogger
(Regularly writes at medium.com)

Growing up as Pastor’s kid in the eighties gave me a front row pew to the kind of vitriol and anger that can emerge from an otherwise lovely and mild-mannered Christian when you say or do something to offend them.

I remember the first time my Father preached a sermon on the topic of sex — something quite ground-breaking at the time. After the service, he stood at the door and greeted everyone as he always did. I remember one little old lady getting right up in my Dad’s face and, waving one pointed finger perilously close to his nose, screeching at him, “If you ever mention ‘that word’ in church again, I’m never coming back.” She couldn’t even bring herself to say the word “sex,” because I suppose she was far too upright and pious for the likes of anything slightly pleasurable or necessary for the survival of the human race.

Photo by Daniel Tseng on Unsplash

My father was a great pastor, but he was ahead of his time. He like to challenge the status quo, make people shift uncomfortably in their pews and, occasionally, he like to slaughter a sacred cow.

The term, “sacred cow,” has its origins in Hinduism, but it is commonly used in Christian circles to describe those elements of church life that have been elevated to such a high level of importance that they cannot be touched, criticized, changed or removed. Above all, sacred cows are not essential to the fundamentals of Christianity, but people treat them as if they are. In fact — truth be told — if you got rid of them, the church would function just as effectively — probably even more so.

Over three decades in the Evangelical church I have done a fair bit of cow spotting. Here are a few common sacred cows that need to be put out to pasture — maybe even slaughtered completely:

The Offering

One of the most awkward parts of many a church service is the moment that an open offering plate is thrust under your nose by an eager and expectant church usher (usually an older man), with the expectation that you will put a wad of hundred dollar bills in it. Okay… so maybe not that much, but the pressure to give is real.

This uncomfortable tradition of ‘sending around the plate’ is usually prefaced by an ‘offering talk’ (that is sometimes almost as long as the sermon itself), where parishioners are exhorted to let the moths out of their purses and fill the coffers of the church for the good of the Kingdom. In the worst of cases, some churches insinuate or even promise that your financial gifts will somehow unlock the blessing of God over your life — as if God could somehow be bought off in such a way. This amounts to nothing more than manipulation.

Should we give? Yes! Christ calls us to be generous and to give to those in need. However, we are also told to give discreetly and without fanfare. In fact, the Bible says, “Each one of us should give what we have decided in our heart to give. We should not give if it makes you unhappy or if we feel forced to give. God loves those who are happy to give.”

Image for post
Photo by By Suzanne Tucker on Shutterstock — purchased with license

The Communion Table

I know of a worship leader who made the mistake of resting his guitar up against the communion table at the end of his worship set. The backlash was swift and brutal. The pastor’s inbox was full of complaints about the irreverence of the worship leader. How dare he use the table of the Lord to rest a common musical instrument up against!

True to its form, the church publicly humiliated the worship leader by making him get up on stage an apologize to everyone for his gross sacrilege. He left the church soon after. Good for him!

I heard of another pastor who moved the communion table from the center of the stage to a position off to one side, simply to create a little more space. The pastor was accused of attacking the centrality of the Lord’s supper, leading people astray and presenting a ‘watered-down’ version of Christianity. The following week, the communion table was back in the middle of the stage. From then on, the pastor would move the table just a few inches each week and, over a period of several months, successfully moved it back to one side without anyone noticing.

In some churches, the communion table is a scared cow. In reality it’s just a piece of ordinary furniture. Covering it in a nice white table cloth doesn’t make it sacred. Even the fact that the elements of the Lord’s supper sit on top of it doesn’t make it sacred. In fact, to place such high importance on an inanimate object would be akin to making an idol out of it, wouldn’t it?

Image for post
Photo by Joshua Eckstein on Unsplash

Church Music

One of the sacred cows that my father was unable to kill, when he was a pastor, was the pipe organ. The church had an ancient pipe organ that was so seldom used that it was almost purely ornamental. I’m pretty sure that the last human being who actually knew how to play it had passed away a few centuries earlier. Even so, when the church outgrew its ancient building and attempted to shift the congregation into a bigger and more modern facility, they were unable to part ways with the pipe organ. Consequently, at great expense, the entire organ was painstakingly removed from the old sanctuary and transplanted into the new. There it sits as an ancient monument to a bygone era, gathering dust. It sticks out like a sore thumb.

This highlighted to me how we can get attached to certain instruments, styles of worship — even certain songs — to the point of elevating them to god-like status. Music is one of the most-complained-about aspects of church. Every week someone would say the music was too loud, too soft, too fast or too slow. They would complain that the number of old hymns was disproportionate to the amount of modern worship songs. They would say that certain songs lacked lyrical content, theological accuracy or a catchy riff. When it comes to the sacred cow of music, Christians can fire up very quickly.

However, we weren’t even commanded to gather around an organ and sing, were we? Singing is really just one way to worship. It’s not the be-all-and-end-all. These days, my favorite way to worship is actually to sit in silent contemplation. Try that sometime!

Image for post
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Male-dominated church leadership

Once upon a time, the idea that power and leadership was ascribed to men by virtue of their gender alone was widely accepted. In some cultures it still is. However, as the modern, Western world continues its relentless and necessary march towards equality, patriarchal structures and systems are quite rightly viewed as unacceptable and outdated. Still, those who stand to lose the most by the deconstruction of patriarchal systems — namely conservative men — won’t go down without a fight. Nowhere is this more evident than in the church, when some men will fight tooth and nail to protect their turf.

A woman can be the leader of my country, but she can’t be a leader in many local churches. That’s because many Christian churches ascribe to a form of “benevolent patriarchy” commonly known as Complementarianism. This belief gives men the role of authority over the wife and children, and only allows men to be church leaders. Women are expected to submit unilaterally to men, fathers, husbands, pastors.

I remember the very last time I attended a board meeting at my conservative, evangelical church. The group — all men of course — had gathered, and a decision needed to be made that required some legal advice.

“What a pity we don’t have any lawyers who come to our church that we can refer to for this matter,” Said one of the board members.

“My wife is a lawyer,” I spoke up.

“True,” replied the board member, “What a shame she is the wrong gender.”

And the rest of the men chuckled knowingly.

We ought to be disturbed when it is suggested that those absent of male genitals must unilaterally submit and defer to those with.

Image for post
Photo by Lisa F. Young on Shutterstock — purchased with license

Church and politics

Many Christians are uncomfortable with the marriage that seems to exist between the church and the conservative side of politics. It is a well established fact that white, evangelical protestant Christians overwhelmingly support Donald Trump and his presidency to the point where “Evangelical Christian” has become a kind of synonym for “Trump Supporter.”

The idea that Jesus is somehow on the side of the Republican Party is laughable. If Jesus is on anyone’s side, it’s the side of the orphan, the widow, the refugee, the poor, the lost, the hurting and the weak.

In my home country, Australia, I believe that the more progressive political parties often have ideas more aligned with the compassion and grace that Christianity is supposed to espouse, particularly in matters pertaining to welfare, foreign aid, equality, asylum seekers and the environment. Yet, it is kind of an unwritten rule that Christians should vote for the conservatives.

Yes, I have had friends walk away from the church because they can’t reconcile why the church supports political parties that turn away the refugee and oppress the minority.

Image for post
Photo by ehrlif on iStockphoto — purchased with license

The Building

Let’s be clear. The Bible never mentions a building called ‘Church.’ Never. In fact, the Bible never speaks of church in those terms. The buildings came later when the state got a hold of the church, under Roman Emperor Constantine in 312 AD.

On the other hand, Jesus said where two or three are gathered He is present. Two or three — not 40 or 150 or 6,000. Not in an auditorium with a speaker, a band and dozens of rows of chairs. When Jesus spoke about the church, he was talking about people. People are the building blocks of church, not bricks and mortar. That is why church began in the humble homes of believers and that is why church can still continue in the humble homes of believers even as we are forced apart on occasions such as global pandemics.

Jesus never instructed believers to buy land, build buildings, establish a weekly worship service, create a liturgy or institute a sacrament. He simply commanded believers not to forget Him; to live together, and to eat, and to remember. A building is not needed. It might be helpful, sure. But real Christianity is a fully portable experience.

Image for post
Photo by Skull Kat on Unsplash

Children’s Sunday School

At various times in the Gospels, Jesus’s disciples are seen to try to keep children away from Jesus, because Jesus was — in their opinion — far too busy and important for kids. Yet, in Matthew 18:10, Jesus commands us not to look down on children, but to welcome them.

Therefore, it strikes me as odd that many churches segregate children to some far-removed corner of the church property so that the adults can worship God in peace and quiet. Here, during an hour of glorified babysitting, we teach children to be good little boys and girls. We teach them to be nice, obedient and compliant.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for children’s Sunday School lessons, but I think the whole system needs an overhaul. Better yet, here’s an idea. How about we design worship services that are inter-generationally friendly so that we can all participate together? We ought to stop patronizing children, and start to treat them as people who have a things that they can teach us, and meaningful contributions they can make.

No wonder my kids found church so boring, because — let’s be honest — young people are drawn to risk, challenge and adventure, but these things are often discouraged in the local church. Instead, many congregations offer a safe, nurturing community — an oasis of stability and predictability. Studies show that women and seniors gravitate toward these things. So not surprisingly such congregations are over-represented with women and seniors.

Richard Rohr, in his book, “From Wild Man to Wise Man,” says it like this:

“Real spirituality should emphasize movement over stillness, action over theory, service to the world over religious discussions, speaking the truth over social niceties, and doing justice instead of self-serving. Without this, spirituality becomes characterized by too much inwardness, a morass of unclarified feelings, and religion itself as a security blanket. This prevents a journey to anyplace new, and fosters a constant protecting of the old. It is a no-risk religion, just the opposite of Abraham, Moses, Paul and Jesus…”

As long as we present the Christian faith, inaccurately, as something less than the great, challenging, risky, dangerous, treacherous adventure that it was meant to be, we sell out. And children will find their adventure elsewhere.

Image for post
Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Pews

In the small village of Okeford Ftizpaine in South West England, locals are up in arms after their parish church made the decision to sell off their 150-year-old, antique Victorian-era wooden pews.

As comfortable as old wooden pews are, I would not personally object being able to sit on something more modern and easy-on-the-backside, especially during the weekly sermon by the local vicar.

Not the people of Okeford Fitzpaine, though. They would rather keep their old pews. However, it turns out the removal of these ancient bench seats is rather a matter of necessity as the sanctuary requires more flexible furnishings to allow space for people who are… how do you say it nicely? More rotund than the average human.

A recent report by the church committee concluded: “We have had occasions at weddings where the couple have been too large to be able to walk side by side down the aisle. With different chairs we would be able to widen the aisle.” They also added that the the pews were not suited to the “human form of today” — presumably that means the larger human form.

Even so, it beats me how a church community could somehow think that uncomfortable, 150-year-old wooden pews were so essential to church life that they are worth fighting for — as if single chairs might somehow the instruments of Satan.

Burn the pews, I say!

And while we are at it, let’s get rid of rows all together. I say that because rows divide and differentiate. Rows promote the consumerist mindset. Rows promote the brainless acceptance of information without critique. Rows perpetuate the hierarchical model that places an expert up the front to mediate between us and God. How about we meet in circles instead — around tables even? Tables invite connection. Tables invite conversation. Tables invite friendship.

Image for post
Photo by Kyler Nixon on Unsplash

Marriage

In 2017, the satirical Christian website Babylon Bee published an article entitled, “Woman In Singles’ Ministry Gets Married, Promoted To Real Christian.” The article gently pokes fun at the idea that getting married is basically a ‘level up’ in Christian circles.

The reality is that the popular view of our day is that singleness is a bad position and marriage will cure it — that being single is not sufficient, not adequate. It’s something you need to change because it’s wrong. And, if this is the popular view in our society, you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s the popular view in the church. At first, we make fun of single people (mainly while they are young), but only for a while. As they get older, we begin to wonder what’s wrong with them. Are their standards too high? Eventually, we end up pitying them, as if they were destined for a miserable life.

Somehow, we arrived at the idea — the myth — that singleness is bad. It’s the reason my Mum started suggesting suitable partners for me as soon as I turned 18. It’s the reason why I signed up to a dating website when I was in my early 20s. It’s the reason why people in the church ask, “So, when are you gonna find yourself a nice girl?” It’s the reason why half of you are trying to match-make for your single friends. Christian are often guilty of treating singleness like it’s a problem that needs to be solved — despite the fact that Jesus and the Apostle Paul were single men.

In fact, the Apostle Paul comes along in 1 Corinthians 7 and lifts up singleness as a legitimate way to live, in a way that would have shocked the world in which they lived at the time. Suddenly Paul is calling singleness a gift. A gift! Imagine that! In so doing, Christianity was the first religion that held up singleness as good. So, the church ought to quit making it out like married Christians are on a higher level, somehow.

Image for post
Photo by Richard Jaimes on Unsplash

It’s time to kill the sacred cows

Call me a heretic if you like, but I don’t think that Jesus is impressed by our attempts to clutch at power, to elevate some and to put others ‘in their place,’ to resist change, preserve the status quo and uphold ancient practices and models that are superfluous to the fundamentals of Christianity.

And I really don’t think that Jesus cares too much about the form of our worship — our buildings, our furniture, our music, and our religious traditions.

So, why do we elevate these things to such a high position that we would be willing to fight over it? I’ve seen churches split, people hurt and relationships destroyed over these trivial matters.

They are sacred cows! Now let’s slaughter them!

Read Full Post »

by Rocky Glenn

One of my favorite things about blogging is the ability to return to my previous writings and remind myself of what I’ve previously written. While reflecting on a thought from the past recently, I set out to write about it only to remember I had previously shared the thought a couple of years ago. It was a thought I needed to remind myself of and the realization caused me to stumble upon a trio of posts I shared at the time. Over the next three weeks, I will be resharing my thoughts on Paul’s famous description of love.

One of my favorite parts of being a musician is raw, acoustic music. Whether playing it, or listening to it, there is something I believe intrinsically pure about instruments and voices that are not amplified or modified. On Valentine’s night (2017), I posted Love Amplified which is simply 1 Corinthians 13:4-8’s description of love taken from the Amplified Bible. As I lay in bed that night trying to sleep, I couldn’t shake the familiar description of love listed in the passage and began the process of examining myself to see if I really reflected these qualities in those I say I love. Thus began the research of what each word actually meant and what kind of picture of love they painted. The research is how I stumbled upon the Amplified Version and, being that it was late at night, I stopped after finding and posting it. Now, with a nod to musicianship, I intend to actually take those verses, share my thoughts, and hopefully create the same raw environment that comes with acoustic music as I investigate practical ways they may apply. The image below shows the popular passage in four different versions of the Bible.

1-cornithians-13

1 Corinthians 13:4 from The Amplified Bible: Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant.

Love endures with patience and serenity. Patience, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as the capacity, habit, or fact of bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint. It is not hasty or impetuous and manifests forbearance under provocation or strain remaining steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity. Serenity is the quality of being clear and free of storms or unpleasant change and being of utter calm and unruffled repose or quietude. King James described this as suffering long.

Love is without complaint and calm. How many times have I missed the mark on this quality of love? I am a man that seeks routine and I thrive on it. There are certain things that must be completed in a certain order every morning or my patience and serenity are lost. Now that we are the parents of a teenager and preteen, as well as new dog owners, patience and serenity are tested often, and are, just as often found lacking. However, despite these testings, I’m pleased to say that most mornings in our house are quite often lacking complaint and are calm, but when things do go south, they have the tendency to escalate quick and I’m certain I could not be described as having utter calm and unruffled repose! Quite sure when the king used the phrase “charity suffers long” he didn’t mean the suffering itself would be long!

Love is kind and thoughtful. To be kind is to be of a sympathetic, helpful, or forbearing nature. Thoughtfulness is characterized by careful reasoned thinking given to or made with heedful anticipation of the needs and wants of others. The original Greek translation of the word kind means to show one’s self mild or useful.

Love is mild and useful. Continuing with the thoughts and examples given above, once patience is lost, it’s pretty much safe to say mildness and usefulness is gone! The last thing I want to be towards my wife or one of my kids once my patience is gone is to be mild. I feel it is very important that they know they are the cause for my lack of patience and I need to tell them emphatically and in great detail. It’s interesting that both words that begin the scriptural description of love, patient and kind, include a form of the word forbear in their respective definitions. To forbear is to control oneself when provoked. Suffice it to say, I need a little more forbearance to show my love at times . . . (While writing this post, we are actually in the process of grilling pork chops on the grill for dinner. Forbearance really gets tested when you search the kitchen for your grilling utensils, questioning each and very member of your family because they are the ones who put the dishes away, only to discover them hanging on the grill from the last time you had cooked there!!)

Love is not jealous or envious. Jealousy and envy could be considered twin brothers. Both involve hostility and resentfulness toward someone else having a supposed advantage. The difference lies with jealousy occurring when you think someone is seeking an advantage over something you have and envy occurs when you think someone has an advantage to receive something you desire. No greater place are these two prominent within families than in household with siblings. If one kid’s class wins a pizza party and the other doesn’t. Or it could be a birthday celebration for the older child and the younger child is pouting. It’s such a common tale that numerous Bible events from Cain and Abel all the way to the disciples questioning Jesus about who he considers greater occur due to jealousy and envy. There is no room in love for holding something or someone so tightly to “protect” what is yours. There is also no room in love to despise what others may receive that you may not.

Love does not brag and is not proud. For this explanation, I really like what King James has to say, “charity vaunteth not itself and is not puffed up.” To vaunt means to make a vain display of one’s own worth or attainments. Love does not puff itself up meaning it does not make a big deal of itself. If your sole purpose in any relationship is simply to convince the other person how great you are, then it’s not love. To shower gifts on your spouse just so others see how wonderful you are, and not because you seek to truly honor them, is not love.

So, putting this altogether, to begin this study we see that love is without complaint and calm, it is mild and useful, it has no resentment or hostility, and it does not seek to make itself great. One thing I’m being reminded of through this study is that a true love that reflects all of these qualities mentioned in this passage is not something I can attain on my own. It must come from God, for God is love. More on that later.

Rocky

(This post originally written February 19, 2017.)

Read Full Post »

by Rocky Glenn

Having come through eight weeks of writing about Enjoying the Moment initiated by my love for music, I began reflecting back to this writing from April 2017.  The essence of David’s words in this most loved Psalm captures the heart of finding joy, pleasure, and satisfaction in the moment because of his trust in his shepherd.

It can be argued that Psalm 23 is perhaps the most well-known, and possibly most cherished, portion of scripture.  I’ve spent the last four weeks reading and rereading those six verses.  I believe what makes this scripture so meaningful to those who read it is the way David captures and paints his relationship with God in terms familiar with a task he knew and lived personally.  David’s picture of God as a shepherd displays the intimate involvement he feels God has in his life just as a musician recognizes his dependence on his conductor.  With that thought in mind, I ventured to craft my own version of this well-loved passage.  So, in humility, I present the following verses:

1. God is my conductor. I will never be without direction.
2. He guides when to rest and leads the dynamics and tempo of my life.
3. He keeps me in tune as He arranges my hymn into a reflection of Him.
4. Though I walk through the valley of sharps and flats, I will fear no key change. Your conductor’s baton will guide me.
5. You’ve written my life’s opus with a majestic symphony. I’m overwhelmed by the composition of Your hands.
6. Melodious harmonies surround me and I will play in Your presence the rest of my life.

Take a moment to pause and think about your life.  What would your 23rd psalm be a reflection of?

Rocky

(This post originally written April 9, 2017.)

Read Full Post »

by Rocky Glenn

As I sit here on the couch working on the next post in the Enjoy The Moment series, What About The Love? from Amy Grant’s 1988 Lead Me On begins to stream on Pandora.   The song gave me pause and brought to the forefront once again the issues we are facing today concerning religion and self-righteousness versus love aren’t anything new but were being spoken about thirty years ago and all the way back to Paul.  Below are the lyrics of the song followed by the words of Paul from Galatians.

“What About The Love”

I went to see my sister, she was staying with a friend
Who had turned into a preacher to save the world from sin
He said “First deny your body, Then learn to submit
Pray to be made worthy, and tithe your ten percent”
I said “Is this all there is, just the letter of the law?”
Something’s wrong.

I went to see my brother on the 32nd floor
Of a building down on Wall Street – You could hear the future’s roar
He said “Here we make decisions, and we trade commodities;
If you tell me where there’s famine, I can make you guarantees”
I said “Is this all there is, Power to be strong?”
Something’s wrong.

Something’s wrong in heaven tonight
You can almost hear them cry
Angels to the left and the right
Saying “What about the love, What about the love, What about the love?”

I went to see my neighbor, he’d been taken to a home
For the weak and the discarded who have no place to go
He said “Here I lack for nothing I am fed and I am clothed,
But at times I miss the freedom I used to know”
I said “Is this all there is When your usefulness is gone?”
Something’s wrong.

I looked into the mirror proud as I could be
And I saw my pointing finger pointing back at me
Saying “Who named you accuser? Who gave you the scales?”
I hung my head in sorrow, I could almost feel the nails
I said “This is how it is to be crucified and judged without love.”

Galatians 5:4-6 from The Message:

I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

20190803_103705_0000

Rocky

More posts in the Soundtrack of a Churchboy’s Recovery series:

Read Full Post »

by Rocky Glenn

Recorded by Crowder on the deluxe edition of his 2016 album American Prodigal, there is perhaps no greater song to describe a recovering churchboy than that penned by Sean McConnell in 2010, Praise The Lord. Although McConnell himself released the tune himself in 2014 as part of his five tune EP The B Side Sessions, I personally did not discover it until Crowder’s recording. Intrigued by the album title, I streamed American Prodigal upon its release and was immediately given pause as Praise The Lord hit the playlist and streamed through my earbuds . . . someone has put into words what I have been feeling and learning:

You’re not who I thought You were – Praise the Lord

I could not reach the repeat button quick enough after the song ended and since the first listen have replayed both Crowder’s cover and McConnell’s original recording more times than could be counted. I’ve shared the song with anyone curious enough to listen and sat behind the living room piano on numerous occasions making McConnell’s confession my own. Churchboy life is summed up perfectly with each of line of the first verse:

I used to shake You like an 8-ball

The magic 8 ball is a fortune telling toy made popular in the 1950’s. Users would ask a question and then shake the toy waiting for one of twenty possible answers to appear on the blue triangle-faced, twenty-sided die contained in the hazy liquid inside the sphere hoping the response would be favorable but expecting the response to be unfavorable. The game sums up my prayer life as a churchboy. I would approach God with my requests hoping things would work out in the way I saw best or how I wished all the while believing the nagging thoughts in the back of my mind telling me I wouldn’t truly receive what I was asking and to live a truly holy life meant ultimately accepting a life filled with unhappiness.

I used to shoot You like a gun

Like a gunslinger carrying a six-shooter on his hip, I was taught to always be ready to provide chapter and verse for any answer provided in order to win an argument, after all Paul told Timothy to be “instant in season and out of season”. The silver bullet kept in reserve to emerge victorious from any moral, ethical, or theological shootout was always, “Because the Bible says so!” No cowboy goes into a duel more worried about his opponent’s outcome than his own and churchboys don’t either. The important thing is to win the argument regardless of what wounds may be inflicted.

I used to hold You like a hammer try to nail down everyone

“Do you believe in once saved always saved? . . . Do you use the King James Version? . . . Is your worship service contemporary, traditional, or liturgical . . . Is baptism by submersion or sprinkling? . . . Do you believe in speaking in tongues? . . . Is communion performed with grape juice or wine? . . . Are you pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation?” . . . These questions represent just a small fraction of the issues those who call ourselves Christians have allowed to divide us over the years. To a churchboy it’s important to know exactly where others stand on these matters to determine if they are “rightly dividing the word of truth” and if we can truly walk together in unity with the parties in question. Of course, regardless of the response to any of those questions or the position on any of these issues, the gun-slinging churchboy always has chapter and verse ready to support his stance. This carpenter characteristic of the churchboy, much like the gunslinger, is more concerned with knowing where others stand rather than taking time to understand others.

I used to keep You in a steeple

Psalm 122 begins with David proclaiming, “I was glad when they said to me Let us go into the house of the Lord.” Thanks to the death and resurrection of Jesus, the house of the Lord is anywhere a believer of Jesus physically resides at any given moment. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:16 we are the temple of God and God resides in us. How many times have we referred to a building as the house of Lord? How about the number of times we have been greeted from a stage or podium with the words, “Welcome into the presence of the Lord,” or “Let’s invite his presence here”? We sing numerous songs asking for God to come without pausing to take a moment to reflect and realize we are asking God to do what He has already done. He exists in us, not in a building. His presence is not dependent upon the intensity of our singing, pleading, praying, or even on our invitation. He is where we are.

Used to bind You in a Book

Whether dueling as a gunslinger or wielding a hammer as carpenter, a churchboy is powerless without the Bible. We are taught the importance and value of the book at a young age, commonly in the form of song:

The B-I-B-L-E — Yes, that’s the book for me
I stand alone on the Word of God — The B-I-B-L-E

The Bible has been a part of my life since I was able to read. Although the language and translation of what I read has changed over the years, and I now read it more electronically than in a physical book, the Bible continues to be a part of my life. However, my view of what the Bible actually is has changed. Despite singing the children’s song above before I was able to read or even write the words to it, I believe it plants a false theology in our heads. The Bible is not the Word of God . . . Jesus is. John tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God . . .And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us full of grace and truth.” There’s much more to expound on regarding this topic than can be tied up in just a few short sentences here, but based on these words of John, I will simply say the Bible was not with God in the beginning, the Bible was not (and is not) God, and the Bible certainly didn’t sprout legs and walk among us. The Bible is not God’s rule book and it’s not Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth. It is a collection of books depicting the loving heart of a father for his children and the longing of a creator to be with his creation. Much like the grace and truth in which John stated Jesus dwelt among us, the love of God which Jesus came to reveal cannot be contained in a book.

I used to take You like prescription without knowing what I took

Churchboys follow two sets of rules: those written as the doctrines, creeds, and by-laws of whatever denomination or label with which we identify and those unwritten, yet implied and expected with knowing glances and nods of approval and disapproval. Like a strict regimen of taking two pills three times a day, we follow the requirements of daily Bible reading, quiet prayer time, weekly church attendance, compulsory giving, and loyal devotion to church leaders without ever grasping the realness and true heart of who we are really reading about, who we are actually praying to, the purpose or intention of traveling to building on a weekly basis, if ten percent is really required, or why we’re depending upon a man or men to lead us to God. Churchboys do what they’re told without questioning because it’s simply the way things have always been done.

After these lines, the refrain of the song makes its debut in the form of a rebuttal disputing the former ideas with conclusions drawn from a journey of recovering from life as a churchboy.

Now I just don’t buy it anymore

No, I’ve tried and I’ve tried to know everything for sure

But I find I know less as I come to know You more

You’re not who I thought You were – Praise the Lord

In one of his first public performances of the song, McConnell introduced the song with the following words, “The longer I live, the more I walk down the road I’m on, the more my concept of love and mercy and forgiveness gets bigger as well as my concept of God and how he interacts with us. This is a song about finally deciding what I believe and trying to walk through life acting like I believe it.” In the second verse of the song, he paints a portrait of new life discovered when churchboy ideas are left behind.

Your love’s an ocean, not a river – A symphony, not just a song

Imagine spending your life living next to a river. Its ebbs and flows are as much part of your life as inhaling and exhaling. You’ve studied how it rises and falls and know every intricacy of its behavior. The river is your life and it’s all you’ve ever known. Then one day a friend takes you on a journey to the ocean. How puny your river is now compared to the vast expanse of water before you of which you can no longer see the other shore as you could with your river. Such is the love of God. Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus was they would “have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” His wish for them continued with, “May you experience the love of Christ,” although he admitted immediately “it is too great to understand fully” much like a symphony is filled with numerous melodies, counter melodies, and harmonies throughout its movements which are experienced and discovered new with repeated listening as opposed to a single song. The love of God grows richer and deeper as you experience it and live in it. Like the ocean resting within its shores and the symphony longing to be heard, God’s love is simply there patiently waiting to be received.

I don’t think everybody’s right, I just think most of us were wrong.

The journey of recovering from churchboy life begins with the often-painful realization you don’t know as much as you think you know. Emotions of hurt, anger, betrayal, and sorrow may set in as the realization dawns, but, like most highly emotional experiences, as you move further away from the onset of the awakening you are able to not only accept, but make peace with the idea as you stand on the edge of the aforementioned ocean and listen to the symphony of his love. In the words of author Anne Lamott, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.”

I think that when we get to Heaven we’re gonna laugh when we can see how hard we try to make it and how easy it should be

Regardless which version of Praise The Lord I may be listening to, I cannot hear these lines without a slight smile appearing on my face. We’ve made the path to God and his love so difficult. We’ve added hoops to jump through, disciplines to follow, and requirements which must be met. Jesus simply said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” The way to God is simply believing in Jesus and accepting his love. Nothing else is required, not now, not ever!

McConnell concludes the lyrics of the song with three lines to form the bridge before echoing the refrain as the song ends. He uses the first two lines to remind us of the eternal truths: providence is endless, and mercy is a mystery. God’s love and care for us is eternal and will never expire and his mercy will always be a mystery to our finite human minds as simply can’t understand why or how his love is offered so freely. Churchboys live the way they do without realizing how freely God’s love and mercy are offered. It’s a life lived in fear of losing what’s already been given because they can’t see it’s already there.

I pray you take time today to experience the power of this song. The song plays between five and six minutes and I encourage you to find yourself a quiet place where you can be alone and simply close your eyes to listen and let the confessions and cries of a fellow journeyer resound within your heart. As a final encouragement and invitation for you to step out and experience the love of the father and to truly see God is not who you really think He is, I leave you with the lyrics of the third line McConnell penned for the bridge:

Fear is no good reason to believe in anything

Rocky

More posts in the Soundtrack of a Churchboy’s Recovery series:

Read Full Post »

by Rocky Glenn

I’ve shared previously growing up a churchboy for me meant nearly my entire musical education and consumption came from bands labeled Christian.  These were bands whose albums were recorded on Christian record labels, marketed to Christians, and sold nearly exclusively in Christian bookstores.  I was not totally ignorant of what was considered hit songs or popular bands, but my knowledge mostly existed only of the radio hits I would hear in public places.  I say mostly because there was also another source of information where I gained knowledge of popular music.  It was common for youth groups I was part of to attend, either in person or through recorded audio or video, seminars on the evils of rock and roll.  During these seminars, bands were scrutinized for their band names, stage acts, lyrical content, and the hidden messages found in their songs if they were played backwards.  I learned during these seminars to not only to stay away from these bands and the evils they portrayed but also honed my judgmental skills for distinguishing good from bad and determining if something was holy or profane based on how it looked or presented itself.  These tendencies stayed with me throughout my life into adulthood and even parenthood.

Part of being a parent is wanting the best for your child and protecting them from harmful and damaging influences.  To accomplish this in our home, our kids were given the same musical education I forced upon myself growing up . . . nearly exclusively Christian music.  The only exceptions to this came through movie soundtracks, singing competitions on television, or music driven video games.  About three years ago, my teenage son began listening to a band I was not too happy about.  It was a band I was certain was evil although I was truly familiar with only one of their songs.  When I first learned what he was listening to, I did what any good father would do.  I expressed my displeasure and asked him to stop.  Of course, this simply caused him to do so in secret and his love for them grew.  As he grew more fond of their music, it was more difficult to keep it hidden and he started talking to me about it and even started playing an occasional track for me to see how I would react.  His love for the band reached the point that for his sixteenth birthday, we received notice the band would be playing live during the next year within a day’s drive from home.  Knowing this could likely be a once in a lifetime opportunity, we secured tickets for the show for him and I to attend.  The only problem with attending the concert is I was still unfamiliar with all but one of their songs and, being that song is their biggest hit and likely to be the encore, it was going to be a long night if I didn’t learn their music.  Making the decision to learn more about the band and their music, and to ensure it would not be a long evening for me at the show, I asked Geoffrey to send me a chronological listing of their discography and in July of last year I went to work.  I have since consumed all ten studio recordings they’ve released as well as several other recordings.  This band is none other than the heavy metal icons Metallica.

The experience of exposing myself to their music has been eye opening but not in a way I expected.  I was certain as I began devouring the music I would be vindicated and justified in my decision to keep not only him but myself from the tunes growing up.  However, while there are certainly tracks filled with rage, hate, and anger and the use of profanity is not uncommon at times, what I began to realize as I listened were many of these tracks were simply four guys being honest about who they are, where they were, and what emotions they were feeling.  My voluntary exposure to their music began to be a spiritual parallel for how I had lived my life as a churchboy judging by appearance without taking the time to listen.

On their fifth album, lead singer James Hetfield channeled his anger over the death of his mother to pen a track titled The God That Failed.  The theme of the song is faith and human reliance on it, and of belief in a God that fails to heal. Hetfield’s mom died of cancer after refusing medical attention, solely relying on her belief in God to heal her due to her Christian Science beliefs.  My first listen to this track upset me.  I took it as blasphemy and mockery of the God I know and serve.  However, after several subsequent listens, I have come to not only to respect the honesty of the emotion expressed in the song but also to identify with it.

In penning these lyrics, James vocalized a sentiment common to man throughout existence and even displayed by many whose lives are depicted in the Bible.  Cain, when his offering was rejected, surely felt God failed him.  As a father, I cannot fathom all the emotions Abraham must have felt after being promised a son and then being asked to sacrifice that very son.  The many cries of David are written in the Psalms, even to the point of him crying out in Psalm 22, “Why have you forsaken me?”  The entire book of Job is all about a man who feels God has failed him.  The rich young ruler sorrowly walked away from Jesus after his boasting of keeping the entire law had been rejected.

When we encounter unexpected hardships in life, we often identify with the anguish shared by the band in these lyrics.  We feel as if God failed.  As my life as a churchboy began unraveling several years ago, I undeniably felt God had failed me.  I identified with these words from James:

Pride you took
Pride you feel
Pride that you felt when you’d kneel

Broken is the promise, betrayal
The healing hand held back by the deepened nail
Follow the god that failed

The life of churchboy is a life of outward pride combined with inner shame.  It’s a life of being proud of all you’re doing externally to make God happy and make yourself appear holy while hiding how miserable, hurt, and angry you are internally feeling as if whatever you do will never be enough.  When you begin to see how meaningless all the efforts to please God and appear holy are, you find yourself feeling betrayed and that the God you followed has failed.  However, the beautifully ironic truth is that God has not failed you, but you have actually lived on a hamster wheel attempting to accomplish something already accomplished for you and gifted to you through Jesus.

I never would have imagined finding God in a Metallica song, but I did.  To me, it’s not about the message James Hetfield conveys in The God That Failed but rather the emotions expressed and how honestly he expresses them.  The greatest fear a churchboy experiences is the fear of rejection from God and from others and, due to this, often feels being honest is the last thing he could ever be.

Am I claiming it a Christian song or Metallica a Christian band?  The answer to that really isn’t important and, for that matter, it’s not mine to decide.  All I can do is simply share what it means to me.  This recovering churchboy’s God didn’t fail me.  He simply opened my eyes to what He has already done.  The music of Metallica has provided a bond with my son I did not anticipate but am ever grateful for.  I could never consider that a failure.

As for Metallica, their musical catalog is now a part of my playlist and in a little over two months, this recovering churchboy will spend an awesome night together with his son.

Rocky

More posts in the Soundtrack of a Churchboy’s Recovery series:

Read Full Post »

by Rocky Glenn

Lord is it possible to get this far
And just now understand who You are?

In 2014, after two years of repeatedly hearing preaching and teaching on the true nature of God’s love and how I did nothing to earn it, I could do nothing to deserve it, and I would never do anything to lose it, the message of grace was starting to crack through my thick skull and I found myself asking the question listed above. It was around this time contemporary Christian artist MercyMe released their 8th studio album, Welcome to the New. Not really an avid fan of the band, the release of their new album would not have normally been on my radar, but I had been hearing and reading interviews and promotional material from lead singer Bart Millard about something new in his life. Here’s a statement Bart shared on social media at that time . . . “Did you know the enemy most likely has a better grasp of who you are in Christ than you do? Roughly 2 years ago, a couple of dear friends helped me realize this. Daily they would remind me who I am in Christ. Constantly telling me I’m holy, righteous and redeemed. And you know what? Over time I started to believe it. Maybe that’s what it means to set your mind on things above.” Needless to say, having just been awakened to those same ideas myself, I awaited the album release day with great anticipation . . . and I wasn’t disappointed. It was if they had created my own personal soundtrack asking every question, expressing every doubt, and capturing every emotion I was experiencing as the churchboy chains and shackles were falling from me.

You broke your back kept all the rules
Jumped through the hoops
To make God approve of you
Oh tell me was it worth it
The whole time you were spinning plates
Did you stop to think that
Maybe He is okay with just you
There’s no need to join the circus

Just like that, with the lyrics of the second verse from the title track and opening tune, the band had captured my entire life of working, striving, and trying. From there, each subsequent track was one more reminder of the freedom, love, and joy available and I was just starting to experience.

Flawless not only described the churchboy life:

There’s got to be more
Than going back and forth
From doing right to doing wrong
‘Cause we were taught that’s who we are
Come on get in line right behind me
You along with everybody
Thinking there’s worth in what you do

It then went on to remind us:

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made you flawless

Take a breath smile and say
Right here right now I’m ok
Because the cross was enough

My favorite track from the album, Wishful Thinking, comes at number eight. The lyrics not only serve to open this post but are also featured as the permanent tagline on the banner of this blog:

Lord is it possible to get this far
And just now understand who You are?
Feeling foolish yet relieved as well
‘Cause what I bought before, I just can’t sell
But now my eyes are open wide
If this is wrong
I don’t wanna be right
Could it be that on my worst day
How you love me still will not change
What if it’s really not about
What I do but what you did, oh what if
This ain’t wishful thinking it’s just how it is

Although this album was not the motivating factor for beginning a soundtrack series, I can think of no better starting point due to its constant presence and importance during the early days of my recovery. For a period of six to eight weeks after the album’s release, it was rarely removed from the CD player unless it was being carried from vehicle to vehicle or vehicle to house or vehicle to office. Bart Millard continued in the social media post referenced above, “I believe if you stand around truth long enough, it just might change you. So by all means, stay a while. The truth has certainly changed me!” Hearing these ten tracks repeatedly for weeks allowed me to stand around truth and, just like Bart, it “certainly changed me!”

As this post is published, it is now four days before the celebration of Christmas. I had considered taking a break for the holidays, but as I decided what the first post in the soundtrack series would be I realized how timely it was as Christ’s birth is God announcing to the world, “Welcome to the new.”

Rocky

Below is the list of scriptures Bart shared of which his friends would remind him and brought him to the knowledge of his identity in Christ. Learning who we truly are is the first step of recovering from being a churchboy.

John 1:12 – I am a child of God (Romans 8:16).
John 15:1,5 – I am a part of the true vine, a channel (branch) of His Life.
John 15:15 – I am Christ’s friend.
John 15:16 – I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit.
Acts 1:8 – I am a personal witness of Christ for Christ.
Romans 3:24 – I have been justified and redeemed.
Romans 5:1 – I have been justified (completely forgiven and made righteous) and am at peace with God.
Romans 6:1-6 – I died with Christ and died to the power of sin’s rule in my life.
Romans 6:7 – I have been freed from sin’s power over me.
Romans 6:18 – I am a slave of righteousness.
Romans 6:22 – I am enslaved to God.
Romans 8:1 – I am forever free from condemnation.
Romans 8:14,15 – I am a son of God (God is literally my “Papa”) (Galatians 3:26; 4:6).
Romans 8:17 – I am an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ.
Romans 11:16 – I am holy.
Romans 15:7 – Christ has accepted me.
1 Corinthians 1:2 – I have been sanctified.
1 Corinthians 1:30 – I have been placed in Christ by God’s doing; Christ is now my wisdom from God, my righteousness, my sanctification, and my redemption.
1 Corinthians 2:12 – I have received the Spirit of God into my life that I might know the things freely given to me by God.
1 Corinthians 2:16 – I have been given the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19 – I am a temple (home) of God; His Spirit (His life) dwells in me.
1 Corinthians 6:17 – I am joined to the Lord and am one spirit with Him.
1 Corinthians 6:19,20 – I have been bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God.
1 Corinthians 12:27 – I am a member of Christ’s body (Ephesians 5:30).
2 Corinthians 1:21 – I have been established in Christ and anointed by God.
2 Corinthians 2:14 – He always leads me in His triumph in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:14,15 – Since I have died, I no longer live for myself, but for Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – I am a new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:18,19 – I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:21 – I am the righteousness of God in Christ.
Galatians 2:4 – I have liberty in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I am now living is Christ’s life.
Galatians 3:26,28 – I am a child of God and one in Christ.
Galatians 4:6,7 – I am a child of God and an heir through God.
Ephesians 1:1 – I am a saint (1 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2).
Ephesians 1:3 – I am blessed with every spiritual blessing.
Ephesians 1:4 – I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blame before Him.
Ephesians 1:5 – I have been adopted as God’s Child.
Ephesians 1:7,8 – I have been redeemed and forgiven, and am a recipient of His lavish grace.
Ephesians 2:5 – I have been made alive together with Christ.
Ephesians 2:6 – I have been raised up and seated with Christ in heaven.
Ephesians 2:10 – I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do His work that He planned beforehand that I should do.
Ephesians 2:13 – I have been brought near to God.
Ephesians 2:18 – I have direct access to God through the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:19 – I am a fellow citizen with the saints and a member of God’s household.
Ephesians 3:6 – I am a fellow heir, a fellow member of the body, and a fellow partaker of the promise in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 3:12 – I may approach God with boldness and confidence.
Ephesians 4:24 – I am righteous and holy.
Philippians 3:20 – I am a citizen of heaven.
Philippians 4:7 – His peace guards my heart and my mind.
Philippians 4:19 – God will supply all my needs.
Colossians 1:13 – I have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Christ.
Colossians 1:14 – I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. The debt against me has been canceled (Colossians 2:13,14).
Colossians 1:27 – Christ Himself is in me.
Colossians 2:7 – I have been firmly rooted in Christ and am now being built up and established in Him.
Colossians 2:10 – I have been made complete in Christ.
Colossians 2:12,13 – I have been buried, raised, and made alive with Christ, and totally forgiven.
Colossians 3:1 – I have been raised with Christ.
Colossians 3:3 – I have died, and my life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:4 – Christ is now my life.
Colossians 3:12 – I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved (1 Thessalonians 1:4).
1 Thessalonians 5:5 – I am a child of light and not of darkness.
2 Timothy 1:7 – I have been given a spirit of power, love, and discipline.
2 Timothy 1:9 – I have been saved and called (set apart) according to God’s purpose and grace (Titus 3:5).
Hebrews 2:11 – Because I am sanctified and am one with Christ, He is not ashamed to call me His.
Hebrews 3:1 – I am a holy partaker of a heavenly calling.
Hebrews 3:14 – I am a partaker of Christ.
Hebrews 4:16 – I may come boldly before the throne of God to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
1 Peter 2:5 – I am one of God’s living stones and am being built up as a spiritual house.
1 Peter 2:9,10 – I am a part of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession.
1 Peter 2:11 – I am an alien and stranger to this world that I temporarily live in.
1 Peter 5:8 – I am an enemy of the devil. He is my adversary.
2 Peter 1:4 – I have been given God’s precious and magnificent promises by which I am a partaker of the divine nature.
1 John 3:1 – God has bestowed a great love on me and called me His child.
1 John 4:15 – God is in me and I am in God

More posts in the Soundtrack of a Churchboy’s Recovery series:

Read Full Post »

by Rocky Glenn

Music has always played an important role in my life.  Growing up with a CD collection containing over 350 albums, each season of life contains its own soundtrack.  If certain songs are heard, memories — both good and bad — flood in like a tidal wave instantly taking me back to times and places past.  The journey of the last few years is no exception.  This path of recovery has had and continues to have its own soundtrack.  Although the style of music I enjoy ranges from hip-hop to country to gospel and to metal, admittedly, growing up as a churchboy, the majority of artists I allowed myself to hear almost exclusively had to be labeled Christian or I simply would not play them or purchase their material.  Part of being a churchboy was boasting in the fact that I could find a “godly” alternative for any genre chosen.  This narrow-mindedness severely limited not only what I heard, but also at times, and probably more often that I even realize or care to admit, alienated me from peers and schoolmates because I didn’t know their music and they didn’t know mine.

Since waking up to the realization of God’s true grace and acceptance, I have stopped determining what I allow myself to hear by limiting it to those artists only found on a Christian radio station or in a Christian bookstore or labeled as Christian at all.  I’ve not only found myself enjoying many artists and songs who would never be considered holy and righteous by the religious elite, I am finding God in their lyrics as they cry in agony or scream in rage or celebrate the joys of everyday life.

My intent is to share many of these songs, the ideas they present, and what they have spoken to me in upcoming posts.  I plan to update this introduction piece with a link to each writing as it is shared and look forward to possibly providing each of you a new way of hearing a tune you’ve may have been humming for years or exposing you to something you’ve never heard before.

Stay tuned and keep reading for a recovering churchboy’s soundtrack.

Rocky

More posts in the Soundtrack of a Churchboy’s Recovery series:

Read Full Post »

by Rocky Glenn

Being born with an evangelist for a father and a mother who not only taught more of my Sunday school and vacation Bible school classes than I can remember, but also traveled with dad as part of a southern gospel group, it’s no surprise most memories of early childhood involve some sort of church activity or function.  From carrying cardboard sheep clothed in a robe in the annual Christmas play to sitting front row during the Saturday night singings, from helping to print the church bulletins at home in our basement to laying out the stencils on the plywood as dad painted the revival sign, from singing in the kid’s choir to eating flower shortbread cookies with holes in the center while drinking from little plastic jugs filled with grape flavored drink, childhood for me was church.  Of all those memories, one of my favorite memories is the excitement of dad receiving a new set of gospel tracts in the mail and knowing I got to help sort and stamp them.

If you’re unfamiliar, a gospel tract is simply a pamphlet or brochure containing a scripture or religious message.  Most tracts are typically small, pocket-sized and can easily be distributed by hand, left on a gas pump, under a car’s windshield wiper, on the restaurant table, or behind the faucet in a public restroom.  Not only do I remember the joy of sorting and stamping them with dad, I was thrilled when dad would slide one out of his shirt pocket and let me be the one to leave it behind.  Dad had various rubber stamps we would use with his red ink pad to stamp either our home address and phone number or the church’s name, address, and phone number on the chance someone might find the printed invitation to Christ and need to contact someone to pray or ask questions.  In my early twenties, I carried the practice of distributing tracts with me on my second of three business trips to Las Vegas after learning on the previous trip of the advertising materials distributed on the street which, to put it mildly and nicely, were certainly not about spreading the gospel of Jesus.

As a boy, when dad’s new shipments of tracts would arrive, I would hound him night after night until he finally said it was time to sort out the bad and stamp the good.  It was dad’s job to sort them and my job to stamp them.  At times there were more good than bad and other times more bad than good.  As I got older, dad started explaining to me the determining factor on the good and bad tracts and I got to assist with the sorting prior to stamping . . . but only once or twice . . . and then we stopped sorting altogether and simply started stamping all of them.  When it came to sorting the tracts, it wasn’t about color, it wasn’t about size, it wasn’t about print, and there was no scientific method involved.  Sorting the tracts came to down three little letters . . . K – J – V.  The good tracts were those with scripture references from the authorized 1611 King James Version of the Bible.  The bad tracts were those which referenced any version other than KJV.  As dad started to teach me how to sort the tracts and was faced with my questions of why we couldn’t use the “bad” tracts, he found himself questioning if there was anything really bad about them at all.  If they pointed someone to Christ, could they really be considered bad?  As the revelation began to set in, we stopped sorting the tracts and simply stamped them all to prepare for distribution.

Jesus faced a similar situation with his disciples in the town of Capernaum.  John approached Jesus explaining they had encountered a man that did not belong to their group or follow them casting out devils in the name of Jesus.  What’s not certain in either narrative listed in the gospel of Mark or Luke is John’s intentions in making such a report. Was he complaining or was he boasting?  We cannot be certain, but I would suspect it was hint of both.  He was upset with the idea of others using Jesus’s name yet commending himself to the master for taking efforts to stop the man.  Whatever his intention, Christ’s response is certainly not what he expected, “Don’t stop him. He that is not against me is for me.”  The beauty of such a statement is reinforced just immediately before John had even approached Jesus.  In the moments prior, he took a child in his arms and said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this welcomes me.”  There is no mention of Jesus correcting the child for the manner in which he approached him.  It simply says he took him in his arms.  While Jesus was seeking to make all welcome, John was seeking to sort out the bad.

The life of a churchboy is a life of sorting out the bad.  It’s a life of living as if your way to Jesus is the only way.  It’s a life not realizing anything – whether it may be something we prefer, like, or even agree with –  which points to Christ and not away from him is a good thing.  It’s a life of choosing to be right over choosing to be welcoming.  It’s a life lived seeing things through a glass dimly.

Just as Christ extended his arms to welcome the child, it’s time we extend our arms to make all welcome.  It’s time we stop seeking to sort out the bad.

Rocky

Read Full Post »

by Rocky Glenn

Though I cannot remember the exact year, ever since I heard the opening bass riff of Queen’s “Another Bites the Dust” and saw Sylvester Ritter walk down the aisle with a chain attached to the dog collar around his neck as The Junkyard Dog barking at his opponents, I have been a fan of professional wrestling.  From rushing through homework to catch the regional broadcasts on ESPN daily after school, I despised the defiant rule breaking of Jim Cornette’s Midnight Express as they fought Robert Gibson and Ricky Morton.  On Sundays after church, I would stand right in front of the nine inch black and white television in my bedroom trying to get the antenna in just the right position to catch the local broadcasts of “Bullet” Bob Armstrong and The Tennessee Stud facing off against The Dirty White Boy and Tom Prichard.  I hated Shawn Michaels after he kicked Marty Jannetty through Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake’s barbershop window, yet five years later when that same Heartbreak Kid had to forfeit his championship belt because he had “lost his smile” I was heartbroken.  I remember the parade down the streets of Disney World as Hulk Hogan made his triumphant arrival in WCW, and, of course, was just as shocked as the rest of the world when wrestling’s greatest hero made wrestling’s greatest heel turn with the creation of the nWo. I have feared The Undertaker, smelled what The Rock is cooking, yelled “Wooo!” with The Nature Boy, had two words for D-X and given Stone Cold a “Heck Yeah!” (Remember, I was a church boy.  I couldn’t dare say “Hell Yeah!”)  Minus a period of just a few years, wrestling has been and continues to be a part of my entertainment consumption whenever it is broadcast and has now become an activity we share as a family.

I see wrestling as a type of theater.  The wrestlers are nothing more than highly trained, highly athletic actors who have spent years crafting and perfecting their skills that allow them to take the hits, falls, and bumps in a manner to protect not only themselves but their opponents.  When they yell, scream, and shout at each other on the mic, it’s only after they’ve spent time in class learning how to cut a successful promo that not only spurs the ire, agitation, and opposition of those they are speaking to or about, but also controls the emotion of the crowd and furthers the story line of the current angle they are working.  Every single aspect of a wrestling event from the lights, pyrotechnics, and music to the commentators, ring announcers, and referees are for one purpose and one purpose only . . . to get the audience to believe and buy in hook, line, and sinker!  All of these things are determined by the promotion’s booker.  The booker is the man responsible for deciding which wrestlers will be liked or hated, how long matches will last, and even the outcome of the matches.  If a wrestler is playing a heel, his job is to make you hate him.  The more you boo him, the better job he’s doing.  The opposite is true of a babyface.  He’s supposed to be the crowd favorite and make you love him.  Your applause and cheers are what he is after.

So, what’s the point of all this?  Am I feeling so guilty for not writing in a while that I just feel the urge to confess my guilty pleasure?  Is this just a walk down memory lane?  Actually, it’s neither of those things, although I enjoy reminiscing about all the events above and also truly enjoy the reaction received when people find out about our family entertainment.  As we began rediscovering and introducing the kids to sports entertainment a couple of years ago, the similarities between this sweet science that I have watched, loved, and shared with grandparents, my dad, and now my own family and the traditional church life I was feeling myself drawn away were too many to ignore.

As church attendees, we have perfected our performance.  Come in, flash a smile, shake a few hands, maybe give a hug or two, take me seat, play my part, and pretend I have no problems for an hour.  I will stand when you say stand, sing when you say sing, remain silent when I’m supposed to listen, and most definitely pay my admission when the offering plate is passed.  I will do my part to ensure the program goes as planned and give my money to be certain the program will go as scheduled again next week.

As a musician, not only have I received instruction in how to be sensitive to the response of the congregation, I’ve taken pride in my ability to read and respond to the emotion of the moment.  Although it was important to follow the printed color-coded order of service that was prepared to ensure every minute was accounted for, I knew to keep a watchful eye on the front row to receive the nod to continue or signal to play it again or wrap it up from the pastor.  I’ve received requests, and complied, on numerous occasions to play or sing a certain song with the intention of soliciting a desired response or altar call.  It was only after years of playing and, dare I say, performing that I was afforded this kind of trust and power.  I had to prove trustworthy to those in charge before I had the opportunity to lead the service.

When it comes to professional wresting, the most common reaction we receive is someone looking at us and saying, “You know it’s fake, right?”  The question is not a matter of wrestling being fake.  Ask anyone who has ever climbed into the squared circle, fallen on the mat, or bounced off the ropes if the pain and bruises they experience is fake.  For the most part, wrestling is planned, choreographed, and scripted.  Those in the business use the term “kayfabe” to refer keeping the secrets of the wrestling business. Exposing the inner workings or secrets of the wrestling business is said to be breaking kayfabe.

It is time we as Christians break kayfabe.  It is time to admit, as a good friend put it just days ago, that we’ve taught tradition as the commands of God for too long.  It’s time to question why we do certain things.  Are we performing to protect a tradition, an institution, something we’ve done our entire life just because we’ve been told to it?  Are we seeking to keep others out because they are not experienced or have not yet proven trustworthy?  When we read Jesus says, “Come to me all . . .”  do we really believe that means all . . . regardless of gender, race, intelligence, sexual preference, economic status?  In breaking kayfabe, we must admit we don’t have it all together.  We must admit that for too long we’ve played a part.  We must be real.

Wrestlers are performers . . . Christians shouldn’t be.

Rocky

(This post originally written September 4, 2017.)

Read Full Post »

Count it all joy

Spiritual Hope . Joyful Faith . Trust in God

Follow Your Arrow

Unashamed of who God made us to be, and unapologetic in our pursuit of God and our purpose in His kingdom

Done with Religion

Done with Religion ... Not Done with God

The Grace Cafe Journal

Exploring Grace Apart From Religion

Sophia's Essays

This is where I post my essays, primarily about LGBTQ+ issues, politics, and Christian theology.

My Journey

Welcome. My blog is a place where readers will find writings of personal experiences, thoughts, and the peace that the Lord provides throughout my walk. I intend to bring inspiration and insight, as well as providing a very personal and transparent view into my life, in order to help others see their own lives in a different perspective. I strongly believe that we all need a different view at times, in order for our own personal growth to take place.

Hazy Divinity

Welcome To The Party

Candice Czubernat

A leading voice in the LGBTQ and Christian dialogue

Our Journeys Matter! - Posts

Done with Religion ... Not Done with God

Ally's Notebook

Thoughts To Share

Life of a Prodigal

Searching for Truth outside the church walls

What God May Really Be Like - Misbeliefs About God

To those done with religion but not God and my kids (Click FOLLOW for future Posts; See ABOUT/USING THIS SITE tab to navigate Site)

Christy Lynne Wood

Looking for the real God

Confessions of a Recovering Churchboy

What I bought before, I just can't sell

Intermission

Reflections in the midst of life.

The Curious Atheist

Freely Seeking Truth After Religion

The Wild Frontier

The search for infinite Truth and the invincible Love of an incredible God.

A Wilderness Voice

"The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, says the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, says the LORD of hosts." (Hag 2:9)

Entering the Promised Land

by walking in the Spirit

Beyond Church Walls

Done with Religion ... Not Done with God

Escape to Reality

Exploring the wide open spaces of God's amazing grace

%d bloggers like this: