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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.

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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.)

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by Rocky Glenn

My fascination with eagles began when I was around ten years old.  I remember sitting in awe as the guest evangelist at the Pentecostal church we were attending described the power and majesty of an eagle soaring and how that power and majesty described a life spent trusting in God based on the words of the prophet Isaiah.  Although I cannot recall anything specific mentioned in that sermon from over thirty years ago, I do know that from the day forward I was captivated by the words found in Isaiah 40:31:

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Since that time,  eagles have been displayed by multiple printed photos, posters, and ceramic figures over the years to the point that to this day I still have a 4″ figurine sitting on my desk in front of my computer monitor which has followed me to my last three jobs.  As I shared in Roller Coaster of Waiting, I proudly wear a daily reminder of Isaiah’s words on my arm.  Recently a friend shared with me a Facebook video about eagles and how they react when a storm is approaching.  The eagle will fly to a high spot and wait for the winds to arrive.  As the winds come, the eagle simply moves it wings allowing the wind to pick it up and lift it above the storm.  Although the video lasted no more than a minute, it caused more of a reaction than simply the moisture in my eyes as it reminded me of something other than the scientific facts about my beloved bird of prey.  I was reminded that I still want to fly.

Though I’ve been unable to determine the original author, I recall the following fable about a baby eagle:

A baby eagle became orphaned when something happened to his parents. He glided down to the ground from his nest but was not yet able to fly. A man picked him up. The man took him to a farmer and said, “This is a special kind of barnyard chicken that will grow up big.” The farmer said, “Don’t look like no barnyard chicken to me.” “Oh yes, it is. You will be glad to own it.” The farmer took the baby eagle and placed it with his chickens.

The baby eagle learned to imitate the chickens. He could scratch the ground for grubs and worms too. He grew up thinking he was a chicken.

Then one day an eagle flew over the barnyard. The eagle looked up and wondered, “What kind of animal is that? How graceful, powerful, and free it is.” Then he asked another chicken, “What is that?” The chicken replied, “Oh, that is an eagle. But don’t worry yourself about that. You will never be able to fly like that.”

And the eagle went back to scratching the ground. He continued to behave like the chicken he thought he was. Finally he died, never knowing the grand life that could have been his.

When things you’ve believed without question begin to cause more uncertainty, doubt, questions, and even pain, than you are able to settle, it is quite a life changing process.  Questions about who you are, what’s really true, and why you do things are not answered quickly or easily, and sometimes not even at all.  The unraveling of life as a churchboy has been a process of internally traveling through memories, thoughts, and at times accusations mentally sandblasting the very core of who I am.  It’s been a journey of constant questioning of am I saying this or acting this way because of who I truly am or because of what I’ve been taught and conditioned to believed.  This deconstruction has been painful, lonely, and the most unsettling experience I’ve yet to encounter.  There have been times it seems it would have been less painful and more peaceful to simply abandon the process and return to life as I knew it, but returning to that life meant dying as a chicken when I was meant to be an eagle.

Based on the translation listed above and the one embedded in memory, the only thing Isaiah says is required to mount with wings as eagles is to wait on the Lord.  Prior to this journey of the last few years, my favorite picture the word wait painted is of a waiter/waitress which we refer to now more commonly as simply a server.  If you need more water, your cup is refilled.  If you request special food preparations, the server communicates those to the chef.  A server ensures all your needs or requests are satisfied during your dining experience.  As a churchboy I believed, taught, and preached it was our duty act as a server to God.  We had to work and strive to ensure He was completely satisfied and all His desires and requests were met.  Doing so would be the only way we could truly soar as eagles.  I’ve recently been introduced to a new word picture of the word wait which resonated deep within me.  In the fitness world, there is an exercise which has increased in popularity in recent years known as planking.  Planking is a strength exercise that involves maintaining a position for the maximum possible time.  The plank strengthens the abs, back, and shoulders.  Though it looks simple to execute, those who participate attest to the difficulty, fatigue, and even soreness which sets in stretching muscles that often go unused or used very little.  The longer I am on the journey of churchboy recovery, I find myself mentally and spiritually planking simply waiting on what’s to come.

As a musician, there are times you sit in front of your instrument fiddling over with a riff, chord, or melody repeatedly simply knowing a song resides within.  Nearly twenty-five years ago, I sat day after day at a piano repeating a pattern eight notes alternating between chords.  What came forth was a simple song which those closest to me know as a description of who I desire to be.  So much a part of who I am, it was crafted, framed and gifted to me to display:

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Eagles soar above storms and fly with little to no effort.  Though my life looks much different now than it once did, my heart’s main desire hasn’t changed.  I want be an eagle and I still want to fly.

Rocky

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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.)

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