Monday, August 28, 2006

On High Priests and a Disengagement of the Intellect

The past few weeks I have had a lot of time to reflect and digest the things that I experienced and learned this summer. In the course of this, I have been thinking a lot about worship. It’s difficult to write about worship because worship is a very personal thing; it is an intimate part of the relationship between a person and God. Yet, worship is also something that a group of believers partake in together. Therefore, though each of us (as followers of Jesus Christ) is obligated to wrestle with what worship is it is also something that all of us together, as a body, collectively have a stake in.

So, here are a couple of things I have been thinking about. Why is it that in many modern American churches we treat worship leaders as a high priest? I thought the idea of an earthly high priest went out the window after Jesus’ crucifixion when the veil was ripped in two in the Holy of Holies. I thought Jesus had become our high priest (Heb. 8:1-2) and that each of us is ourselves a priest (I Pet. 2:9-10). If I’m not mistaken, isn’t worship more than just singing songs and making music? Isn’t worship more than just going to church, praying, reading the Bible, and doing good deeds? I thought worship was about how you live your life. I thought that everything we do, everything we say, and even everything we think should be an act of worship to God. I thought that worship wasn’t necessarily about what we do, but how we do things and the spirit of our hearts (John 4:23, Rom. 12:1-2). I know that none of us will actually be able to accomplish that in this life, but it is what we should be attempting.

If this is the case, then why is it that in many churches in America we treat those who lead music as rock stars? Why is it that we refer to the time we sing songs and music is played as “worship time?” Why is it that in so many churches that those who lead music are called and referred to as worship teams, worship bands, and worship leaders?

The real worship leaders are the people who clean the church bathrooms every week. The real worship bands and teams are those who come together anytime work needs to be done and they show up to help out. Many of these people may never have sung a note in a church service. Just about all of us can learn more about worship and what it is to worship from these people than we can from people who might lead us in singing every Sunday. Yet, we ignore these humble teachers and leaders and exalt others as high priests and rock stars.

When we do this, we do a great disservice and injustice to those around us. You and I might know that worship is supposed to incorporate every aspect of our lives, but that teenage boy who starting attending your services because of the youth group at your church might not. What about the young lady who is recovering from a drug addiction and just became a Christian a few weeks ago; might she get the wrong impression about what worship is? And what about those outside of the body of Christ who attend our services? If we, who are the Body of Christ, constantly and consistently refer to worship in terms of music and if we continue to make a distinction between things that are worship and spiritual and between everything else, what are those who aren’t followers supposed to think and believe?

This brings me to the other major issue I’ve been thinking about and wrestling with. If so many of us view worship and treat it as something we just do on Sundays or when we do something musically, then why is it that so many of us disengage ourselves from our intellect when we worship? For example, there are probably several hundred praise songs written in the past ten years that have some sort of line talking about bowing down to God, e.g. “We bow down”, “All bow down”, “Here I am to bow down.” How many times have you been at a church service and actually seen someone bow down when they sing those lyrics? I think a lot of people have no idea what they are singing and are just singing because they take pleasure from it.

Not that there’s anything wrong with singing. Some of us were created to sing. I like to sing. I take pleasure from singing. I also understand that God is probably more interested in how I live my life day to day than He is in the songs I might sing to Him on a particular day. Nevertheless, it is important that when we sing songs of praise, we actually mean and do what we sing. Otherwise, our catchy musical lyrics become hollow words signifying nothing. It is a matter of consistency, integrity, and honesty. I’m guilty of this too, but I try very hard not to sing a song just because it sounds pretty and makes me feel good. When I’m in a service where we’re supposed to be singing about bowing down I either don’t sing those lines or I actually do them. If there is a line in a song that I can’t bring myself to agree with, I don’t sing it. There are those who will make the argument that what we don’t do physically we do in spirit. There might be some validity to that argument, but for the most part it is a cop out. Why sing about something you are doing before God if you don’t and won’t actually do it? What purpose does that serve? If I wasn’t a Christian and I saw someone singing a song saying, “We bow down” and no one around me was bowing down I would think to myself either “They’re a bunch of hypocrites” or “What a bunch of idiots.” It might be true that any idiot can sing a song, but that doesn’t mean you have to be an idiot to sing, especially if you’re singing to the Creator of the Universe.

I know there are a lot of Christians in America who have become disillusioned with the churches they attend and even with the Church itself. I don’t blame them. There are times I’ve felt this way myself. This probably isn’t a bad thing. We all need some disillusionment in our lives: when we are forced to confront Ultimate Reality, He shatters whatever illusions we have and are holding onto. Nevertheless, there would probably be a lot less bitterness, frustration, anger, and confusion if we refused to disengage ourselves from our intellects and actually worshiped God “in spirit and in truth.” But what do I know, I’m just an unemployed English teacher.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Poem About Jujyfruit

Here's a poem I wrote this summer. I hope you enjoy it.
Juicy droplets molded like plastic fingers
Manufactured on an assembly line
Into various health-food shapes:
Asparagus, bananas, grapes, pea pods, pineapples, and raspberries.
Tasting like raspberries, oranges, limes, licorice, and lemons.
Usually sold in cinema temples
As a refreshing confection
during an evening of what gatekeepers hope is mindless entertainment.
Often found annoying--
sticking to one's teeth and upper palate.
Seemingly insignificant.
These sugary-filled treats contain a surprise.
Inside of each there is a fierce energy.
Put to the test of fire
The jujyfruit reveals its true nature:
A flaming black heart of power,
Glowing brighter in each moment
Until finally bursting into a brilliant blaze of glory.
Sometimes I wish I had the heart of a jujyfruit.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Upcoming Movies to See.

Here's a list of some upcoming films that I would like to see in the next few months.
THE WICKER MAN--I've seen the original version with Christopher Lee. I was able to figure out what was going on fairly early in the film. However, I'm curious to see how this update will be.

HOLLYWOODLAND--It will be interesting to see Ben Afflick's first decent role since GOOD WILL HUNTING. However, the real reason I want to see this movie isn't because of Ben, it's because it has a great story behind it; kind of a real life version of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL.

ALL THE KING'S MEN--the original novel is brilliant as is the original film (won Best Picture in 1949). This version has been delayed for over a year and is supposed to be coming out at the end of September. That doesn't necessarily bode well for the film. However, I like the book so much that I will probably see this version of the film regardless.
CHILDREN OF MEN--Out of all the films coming out this fall and winter, this is the one I'm most excited to see. I hope it is great and not a major let down.
EVERYONE'S HERO--You're probably thinking what I originally thought: "Oh, great another CGI animated picture." However, then I learned about the story line (a boy sets out to retrieve Babe Ruth's stolen baseball bat on the eve of the 1932 World Series) and it intrigued me. Not only that, but Christopher Reeve was the film's original director and this picture is one of the last things he worked on before he died.
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS--the first of the two-film World War II Clint Eastwood set (the other is LETTERS OF OUR FATHERS) being released this year. I have the book and have read bits of it and have seen portions acted in skits and listened to parts read aloud. Not to mention some of my relatives could have fought in this famous battle. This could be the best war movie made since SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Or it could turn into a disaster. Either way, it'll be worth the money to see it.
APOCALYPTO--Mel Gibson't latest directorial feature. Despite Mel's recent public humiliations (I still I would really enjoy hanging out with the guy), this film will probably be amazing. Filmed on location and in a Mayan language (with subtitles), the movie is about the fall of the Mayan civilization. However, if the title and trailer or any indication at all then the movie is really the book of Revelation from the Bible set against the backdrop of the Mayan society. If nothing else, it will prove interesting.

Other Films to See: STRANGER THAN FICTION (a movie with Will Ferrell about a guy who hears a voice narrating his life. He discovers that the voice is an author and somehow he's become the character in her story. He struggles to gain his life back before the author writes him out); HAPPY FEET (it's an animated movie about penguins. I love those creatures); FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION (the latest movie from Christopher Guest crew); THE PRESTIGE (if I can only see one other movie besides CHILDREN OF MEN, this would be the one); CASINO ROYALE (I am disappointed that Pierce Brosnan was fired from the film. Still I want to see how Daniel Craig fills Bond's shoes in the movie that is about Bond's first big adventure); THE NATIVITY STORY (there's nothing I can really say here, but any movie that actually tries to tell the story about the birth of Jesus correctly is worth my time to see); and NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (Ben Stiller stars as the youngest and newest security guard at a museum hired to take over the night shift. What he doesn't realize at the time is that the museum comes to life at night).

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

More Quotes from Anne Lamott

The following are some quotes from Anne Lamott's book, BIRD BY BIRD, along with a few short responses. It's a great book about writing, but it's also full of some wonderful wisdom and everyday thoughts about life.
"What people somehow (inadvertently, I'm sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here--and, by extension, what we're supposed to be writing."--p. 32.

"baseball, like life, throbs with hope, or it wouldn't exist." --p. 175. I love baseball. Even the major leagues used to be as this quote says. Unfortunately, the majors have been corrupted by greed and drugs; sometimes games in the majors still throb with hope, but not like they used to.

"But then I remembered that whenever the world throws rose petals at you, which thrill and seduce the ego, beware. The cosmic banana peel is suddenly going to appear underfoot to make sure you don't take it all too seriously, that you don't fill up on junk food." --p. 218 This, this sums up a great deal of my life; I could not have said it better.

"'The world can't give that serenity,' he said. 'The world can't give us peace. We can only find it in our hearts.'

'I hate that,' I said.

'I know. But the good news is that by the same token, the world can't take it away.'"--p. 221. This is something I've known for awhile. It's a wonderful thing to know and to know it deeply within your soul. It makes the most difficult times in life not as difficult as they would be without having that soul-knowledge.

"Tell the truth as you understand it. If you're a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act--truth is always subversive."--p. 226. This is part of the reason why I write.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Circle is Complete.

My youngest brother left for college today. Classes don't start for a couple of weeks for him, but he got a football scholarship and he has to be there early. My youngest brother and I have always been very close. I remember many years ago when I first left for college (the 1st member of anyone in my family to do so) and he was so sad. He was just a little kid and cried because he knew I wasn't going to be around. It tore at my heart, but I had and wanted to go. Eagles have to soar or they turn into geese.

After several years living in various places around the country, I returned to the area in which I was raised. I felt led to pursue a new career and it was a lot cheaper to attend the state school near the old family homestead to get my teaching certificate rather than any of the other options I had. Besides, my youngest brother was in high school and I wanted to be around to help guide him. In fact, as much as an incentive as inexpensive schooling was, it was really because of my brother that I came back. He's gone off to college now and the circle is complete.

Here's to you, Jim!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Return to the Shire.

Every read or seen RETURN OF THE KING? Near the end of the story, the four hobbits who set out together return to their home, the Shire. At least that's what it was before they left. When they return, it isn't quite home. Nothing has changed at the Shire. However, they have been changed forever and will never be the same. Journeys have a way of doing that; changing the adventurers without them ever recognizing the changes taking place. The more journeys one takes, the more one changes. From my experiences, it seems that the more travels one takes, the place that was once home seems a little less so upon each return. I think the reason for this is spiritual (this Earth is not our true home). Anyway, if you know RETURN OF THE KING, you know that at the end not one of the four hobbits ever really considers the Shire home again. Frodo travels across the sea; Merry & Pippin reside in the Shire, but spend most of their time living and visiting friends from far off lands; and Sam, good old Sam the true hero of the story, spends his life living with his heart in two places until in his old age he's finally allowed to set across the sea, too. That's kind of how I feel right now. But I don't have time to think about it--I've got an interview tomorrow and an audition on Saturday.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Dead Turtle.

All summer we have had a turtle in our turtle tank here at the Science Center that hasn't moved much. He didn't like being picked up and anytime campers were around he stopped moving his back legs. Some of the staff members started telling kids that he had a stroke and at every animal talk the following statements were always said by campers, "You're turtle's dead" and "That turtle isn't moving." Well, I guess that turtle wanted to live through one last summer because I found him dead today. He was laying upside down on top of a rock. I was quite sure he was dead, but just to make sure I flicked him with my finger and knocked him into the water. He sank like someone who had cement boots on. I'm not sure what killed him, but it might have been all those tiny prescription bottles laying next to the rock I found him on. The coroner said it was a heart attack, but I think it was suicide.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sianora Summer.

Even though I'm staying for a few extra days, the regular season of summer camping has come to a close. On Friday I was walking to Popular Grove (the outdoor ampitheatre here). Campers were participating in karaoke. A middle school girl was singing Vanessa Carlton's "1000 Miles" as the sun was setting behind me. Listening to the girl sing and watching the sun set, I found the moment to be rather fitting because it was then that I realized that camp was about over for another summer. I find it strange how fast the weeks have flown by. Time has seemed to have passed even more quickly this summer than in years before. It's been a good summer and I've had some amazing experiences. I'll be trying to process everything over the next few days and weeks and will hopefully have more to write then.
TREMORS 9 is finished. It turned out to be the hilarious horror/comedy spoof that we were aiming for with the no budget and unwritten script that we had. The movie will soon be posted on internet movie sites, e.g. YouTube and IFilm so keep an eye out.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Another Parrot Story and TREMORS 9

Yesterday I was feeding the 3-footed bunny, Nibbles, in the upstairs animal room here at the Science Center. Packer, the green & yellow parrot we have, was sitting on top of Nibbles' cage. As I was putting some brocolli into Nibbles' food dish, Packer jumps on top of my head and grabs onto my hair.

All I could think about were pirates and that the reason many of them have one eye is because of their pet parrots they carry on their shoulders. "Pirates, pirates, pirates!" my mind was screaming as Packer grabbed a talon full of hair. I immediately shut my eyes tight because I wasn't going to let any bird pluck them out. Then I slowly started turning around in circles. As I turned around Packer moved from the top of my head, down to my arm (which she decided to bite and though she punctured my skin and made me bleed she didn't rip a piece of my flesh away), and finally onto a wooden bench where one of the other staff members was able to cover her with the shirt we use to carry her.

Even though it may appear that way, I don't think Packer attacked me. I think she just wanted some attention and was tired of sitting on Nibbles' cage and didn't know how else to get down.
Last week we wrapped the shooting of a short motion picture. The movie will soon be edited and should be available on the Internet (via You Tube, IFilm, etc.) sometime soon. Be on the look out for TREMORS 9. Watch out for the worms, but remember everybody dies. . . everybody.