Saturday, May 29, 2010

No Smoking

My response to Arby's post about laws restricting smoking:

1. Politicians are liars and hypocrites. I think we all know that by now.
2. That doesn't make it right.
3. We as citizens have the right, nay, the duty, to call them on it, and make some effort to correct it.
4. Smokers have the right to slowly kill themselves.
5. Non-smokers have the right not to be poisoned by their neighbors.
6. Good manners would dictate that smokers not smoke where other people are trying to breathe. That would pretty much limit smoking to inside their own homes and cars (assuming no children or non-smokers are present), or outdoors AND downwind, or in indoor areas designated as smoking areas. Any area not designated a smoking area should be assumed to be a non-smoking area.
7. I have met a number of polite smokers who follow these rules automatically. The vast majority of smokers, however, do not. They have deadened their sense of smell to the point that they think their sh.. er, smoke doesn't stink. That's why most public spaces have rules permitting smoking in some places and not others. (Cigar smoke is the worst, cigarette smoke is second, and pipe tobacco can actually smell pleasant if it's not too thick. IIRC, they're all equally unhealthy, though. And heavy smokers stink even when they're not smoking.)
8. I would rather let property owners decide if and where smoking is allowed than turn that decision over to the government. The government tries to micromanage too much of our lives already.
9. Private property owners have done a better job of setting reasonable smoking policies, and have done it more quickly. When I was a kid, you could count on coming back from any public building, except possibly church, stinking of smoke. Even doctor's offices and hospitals had ashtrays in their waiting rooms. First came non-smoking sections in restaurants. Then local fire marshals began giving orders or getting ordinances passed against smoking in department stores. Next, individual doctors and hospitals began restricting smoking to designated areas. Then local, state, and federal government offices began to follow suit. Private colleges and universities had long limited smoking to designated areas or been smoke free. When my father went back to school to work on his master's in the late 1970's, professors at the state university were still smoking while lecturing. By the time I enrolled, smoking was only allowed outdoors. You had to run a gauntlet of smokers to get to the building, but once you were inside, you could breathe. Non-smoking restaurants began to appear in the 1990's. Since then, I have seen non-smoking skating rinks, bowling alleys, laundromats, and even bars. People can choose to patronize the businesses that meet preferences, smoking or non. The government came late to the party, and now wants to take credit for hosting it.

BTW, the choices for eternity are not smoking or non, but incense or brimstone.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Guess That Skill

I'm learning a new skill. I'll give you hints, and let's see who's the first to guess what it is.
Hint 1: It involves these:


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Good on Ya!

I'm don't know if I'm the only one who does this, but sometimes when I leave a comment on a blog, once I get going, I have so much fun, it grows into a post of its own. So I put it on my blog. I just left such a comment on Joy and Gladness:

Just wanted to stop by and say that I do read your blog, but I usually don't show up on your site meter because I read it through Google Reader. I just caught up on the last ten posts, which I enjoyed. I am now only 538 posts behind on the bogs I read.

To all that happened in the past couple of weeks, I say, "Good on ya!" (I think that means, "You done good, Congratulations, Good job, Hooray!, Thanks be to God, Good luck, Good show!, Hallelujah!, Whew!, Wow!, Mazel Tov!, Amen, Salud(a), A votre sante, Bless your heart, Skoal!, here's lookin' at you, here's mud in your eye, Score!, Go---al!, Swish! it may be, it could be, it's outta here!, take a bow, take a victory lap, take a load off, this Bud's for you, Gesundheit!, Praise the Lord, the Lord be with you, You Rock!," and, "You deserve a break today," but all in a "Boy, am I tired, and I'll bet you are, too!" kind of way. In certain contexts, I think it can also mean, "You may kiss the bride." Shalom and aloha have got nothing on "Good on ya!" But I could be wrong.) Hmm, that was so much fun, I think I'll steal it for my blog.

P.S. I *don't* have high-speed internet, so have fun with all the gadgets, but please don't let them keep the page from loading for those of us who can't use them anyway.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010


I've been a fan of a blog called Outer Life for several months now. He doesn't post often, but when he does, he always has something thought-provoking to say. Just what I wish more blogs were like when I'm 546 posts behind on the blogs I read. Like his recent post about how people use the word "disillusioned".

I've always thought of it this way. The only reason the word is used the other way is so people can feel virtuous about their cynicism. The problem is, they aren't cynical enough. A virtuous cynic would be cynical about his cynicism.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

The Countywide Universal Amalgamated Journal Sentinel Tribune Post Dispatch News-Free Press Sun Chronicle Daily Planet Democrat Observer, continued.

Things have been busy here. A lot to write about, but not much time to write. Like I wrote about in Busy, Busy, Busy, but with less vomiting. Notice that I did not say with no vomiting.

I have continued trying to get The Countywide Universal Amalgamated Journal Sentinel Tribune Post Dispatch News-Free Press Sun Chronicle Daily Planet Democrat Observer, even though I don't want it, because I paid for it, and darn it, I'm going to get my money's worth of the paper I don't want! I said this wasn't even the paper Mama Bear wanted, but I don't think I mentioned that she only wanted the coupons in the Sunday paper, and I had signed up for seven days a week. I wrote them a check April 17, they cashed it April 21, and as of May 11, we still weren't getting the paper, except for May 6, when we were out of town, and one randomly showed up on our porch. I think it was a mistake. I wonder which of our neighbors didn't get their paper that day. When you go out of town, how do you stop the paper you haven't been getting?

Anyway, twenty-four days after I handed the salesman my check for the daily paper, we still weren't getting one. That's well beyond the eight to ten days their circulation department said it takes to start a new subscription. Even if you only count business days. To say nothing of the four days the salesman promised. So I called them. It turns out that, instead of delivering the paper to [my address], [my town], they had been delivering it to [my address], [the county seat]. I'm sure the people there were happy to unexpectedly start getting a free paper. No, I take that back. Maybe they didn't want it, either.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Just a few highlights of our crazy life.

The Bathroom is Occupied.
Papa Bear is always trying to make my life a little easier. As the only woman in house with one full-sized and two teen sized men and one bathroom. Privacy can be a problem. Recently, I wanted to take a bath without the dozen or so interruptions that can occur if I don’t complain. So I asked Papa to ask the boys to use the bathroom before I entered. He wanted to be extra sure that they both understood they must go now and not later. “if you need to use the toilet go now, if you might have to use the toilet go now, if you have EVER used the toilet go now! We will not be bothering your Mother during her bath, go now!”

The Flower Caper
We were on our way to drop off Brother Bear at Papa Bear’s sister’s so the rest of the family could go to Madison for Goldilocks’ recent medical tests. We needed gas and I wanted to get some flowers for Papa Bear’s sister as it was her birthday. So we were multitasking. Papa dropped me off to get the flowers and took the car & the boys to the gas station in the parking lot to gas up. I got my purchase, speedy quick and wanted to join Papa inside the gas station so I just poked the flowers through the open car window to place them on my car seat. This is what I heard from the back seat.
Brother Bear: Oh no, a burglar!
Goldilocks: A burglar giving us flowers?

Are we there yet?
On a recent two hour car ride to Madison. Goldilocks was BORED, he didn’t have Brother Bear to tease, hit, fight or play with. So he asked frequently “are we there yet?” as he is just beginning to understand the concept of time. I would answer in the number of hours or minutes I thought we would still be on the road. Here is just a taste of that conversation.
Goldilocks: When will we be there?
Mama Bear: In about one hour.
Goldilocks: You said that three hours ago. I want to play in the pool.

Note to self never tell a child that the hotel at the other end of the trip has a pool, if you want to talk or hear about anything else for the rest of your trip.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Singing in the key of autopilot

I finally found time to get my thoughts down in type regarding this post, which was part 1 of the post I commented on earlier today:

Learning a song and singing it in worship are two different activities. That's why choirs, worship teams, and all other church musicians have rehearsals, or should. What they sometimes forget is that if the congregation is to participate in worshipping God in song, they need a chance to learn the song.

The church I grew up in had hymnals filled with many well-loved hymns. Even when we outgrew that space and built a bigger one, we bought additional copies, and replaced some of the worn copies, with the same edition of the same hymnal. Not unusual for a church that loves traditional hymns, but in the pew rack, next to the hymnal, was a "chorus book". These books contained newer songs, and were replaced with updated editions every few years. So we sang both newer and older songs, added to the new songs regularly, and had the chance to learn them both. When we moved into the new space, we bought more hymnals, but not chorus books. We stopped using them. I'm not sure why. The effect, though, was that we stopped learning new songs. The only time we even heard new songs in church was when a soloist sang one (rare) or the choir did (rarer still).

We heard new songs on the Christian radio station, but we never sang them in church. Music gradually faded from the youth program, and some of the older people gradually adopted the attitude that we probably shouldn't even be listening to most of the new music, and we certainly shouldn't be singing it in church. So church music became a battle, with the young people versus the old people. While I loved the hymns, I thought we should be learning some of the new songs, too.

We moved away, and every church I attended or even visited seemed to choose between old songs and new. Those that preferred the old songs stopped learning new songs. Those that preferred new songs gradually stopped singing the old ones. Some churches bought new hymnals that included some more recent songs, but they changed the words to many of the old hymns, making it difficult even for those who knew them to sing them. Other churches put the lyrics (never mind learning the tune by reading the music) on overhead transparencies. That meant you couldn't practice the songs except during the service unless you rifled through the song leader's transparencies. It also made it possible to change their repertoire faster than ever. You could learn all the new songs, but they might have different ones in a few months. Nothing wrong with learning all those songs, but when do we get the chance to let them soak into our bones? You couldn't even leaf through the hymnal when the sermon got boring, because they eventually ditched the hymnals.

One church I attended had three services, which really meant they had three congregations. Not only did people from different services not get to know each other, they didn't sing any of the same songs. Early service had no music. Middle service sang only hymns. Late service was contemporary.

As song leaders and choirs were replaced by worship teams, and pianists and organists were replaced by louder and louder worship bands, the music became more performance-oriented. Sure, people sang along, but it felt more like a concert than congregational singing. Then the transparencies were replaced by computerized projectors feeding us one line at a time. No time to think about what we're singing, just read the next line and sing it quickly before it disappears. We still usually got one or two hymns a week, if the pastor insisted on it, but they not only changed the words, they often sang them to unfamiliar tunes. I heard one minister of music complain about singing that many because, "people don't like singing the old hymns because they don't know them," They don't know them because we never sing most of them. At one or two a week, you're lucky to hear a given hymn once a year, unless it's in that church's top five favorites.

That was another trend I noticed. We did get to know a handful of songs very well. The fight to be allowed to add new songs became an excuse to stop singing the old songs, and we've ended up singing fewer of the new songs, repeating them as if to fill time. As worship teams became more "spontaneous" and leadership more diffuse, some members found they could get an emotional high by repeating a favorite line, or even a chorus. No one wants to quench the Spirit, so when one repeats a line, everyone joins in. That might not be so bad if we had one song leader, but now some churches have six or more. When everyone gets at least one chance to add a chorus, the song has no definite end:
I could sing of Your love forever,
I could sing of Your love forever,
We've been singing this song forever...
ad nauseum. Singing twenty-six choruses is not twice as worshipful as singing thirteen.

I love an ancient hymn, and a rousing gospel number, and a meditative piece during the Eucharist, and a band that really knows how to rock. It's even better if they know when to rock. So by all means, give us the music of the whole body in all its variety, and if you want the congregation to participate, first give us the chance to learn the songs, and then give us the chance to sing them.

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Possible Posts

I haven't run out of things to say, (Just ask Mama Bear) but from time to time, I come up with ideas that would be too long for one post, and might make a series of posts. For example, when I was planning this year's curriculum, I didn't have time to blog, but thought I might blog later about some of the things we're using. Or this: Occasionally I've come up with shortcuts to keeping the house, dishes, laundry, and children clean. Some of them even work. I've thought of posting some of them here. What do you think? When I come up with these ideas, should I launch into a series? Put up a post or two and see if anyone's interested in hearing more? Post a list of series topics and ask what you'd like to hear about? Just post a snippet when the mood strikes? I'm actually asking for people's opinions before I make up my mind. How often does that happen?

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Emotion and Worship

What started out as a comment on this blog post grew into an article of its own, so I'm posting it here:

Michelle, I still have some thoughts percolating through my brain about your previous post. Meanwhile, this one inspired some observations:

Worship is an emotional response to God's great goodness. Praise is talking to ourselves and each other about His goodness, which often inspires worship. Music is an important form, though by no means the only form, of both praise and worship. Naturally, some people will be drawn more to one form or another. The important thing is that we all worship the Lord, not that we all do it in the same way.

Emotional praise and an emotional call to worship are both legitimate means to the end of encouraging the congregation to worship the Lord together, which will be an activity charged with emotion, although different people will manifest that emotion differently. I need to be careful not to judge my brother, thinking that if I were kneeling / sitting / standing / raising my hands / dancing that way, I would be thinking/feeling thus and so.

I have, however, seen emotion misused in two ways: First, it can become an end in itself. We move from talking/singing about God (legitimate) to talking/singing about how we feel about Him (also legitimate) to talking/singing about our feelings (not wrong, but not necessarily worship) to reveling in our feelings and forgetting God (bad). I've seen both Old-Time Gospel and Up-to-the-Millisecond Contemporary preachers and music leaders gauge their success by emotional intensity they achieve, forgetting its object. People get addicted to an emotion, and no longer care why they feel that way. I once knew a woman who defined a good book as one that could make her cry. I call it emotional masturbation.

Second, emotion can be used as a tool to manipulate people, building one's own kingdom instead of God's. The focus is on what the leader wants the people to do, usually for him. Unchecked, it can lead to cultish devotion to the organization and its leaders. I have been burned. The moment I feel I am being manipulated, my emotions shut down. I will continue to praise the Lord because he commands it, but I can't worship.

Perhaps those people at Trinity were afraid an excess of emotion could be used to lead people away from the truth (though doctrinally shaky lyrics) or away from God's kingdom (through a charismatic leader). Rather than fear emotion, I believe we should thank God when it leads us toward Him, but be aware that it doesn't always. I don't see a fear of emotion in the Scriptures, but even in the Psalms, it is never an end itself. Emotions are like the wind, now blowing this way, now that way. Rather than praising or condemning the wind, let's note its strength and direction, and set our sails wisely.

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