Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Take Off Your Pants

Tony Carrillo creates the daily comic strip, F Minus. It is a hodge-podge of wide-ranging topics, without any main characters or running plot lines, but still manages to generate a few grins and even some thought.

Case in point; take a look at this recent panel:

Fill in the details of any number of differing scenarios, and I'm sure you will have run across someone basically like the above patient:

  • "This house is so cluttered. It's depressing to sit here and watch TV."
  • "I never have any extra money. I can just barely afford to get popcorn when I go to the movies every weekend."
  • "Why are all men such losers? It seems like every bar I go to is filled with underachievers."

Albert Einstein is credited with the popular definition for insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Truth is...in order to improve a personal situation, maybe a person needs to stop using temporary fixes and "minor course adjustments" and make an actual change instead.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rich Words

In remembrance of the passing from this life of one of Christian music's true originals, and in calling attention to the soon-to-be-released biopic, Ragamuffin (the trailer for which you can see at the end of this post), allow me to reprint this piece from last year, with the addition of links to the quoted songs...

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[Six]teen years ago [Thursday], an unsuspecting world awoke on that Sunday morning to the news that Rich Mullins, Contemporary Christian singer/songwriter, had been killed in a crash on an Illinois highway. He was probably best known for having written the song Awesome God, but let me share some other quotes, musical and not, for your edification and, perhaps, growth.

1: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ Save me from slick pop sounds laid down in virgin vinyl grooves. Save me from any woman who’d be turned on by the aftershave I use. Save me from trendy religion that makes cheap clich├ęs out of timeless truths. (Save Me)

2: As we age, we begin to forget stuff; our joints stiffen; our heads go a little soft…getting old is part of getting past whatever illusion we have about ourselves. It is part of getting free.

3: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ Faith without works, baby, it just ain’t happenin’. (Screen Door)

4: It used to be really popular to wear little buttons…that said, “Smile, God Loves You.” And that would always hack me off, ‘cause I go, “You know what? God loves everybody. That doesn’t make me special. It just means that God has no taste.”

5: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ When he rolls up his sleeves, he ain’t just puttin’ on the ritz. (Awesome God)

6: At the Y today, this one guy…talked a little bitterly about how I seem to have it so good. I suppose I do….I think I would envy me too, if I didn’t know me better.

7: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ There’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiment, and a music higher than the songs that I can sing. The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance I owe only to the giver of all good things. (If I Stand)

8: I think a lot of American people are infatuated with God, but we don't really love Him, and they don't really let Him love them. Being loved by God is one of the most painful things in the world, it's also the only thing that can bring us salvation and it's like everything else that is really wonderful: there's a little bit of pain in it.

9: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ Talk about your miracles; talk about your faith: My dad, he could make things grow out of Indiana clay. (First Family)

10: You can never get so healthy that you don’t have to continue to eat right. Because every day I have to make the right choice about what I eat and how much exercise I need. Spiritually we’re in much the same place.

11: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ Well the Lord said “let there be” and there was, on the earth below and in the sky above. Then he knocked off work ‘cause it was Friday night; come Saturday morning everything was just alright. (Alrightokuhhuhamen)

12: Sometimes it concerns me, the number of people who can quote my songs…but they can’t quote Scripture—as if anything a musician might have to say would be worth listening to….If you want entertainment, I suggest Christian entertainment, because I think it’s good. But if you want spiritual nourishment, I suggest you go to church or read your Bible.

13: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ You was a boy like I was once, but was you a boy like me? I grew up around Indiana; you grew up around Galilee. (Boy Like Me, Man Like You)

14: The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart—it is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that befits mankind….It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask.

15: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ You never know who God is gonna use; a princess or a baby…or maybe even you or me. (Who God is Gonna Use)

16: When Christ has stripped away…all of our lame, Protestant kind of stupidity, all of our Catholic hang-ups; when Christ has stripped away everything that we have invented about Him, then maybe we will encounter Him as He really is. And we will know ourselves as we really are.

17: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ Love is found in the things we’ve given up more than in the things that we have kept. (What Susan Said)

18: I am a Christian, not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people who were willing to be nuts and bolts.

19: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ When I leave, I wanna go out like Elijah. (Elijah)

20: If you give a tithe, you get rid of ten percent of the root of all evil. You should be giving ninety percent, ‘cause God can handle money better than we can.

21: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ Sometimes I think of Abraham, how one star he saw had been lit for me. He was a stranger in this land and I am that, no less than he. (Sometimes By Step)

22: When I started writing songs, I thought you had to say everything that you knew in every song. You can always tell a young writer because they always do that. And you just kind of go, "OK, I know all about your theology, but I have no interest at all in your song."

23: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ I believe what I believe is what makes me what I am. I did not make it; no, it is making me. (Creed)

24: Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won't also cost you yours.

25: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want than to take what you give that I need. (Hold Me Jesus)

26: Scriptures don't teach us to be assertive. The Scriptures teach us—and this is remarkable—the Scriptures teach us to be submissive. This is not a popular idea.

27: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ I will be my brother's keeper, not the one who judges him. I won't despise him for his weakness. I won't regard him for his strength. (Brother's Keeper)

28: If you want a religion that makes sense, go somewhere else. But if you want a religion that makes life, choose Christianity.

29: ♪♫♫♪♪♫ The hope of the whole world rests on the shoulders of a homeless man. (You Did Not Have a Home)

30: So go out and live real good and I promise you'll get beat up real bad. But, in a little while after you're dead, you'll be rotted away anyway. It's not gonna matter if you have a few scars. It will matter if you didn't live.

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Truth is...there is no greater wish for me to confer upon you than the two words that accompanied Rich's autograph: BE GOD'S!

And now, the promised trailer...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Missing the Music

I've been wishing we sang more in our worship services...and now I've got some science to back me up.

Consider this quote from Iain McGilchrist's book, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World...

That we could use non-verbal means, such as music, to communicate is, in any case, hardly surprising. The shock comes partly from the way we in the West now view music: we have lost the sense of the central position that music once occupied in communal life, and still does in most parts of the world today. Despite the fact that there is no culture anywhere in the world that does not have music, and in which people do not join together to sing or dance, we have relegated music to the sidelines of life. We might think of music as an individualistic, even solitary experience, but that is rare in the history of the world. In more traditionally structured societies, performance of music plays both an integral, and an integrative, role not only in celebration, religious festivals, and other rituals, but also in daily work and recreation; and it is above all a shared performance, not just something we listen to passively. It has a vital way of binding people together, helping them to be aware of shared humanity, shared feelings and experiences, and actively drawing them together. In our world, competition and specialisation have made music something compartmentalised, somewhere away from life's core. So Oliver Sacks writes: “This primal role of music is to some extent lost today, when we have a special class of composers and performers, and the rest of us are often reduced to passive listening. One has to go to a concert, or a church, or a music festival, to recapture the collective excitement and bonding of music. In such a situation, there seems to be an actual binding of nervous systems.”

Because of Western society's bent toward "leaving it up to the professionals," large groups of people singing together pretty much only happens at the beginning of sporting events, as part of high school and college choirs, or in worship services. And in all those instances, Sacks' words about "collective excitement" and "binding of nervous systems" are lived out.

Truth is...there is a need for both individual intellectual stimulation and emotional community-building, but there seems to me to be room to take better advantage of the unifying power of music.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Origin of 'Please' and 'Thank You'

Oddly enough, the following excerpt about language is from David Graiber's book, Debt: The First 5,000 Years.

Consider the custom, in American society, of constantly saying “please” and “thank you.” To do so is often treated as basic morality: we are constantly chiding children for forgetting to do it, just as the moral guardians of our society — teachers and ministers, for instance — do to everybody else. We often assume that the habit is universal, but ... it is not. Like so many of our everyday courtesies, it is a kind of democratization of what was once a habit of feudal deference: the insistence on treating absolutely everyone the way that one used only to have to treat a lord or similar hierarchical superior.

Perhaps this is not so in every case. Imagine we are on a crowded bus, looking for a seat. A fellow passenger moves her bag aside to clear one; we smile, or nod, or make some other little gesture of acknowledgment. Or perhaps we actually say “Thank you.” Such a gesture is simply a recognition of common humanity, we are acknowledging that the woman who had been blocking the seat is not a mere physical obstacle but a human being, and that we feel genuine gratitude toward someone we will likely never see again. None of this is generally true when one asks someone across the table to “please pass the salt,” or when the postman thanks you for signing for a delivery. We think of these simultaneously as meaningless formalities and as the very moral basis of society. Their apparent unimportance can be measured by the fact that almost no one would refuse, on principle, to say “please” or “thank you” in just about any situation — even those who might find it almost impossible to say “I'm sorry” or “I apologize.”

In fact, the English “please” is short for “if you please,” “if it pleases you to do this” — it is the same in most European languages (French s'il vous plait, Spanish por favor). Its literal meaning is “you are under no obligation to do this.” “Hand me the salt. Not that I am saying that you have to!” This is not true; there is a social obligation, and it would be almost impossible not to comply. But etiquette largely consists of the exchange of polite fictions (to use less polite language, lies). When you ask someone to pass the salt, you are also giving them an order; by attaching the word “please,” you are saying that it is not an order. But, in fact, it is.

In English, “thank you” derives from “think”. It originally meant, “I will remember what you did for me” — which is usually not true either — but in other languages (the Portuguese obrigado is a good example) the standard term follows the form of the English “much obliged” — it actually does mean “I am in your debt.” The French merci is even more graphic: it derives from “mercy,” as in begging for mercy; by saying it you are symbolically placing yourself in your benefactor's power — since a debtor is, after all, a criminal. Saying “you're welcome,” or “it's nothing” (French de rien, Spanish de nada) — the latter has at least the advantage of often being literally true — is a way of reassuring the one to whom one has passed the salt that you are not actually inscribing a debit in your imaginary moral account book. So is saying “my pleasure” — you are saying, “No, actually, it's a credit, not a debit — you did me a favor because in asking me to pass the salt, you gave me the opportunity to do something I found rewarding in itself!” ...

All of this is a relatively recent innovation. The habit of always saying “please” and “thank you” first began to take hold during the commercial revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries — among those very middle classes who were largely responsible for it. It is the language of bureaus, shops, and offices, and over the course of the last five hundred years it has spread across the world along with them. It is also merely one token of a much larger philosophy; a set of assumptions of what humans are and what they owe one another, that have by now become so deeply ingrained that we cannot see them.

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Truth is...I must once again thank DelancyPlace.com for bringing this interesting tidbit of truth to my attention.