Sunday, March 30, 2008

Heading for District Council

Tomorrow Ken and I head to a not-too-distant location for the 75th annual council of the Wisconsin/Northern Michigan District of the Assemblies of God (a mouthful, isn't it?) . It's two and a half days of business, speakers, an ordination service, a banquet or two, worship times, and connecting with old classmates and friends.

Every year it seems that it is raining, snowing, blowing or sleeting at district council. Or all of those at once. We all want to shed our sweaters and don our spring duds. Well, at least this year we are staying in the same hotel as the council, so we won't be running around outside and dodging splashes of muddy ice water.

Among other business, we will be selecting a new district superintendant. Lots of change is ahead, I think. I pray it is good and healthy change. We shall see.

Gotta go pack. Back in a few days.

Robin Blue Breast

This morning was cold, grey and windy. I refused to put on a coat. I did have on a sweater but I just couldn't bring myself to struggle into a coat, much less gloves. So I was cold. And not happy about it. I am tired of being cold.

I arrived at church early to do some setting up.

As I pulled in the parking lot I spied, perched on a snow bank by the back door, a ROBIN! He was shivering in the cold, his beak was chattering, and he had a distinct blue tinge, but he was hopping across the steps.

Maybe spring will come, after all?

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Million Dollar Friday Five

I get to host the Rev Gal Blog Pals Friday Five this week.

Lingering effects of a cold have me watching more television than usual. There appears to be a resurgence of the old daytime staple--the quiz show. Except they are on during prime time, and a great many of them offer the chance of winning one million dollars.I think it started with Regis Philbin and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" but now we have a half dozen or so.

My husband and I started musing (after watching "Deal or No Deal") about what we could do with a million dollars. I thought I'd just bring that discussion into the Friday Five this week. It's simple. What are five things you would want to do with a million dollar deposit in your bank account?

1. I would pay off our mortgage. What a relief that would be! On SO many levels!

2. I'd bring my mother back home from the local long-term care facility, and I'd hire someone full time to care for her here, among her own things, in her own bed, looking out over our yard, birds, stream, and so on. They would cook southern dishes and look through pictures and be very patient when dealing with her increasing difficulty speaking.

3. I would share with my kids. For Kris and her family, I'd pay off their mortgage and bribe them to move to Wisconsin. (Just kidding...kind of.) I would establish some sort of trust fund for Trinity. For our son, Josh, hmmm, I think I would make some sort of deal to pay for him to return to college as long as he got reasonable grades. The boy (who is not a boy, but a man of 30) needs to get his butt back in school before it is too late.

4. I'd invest wisely so it would grow. I would then use enough to have a comfortable retirement, but the rest would fund causes that have the power to change lives.

5. I would quickly send a sizable sum to one of those causes. David and Beth Grant, Assemblies of God missionaries founded Project Rescue. Project Rescue seeks to free children and young women from India's forced sex trade--the "new slavery." They are doing wonderful work, but the need is vast and the resources are scarce. Several centers are operating, but many more are needed.

I could go on and on and on....

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I Am Ginger? Hmmm

You Are Ginger

Like ginger, you are a total shape shifter.

You can be sweet, spicy, mellow, or overpowering.

You are both soothing and unique. You are popular... yet you are often overlooked.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

Our sanctuary, just before people started gathering.
I love it when the purple-draped cross with the crown of thorns
becomes the white-draped cross with a royal crown!

My favorite flowers--daffodills--and Easter lilies!


Christ is Risen!

Artwork: Easter Morning
At last light came with cold grey dawn;
The women, broken and forlorn,
Departed the city before it was day,
Who would roll the stone away?
But the grave was empty! Their Lord was gone.
An angel was guarding the tomb that morn.

The sun burst forth in warmth and glory
Across the earth it told the story.
Death could not hold our Lord for long,
"The tomb is empty! His body is gone!
So sing, all people, let your voices ring,
Sing all people, "Christ is King!"

Saturday, March 22, 2008

It is Finished!

And now for a complete change of pace, here is a Petra classic from the Greg X. Volz days! Any Petra fans still around? I remember the first time I heard them, but that is another story.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Resurrection Cookies

I thought people knew about these, or I would have explained further. I won't wait till after Easter, because if you want to use it this year you still can do so. Saturday is the day to make 'em. I used it for children's church several years ago. We happened to have something going on for the kids on the Saturday before Easter, so it worked out beautifully to make them that day, seal the church ovens, and then open them during Easter church. I am happy to provide a link to the recipe, and to the directions of how to use scripture reading to tell the story as you make the cookies. I never made them with my own children, because by the time I saw the recipe my kids were grownups. I'd love to hear if some of you use this with children and how it turned out. Maybe someday I'll make them with Trinity--pasturized eggs, huh? :-)

A Good Friday Five

RevHRod from RevGals offers this Friday Five:
As a child the designation "good" for today confused me. How could we call such a somber day, good? Holy, yes. Blessed, yes. But, good? As an adult I understand the meaning of good for this day. It is a solemn day of remembrance but it is also a time for us to stop and recall the great gift of love that we received this day. And that is most certainly good. Our worship today will differ from place to place. Some services will focus on the great litany of prayers. Others will use the seven last words of Jesus. Some of us will walk the stations of the cross. Others will participate in a Tennebrae service of shadows and light. I hope that this Friday Five will be a meaningful part of your Good Friday. God's blessings to you on your journey.

1. Our prayer concerns are as varied as we are this day. For whom would you like us to pray?

My mother, 91, in the nursing home with dementia, lonely and confused.
My husband, several health issues.
My church, renewed hope, energy, finances, people
Uh, how many am I allowed? :-)

2. Are there things you have done or will do today to help the young ones understand this important day in our lives?

Not today, but in the past have made those little resurrection cookies out of egg whites that I now know we shouldn't make due to health concerns...but it sure was a good illustration. Easter Sunday--empty!

3. Music plays an important part in sharing the story of this day. Is there a hymn or piece of music that you have found particularly meaningful to your celebrations of Good Friday?

There are so many hymns I love....we don't do many of them at my church. Last night we sang "At the Cross" - I always get a bit weepy at this time, so the verse, "But drops of grief can ne'er repay the debt of love I owe. Here, Lord, I give myselt away, 'Tis all that I can do..." We also sang the chorus "Allelujah" with just guitar, my favortie way.

4. As you hear the passion narrative, is there a character that you particularly resonate with?

Peter. That is because he'd die with the Lord if need be. He had a good heart, a big mouth, good intentions but most of all he was afraid and his fear led him to a failure. That has happened to me more times than I like to remember. Thank God for grace. I also understand the resentment of those who were disappointed and thinking, "Hey, where is God? THIS isn't how it is supposed to be!"

5. Where have you seen the gracious God of love at work lately?

At church I'm watching people begin to connect in good ways. It's God. No other explanation!

And now I have to go prepare for my part in the Tennabrae service. We considered canceling because of snow, but I think we are proceeding, unlike the poor folks south of us who may get up to 15 inches! Blessings to all on this day.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Darkness

In glory, emptied and releasing,

My throne, my place, my power,

As angels, wondering, watched me go...

Darkness pondered.

In Bethlehem when angels sang,
And Mother rocked, and
Shepherds knelt...

Darkness watched.

That day long past in temple courts,
Conversing with the elders,
I did not dream--of this...!

Darkness saw.

The “Lord’s Anointed!” Could it be?
Such thoughts my heart awoke,
As realization grew, each day...

Darkness shivered.

With John in Jordan’s water,
Even as you spoke my name,
And Spirit came to me with love...

Darkness cursed.

I taught and prayed and healed,
And Peter, John, and others,
Rejoiced to see Your power shown...

Darkness hovered.

There was bread for multitudes to eat,
And wine for wedding feasting,
Women, children, beggars blessed...

Darkness scowled.

Hosannas rang and branches waved,
The people hailed me King!
Yet still they did not understand...

Darkness crouched.

We broke the bread and drank the cup,
We sang a song together,
They could not pray, but took their rest...

Darkness gathered.

Oh, Abba, Father, might it be,
I am a fool -- mistaken?
Can not there be some other way...?

Darkness approaches.

Oh, must I drink this bitter cup?
Must I, alone, be taken?
At sadness, doubt, betrayal, shame...
Darkness laughs!
The cross—Oh God--what cruel pain,
My enemies await me,
I wonder, Father, where are You...?

Darkness sings.

Why did I fail to gather them?
Am I alone? Have I lost all?
Will they remember? Will I live...?

Darkness is here.

Dorcas George

Artwork: Praying in the Garden by He Qi

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Suggestions for Complimentarians

It has no direct connection to Holy Week, but I'd like to recommend an article by Cheryl over at the Women in Ministry blog. It's called Godly Complimentarians and "Elvis Has Left the Building."

It was a thought provoking list for me, and I hope it will be for others.

I just wish we could stop calling non-egalitarians "complimentarians." I believe, as does every egalitarian I know, that women and men were designed by God to compliment one another, to complete the creation, to fully express the image of God.

Could we please call them something else? Patriarchialsts lite or patriarchalists heavy, or traditional genderist, or....something?

Monday, March 17, 2008

God So Loved the World

I just thought this was so lovely that I would share it with you.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Whatever Became of the Celebration? A Meditation for the Beginning of Holy Week

Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11 (See post below for these verses.)

This day is called Palm Sunday, and most Christians celebrate what is called the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into the City of Jerusalem. All four Gospel accounts tell the story. The imagery is joyful—palm branches waving, people shouting praises and acknowledging Jesus as Christ (the Messiah), and King.

This dramatic demonstration marks the beginning of the final week of Jesus’ ministry. The joy ends all too soon. Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus stopped at the top of the hill overlooking the city and began to sob as he grieved for Jerusalem. This is only the first of several dramatic events. There are disagreements about the exact chronology of the last week of Jesus’ life, but here is a summary of some of the events of the week:

Palm Sunday: Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt (Matthew 21:1-11). He is accompanied by crowds of people who create a path for him with their cloaks and branches cut from trees.

Monday: Jesus “makes a scene” when he drives the money changers from the temple. Later he spends the night in Bethany (Matthew 21:12-17). While in Bethany, at the home of Simon the Leper, Mary anoints him for his burial by pouring spikenard over his head. It is a lavish (and for some, disturbing) display of love and devotion.

Tuesday and Wednesday: Jesus continues to teach in Jerusalem (Matthew 21:18-26:16). The chief priests and Jewish religious elders form a plot “to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him” (26:1-5). Judas agrees to be a conspirator and to hand Jesus over to them (26:14-16).

Thursday: Jesus has his last meal during his earthly ministry with the disciples. He washes the disciples’ feet and institutes the Lord’s Supper or Communion.
After teaching and encouraging them, he goes to Gethsemane, where he prays in anguish. He is arrested by the Jewish temple police and is taken to the Sanhedrin, where he is condemned (Matthew 26:17-75).

Good Friday: Jesus is shuttled between Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas. Pilate finally orders Jesus to be beaten and then crucified. Jesus dies in the late afternoon on Friday. Around sunset, Jesus is buried in the tomb (Matthew 27:1-61).

Saturday: Jesus’ body rests in the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66).

Easter Sunday: Jesus is resurrected (Matthew 28:1-15).

So many events in one short week! What happened to the celebration? How did the shouts of praise so soon turn to cries of “Crucify him?”

What happened to Judas? The disciples were with Jesus during his entry into Jerusalem. Judas was probably caught up in excitement along with the others. Yet two days later he made a deal to betray Jesus. What happened in the meantime? Judas was possibly from a family who resisted Rome and plotted overthrow. Judas had been getting disillusioned. A weeping Messiah was not what he expected to see on the road into Jerusalem! At Bethany Jesus rebuked him in front of everyone, and again spoke of his own death. This was not was Judas signed on for.

What happened to Judas? Resentment.

What about Peter? After al, Peter was in the Lord’s “inner circle” and loved him deeply. Peter was in the crowd too. I can picture him shouting louder than anyone else did as he enjoyed the impromptu parade of adoration. In addition, during this week he even specifically told Jesus he would never leave him, never betray him, in fact he would even die with him if need be. A short time later, he cursed and swore and said he did not even know Jesus. He did this not just once but three times! Things looked different as he realized that Jesus was being mocked in a “trial” and that he really was about to suffer and die. He could have been indicted along with him!

What happened to Peter? Fear.

The crowd along the road on Palm Sunday seemed to realize that Jesus was fulfilling an ancient prophecy. He was declaring himself Messiah. The hosannas and cries of him being King were really an appeal for Jesus to help them, to deliver them from their hated oppressors, the Romans. Later, after Jesus was arrested, the religious rulers stirred up the crowds and enflamed them into crying angrily “Crucify him!” This pitiful man couldn't overthrow anyone! This was no conqueror. They had been fooled!

What happened to the people? Disillusionment.

And speaking of the religious rulers, the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, most of them probably knew that Jesus was a good man. He was, after all, a miracle worker. Perhaps some knew, or at least suspected that he was the promised one. Why didn’t they help him? Why didn’t they rejoice? Because they had become, more than anything, a political party. They were interested in their own power and prestige. This Jesus would have upset the situation and destroyed the delicate balance with Rome. He had to go.

What happened to the religious leaders? Selfishness, jealousy, and pride.

From our vantage point, it is all too easy to look at the characters in the Passion drama and wonder what was wrong with them, and marvel at why the could not seem to see the truth.

The truth is, we are like them. The truth is we all struggle with the same things—with resentment, fear, disillusionment, jealousy, and pride. To look at the crowd on the road is to look into our own hearts.

For many of us, this week began with praises. We sang joyful songs and we remembered how Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph with shouts, acclamation, and branches waving.

Bue we cannot forget that Jesus spoke repeatedly of his death. His last supper was an occasion of love and grace as he told his followers of a new covenant. Yet it also became a night of deception, agony, weakness and injustice. The tortures of Friday were unimaginable, brutal, and despicable. His death was shocking. How soon the shouts of "Hosanna!" had given way to demands to "Crucify him!”

Perhaps you might like to join me in reading the passages above over these next few days. Try imagining yourself in the scenes of Holy Week. Spend some time in stillness, reflection, and prayer. Realize anew that the love of God extends to you. Recall the words of the beautiful Christmas song we sang a short few months ago “What Child is This.” It reminds us, “The cross he bore for me, for you.”

Oh the passion, oh the wonder, oh the fiery love of Christ! He chose the difficult path, a way of loss and pain, but a path which ultimately led, and still will lead, to joy unspeakable and full of glory!

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Matthew 21:7-11

They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest heaven!" When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?" The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."
Hark! how the children,
Shrill and high,
Hosanna cry!
Their joys provoke the distant sky,
Where thrones and seraphims reply,
And their own angels shine and sing
In a bright ring!
Such young, sweet mirth
Makes heaven and earth
Join in a joyful symphony!

Henry Vaughan 1622-1695

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's an Almost Palm Sunday (Yikes!) Friday Five

Mother Laura from Rev. Gals is struggling a bit with adjusting to Daylight Savings Time. She's astounded (aren't we all!) that Palm Sunday is arriving in two days. And she's also been thinking about the Gregorian Calendar. So she offers us these questions about time and transitions,to help us "adjust and enjoy the process." Hmmm...think it'll work? I have my doubts, but on with the questions..

1. If you could travel to any historical time period, which would it be, and why?

Oh, that is a tough one, because I find many periods of history fascinating. I would not like returning to a time when women were disregarded, at best, but other than that I think I'd like to visit Colonial America. Or, of course, I'd like to travel back to Jesus' time so I could see the human, son-of-Mary version. Or then again I could just go back a short time to 1967 and meet Ken all over again.

2. What futuristic/science fiction development would you most like to see?

You know the thingy that Dr. McCoy used in Star Trek? That little clicking box that both diagnosed and healed in a matter of moments? That would be fabulous. Then again, the transporter would be really cool too.

3. Which do you enjoy more: remembering the past, or dreaming for the future?

I'm sentimental, and I get nostalgic, I must confess. However, I got positively gloomy tonight watching PBS' broadcast of Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in '63, '64 and '65. It was fun for a bit seeing the Dylan of the photo, the skinny boy from Minnesota, and watching his evolution from newly-discovered Woodie Guthrie wanna-be to songwriter to folk rocker...and the historic transition from acoustic to electric...and so on. I enjoyed it for a bit, and then the announcer said, "This is wonderful footage, and just think, it happened almost 50 years ago yet we can watch it today...yada yada yada... Yikes! That did it. I am OLD! Gotta dream for the FUTURE! Otherwise you become a fossil!

4. What do you find most memorable about this year's Lent?

It seems to have happened too fast. It feels like we went from Christmas straight to Lent, and I felt disoriented. This has been the longest winter I recall since leaving North Dakota after graduation from Trinity, and that was years ago. I just want the dark to be gone, and the victory and the new life to come. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. I'm not there yet, but hoping.

5. How will you spend your time during this upcoming Holy Week? What part do you look forward to most?

I have planned some different kinds of things at church this year. In the early part of the week, just for myself, I want to read a chronological account of the time from Palm Sunday till Easter. I'm looking for my "Harmony of the Gospels" and can't find it. Anyway, Thursday we will have a candlelight communion and consecration service which I am hoping will be significant in helping us move on together as a church. Friday I'll take part in an ecumenical Good Friday service, as I do each year. This one will be a Tennabrae. And then--Resurrection Sunday and joyful music and a church full of the sight and aroma of flowers. It will brighten all of our spirits, even if there is snow on the ground outside the windows!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Do You Hear What I Hear?

It didn't start off to be a happy day. I did not sleep well and I awoke feeling depressed and troubled about a conversation from yesterday. It was gray out (as usual)."Oh drat!" I muttered as I grumpily realized that Ken is out of town--AGAIN--so I needed to get the trash out to the curb.

I stepped carefully because there are at least two inches of ice below the driveway. No amount of ice chipping, salt, sand or grumbling has been able to clear it out. The snow banks by the drive are still over three feet tall, and the tops are a dirty black. Sigh.

I returned to the house, made coffee, showered and dressed. Beginning to wake up, I climbed into our increasingly creaky minivan. Uh oh! It did not want to start, but after some threats of heading to the junk yard it decided better about it and cranked to life.

I headed out of town for a clergy meeting at Little UCC in the Country. I'd never been to the church before. I got lost (as usual.

Arriving late, which made me even grumpier, I hopped out of the van and headed towards what I hoped was the proper door to enter. Why in the world can't people put signs up when there is more than one door, anyhow?

Then it happened--the thing which turned my day around, made me smile, renewed hope in my spirit, and helped me start to make a badly-needed attitude adjustment.

Cheeeer Cheeeer! In the bare branches of a nearby tree perched a Cardinal. He called his unmistakable warning, to me I guess, since I saw no other signs of life around.

One lone cardinal trilling his territorial mating song in a bare, grey landscape! Life got instantly better.

And a few minutes ago I passed the bank with the big time and temp sign. It's forty degrees!

Ah, spring will come!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Gospel of Matthew on Video

"The Visual Bible" put out a four-volume video series several years ago of the Gospel of Matthew. My mother purchased it. I had watched bits and pieces, and I once used a portion of the Sermon on the Mount for a Bible study class. Yesterday I pulled it out looking for something for Palm Sunday. (It is available on DVD now--sure wish I had that instead.) I I found myself captivated by something in Bruce Marchiano's portrayal of Jesus. I did a little research and found this statement:

"He researched the character of Jesus and discovered a very human personality trait: joy. Instead of depicting Jesus as pious and aloof, Bruce based his portrayal on the cornerstone of joy."

That was it! How often we have seen Jesus portrayed as "aloof"-- a trait that does not draw crowds, children, or hurting people. Marchiano portrays Jesus with a broad range of emotions, and Jesus smiles a great deal, laughs aloud at a blind man's healing, and tells parables with humor.

Yesterday I watched the scene of the Last Supper. As Jesus says to Judas, "You are the man" his eyes fill with tears, and he hugs Judas and weeps silently as he caresses his face. Judas has travelled as one of Jesus' close friends, and now he is going to betray him. Would Jesus have sat stoically and intone, "You are the man" with an emotionless face? Probably not.

Anyway, I am highly recommending the series. The script is the NIV version of Matthew, verse by verse. Bruce Marchiano hopes to produce a Gospel of John if the money can be raised. I hope it happens.

I'm posting a promotional clip below. It's an advertisement, and it is a bit exaggerated and pompous, but it will give you a taste of what I'm talking about. If you would like to see the triumphal entry section, we'll be watching it as part of our worship service. :-)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Getting My Head on Straight and Pondering the Future

I spent several months coming to terms with resigning. And now that I have "un-resigned" I am feeling a bit disoriented. This weekend we had planned (I thought I'd be unemployed) a short trip to Minnesota, and we decided not to change the plans. On Saturday I'll be going with Kris and Daryl to Seed of Abraham, a messianic congregation, and later babysitting Trinity while her mommy and daddy take some time to themselves. If it works out, I'd like to connect with cyber buddies Ruth and Nightmnare. I hope this will all help me readjust a bit.

Welcome to Jubilee! Spring will come again!

Yesterday was a great day in that process. I drove through the countryside (and SUNSHINE--yee haw!) to a town near Stevens Point for a meeting. Yeah, I know. But this was a good meeting.

Our speaker, Mark Batterson, was one of the authors on the (now defunct) "Future AG" blog you might have seen in my links a while back. Future AG was designed as a place in the blogosphere for us to discuss our direction as we headed into our 2007 General Council.

Mark is one of the newer breed in the Assemblies of God. He's an author, energetic, articulate, intelligent, creative, and young. Listening to him makes me wish even more than ever that I had my 57-year-old wisdom (?) and experience but was in my 30s again! Man! How'd I get old so fast? I admit, I never thought I'd see the day when a guest speaker at an AG meeting dressed in faded blue jeans. We used to be pretty stuffy. That's changing, and that's a good thing.

It is exciting watching the new ways church is being done. Check out National Community Church where Mark is lead pastor. It's one church in several locations, and as I listened to Mark yesterday and then surfed around the church's website today--all I can say is, "I WANNA GO THERE!" We lived in Washington DC for several years when Ken was still in the USMC. I loved it-- and I hated it--but I'm so excited about the idea of church at Union Station! Their church is mosty 20-30 year olds. Think they will let me in if I visit? ;-)

What does this have to do with me? Well, as I focus, once again, on the future of my own congregation, I have to ask, "Can a church of under 100 in cow country really be relevant? Can we be creative? Can an AG church with a difficult history and that is over 30 years old find a new niche, and can a late middle aged woman pastor possibly reach out to a new generation? Won't our Catholic and Lutheran neighbors just be even more concerned about what is happening in that little church on the corner? Why am I still here?"

Of course, to ask myself those questions I have to stop whining, "How did I, a city girl, manage to turn into a small-town pastor? I'm too old, to tired, too ________. Why can't I be ministering to a diverse population? Wah, wah, wah..."

Yesterday got the creative part of my brain lighting up again. I'm feeling energized and enthusiastic. Hopeful. Kind of joyful.

Thanks, Mark! And thanks, God!

Just be sure to make a little room at the table for the 50-somethings (or more) among us who have young hearts and ideas. I'm so glad you like our new leader, George Wood, as much as I do. And I'm so excited about the AG's future if guys like you are at the center of the action.

As for me, I'm off to unpack my packed books and set up my office again.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Saying the "Sinner's Prayer"

Is a sinner's prayer a good thing or a bad thing? I've pondered this for some time now, and wrote about it a while back. (I think it is both.) My earlier thoughts are here.

I'd like to recommend an article by Dr. Larry Moyers, offered on the Internet by Sermon It is interesting and thought provoking, as are the comments that follow.

Appeals to make a decision to become a Christian believer are part and parcel of the spiritual tradition and practice of many of us who find ourselves (more or less) in the "evangelical" branch of Christianity. Sometimes these appeals are called an "invitation" and sometimes an "altar call" but every evangelical knows what is meant by a sinner's prayer. That is a prayer for forgivness of sin and asking Jesus to come into your life as Savior.

In my denomination some of us were even taught that we should never have a service that did not conclude with an "altar call."

There is much to think about in Dr. Moyers short article, but I'm specifically thinking about baptism. As one of the commenters noted, have we replaced the symbolism of baptism and "new life" with the sinner's prayer?
I've long been bothered by the fact that so many of "my people" wait so long to be baptized. Whatever your views regarding infant versus believer's baptism, I think we can all agree that baptism was never intended to be some sort of "add on" that occurred months or years after belief in Jesus Christ as Lord.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Remembering Larry Norman

If you note such things, you have already heard that Larry Norman, the so called "Father of Christian Rock Music," passed away a few days ago. He was sixty. Sixty? How strange.

My maiden name was Norman. Partly for that reason I once found myself sitting on the floor in a California church basement with a bunch of other kids, listening in mild amazement to the hippie-type guitar player. He talked and joked in a soft voice and he sang about wishing we'd all been ready, and about walking backwards down the stairs, and being a servant, and (my favorite) the sweet, sweet song of salvation. I think it was 1968.

I had no idea that I, for good or ill, was watching the first part of a revolution in the Christian music world. But I remember saying to those with me, "I have NEVER heard anything like this."
In my world there was a widening variety of popular music. We had crooners like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and Doris Day. We all knew about Elvis, even though he was beginning to be a bit of a joke. Everyone liked the smooth vocalizations of Nat King Cole, and the color line was eroding, as far as music was concerned. The Beatles had changed our ideas of chord progressions and the Beach Boys had brought surfer music, and psychedelic music was growing in popularity. And of course there was classical and "easy listening" (boring elevator) music.

However, "Christian" or "religious" music was still narrowly defined. We had books containing hymns and gospel songs. Mostly "white" churches had pianos and/or organs and sang anthems. Mostly "black" churches sang "gospel" and the music had more of a beat. Still, they had pianos and organs, albeit the organs were played quite differently. I had never heard of a worship team or a praise band. I had never seen a guitar played in church, nor drums. For a change we might listen to a "southern gospel" quartet such as The Blackwood Brothers or The Statesmen.

Larry Norman was fascinating. Partly that was so because I just knew he was some sort of distant cousin. He looked very much like my Norman relations. I bought the record album with the blue cover that you will see below. It was clear in the picture on the album that he had the same "Norman family nose" (slight crease) that my dad and my sister and I had. Cool! Even more interesting and astonishing was his music. The music was unlike anything I'd ever heard. Oh, I had heard guitars and folksy stuff, and rock too. But NEVER with lyrics about God or Jesus or salvation or eternity. That was radical indeed. Not far into the future we had the Second Chapter of Acts, Randy Stonehill, Love Song and Petra. But on that summer night in California listening to Larry, we had no idea of what was coming .

Larry's voice could be sweet and light, as when he sang "I am Your Servant" or low and rough-edged. He was quite versatile. I tried to find a clip of "Sweet Sweet Song of Salvation" or one of his more hard-edged music stylings, but this will have to do. Rest in peace, brother Larry. And thank you for broadening our understanding